Conversation with Jeremy

Jeremy: Mom? I have a bad feeling about our apartment; like maybe there’s a ghost in it or something. Like it’s sending off vibes.

I knew where he was coming from. Earlier he’d been looking for a missing key and tore up the entire living room. While he was hunting he discovered a small cellphone case he’d lost a while ago, neatly tucked away inside a drawer. Most people would assume someone found it and put it away but not Jeremy. He was positive he’d left it on top of the desk and he claimed was too neatly placed to have fallen in there by accident; therefore someone must have come into our apartment and placed it there. Yes, according to Jeremy we have neat and conscientious thieves who don’t steal anything. And now they were supernatural thieves. Oh joy.

Me: We don’t have a ghost. You’re simply overreacting again, like usual. Remember when you were positive the dogs barking outside were going to jump multiple stories to get through your closed bedroom window? Or how we’ll have a thunderstorm and you’re positive we’re going to have a tornado? Running around the apartment panicking because we need water, flashlights, a week’s worth of food, and somewhere to hide?

Jeremy: But those were tornado warnings.

Me: Yes, warnings. That means we’re having thunderstorms that might cause tornado clouds, not that we’re going to get a tornado; that would be a tornado watch. We haven’t had a tornado land around here in decades.

Jeremy: So none since I was born?

Me (reassuringly): No, none since you were born.

Jeremy: That’s because I’m here, full of awesomeness and sunshine! I’ve made it so we don’t have tornadoes.

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What a weekend…

Emma turned 19 years old on Saturday and since she’s looking for an apartment, I bought her kitchen supplies…

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She was thrilled with them 🙂

She also had a surprise for Jeremy. She used her birthday money from Mark and her grandmother to get a heart tattoo on her forearm, complete with autism jigsaw pieces and Jeremy’s name. Pretty much the sweetest tattoo ever! Then she did his nails…

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And styled his hair…

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I had plans of making Emma a birthday cake but that wasn’t what she wanted. So this year she had birthday frosted cinnamon rolls. They were so good! Made for an interesting blowing out the candle shot 🙂

Emma and Mark went off to celebrate with friends while Jeremy and I went to Karen’s house for a family dinner. Jeremy had removed most of the braid, insisted on clear fingernail polish and scrubbed off his toe polish. I don’t think anyone even noticed either way. The only comment he got was a question as to why his hair wasn’t as purple as before. He used a different dye this time, which isn’t as vivid but lasts longer. So the evening was quiet for us.

Then came today and the second family visit… an all day trip to the zoo. The trip went fine, which was a relief. Jeremy and I took just over 300 photos between the two of us. Jeremy took this one…

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And I took this one of Jeremy, on a Gorilla climb…

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I’ve got better shots of him but they show his face. Both Amy and I went up and my Dad did as well, which was impressive considering he was decades older than everyone else. He went right to the top too.

It was a good visit. I think the only conversation we had with Amy was general chit-chat in the car. The weird part is that both Amy and Karen have posted their big family zoo pictures on Facebook. They managed to get Jeremy in several group shots but, despite me being right there for the whole trip, both managed to miss me in every single photo. That’s pretty darn talented. I’m glad my Mom borrowed my camera and took a few shots because otherwise it would look like I wasn’t even there.

Amy doesn’t leave yet but, while she and Karen have several more outings planned, neither Jeremy or I have been invited. Which means we won’t see her again for another year.

And now that our family obligations are done, us introverts can relax.

Pokemon and gender…

I was chopping vegetables for dinner last night when Jeremy walked in and leaned against the fridge.

“If you were a Pokemon, which one would you be? Dialga or Pikachu?”

What? I know who Pikachu is, the annoying yellow one, but I had no idea at all what Dialga was. I separated the onion rings, throwing them into the bowl with the rest of the veggies, then turned to look at him.

“But what if I’m not either of them,” I quipped. I smiled wider when he looked confused. “What if I’m a new Pokemon?”

“Oh god Mom, don’t go there,” he moaned. “There’s got to be like a thousand Pokemon already.”

“And yet you only showed me two,” I replied. “When you said you weren’t sure what gender you were, I gave you a whole list.”

He snorted. “Fine, I’ll get you a list,” he said then turned and hurried out of the room, returning less than a minute later with his Pokedex.

His Pokedex has a highly pixelated, almost identifiable picture that moves drunkenly across the tiny screen. Meanwhile it recites the information in a robotic, feminine voice that reminds me of the car voices in the 1980’s, except more annoying. The first picture it showed was Turtwig.

“Great. I’m Turtwig,” I said then motioned him away from the fridge door so I could grab the cornstarch and club soda for the tempura batter.

He watched the club soda fizz as it mixed in with the flour. “Mom, Turtwig is a grass type Pokemon and will eventually evolve into Torterra. You’re going to have a whole forest growing on your back at some point.”

“Thrilling,” I said dryly. “Now turn that Pokedex off before I scream. That sound is beyond irritating.”

He turned it off and I moved everything over to the stove while he got the dishes started in the sink.

“I have a question for you,” I said as I eyed the oil. It was swirling a bit but not enough to start dipping veggies. “You’ve said you don’t know if you’re trans or not. Is that because you know what your gender is and aren’t sure if it counts or because you haven’t figured out your gender?”

“Because I haven’t figured out my gender yet,” he replied promptly.

“You’ll sort it out. I was reading that some people don’t figure out their gender until their early twenties. It’s not common but it’s not unheard of.”

Jeremy nodded. I coated one of the veggies with batter and lowered it into the oil. It stuck to the bottom, fizzing madly.

“Well, that was a failure to float,” he commented. “No, wait… it’s rising now.”

And then the conversation moved on to other topics.

As for now, it’s Emma’s 19th birthday. Jeremy’s snuggling one of the cats on the couch and I need to make a batch of cinnamon rolls for Emma’s birthday lunch; she’s requested them instead of a cake.

And then we’re off to the family reunion…

Tomorrow’s the big day…

Well it’s a two part big day. The first half, for us at least, is aimed at Emma’s 19th birthday. She’s coming over for lunch and has requested her favourite pasta with pumpkin sauce and homemade cinnamon rolls. I’m looking forward to watching as she opens her present and to simply spending time with her and Mark.

Emma has her whole evening booked. Mark’s taking her out for dinner at our favourite Thai restaurant then they’re going out to a bar with friends. Ontario’s drinking age is nineteen so Emma’s looking forward to her first legal drink. She’s all set for a wonderful day.

Once we say our goodbyes, then comes the second half of our day when Jeremy and I go to the big family dinner. Right now I’m cautiously optimistic. Amy got Emma on her own yesterday… and apologized for her behaviour. Emma accepted her apology and her subsequent friend request on Facebook (and how did our family interactions become so Facebook-centric?) then called me to share the good news. All’s good between the two of them, which is a huge relief for me.

Amy doesn’t know Jeremy’s mad at her. She hasn’t spoken to him in at least two years, not since the last time she was down for a family visit, and that visit was short. As far as she knows I’m the only one who was bothered by her comments on my Facebook post this spring. I don’t think she realizes either of my kids read it. And she has no idea about Jeremy.

The biggest concern for both Jeremy and I is the uncertainty. Tomorrow could end up being a wonderful day, with Jeremy bouncing around with the younger kids and me chatting with the adults. Okay, more honestly, with me lurking around the fringes of the adults while messaging Lenny and furtively checking my stats. We could end up with no one saying a single negative thing about Jeremy or we could end up being bombarded with comments; a veritable deluge of the dire consequences of his hair and earrings. I’ll make sure he arrives freshly showered with clean clothes and brushed hair, that way they won’t have a platform built of legitimate complaints. Any comments beyond that can be ignored.

And we’re off. Jeremy’s been working on his bedroom and now that I know what his final goal is, I can help him get organized better. Right now his room looks like we just moved in and the movers dumped the furniture in at random (there’s a picture on Twitter) but with a bit of rearranging we can have his room set up with the living room section he’s dreaming of. It’ll be a small living room, as he has a small bedroom, but it’s doable.

Is there anything new?

Jeremy and I were watching Doctor Who last night when the phone rang right in the middle of an alien invasion. I hate when that happens.

Jeremy rolled his eyes and pressed pause on the video. He knew who was calling. I have his Dad’s number set up with an “it’s probably a wrong number” ringtone, which is appropriate since I figure about 60% of his calls are either butt dials or him trying to reach someone else.

I find it frustrating that when my ex asks about Emma and Jeremy, it’s always a vague, “So is there anything new going on with the kids that I should know about?”. He doesn’t know the kids well enough to ask any specific questions plus he is prone to manipulating and playing games so sometimes he already has an answer and wants to see if I’ll cough up the same one. I’m neither willing or interested in playing games.

Last night he stepped up his questioning by asking “Is anything happening in the kids’ lives that I should know about?” as well as his usual version of the question. By then Jeremy had moved off his chair and onto his new exercise machine.

I turned to look at him, one foot on one of the pedals and the other hovering mid air as he swung back and forth. He was wearing a pair of ladies pyjamas and his purple toe polish glittered in the light. He tucked his hair behind one ear, showcasing his new earring and smiled when he noticed my attention.

‘Your son’s probably trans,’ I thought to myself.

“No,” I said out loud. “Nothing’s going on. The kids are both fine.”

The call finished with a request for me to text him Jeremy’s phone number. This number used to be Emma’s for years, their Dad had it memorized back then. Meanwhile he asks for Jeremy’s number every couple of months. I think he’s called once.

“Tell Jeremy I’ll call him either tonight or tomorrow morning,” my ex said earnestly, ignoring that Jeremy was right beside me and I could easily hand over the phone.

“I will,” I agreed. He didn’t call.

Shoddy journalism…

Several days ago I had an article appear in my newsfeed via The Transgender Project. The article had been posted to gather opinions; mine was overwhelmingly negative. I took journalism in college and shoddy research irritates the crap out of me.

I was taught that you research an article then write your opinion based on your research; Barbara Kay does the exact opposite in this article. She came in with a strong opinion then squashed her research to suit it, ignoring everything that didn’t fit. One of her first opinions is this…

The transgender movement is supported by mainstream feminists. But some more radical feminists argue that transgenderism is not always immutable. And they are correct, as many apparently transgender children accept their biological identity at puberty, and many adults express regret over their surgeries.”

Many? Many??? What exactly does many entail? One? Ten? One hundred? Five thousand? I don’t know and she doesn’t say. But I do know how to Google and what I found was this, via the website HowStuffWorks:

The International Journal of Transgenderism cites a 1992 study that found postoperative regret was less than one percent in female to male transitions and between 1 to 1.5 percent in male to female transitions.

Many is still too high but a lot less than I expected.

Then she goes on to quote an opinion piece by a Wall Street Journal writer named Paul McHugh who wrote, “when children who reported transgender feelings were tracked without medical or surgical treatment at both Vanderbilt University and London’s Portman Clinic, 70% – 80% of them spontaneously lost those feelings. Some 25% did have persisting feelings; what differentiates those individuals remains to be discerned.”

My problem was that I could not find this study. Google coughed up several articles quoting the study (studies) along with those statistics but not the study itself. I did, however, find an article on the CBC website where they interviewed Dr. Norman Spack the director of the gender identity medical clinic at Children’s Hospital Boston, who published a report on his findings.

The report details 97 girls and boys treated between 1998 and 2010… Only 1 of the 97 opted out of permanent  treatment.

Now I’m going to give some completely anecdotal information. I’ve read several stories where a children insisted they were one gender during childhood only to reverse in their teen years. All the stories have one common thread; the children, once fully grown, did not regret their parents listening to them. They did not regret being raised as the opposite gender during childhood. Instead, they grew up feeling supported and respected. They felt they had a voice. So whether the statistics for teens reverting back to their biological gender is close to 1% or as high as 80%, what difference does it make? No one is doing anything permanent to eight year olds. This isn’t as a problem.

Kay goes on to report via McHugh again:

According to a 30 – year old longitudinal study at Sweden’s Karolinska Institute, cited by McHugh, mental problems increasingly began to emerge 10 years after sex-reassignment surgery. Of the 324 surgical patients studied, the suicide rate was 20 times the non-transgender population. McHugh hypothesizes the explanation may be the increasing sense of isolation felt by aging transgendered people.

McHugh worries that sex-ed courses contribute to the misleading notion that drastic physical change will bring happiness. He therefore comes down firmly against (potentially growth-stunting and sterilizing) hormones and firmly for family therapy. True sex change, he says, is simply not possible; you end up as a “feminized man” or a “masculinized woman.”

One huge issue is that Kay did not look up the study herself, instead she depended on McHugh’s research and his hypothesis. The study was dead easy to find too, it took me less than half a minute to call it up.

Long-Term Follow-Up of Transexual Persons Undergoing Sex Reassignment Surgery: Cohort Study in Sweden

The researchers claim:

Persons with transsexualism, after sex reassignment, have considerably higher risks for mortality, suicidal behaviour, and psychiatric morbidity than the general population. Our findings suggest that sex reassignment, although alleviating gender dysphoria, may not suffice as treatment for transsexualism, and should inspire improved psychiatric and somatic care after sex reassignment for this patient group.

Inpatient care for psychiatric disorders was significantly more common among sex-reassigned persons than among matched controls, both before and after sex reassignment. It is generally accepted that transsexuals have more psychiatric ill-health than the general population prior to the sex reassignment.

I did not see anything in the report that said psychiatric issues began to emerge a decade after sex reassignment surgery. The authors were very clear that these were long standing issues (they mentioned depression specifically) that had been present before the study began and that therapy and other help should be continued after surgery.

They flatly state:

It is therefore important to note that the current study is only informative with respect to transsexuals persons health after sex reassignment; no inferences can be drawn as to the effectiveness of sex reassignment as a treatment for transsexualism. In other words, the results should not be interpreted such as sex reassignment per se increases morbidity and mortality. Things might have been even worse without sex reassignment.

They also say multiple times that all of their research, from crime rates to mortality, improve after 1989, due to “altered societal attitudes towards persons with different gender expressions”. And they point out that increased mortality rates could be due to the possibility “that transsexual persons avoid the health care system due to a presumed risk of being discriminated.”

Pretty much the only parts McHugh got right were the number of people studied and the length of the study. Even the suicide risk was iffy considering he missed their caveat stating other studies had not shown the same risk.

I have no idea what he’s talking about when he claims sex-ed classes are teaching youths that drastic physical changes will bring happiness. And I’m not touching his last statement even with a 10 foot pole, mostly because I’d be likely to take the pole and smack him with it and I have a feeling that’s illegal.

How to Dad…

When Jeremy was small, people would ask him what he wanted to be when he grew up and his answer was always the same, “I want to be a Daddy.” But over the years that answer slowly faded.

A couple of weeks ago Jeremy told Emma that he felt mostly male with a bit of female but if he’d had the choice he would have been born a girl. Two days ago I asked him why there was such a difference between his two statements. If he felt mostly male then why did he wish he’d been born a girl?

“I want to be a parent when I grow up but I want my kids to love me and look up to me,” he replied. “Kids don’t really respect their Dads. They love and look up to their Moms so I’d rather be a Mom.”

If I could go back in time and pick a better father for my kids I would. But then again I wouldn’t have Jeremy or Emma.

“Hon, all sorts of kids love their Dads and think they’re wonderful,” I assured him. “You’ll be a good parent and your kids will look up to you.”

He nodded but he didn’t look convinced. My Dad’s a great father but Jeremy hasn’t seen much of him in years and, while Jeremy looks up to my friends P and M, they’re not fathers. Jeremy’s only real parental role model is me and I’m not male. I’d thought I’d told him over the years that mothers and fathers are equal but I either didn’t or Jeremy wasn’t listening (or a mixture of the two).

If Jeremy wanted to be a mother because he felt female that would be one thing but wanting to be a mother because he feels Dads aren’t good enough… well that was heart breaking.

Then came yesterday. A friend of mine posted a Cheerios video on Facebook, saying it was finally a decent media portrayal of a father, so I immediately watched then called Jeremy in before I even finished so he could watch it too.

The video is beyond cheesy. The Dad does a non-stop narration on being a father, while complimenting and high-fiving his kids. The kids meanwhile follow him around while pretty much hero worshiping him. And at the end, apropos of nothing, he suddenly starts flogging peanut butter Cheerios. Jeremy loved the whole thing…

Obviously one video isn’t going to be a cure-all for Jeremy’s views on fatherhood but it was nice to have some back up to my claim. I also picked up peanut butter Cheerios on the way home from work today.

And, because I’m on Facebook all the freaking time anyways, I’ve now made a Because I’m Fabulous Facebook page. Feel free to go and like. Or, if you’re too shy, just go and look. I’ve got extra pictures and quotes and stuff.