Gender Identities in Schools…

I belong to a closed atheist parenting group for mothers of all genders. I posted our letters to Just Kidding News there, which turned out to be a good thing because one of my friends belongs to the same group and she just emailed me a whole whack of information. One of the first links she sent me was this pdf file titled Questions and Answers: Gender Identities in Schools published, no less, by the Public Health Agency of Canada. It contains helpful information such as…

There are a variety of identities and expressions that exist on a continuum between male and female including, cross-dressers e.g., drag queens, drag kings), gender-benders and gender variant, gender non-conforming, and two-spirit individuals. For consistency in this document, we use the term ‘gender variant’ to refer to all of the above gender identities between male and female, on this continuum.

And…

Be cognizant of the language being used in the classroom and during school events. For example, texts and lessons that use ‘she/he’ binary ignore the range of gender identities discussed in this document. By using more inclusive language, such as ‘they’ instead of ‘she’ or ‘he’, not only will transgender youth feel more supported but it will also help educate the entire school community about gender diversity.

And even…

Gender variant students are attending schools in Canada, whether or not they are visible to other students, staff or administrators. There are several reasons why gender variant students may not be visible within the school community. First, most gender variant youth are invisible out of fear for their safety. Individuals whose behaviours do not conform to the stereotypical societal expectations of male and female genders are vulnerable to discrimination, verbal abuse, bullying, and physical violence. Second, while some gender variant individuals’ goal is to ‘transition’, a process where their external appearance is altered to cross from one gender to the opposite, there are a variety of other gender variant individuals that do not embody such drastic changes. The remainder adopt gender variant identities at various points along the continuum. For example, some may choose to alter only their dress. Finally, making the assumption that there are no gender variant youth in schools creates a barrier for gender variant youth to disclose their identities or for recognizing students who may be struggling with this issue.

I’ll be printing the whole document out to give to Jeremy’s teacher on the first day of school. While it would have been a huge help this spring when I was discussing using more pronouns in the classroom, it’ll still be a huge help this fall. Plus I’ve got Jeremy’s permission to tell the teacher he’s gender non-conforming, which will also be a help.

Jeremy’s long hair…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I can’t get over how long Jeremy’s hair is getting, especially since it was barely shoulder length on New Year’s Day. It’s also getting straggly on the ends and needs a trim. My woefully bad hairdressing skills are not up to the task.

I need to talk to the hairdresser down the street and see if she can a) handle the eczema he’s currently dealing with (Emma got sent away from one chain hair cutting place in tears when they claimed her scaly patches were lice) and b) if she’s willing to cut his hair in a girl’s style without any sabotage or negative comments. I’ll even fork over the extra $2 for the girl’s cut.

This is just one of the pictures I’ve shared on Twitter; there have been others. Also, you can see his new water bottle in the top left corner of the photo.

p.s. I know the desk looks horrible but it’s Jeremy’s desk. I’ll need to clean it up soon though because he’s lost one of his keys on it.

This just happened…

Jeremy walked into my room to show me his new solar panel robot we got at Dollarama yesterday.

“I’ll read you the blog post I just wrote,” I told him as I flipped through our stats page. “I think you’ll only be the seventh to read it, not including me… unless some of the people who started on the home page also read it. But you’ll be no less than the seventh.”

Jeremy rolled his eyes and sat down. “Okay, fine, you can read it now,” he said once he was settled. I read him the blog.

“It was fine,” he said when I finished. “Good.”

Which is what he says in response to every blog post I’ve ever written. If I’m reading him a chapter I’ve just written, his answer changes slightly to “Fine” and “Good conversations.”

“Lenny suggested maybe creating a list of the good things and bad things about being trans and seeing if that would help you sort things out. Do you think it would be a help?”

He smiled. “Yeah, that sounds good.”

“Okay… so what would some good things be about being trans?”

He shrugged and stayed silent. I listened to the metaphorical crickets chirp for a few seconds.

“Okay… how about the bad things then?” I figured if he got some bad things out, we could work our way back to some good things.

Another shrug and more crickets.

“Hon, I’m getting the feeling you’re not trying,” I commented.

“Mom. I am thinking. You don’t know what’s in my head.”

“And yet you came up with nothing for either list. C’mon, not even bathrooms?” Considering how often he’s brought them up before, I figured that one would be a given. Once again he shrugged.

“I’m guessing when you said you’d be interested in doing that list, you didn’t mean right this second,” I said and Jeremy nodded.

I leaned over and rested my hand on his chest. “Jeremy, right here, right in your heart… deep down inside… when you listen to yourself, do you feel like a man?”

“I don’t know,” he replied.

“Okay… do you feel like a woman?”

“I don’t know,” he repeated.

I thought for a second. “Maybe you just don’t feel like either gender,” I mused.

“I don’t know,” he said sounding frustrated.

“You know what. I bet deep down inside you feel like… a cat.”

Jeremy snorted.

“Which is fine but if you start licking yourself, I’m expecting you to start using the kitty litter.”

“And I’m out of here,” he said after rolling his eyes.

This would be how we spend our Saturday nights. It’s barely 8pm here and we’re both in our pyjamas. Also, Jeremy just walked by dragging a glowing green Xbox controller by its cord, kind of like you’d walk a toy dog. Because it’s broken and because walking broken game controllers around the apartment is what everyone does.

So nothing’s been sorted out but I’m reasonably certain Jeremy is not a cat.

Hello… anyone there?

That would be me calling out the title inside Jeremy’s brain; I get the feeling he spends as little time in there as possible. I freely admit that I am venting and that I don’t understand. That being said, I don’t understand!

Take last summer for instance. Jeremy told me several times that he was interested in boys as well as girls. Over the next half year he waffled, telling me he didn’t know if he was interested in boys because he tried his hardest not to think about it… then he started telling me he was straight. Which is fine, it’s not like there’s some quota I’m trying to fill…

“Jeremy, we don’t have enough LGBTQ people in our family so you’re it. Pick a group and run with it.”

… but at the same time I really don’t get the “I’m trying hard not to think about it” comments.

When Jeremy saw the video on Just Kidding News, he insisted he needed to write a letter and share it with them. I decided to share a letter as well.

I called him into the room before I published it and said, “Hon, I need you to listen to this and tell me if my letter is correct. I’m not in your head and don’t want to put words in your mouth. Please tell me if I mis-identified you in any way.”

Jeremy listed to the letter and told me he agreed 100%. He even agreed the words “gender nonconforming” fit him. Then I asked him if I could share the letters in a closed Facebook group I belong to and he said yes. I wanted to go back and add a link to the blog a little while later and he refused.

“Jeremy? I was just wondering why you turned down the link to our blog,” I asked. “Considering how much was in the letter, I’m not sure there’s anything else in the blog that would be a surprise.”

He looked confused. “Well what was in the letter?”

I scrolled back to the post, “I said you identify as non-conforming, haven’t sorted out your gender identity yet, and are likely trans.”

He smirked. “That’s just you putting words in my mouth.” I thought the smoke coming from my ears was going to set off the alarm.

“I read you that letter,” I retorted. “AND I asked you to tell me if you agreed or disagreed with what I wrote AND you told me you agreed 100%. What the hell is the point of me asking you if you’re going to agree then and claim I made it all up later? If I’m wrong, tell me where it is so I can try and fix it.”

He looked embarrassed. “It’s fine,” he finally said. “What you wrote is fine.”

Then came this morning. To be totally honest, I can’t even remember how the conversation started. Jeremy had been up since 4am and woke me up with him rustling around, talking to himself and the cats, and making something to eat. My alarm was set for 5:45am, I had not planned on getting up almost two hours early and was not very conscious. I do remember asking him if he could at least tell me whether he was 100% male or not. I figured that one would be easy. It wasn’t. He had no idea. And once again he informed me he tries his hardest not to think about the subject. Which made me picture the inside of Jeremy’s skull looking like this…

Tumbleweeds2

 

Then to top it off, he asked when he’d ever said he was bisexual because he couldn’t remember ever saying that. I told him when (again) and he looked surprised (again). I’m sure he’ll forget again soon.

I told him I loved him, grabbed my lunch, and headed off to catch the bus. Once I got on I messaged Lenny.

“I freely admit I don’t get it. He can’t even tell me if he feels 100% male or not because he tries his hardest not to think about it. He did this with being bisexual too. Told me for ages that he didn’t know at all. Then we had a conversation where he went from saying he didn’t know to saying he was straight in less than a minute. Now he keeps forgetting he ever told me he was bi. It’s just frustrating and concerning that he blocks and hides this stuff from himself.”

Lenny replied, “This path will cause me pain is a powerful reason not to let it all hang out.”

Which makes sense. I just wish he’d spend a little more time thinking and a lot less time ignoring himself. He’s a good kid to hang around with, I wish he was happier with himself and happier to be himself.

(Also, I found the tumbleweed gif at Awesomely Luvvie)

Ethical waffling…

Jeremy and I had a long talk on his birthday in which he admitted he was worried about being disowned by our family if they found out about the blog. I assured him he had nothing to worry about in that regard, no one in the family would disown him. They’d think he was weird but they wouldn’t disown him. And it’s true. They wouldn’t understand and probably wouldn’t make any attempt to understand but disowning him wouldn’t even cross their minds.

I’m an atheist and have been so since I was 15 years old. I turn 44 years old next week and my Mom still thinks it’s a phase I’m going through out of a desire to be weird. Same with being a vegetarian (which I’ve been since I was 22 years old). I became a vegan last year and my Mom immediately asked why I’d put myself out of the natural order of life and was denying nature and the circle of life. Why was I trying to be unnatural? Funnily enough, I had absolutely no answer at all to that one. And my Dad still absentmindedly offers me milk, cheese, and ice cream. Flip side is my Mom buys containers of vegan margarine to keep in her fridge for when I come over and checks all the labels for me before she buys stuff. So they won’t understand but will accept.

During that conversation I assured Jeremy that if the family disowned him, I’d disown them. And that comment leads to my waffling. You see, Emma’s now been disowned by a close family member (who I’ll call Karen).

I won’t get into too many details. It involves Emma being an extremely messy 18 year old who was asked by Karen to clean up before her grandparents (my parents) got home from their vacation. Emma responded with several obscenities; she admits she was wrong there. Plus Karen was under quite a bit of stress to have the house looking perfect as my Mom became quite ill over their holiday and ended up spending a week in the hospital. Then Emma called her some pretty nasty names. According to Emma, Karen apparently responded by telling Emma to just go on welfare because she was no better than her father, would never amount to anything, and didn’t deserve anything better. She deleted and blocked her on Facebook too.

Karen immediately contacted Amy who promptly messaged this to Emma:

“You are unbelievable and are just like your mom. You take no responsibility for your own actions, words or behaviour. I have heard enough empty excuses from you. You are an adult now. I hope you move back in with your mother. My family is my business and I will involve myself. Good luck in life.”

Keeping in mind I have barely spoken to Amy in the past five years. I think the Facebook thread I posted about back in March is by far the biggest conversation I’ve had with her; I also don’t think I’m the one who looked bad in that discussion. Emma reacted just as you’d expect considering someone had just verbally attacked her mother. She told Amy not to talk about her mother like that and deleted her off Facebook. Meanwhile Karen messaged me to say she’d had a major issue with Emma but it was done and she hoped it wouldn’t affect our relationship. I’m telling you, this has been a stellar week for family. Amy’s upcoming visit is going to be *interesting*.

That being said, I’m not planning on disowning Karen. I have great plans of staying right out of it.

Jeremy and I were putting away our groceries when I broached the subject.

“It just feels different and I’m not sure why,” I commented. “I said I’d disown anyone if they disowned you over your gender but Karen’s actually disowned Emma and I don’t want to retaliate.”

Jeremy shrugged and kept putting away the groceries, smiling when he found his can of iced tea.

“I guess because gender isn’t something you have any control over. You can’t change it on a whim anymore than you can change your eye colour.” I smiled and added, “Go for it… change your eyes.”

Jeremy laughed then squinched his eyes shut before taking a drink.

“Holy crap!” I blurted. “They’re brown now!”

Jeremy nearly snorted iced tea out his nose. His eyes are not brown by the way.

“If Karen told Emma she was disowning her for having borderline personality disorder, I’d have just walked away from the relationship. But she didn’t. Not only that but Emma started the whole argument off by calling Karen some really nasty names.”

Jeremy nodded. “Yeah, it makes sense Mom.”

I yawned then sighed. “Jeremy? I have a favour to ask you.”

He watched me intently.

“Remember how you came out as bisexual last summer and then realized you were straight. It involved a lot of screaming on your part and you even got your therapist to tell me you were straight. I just can’t do that again. If you’re cisgender can you tell me now and not just drag it out for months before yelling at me.”

He smiled then pulled me against him for a hug. “Don’t worry Mom,” he assured me. “It’s not going to happen and I’m not going to yell at you.”

And, for a complete and total change of topic, I think I’ve sorted out Twitter. I’m using it to share small conversations between Jeremy and I (too small to blog about) and pictures (not of our faces as that defeats the purpose of an anonymous blog). So feel free to follow me and enjoy. Photos of Jeremy’s fancy new water bottle will be up shortly 🙂

So I’m now on Twitter

I also have no idea whatsoever what I’m doing. I have no idea how hashtags work. I have no idea how to retweet something, although I’m pretty sure retweet means to share something. I have no idea how to like a tweet or reply to one… or if those options are even possible. I’m sure I’ll sort it out soon. I have managed to set up my account and even add my picture and a header.

My twitter account is: https://twitter.com/secretmom2013 if anyone’s interested in following me. Considering how much time I spend on Facebook, I’m sure I’ll be updating there regularly.

Our letters to Just Kidding News…

I blogged yesterday about the videos Just Kidding News posted regarding a South Carolina teenager who was told he couldn’t wear makeup for his driver’s licence photo.

This is Jeremy’s letter:

To Just Kidding News

I liked your YouTube channel but you are really closed minded when it comes to equal rights. It says in your video that you think it’s hilarious. Okay, you are so hilarious. You say men don’t wear makeup, okay, women don’t lift weights and they wear dresses but I did not see the women wearing dresses on your show, did you? No, and at least one lifts weights so is it fair for her to wear and do all she wants but he cannot? And it says man on his licence, not woman, and what? Are they going to pull down his pants and check if he crashes his car into the lake? No, you can tell he was male in the photo. If he wears make up all the time then let him like we do for women. But at the end of the day people will hear what people want to hear.

Jeremy

 

This is my letter:

To the Just Kidding News team,

I look into your eyes and see ignorance and a complete inability to understand the effect your words have on others. Instead of listening to your viewers, you decried them as being too stupid to comprehend what you were saying; that you were saying black while they were seeing green. I don’t think you realize the reality of the situation.

Do you have any idea how much prejudice and hatred kids like Chase Culpepper and my son face on a daily basis? Do you really think Chase is putting on makeup and women’s clothing for shits and giggles? Do you realize how strong he must be to walk out of his front door every day knowing the reaction he is going to get? The national average for attempted suicide is 7%. The average for LGB youth is 33%. The average for trans youth is 47%. And to give you an idea of how much I worry about this, I already had these numbers memorized!

My child, Jeremy, is also gender non-conforming. He hasn’t sorted out his gender yet, although considering how much indecision and thought it’s taking there’s a huge chance he’ll end up identifying as trans. Right now the most my son’s done is grow his hair long and dye it purple. That’s enough to get men screaming insults and slurs at him from car windows. He’s scared to go any further, terrified that would be enough to get those men to stop their cars and come after him. I don’t have any words to reassure him. I want my son to be remembered for a long and fabulous life, not by a lit candle on November 20th.

The thing is, you’re seeing Chase’s makeup and clothing as if it were a Halloween costume, something silly to pull on and take off for a lark, instead of being an expression of himself, a need to be himself. You saw him as nothing more than a joke. And yes, I am aware that you are a humour and satire site but you could have just as easily been on his side instead of against him. Just as easily criticizing the DMV for singling Chase out and demanding he conform to narrow gender stereotypes.

We all have the power to use our words and make a difference. Are you willing to use yours?

Michelle

Jeremy’s disappointment…

Jeremy loves to watch a YouTube channel called Just Kidding News. The show involves several young adults who get together and share their views on recent events. I get the feeling Jeremy looks up to these youths and values their opinions. He talks about them a lot.

About a week ago, Jeremy told me I had to watch a video on a South Carolina teen who was told to remove his makeup for a DMV photo. The video starts at 5:06 and also include a lot of swearing. Jeremy’s expression said he hadn’t enjoyed it at all, which had been a surprise for me (before I watched the video) since he usually enjoys their shows:

Once the video was done he simply said, “They’re wrong”. Then he insisted I go to the comment section (which is not a place I go willingly) and read this comment in particular. He said it was the best of the lot:

Ryan Degen 1 week ago
+Kha Pham First of all, sex, gender, and gender expression are three different things. “Sex” refers to the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women. “Gender” refers to the socially constructed roles, behaviours, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women. “Gender expression” is any and all mannerisms, personal traits, etc. which serve to communicate a person’s identity as they relate to gender and gender roles. This is typically represented in terms of masculine, feminine, and androgynous, but regardless if someone is a male, female, gender neutral or otherwise can be present in people of any gender or gender expression- even though they are often associated with men, women, and non-binary genders respectively.

Second, for EVERYONE saying this is just an IDENTIFICATION OR SECURITY ISSUE; it isn’t – this very much is a “social justice” issue as some have phrased it.

Individuals who consider themselves trans- or express their gender in ways that don’t conform to the mainstream norms and expectations of what a male or female should be experience discrimination on a near daily basis. Even if they do directly experience discrimination they still are reminded that they do not meet up to such definitions and the psychological impact that can have on such individuals CAN BE (but is not always) severe.

Even if this was for IDENTIFICATION, it was mentioned he wears makeup on a daily basis. I understand that as: on a DAILY basis, he attempts to FEMINIZE his appearance. If in his ID it says “male” and he looks more feminine than what the “average male” looks, then won’t that be just as confusing? Are you saying he shouldn’t drive unless he looks exactly like his DMV photo? Think about this reasonably: if a female wears a drastic amount of makeup that alters the appearance of her facial structure, isn’t that the same a guy attempting to feminize his? Here’s an example of what makeup can do to a person: [http://aefae.files.wordpress.com/2013/03/miracle-asian-transformation-makeup.png ] The fact is, no one has an issue if a female wears makeup to alter or improve her appearance, but if a man does to do anything but cover blemishes (for instance, to look more feminine) it’s criticized. I’m just going to call you and everyone out on this: YOU ARE BEING HYPOCRITICAL AND HETEROSEXIST. Also, don’t even try to backtrack and say if a female alters her appearance like the example I provided then it should be unacceptable, because at this point you will only be saying it after the fact I called you on your bullshit.

And again, if this is a security and identification issue: I have seen drag queens (who wear a hell of a lot more makeup than this guy or the average female) get through airport security even though their ID shows a photo of them without makeup. If you can get through airport security then I doubt this will be a problem  And again, even if you find a way to make it an issue, guess what? He will probably have more ID on him while driving.

Third, for all of you who have been saying that if “he” wants to wear makeup he should have to get a legal sex change:

Do you even know what the legal requirements are to get a sex change? Do you know what physical requirements he has to meet? Even if you are, are you aware that transitioning from a male to female is a PROCESS… A process that can take many years. A process that NEEDS to be slow and gradual for some. Also, he may not be trans; he may just express his gender differently from mainstream ideals, so are you saying he’s shit out luck then? Again, if you are, it’s heterosexist. Deal with it – be humble – admit you’re wrong ffs.

That was a really long comment to read, especially out loud. Jeremy nodded as I read it, agreeing quite strongly with the author. It was obviously a quote he’d read before, which impressed me as Jeremy struggles with reading. I was also disappointed for him because he’d had to wade through a bunch of crappy comments to get to this one (and who knows how many more after).

He told me he wanted to write a letter to the Just Kidding News crew but he couldn’t find any way to contact them directly, then showed me how there wasn’t any link on any of their social media sites other than tweeting them. I told him if he wrote a letter, I’d put it on the blog then we’d find a way to link it on their Twitter page. I’ve never used Twitter before. He wrote a bit but now can’t find it, apparently it didn’t save properly.

I got home from work today and began to make dinner. A short while later, Jeremy came into the kitchen to show me this video, where they address the comments on the previous video. It starts at 13:00. Jeremy was even more upset.

I don’t know which surprised me more, their ignorance or how willing and eager they were to attack their own viewers. I think the best quote out of this whole video was when one young man claimed “the internet just made people expose their stupidity”. I think the biggest shame is these young people making this video don’t realize the ones exposing their stupidity are themselves.

Why am I a feminist?

I am a feminist because feminism isn’t about making women better than men, it’s about making all genders equal.

I am a feminist because I have a son and a daughter, whom I love and want the all the best.

I am a feminist because my son does not need to “man up”.

I am a feminist because my daughter is not a slut for needing birth control.

I am a feminist because if women were truly equal then my son would not be seen as lesser for being feminine.

I am a feminist because neither of my children should get yelled at from car windows.

I am a feminist because grown men should not be harassing my teenage daughter for her phone number.

I am a feminist because my son shouldn’t be scared to go outside in the clothes he likes.

I am a feminist because my daughter is not an ornament and doesn’t need to smile.

I am a feminist because my son is not weak for showing emotions.

I am a feminist because grown women are concerned the phrase “no means no” is too complicated to define rape.

I am a feminist because people still think men cannot control themselves when aroused.

I am a feminist because my son is stronger than society thinks and my daughter is not responsible for all the men around her.

I am a feminist because “you throw like a girl” is still an insult.

I am a feminist because “that’s so gay” is still synonymous with “that’s stupid” in almost every school on this continent.

I am a feminist because Canada has only ever had one female prime minister and only by default.

I am a feminist because women hold only 5% of the CEO positions in the Fortune 1000 companies.

I am a feminist for the little girl in our pool who told me she wants to be pretty when she grows up.

Random Friday thoughts…

Remember Amy? My relative who I had a huge Facebook argument with back in March? The one who told my friend Lenny that zie doesn’t know what transgender really is but Amy does because she learned about it at school? She’s coming for a visit in one more month.

My Mom called me on my bus ride to work to share the good news. A week and a half long visit, right over Emma’s 19th birthday.

I got off the phone and immediately texted Lenny, telling zir that Amy was coming down for a visit. Zie knew this wasn’t good news. In fact I think the only one less excited than me about the upcoming visit was Jeremy.

His jaw dropped when I shared the news and he groaned. I assured him we’d have one small family visit then avoid her for the rest of her trip. Then he wanted to know if we could invite Lenny down to yell at her and tell her she’s wrong. Surprisingly enough Lenny turned this down. I mean who doesn’t want to fly halfway across the world (on their own dime) to yell at a total stranger?

Then there was today at work. As I’ve mentioned before, I am very socially awkward. I try but I usually feel like everyone else got a book of social guidelines and conversation tips while I got a junk mail flyer. Everyone else is having a conversation while I blurt out things like “Hey, pizza’s on two for $12”. Which means that even when I’m trying my hardest to fit in, my usual description is “weird”. So I find conversations hard at the best of times and hate conflict.

I was working with two coworkers. One is young, maybe a year older than Emma, and a constant joker. She finds everything funny and is constantly pulling pranks. The other is in her thirties and just started this week. She’s uncertain, needs a lot of reassurance and regularly asks if there’s anything she can do to help. The three of us were standing at the cash register when a customer walked past.

“I know her,” my young coworker commented. “She used to go to my school.” She paused, looking confused. “Or he,” she continued. “Or he/she… whatever.”

The kid in question couldn’t hear us. This conversation wasn’t going to affect them in the slightest. I took a deep breath.

“If you don’t know whether someone’s male or female, you can use they instead of he or she.”

She looked at me in astonishment. “Really?”

I nodded. “It’s a pronoun too.”

She laughed and said, “Michelle, you’re so funny.”

Which was pretty much what I expected to hear from her. I have the feeling she considers life in general to be one huge joke. She’s fasting right now and was laughing at one o’clock this afternoon because she was so thirsty and wouldn’t be able to drink anything for eight more hours. I don’t think I could find the humour in that but she did.

Why I spoke up is because maybe my young coworker will learn something from what I said and because I know nothing about my new coworker other than she’s anxious, eager to please, and desperately trying to fit in. Maybe she’s just anxious, I’ve got plenty of coworkers with anxiety issues (myself included), but maybe she needs the reassurance that someone in the store isn’t afraid to speak up. I have no idea if I made a difference; judging by previous experiences, chances are I never will know.

And then came tonight. Jeremy and I are going to a barbecue tomorrow and I was looking through my closet for something to wear. It’s hard because I donated most of my nice clothes when they became forty pounds too big. The remainder of my clothes are better described as casual (although some are leaning a lot closer to threadbare). I pulled out a shirt I love. It’s lime green and, I don’t know… shirred? That’s the closest word I can come up with although it’s not quite that. It’s puckered and ripply… and I spilled grease on the front. It’s not that noticeable when it’s just being held up. Jeremy looked at me in surprise when I said I couldn’t wear it because of the stain.

“You can’t really see it just by holding it up,” I explained. “Here…”

Jeremy wasn’t wearing a shirt so I stuck it over his head. He obediently held up his arms.

“Look in the mirror now. See…”

While the stains don’t show up much when the shirt’s being held, they’re very obvious when it’s worn.

“Oh yeah,” he said as his eyes focused on the biggest stain. Then he looked a bit further down. On me the shirt is almost hip length. It was a crop top on him. He grabbed the edges and stretched it down before giggling and pushing his stomach out as far as he could.

I laughed and tickled his stomach. “Don’t be a goof and don’t stretch my shirt.”

I don’t want the shirt stretched too much because someday I might figure out how to get those stains out. Hopefully. He let go of the edges and relaxed.

“The shirt looks good on you,” I commented, because it did. He eyed himself more closely then nodded.

“It shows off my breasts, even though they’re small,” he agreed before pulling the shirt off. Then he flopped down on my bed.

“My teacher doesn’t like that I’ve got long hair,” he complained. “She doesn’t like me growing my nails long either. She says only girls can have long nails.”

“Speaking of nails, you need to get yours cut,” I interrupted. “Not short, just because they’re ragged.” I hurried out of the room and came back in with clippers. “You need to cut them like this…” I showed him how to cut from each side to a point in the middle then round the tip so it’s smooth.

“You use a nail file to make the edges really smooth. I’ve got a package of them somewhere around here that I haven’t opened, you can have them if you want.”

He nodded and I went rummaging through my dresser while he continued cutting his nails. I started off in my makeup drawer. Blusher (sans lid), eyeshadow, a couple of brushes, tiny bottle of nearly nude nail polish. I pulled that out while trying to figure out where it had come from in the first place. Jeremy’s eyes lit when he saw it.

“What colour is that?” he asked.

“Beige,” I replied. “It’s just supposed to make your nails look shiny. Do you want it?”

His expression said he very much wanted it so I handed over the bottle. He stopped cutting his nails to try it on, wiping them off in frustration because the polish smudged. He cut his nails then, after I showed him how to file, tried the polish again… and again… and again.

“Mom, I’m really not good at this,” he said in frustration.

“It takes practise,” I reassured him. “Look, this is how you put the polish on. See. Even strokes from the bottom to the top and you try to only paint once. If you need another coat, you wait until it dries completely then put on another layer. Otherwise it gets gummy.”

He nodded, looking intently at his nails, and flopped back down on my bed. Then he started a monologue on how if all bathrooms and change rooms were gender neutral, it would make our world a utopia. I’m not exaggerating, he seems to feel this would bring about world peace. Then he wanted my opinion.

“Hon, I’m going to share my thoughts on the conversation and that includes how I think you’re feeling,’ I began. “If I’m wrong then let me know.”

He nodded again.

“I think right now you’re struggling with trying to sort out your gender and things that are very gender specific are making you uncomfortable.” Another nod. “But hon, not everyone’s struggling with their gender and some people, myself included, like male and female washrooms. I feel comfortable in a female washroom.”

“Then what do you suggest?” he asked angrily. “A male and female washroom for the closed minded people and a washroom for everyone else?”

“You don’t identify as either gender,” I blurted very thoughtlessly. Jeremy didn’t disagree, which means he either agreed with me or simply didn’t feel like disagreeing at that time. Either way I moved on. “But you’re not everyone. I identify as female and like using a female washroom. Not out of being closed minded, simply because it feels comfortable for me. I like the idea of having a male washroom, a female washroom, and a neutral washroom. Or when there’s single stall washrooms, having them simply be neutral washrooms. You know, like when we were at Rawlicious or that Asian fusion restaurant, the one that said their only vegan option was a bowl of miso soup. Or using your suggestion of having individual stalls with floor to ceiling doors along one side of a hallway and sinks along the other.”

He looked slightly mollified by me mentioning his idea. “Mom? Lenny uses zir for a pronoun. Are there any others?”

“Umm… there’s they,” I replied. “I can find a list of others if you want.”

He shrugged. “I don’t need to know them right now,” he assured me. “I can find out closer to when school starts.”

Which makes me worry he’s planning a continuation of the great English class pronoun war of 2014. I’ve already told him I’ll back him 110% when it comes to gender expression and gender identity but won’t back him at all if he’s being an ass. Bringing a list of pronouns into school for the sole reason of bugging his teacher would definitely fall into the latter category. But there’s almost two months of summer vacation left and we can sort that one out closer to September.