Transgender Day of Visibility

This is the post I wrote on my personal Facebook wall today…

Today is the Transgender Day of Visibility. Jeremy hasn’t been out for very long, only since the summer, although zie’s been edging towards being out for a while before that… testing the waters with both myself and other family members.

One of the hardest things for me is that some of the people I figured would be zir biggest supporters have quietly disappeared (and presumably have unfollowed me). Their silence is obvious and noticeable. What they don’t seem to realize is that I’m not posting for them. I’m not setting out to make them comfortable. My goal is to make Jeremy comfortable and to try my hardest to ensure a space for zir in this world.

Pull out your wallet and take a look at your ID. How many have a space for anyone other than male/female? There isn’t any (at least not here in Canada) and with every form I watch Jeremy’s sparkle fade a little more. My job as a mother is to stand beside zir and I want to make this country a better place for zir and for my trans friends.

I am not going to encourage Jeremy to hide or try to blend in. It might be easier for the rest of society but it is NOT easier for zir; that’s simply a tried and true path to suicide because Jeremy does not (and has not) ever fit in. Zie was born to shine. And I don’t post these things behind Jeremy’s back. While zie doesn’t use Facebook often (and never uses the Facebook profile that most people have) zie is online and does see what I post. The things I post about zir are with zir approval… including this post and the original “coming out” post.

Unlike being gay, trans doesn’t have much of a stealth option. I mean I guess I could continue to misgender Jeremy but, really, short of never posting another picture… how do I hide zir (take a good look at zir picture). Really?

Jeremy waiting for Pentatonix

I’m a mother and I stand up for both of my children, loving them 110% (it’s like one of those super saturated solutions… just deal). I will not back down, unless they ask me to, and I will not be quiet.

Today I will be walking around town with my nails painted in the colour of the trans flag while wearing a trans pride bracelet. Jeremy has the same nails and is wearing purple.

Feel free to like if you want to show support. And if you don’t want to support us, no apologies from me, I’m not changing and neither is Jeremy.

‪#‎NeverDullingZirSparkle‬

March musings…

So Jeremy hasn’t been to school since last Monday. Zie was supposed to have counselling on Tuesday but was too anxious to leave, which turned okay because zir counselor was sick and had just left for home. Zie missed school on Wednesday then came home after Youth Group and cried for a solid night and a good chunk of the next day. One of the worst feelings in the world is being stuck at work knowing your child is hurting… but also knowing zie’s going to appreciate a bedroom and food (which needs a paycheque). Except zie needed me now. Sigh. We were supposed to go to PFLAG on Thursday evening. We didn’t go. Neither did we go to the Youth Led UU service this Sunday, which was also due to anxiety.

Today is tentatively better. Jeremy barely slept last night but wanted to get back on track and stayed up for most of today. Zie spent the day rearranging zir room and has it organized quite well. Which is amazing, usually zir rearrangements look like they were done by overbooked movers in one hell of a rush. Everything crammed against one wall and you have to climb over at least a desk to reach zir bed. And zie hasn’t cried once.

Jeremy’s got counseling tomorrow (knock on wood) and then we’re going to Queen’s Park in Toronto on Thursday to show support of Bill 77, which is a bill to protect LGBTQ youths from conversion therapy in Ontario.

And tomorrow is the Transgender Day of Visibility. I just painted both mine and Jeremy’s nails purple with a top coat of silver, pink, and pale blue sparkles. They’re pretty darn visible…

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My sparkly nails.

Two things happened while I was writing this post. The first was the realization that Jeremy’s anxiety drastically increased when I added vitamins to zir daily routine. Which sent me googling “can B vitamins increase anxiety?” The answer was a big yes posted to the top of the page so I immediately skipped giving Jeremy a B50 pill. The second was when my brain kicked in and said, “Wait? Wasn’t today the day to pick up the prescriptions?” Of course it was and I’m all ready for bed. Jeremy on the other hand hasn’t set one foot out of our apartment since last Wednesday. I promptly requested a medication run and Jeremy cheerfully agreed.

Jeremy got to our front door then called back in a sing-song voice, “See you… wouldn’t want to be you… because I like being me.” Words I love to hear. Zie left wearing a pair of woman’s pants and with zir nails as glittery as a disco ball. Maybe (hopefully) tomorrow will be even better than today.

Fear…

“Mom? I can’t do it. Please don’t make me go to school tomorrow.”

Jeremy looked up at me from zir bed, where zie lay cocooned in blankets; eyes wide and body tense. I sighed.

“How about you go tomorrow and miss Thursday,” I suggested. Thursday was the provincial literacy testing day and most of the school would be absent. “You’ll be fine. I know you can do it.”

Zie nodded slightly but zir expression wasn’t very hopeful. I wasn’t hopeful either although I tried not to show it. Instead I kissed zir goodnight and headed off to bed.

This morning I got myself ready then went to wake Jeremy up… then woke zir up again (and again). I could see actual consciousness the third time around and with it came zir anxiety.

“Mom. I can’t go to school today. I’m so dizzy. I don’t think I can stand up. Can you please call the school and tell them I won’t be there?” Jeremy’s voice was shaking by the end.

I patted zir shoulder and promised I would call. Then I promised myself I’d call our family doctor and make Jeremy an appointment. And I did. For the 23rd of April… the earliest appointment available. His receptionist did put Jeremy on the list for cancellations.

Every single week I have friends share pictures of yet another transgender teen who’s committed suicide. The latest was a young man who was popular, well supported, crowned home-coming king, and a known activist. Several people commented on how he’d spoken to and encouraged their own children. He’d been an amazing kid, a real inspiration.

I listened to Jeremy play zir video game while watching the latest episode of The Young Turks. Two weeks ago we were walking home and Jeremy commented that if zie died, all zie’d be remembered for was playing video games and being trans. I assured zir that if I’d died at 17 years old, I’d only be remembered as that quiet girl who reads a lot of books; that zie has years to grow into talents and memories. I read through the article and wished I had a pair of handcuffs so I could clip Jeremy to me and keep zir safe. Jeremy couldn’t kill zirself if I was right there 24/7.

But that’s not living (not to mention using the washroom and showering would be beyond awkward). And so I head off to work knowing that Jeremy’s going to be home alone. Reminding zir to take out the recycling while I’m away… and hoping zie at least remembers to eat and change out of zir pyjamas.

I panic every time I call home after work and zie doesn’t answer. I know full well Jeremy loves to crank zir music and will call back as soon as zie sees the “missed call” light flashing but there’s always that cold shiver pushing out from the pit of my stomach… inching up my spine to tap relentlessly against my brain. And it doesn’t stop until Jeremy’s Doctor Who ringtone plays.

Tonight Jeremy’s at zir UU Youth Group, happily eating nachos and discussing censorship with like minded peers. Tomorrow night we’ll be at PFLAG where zie’ll be eating pizza and chatting with other trans teens. And in between I’ll be at work and zie’ll be alone. And I’ll take another deep breath and hope to hear from zir on the way home.

kitty cuddling

Jeremy’s first concert…

You know what they say about the best laid plans…

I had everything all planned. Jeremy was freshly showered and zir outfit was waiting on zir dresser, as far away from the cats as I could manage (while still keeping it in the apartment). My morning schedule was going to be hectic; involving shopping, getting cash-back for laundry money, hitting the gym while the laundry washed, then going upstairs for a shower. But it was doable and would leave us enough time to paint nails, put on makeup, etc before heading out for an early dinner.

My first sign of trouble was the odd sort of gurgle our toilet gave when I flushed. The slight trickle of water when I went to wash my hands was my second. I called the superintendent and was informed the water was off until 5pm. No shower… no laundry… and no gym either (unless I wanted to go to the concert smelling like a warthog in August).

I’ve lost just over ten pounds since January (and three inches around my waist) which leaves me with exactly one pair of pants that fit. They were at the bottom of my laundry basket. Emma lent me some clothes and was subsequently alarmed by the result; she kept saying it looked good but wasn’t a “Mom outfit”…

Michelle's outfitI figure the experience was good for her; I’m not just a Mom. Plus the outfit looked great with my sparkly shoes…

my sparkly shoes

Then Jeremy came out of zir room in stained track pants and an old grey t-shirt. The legs of zir good pants “felt funny” rubbing against zir leg hairs. Emma suggested skin cream and I suggested shaving (since Jeremy shaved zir legs consistently until last fall) but Jeremy insisted neither option would work. Jeremy’s autistic and it grew quickly apparent zie was heading straight for a meltdown. We live only a block away from Value Village and while we didn’t have time to shop, having Jeremy attend the concert naked wasn’t an option. We walked out the door less than an hour before we had to leave for the concert. My plans for the day were completely blown.

Like usual Jeremy headed straight for the men’s department, where zie did a quick visual scan of the area and found nothing. Not that anything can be found while speed walking and scowling. Then we headed over to the ladies department where we immediately found two pairs of pants and six purple shirts… and thankfully an assortment of shoppers who smiled at Jeremy as we wandered through the racks. The jeans were only a bit too big  and the shirt fit perfectly…

Jeremy found wifi

We were walking into the back door of our building as Emma’s boyfriend Mark pulled into the front parking lot. Jeremy quickly changed and we went running back out, forgetting Emma’s cigarettes in our rush. My original plan was to be at The Old Spaghetti Factory by 4pm, instead we were stuck in traffic somewhere on our way to Mississauga, the correct turn off slowly fading in the distance. We were later than I planned but thankfully early enough to actually eat.

This was Mark’s first time at The Old Spaghetti Factory. He was surprised by the antique carousel we were seated beside…

Old Spaghetti Factory view from table

… then I took him to see the stained glass mural of the Toronto Blue Jays…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Jeremy hurried over to join us and I overheard one boy ask, “Is that a boy or a girl?” I don’t think Jeremy heard him though and we left right away so I have no idea what anyone said in response. Hopefully an adult said something positive. Hopefully. It wasn’t me this time. I wasn’t letting anything spoil Jeremy’s night out.

We all plowed through dinner. I even paid while we ate in the hopes of speeding things up a bit. Poor Jeremy was disappointed we were going to leave before our ice cream but I promised we’d stay for ice cream on zir birthday and we’d eat in the antique elevator (much to zir delight).

Emma and Mark dropped us off in the lineup before leaving to get a replacement package of cigarettes. Emma figured it would be fine because the line was long…

This doesn't show the back and forth line in front of the theatre.

This doesn’t show the zig-zagging line in front of the theatre.

…and the doors weren’t opening for another 20 minutes anyway. I texted her several times to say the line was moving and to hurry. The last time was to say we’d just gone through security. That was when they arrived. Emma was able to reach over the fence to get their tickets at least (with the help of a security guard). I watched them go to the back of the line and hoped they wouldn’t be too far from the stage.

This theatre was unlike any I’d ever been to. We walked into a huge open room which, judging by the wooden floor, was built for dances and not concerts. A stage had been set up at the far end and the room was already crowded, even though the line behind us was bigger than the one in the picture above. The room was as packed as a delayed bus at rush hour. I couldn’t pull my cellphone out of my pocket without pulling the hair of the girl in front of me (my apologies if that’s why she moved). It didn’t take long for Jeremy to realize the VIP space above us had actual seats.

“Wait,” he blurted. “You have to pay extra for seats now? What are they going to do next, charge us for oxygen?”

The lady beside us started laughing.

We waited for an hour and a half, listening to canned music and sweating. Jeremy at least had zir electronics to fiddle with, which kept zir quiet and calm…

Jeremy waiting for Pentatonix

And then the concert started. The group was amazing and we were close enough to the front for me to get some good shots…

Pentatonix3

In the interest of not loading each one separately.

A quick photo montage in the interest of not loading each one separately.

I love having optical zoom on my camera, especially since my usual view of the stage looked like this…

Cellphones... everywhere...

Cellphones… everywhere…

Once the long haired girl left, I ended up behind a young man who I figure might possibly be Mitch‘s biggest fan. He was so excited when the show started and yelled “I love you Mitch!” regularly while making heart shapes…

Mitch's biggest fan

… it was really sweet 🙂

Poor Jeremy found the outright screaming overwhelming but otherwise enjoyed the concert. I think what impressed zir the most was the bathroom attendant.

“Mom, they’re paying someone to sit inside the washroom and hand us paper towels. Can I give him a tip?”

Zie listened to Pentatonix the whole way home.

Our view as we left the theatre.

Our view as we left the theatre.

It wasn’t about the apple juice…

The call display on the work phone showed Jeremy’s school. I sighed and picked up the phone. “National Fast Food chain. How may I help you?” I said cheerfully.

“May I please speak to Michelle?” The voice was quiet, almost hesitant. This definitely wasn’t the principal.

“This is Michelle,” I replied.

“This is Ms. Teacher. Jeremy’s being sent home now. He was in the other room today, helping make a meal, when he was asked to pour juice for the class. He refused then started swearing at the teacher and the EA’s. I wasn’t there, so I didn’t see it, but when they asked him to get out the apple juice for his classmates, he told them all to fuck off.”

I thanked her for letting me know and informed her that zie’d be missing most of next week due to counselling and the concert.

“Oh oops, zie,” she said with a slight chuckle. “I meant to say that.”

Maybe she did but chances are if she was using zir pronouns regularly she wouldn’t misgender Jeremy every single time we talk. It’s been half a year now since our meeting regarding pronouns, that’s plenty of time to get used to zir pronouns.

I waited about 15 minutes before I called Jeremy to give zir time to get out of school. Then I listened as the phone rang and rang. Yesterday Jeremy informed me that zir teacher was told Jeremy’d been sent home due to attitude (I still have no idea what happened) but that zie’d been told to go to the AR room for quiet time. Which means no one knew where zie was for at least an hour. Had there been a similar mix up today? Then zie answered and let me know zie was on the way home.

“What happened?” I asked cautiously before bracing myself for the coming onslaught of words. When Jeremy’s upset, zir words tumble out like a tidal wave of tangled emotions and thoughts.

The first go around, all I caught were the words “… told me my gender was a choice”.

“So this wasn’t about the apple juice,” I commented then asked zir to tell me again.

Once again they divided the class by boys and girls and served them “ladies first”. Jeremy complained that was sexist and they should serve the men first sometimes too. They started out telling zir that they almost never serve the girls first, something I know isn’t true because Jeremy complains regularly about their “ladies first” comments. Then one of the educational assistants told Jeremy repeatedly that she didn’t know why he was complaining because he’d chosen to be in the middle so would never be first no matter what. That was when zie got told to serve the juice. Of course nothing before the juice was deemed relevant to share with me (or presumably Jeremy’s primary teacher).

By this time I was over halfway home and so was Jeremy. I made plans to meet zir at a nearby grocery store. It was freezing out and I figured if I went home first, I simply was not going to get back out again.

“Mom? Can you please be ready when I get there? I’m going to need the biggest hug ever.” Jeremy sounded plaintive and fairly close to tears. I promised zir I would.

I stood at the back of the store watching for zir, my head turning every time the doors opened and someone walked down an aisle. Nope, that was a balding, middle age man… and an elderly woman… and a young woman… no, wait, that was Jeremy. I hurried over and held out my arms. Jeremy hugged me back as hard as zie could. Zie was weepy and quiet for the rest of the afternoon.

At least Jeremy’s got the weekend to recuperate and I’ve got the weekend to work on yet another letter. This time I’m requesting that every EA and teacher directly responsible for Jeremy has to read the school board’s official document on transgender students. Something has got to change.