On pronouns and an autumn walk…

It’s been gorgeous here for the past few days… absolutely gorgeous. We’re finally getting blue skies, sunshine, and shorts weather after a cold and rainy summer. Jeremy would have been content to stay home and play Half-Life but I dragged zir out with me for a walk yesterday afternoon.

We have a small patch of woods beside us, covering less than a city block of land, but it’s very pretty…

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There’s only one paved path through the woods but plenty of little dirt trails. Jeremy and I walked on the latter before emerging from the woods and heading over to a nearby bike trail. We were on our way back when I saw our local bus approach.

“I’ve got my bus pass,” I said cheerfully. “I can get on the bus and go home.”

Jeremy looked at me incredulously. Just then the bus slowed. We were right near a bus stop so obviously someone wanted off.

“Look, the driver saw me. He knows I want the bus,” I said then I looked closer. The sunlight had been reflecting off the window but as the bus moved, I could finally see the driver’s long blonde hair and delicate features. “Oh, I mean she,” I added.

“Mom,” Jeremy chided. “You don’t know if the driver’s a man or a woman.”

“No, I can see the driver now…” Maybe the glass was still covered in glare from zir angle; Jeremy’s quite a bit taller than me. I glanced beside me and realized zie could see the driver just fine.

“You can’t tell what someone’s gender is  just by looking at them,” zie continued.

I nodded. “You’re right, the driver might not identify as female. Although statistically speaking…”

Jeremy glared at me then muttered under zir breath. All I caught was, “I… don’t… female…”

I thought back to all the times my Mom argued with me. In some ways it helped me try and see things from a different perspective but sometimes I just wanted some support. I figured Jeremy was firmly in the latter category.

“I’m sorry,” I told zir earnestly. “You are right. I shouldn’t have assumed. I don’t refer to any of the customers by gender when I’m at work.”

“Wait,” Jeremy said, looking at me incredulously. “You don’t use binary pronouns at work? Instead you save them to use in front of your kid who uses zie for a pronoun.”

The kid had a point. “I’m sorry, ” I said again. “I’ll try harder.”

We walked a couple of steps then zie added, “Mom, you know I’m joking right?”

Zie wasn’t angry and was in good spirits but I didn’t get the impression zie was joking at all. “It doesn’t matter,” I replied. “I’ll still try harder.” Jeremy smiled.

As for work. I posted back in February about a customer of mine who joked that Jeremy wouldn’t want to dye zir hair lime green in case zie was mistaken for a “fag”. I’d been absolutely furious but stayed polite and have been polite ever since. Today we had a completely different conversation.

I was outside sweeping the parking lot when she walked over to comment on the mess. There were cups and wrappers strewn over the whole parking space.

“That must have been a man,” she commented as she drew near.

“Or an entire car full of teenagers,” I agreed, sweeping a couple more wrappers into the dust pan.

“So, how are your kids?” she asked with obvious interest.

“They’re doing fine. Emma’s got a job interview tomorrow and my kidlet’s getting zir wisdom teeth extracted on Thursday, which will be interesting considering zir needle phobia.”

Now she looked confused. “She?”

I shook my head, “No, zie. I’m talking about Jeremy. Jeremy’s having zir wisdom teeth extracted… hopefully. That’s one serious phobia zie’s got.”

Her confusion deepened. “Don’t you have two kids? A boy and a girl?”

“I’ve got two kids. One girl and one kid. Jeremy doesn’t identify with a gender and uses gender neutral pronouns, zie and zir.”

“Well… that’s… different…” she sounded baffled. She paused for a moment, obviously trying to find something to say. “I was shopping recently at Penningtons (a Canadian clothing chain aimed at plus sized women) and there was a man shopping for himself. He was buying a dress and he had on women’s clothing and a hat and his hair was all styled and shaped.”

“That sounds like she was a woman,” I replied. “It was probably scary for her.”

I had no idea if it was scary or not, for all I knew she could have been having an amazing shopping trip. What I wanted was a moment of empathy. The customer went silent.

“I used to teach piano to a family years ago,” she said quietly. “The oldest boy was a teenager and he used to say all sorts of homophobic stuff. One day I was teaching theory and asked him to think about what it would be like if he suddenly started having crushes on other boys… knowing how he was going to get treated… knowing he was going to get beaten up. The boy was shocked. He’d never thought about it before…” Her voice trailed off. “They had so many kids in that family, two girls and four boys. I wonder if one of them ended up gay.”

I shrugged, unable to answer, then she smiled. “Jeremy doesn’t identify as a gender… good for you.”

And with that she turned and walked away.

Protecting our children…

I’ve always told my children that we’re lucky to live in Canada, with our Charter of Rights and our focus on prevention of hate crimes instead of freedom of speech. I was even happier and more proud the spring Jeremy turned seven as our province became the first in Canada to legalize equal marriage. I looked at Jeremy and was glad that zie’d be able to marry whomever zie fell in love with. This was important as Jeremy had crushes on two boys and a girl that year and had told me mere weeks earlier that zie was going to marry zir male classmate when they grew up.

My kids were safe and protected.

A couple of days ago I discovered that there are only two doctors in all of Ontario that are able to approve sex reassignment surgery. Granted, this doesn’t affect Jeremy as zie seems fairly happy with zir body but it was still a surprise. Ontario’s a huge province, just over a million square kilometers, and has a population of 13.6 million people. It would take close to 30 hours to drive from one side of the province to the other. Then came the bombshell. The two doctors, Kenneth Zucker and Susan Bradley, both favour reparative therapy for trans kids. Zucker asks “parents to take away their child’s “feminine” toys and instruct the child not to play with or draw pictures of girls” (obviously focusing on MtF children *cough* homophobia *cough*) and goes on to claim that parents who fail to force their child into gender norms are offering “some type of emotional neglect.”

Jeremy during a short hair phase proudly showing off zir new earring and newest stuffed animal.

Jeremy during a short hair phase, proudly showing off zir new earring and newest stuffed animal while drinking zir favourite princess punch. Zucker would definitely disapprove.

Suddenly I was looking at Jeremy and feeling like zie wasn’t quite so safe.

Immediately after reading this, I discovered that only four provinces in Canada have gender identity down as a reason for protection against hate crimes (Ontario, Nova Scotia, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories) and only Ontario and Nova Scotia include gender expression. And then came the real shocker… House Speaker dismisses bid to vote again on transgender protections.

From what I understand by reading this article, NDP MP Randall Garrison created a bill called C-279. This bill requested protection, based on gender identity, to the Criminal Code and the Canadian Human Rights Act. Now here’s the kicker. Bill C-279 PASSED by twelve votes! Three months ago the Conservative government decided to re-vote on this issue but by committee instead. The committee held only nine members, five of which were conservative. At the time, one of the committee members was David Wilks, one of a mere handful of Conservatives who voted yes for protection. He got swapped out of the committee. It doesn’t say who voted for which side but with five Conservatives and five no votes, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to guess. Conservative Senator Don Plett is the one who moved to have the bill sent to committee, saying that he was concerned that the bill would allow abuse of laws and let “pedophiles take advantage of legislation that we have in place”. He went on to claim he was trying to protect “the rights of five- and six-year-old children”. How the fuck is saying that someone can’t beat the shit out of a person because they look male but are wearing a skirt going to protect a five year old child?

I was reading a post on the blog Raising my Rainbow last fall. The post talked about how Lori’s six year old son, CJ, was scared to use the bathroom because the other boys kept trying to check his genitals to make sure he was a boy and not a girl. He was so scared, he ended up wetting his pants while waiting for the dismissal bell. He hadn’t used the toilet in over six hours. I read this post to Jeremy and was surprised by zir answer.

“Mom, you have to write to her. How old is CJ again?” I said six and Jeremy thought a bit more. “Okay, tell her he’s probably still young enough to use the kindergarten washroom. That might be an option. But if it’s not, tell her he shouldn’t use the stall. It’s not safe. What he needs to do is get right close to the urinal so the little walls on each side will offer some protection. Maybe his Dad could show him how, if he’s got a Dad.”

Zie watched as I dutifully typed the information down. Meanwhile I tried to hide my surprise. Jeremy hadn’t given that information as someone trying to think of something that might help. Zie’d given that information as someone who’d been through the exact same situation and had come up with something that helped zir. And I’d never known. Apparently Jeremy found it so commonplace to have fellow classmates checking to see if zie had a penis that zie didn’t even mention it to me; at least not until Jeremy had discovered someone zie might be able to help.

The sad thing is these aren’t isolated incidents. But apparently the Conservatives are only interested in protecting the rights of most five or six year olds. And that makes me furious. Both my kids deserve to be protected.

The letter…

This is the letter I wrote for my Mom, Amy, and Karen. Thank you for all the helpful suggestions!

*************************************************************************

I think Jeremy was about eight years old when zie* found a scrawled message on a nearby bus shelter and wanted to know what it meant.

“I wish I was a girl”

I looked at the words and didn’t know what to say. Obviously I’d have to give some sort of basic explanation of transgender but I had no idea how to broach the subject. I decided to try for the empathetic route.

“You know how you look like a boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside?”

Jeremy stared at me blankly and shook zir head. Now I wish I could go back and get zir to elaborate but back then I simply went on by clarifying that most people look like a boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside (or vice versa with girls). Jeremy seemed satisfied with my explanation and the conversation moved on from there. Zie doesn’t even remember it but it obviously stuck in my mind.

And on we went, with people sometimes thinking Jeremy was a boy… and sometimes a girl. With kids (and adults) calling zir names ranging from he-she to faggot. One neighbour, a grown man at that, used to throw garbage off his balcony at Jeremy every time zie walked through the back door of our building. Thankfully they moved shortly after he started. I posted pictures of their moving truck on Facebook and baked a cake to celebrate.

It wasn’t until this year that Jeremy became more obviously uncomfortable with binary gender names, begging me to ask the teacher to explain other pronouns and arguing with the EA that male and female aren’t opposites and that you can feel like both. The teachers decided zie was simply being contrary. I decided to do some research and had several in depth conversations with Jeremy.

Jeremy identifies as non binary transgender. To break it down, gender is a spectrum and, just like a rainbow where the colours red and purple connect instead of staying on different sides of a line, male and female are not opposites. The vast majority of people are born with the sex characteristics of a man and identify as male… or the sex characteristics of a woman and identify as female. These people, aka us, are called cisgender (with a soft c). Everyone else (unless they choose to be called otherwise) falls under the trans umbrella.

Non binary simply means zie doesn’t identify as male or female. Some people identify as neither gender (agender) and some flow between the two. Jeremy consistently identifies as both. This is hard in our culture. The Bugis society in Indonesia has five genders; Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan have the hijra, MtF trans people who have a long history of being considered good luck; and some Native Canadian tribes have a tradition of two-spirited people, who were valued as teachers and spiritual leaders. Our culture ignores the reality that not everyone fits into standard binary roles. This is slowly changing.

Something our society currently lacks is non-binary pronouns. Jeremy tried going with the pronoun “they” for a short time but ultimately found it awkward and confusing. Zie claimed it felt like zie had 50 personalities. We found a list of pronouns and went through it. Jeremy decided on zie/zir, the same pronouns that my friend Lenny uses. Zie is used the same as he and she, while zir is used the same as him and her. Both are pronounced phonetically with zie sounding like “zee” and zir sounding like “sir” (but with a zed sound). I’ve found a link that shows the pronouns used in a portion of “Alice in Wonderland” to give you an idea of how to use them.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to use these pronouns. I know they seem awkward and unwieldy, and you will make mistakes, but I can assure you it will mean the world to Jeremy. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and everyone started calling you he, him, and sir. It might simply be weird at first but then picture it stretching on for days… months… years. The attempted suicide rate for trans people is currently at 41% and that’s from a lack of acceptance. I don’t want Jeremy to be a statistic and I will do everything I can to make zir feel safe and welcome. I’m sure you will as well.

I’ve found a video by a group of teenagers explaining the importance of pronouns and hope it will help.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me.

Love, Michelle

* zie and zir are the pronouns Jeremy prefers. They are fully explained in the letter.

Irony…

Jeremy and I went to the Mandarin Restaurant for dinner yesterday. Zie’d never been there before even though we live within walking distance because holy hell the price! It cost us $75 including tax for two adult dinners and no drinks. Jeremy found the restaurant to be very crowded and commented on that multiple times. I liked the ceilings painted to look like the sky and a kaleidoscope of colourful nylon butterflies they’d hung in a corner.

Once we found our seats, I quickly loaded my plate with tempura vegetables, noodles, and salad. Meanwhile Jeremy had found the chicken (with much pointing by me) but zie wanted beef too. I’d seen it during my tour of the restaurant while the manager showed me everything vegan. Obviously that wasn’t one of the options he suggested, although he did try to recommend both Jell-o and shrimp.

“It’s in the far corner over there,” I said as I gestured toward the opposite end of the room.

Jeremy nodded and headed off while I went back to our table. A short while later zie returned and slid in beside me.

“Mom?” Jeremy said hesitantly, a thread of amazement wove through zir voice. “The man serving the roast beef thought I was a girl.”

“And what did you think of that?” I asked.

“I don’t know,” Jeremy said happily then zie smiled. I smiled back although my feelings were a lot more mixed.

Jeremy is quite happy identifying as non-binary and insists zie feels like both genders. Chances are zie was simply happy because it was a change from the usual he/him comments. But if Jeremy ever came out as female, I think that would be one of nature’s cruelest ironies. When Jeremy was a child, zie got called she/her a lot. As I’ve said before, I simply stopped correcting people because it happened all the time. Jeremy’s very pretty and garnered a lot of compliments. Now zie’s six-two with huge hands and feet, a deep bass voice, and almost the same pretty face as before (just broadened by puberty). The compliments have transformed into outright stares.

That’s not the ironic part. Jeremy’s father is five-five with a fairly high voice and hands no bigger than mine. His shoe size is 8 (which is a woman’s size 10). If Jeremy took after zir father, zie wouldn’t get a single double take. Somehow, despite having two short parents, Jeremy ended up being the tallest person on both sides of the family.

Tomorrow I’ll need to work on my letters for Amy and Karen. Considering one posted a huge rant on my Facebook page this spring, claiming non binary doesn’t count as trans and the other disowned Emma this summer, you can imagine how excited I am to do this. Yeah, about as excited as getting a root canal done on a healthy tooth. But they are family.

Invisible scars…

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It was a gorgeous fall afternoon. Jeremy and I were on our favourite hiking trail, standing on a wooden bridge overlooking golden aspens and russet maples. It was beautiful. I wasn’t happy.

I held my cellphone against my ear and listened while Jeremy fidgeted impatiently beside me. Emma chattered away about her amazingly wonderful boyfriend Brent and I bit my tongue. Hard. He was the only person she ever talked about; those days he seemed to be her whole life. They’d met on TeenSpot, a site Emma had begged to join a few years earlier. She was old enough… she’d be careful. I reluctantly agreed.

TeenSpot was a disappointment for Emma. She’d hoped to find friends but all the girls who messaged her were looking for a lot more than friendship and considered Emma’s polite refusals to be a challenge. Instead she made friends with two teenage boys, Aric and Brent, then eventually dated both of them.

At first, I’d been more concerned about Aric. According to his profile he lived maybe an hour away and the kid had enough drama in his life to fuel a dozen soap operas. Emma wasn’t ready to hear that any of it was fiction. Our relationship was more fragile than bone china and just as thin. Emma was bouncing between her grandparents’ house and group homes while dealing with the aftermath of parental alienation syndrome. She wasn’t sure who she could trust… she wasn’t sure if she could trust.

Eventually Aric faded away and she started talking more to Brent. At first this was a relief. Brent was two years older and lived in Ohio, which meant he wasn’t able to give a friend $40 in gas money and stop by for a visit. The stories were more normal too. He lived with his parents and a younger sibling. His bedroom was in the basement so he could have some privacy. He went to high school and worked part time. But then he started talking about coming to Canada for college. My parents laughed it off, claiming they were just being silly and had no idea how much it would cost for him to attend college here or the logistics of even applying. I didn’t like that he was talking about moving to be closer to Emma. I also didn’t like that his last name was the same as ours. It’s not an uncommon last name, it could have just been a coincidence, but it also crossed my mind that he’d gone with our name simply so he could remember which identity he’d created for her. There was no way I could tell that to Emma.

On that particular fall day Emma was talking about her birthday, almost a full year away. Brent was planning on attending and Emma was ecstatic. He was her rock… the person who meant the most to her… the person who kept her alive. He was one of the few people the group home would let her talk to in a crisis. I wasn’t. She reacted badly to me when she was upset but Brent could calm her down. All this becomes more ironic when you read Emma’s blog post.

I called my parents when I got home and was once again assured it was nothing. He needed a passport, a reliable vehicle, and gas money plus we had months ahead of us.

Those months faded away and Emma still talked to and about Brent almost continuously. My parents told her that he could sleep in their tent trailer while he was down. He laughed and told Emma that must mean they trusted him. She disagreed. The trailer was right under my parents’ bedroom window and they were light sleepers. Then I told her that my rule for them being allowed to meet was that I had to be there. Not right there but myself and my friend P would be seated in the restaurant within view. We wouldn’t be able to hear them, so she didn’t have to worry about us eavesdropping, but we would be able to see them. Emma saw no problem with this. Brent disappeared.

He didn’t surface for several weeks, not until Emma updated her Facebook page to say she was single. He hadn’t responded to a single phone call, Facebook message, email, or text but that one profile change had him contact her immediately. He regaled her with a tale of a horrific car accident that left him with two broken legs, a concussion, second and third degree burns, and a bunch of other injuries. A very convenient accident and an even more convenient reappearance. And, just like Aric and his wildly unbelievable tales, I couldn’t find a single mention of this horrific accident online in his local paper.

Emma called me a short while later, her voice a mixture of anger, fear, and uncertainty. He’d told her he was working stocking shelves at a local grocery store, a perfectly normal job for a 19 year old student but then one day he started talking about his job working at a plastic factory, as if he’d been there for ages. Then she noticed his Yahoo ID had a totally different last name.

A friend of mine had bragged earlier that he loved to snoop online and could find anything. I asked Emma for everything she had on Brent and sent it to him. Then I sat at my computer with Emma on one Facebook chat and my friend on another. She’d just messaged me to see if we’d found anything when my friend’s messages started popped up. Thirty-six years old… 275lbs… married father… new baby. I was relaying messages to Emma and consoling her at the same time. I knew it was hard on her at the time but it wasn’t until I read her latest blog post that I realized how hard.

A short while later we were at the police station, Emma’s laptop in hand. She was terrified to let it go, it was personal and private. The police officer scrolled through Emma’s saved messages and sighed. The man was definitely manipulating her, it was obvious with just the few messages he’d read. But he was a sneaky asshole and had managed to stay on *this* side of the law. They had nothing to charge him with. Emma was sixteen years old and they hadn’t done anything. She’d refused to send pictures so they couldn’t charge him with pornography even though he’d asked her while she was underage. But they’d see what they could do.

As for the rest of what happened, I’ll leave that to Emma to explain because she can explain it a lot better than me: I never thought it’d happen to me.

I fucking hate how predators go after the weakest kids… the ones who are the most vulnerable and easiest to scar.

I hate writing titles…

There… got that one out of the way. I’ve been staring at the screen for five minutes trying to think of a title that I haven’t used yet but  came up with nothing. I hate writing them.

The last time I wrote was on Monday after getting a call from the school official and had been quite hopeful. Then I got the call from the VP and suddenly became less optimistic. She referred to Jeremy as he and him again through the whole short phone call and had a meeting set for Wednesday afternoon… as in that very next day. I work and can’t just call my manager and say, “Whoops, I won’t be there tomorrow. Sorry about that.” They’re already fairly lenient about me taking 10 and 15 minute long phone calls from the school as it is. Luckily the VP was able to make a second meeting for today. I have no idea what they discussed on Wednesday but as far as I know they didn’t cancel it since I was informed Jeremy could go back to school on Thursday after their meeting. I felt better waiting until after mine.

I was going to write a blog post on Wednesday. Jeremy wants me to be the one to tell family about zir being transgender as zie doesn’t want to face their first reactions. I’d hoped to get some letter writing ideas and resources. But Jeremy slept a grand total of seven hours over two days and zie’s not a quiet child. I got woken up by Jeremy tripping over one of the cats as zie stumbled down the hallway. Then zie decided to get a bite to eat. Then checked every single cupboard twice to see what we have and checked a third time just in case anything magically appeared. Then hovered in front of the fridge before finally microwaving the leftover pizza. I know all this because I could hear the doors opening and closing from the other side of the apartment, with my bedroom door nearly completely closed and a fan on. I didn’t sleep much more than seven hours over two nights either. All this meant I was much too tired to write. I ended up pestering Lenny instead.

I decided to tell my Mom about Jeremy during our planned Friday shopping trip, figuring in person would be better than on the phone. I kept that plan right until this morning. That was when I realized our only talking time would be either while my Mom was driving down a busy road or while we were walking through stores. Neither seemed a viable option. Jeremy went off to have a shower and I made my call.

My Mom’s voice got colder when I broached the subject. She figured something was up with all the transgender stuff I’ve been posting lately. I actually haven’t posting anything. A friend of mine, who knows about Jeremy posted this on my page…

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I really liked it and in fact shared it with Jeremy but it very clearly says that it was posted by someone else, although my Mom might not have noticed that. The only other things I can come up with is that I’ve joined two groups for parents of transgender children recently; one’s secret but the other is simply closed. My first thought was it might have shown up on my page, something like “Michelle I’m-Not-Coming-Up-With-A-Fake-Last-Name just joined [insert fabulous group name here]” but I checked my page and nothing showed up. Actually I viewed my page as it would look to my Mom and none of my closed groups are even visible. I was, however, warned that it might show up as a suggestion to friends so maybe that’s what happened.

The flip side is that while I’m sure there are kids who totally blindside people, Jeremy’s not one of them. I showed zir picture to a coworker a couple of days ago, announcing that “this is my child Jeremy”. The coworker gave the phone a good long look then peered at me intently.

“Did you know your son also looks like a girl?”

I couldn’t come up with anything sarcastic on the fly so simply assured her that, yes, I knew my child looked like both a boy and a girl. I’m sure my Mom hasn’t missed this either.

The phone call did not go well. She didn’t want to know anything about it. At all. She loves Jeremy but these things needed to be kept private. I just needed to explain to Jeremy that all sorts of men really do like feminine things too; like my Dad enjoys rug hooking. You know, just in case that information had slipped my mind. And then she told me how confrontational I was and how I go out of my way to make things difficult and throw things in people’s faces. Like being vegan and that whole agnostic thing. Agnostic translating to being an atheist for the past 30 years… which is obviously something I’ve done to be super edgy.

I retaliated that I didn’t want to be confrontational or difficult, I simply wanted to be myself and didn’t feel I had to be exactly the same as everyone else in the family. And that Jeremy was the same; that zie had the right to be zirself without being accused of being confrontational or trying to be different. Or trendy, because my Mom tried to claim that too.

I got off the phone with my Mom, cried a little and messaged Lenny. Then Jeremy got out off the shower and we headed off for the meeting. We walked into the school and I sarcastically quipped that we were going to go inside, they’d use all the proper pronouns, everything would be sorted out, and then we’d ride home on our unicorns. I was partly right.

I got Jeremy’s safety plan when we got inside and immediately noticed they’d written ze and zir down for pronouns. Not exactly right but a decent attempt, and a slight misspelling was definitely not the hill I was willing to die on. The poor principal looked panicked every time he was reminded about pronouns. He’d frantically use Jeremy’s name and struggle to loop sentences to avoid any pronouns whatsoever… then he’d lapse back into he and him a minute or so later. Everyone did make an effort though and Jeremy seemed happy with it.

We got everything reasonably sorted out and I went home only to get a phone call. Jeremy was refusing to read a list of words aloud. Granted, zie has language based issues and reads silently a lot better than reading out loud but this was a reading assessment and needed to be done. They offered to do the reading one on one. The VP even offered to write the whole list out on index cards in case zie was finding the list hard to read but Jeremy refused saying the list was pointless. So zie did zir spelling in the office.

My shopping trip with my Mom went well. We browsed around the first couple of stores then Mom broached the subject of transgender in the car on the way to the third store. She wanted me to tell Jeremy that she loves “him” but that zie’ll always be a “he” because of genitals. I told her that I’d tell Jeremy that she loves zir but there was no way I was saying the rest. She continued to argue about genitals and how society’s changed and now people are way too interested in labeling everything instead of simply letting people be humans. I retaliated with commenting that some societies have up to five genders (thanks for that information Charlie) and that Native Canadians traditionally had two spirited people who didn’t identify as male or female and were considered quite highly. Then I brought up studies showing actual differences in the brain where FtM trans people resembled biological men and MtF trans people resembled biological females. She seemed to listen and assured me she considers Jeremy to be honest, intelligent, thoughtful, friendly, and fun to be around… that “he’s” a good kid.

Jeremy’s off at zir youth group meeting and hopefully having a good time. I just got off the phone with Emma but I’ll need to save what’s going on with her for a different post because I’ve rambled way too much now.

Feeling hopeful…

The first thing I was asked at work was if I could pick up a heavy garbage bag and carry it out to the dumpster as no one else in the store was strong enough to lift it, let alone take it to the back lot and heave it in. I picked up the bag and the whole bottom split open spilling steaming coffee grounds and filters everywhere. I had to shovel it back up. Yes, it was one of those “it can only go up from here” days. And it tentatively has.

I posted about Jeremy’s issues with zir school last week… from the disaster of a meeting on Tuesday to zir being indefinitely suspended on Thursday and then I haven’t mentioned anything since. What happened is I talked to a friend of mine who volunteers with our local chapter of PFLAG and she gave me a name to contact. He in turn directed me to a school board official who has helped them out before with LGBTQ issues.

I got a call this afternoon. The school board official has talked to Jeremy’s school and explained the board’s official policy on transgender students to them since there was a bit of a misunderstanding. I *cough* hadn’t misread the information at all and the school is required to refer to Jeremy as zie and zir. They are going to call me tomorrow to set up another meeting and the board official will be there as well. He’s agreed that Jeremy should be there too. I expressed my concerns, including the fact that what they’re considering bad behaviour on Jeremy’s part has its roots in anxiety and feeling at risk and is not a blatant attempt to disobey them. With any luck we’ll have a meeting this Friday (which is my day off).

I told Jeremy that we’d be working on the safety plan again and got a glower. Then I added we were going to be working on ways to make zir feel safe at school and got such a hopeful look.

So no real news but still better news than what we had earlier.

I’m leaving you with a quote from Jeremy from earlier this evening when zie was adjusting the speakers in the kitchen. I think it shows how zie looks at the world…

“Mom, speakers are amazing. People look at them and say ‘so, it’s just a speaker’ but all they are is just a magnet and copper wire and they make every sound imaginable.”

So I outed my kid today…

I talked to Jeremy yesterday afternoon, reminding zir that our church prides itself on being a welcoming congregation and as such are likely to make an effort to refer to Jeremy by the right pronouns. Jeremy agreed and thought they should know… some day. So I offered to be the one to tell them during pebbles of joy and concern, explaining that I would say what non-binary trans is and explain zir pronouns and how to use them in a sentence.

Jeremy swivelled a bit on zir bus seat. Like usual, we had our conversation in the middle of public transit. “Mom? When’s the next youth group meeting?” zie asked.

I thought back to the newsletter. “This coming Friday,” I replied after a moment’s thought.

“Can you tell them before the next meeting?”

That pretty much left today.

One thing to realize is claiming I’m not a social person is akin to saying a tornado is a type of wind storm; it’s technically true but doesn’t come anywhere near describing the magnitude of the situation. The only other announcement I’ve ever done was about a year ago, explaining why my kids and I were boycotting Jelly Belly jelly beans. We’ve been attending this congregation for thirteen years now and today brings my total number of announcements up to two.

My bus was a bit late. I’d hoped to slip inside to quickly use the washroom and get a drink of water before the service began, instead I discovered the announcements had already started. I quickly grabbed a seat.

I should explain “pebbles of joy and concern” as I’m pretty sure it’s a distinctly Unitarian Universalist tradition. It’s often referred to as candles of joy and concern but some congregations, like ours, switched to placing pebbles in water instead of lighting candles due to waste issues and insurance policies. Basically it’s a time for every member of the congregation, from toddler age on up, to go to the front and express something of “special significance” in their life. I figured Jeremy coming out as trans would count.

Jeremy's pebble is blue and Lenny's is clear... I'm not sure which ones beyond that.

Jeremy’s pebble is blue and Lenny’s is clear… I’m not sure which ones beyond that.

I was reasonably sure I wasn’t having a heart attack as I already had heart issues ruled out with an EKG. Which is good because nothing makes panic suck more than wondering if you’re really going into cardiac arrest and simply ignoring it as anxiety.

It was finally time to get up for the pebbles. I took the long way around, figuring there’d be several people beating me to the front (like usual) but I was first and almost every seat was full. I got about halfway through my brief explanation when I realized the words were getting really hard to force out. Oh right… I needed to breathe.

One of the teenagers nodded through my announcement. I wasn’t sure if it simply wasn’t a surprise or if she was agreeing with my explanation. Someone else said thanks as I walked back to my seat. And otherwise it was a non issue. One elderly lady wanted clarification on the pronouns and the Religious Education teacher is going to update the child and youth forms so they aren’t strictly male and female. The rest of the conversations were on Avaaz, a climate change protest in New York next weekend, and the coffee… pretty standard UU fare.

And the RE teacher used Jeremy’s pronouns when talking about the forms.

I’m hoping this will work. Our speaker today (Lynn Harrison) is an aspiring minister and amazing singer/songwriter. She sang an absolutely gorgeous original song today and I just found it on her website. Now to see if I can embed an MP3 here…

Woo hoo… it worked. Enjoy 🙂

A family visit and weekend musings…

We had a family dinner today and both my Mom and I were panicking for different reasons. My Mom was worried because this was the first dinner since Emma moved out (after a deadline was set for her to leave) and she didn’t know if dinner would end up being awkward or tense. I was worried because my parents don’t know about Jeremy’s indefinite suspension from school and I couldn’t figure out a way to tell them. Jeremy wasn’t exactly a sweet and innocent victim to begin with and, once Jeremy’s panicked reason to refuse those ballet stretches was removed, zie comes across as a complete asshole.

I could already hear the conversation, starting with shock that zie didn’t just do the stretch because “it wasn’t going to kill him” then moving on to horror that zie argued with the principal. I know where Jeremy’s coming from because zie doesn’t sit alone with zir thoughts ever. I love going for long walks in the woods, with nothing but nature sounds and my own thoughts. Jeremy can’t handle a two minute wait for the bus on zir own without music or a video game. Twenty minutes to an hour of sitting in an office with nothing to do but flip through a magazine would have been torture. My parents’ reaction would have been to suck it up and deal because zie’s seventeen. I agree that Jeremy needs to learn ways of coping with zirself without panicking; I just don’t feel sucking up’s going to work well. Leaving school when feeling stressed was part of Jeremy’s safety plan last year but I know my parents would be on the “just suck it up” bandwagon there too. School’s not stressful… just deal.

This would end up as an hour of listening to how horrible Jeremy is and how zie’ll never have a job or any sort of normal life, which makes for an awful visit. So I decided it was not happening. Of course I screwed up dismally when I decided this because I forgot Jeremy was not involved in my internal frettings and conversation.

“Okay, so it didn’t happen,” I blurted. “No indefinite suspension… no leaving school.”

“Really?” Jeremy said hopefully. “You mean I can go back on Monday? It’s all done?”

Crap! Talk about feeling two centimeters tall.

“Oh sorry hon,” I explained. “I meant we aren’t telling Nana and Grandad about the suspension. As far as they know you’re still going to school and everything’s fine.”

“Oh,” came zir quiet reply.

I shrugged and gave Jeremy a half smile. “We’re already keeping a huge secret from them anyways. What’s one more?” Zie grinned back.

Mom was waiting at the front door, watching for us as we walked down the street. She had pop chilling in the fridge, a vegan casserole in the oven (alongside the meat one) and Jeremy’s favourite ice cream bars in the freezer. Dad reclined in the chair in the living room and greeted us as we walked inside. Emma and Mark arrived a short while later.

We had one brief mishap. Jeremy was chatting in the kitchen with my Mom when I heard her voice raise.

“…those sort of things are not talked about at school,” she explained. “It might be fine to talk about gender at church but school’s different. They have to be neutral and gender is simply not acceptable to discuss. The teachers shouldn’t have to deal with stuff like that…”

“They’re mandated by law to deal with gender issues,” I commented as I walked into the room. Jeremy stood silent. I figured zie’d probably brought up the topic to test the waters. It obviously hadn’t worked well.

“It’s something better kept private and not mentioned in school at all,” she retorted. “It’s not school appropriate.”

“Jeremy? Emma was looking for you. I think she had something to show you.” I hoped Emma would play along.

“Really?” Jeremy turned and hurried out. I followed.

Emma wasn’t downstairs at all, she’d gone to use the washroom. The poor kid opened the door to find both of us standing right there. Jeremy was all excited because zir sister had something to share while I was winking so quickly it probably looked like I was having some sort of seizure.

“Nana was talking about gender with Jeremy,” I quickly explained. “I said you had something to show zir.”

She stared at me with more than a little irritation. “I don’t have anything to show. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I know,” I hissed. “It was an excuse. Find something.”

“Maybe that box of electronics,” Jeremy said hopefully.

“But I don’t know where it is,” she wailed.

“It’s an excuse,” I stressed. “It doesn’t matter if you know where it is.” I finally saw the lightbulb turn on and they headed off to Emma’s old room.

The rest of the night went wonderfully. We chatted and laughed about a variety of subjects including a long discussion regarding a giant chicken mobile on a farm north of here.

“This dinner went so well,” my Mom said happily as we said our goodbyes. And it did.

I uploaded my pictures when we got home and shared a photo from our family dinner on Facebook. It’s one of the rare good shots of my mother. She has this unusual talent of looking just fine in the viewfinder then looking absolutely horrid in the photo. I’m talking sunken cheeks, half closed eyes, partially open mouth… you name it, it’s happening in the photo and it wasn’t happening half a second earlier. Most times when I share family photos they come with the warning of “my Mom doesn’t actually look like that.” This photo really does look like her. Then I showed Jeremy zir birthday scrapbook page. I used to scrapbook the day I took the pictures; right now I’m three months behind and haven’t printed out a page since February. There is a plus side to my huge whopping delay though.

“See, I used zir on your page,” I pointed out. Jeremy beamed then I closed my scrapbooking program so zie could have the desktop.

“So tomorrow I’m going to out you at church. Is there anything in particular that you want me to say?” I asked then watched as Jeremy nearly spat cereal across the living room.

This was a continuation of a conversation we’d had that afternoon… not something I’d suddenly thrown at zir. I offered to be the one to explain exactly what non-binary trans is then share Jeremy’s preferred pronouns and how to use them in a sentence… which means Jeremy should (hopefully) miss a good chunk of the questions. Zie only goes to the youth group and the occasional potluck so zie won’t be there. Plus we go to a welcoming UU congregation so, presumably, everyone there is likely to at least attempt to use the correct pronouns.

“I can’t think of anything,” Jeremy replied once zie’d swallowed zir cereal and was past the risk of choking. “I’m sure you’ll say everything.”

I stink at public speaking. I flipped on the dining room light then watched as Jeremy glared.

“I’m just getting some chocolate then I’ll turn out the lights so you can watch your video.”

“Can you get me some too?” zie asked hopefully.

“It’s dark chocolate,” I warned. Jeremy likes dark chocolate sometimes and hates it other times so a warning is necessary. “I got it from Lenny.”

“The other zir,” Jeremy said with a smile, which quickly widened. “The word zir sounds like an alien. A really super cool alien.”

Also, I don’t actually have a conclusion but I do have two photos I took last night when we walked over to our local greenspace in an attempt to see the Northern Lights. We live in an urban area and, despite the solar storms, were rated for a poor chance of viewing. Chances are the whitish film in the sky was simply clouds reflecting all the city lights but it was still neat. Enjoy 🙂

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