My letter to Jeremy…

Dear Jeremy,

You came out to me as straight again last night, something that made me flinch because it usually involves a lot of yelling on your part. You got mad at me for not immediately believing you and then I struggled to try and explain why. I’m not good with words, at least not verbally. I need the space to think, type, and backspace as needed; time to collect my thoughts. And this is complicated.

When your sister was eleven or twelve years old, she told me she was straight and I could use male pronouns when I discussed relationships with her. My response was to say “okay” and switch to using male pronouns. If you’d done something similar, I’d have done the same. But you didn’t.

You came out as bisexual last summer, which is fine. Even after that, if you said you’d done some thinking and really weren’t attracted to males, I would have said “okay” and that would be it. But you didn’t. You informed me several times that you didn’t know if you were attracted to guys at all because you refused to think about it. Then you told me you were straight. And then you joked that you would never leave the closet because you “took away the door and welded it shut and stuck a big screen TV in front of it. There’s no way out.”

And you rate the various doctors in Doctor Who by cuteness. No, it wasn’t just that one time. It happens so naturally for you, I don’t think you even notice unless I say something. And I just don’t.

To me your sexuality is kind of like Schrödinger’s cat. It’s there but I can’t see it and don’t know what it is. Hints can be given but until the box is opened… and that’s where the similarities fall apart. Because there is no box to open (there’s no poison either but that would be an entirely different blog). You could be telling the truth now or lying and I won’t know.

I’m scared you think it will be okay to lie and say you’re straight because you like girls too. That if you fake hard enough, everything will be fine. Life doesn’t work like that. Just ask Dan from Single Dad Laughing, he wrote a whole blog post about his experience. Jeremy, when you came out, you said you were more interested in women than men and so is Dan. Like you, he also is fairly effeminate. His two marriages failed with both wives convinced he was gay, even though he was deeply in the closet. He ended up suicidal and didn’t come out until his early thirties. He’d known he wasn’t straight since he was eleven.

I posted a question on a forum I frequent, asking about a young friend of mine. I did not say it was you. One poster replied with a story of how her daughter got pregnant as a teenager. The father was a young man who’d come out as gay then bisexual and then said he was straight. He ended up killing himself. I got off the computer and bawled.

I tried to explain last night, tried to say you only have one life to live and you cut me off. You told me that I don’t listen to you and I don’t discuss what’s important. That I don’t support you at school. I think Kelly from Living a Bold Life said it the best:

Make it clear that you are fighting for your child to be themselves as far as preferences go, but not in the behavior category. That your expectation is the same for your child as every other kid as far as behavior is concerned.

Hon, I will talk to your teachers about gender and pronouns. I will give them reams of information if they request, and I have told them this. I will fight for you to get relevant sex information during sex ed class. I will stand up for you regarding boycotting the Olympics in Russia. I will not back you for bringing electronics into the library and refusing to put them away. To be fair, I know you realize your excuses were really flimsy. You didn’t feel like walking downstairs to your locker? You had to have your devise out so you could research online because it was too much effort to switch between tabs in your browser? I wish you’d just said you were feeling uncomfortable at school and wanted to go home instead of causing a scene in the library and getting sent home (again).

I wish you felt more comfortable, more safe in your own skin. I was discussing this with Lenny this morning and zie said, “He’s dealing with bending gender stereotypes, and that links to sexuality – ‘am I really gay if I’m more than a little female?’ that sort of thinking.” Jeremy, I know you will sort things out. Just trust yourself.

You thought I was being ridiculous when I said you only have one life to live, that there are no do-overs. And I know you thought I was being silly when we went shopping yesterday and I offered to have you pretend to help me pick out pyjamas for myself when we went through the ladies department. You rolled your eyes and sarcastically informed me you could just point them out for yourself, which is great. You did use my suggestion in Wal-Mart, which is fine too. I still think you would have rocked that Duck Dynasty nightgown (also your eyes are going to stay that way if you keep rolling them like that).

Jeremy, I guess the short answer is, I want you to love yourself as much as I love you. You’re amazing.

Love, Mom

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Radioactive and other random stuff…

I’ve spent the past two weeks organizing a dinner for after work tomorrow. Jeremy’s meeting us there and is thrilled because it’s his favourite restaurant. It’s mine too, as well as several of my coworkers; the food is so addictively good I joke they put crack in it.

Afterward, Jeremy and I are heading to Superstore to buy him at least one new pair of pyjamas. His only pair that are even remotely wearable are the silky pants I gave him. The rest are either way too small or look like the losing end of a fight with a weed whacker. It’s not like I never noticed, I’ve brought him into the pyjama section a couple of times over the past few months and each time he’s barely given them a glance. He wasn’t interested. I don’t think we got close enough to the shelf to riffle through for sizes. We certainly never got anywhere near trying any on.

I figured bringing the shopping trip up in advance might help avoid any surprises and misunderstandings in the store. Jeremy had been horrified when I suggested he get coloured jeans and yelled at me in the middle of Superstore this winter (only to quietly walk back later and pick them up on the way to the cash register). I figured suggesting checking out the women’s pyjama section might get a bit more reaction if it was sprung on him suddenly in public. My ears could not handle more of a reaction.

I got my chance as we were walking across the bare (and quiet) lawn to his counselling appointment.

“We’re going pyjama shopping tomorrow after dinner,” I began and Jeremy nodded.

Phew, I was more than half worried he was going to insist he didn’t want any, holding out for that $50 mail order pair of TARDIS footie pjs from the BBC shop. The sizing is much too vague for mail order.

“I was thinking we’d go to the men’s department first to look and, if they didn’t have anything you liked, we could check out the women’s department. I want to get your idea of what we should do.”

“Pick up a dress, underwear, and makeup,” Jeremy immediately replied. I was reasonably sure he was joking but deadpan humour always confuses me.

“I don’t have the budget for a new wardrobe,” I pointed out. “I’ve got a dress in my closet I never wear that you can have if you want. Does this mean we’ll wing it with shopping tomorrow?”

He agreed that winging it sounded fine and we headed in for his counselling session. What Jeremy doesn’t know is I looked up the pyjamas online. The pair I gave him is from Superstore and they have several similar pairs available, while the men’s department seems to be mainly cotton plaid. I have no idea which Jeremy will prefer. He continually surprises me.

We bounced, laughing, onto the bus after his session and tumbled into our seats.

“Did the driver just call you ma’am?” I asked once we were seated. Jeremy shrugged.

“Yes, he did,” Jeremy informed me as we left; the driver’s “goodbye ma’am oops” trailing along behind us.

“Does getting called ma’am bother you?”

“No,” Jeremy replied.

I don’t know when I’ll have an update on the letter to his teacher that I wrote yesterday. Jeremy accidentally forgot it at home today in his rush to collect his electronics, so it’s still sitting beside the computer.

His electronics consist of speakers (which he took from a broken TV then did something to in order to get them to work), various cords, and his DS (to play music). He took it all with us this evening too and played music the whole time we were outside. Most of the time, he played Radioactive, as sung by Pentatonix and Lindsay Stirling. This wasn’t a surprise; I’m reasonably sure he’s played it at least 200 times since I bought it last month. Best dollar-something I’ve ever spent.

I also promised him I’d share it here because it’s a great song:

A letter for Jeremy’s teacher, part two…

Jeremy called me into his room after he got home from his LGBTQ youth group last night. He was wearing an old pair of pyjama bottoms while brewing himself some tea. Jeremy tends to make tea when he’s worried. He was brewing himself eight cups; that’s a lot of worry.

“What’s with the pjs?” I asked. They were at least two sizes too small and flannel. He shrugged.

“They’re not that bad,” he replied. “I can sit in them and the front thing’s not too…” His voice trailed off. I looked to the side and noticed his silky pjs neatly folded on his footstool.

“Do these not fit?” I asked. “I can take them back if you don’t like them.”

“No,” he blurted. “They fit. I’m just saving them. You know, for special occasions like if I’m going out somewhere.”

“So, you’re saving cross dressing for when you go out instead of in the comfort of your own home,” I commented drily.

Jeremy laughed then walked over to his wicker shelves. “Tea,” he mused. “I should make lemon or maybe green.” He glanced at the huge pot of water. “Or both.”

Then he turned back. “Mom, can you talk to the teacher about the words?”

Well, he lost me there. “Umm… what words?”

“You know…”

I stared at him blankly. I had no freaking idea what he was talking about. Meanwhile he looked frustrated.

“The words,” he repeated. “When you talk about someone. The words you use.”

Okay we were getting closer to a clue. “You mean pronouns?” I guessed.

“Yes,” he agreed. “Those things. The teacher only uses him and her and it’s making me uncomfortable. Can you write her a letter?” He looked away. “I can’t talk to her.”

“Okay,” I replied. It only took me a few seconds to decide. My first thought was he should speak to her but this was wildly unlike Jeremy. He’s usually very blunt about saying what he feels. He looked back and smiled.

“Can you give me some context?” I asked. “Is she teaching you about pronouns?”

He nodded. “Can you tell her the other pronouns?” He paused then added, “What are the other pronouns?”

It wasn’t like I hadn’t mentioned them before but… “There’s a few pronouns like they-”

“For more than one person,” he interrupted.

“Well usually,” I agreed. “But sometimes if someone doesn’t identify with one gender they’ll use they. Or zie…”

“Trans* people use that,” he said.

“Umm some do,” I agree. He looked at me expectantly and I gave an internal sigh. It was just over a half hour after I was supposed to go to bed. I could squeeze in a lesson on gender.

“Gender’s a spectrum…” I began. He listened intently as I spoke although none of what I said was new; I’d said it all before.

“Why are you wanting her to use more pronouns?” I asked, mainly because I knew the teacher would ask me.

“For the other kids,” he said hastily. “Just because…” His voice trailed off again as if he couldn’t think of a reason.

I wondered if this was Jeremy’s version of “I’m asking for a friend” and kept my mouth shut.

“I’ll write the letter,” I promised. “But it’ll have to be tomorrow because it’s late and I need to go to bed now.”

He held his arms out for a hug.

“Sweet dreams sunshine. Love you,” I said. I gave him a hug and kiss then went to get ready for bed. By the time I finished, he was already in his silky pyjamas.

This is the letter:

Dear Ms. Teacher,

It’s come to my attention that you were teaching pronouns in class, presumably during a language lesson. Jeremy was uncomfortable and wanted me to ask you to use more pronouns such as they and zie. If you wish to discuss this further, please feel free to call me at [phone number] or message me via [email address]. I’m off work at [time].

Thank you,
Michelle

This is my 100th post on this blog which means, since I’ve only been posting for just under half a year, that I write a lot.

Jeremy’s hair…

I’ve been wanting to do a scrapbooking layout of Jeremy’s hair, featuring all the different colours he’s gone through over the past half year. This latest shade of purple is a different hue than the last and I figured I should get a shot of it while it’s still fresh.

Jeremy was underwhelmed by the thought of leaving his Minecraft game but went outside willingly. He walked a few steps ahead of me then stopped, still facing away from the camera.

“Umm, Jeremy, you need to face me,” I pointed out as I tugged on his shoulder.

He turned around, looking disappointed. “It’s not for the blog?” he asked.

“Sure, I’ll do a shot for the blog too,” I assured him.

So here it is, a photo of Jeremy’s purple hair. He’s holding one of our cats (the one he’s taught how to give hugs).

Jeremy's purple hair

Gender musings…

Jeremy can breath a sigh of relief because this post is going to be more about me than him. Or maybe he won’t. He likes attention.

He commented today that he figures the biggest, most important thing I’ve ever done in my life is give birth to him. I immediately asked him if he was sure this planet’s big enough for his ego, to which he said, “No it’s not but I’ve got another planet to fit the rest of it. That planet’s big but the rent’s cheap so it’s good.”

Where does he come up with this stuff?

Jeremy also told me if he didn’t identify as either gender, he’d want to use the term “that person” as a pronoun.

“But that’s not a pronoun,” I pointed out. “Seriously, try to use it in a sentence.”

He managed the first short sentence then started a longer sentence and floundered. He kept trying to use actual pronouns instead. Then he grinned. “It would be fun,” he insisted. “People would have to really think about what they’re saying and it would make them uncomfortable.”

“I don’t think that’s the point of pronouns,” I replied. “I don’t think that’s why most people use them.”

“It would be fun,” he repeated in a sing-song voice.

My first reaction was anger. I joke around with Jeremy a lot but there’s definitely a time and I hadn’t been trying to be silly. Then I took a closer look. He was silly and giggly… and completely not looking at me. He looked really uncomfortable.

“Have you sorted out your gender?” I asked.

He stared at the keyboard and shook his head slightly. “No,” he whispered.

“I’m sure you will at some point,” I said then paused. “Look, if you ever do want to talk, I’m here to listen.”

That caused him to look up. “Mom, you ask questions,” he retorted.

“Yes, I do,” I replied. “But I also really do listen. Just give me a try sometime.”

Then I went to my room and started to think about gender. I’ve been thinking off and on about it ever since.

First off, I’m female and cisgender (and totally unsure if that needs an -ed at the end). I like being female. I like my body and I like being referred to as she and her. I gave birth to two wonderful people and breastfed them both. I like that my body could do that.

I also like that my body is strong and it rarely hurts. At work, when it comes time to deal with the garbages, I figure I’m the one sent out about 80% of the time. That’s because I can pick the jumbo bags up and heave them into the dumpster. I’ve had coworkers say, “Michelle, this bag is much too heavy for one person. Can you help me take it out?” And then they’re floored when I just pick it up and carry it away. Now when there’s a bag no one can lift (and my weightlifting coworker’s off) the management simply asks me to grab it.

One of my friends posted a link on Facebook a few days ago which listed 20 things all women do. I went through to see which ones I actually did, scored a whopping three, then shared it on Facebook. What I didn’t share was that’s the highest score I’ve ever managed on any of those lists. I found one today where I scored one (out of ten). That was for brushing and flossing daily. I enjoy having teeth.

I had a coworker peer at my face intently a little while ago and say, “Michelle. You really need to do something with your eyebrows.”

My response was to blink at her in confusion until she walked away. In real life I’m witty like that. But when I got home I went on Facebook and announced that coworker was right, I really need to do something with them, so I was going to take them out for breakfast. Which I did. It led to an important self-discovery. If I ever switched to a raw vegan diet, I’d starve to death. Granted that had nothing to do with my eyebrows but it was still an important discovery. I like cooked food; a high five to whomever discovered fire.

Besides, I do things with my eyebrows. If I sleep funny and one brow is rumpled then I wet a finger and smooth it down. And I’ve got this one eyebrow hair that seems hellbent on migrating to my bangs. When it gets too wild and crazy, I get out nail clippers and cut it.

I also found out today that makeup expires and my decade old stuff is woefully out of date. Apparently it’s supposed to be thrown out in 6 months to a year… which would make everything a one use purchase even in a best case scenario. I’m pretty sure I haven’t used makeup since last summer. My “facial routine” consists of splashing water on it in the morning then drying with a hand towel.

And I sing tenor.

Society has too many stereotypes on gender and what girls should be like and what boys should be like. One thing those stereotypes don’t do is take into account how people feel.

I am sure Jeremy will figure out his gender at some point. I’m not saying he’ll sort out which box he’ll neatly fit into. Maybe he will or maybe he’ll fit none of them, or several, or maybe he’ll shift between boxes. But at some point he’ll figure this out. At the same time I can’t help but thinking that gender stereotypes aren’t making it any easier for him.

 

My heart…

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
~ Elizabeth Stone

I almost missed Jeremy’s counselling appointment on Thursday. Thanks to the holiday on Monday I’ve been a day behind all week; Jeremy missed his LGBTQ group on Tuesday for that reason. When I told Jeremy I’d almost forgotten his appointment, he looked worried.

“I can’t miss that Mom. I really need this appointment,” he informed me.

Thankfully I was able to reassure him we hadn’t actually missed it, although it was close.

Once we got off the bus, I looked around at the sunshine, flowers and leaves.

“Jeremy? Remember when you first started coming here? It was pitch black when we arrived and everything was covered in snow.”

“Oh yeah,” he agreed then he gestured to the nearby lawn. “Look at the grass Mom. We have to walk across it. Come on!!!”

He grabbed my hand and started tugging. Then he grinned. “What we really need to do is skip!”

He proceeded to do just that. I, of course, joined him. We went off, hand in hand, skipping merrily. It was a rather large lawn and we ended up on the other side, laughing and out of breath.

“Now I know why women wear bras,” Jeremy commented. “That’s actually kind of uncomfortable.”

I eyed him curiously. “You talk to me about your breasts often. Do you talk to your girlfriend about them too?”

“Yeah,” he said with a smile. “Hannah finds it funny. She laughs.”

Judging by his smile, that was his goal. We went inside, effectively ending that conversation.

We were waiting for the bus after his session when he informed me he needs to buy camo for next year’s CanUUdle.

“Why?” I asked and he grinned.

“So I can hide better,” he informed me. “It’s hard to play manhunt with purple hair, an orange shirt, and bright red shorts.”

Well, I can’t argue with that logic, although I’ll wait to see how he feels next year before running out to buy an outfit for a single game. Jeremy loves bright colours; I’m not sure how often a camouflage outfit would get worn. Unless it was incredibly comfortable, probably never.

I wrote my blog post last night and shared the photo story with Jeremy. He studied each picture intently.

“Why isn’t she wearing a shirt?” he asked at one point.

“Umm, none of the people on this page identify with a gender,” I reminded him.

“Oh yeah,” he said then stayed silent for the rest of the page.

After a while I went into the living room. Jeremy was curled up in the chair at the computer in his silky pyjamas and wrapped in his fuzzy purple blanket. I’d baked brownies earlier so I got myself one and gave one to Jeremy, who accepted it cheerfully.

I smoothed the tangles in his hair, noting how much it’s grown even in the past few weeks. It’s about halfway down his shoulder blades now. Then I reminded myself I need to re-dye it this weekend. Jeremy’s loving the purple colour but it fades very quickly.

“That page I showed you earlier. I was thinking you look a lot like the person in the first photo,” I commented. “Do you agree or am I just smoking crack?”

His eyes flicked away from the screen for a second. “Yes,” he said briefly.

“Yes you agree or yes you think I’m smoking crack?”

He looked away a bit longer and grinned. “Yes, I agree. I look a lot like that person.”

I gave him a hug, breathing in the berry scent of his conditioner, and took a step back. He takes the bus by himself every Tuesday. Two buses each way and there’s a twenty minute wait downtown on his way home.

Don’t fall asleep on the bus.” The words thankfully stayed trapped in my throat.

I walked out of the living room, leaving him happily designing a Minecraft base on the moon, then I went into the bathroom and fought off a panic attack.

Agender Portaits…

Lenny sent me a link to a photo story. I shared it with Jeremy and I thought it would be good to share here too. I am warning you strongly though that what happened to the first person is horrible. It was a hard one for me, personally, because Jeremy looks very similar to Sasha (albeit more fair). The photo links to the story (and opens in its own tab).

Chloe_Aftel_11