Engage tact before opening mouth…

I was sitting in the break room with a new coworker a few days ago, doing the whole awkward introduction thing, when I realized it was time to call Jeremy.

I usually call zir at lunchtime so I can make sure zie’s awake and functioning. Plus the call allows me to remind zir to eat, something I’ve never forgotten to do but zie manages to forget regularly.

“I was talking to my teen,” I explained as I got off the phone a couple of minutes later.

“Oh, you have kids?” she replied curiously.

It seemed like an obvious answer to me but I nodded anyway. “I’ve got a 20 year old daughter and 18 year old teen. I was talking to the 18 year old.”

Most people change the conversation there. She didn’t.

“So, your 18 year old… is it a boy or a girl?”

It? Great.

“Zie’s bi-gender,” I replied. “Zie’s trans , identifies as both male and female, and uses the pronouns zie and zir.”

Her eyes grew wider. “Oh! Both genders! Does your doctor know?”

The doctor part made me suspicious about the direction her thoughts were going but I played innocent. “Yes, we talked to him already.”

“So, umm, your child is, umm, medically male and female?”

Yep, her thoughts wandered exactly where I suspected and right where I didn’t want to go.

“No, you’re thinking of intersex. My teen is transgender,” I replied as I glanced at my phone. Damn, I still had some break left.

“Oh.” She fidgeted for a moment. “So is he, umm, a boy or a girl.”

“I’m not discussing my child’s genitals with you,” I said bluntly. I’d already given her pronouns to use and a label so she wasn’t asking for those reasons. That left only one tabloidish interest… what was in zir pants.

She looked startled for a second then the realization of what she was asking kicked in.

“I’m cool with stuff like that,” she babbled. “I knew a transgender in high school.” Cue me wincing. “He was really shy at the beginning but after a while he started wearing make up and dresses and stuff.”

“I think you mean she,” I interjected, glancing at my phone again. Usually my break finishes way too quickly. Today wasn’t one of those days. Had my timer broken?

“Oh yeah,” she said sheepishly as my timer chimed cheerfully. Finally. I couldn’t leave quickly enough.

I told Jeremy about the conversation later and zie grinned when I got to the part about refusing to disclose zir birth gender.

“Way to go!” zie exclaimed before changing the conversation to Cool Dude. I’m not entirely sure who he is, other than someone on YouTube, but Jeremy’s very impressed with him.

“Cool Dude’s gay,” zie informed me for about the twentieth time. Jeremy paused then laughed. “I don’t know why he bothered to come out. Some people you just know are gay. I’m sure you’ve met people like that before,” zie said as zie gestured flamboyantly.

I looked at zir and laughed. “Really Captain Obvious?”

“Are you calling me gay?” zie asked.

“No, I’m calling the other Jeremy gay,” I retorted.

Zie smiled. Some days zie insists zie’s straight. Sometimes zie simply insists zie’s not gay. The rest of the time zie refers to the gay community as zir community. I just take a few metaphorical Gravol and go along for the ride.

Jeremy’s smile faded. “You know what I disliked about school,” zie said abruptly. Talk about a loaded question. Especially since zie could (and does) go on for hours about the subject.

“What?” I asked cautiously.

“Every Hallowe’en all the teachers dressed up in Duck Dynasty costumes, even after they came out as homophobic. It made me so uncomfortable.”

“All of the teachers?” It was a fairly big school.

“Well not all of them but Mrs. ________ and Mrs. ________ both did.” Jeremy named both of zir educational assistants. The same ones who told Jeremy that zir gender was a choice.

I’d had no idea about the costumes. Zie’d never said anything. Of course even if zie had said something there wasn’t anything I could do about it. It wasn’t illegal to dress up as a television character. But you’d think at least one of the teachers would look at what those people were saying and think about how their students would feel about their choice. You’d think they’d think. That’s what school’s for, isn’t it?

I’ve got a kid who’s struggling with anxiety daily. It’s not even 9pm and zie’s already in bed, saying zie’s upset and doesn’t know why. We live in a complex with two pools (complete with life guards), a park with paved trails just perfect for zir to drive zir remote control cars, and a gym. Jeremy spends every day indoors waiting for me to come home. Zie could go out on zir own but would rather wait for me. Zie doesn’t feel comfortable going out alone.

Jeremy’s teacher and EAs were loudly insistent they were allies, even while misgendering Jeremy, and I know my coworker felt like she was being quite supportive too. It would be nice however if they spent a bit less time patting themselves on the back and a bit more time listening to what they’re saying. It would be even nicer if tact came in a spray bottle, like air freshener, and could be applied liberally to people when needed. I’d buy it in bulk.

 

There’s no place like home…

Update I moved the chipmunk video over to YouTube and it’s working now :)

We got home on Sunday afternoon and I’m still happily appreciating all the comforts of home. I love camping but truly enjoy spider free indoor plumbing… especially at 3am.

This trip involved a fair bit of uncertainty for me. We’ve camped on the same site at the same campground for years and I knew exactly what to expect there. I’d have camped there again except for one thing. The price. Fifty dollars a night is a bit steep for a vacation that involves heating my dish water over a kerosene stove and peeing with spiders.

Jeremy promised that Unicamp was really nice and that the swimming pond was huge. As big as one football field or two… or maybe even three. Got to love how specific zie is when it comes to measurements. Zie even took a picture of a small stretch of woods with a dirt path. Which let me know there were at least a few trees but otherwise I was flying blind. The website itself has no pictures except for an aerial view of the campground via Google and Jeremy was even less descriptive. What convinced me to register for a site there was the fact it’s half the price of our usual place so we could camp for twice as long.

campsite 40

I was unimpressed with the site when we arrived. Not only was it fairly open (and right beside the basketball court, hence the basketball in the photo) but it also had an outhouse right in the middle of the site. And, thanks to the location of the firepit, we’d need to position the trailer so the indoor kitchen table had a lovely view of the outhouse.

The first option we were offered was an alternate site that used to be a laneway. It still had the tire grooves. Then they offered to move the firepit, which made all the difference. The trailer tire is over the old firepit. For most of the week there were almost no other campers because it was youth week so the outhouse was only being used by me (and the spiders). It wasn’t until our last evening that other people started using it. Which was uncomfortable enough for me to not want to camp on that particular site again but by then we had less than 24 hours left until we were gone.

Jeremy talked about swimming all week so it wasn’t a surprise that zie wanted to go swimming almost as soon as my parents left. Luckily zie was willing to wait until after dinner as we missed lunch during our drive up; my parents weren’t stopping for anything. And luckily for me I’d planned a quick and easy dinner because zie wasn’t going to wait too long.

Jeremy had only been there for a weekend last year but zie was reasonably sure zie remembered the way to the beach. First we headed out past the goats…

goats2

Doesn’t every campground have goats?

… and down the trail to the beaches.

bench on beach trail

The trail looked like most of the campground. Lots of trees and undergrowth and quite a few meandering creeks. Further along there was a marshy area with lots of cat tails and frogs. Then came the main beach.

Jeremy at the main beach

Both beaches were sandy and had a dock and a picnic table. Plus there were beach toys, life jackets, and canoes free to use. Jeremy (of course) refused to swim in any normal fashion. Instead zie took pool noodles and threaded them through zir shopping buggy and swam with that. It looked completely awkward but zie loved it.

Jeremy and zir shopping buggy

I enjoyed the beach as well. We’d swim from one diving platform to another, with me diving in from each. Plus there was a big concrete block at the end of the pond. As far as I could tell, it worked as a drain, pouring water over the edge then under the nearby road to flow into a creek. But it served a second purpose… as a jumping platform. Jeremy refused to try it but I went up several times.

Michelle jumping

The water was freezing at the bottom of the pond!

We went on several walks, mostly to the nearby Cowpye Hill (accurately named) to look at the full moon. Poor Jeremy got dragged onto a hike on the Bruce Trail despite insisting that zie’s a computer nerd and doesn’t need exercise. It was a great trail, absolutely gorgeous, but it came with a warning that it was “more advanced”. I loved it. Jeremy sat and took a break on the trail while I explored the surrounding area.

The trail pretty much consisted of scrambling over rocks and roots.

The trail pretty much consisted of scrambling over rocks and roots. Also, yes, Jeremy is a foot taller than me.

Since our hike went so well, I decided to try out splelunking. To be fair, Jeremy wanted to try it as well. I think zie didn’t realize how small the caves were. I certainly didn’t. I pictured caves we could walk into and then got faced with this…

No, it wasn't any bigger on the inside. In fact it got appreciably smaller.

No, it wasn’t any bigger on the inside. In fact it got appreciably smaller.

This is me leaving that same “cave”. Jeremy couldn’t even fit. Zie did try however and went into every other cave.

me leaving Sherbet Tunnel

Jeremy and I splelunking

There were plenty of things I liked about the campground. It was quiet, friendly, and informal. There were trails everywhere for me to explore and signs dotted throughout the grounds…

signs

I found five signs and am sure there are more.

What I loved the most about our camping trip was that no one, not a single person, stared at Jeremy. In fact the only people who gave zir even a slightly long look were the ones who followed it up with a huge smile and a “Hello Jeremy! I remember you from last year!”

Jeremy claims not to notice people staring at zir (even the hugely blatant ones) but it was obvious that zie felt the lack of negative attention. Zie never goes outside without a shirt on. Never. Not even on our own balcony. And swimming is something that requires zir swimming shirt (an almost too small mesh Spiderman shirt zie’s had for years). By the end of the week zie was going swimming without zir shirt, in front of other people.

And now we’re home. Back to our kitties, our microwave, our running water, and our consistently working internet and phone service. I can’t wait to see how much Jeremy grows when we go back to Unicamp next year.

OMG muffin wrapper

Clicking on the picture will bring you to the accompanying video.

Happy birthday to me!!!

birthday Doctor Who 10th

Since the 10th Doctor never actually showed up, I’m taking Jeremy camping instead. Plus I made myself chocolate peanut butter cupcakes :) The first year I became vegan, my Mom made a bowl of fresh fruit because she doesn’t know how to make a cake without milk and eggs. I’ve made my own cake ever since. This year’s will be the best so far.

Jeremy tried to convince me that today’s opposite day, which means I’m supposed to give zir a present instead of vice versa. I’d say it was a nice try on zir part but zie woke me an hour early then started begging for video games so zie’d have something to do in the car. In essence, since my Mom bought the present and I bought zir three (four?) games, I did buy zir a present. The kidlet’s about as subtle as a sledgehammer but just as effective.

And we’re heading off for five days of swimming, hiking, and exploring. All I know is there’s a large pond (which Jeremy says is at least as big as a football field… or three even), two beaches, caves, hiking trails, and trees. Jeremy assures me there’s lots of trees. I’ve never been there and can’t find any pictures so all my mind is picturing is lots of ????? and a gravely, muddy beach with lots of weeds. Jeremy didn’t mention either so my mental image is probably (hopefully) off.

See you in August!!!!!

p.s. Depending on cellphone service, I might stick a picture or two up on Instagram :)

What defines a woman?

An open letter to women and a rebuttal to Emilee Danielson

Emilee, your story is simply one single thread in a tapestry of women. It is not the whole cloth. Living for almost 50 years does not give you a magical ability to tell other women they’re wrong about themselves; all it does is allow you to identify yourself.

We are women from the moment we first heard the word girl and felt it click inside us… whether the word was aimed at us or not. We are a women from the moment we looked into a mirror and recognized the girl within… whether we could see her face or not.

A woman isn’t defined by breasts. You’re a woman whether you’re flat or have breasts that go on for days. Neither is it defined by the ability to carry an infant to term. It most certainly isn’t defined by being a martyr.

Being a woman isn’t defined by horrendous cramps or your ability to fake it through them. It isn’t defined by the size of the baby or the amount of medication you received. You’re still a woman and a mother if you adopted your child or if your partner gave birth. You’re still a woman if you’re child-free.

Emilee, you are a privileged woman in the United States. Unlike friends of mine, you have never been chased down dark streets by strangers while having slurs shouted at you simply for daring to be yourself. You have never had store clerks look you in the eye and misgender you repeatedly and on purpose because they don’t like that you exist. You have never looked at yourself in the mirror and wished you were dead when faced with the stranger staring back. You have children but you don’t have my child. You don’t stand beside your child and have strangers stare… turning so they can continue to stare as you walk past. You worry about strange men on the side of the road while being blissfully unaware of the dangers that trans women face every single day. Unaware that their risks of violence and death from strange men are staggeringly higher than yours.

No, Emilee there is more to being a woman than you could ever experience or even imagine. I find your claim to know and speak of womanhood on behalf of us all to be insulting. A real woman is defined, not by beauty or dirt under her nails, but by herself.

Ms Jenner is a woman, I am a woman, and you are a woman. Tapestries are nothing if every thread is identical. We need our differences in order to make life vibrant.

The people we leave behind…

Meme from the blog early mama

Sometimes I wonder if they think I’m blind; if they think I don’t notice their absence on Facebook… the empty space in my like and comment sections. Sometimes I wonder if they even see my posts or if they’ve quietly unfollowed me. They’re there… but at the same time they aren’t.

I grew up in a wide spread family. My grandparents lived four hours away by car. My great-grandmother four hours away by plane. The rest were scattered across the country (and now the globe). When we all got together, we were a close-knit group and our visits were full of laughter and hugs. While we were apart I was assured our family was always together in spirit.

Our last big family reunion was almost a decade ago; combining both a wedding and a memorial service. It was nearly two weeks of family bliss. Everywhere we turned there was family. We took up huge tables at restaurants and booked half a motel. I loved introducing Emma and Jeremy to cousins, uncles and aunts… showing them the family they belonged to. We went to the town my mother, grandparents, and several great-grandparents were born and spent a glorious afternoon on a nearby island, simply sharing time together. I collected several chunks of sea-worn beach rocks from there, along with shells and driftwood, that I’ve kept on my fireplace mantle ever since; a visible reminder of family and our time together.

Newcastle beach

The first one to disappear off my statuses and updates was my sister Amy. We’ve never had a close, sisterly relationship. Our relationship could be described as tumultuous at best; when we meet, we tend to clash. The closest we’ve ever gotten is online. Then this thread happened last year, when I shared an article on Facebook discussing gender neutral washrooms in Vancouver BC.

screenshots

Click to embiggen. If Amy ever wonders why Jeremy’s not all that fond of her, this is the reason. Zie’s rarely on Facebook but did read this whole thread.

Amy hasn’t commented on a single post or picture since then. Birthdays, the death of two pets, Christmas, etc… all passed without a single like or comment from her. She also has yet to respond to my private message regarding Jeremy being trans.

Then came my big post, at Jeremy’s request, outing zir to our family and friends. The support we received was overwhelmingly positive and almost completely from friends. The solitary family member who responded on that post was my cousin’s uncle. And since then there’s been silence. The only family who likes and comments on my posts are Karen, her husband, and my Mom. To be fair, most of my relatives rarely go on Facebook but the ones who do make their absence felt. And it hurts. Ironically, I don’t think it’s because Jeremy’s trans. It’s because this should be private and I was uncouth enough to make it public. I’m being ignored because I’m socially inappropriate.

What they don’t seem to get is I’m not doing this for them. I’m not doing this for me either. I’m doing this for Jeremy, who is still floundering and still needs my emphatic and visible support. Jeremy still tries zir hardest not to think about gender or sexual orientation. Zie still isn’t sure what zie likes to wear (other than loose and comfortable). I don’t talk to Jeremy about sexual orientation at all as it’s a sure fire way to start a furious and hysterical argument on zir part because zie’s straight damn it! Even though zie tries zir hardest not to think about guys. Even though zir first reaction when they killed off the 9th Doctor in Doctor Who was “why did they have to kill the cute one?”. Even though when zie handed me the brochure that came with my camera, zir comment was “you should like this, it’s full of landscapes and cute guys”. I flipped through to discover the people pictures were split 50/50 with males and females; apparently zie never noticed. Even though zie stares at zirself in the mirror and wonders why zie looks so good in women’s clothing… before taking it off and pulling on an old t-shirt and baggy shorts.

I want Jeremy to be comfortable at home. I want zir to know this is a safe place… that I’m not only 100% behind zir but willing to step out and be in front of zir too, in the times zie’s too scared to walk alone. When zie briefly pondered wearing a dress outside, I assured zir that I’m like a pitbull, small and usually cuddly, but willing to cling on and rip out someone’s throat if zie’s threatened. Zie laughed. I wasn’t kidding.

“Mom! Guess what?”

Jeremy ran into my room, zir smile as wide as the sky and just as sunshiny.

“If I spend $6, I can subscribe to Cool Dude! I can go into his exclusive Steam group and play on Gary’s Mod with him. Oh and he’s gay.” I hadn’t thought Jeremy’s smile could get any wider, yet it did.

I will stand for Jeremy until zie’s able to stand on zir own and then I will continue to stand beside zir. If my family’s not willing to stand beside me, I’ll stand on my own. I’m grateful for the friends I have with me and the family who has stayed strong. Maybe someday the rest of the family will join them but I will not back down. I will not quiet myself for their comfort.

My child needs me. They can catch up if they want.

Saying goodbye…

“Mom! Mom! Something’s wrong with Ben!” Jeremy wailed. “Please, can you help me clean his cage? He needs to have a clean cage to die in!”

It was 2 o’clock on Saturday morning and the quickest I’d woke in years.

“Jeremy, give me your guinea pig and I’ll cuddle him in bed,” I said as reassuringly as I could. Zie handed me a freshly washed, sopping wet piggy and I tucked him under the covers and cradled him beside me. Ben snuffled my hair and started chewing. I’m his food lady but today I arrived empty handed. I guess he figured my hair would be good enough.

“Can you give me something to feed Ben?” I asked and Jeremy promptly handed me a carrot.

“Ben’s front leg isn’t working,” zie cried as Ben happily chewed on his favourite food. “And there’s something wrong with his left eye.” I could only see his right which looked fine to me.

I cuddled with Ben for about ten minutes then changed into a dry nightie and went back to sleep. Luckily Jeremy went to sleep as well. I snuck into the living room yesterday morning fully expecting to find a body. Instead I found a bright eyed piggy happily gnawing on his pepper; his full weight on both front legs. He’d eaten well the night before and looked perfectly fine now. I assured Jeremy all was well and zir geriatric piggy was on the mend. Then we went out for the day. Ben still looked fine when we got home.

I woke this morning and decided to start my day off with a morning hike. I had to pass the guinea pig cage to get my shoes. No squeaks greeted me. Anyone who’s ever had a piggy knows how unusual that is. Ben was curled oddly under some hay in the back corner of his cage and he bit me when I reached in. I grabbed him by the waist instead and lifted while Ben flailed… both right legs hung uselessly. His waist was tiny and his anus protruded alarmingly.

I cradled him in my arm and gently fed him a carrot, which he took eagerly, whimpering for more. Then he stopped wanting the carrot but continued to whimper helplessly. I called the local vet clinic only to find out they were closed. One more day… one last day with Ben.

Of course I needed to tell Jeremy and woke zir as gently as I could. This is zir very own pet, one we’ve had since zie was 10 years old, I knew it wouldn’t go well. I handed the piggy over and headed out for apple sauce and baby asprin. I wasn’t going to have his last day full of pain.

Thankfully I bought a mortar and pestle from Dollarama last month so I was able to grind the tablet down to a fine powder to mix with apple sauce. I found orange flavoured ones too so the bitter taste wouldn’t deter him and managed to spoon feed him the whole pill (after checking weight and dosage for cavies). Twenty minutes later he was groggy and ready to lie down. So was I.

“Mom! Mom! Ben’s doing so much better! His legs are working again and he can walk… see!” Jeremy announced eagerly.

I blinked and rolled over in time to see Jeremy place Ben on the ground. The piggy stood trembling for a second then attempted to take a step with legs that no longer worked properly. He collapsed onto his side, legs twitching frantically in his panic to get back up.

“Hon, pick him up now. Please!” I implored. Jeremy immediately complied.

“See, he’s doing even better than before,” Jeremy said happily. “Once he gets more food in him he’ll be even stronger.”

Zir words felt like a blow. Ben’s unable to walk and can no longer lap water from his water bottle. Instead I’m feeding him water from a dropper. He can’t walk and he’s having massive issues with pooping. And he’s eight years old! His brother and cage mate died on my birthday almost a full year ago. He’s an elderly pig and it’s his time to go.

After dinner I’m bundling Ben up in a dish towel and taking him out for a walk in the woods. He’s enjoying being held and, while in our arms, he can feel the wind and smell the grass, trees, and flowers. Then I’ll dose him up with more pain medication so he can have a pain free night before we say goodbye to him tomorrow.

Hopefully Jeremy will be able to forgive me for letting Ben go.

Ben2

The wrong way to teach sex ed…

Jeremy and I were having one of those conversations about the silly things zie and zir sister said when they were younger. I told Jeremy about zir unusual conclusion regarding anal sex then, to give the conversation a bit of balance, brought up the time Emma asked me how lesbians had sex… on our way into the local mall.

“There wasn’t much I could say,” I concluded. “I don’t actually know how lesbians have sex. I told her if she was that interested, she could Google it herself when she got older or try it for herself.”

Jeremy gave me a look that said zie was not only concerned about my intelligence but that zie was obviously more knowledgeable than I was.

“Oh Mom,” zie sighed. “Everyone knows how lesbians have sex.” Zie held up zir hand then opened and closed two fingers, bringing them closer to me for emphasis.

“Yes, hon, I have heard the term scissoring before. I just don’t know what it means and have never been interested enough to look it up for myself.”

“Well I know what it means,” zie announced.

I gazed at Jeremy expectantly and waited for zir to continue. I could tell when zie realized why I was silent because that was when the expression on zir face changed from “worldly wise” to “deer in headlights”.

“Oh… well… you see…” Jeremy stammered. “They, umm, put their legs around each other’s necks then open and close them as fast as they can.”

I’d been trying to keep a serious expression but lost it then. That had to be the most unlikely scenario I could come up with and, as usual, unlikely was Jeremy’s first choice.

“Hon, I think you’re confusing lesbians with black widow spiders. No one gets decapitated during sex.”

“But you said you don’t know what scissoring is,” zie protested.

“Seriously Jeremy,” I blurted. “I’m reasonably sure I’d notice if my friends were losing their heads. That’s not how scissoring works.”

“Okay, I guess…” Zir tone was pure reluctance. Jeremy has a really hard time admitting zie’s wrong and that’s the closest zie gets to admitting it.

It wasn’t the best sex ed talk I’ve had with either of my kids but at least Jeremy’s no long confusing lesbians with spiders (seriously, zie will never live that down). All I got out of the conversation was a few laughs and the realization that if Jeremy’s watching porn, there’s a good chance it’s not of the lesbian variety.