It’s not about you…

I remember being pregnant with my children, feeling as their gentle flutters progressed into full belly flops on my bladder and painful karate kicks against the backs of my ribs. Back then I had no clue what my children would be like; they were more like ideas than real people. I’d sit in my rocking chair with my hands clasped gently over my stomach and wonder who they’d be. Dreaming of children who loved singing as much as me; envisioning singing rounds, our voices weaving together in harmony.

Then they were born. Short, chubby, bald people who looked a lot more like Winston Churchill than either their Dad or myself. People that screamed randomly, pooped on themselves, and considered “gah” to be an entire conversation. I still had no idea what they were like except loud, messy, and highly uncoordinated. They slowly evolved into their own people. Emma was colicky and had a desperate need to be held by me. She developed a heat rash across one cheek because she could only sleep while draped across my chest, listening to my heart. Jeremy was more laid back, willing to be held by anyone or to simply chill on a blanket. Weirdly enough Emma was the one who walked early, desperate to explore on her own while Jeremy was half a month past zir first birthday before zie took zir first cautious steps away from me.

As for the singing, Emma was happy enough to sing with me as a toddler (I have video proof of this) but quickly decided she couldn’t sing and refused despite encouragement from me. Jeremy has never sung in front of me. The only times I’ve ever heard zir sing is through zir closed bedroom door while zie listens to music.

I have never mourned their lack of interest in singing beyond some vague, wishful “gee it would be nice…” musings on a very rare occasion. Because of this I don’t have any statistical proof, however I have good reason to believe people would be fairly unsympathetic if I bemoaned my lack of musical offspring. They’d rightly ponder my mental health if I insisted on pretending my children played musical instruments and talked about our imaginary music nights; even if I coached it as needing time to let go of my need for musical children. They’d tell me to smarten up and accept the fact my children just aren’t musically inclined. That not everyone enjoys singing and to take pleasure in the children I have and appreciate the music they listen to.

I’ve watched as parents get supported for struggling, and failing, to cope with their child being transgender. I’ve seen parents talk about deliberately misgendering their child for months on end because it was too hard for them. Parents who used non-binary pronouns, despite not having a gender neutral child, because they didn’t feel ready to switch over to the pronouns their child preferred. One common thread through all these conversations is “I need…”

You know what? It’s not about you!

We don’t get to pick the kids we raise. We don’t get to choose their height, their hair colour, their IQ, their skills, their goals, or their gender. It’s that simple. I couldn’t pick singing skills and you can’t pick gender. And it doesn’t matter if you think you were raising a boy and instead, whoops, she’s a girl… or vice versa… or neither… or both.

Actually, to be fair, it does matter. When I started getting Jeremy tested for autism, I went through a spell of mourning. Zie’d been born absolutely perfect and then zir eyes started turning in. Surgery fixed this and everything was normal… except zie wasn’t talking. I was assured speech therapy would make a difference and soon zie would be normal. For a while that seemed to be the case but I soon realized more was going on. All my vague searches turned up autism, which wasn’t something zie’d outgrow ever. There was no “and then everything would be normal” at the end of that diagnosis. I did my brief bout of mourning away from Jeremy because this was my issue and not zir’s. The same goes for having an LGBTQ child. Take some private time to set aside your dreams and goals while realizing they’re yours. In the meantime be your child’s biggest supporter. Realize they need you now more than ever. They need to know you are right there behind them for support (just like that first time on the monkey bars… all set to catch them if they drop).

Because there is something matters a whole lot more. Take a good long look at this chart (these stats are worse than the ones for LGB youths, which are already too high)…

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There’s a huge difference between the dark and pale blue sections. 57% is a scarily high number. Now take a closer look. That pale blue section includes “somewhat supportive parents”. The benchmark for being a good, supportive parent to a trans child is not “well I didn’t kick him/her/them out”. If you can’t manage to use your child’s preferred name and pronouns, you are not a supportive parent.

Today I read a letter about two unsupportive parents, written by their teen before she stepped in front of a transport truck, completely without hope that she’d ever be able to live her life as a girl.

Leelah

Leelah was 17 years old when she died. I’ve linked her archived Tumblr blog* to the picture but this is part of what she wrote in her note…

“When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.”

Her parents ignored what she was saying to them. They ignored her pleas for acceptance and instead they told her she was wrong and going against god’s will. They dragged her to Christian conversion therapists who told her the same thing. When she tried to ease them into acceptance by coming out as gay instead, they took away all her social media and blocked her from her real life friends as well. They also refused any sort of transitioning help, including blockers. All they wanted was a son, even if this was an illusion. And they clung to this illusion even after her death…

misgendered memorial

Photo found via Tumblr

Even after death, her mother couldn’t accept her as Leelah. She couldn’t see what she’d done. One of Leelah’s friends corrected the post for her…

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Corrections by Shani Mer Bryan. Found on Transgender Graphics

This is what it boils down to. If you find yourself struggling with supporting your child and getting bogged down with “why me” and “I don’t know if I can deal with this”, scroll up and take a good long look at Leelah’s face. You can do this because your child is counting on you. Please go and make a better future for our childrens’ sake… for Leelah’s sake.

Also, she asked for donations to be made to any trans groups. Pick one and make a donation in her honour.

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Art by Mike Kirby

And please, if you’re feeling suicidal, there are people who care. People who will listen. Go to my resources page and you will find a list of phone numbers and websites. You can also message me at secretmom@email.com. You are not alone.

* Leelah’s parents deleted her Tumblr and final words. Luckily the internet is pretty much forever and archived copies have been found.

A change…

“Mom? Can we go shopping please?” Jeremy begged. It was Boxing Day and I had no interest in shopping, let alone battling the hordes looking for post-Christmas deals. Jeremy however had $50 burning a hole in zir pocket and a desperate need to look for blue tooth headphones.

“I guess,” I sighed, “but just Target.”

We live two blocks from Target which made it an easy trip. Jeremy was thrilled. Sadly the one blue tooth headset they had was just over a hundred dollars.

“Why don’t we try Giant Tiger next?” Jeremy asked then zie looked more closely at me. “You look tired though. Why don’t you go home instead. I can go on my own and you can heat the oven up for my pizza.”

I agreed and we both headed out; me toward home and Jeremy to Giant Tiger. Zie ended up going to not one but two stores, in the dark, on zir own. And that was just the beginning. I called Jeremy from work on Saturday only to find zie’d gone out for a walk by zirself. Then yesterday we took two buses down to the big regional mall so we could bring in our desktop computer for repairs. I got off the bus and realized I’d left my purse, with both my mall gift cards, at home. Which wouldn’t have mattered except the camera I’d been admiring since June was on sale and they only had one left.

“I can go home and get your wallet,” Jeremy offered. I stared at zir in surprise.

“Are you sure?” I asked.

“Yeah,” zie replied offhandedly. “It’s no problem.”

It would have been a problem before. Going home meant catching one of four different buses downtown and then transferring onto one of two buses. Since it was a Sunday, zie’d have almost an hour’s wait home alone before taking a similar trip back.

Jeremy headed off and called me at the transfer points and at home, where zie happily told me about having to find a superintendent to let zir into our apartment because zie’d forgotten zir keys. No sign of stress or anxiety throughout the whole event. Jeremy might have volunteered before but would have changed zir mind when faced with four different buses to catch just from the mall alone.

I worked today and, once again, Jeremy got bored while I was at work and headed out for a walk. Then zie informed me that zie’d be more willing to go swimming if zie had a new bathing suit. That’s something I’ll have to start looking at over the next few weeks. We have an indoor pool downstairs and I think Jeremy’s used it twice this year.

It’s been 10 days since Jeremy started taking EffexorXR. I have a feeling it’s going to be as helpful for zir as it has been for me.

Jeremy on one of zir walks with zir purple, sparkly car.

Jeremy on one of zir walks with zir purple, sparkly car.

Merry Christmas!!!

So far Jeremy’s had an amazing day. Zie loves zir new purple remote control car and cheerfully exclaimed, “Yay, it’s a girl car!” when zie opened it. And zie was thrilled with everything in zir stocking. Now I’m off to make the cinnamon buns and get ready for Emma and Mark to arrive.

Best wishes to everyone for a wonderful day and (((hugs))) for all who need one (or two).

shopping cart

Editing to add a shot of Emma and Jeremy’s matching gummy bear earrings…

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Silent Night…

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I should be in bed. Jeremy’s been in zir room for over an hour now and I’m fully expecting zir to wake me before sunrise. Zie’s so anxiously hopeful about getting a remote control car, to the point where I’m glad I bought it (and remembered batteries) because I’m pretty sure zir Christmas would be crushed without it. The flip side is I’m also reasonably sure finding a big purple remote control car is going to be the highlight of zir day.

Tomorrow should be relatively peaceful. I say ‘should’ because nothing ever truly goes as planned. It’s about as un-chaotic a day as anyone could organize though. Emma and Mark are coming over for lunch and then Jeremy and I are spending the rest of the day on our own. I did originally invite their grandmother to join us but their Dad came down to spend Christmas with her instead. This meant the kids visited them yesterday.

To say I was nervous about the visit would be an understatement. Their Dad called the day before to inform me that he was going to warn the kids that if they acted up the person who was misbehaving would be sent home.

“That’s fine,” I assured him then added, “As long as it extends to you too.”

“I don’t fight with the kids!” he said, sounding affronted. I simply waited. “I only point out the flaws in what Emma says.”

“Yeah, don’t do that.” His version of pointing out flaws involves picking at her until she blows up then cheerfully complaining about how argumentative she is.

He agreed then I got Jeremy to call zir sister and warn her about their Dad’s new rules. I didn’t want it to be their Dad who shared the news because I knew he wouldn’t be tactful.

The kids started their visit while I was at work. I wondered aloud if I’d need bail money. Thankfully I didn’t because I don’t think our laundry quarters would stretch very far.

Jeremy was worried before zie left because we didn’t get a Tim Hortons coffee mug for zir Dad this year. Their Dad asks for one every year without fail, dropping repeated requests that start back in May. Two years ago I bought him one and Jeremy carefully placed it into a gift bag and signed the tag. Then it sat underneath the tree until I took the tree down and placed it under the end table… where it sat until the summer. By that time the package of coffee inside was about to expire and Jeremy gave the mug to someone else. Last year Emma bought him a mug with her own money. Once again it sat unopened until the summer when she took it out of the package and used it herself. This year he told her he really wants a mug because he threw away every single other mug they’ve given him because he didn’t feel like packing them when he moved. There was no way on earth I was buying him one but that didn’t stop Jeremy from worrying.

I pointed to the counter and the racks of freshly baked cookies. “I’m filling a gift bag of cookies for your Dad. Don’t worry sunshine, you’ll have a present for him.”

Jeremy sighed with relief and headed off to bed. Zie sighed too soon. Their Dad opened his gift then said, with obvious disappointment and sarcasm, “Oh cookies, yum, thanks kids.” Meanwhile he didn’t bring the kids anything, not even a card. I told Emma that if he didn’t want them, I’d take them back. There’s plenty of people who’d appreciate homemade cookies. There’s plenty of people who did appreciate them. I’ve been giving them out all month.

And then he got creepy. Joking that his mother should tell her friend she was too busy banging an 18 year old and a 13 year old to answer the phone. He couldn’t understand why no one else thought that was funny. Plus he repeatedly told the kids that all he wants for Christmas is to unwrap an 18 year old. The kids are 17 and 19 years old and found their Dad’s unsubtle hints that he wants to have sex with someone their age beyond gross. Hearing about his comments makes me want to get a scrubbie from the kitchen and scour myself raw. I can tell myself (truthfully) that he’s gotten worse over the years but still…

Finally it was time for them to leave. Their grandmother bustled around, making sure they had their Christmas cards and that everyone was in their coats and set for a goodbye hug and kiss. Meanwhile their Dad wandered over to the bed and laid down, immediately pretending to fall asleep instead of saying goodbye. He might claim he passed right out except when Emma announced she was sure he was lying on her tablet, he conveniently rolled over and off the device.

Jeremy hasn’t said more than five words about the visit. Instead zie’s been anxious and fidgety about everything else. Repeatedly commenting about the remote control car, dissolving into tears when I asked to pause the Christmas music zie’d wired to the tree so I could listen to a video for a minute, barely able to sit through dinner. Zie settled down at bedtime and has been quiet ever since but I can honestly say I’m glad zie only sees zir Dad about once or twice a year. I wish that wasn’t the case. I wish zie had an amazing father. But as Karen says regularly, it is what it is.

I’ve got a very laid back day planned for tomorrow. Roasted sweet potato soup and homemade cinnamon buns for lunch with Emma and Mark followed by a quiet afternoon and an easy dinner. And this is what’s waiting for Jeremy when zie wakes up.

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I can’t say it’s a silent night anymore because we’re now getting wind gusts of 100km/hr but hopefully tomorrow will be filled with peace.

Sweet dreams and best holiday wishes to everyone!

One whole year…

I can’t believe it’s been a whole year since I wrote my first post. I’d spent the previous month pondering whether I should start a new blog. I already had one, which was well known to family and friends, but I found myself with lots to say and, since I didn’t want to ‘out’ my kid, nowhere to write it. Plus the few blogs I read were about younger kids, which meant we were dealing with completely different situations. I figured if I couldn’t find blogs about what I was dealing with, there was a space my blog needed to fill. I picked WordPress because my original blog was on Blogspot (I worried my new blog might inadvertently get linked to the old one if they were through the same site) and carefully wrote out an introduction. The rest, as they say, is history.

So much has changed this year. When I started writing, Jeremy was an effeminate young man who thought “he” might be bisexual. Today zie identifies as bigender trans and says zie’s interested solely in women. Zie doesn’t identify as straight though, which makes sense considering zie identifies as partly female. Jeremy’s been struggling with anxiety for a while, becoming increasingly house-bound. Jeremy missed our Solstice Service last night plus the last PFLAG meeting due to anxiety. Zie started on EffexorXR two days ago and I’m hoping it will make a difference.

Writing this blog has made a huge difference for me. I’ve made several friends through here and have found two groups for parents of transgender children (one of which is linked on my resources page; the other is a secret group). The friendships and groups also gave me the confidence to start attending our local chapter of PFLAG, which in turn has a teen group for Jeremy.

In real life I’m quite shy. The support and encouragement I’ve received here has helped me stand up more in real life. I’ve become more vocal and huggy at work and, well, more vocal everywhere. I had my Christmas party on Saturday and a friend of mine started talking about one of my former neighbours, someone I didn’t know (we’re talking about a 20 storey high rise… there are a LOT of neighbours I didn’t know). The neighbour is FtM trans.

“She was a really ugly female but now she’s really hot,” my friend continued.

I’d said “he” several times as she’d talked but my friend remained oblivious. This time I marched over and stood in front of her, my hands on my hips.

“He,” I said firmly. “He’s really hot. He was never female and you need to stop referring to him as she.”

“Oh, sorry,” my friend said and switched to using he. I then gave a mini talk on hormones and how sex organs develop before brains while my friends listened with obvious interest. This isn’t something I would have done a year ago. This isn’t something I really knew about a year ago.

And now we’re moving on to Christmas and 2015. I can’t wait to see what the following year brings 🙂

Jeremy’s tree…

I almost forgot to add a picture of Jeremy’s tree. I had to go back and buy a new topper because the star zie originally picked out didn’t work when we plugged it in the second time. It was working when we bought it. Luckily Dollarama also had a topper with “rainbow lights”…

purple tree

They don’t show up as much in the picture but zie has four sparkly chandeliers on the tree and a bunch of purple butterflies. Also, we really need to paint zir room. Maybe this spring…

Anxiety…

“Mom? Do we really live in a democracy?”

I turned around from brushing my hair and blinked at Jeremy. It wasn’t even 6am and I was barely awake. I’d heard Jeremy up several hours earlier though.

“I mean we vote for three people who were chosen by their parties. How can that be a democracy when we have such little choice?”

I put down my hair brush and tried to think of a coherent answer. “Umm… I think we’re in a democratic oligarchy.” That didn’t sound right but it was as close as I could get before the sun rose. “Hon, can we talk about this later?”

Zie rolled zir eyes and headed out to the living room. I followed along behind, thinking of what I needed to do next. My lunch was in the fridge and my phone charging. I grabbed both and put them by the front door then I pulled my shoes from the closet.

“Mom! The computer’s still screwed up! We need to take it in to get fixed immediately!”

I was leaning against the wall while lacing up one shoe. “So it won’t turn on?” I called back.

“No, it turns on. It just drops down to three frames per second once it loads.”

Huh? I had no idea what zie was talking about and didn’t have time to find out. It had taken me much too long to drag myself out of bed and now I only had 10 minutes until I needed to leave and I still needed to make breakfast.

“Hon, can we talk about this when I get home tonight?” I asked then sighed to myself. It wasn’t like tonight was going to be any less busy. I wasn’t getting home until 5pm and we needed to leave by 6:30pm to get to PFLAG.

“Our computer is pretty much destroyed and you’re not going to do anything about it! You’re just going to let it get ruined!” Jeremy yelled before storming off to zir room. I tied my other shoe and headed to the kitchen.

“Where are my track pants? I need them! I can’t go to school without them! What did you do with them!” Jeremy screamed from zir room.

“Jeremy, I haven’t even seen them. You had a blanket wrapped around you last night before bed. They should be in your room.”

“You don’t understand. I need these track pants! You just don’t care! What happened to them? I wasn’t wearing them yesterday, I was wearing my jeans, but they’re too big and my teacher says I can’t wear them anymore and, oh, there they are…” Jeremy’s voice dropped about 5 decibels. I got the peanut butter from the cupboard and signed.

“So, are you going to apologize to me?” I asked.

“No,” Jeremy replied scornfully. I sighed again.

Then I went to work and jumped every time the phone rang even though the school hasn’t called in ages. Instead they’ve been sending Jeremy to the AR room to do whatever zie wants. I don’t think Jeremy’s been learning anything at school for several months now.

I called Jeremy on my way home and was surprised by how quiet zir voice was.

“Can we just stay home tonight Mom? I’m feeling really anxious. I can’t go out anywhere. Please?”

There wasn’t any point in forcing zir to go to PFLAG. Not if zie felt that bad.

“Okay,” I said gently. “Just make sure the big pots are washed so I can make dinner when I get home.”

“I’ll try,” zie whispered.

Jeremy was asleep in front of the electric fireplace when I walked in the door. Zie immediately grabbed zir phone and headed off to bed to watch videos. It wasn’t even 6pm yet. Then zie turned down dinner and even the hash browns I’d brought home from work. Zie loves hash browns.

The kid reads like a checklist on depression. Zie’s barely eating… unless it’s 3am. Zie can sleep for hours… unless it’s night. But zie can also stay up for hours too (I think zir record was 36 hours). Anger… lethargy… tears… anxiety attacks. We’re seeing our family doctor tomorrow. Something has to be done.