I dragged Emma to Jeremy’s counselling appointment yesterday, promising we just needed to sign him in then I’d take her to Tim Hortons for a treat and some one on one conversation. What I forgot was I’d requested a group chat at the beginning of his session.
Jeremy had his dentist appointment right before his last session and hadn’t been able to tell me if his teeth hurt or not. This was on top of not being able to tell me what clothes he wanted or if he liked his hair cut. His counselor suggested I come in for a bit at the next session to discuss my concerns.
Once again her main suggestion was that it might have something to do with autism. Otherwise all she could come up with was that maybe I do too much for him considering I’m the one who calls in his appointments from the waiting room. I’d called in because he doesn’t like the phone but told him he could be the one to dial next time. He shrugged and said he didn’t care either way.
I figured Jeremy might need someone to talk to while Amy’s down for her visit so let his counselor know, commenting that Amy had made some fairly transphobic comments on my Facebook page which had bothered Jeremy. He nodded in agreement while the counselor stared at both of us with total bewilderment.
“Why would this bother Jeremy? Is Amy transgender?”
Meanwhile I looked back with equal bewilderment. If Amy was trans, why would she be making transphobic comments on my page?
“No, she’s not,” I replied then looked at Jeremy and asked, “Can I tell her?” He nodded. “Jeremy identifies as gender nonconforming.”
The counselor’s bewilderment increased. “I don’t know what that means,” she replied. “I’ve never heard of it.”
I thought about her comment about me doing too much for Jeremy then turned and looked at him expectantly. “You explain,” I urged and then waited nervously. Part of Jeremy’s learning disabilities include processing issues. He understands a lot more than he can say and being nervous makes his ability to explain even worse. But he also needs to be able to explain for himself.
“It means I don’t exactly fit in as male or female,” he explained. “Right now I feel mostly male with a little female.”
“But you know you’re a boy right?” she asked. “You look like a boy and you know you are one. Right?”
I cringed. She might as well have picked up a sheet titled “What not to Say” and read off it.
“Well, yeah…” Jeremy said hesitantly. “Mostly…”
“I mean you’re happy with your body right?” she continued with a vague downward moving hand gesture.
“I haven’t noticed any real signs of gender dysphoria,” I interrupted. Her gaze sharpened and she looked excited.
“Ooo, you know all the lingo,” she blurted. “You didn’t do all that research just for Jeremy did you?”
The last part was incredulous. What on earth was I supposed to say? I tried not to look over at Jeremy, who probably already felt uncomfortable.
“Well, my best friend identifies as trans,” I replied. Which wasn’t why I’d done most of my reading but that wasn’t any of the counselor’s business.
She looked even more excited. “You sound very knowledgeable. So what does queer mean and why do people use it? I thought it was a slur but someone told me it’s the Q in LGBTQ.”
Oh good grief.
I took a quick peek at the clock. I’d promised Emma I’d only be a minute and we’d already been at least fifteen. And how the hell do I get into conversations like this anyways?
“Umm… it’s kind of an umbrella term people use to describe themselves if they don’t identify as straight or strictly male or female.” I wasn’t going to bring up cisgender, not if I wanted to get back into the waiting room any time soon. “People use it in order to reclaim the word but it’s a word they use to self-identify with, not one you call someone.”
I quickly changed the subject to Jeremy’s school before she could ask me any more questions, then cringed once again when I saw the clock. Poor Emma. A half hour sitting alone in a waiting room filled with grumpy adults and three year old Chatelaine magazines is not how any teen wants to spend time, especially not on a sunny, summer’s afternoon. By the time we walked upstairs and bought our food, we had five minutes alone before Jeremy came out to meet us.
Jeremy adores his counselor and other professionals speek well of her so I figure she’s not usually this tactless. I’m guessing, however, she won’t be much help with sorting out his gender identity.