The first step…

Julie, formerly known as Jeremy, wants desperately to transition. Only one thing has been stopping her. Neither one of us knew where to start. The information must have been on one of the missing pages of my parenting books. So I asked someone in Julie’s youth group who transitioned recently and got told he went to the doctor and got referred to an endocrinologist. Yay! That sounded easy.

I booked an appointment with our family doctor and Jeremy proceeded to ask me every day for two weeks if it was almost time for her appointment. It finally came yesterday. So we headed over to our family doctor, who we’ve been seeing since before Julie was born.

To say the doctor was discouraging would be one of the bigger understatements of the year.

“Hadn’t Jeremy been transgender before? And now he’d changed and wanted to be a woman? Why wasn’t he still transgender?”

“The only place Jeremy could go was CAM-H (Canadian Association for Mental Health) and they were only just accepting people who were referred in 2015. It was going to take ages.”

“He’d only had two patients transition before in his 33 years of practise but he had several others who CAM-H had turned down. They turn down a fair number of people, he’d be surprised if they accepted Jeremy.”

“One of the people who transitioned had to stop taking her medication after years because it was so expensive.”

“It was going to be unbelievably hard. Just look at what Bruce Jenner went through and he was…”

I have no idea what he was going to say Caitlyn Jenner was. Famous? Infamous? Rich? An athlete? And all those statements were peppered with “I’m not prejudiced but…”

I listened with one ear while I Googled numbers for endocrinologists. “It wasn’t common,” the doctor explained. “I doubt there’s anyone around here.”

I had a message out for the person I’d talked to and started cold calling. The doctor was right, there wasn’t anyone. The nearest, outside of CAM-H, was in Hamilton; a two hour car ride away and I don’t know how long by bus.

His secretary called back that evening to say she’d found someone in Peterborough, which was closer but still somewhere around an hour or two by bus.

Julie slumped in her room and made stuff on Minecraft while I chatted with a friend of mine who asked me if I’d heard of Carea. They did gender care right from Oshawa. The only catch was Julie would need to have her primary doctor with them. Okay. That was easy enough.

Julie started school this week so we waited until after school before heading over to Carea. One bus! It took us just one bus to get there. And their paperwork asked for her preferred name, sex, and gender. It was nice to see that smile on Julie’s face.

The intake interview isn’t for two more weeks and then there’s another two weeks until a doctor is assigned to her but it’s so nice to have the first step taken.

I am not Ryland – the story of a tomboy

There’s a blog post by someone named Lindsay that I’ve seen a few times. It’s titled I am Ryland. I’ve ignored it until now simply because it was written back in 2014 but it’s still going around (and around… over 10k times). In it, the author explains how her gender nonconforming childhood meant she was exactly the same as the transgender boy Ryland:

The thing she fails to notice is her parents treated her the same way Ryland’s parents treat him. They listen to him and follow his lead on who he is and where his interests lie. My parents were the same way.

Penny the pony

I’m in the yellow jacket

I was a little girl who dearly loved most “boy things”. I climbed trees like a monkey (and roofs and the fences behind baseball diamonds). I collected worms, preying mantises, and spiders. I don’t think my sister Karen will ever recover from my spider collection. If we needed to dig the deepest, run the fastest, or swim the farthest, I was there. My best friends, right up until puberty, were boys and they remained mainly boys until I was an adult. Even now I’m equally comfortable with male and female friends.

Like Lindsay I wanted the privileges of being a boy. I wanted to be picked by my grade five teacher to run across the street to buy treats for the class… a reward that was supposed to be random but only went to boys. I wanted to be a tree surgeon when I grew up; I couldn’t imagine anything better than climbing trees for a living. I thought being a garbage man sounded cool too (driving that big truck) but there was the little word man which stood in my way.

The one thing I didn’t want was to be a boy. I wanted to be myself, a tomboyish girl. I wanted to run and climb and collect bugs without being told to settle down and be a lady. Ladies were boring. They sat and talked and did nothing else. They certainly didn’t lie on the ground to catch bullfrogs and they screamed when they saw mice and snakes, even though they were cool. I wanted to grow up to be a woman.

What Lindsay misses is Ryland isn’t her. He’s not a tomboy who wants male privilege. He’s a boy. He’s not confused. He’s not being ignored. And if something rare happens and he changes his mind at puberty, it won’t be traumatic. He’ll just get a new wardrobe and haircut then go on with his life.

I’m glad that both Lindsay and I had our chances to have rough and tumble childhoods. I’m glad we both had the choice to be tomboys and grow up to be women. And I’m glad Ryland’s parents are giving him the same chance to be himself.

Standing up…

When Jeremy was little, he was mistaken for a girl on a regular basis.jeremy-easter-2010

“What a cute little girl!”
“You’ve got such a lovely daughter?”
“How old is she?”
“What’s her name?”
“She’s so sweet!”

I didn’t bother to correct them. Jeremy didn’t mind and it simply embarrassed people. Besides, he was cute, lovely, adorable, and sweet. Even when his hair was short, he still got “such a lovely girl” comments. He was sweet.

Back then I knew nothing about trans people. I wondered why Jeremy only played girl characters in his games and played dress up right into his preteens with his sister but figured he was just imaginative and liked the way the dresses felt.

jeremy-in-2014Then he became a teenager and started experimenting more with his hair and, to a lesser extent, his clothes. The comments changed slightly to include “ma’am” and he was still, to the mildly unobservant, feminine.

He still didn’t mind being called her and she, in fact, sometimes it seemed to bring him joy. And I still had no idea what that could mean.

Now he’s almost 20 years old with mitts for hands, size 12 men’s feet, and a deep bass voice. Now he’s talking about transitioning. And I’m so scared. I belong to enough groups to know people aren’t kind to 6ft 3in women with deep voices and adam’s apples. I read the posts on Facebook. I know there’s been seven trans women (and one colin-and-laratrans man) killed so far in the States this year alone. I haven’t heard any statistics for Canada.

Jeremy talks happily about buying a bikini with a skirt and how he’s always wanted a frilly dress with lots of floofy layers. I will do everything I can to help him achieve his dreams but I can’t do everything.

Please be kind when you see my child on the street. For all that he’s 19 years old, he’s still my child. He bought a Minecraft book today and jelly beans then laughed over bathroom humour in a YouTube video.  He’s still young. He’s not a joke. He’s not a freak. He’s a person with feelings and thoughts.

One day he’s going to be stepping out that door in the dress of his dreams. You might see him or, more likely, you will see someone like him. Someone who, for whatever reason, just isn’t fitting in 100%. Please be kind, be helpful, and let him come home safely with his heart intact. Stand up for him. Stand up with him. Don’t let him feel alone against the bullies and please, please don’t let him be a statistic.

Won’t someone think of the children?

From the time Jeremy was a tiny child he wanted to be a Daddy. Well he first wanted to be a Mommy but I explained that little boys become Daddies when they grow up so he changed that to being a Daddy who breastfed. I decided to leave the intricacies of breastfeeding until later.

And now he’s talking more and more seriously about transitioning and realizing his fertility will be at risk. Banking sperm is prohibitively expensive, something he’s already googled and realized. Stopping hormone therapy for half a year gives only the slightest chance of conception. Surrogacy is fraught with legal tape and what if’s.

I’ve explained to Jeremy that not every cis straight couple is able to have a baby, it’s not a guarantee. I’ve explained that cis gay and lesbian couples go through similar issues too. And I’ve assured him that if he is Julie, she’s going to come out now or later and, since he only has one life to live, it might as well be now. He needs to be himself/herself.

Talking with my nineteen year old about infertility is hard.

Childhood woes…

Jeremy had the best childhood I could give him*. Dolls to cuddle and trucks to play with (and cuddle). Trips to the park. Camping. Birthday parties. Trips to the indoor playground (oh the noise). Bedtime stories. Excursions to Centre Island. The Old Spaghetti Factory. If he wanted a pink stuffed bear, he got one. If he wanted a skateboard, he got one. I did my very best to suit his childhood to him and not to gender norms.

gender creative Jeremy

But there’s one thing I can’t give him. I can’t give him a girlhood. He’s got memories of wearing his sister’s dresses but they were her dresses… at home. He’s never had a fancy dress or a gaggle of female friends. He’s never been able to grow his hair long without people urging him to cut it because he looked “too girly”. He’s never been able to bring a stuffed animal or doll to school without being teased… even in grade one. He’s never had a period. He will never give birth. And he wants all these things.jeremy-in-2010

As hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop everyone from telling him how much better he looked with short hair, that only girls could wear dresses and he couldn’t, that he was too girly, too much of a f*g, and he needed to “man up”. For every person I talked to there were three others I didn’t find out about until later. Sometimes much later.

Jeremy went as Julie to PFLAG last night. She wore her Doctor Who shirt from Emma and a plain brown long skirt. Her nails were neatly done with purple polish and her makeup was subtle. Everyone was friendly at the meeting and only two people laughed on the way home. Maybe they were laughing about something else? We never asked.

I can love Jeremy and support him. I can stand by him and stand up for him. But I can’t go back and change the past. I’m sorry Jeremy. I’m so sorry that I didn’t know.

*Jeremy’s current choice of pronouns.

You spin me right round baby, right round…

It was an odd sort of day. The snow crunched underfoot as we tied our jackets around our waists due to the warmth. It was 12C and the snow was melting everywhere except for the woods where we walked. Jeremy’s cat trotted along beside us. It was peaceful.

Then Jeremy broke the silence. “Mom, my medication has really been working this time,” he stated. I nodded because it had. His yelling had dropped to pretty much nothing, chores were getting done. He’d even started cleaning up his room.

walking-lara-at-cedar-valley

Jeremy walking Lara 

“I think it was the depression that made me say I’m male. I’m really not and now I’m wondering if I’m female. I remember how happy it used to make me feel when someone thought I was a girl.”

This was pretty much the last thing I expected him to say but I rolled with it.

My memory’s not nearly good enough to remember a whole conversation verbatim but we went on to discuss hormones and surgery, names and pronouns, with Jeremy asking to please be called he/him for now. And soon the conversation went back to Jeremy’s favourite topic of computers.

I woke the next morning to find Jeremy in my computer chair. “How could they turn a penis into a vagina?” he asked. “They’re totally different.”

My favourite way to start the morning is with a simple “hi” and lots of quiet but I gamely tried to explain sexual affirmation surgery… before breakfast… while half asleep.

“But it’ll look normal, right?” he asked once I was done.

“Yes,” I assured him. “It’ll look like any other vulva.”

He looked like someone was forcing him to swallow a worm. “I guess I’ll have to make a decision,” he said quietly.

I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure trans woman are usually happier at the thought of having a vulva of their own.

“Look,” I said, leaning closer, “How do you feel inside? Do you feel male? Female? In between?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I don’t really feel like anything.”

“It sounds like maybe you’re agender.”

“Maybe,” Jeremy agreed hesitantly.

“Sweetie, you have plenty of time,” I assured him again. “You don’t have to decide anything right now or even any time soon. And, if you want, I can find someone you can talk to.”

Jeremy nodded and looked a bit happier. “By video chat,” he agreed.

So I chatted with a friend of mine who describes herself as “ambiguously female” and got a chat sorted out. Luckily she was already Facebook friends with Jeremy.

I was dozing the next morning when Jeremy wandered in. “It’s too bad you’re asleep because I wanted to talk about gender,” he said.

“Huh?” I mumbled. Apparently that qualifies as awake.

“I think I might be more gender fluid than agender,” he continued. “But I don’t want to be both male and female. I want to be one or the other. So I need to figure out who I am the most.”

“Hon, there’s nothing wrong with being both,” I assured him, quickly waking up. “If you’re both, we’ll just get you two sets of clothes.”

“But I don’t like fancy clothes,” Jeremy pointed out worriedly. I laughed.

“When you were buying your clothes in the ladies section, did I ever buy you fancy clothes?”

He smiled and agreed I hadn’t.

Then he caught me making breakfast.

“If I have surgery, it’ll be my very first surgery. I haven’t even broken a bone before.” He paused. “Oh wait, I had eye surgery when I was a baby so it would be my second surgery.”

“Let me know when I can blog this,” I commented and he shook his head.

“Not yet. My Dad reads your blog. He’s only called me once in a long time and I want him to call to talk to me, not to call about gender stuff. And I want to get things more sorted out.”

“Look Jeremy,” I said the following morning after he’d talked, yet again, about surgery. “Do you feel like a woman?”

He nodded and said yes then added, “But I also feel like a man.”

“So you’re right back where you started as bigender,” I pointed out. He shook his head.

“I feel more… what do you call it? Gender fluid.”

At least he was achieving some continuity.

So I thought and thought while he shovelled his room clean then called him into my room to share my thoughts with him.

“What?” he asked from the other side of the wall.

“Hon, this is a poignant Hallmark moment. Get your ass in here,” I replied, because we’re loving and touching like that. He wandered in and flopped down onto my bed.

“Jeremy, our society acts like we all fit into tiny boxes, all neatly labelled and sorted. We don’t. People are more unique, more messy, more creative than that. Right now you’re trying to cram yourself into a male box or a female box. Don’t. Just be your glorious self. If you feel female then act female, if you feel male then act male. You only have one life to live and it’s too short to live it stuffed in a box of other people’s expectations. You do you and be yourself fabulously.”

Jeremy held his phone up to his neck and giggled. “Look, I have a double chin. See.”

It’s a wonder this kid has made it to 19 years old. Also, we’re never getting a slot in any Hallmark ads. I glared at him.

“No, I like that,” he said hastily. “I’ll take it under consideration.”

“And you don’t need to have surgery either,” I pointed out. “I mean do you like your penis?”

Jeremy looked at me in surprise then shook his head. “Not really.”

He used to hide it as a child so that wasn’t much of a surprise.

“Okay,” I replied, thinking quickly. “Maybe more insight would be a help. Why don’t I post this and see if we can get any advice from people who have been through this before?”

He thought about it for a moment then agreed. So now it’s your turn. If your gender could be described as confused or multifaceted, please feel free to reply with how you’re doing now and what your options were/are. Thank you so much for your help.

Confusion…

I looked out the window at the gently falling snow and decided I was going to have a walk through the woods instead of a walk on the indoor track. Jeremy didn’t want to go, it was too cold… too blah. He’d much rather stay inside.

I found my hat and two mismatched gloves… there had to be another one in the winter box.

“Mom!” Jeremy screamed. “If you leave for your walk, I’m going to kill myself.”

Huh!?!

“If you walk out that door, I’ll be dead when you come back!”

And with that, he ran to his bedroom… bursting into tears moments before he slammed his door. If he hadn’t cried I’d have left. I’m not one for supporting manipulation or mind games. The tears changed the situation so I puttered around looking for the glove and doing some light tidying.

Jeremy came out less than five minutes later and asked if we could go to the hospital so he could get admitted. Apparently he’d been mad at me (I have no idea why) and was going to call and give me a 5 minute warning to get home before taking a bottle of pills. The woods are a half-hour walk away. I wouldn’t have got home in time.

And so we went off to the hospital to wait and talk with various doctors and nurses. Jeremy ranked himself a 4 or 5 on the depression scale. I’d ranked myself a 0 or 1 several days earlier. He chatted about being suicidal for years while the crisis nurse looked confused and gently suggested he might be mixing suicidal up with feeling down.

“If you were suicidal for that long, you’d be dead,” she said bluntly. He just shook his head.

“This is the same as when you came in, right Mom?” he asked as we waited to see the psychiatrist.

I found myself unsure what to say. It wasn’t anything like when I got admitted. I got put on an involuntary 72 hour form when the first doctor saw me. By the time I saw the psychiatrist, I was in hospital clothes and eating dinner in the back under constant supervision. The doctor was far more interested in Jeremy’s autism than his depression. Jeremy went in voluntarily because, well, there’s a bed and maybe he is suicidal. The doctor seemed very iffy on that maybe.

Now Jeremy’s walking home from the hospital after discharging himself because it was boring… 16 hours after reaching the floor. And I find myself struggling with how to handle an angry nineteen year old who insists he’s suicidally depressed yet only wants to kill himself if he doesn’t get his own way.

“I didn’t like the hospital… it was boring,” he repeated again.

“Did you get your prescriptions from the doctor?” I asked.

“I don’t know! I got papers from the doctor but I don’t know!” he screamed. “Are you going to stop interrupting me now!!!”

I remind him, yet again, that we don’t treat people like that. He complains, yet again, that he doesn’t like being interrupted and it’s rude. And on we go again.

And I’m tired.