Jeremy and athletics…

Those two words are not commonly found together.

Jeremy was not a rough and tumble little boy. When Emma first learned how to walk, my Mom and I took her to the park and set her on the grass. She loved it and went running around madly. When Jeremy first learned how to walk, I set him on the grass and he stared at me in sheer horror. What the hell had I put him on? He burst into tears and raised his arms to be held again. After some coaxing, he finally would walk on the lawn but his exaggerated step, each foot raised as high as possible, showed how he felt about it.

Then there was the petting zoo. Emma loved it. We had to rein her in a little because she wanted to hug every animal there. I have vivid memories of taking Jeremy into a petting zoo. He wandered around for less than a minute then looked at me in disgust.

“Mom! Those animals are pooing and peeing ON. THE. GROUND!!!” he announced both loudly and emphatically.

He turned and bolted, waiting outside the gate for us, looking away in case one of the animals did something else on the ground that they weren’t supposed to.

Jeremy enjoyed the playground and quickly learned to love bike riding via Emma’s outgrown bicycles. He even grew to enjoy camping. But as he got older and playing on the playground became less frequent, I tried to find him something else to do.

Our first attempt, when Jeremy was still small, was swimming lessons. Jeremy loved the water but hated having it touch his face. This was a mandatory part of the lessons and we eventually pulled him out of classes because he was slowly beginning to hate swimming, which wasn’t our goal.

Then I tried dance. We had a dance studio across the street from us, which Emma already enjoyed. One fall afternoon we all walked over and I checked to see what classes were available. The biggest issue turned out to be his age and not his gender. He’d never taken dance before, wasn’t athletic, and wasn’t particularly coordinated. Signing him into a class with his peers, especially ones who’d been dancing for five years already, wasn’t going to work. But there was a hip hop class aimed at beginners and he’d be only one year older than the oldest child in the group. So I signed him up.

He loved his dance class. He loved the movement, he loved the music, and he loved dancing with his peers. Then came the recital. I discovered his costume two days beforehand. A black, sports themed hoodie and black pants. Jeremy was underwhelmed, he’d hoped for something with some sparkle. I brought him to the recital already dressed in his costume. Then he stood in the hallway by himself while the rest of the group hung out in the change room, which was the largest room. He couldn’t join them because there were girls changing. So he stood outside listening while they laughed together, got pictures taken, and practised. I’d been promised the girls would be joining him in the hallway before I went to my seat. That wasn’t the case. He refused to join the following year and wasn’t willing to give the school based dance classes a try.

Karate was a dismal failure. His best efforts to get into position failed and his teacher assumed he wasn’t trying, which lead to Jeremy arguing that he was trying and had just done what the teacher asked, which lead to him joining me in my kick boxing class. Which was just as dismal a failure because we were kicking and punching which was boring. And the music was gross.

Soccer, ironically enough, was a success. I signed Jeremy up for two community run programs where we used to live; soccer and a drop in playgroup. I figured he’d love the playgroup with its variety of activities and offers of ice cream and would tolerate the soccer practises. The reverse was true.

The playgroup was very loosely organized and minimally supervised. The volunteers set up the stations then sat back and kept an eye out for blood, while chatting amongst themselves. Somehow they missed Jeremy’s small but vocal fan club who followed along behind him, calling him a fag. Jeremy didn’t find this anywhere near as entertaining as they did and flat out refused to go after two sessions. He told me the kids were “bugging him”. I didn’t find out how much or what was being said until almost a month later when we were on our way to a soccer practise and they happened by. I was walking closely enough to hear them but far enough away that they didn’t know I was with Jeremy.

Soccer, on the other hand, was highly organized but minimally competitive. The volunteers set themselves up to help out small groups of children and they loved having parents there to cheer the kids on during their games. With one adult for every three children plus a group of avid parents, the bullying was non-existent.

The first half of practise was just that, practise. Jeremy enjoyed this part. The ball was stationary and he simply needed to try and kick it.

Playing soccer blurred

He was enthusiastic, I’ll give him that.

The second half of practise was the game. His team was divided into two then set to play against each other. Jeremy stood in the centre of the field and watched as they ran around him, occasionally wincing when the ball came too close. At one point they tried him in the goal, figuring he was standing around anyways so he might as well stand there. This worked as long as everyone was on the other side of the field. When the ball grew closer, Jeremy simply abandoned the goal and went to find someplace a little safer.

His favourite part of soccer was the outfit. He loved the silky material of his soccer uniform and wore it everywhere. Even now, his favourite shorts are soccer shorts.

His last time playing soccer was almost three years ago though. We have a gym in the basement of our building but Jeremy refuses to go to it because it’s boring. He’d be willing to go with me but the gym is segregated by sex so that’s not an option. We have a pool downstairs as well but it’s small and he considers that boring too.

We had to run to the bus stop last week. It was just a short run but Jeremy nearly keeled over once we reached the shelter. Obviously watching YouTube videos isn’t good for his health. I need to find him something else to do.

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An update on yesterday’s post…

So I freely admit I have no idea what’s going on.

I got a call from Jeremy’s teacher today to let me know he was coming home early (again). I figured I’d take the time to try and sort out what exactly had been brought up regarding transgender individuals and the washroom. The teacher was more than happy to explain.

Jeremy’s class gets together with another similar class to do field trips and one of the students in the other class is identifying as male. Apparently they sat the class down and explained that this student has the choice of using the men’s washroom but right now he doesn’t feel comfortable using that washroom and would rather use the single stall handicapped washroom instead. She went on to explain that students in our region have the right to use the washroom of the gender they identify with. I thanked her for this information, explaining Jeremy had gotten the information pretty much backwards and assured her I’d explain what she’d said to me.

When I got home I talked to Jeremy about what was said. He doesn’t remember that classroom conversation at all, although he does know who the student is. The conversation he remembers started out as a discussion regarding people going into the wrong washroom; men walking into the women’s room and vice versa. Then the conversation migrated on to a discussion about trans* people. From the sounds of it, the whole conversation started out as a safety talk for vulnerable teens; an “if there’s a strange man standing in the corner of the washroom, it’s okay to leave and go tell a teacher” talk. Only it somehow devolved into a “I wouldn’t want anyone with a penis in the women’s washroom” whether the person identified as male or not. Which doesn’t sound at all like what the teacher was discussing today but Jeremy’s standing by his words.

This isn’t the first time I’ve had a completely different story from Jeremy and his teacher; the whole sex ed fiasco from a couple of months ago comes to mind. I just wish their sides would match more often.

Why is this being discussed at school?

I decided to share a video today, one which I thought several of you might be interested in. I previewed it first and Jeremy walked over behind me to watch.

He watched mostly in silence. “Mom?” he said once the video was done. “My teachers think it’s creepy for a transgender man to use the men’s room or a transgender woman to use the women’s room. They think it’s gross for someone with a penis to be in the same bathroom as them.”

I try my hardest to be supportive of Jeremy’s teachers, as Jeremy has a tendency to be overly negative. However I have my limits. “I think they’re spending too much time worrying about other people’s genitals,” I retorted. “That isn’t any of their business.”

“I know,” he agreed. “And what’s weird is they don’t have any problem using the men’s bathroom if the women’s is too busy.”

Ahh… double standards at their finest. I kept my mouth firmly closed.

Two weeks ago, when Jeremy came home from school, I asked him what his teachers thought of his new hair colour.

“They said my hair’s going to fall out soon,” he replied with a sigh. “They said if my hair gets any longer I’m never going to get a job and that no one’s ever going to hire me with my hair dyed like this.”

His hair is showing no signs of falling out. If anything, it’s looking even healthier now that I bought him purple swirled berrylicious scented shampoo and conditioner. And judging by the parade of customers I see daily at work, I don’t think long hair or dyed hair are a barrier to employment.

Jeremy’s teacher talks about how understanding she is regarding gender issues. She’s taken women’s studies at university and is aware. I’m willing to admit she means well but I’m not entirely sure what she’s aware of. The thing is, Jeremy doesn’t identify as trans*. He identifies as male, or “mostly male with a bit of female”, or “a boy who thinks like a girl”. But at the same time, while he doesn’t identify as trans*, he also doesn’t fit neatly inside a gender box and he’s irritated by the almost daily comments he hears at school regarding gender.

I wish they’d spend less time in class discussing gender and how boys and girls are different from each other and more time teaching spelling and math.

As for the video I mentioned at the beginning of this post, I’m leaving it here. I know there’s a few of you who will appreciate this one 🙂

A mother’s intuition…

Jeremy loves to build things. My apartment is full of items that have been taken apart to see how they work then put back together again (with varying degrees of success). This Christmas my parents bought him a circuit kit that allows him to build all sorts of devices, most involving a variety of siren noises and/or flashing lights.

Last night he built a lie detector which came equipped with a bright red LED light and a whining noise that changed pitch if you told a lie. I was the proverbial guinea pig. I placed my hand on the sensors then waited.

“Okay, first question,” Jeremy said, eyeing me intently. “Do you love me?”

“Yes,” I replied. He grinned as the pitch stayed the same. Then he asked me when my last period was and I told him.

“Eww…” he blurted. “You’re telling the truth.”

“Is there any reason I should lie about that?” I replied. “Besides, you’re the one who asked.”

“Fine. Now it’s your turn to ask me questions,” he said as he tugged my hand off the detector and placed his hand down instead.

“How old are you?” I asked.

“Sixteen,” he replied, rolling his eyes. “Mom, you need to ask a tricky question.”

“A tricky question…” My voice trailed off as I thought. “Okay. Are you straight?”

Instantly his hand shot off the lie detector then he burst into laughter while hastily disassembling the detector. He didn’t say a word. Then again, with that reaction, he didn’t actually need to.

He’s still claiming to be completely 100% straight but my intuition and I are going to hang out and wait. His closet might be comfy but he can’t stay in there forever.

A hard post to write…

Jeremy started speech therapy when he was three years old and one of the first things his therapist added was gender recognition. Basically Jeremy stunk at it, he had no idea who was a boy or a girl and he really didn’t much care either way. While he didn’t care, other people were getting irritated at being called “he” when they were female or “she” when they were male so I figured this was a good idea.

I was out with Jeremy shortly after he started therapy. I can’t remember what he did; maybe he was carrying a baby doll or stuffed animal or was wearing some article of clothing usually found in the girl’s department. Whatever it was, he ended up receiving a double take followed by a loud snicker.

I looked at my innocent child who still had no real concept of gender and realized he was getting judged over something he didn’t even understand.

Three years later I went to take out our recycling and Jeremy volunteered to join me. It was a sunny spring afternoon and Jeremy skipped along beside me, chattering away. Then he asked if he could marry Albert when he grew up.

This was back in 2003. We live in Ontario, Canada and same-sex marriage was being heatedly discussed. At the time it looked like it was going to be legal soon but the official legalization didn’t happen for another month. Meanwhile Jeremy was oblivious to the drama and debate.

I looked into his trusting eyes and said “Yes, of course” while hoping that would be true very soon.

I knew homophobia and transphobia existed but until then it was more of an abstract issue, something I disapproved of but also something that didn’t affect my life in any way. Then I had Jeremy.

Soon I was getting teary requests from him to tell the kids at school not to call him a he-she anymore.

“What does he-she mean Mommy?”

Then came the name-calling… “Mommy? What’s a faggot?”

When a kid’s still young enough to be calling you Mommy, those are not words you should need to explain. Especially when they’re being aimed at him.

I wanted Jeremy to have the same privileges and acceptance as Emma and it hurt to know that probably wasn’t going to be the case. He had two more crushes that year, one on another boy (who he tearfully told Emma had broken his heart) and another on a little girl (a spunky short haired girl who loved Hot Wheels and always wore clothes from the boys department).

Then there were no more crushes for several years until Tina came along. Shortly after this a friend of mine commented that Jeremy was very definitely straight and had been asking him for advice on girls.

The teasing continued but I slowly began to relax. Kids tease, that’s an unfortunate occurrence in life. I’m not condoning it and I’m not saying it should happen, just that it does and will continue until we someday get better at teaching and modeling empathy and respect. But teasing slowly fades as we become adults. With Jeremy being straight, I didn’t have as many worries. When he eventually started dating he could hold hands anywhere with no dirty looks and a kiss goodbye would be simply that, not a call to arms. His life would be a lot easier.

I say slowly because there was a little voice inside me saying “I’m not so sure about this”. I squashed that voice ruthlessly. Jeremy said he was straight, he even eventually found a girlfriend, and my friend (who’s been with his husband for Jeremy’s whole life) said Jeremy was straight. Who was I to say otherwise?

“His mother”, the voice whispered back. I ignored that as well.

Then came last summer, which I wrote about in my introduction post, when Jeremy came out as bisexual. Over the past few months, Jeremy has referred to himself as bisexual, partly gay, mostly interested in women, and straight… often while explaining that he was trying his hardest not to think about guys at all.

Now Jeremy emphatically informs me he’s completely 100% straight and I find myself torn. He’s gone through so many rapid changes over the past half a year, I find myself confused and not sure what to believe. Then he’s mad because he feels I’m not listening to him.

I was sitting on the bus a couple of days ago and thought to myself, “Okay, so Jeremy says he’s straight and I need to believe him. Jeremy is straight.” My immediate reaction was overwhelming relief. I hadn’t realized until then how scared I was for him.

It was a few years ago that my friend informed me that Jeremy’s straight. Then he told me I should be grateful.

In the summer, shortly after Jeremy came out, I met up with a young friend of mine. Directly before telling me about his new boyfriend, he looked me in the eye and hoped that Jeremy would be lucky and find a girlfriend instead of a boyfriend.

I love Jeremy. Whether he’s gay, straight, or bisexual he’s still the same kid. Thankfully, one thing I can say is that I’ve always treated him the same no matter which sexual orientation he was claiming at the time (this remark has been confirmed by Jeremy). But, at the same time, I want him to have as safe a life as possible.

I find it hard to believe Jeremy when he says he’s straight. Not just because of that little voice, which still whispers quietly to me, but because I’m scared to relax my guard and not worry about him so much.

It both infuriates me and brings me to tears that I feel this way. I shouldn’t have to feel this way. And the part which scares me the most is I think Jeremy feels the same way.

The display of disappointment…

When Emma and Jeremy were little, we’d sometimes go to McDonalds. I say sometimes because at the time we were all vegetarian, which made ordering food from McDonalds a bit tricky. Now with Emma still vegetarian and me vegan, we just hit our local Thai restaurant. It works now but they don’t offer colourful children’s toys or have a playground, so it wouldn’t have worked as well then.

I always thought of the display at the front of the store as the display of disappointment. The kids treated it like Christmas. They’d come running into the restaurant and glue themselves to the plexiglass, eagerly picking which toy they were going home with.

The display was wonderful for me (sometimes) because I could say exactly what toys they wanted instead of going through the whole “boys toys and girls toys” issue but we found their first choices were usually sold out and often their second choices were too. At that point I’d ask if the remaining toys could be placed on the counter for the kids to pick and then I’d get a blank look. This request confused the heck out of most of the cashiers, who couldn’t seem to understand I didn’t want a boy’s toy for Jeremy and a girl’s toy for Emma; I wanted them to be able to pick.

The reason was because the generic choice was always a disappointment, even more than their sold out display. Usually Jeremy did not want the boy’s toy but sometimes it was the reverse. Every once in a while McDonald’s would chuck out a miniature Barbie with pre-painted clothes. She was too small to play with any other dolls and there was no option for changing her outfit. Basically she was boring. Then both kids wanted a boy’s toy.

It’s funny though. I remember the frustration of arguing (politely) with a confused teenager to get a choice of toys. I just asked Jeremy and all he can remember is the one season McDonalds offered electronic video games (back when he was six years old).

This is bravery…

uganda.jpgThe photo is linked to the article about Rev. Christopher Senyonjo, a man who is risking seven years in jail for what he’s doing; which is offering prayer sessions and counseling services to members and allies of the LGBTQ community of Uganda.

I received an online petition today asking President Museveni not to imprison the reverend. I am suspicious of how well these petitions work but have signed and if anyone else wants to sign, it can be found here.