Bits and pieces of our lives…

Today is a nasty day. The sky’s grey and rain seems to be drooling from the sky in an annoying drizzle. We were going to PFLAG tonight but I’m anxious and Emma doesn’t want to go back out into the rain so we’re staying home. Just us and the internet and Emma’s super spicy soup.

It’s a great day for Kait* however. She’s booked the weekend off work and is at Anime North with her boyfriend, a tradition for them. It’s Emma** who’s into anime but, while Kait doesn’t know who the characters are, she loves the costumes regardless. She looks forward to this trip every year.

It was a great day for Emma too. She finally got to meet her new family doctor for the first time. He’s going to talk to her more at her next appointment in July but told her he’s planning on starting her on testosterone blockers before estrogen. And he made it seem like it would be soon.

I didn’t go to the appointment. Emma told me she wanted to go on her own to show the doctor this is her decision and no one else’s, which I thought was very mature of her. She has social anxiety and it wasn’t that long ago that she’d have me do all the talking for her. I’m so glad she’s able to speak for herself. She’s always had strong opinions, now she can use her own voice to share them.

We’ve both heard horror stories over the past few months. Emma was going to need intensive counselling first. She’d need to get yet another doctor. It was going to take years and years for the hormones to start, two and a half at the very least. She could very well get denied… lots of people are. None of the people who told us these stories were trans and all admitted they had no concrete information but that didn’t stop them from sharing. We’re both so glad to hear from Emma’s new doctor that this isn’t the case.

As for me, I spent the day writing and washing dishes so my day’s been quiet and, now that I know I’m not going to hang out in a crowd, my anxiety’s dropped dramatically. My busier day was on Tuesday when I went out to a nature preserve with a friend. All this rain had an effect on the trails but we still got to see chipmunks, a blue jay, and redwing blackbirds. We’re going back next week too, or maybe to somewhere higher and drier.

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Now we just need to wait until after our camping trip in July for Emma’s next appointment.

*Kait is Emma’s real name
**Emma is Julie/Jeremy’s real name

Thank you Mom…

Thank you for teaching me not to eat funny, melted looking ice cream
Thank you for my gold Sea Wee mermaid and my Mandy doll
Thank you for building me a cool “college student” bookcase out of cinder blocks
Thank you for teaching me about centrifugal force, in the basement, with a bucket of water and a rope.
Thank you for teaching me the times tables, especially nine. I understand nine thanks to your tips. Seven still eludes me.
Thank you for bedtime stories. Even if you had to read The Pokey Little Puppy way too many times.
Thank you for reading The Secret Garden, complete with accents.
Thank you for understanding about the worms… and the spiders… especially the spiders.
Thank you for tree climbing, and fence climbing, and goal post climbing. And for understanding my need to climb.
Thank you for taking us camping and letting us run wild in the woods. Thank you for marshmallow roasting and teaching us not to fling the burning ones with gay abandon (and mild terror).
Thank you for hours of campfire songs.
Thank you for showing us the stars at night and pointing out the big and little dipper and Orion’s belt. I still have no clue who Orion was but I know his belt when I see it.
Thanks for showing me how to hold a baby, raise a child, and sew a button.
Thanks for teaching me that sometimes things will go wrong and you just do what you can to fix it as best you can.
Thanks for teaching me the earth revolves around the sun and all the planets, including Pluto.
Thank you for trips to look for tadpoles and walks to look for fossils. I may not know any others but I’ll always recognize a trilobite.
Thank you for summer bike rides and winter toboggan runs.
Thank you for trips across Canada and many repeats of our favourite songs.
Thank you for all the repetitions and variations of “car games”
Thanks for huge batches of chocolate chip cookies, perfect both warm from the oven and frozen
Thank you for home made Barbie outfits
Thank you for all the little playdough figures that magically appeared at night and for the shells that magically appeared in our garden
Thank you for home made spaghetti sauce, which took all day to simmer and taunted us at lunch.
Thank you for not strangling Dad when he brought home a kitten while we all had the chicken pox
Thanks for teaching me how to swim and dive
Thanks for giving me a camera and a microscope so I could explore my world
Thank you for being there when I need an ear and when I need advice
Thank you for being you. I love you Mom

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Mother’s Day 2016

Gender Dysphoria…

“I hate my body”

I never wanted this for my child. When I was pregnant, my mantra was “I don’t care if my baby’s a boy or girl, I just want my baby to be happy”. Untreated gender dysphoria isn’t happy. It’s sweatpants and baggy shirts unhappy. It’s a patchy shave because Julie doesn’t want to look at herself in the mirror unhappy.

The only cure is transitioning and there Julie’s stuck. She wants to transition but doesn’t want to look like a man in a dress. So she’s taking baby steps. A pretty shirt… a tiny ponytail… a necklace. Plus she’s still waiting to hear about her doctor, the one who should be able to prescribe hormones.

It boggles my mind the people who think parents choose this for their children, like being trans is some sort of trend. Like instead of buying a Cabbage Patch Kid, we’re going to have a real live Trans Kid. It’s just as much fun as having a Cabbage Patch Kid and comes with bonuses like “where will my kid pee?”, “what do you mean you can’t use her pronouns?”, and “blockers cost HOW much?”

These people seem to think it’s super easy to get a trans kid. There’s no self doubt, 3am bouts of insomnia, or tears. Just one day little Johnny picked up a Barbie and, wham, he’s in a dress (or little Jane picked up a matchbox car and suddenly she’s in a tie and snazzy button up shirt). There really doesn’t seem to be any point in talking with these people. Maybe someone out there’s had better luck than me but I’ve found yelling at rocks to be easier and the rock’s that much more likely to change it’s mind.

Meanwhile the baby steps toward transitioning seem to be helping. Julie has a package of purple razors and floral scented shaving cream for her face and arms plus just knowing the new doctor is coming is a help. She’s gone back to school, a place that lets her work at her own pace and is working toward her grade 12. And she’s working at eating healthier too so when she finally has hips and a chest, they’ll stand out from her stomach.

Then she heads back out the door in sweats and an over sized t-shirt and all I can do is think “soon… hopefully soon.”

Smudge on a walk

Julie’s tiny pony tail and silky shirt

Blood donations…

The last time I donated blood was a couple of years ago with Emma. Then I got put onto an anti-depressant and wasn’t sure if I could donate anymore. I figured I’d call and check soon. It was a good plan but it didn’t happen.

Last week I got yet another message from Canadian Blood Services and decided to call and find out for sure. Effexor – yes, Abilify – yes, Clonazapam – yes, and Lithium – yes… I was good to go. Not only that but it would be my 25th time donating, one of those milestone donations. Then came my biggest surprise.

“Can I donate too?” Julie asked hopefully.

Anyone who remembers Julie’s needle phobia will understand my surprise. But she had blood work done this winter so it had faded a bit. I told her to bring her container of meds and come along. The clinic takes walk ins.

My meds get dropped off on Thursday but that wouldn’t be a problem because they arrive at 5:15pm every week and my appointment wasn’t until 6:20pm. Plenty of time… until 6pm rolled around and my medication didn’t. I reset the appointment to 7:50pm which turned out perfect. The meds arrived and we immediately left, catching the bus a few minutes later.

Last time I was there, they had a counter staffed with people doing pin prick iron tests and handing out the questionnaires. That counter now had tablets with the questionnaires on them. I was just finishing mine up when Julie sat down and proceeded to read each question aloud.

“Just don’t read your answers out loud,” one of the nurses said with concern. “Those answers are private.” Julie assured her that she wouldn’t.

I’m a fast donor so I was already done and eating Oreos when Julie finished with the nurse. She took her seat while I hovered nervously in the kitchen area, just out of view, and then the needle went in with no problem whatsoever. She did amazing!

Not only that but she’s already hoping to donate again! I’m so proud of her.

donating blood

 

The things I never knew before Julie…

When I read about trans people, I read the same narrative. The trans person knew since they were a young child and were insistent and persistent (unless it was unsafe for them to do so). But nothing is one size fits all and that includes gender.

  1. I never knew people often come out as gay or bisexual before coming out as trans. Julie, then Jeremy, came out as bisexual (and later retracted it) months before coming out as bi-gender and I’ve read story after similar story since then.
  2. I never knew people’s gender shifted. Gender is complicated, a lot more than I ever knew, and it’s not uncommon for someone to come out as various genders before settling on one (or staying gender fluid). Julie told me long before she came out as trans that she was just like Jazz Jennings except she had a female brain and a male body. Then she came out as bi-gender and wandered around the non-binary spectrum before settling on female. I know several people who wandered the same way and one who started out binary and moved to non-binary. To be fair, if asked, I couldn’t put into words why I’m female either, except that I feel like it. It’s difficult to pin down.
  3. I never knew there’s a correlation between being trans and being autistic. Studies show you’re statistically more likely to be trans if you have autism. The same studies do not know why. Julie was diagnosed by a psychologist when she was eight years old as having high functioning autism.
  4. I’ve always been a proponent of “stereotypes don’t matter” but didn’t think about how much until Julie came out. Stereotypes are just that. Liking cars and computers doesn’t make someone male any more than liking flowers and dresses makes someone female. Julie’s love of computers is simply a sign that she loves technology, it’s not a sign of her gender. I have a male cis friend whose heart flutters over lace parasols. It’s not a sign of his gender either.
  5. People can know they’re trans at a young age but that’s not the only narrative. People often don’t figure it out until their teens or even later. Julie was 17 before she realized she wasn’t cisgender and I’ve known people who didn’t sort this out until they were in their 20’s or 30’s.
  6. An awful lot of people like to brag about going by basic biology when it comes to gender. Personally I’d rather go by advanced. Basic isn’t my style.
  7. Being trans isn’t any different than a medical condition (well except that it’s gender and not medical). They might need surgery at some point but it’s nobody’s business and certainly not the starting point of an introduction. And then there’s the whole whack of doctor’s appointments and terminology.

If you have something you’ve learned on the journey, please feel free to write it in the comments below.

A tapestry of support…

I hear a lot about support and lack thereof. Reading posts by people who have cut family off entirely for not supporting their trans child. And, depending on the family, I get it. But what’s support?

Julie (Jeremy) informed me a few days ago that her Nana is supportive of her transitioning but that Grandad walked past and told her that he will never see her as female, she will always be male to him. That’s not supportive. And yet…

We see them every single week and talk to them daily. They bought us a tent as a very early joint birthday present for our family camping trip and are going to drive us there and back. They listen to Julie’s talk about computers and support her dream of going into robotics. They have been there for Julie her whole life.

Transitioning is a big thing but it’s not the only part of Julie’s life and, thankfully, Julie knows this. Her response to my Dad’s comment? A smile and the remark, “he’ll look silly saying I’m a man once I have breasts” followed by, “it’s no big deal though, he’ll change his mind when I start looking more like a girl.”

Every change takes time to get used to and this one is no exception. My Dad will get used to Julie’s transition eventually. Until then he’ll continue to be as supportive as he can.

Summer camping…

Jeremy building a sand castle

Julie at Bon Echo

Julie (Jeremy) and I are already getting ready for our camping trip this July. Mostly because it’s going to be huge. My whole family is going to be there (minus Emma who’d prefer to stay home). Both my sisters and their families, my parents, my cousin and his fiance, their friends, one of my sister’s friends, and (possibly) an uncle and aunt. When I say everyone I mean everyone. We have three adjoining sites and a multitude of tents and a camper. Julie and I have our own tent which has two rooms and sleeps seven. We’re more glampers than campers. Julie’s first concern was electricity for her laptop. Mine was sprawl space.

Her second concern, however, was transitioning and that has no answers from me. How far along will she be. We both know it’ll be early but how early? Will she have started hormones? How long will her hair have grown? Julie’s already told her grandparents she won’t be swimming that trip. I offered to buy the ruffled skirted bikini she wants but she doesn’t want to look like a boy in a bathing suit.

Meanwhile I worry about misgendering. If she shows up as a girl, will she be treated like a girl? Or will the family fall back on calling her Jeremy? Will my sisters explain that Julie’s transitioning or will there be an expectation of keeping things hushed for the younger children? I can’t bring myself to ask, especially since there’s only one answer which supports Julie. And, honestly, it’s not like the transition is going away. The questions will have to be answered at some point.

Julie goes back to the medical centre on Tuesday then has a family doctor appointed to her within two weeks. And hopefully then we can get some answers sorted out so we can focus on the camping part of the trip and not the gender part.

Bon Echo cliff

Because the camping part is gorgeous!