“I won’t transition unless…”

I’d just got home from my group and a long walk and was enjoying my lunch when Colin asked me to come out of my room and go into the living room to watch a video. It was a long video and so to summarize, it talked about turning blood cells into immature eggs. So far they’re only immature but if this technology works, it means that male couples could have a baby that’s biologically both of theirs.

I watched the video in silence then Colin suddenly blurted, “What are the things scientists are doing that are good for trans people?”

“Well, those egg cells you just showed me and womb transplants into someone without a womb.” He seemed agitated so I tried to stay as calm as possible. Apparently that was the wrong choice.

Colin got very silent then yelled, “Can’t you see why this is important to me?”

“Of course I can,” I replied. “You want to have a baby of your own and grow it inside you like most women.”

He immediately calmed down then said, “I won’t transition unless I can have a womb to carry my baby.” And, with that, he left the living room.

I stood there for a few extra minutes. Obviously Colin’s still thinking of transitioning and, because he’s Colin, he’s thinking of the hardest choice possible instead of taking the easy route. It would be easy for him to stop HRT for half a year and produce his own sperm. He’s interested in women so there would already be a womb and egg in the equation.

Next step would be to use donor sperm. The baby wouldn’t be biologically his but he’d be there from conception. Those options are too easy though and, well, he wouldn’t be Colin if he didn’t pick the hardest path possible.

This conversation has long passed for him, even though it was only two days ago. Now he’s on to more important things like ordering his favourite noodle soup from Amazon. He got them this morning and is so excited. He thinks they’re being discontinued (the evidence backs him up) so finding them on Amazon made him happy.

I wish, for once, that he’d pick the easy route. I know he struggles with gender dysphoria, he’s mentioned it in passing a few times, and I know he was happy being Emma… the name he was going by just a year ago. I know he’s worried (legitimately) about being too tall and big boned but, as I’ve told him, there are cis women who are 6+ feet tall. He’d stand out but not like a clown at a funeral. And it’s okay to stand out. As the saying goes, you were born to stand out… not to fit in.

Even if womb transplants became available to the general public any time soon, they wouldn’t be immediately covered under provincial health care, they’d be an elective surgery and way out of our price range. I didn’t get into that with Colin, there’s no point yet and I have no reason to discourage him any farther.

Maybe someday I’ll have my daughter Emma back again but it won’t be today. And so I’m going to redye my hair and let Colin sort himself out. While he eats his soup of course.

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The best Christmas present ever…

“You’re coming. You’re not being left behind this year.”

I’d been sitting at my parents’ dining room table, listening to the discussion about the next tropical vacation and where it should be held. Mexico? Cuba? Dominican Republic? The discussion was quite lively. I listened with one ear, knowing this was yet another trip I couldn’t afford. In the past two years my family’s been to Sri Lanka, Cuba, a Caribbean cruise, and the Dominican Republic so I’ve gotten used to listening. And then my Mom made her comment to me. It was going to be my Christmas present. Wow! What a present!

It’s a hot October day here, like shorts weather hot, so it feels weird to be discussing Christmas, let alone a holiday that won’t take place until March. But I’ve never been to the Caribbean before so I’m pretty excited. I can’t believe I’m going to be here in five short months…

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Of course I’ve got worries, I wouldn’t have anxiety if I didn’t. The two realistic ones are, will I get my period on the vacation and will they have vegan food. The period one will have to wait until I see my gynecologist at the end of the month. I want to see if I can take the birth control pill for a couple of months to stop my period. Because there’s not much more that could wreck the vacation except for a “you can’t go into the water” period. And I’ll have to contact the resort closer to March about the vegan foods. Their site says they accommodate “special diets” so that looks promising.

And meanwhile I look at the pictures and can’t wait to swim in the ocean. There’s got to be so many fish by those reefs! And I have to find this waterfall…

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And now to wait. Hopefully five months won’t go by too slowly!

Matthew Shepard revisited…

The evening started out like usual. Kait and Colin played with their toys on the living room floor, my ex sat on the computer playing video games, and I read the paper. I started with the comics, moved on to the Life section, and then mosied on over to the Front section. And that’s where I dissolved into tears. Twenty-one year old Matthew Shepard, a student at the University of Wyoming, accepted a ride home from two men he thought were friends. Instead they drove him to a rural road, tied him to a fence, and beat him nearly to death with their rifles. He died of severe head trauma six days later.

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Photo from GBMNews

I cried while I read his article. Ugly cried to the point where my ex asked why I continued to read. But I couldn’t stop. At the time I told myself that I was crying for Matthew and for Colin, who was a sweet and gentle one year old at the time. I was also crying for me although I wouldn’t admit it. I clung to the label of “straight” like it was a lifeline although, to be fair, panromantic asexual wasn’t in my vocabulary in 1998. And it hadn’t been that long since I’d been a college student myself.

Now Colin’s 21 years old and part of the LGBTQIA community. He’s in continuing education, getting the education he couldn’t receive in high school, and planning on taking robotics. He’s young and bright with his whole future ahead of him. I worried for him every day when he was Emma and I still worry for him, albeit much less.

Matthew Shepard was also young and bright. A well travelled young man who loved politics and was studying it in university. He’d have been 40 years old now. What would he have accomplished as a gay HIV positive man to help the LGBTQIA community? What would he have fought for? What dreams did he have? What goals? What potential did we, as a society, lose when we lost him?

I still cry. I don’t think there’s a day when I read about him that I won’t.

 

Summer mischief…

It was a steaming hot weekday, the kind of day where I seriously wondered if I’d burn to death if I tripped while crossing the street. We had no air conditioning but I had a fan wafting tepid air through the living room and our patio doors were open.

Kait and Colin were sprawled in front of the television, lazily watching some children’s show while I scrolled through a parenting forum and kept my eye on the time. The kids were signed up for a library program and I was looking forward to the air conditioning.

That’s when it happened.

“Mooommmm… Colin has his finger stuck in my trinket box,” Kait informed me.

This was immediately followed by a thin, whining wail from Colin when he realized that, yes, his finger really was stuck.

I couldn’t figure out how he could have gotten anything stuck. The trinket box in question was a pretty gold filigreed box with velvet pillows inside and a cute little lid (complete with tassel). That question was answered quickly. Colin had removed the pillows, discovered a rubber stopper underneath, removed that, and then squished his finger through.

I gave his finger a gentle tug and realized it was quite thoroughly stuck. Even soap did nothing. I gave mental thanks that his three year old self hadn’t stuck his penis through and then moved back to figuring out how to get the box off. His finger was already swollen and a reddish purple.

The nearest hospital was the next town over, which meant two bus rides each way with sticky, hot children. But we did have a fire department diagonally across the street from us. Maybe they could help.

Sandals were slipped on quickly then I helped Colin blow his nose, thus answering where the rubber stopper went. We headed out the door, Colin snuggled into my arms, while staring at the box, and Kait skipped along beside me, holding my elbow.

“Don’t worry Colin,” she crooned. “The box will be fine, they’re just going to cut your finger off.”

Colin immediately burst into chest heaving sobs. Kait promptly followed when I explained that, no, they were going to cut off the box and not the finger.

I stood at the front of the building and had no idea where to go next. The big doors were open but I couldn’t see anyone inside. There was a smaller door but it was locked and the desk inside was empty.

“Hello?” I called hesitantly as I entered the big doors. Almost immediately someone popped out of a room. He was about my age, so not that old.

“What do you want?” he asked. I explained the situation and he decided it was a case for the chief. Within 3 minutes we had a crowd in a relatively small room, all looking to see what the chief was going to do. Half of them were immediately shooed out, with a stern, “Don’t you have anything else to do?” Apparently half didn’t because they stayed.

It was obvious to everyone except Kait that the box needed to be cut, the question was how. Colin’s finger had swollen over the edge of the hole which meant the scissors were going to have to go under his finger without cutting him. Eventually chief decided on making two angled cuts toward the finger and then hope he could bend the last remaining bits until they broke.

Colin cried the whole time the box was cut, while the chief told him how brave he was and how good he was for keeping his hand so still. The final cuts were made and the metal snapped off perfectly. Then one of the fire fighters gave them each a goodie bag with a fire safety colouring book and crayons. The box was quietly disposed.

Kait missed that box for years. Colin’s very happy with his finger.

Colin and Kait at McRae Point

Fading to black…

Tomorrow, female blackout from 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Its a movement to show what the world might be like without women. Your profile photo should just be a black square so that men wonder where the women are. Pass it only to women … It’s for a project against domestic abuse. It is no joke. Share it.

A friend of mine shared this with me on messenger. I pointed out that it had no date plus I’d seen it two weeks ago as well. She thanked me for the information and duly turned her profile picture black.

I have no idea what this is supposed to accomplish. I know what they’re trying to accomplish but these are two separate things. Men are not slightly slow puppies, they can see us in real life and they can see our names directly beside the black “profile picture”. This is not going to confuse them and it’s certainly not going to make them ponder “what the world might be like without women”.

It’s ironic that people are intent on making us invisible in a world where women are routinely silenced, spoken over, and ignored. And that goes double for abused women.

I think if we want to do something for women, we need to do something different. We need to organize. We need to find statistics on abuse and share them. We need to find studies on how much less women talk than men and share those. We need to teach our girls to stand up and use their voices. A black square is not going to accomplish this.

Make your voice loud. Shout your views from the rooftops. But don’t make yourself invisible.

don't shrink yourself

Segregating Vegans

I settled down at the computer with my breakfast and dove into the “memories” section, hot chocolate in hand, to see what happened today on previous years. Some days the memories are funny, some days they’re poignant, and sometimes they kick you in your teeth. This was a kick you in your teeth day.

I had posted that I thought Sci Babe was being ridiculous for being against vegans who wanted a vegan option at In and Out burger. I also figured my friends would agree with me because, hey, what’s wrong with an extra item on the menu. It wasn’t like it would affect the rest of the food. I was wrong. Almost immediately one friend posted this…

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“Are you a vegan like the ones I described?” Seriously? What that really means is “just ignore me making nasty comments about vegans on your page… you’re different”. And, no, I’m not different. If I was in the States, I’d have been signing that In and Out petition for a burger too.

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This was someone I’d been friends with for years so her question surprised me to say the least. I was especially surprised she thought it would be okay to walk into a vegan restaurant and ask for a beef burger but couldn’t understand why a vegan would want a veggie burger in a meat based restaurant.

I figure it goes by can and can’t. Can a meat eater eat a veggie burger, fries, and salads? Yes. Can a vegan eat a beef burger, caesar salad, and french fries with gravy? No. So a veggie burger can be added to a meat based menu while a meat burger simply doesn’t go on a vegan list. It’s like asking someone with celiac disease to eat a wheat based slice of pizza. No, just plain no. But they can order a gluten free pizza at some restaurants. Flip side is you couldn’t order a wheat based anything at a gluten free store. It goes by who can eat what.

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When was the last time she was at a vegan restaurant? 1978? Every vegan restaurant I’ve been to has served pretty traditional meals. Burgers, soups, salads, fries, cupcakes. The closest one even serves “fish” and chips and poutine. But she didn’t want her bubble of ignorance burst so she blocked me instead. Blocked because I gave her a list of restaurants that serve vegan dishes.

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No, that’s not how it works. You don’t get to have a conversation about a minority of any type, especially one that puts them down, then claim it’s the minority’s fault for being upset. Saying I shouldn’t be able to eat at traditional restaurants with my family is not “a conversation”. Me explaining this isn’t an assumption. Funnily enough I haven’t missed her.

One thing I learned that day is you can think someone’s a friend but you won’t know for sure until you bring up something in your life that might be “controversial”. Fist bump to the friend who said it’s cool to ask for new products.

Something else I learned recently (not from this thread) is that the people who yell the loudest while defending you might not be yelling because they’re defending you. They might be yelling simply because they like yelling and controversy. I scrolled through my blog recently and found a post where a friend added a picture of herself eating a beef burger on a vegan thread I’d made then blocked everyone who disagreed with her. She had been a friend for years and one who vehemently supported me and the kids several times. But she turned just as quick and was just as vehement against me when her opinion was different.

That one was a hard one because I thought of her as a real friend. We’d messaged each other regularly for years, sharing thoughts, opinions, and pictures of our fur babies. She’d recently discovered a love of makeup and I sat through several makeup box openings because she deserved to have someone watch her happiness. I wear makeup maybe twice a year. And then she left, flinging insults as she blocked me. A friend said she’s like that, I wish I’d known in advance. But you can’t know everything.

And for those who aren’t shocked at the thought of eating vegan, here’s a curry recipe for you:

Vegan Indian Curry Recipe

4 medium onions, finely chopped
4 tbsps oil or cooking wine
1 1/4 cups Silk soy creamer
2 tbsps white wine vinegar
398mL can diced tomatoes (14oz)

2 tsps turmeric
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp dry mustard
1 tsp tandoori masala
4 tsps coriander
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp ground ginger

2 tsps brown sugar
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 stock cube (or 1/2 tsp salt)
4 cups mixed vegetables, chopped (mushrooms, broccoli, zucchini, potatoes, carrots, sweet bell peppers etc)

Mix all the spices together. Cook the onions until translucent, adding more water as needed. Add the spices, reduce heat, and cook for 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the milk and vinegar and stir well. Add the tomatoes, paste, sugar, and stock. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer very gently for 45 minutes. Add the vegetables and cook until tender – between 30 to 45 minutes. Serve over rice.

A letter to Pam Wilkinson…

You don’t know me and, with any luck, you will never know me. I was the confused teenager going through high school in the 1980’s. No one raised a rainbow flag back then.  What we raised for was religion. We still were standing for the Lord’s Prayer. Too bad for the kids who weren’t Christian but it wasn’t an option to avoid. We could stand in the hall but we were still standing for the prayer no matter where we went. And there was a teacher in the hall to make sure of that. I bet you loved those days.

My classmates all grew up with Three’s Company and Jack’s over the top pretending of being gay. Being gay was a joke… when it wasn’t simply disgusting. Fellow classmates and even some of the teachers talked about driving into the gay section of Toronto just to throw rocks at people on the side walk. It was fun, they said. I hardly thought it was fun for the people getting pelted by stones but they didn’t matter. This was the 80’s.

I don’t have fond memories of school in the 80’s.

I started having suicidal ideation in high school, strong urges to jump over the railings in our local mall, strong enough that I walked by the wall at all times, just in case. I pushed those thoughts away, just like I pushed away any romantic thoughts about girls. I was already being teased, I wasn’t going to be a joke too. Those weren’t my thoughts, they were an aberration.

Sexual education was strictly cisgender and heterosexual. We learned how to make babies and the names of the genitals. Thanks to that education, I learned that what I was feeling was wrong. I didn’t know my own sexual orientation until I was in my mid 40’s. And I certainly never saw a rainbow flag until I was an adult with children of my own.

You were interviewed in an article claiming the rainbow flag is a wall. I disagree. The wall in my school years was built with ignorance, hatred, and ridicule and it kept me from learning who I was for decades. The rainbow flag is a bridge and a sign of community and hope. Countless faith groups support it, it’s not anti-Christian.

The sad part is you have taught your own daughter hatred. The part of the song you disagree with? The song that was played at flag raising?

If you preach hate at the service/those words aren’t anointed/and that holy water that you soak in, is poisoned.”

It’s not anti-Christianity, it’s anti-hatred. He’s saying that hate is not part of Christianity and God will not accept those words. How much hate is in your religion that both you and your daughter felt personally affronted by this.

You said that the rainbow flag builds “walls, not bridges. You can’t get groups to respect each other that way. You cannot broker peace if half the stakeholders have left the table in anger.”

I say that if someone sees a flag, which is widely known as a symbol of love, hope, and unity and see nothing but a wall, there wasn’t going to be a chance to broker peace in the first place. If you can’t handle the symbol of LGBTQIA unity, how can you handle the reality of talking to actual gay, lesbian, and trans people? What are you going to do when a drag queen wants a say, in all their glory? How about when a lesbian couple wants at least one book in the library with same sex partners so their child doesn’t feel invisible? Or a gay thirteen year old wants a Gay-Straight Alliance in his elementary school?

How can you broker peace with someone who wants you to be less than yourself, wants you to hide yourself to make them feel comfortable? You can’t. First it’s the rainbow flag but that won’t be last. You don’t want peace, you want ignorance. You want to not have to face any sign that the LGBTQ community even exists. And that’s not going to happen. So many of us struggled to simply be ourselves and we’re not going to let you push us back into being less than we are.

The rainbow flag is staying. We are staying. Get used to it.

rainbow_flag_insert_by_torbakhopper_via_Flickr