What is trans…

Sleepy Colin posing filteredI woke up this morning to a call from my daughter Kait and, while we were chatting, Colin woke up and sleepily leaned against my door frame.

I loved the way he looked and managed to get a shot of him, which was nice because he’s usually not fond of having his picture taken. I guess the promise that he just had to stand there and do nothing was a bonus.

Kait and I commented he’d look so much prettier if he shaved his face and he immediately went to the washroom to do just that. I’d love to have a shaved version of the photo but he was too awake by the time he finished shaving. The picture still looks good though. Trans is beautiful.

Colin and I had a little talk yesterday after he said he wasn’t trans, which would definitely be a surprise. Obviously nothing would change either way but it’s nice to know if something that integral to his identity was still a thing. It turned out he thought you were only trans if you were actively transitioning but he still was female. I explained that if he still was female and was born with a penis, he was trans whether he was transitioning or not. It was the feeling female and being perceived as male that made him trans, not the act of taking hormones or having surgery. That sense of disassociation when he sees himself in the mirror… that sense of joy when he’s seen as a woman. As he subsequently explained to me, he feels female but is upset he’s never going to transition.

Colin’s getting tested for ADHD this month and, hopefully he’ll get put on a medication that will help him keep his scatterbrain in check. This is something he’s looking forward to. It’s not just missing part of the definition of transgender, it’s keeping track of his teacher’s lectures and remembering the information long enough to finish homework and write tests. It’s hard to be in school and miss half of what the teacher’s saying, even when he’s concentrating.

As usual, gender is not the forefront of our lives. Colin is much more interested in anime and computers. And now is time to combine both. We’re going to watch an anime called Planetarium on the computer he just rebuilt. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!

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I’m in love…

He’s short, bald, toothless, and well under half my age but I’m blissfully, happily in love. He’s my 7 week old grandson and he’s an absolute doll.

I watched him last night while my daughter and her boyfriend went out for the evening and got to spend hours snuggling him and watching him sleep, while taking short cat naps of my own. He was wired and ready to party at 1am and his Mommy and I didn’t get to bed until 4:30am but it was still wonderful.

I forgot how magical those first gummy smiles are. How they stretch with their whole body. How they belly breathe… their little tummies expanding to Buddha belly size. How absolutely tiny their little toes and fingers are. Their dimpled knuckles. That first faint scatter of new hair.

He’s perfect, like all babies are, perfection in miniature, and I can see glimpses in him of the toddler and child he’s going to be. Soon he’ll be eager to go. To crawl and walk and explore. But for now he’s content to be snuggled and I am more than content to do the snuggling.

Gender questions…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well not really but I do have almost all of my presents bought, including the ones for Colin. They’re tucked away in my dresser drawer and in the closet, just waiting to be sorted a bit more and eventually wrapped.

Yesterday Colin came up to me and asked, “Mom? Did you buy me a feminine present?”

His voice hovered halfway between longing and worry, as if he wasn’t quite sure which he wanted.

“No, I didn’t,” I replied then watched as disappointment spread across his face. “The presents I bought you are gender neutral.”

That brought out a wide grin. Neutral is safe. Neutral means no disappointment for traditionally male presents and no reminder that he isn’t transitioning to female.

Then came today. I had my group this morning then I walked halfway home on a local trail. By the time I got home I was starving and Colin wasn’t there. He called me from the gym and asked me to meet him at the front door. He also wanted me to guess what he fixed in our apartment.

I had no clue what he’d fixed and no idea even where to start, so I just guessed weird things.

“You fixed your messy habits”

He snorted. “Have you seen my room?” he asked.

“You’ve fixed your gender,” I continued.

That one got a chuckle. “I’m in the male gym so that should answer your question,” he replied.

Anyone, except for the trolls, will realize that if being in the male gym meant he wasn’t fixed, he’d only be fixed if he was in the female gym and therefore female.

The thing he’d ended up fixing was our sticky door latch, which is great. I also would have never guessed it. But the rest just makes me sigh. I know he’s female (because he’s told me multiple times). He knows he’s female. He admits it and still keeps putting up road blocks for transition.

I wish he could be happy in his own skin, whether that involves transitioning or not. It’s like watching someone hit their foot with a hammer and complain it hurts. Then don’t do it! But they keep on going. Colin talks about transitioning, talks about gender dysphoria, but he just won’t transition even though it keeps on hurting. Hopefully someday he’ll let himself be Emma again. Hopefully it’ll be soon.

Kathleen and Colin2

Kathleen and Colin on an autumn walk

“I won’t transition unless…”

I’d just got home from my group and a long walk and was enjoying my lunch when Colin asked me to come out of my room and go into the living room to watch a video. It was a long video and so to summarize, it talked about turning blood cells into immature eggs. So far they’re only immature but if this technology works, it means that male couples could have a baby that’s biologically both of theirs.

I watched the video in silence then Colin suddenly blurted, “What are the things scientists are doing that are good for trans people?”

“Well, those egg cells you just showed me and womb transplants into someone without a womb.” He seemed agitated so I tried to stay as calm as possible. Apparently that was the wrong choice.

Colin got very silent then yelled, “Can’t you see why this is important to me?”

“Of course I can,” I replied. “You want to have a baby of your own and grow it inside you like most women.”

He immediately calmed down then said, “I won’t transition unless I can have a womb to carry my baby.” And, with that, he left the living room.

I stood there for a few extra minutes. Obviously Colin’s still thinking of transitioning and, because he’s Colin, he’s thinking of the hardest choice possible instead of taking the easy route. It would be easy for him to stop HRT for half a year and produce his own sperm. He’s interested in women so there would already be a womb and egg in the equation.

Next step would be to use donor sperm. The baby wouldn’t be biologically his but he’d be there from conception. Those options are too easy though and, well, he wouldn’t be Colin if he didn’t pick the hardest path possible.

This conversation has long passed for him, even though it was only two days ago. Now he’s on to more important things like ordering his favourite noodle soup from Amazon. He got them this morning and is so excited. He thinks they’re being discontinued (the evidence backs him up) so finding them on Amazon made him happy.

I wish, for once, that he’d pick the easy route. I know he struggles with gender dysphoria, he’s mentioned it in passing a few times, and I know he was happy being Emma… the name he was going by just a year ago. I know he’s worried (legitimately) about being too tall and big boned but, as I’ve told him, there are cis women who are 6+ feet tall. He’d stand out but not like a clown at a funeral. And it’s okay to stand out. As the saying goes, you were born to stand out… not to fit in.

Even if womb transplants became available to the general public any time soon, they wouldn’t be immediately covered under provincial health care, they’d be an elective surgery and way out of our price range. I didn’t get into that with Colin, there’s no point yet and I have no reason to discourage him any farther.

Maybe someday I’ll have my daughter Emma back again but it won’t be today. And so I’m going to redye my hair and let Colin sort himself out. While he eats his soup of course.

Summer mischief…

It was a steaming hot weekday, the kind of day where I seriously wondered if I’d burn to death if I tripped while crossing the street. We had no air conditioning but I had a fan wafting tepid air through the living room and our patio doors were open.

Kait and Colin were sprawled in front of the television, lazily watching some children’s show while I scrolled through a parenting forum and kept my eye on the time. The kids were signed up for a library program and I was looking forward to the air conditioning.

That’s when it happened.

“Mooommmm… Colin has his finger stuck in my trinket box,” Kait informed me.

This was immediately followed by a thin, whining wail from Colin when he realized that, yes, his finger really was stuck.

I couldn’t figure out how he could have gotten anything stuck. The trinket box in question was a pretty gold filigreed box with velvet pillows inside and a cute little lid (complete with tassel). That question was answered quickly. Colin had removed the pillows, discovered a rubber stopper underneath, removed that, and then squished his finger through.

I gave his finger a gentle tug and realized it was quite thoroughly stuck. Even soap did nothing. I gave mental thanks that his three year old self hadn’t stuck his penis through and then moved back to figuring out how to get the box off. His finger was already swollen and a reddish purple.

The nearest hospital was the next town over, which meant two bus rides each way with sticky, hot children. But we did have a fire department diagonally across the street from us. Maybe they could help.

Sandals were slipped on quickly then I helped Colin blow his nose, thus answering where the rubber stopper went. We headed out the door, Colin snuggled into my arms, while staring at the box, and Kait skipped along beside me, holding my elbow.

“Don’t worry Colin,” she crooned. “The box will be fine, they’re just going to cut your finger off.”

Colin immediately burst into chest heaving sobs. Kait promptly followed when I explained that, no, they were going to cut off the box and not the finger.

I stood at the front of the building and had no idea where to go next. The big doors were open but I couldn’t see anyone inside. There was a smaller door but it was locked and the desk inside was empty.

“Hello?” I called hesitantly as I entered the big doors. Almost immediately someone popped out of a room. He was about my age, so not that old.

“What do you want?” he asked. I explained the situation and he decided it was a case for the chief. Within 3 minutes we had a crowd in a relatively small room, all looking to see what the chief was going to do. Half of them were immediately shooed out, with a stern, “Don’t you have anything else to do?” Apparently half didn’t because they stayed.

It was obvious to everyone except Kait that the box needed to be cut, the question was how. Colin’s finger had swollen over the edge of the hole which meant the scissors were going to have to go under his finger without cutting him. Eventually chief decided on making two angled cuts toward the finger and then hope he could bend the last remaining bits until they broke.

Colin cried the whole time the box was cut, while the chief told him how brave he was and how good he was for keeping his hand so still. The final cuts were made and the metal snapped off perfectly. Then one of the fire fighters gave them each a goodie bag with a fire safety colouring book and crayons. The box was quietly disposed.

Kait missed that box for years. Colin’s very happy with his finger.

Colin and Kait at McRae Point

Breastfeeding…

I’ve been thinking a fair bit about breastfeeding these past few days. It’s not a subject I’ve thought about much in a while but definitely one I have experience with seeing as I’ve nursed for five and a half years total, albeit many years ago.

One of the very first things I learned when I started breastfeeding was to stroke the baby’s cheek. One gentle stroke from cheekbone to the side of the lip and baby will turned toward that side and open their mouth. This is the time to squish your nipple and shove the whole thing, areola included, right toward the back of the baby’s mouth… aiming for the throat. They won’t choke, they’re expecting it. That lets the baby put pressure on the milk ducts and squeeze milk or colostrum out.

The second thing I learned was how to remove the baby. This is more important when baby has teeth but is still good to know just in case baby doesn’t latch on correctly. Stick one finger into the back jaw, just about where the wisdom teeth will eventually come in, and twist very gently. The baby will open their mouth.

If the labour was rough for you then it was rough for the baby too. Expect some exhaustion and disinterest in things like nursing. Don’t worry too much (the nurses will worry for you) the baby has extra fat for a reason. Just keep plugging away. Try a different position. They might nurse better while lying down, goodness knows Kait did. If you want to try this position, lie on your side then put the baby in front of you and on their side. Put your bottom arm above the baby’s head then use your top hand to guide your bottom nipple into the baby’s mouth. It sounds more complicated than it is. Your partner can help if needed.

The milk comes in around the third day. You will not sleep through this. Your breasts will become hard enough to chisel concrete and your nipples will be flatter than pancakes, which makes nursing interesting but still doable. Grab a nipple, just below the areola and squeeze, it’ll squish enough to push into the baby’s mouth and will immediately start leaking milk. This tends to perk up the “I’m not that hungry” baby. If you can’t squeeze it into shape enough, just hand express a bit. You don’t need to know how, your breasts are so full you could probably just poke one and it would be like, “You want milk… okay”. They’ll be dripping all on their own. But rubbing in gentle circles just below the areola will help.

The milk coming in is the part that actively hurts. If you want a break, step into a nice warm shower and let the water run across your breasts. You’ll let down enough for some relief. Expressing milk helps too but is a bit of a vicious cycle because you’re telling your breasts that you need more milk when you really want them to make just enough for the baby and not the whole neighbourhood too. It’s a good idea to sleep with a towel under you because you can (and will) leak through your breast pads. Your body will eventually adjust.

Early breastfeeding feels like you’re nursing with two left hands while riding a unicycle. And the unicycle’s on fire. Neither you or the baby know what you’re doing and you’re going to feel like you got half an instruction book and the baby got completely different instructions. Just give yourself time. You will be a pro at it by the 4th week and, by a year, you can nurse a baby who’s standing upside down and half behind your back… with a finger in your ear. And you will. But, for now, enjoy your relatively immobile wee one.

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Kait as a newborn

Searching for sex ed in Ontario…

When Kait was in her early teens, I agreed to send her to a sex education program run through our Unitarian Universalist congregation. This program was comprehensive, informative, and LGBTQ friendly, something that couldn’t be said about the school’s program at the time. When he got old enough, Colin got sent to the same program for the same reasons.

In 2015, after several years of research and discussion, our then premier, Kathleen Wynne, unveiled a new program. It was comprehensive, informative, and LGBTQ friendly. Young children were taught the names their body parts, including their genitals, while older children learned about consent, sexting, and online bullying. And LGBTQ students were addressed as well.

We have a new premier now, a buffoon named Doug Ford. He’s not only scrapped the new program but has set up a snitch line so parents and students can report any teacher who uses any material from the now scrapped program. The old program, written in 1998, did not include online bullying, which makes sense since we were on dial up. The new program does. So if a teacher addresses online bullying, they could be facing disciplinary actions.

Meanwhile a generation of students need education.

That’s were the Canadian Unitarian Council comes in. They are offering to teach any student in Ontario the OWL program (Our Whole Lives). From their press statement

The Canadian Unitarian Council is deeply concerned that the loss of comprehensive sexuality education in Ontario schools will leave children and youth vulnerable at a time when they most need accurate information and empowerment to make good decisions. Asha Philar, OWL Coordinator for the CUC states, “The Our Whole Lives program gives youth the tools to make healthy and age-appropriate choices and helps LGBTQ youth find self-acceptance and support. Without access to accurate information and learning opportunities, Ontario students are put at risk and we fear that LGBTQ youth will face even more barriers to acceptance.”

The program is not free, the price for a several day program is $250, but it is worthwhile, especially considering the education our children are (not) receiving. If this program sounds like something you’d be interested in, please email owl@cuc.ca. OWL programs are available at many UU congregations from September through May and have age appropriate programs from kindergarten to adulthood.

Hopefully Ford will back down on his decision, especially faced with so much opposition but, until then, the Canadian Unitarian Council is there to fill the gap.

Colin and Kait at Niagara Falls

Colin and Kait. Happy, healthy, and educated