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!

The sky is falling?

I am not afraid of the trans woman making small talk with me in the elevator. I am afraid of the person yelling that the sky is falling while claiming it’s the trans women’s fault, using poor Chicken Little and his acorn as a prop in his tale. A misdirection.

Trans women are being used in a game of shells.

Look here, the politicians say, see the danger! As the other shells swirl and hide. Look! A trans woman is in the bathroom!

I look and see her minding her own business. The politicians continue to bleat danger and wave their hands.

What are they hiding?

In the States, poor children lose their breakfasts, seniors their lunches, and families their health care… while the President golfs every weekend and lets the country pay the cost so his wife can live in gilded splendour.

Meanwhile an orange bus putts along the country, ignoring biology and bleating “peaceful” hatred. It’s freeze peach, they say. Trans people are the liars, they say. But they aren’t, so who’s the one who’s lying?

And the shells continue to spin and the sky stays firmly in place. And trans women continue to die from carefully targeted hatred.

And Chicken Little shows off his acorn as proof and the ignorant listen.

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.

When the PC culture goes too far…

I read the post and then reread it… twice, unable to believe my eyes. A teenager in the States had poured out his heart explaining how he understood how marginalized a teenager in Canada felt. He was gay, his family would not accept that and treated him badly. His peers at school thought he was disgusting. He had no friends. He pretty much lived his life online, waiting for a chance to grow up and get out. The Canadian teenager was horrified. How dare he compare their lives! He wasn’t trans and would never understand how marginalized he, as a middle class trans Canadian, felt.

Instantly the Canadian teen’s friends jumped in, name calling and mocking. I waded in and explained that, while being gay wasn’t a big issue in urban Ontario, where equal marriage had been around for a decade, it was still a huge issue in the States where, at the time, equal marriage didn’t exist. I pointed out that the gay teen likely was even more marginalized where he was and got back a simple, “I didn’t know.”

No, he didn’t but he never stopped to listen either. And, by then the damage had already been done.

A couple of days ago a friend of mine posted a screen shot with the name blanked out. It was discussing Harry Potter and whether he was marginalized because of previous child abuse. My friend felt he didn’t, that he was an ass all on his own. The person in the screen shot had a different opinion. All was going fine until this comment.

“She’s a POC though so I don’t really appreciate you doing this.”

The fact that POC have precedent to speak about their own issues does not translate to everything they say is sacrosanct. My friend can disagree with someone of colour over Harry Potter without being racist.

We are all people with unique views and opinions and we need to work together to support each other. If we all devolve into “you can’t understand me because I’m black and you’re Chinese” then we’ve lost. If your entire focus on a conversation about child abuse is someone commented “that’s crazy” and that’s ableist, what does that say about you? No, it’s not right but, seriously, shouldn’t your focus be on the child abuse? I’m crazy. Trust me, work on the abused kids first.

We live in a world filled with differences and that’s what has divided us through history. Dividing right into war. If your zeal for human rights blinds you to actual human suffering, you’ve lost what you’re fighting for. Aren’t we fighting for equality and acceptance… not dissonance and separation?

I’m watching as a drive to unite is slowly turning into picking at differences. Can we please acknowledge our differences and celebrate our similarities? I can listen to your struggles with being black and celebrate our kids playing in the living room together. I can listen to your fears of being trans and celebrate a mutual love of Doctor Who. You can listen to my struggles with insanity and celebrate our love of nature.

We need to work on being a tapestry; different threads all woven into one beautiful whole. And we need to stop picking at the threads and deciding which ones have more worth. We all have worth. Our tapestry wouldn’t exist without us.

Signed  ~a life long snowflake~

 

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.