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.

Finding the shape of my days…

CN: suicidal thoughts

It was Friday, February 10th and my mental health worker had just arrived. I was… in not good shape. I’d gone to cut my pills the night before and found myself mere millimeters away from slashing the hell out of my arm with a ceramic knife. I managed not to but it was close and I wasn’t in a good mindset.

The worker asked how I was doing, I told her the truth and she called 911. Within minutes the police and paramedics were here. The paramedics left just as quickly as I didn’t need medical attention and the police promised to drive me in to emergency. Did you know they don’t have seat belts in the back seat of their cars? Also, being escorted in by a police officer garners a lot of attention.

Everything else was the same as the last two times. ER doctor, crisis nurse, and psychiatrist… all with copious amounts of waiting in between. Then the psychiatrist asked me if I wanted to go home or stay. If I stayed, I’d end up in the ER all weekend because there weren’t any beds. She left me alone to make up my mind and I burst into tears and called myself names. Then she came back in and walked me to the ER. I was upstairs in the psychiatric ward by 10pm.

The first thing I realized was that my intense homesickness last time was nothing of the sort. It was the same severe anxiety I always have. The second thing I realized was that anxiety faded away with Clonazepam.

I quickly found a routine for myself. A nap after breakfast, walking around the halls to get my 10,000 steps on my Fitbit, chatting with the other patients, a second nap after lunch, reading, more chatting, and cards after dinner. Ironically enough the game of choice was Crazy Eights.

Mood wise I’m doing a lot better. I’m on a handful of drugs now. Effexor, Abilify, Clonazepam, and Lithium. The lot act like tiny balloons, lifting up my feelings. Tiny sedating balloons. Right now I’m groggy from the Clonazepam but I’ve been assured that will lessen over the coming month.

I got released on Thursday and find myself struggling to fill the shape of my days. The hospital had a set routine and I’m finding I need something similar at home. A pattern… a routine.

My alarm is set for 8am daily and I’m going to walk at the local walking track every morning (starting tomorrow). Otherwise I haven’t come up with anything. I’m sure it won’t take me too long to fill in my days.

kathleen-at-the-hospital

Me on my hospital bed

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.

Hospitalized

The smoke blows outside my window from chimneys on a nearby roof. I’m here again, cocooned within the mental health ward. It’s funny they name the ward after something we currently don’t have.

Once again I started out in group (this time psychotherapy) wondering how much I could admit before having to be admitted. Once again I was over that line and escorted to emergency to get involuntailrily committed.

It is lonely here, despite the people. My soul aches for colour, some flowers, sunshine. Each hour is a lifetime, each minute spent looking for something distracting. I find myself craving sleep. It is known as the little death and the best escape I can find.

Escape is an illusion. I can’t hind from my mind or my thoughts.

I was given, and turned in, a plastic knife on Saturday. The guard was young and cheerful, smiling each time they saw me. I didn’t want to cause them trouble. Could I have hurt myself with that knife? I don’t know. Did I regret turning it in? Yes.

Yesterday I cut myself with a peach pit. If you’re reading this and suicidal, I wouldn’t bother. It left the wimpiest of scars, although not as wimpy as the orange juice container.

Now I stsnd, both feet firmly in despair, straining to see hope in the future. And I wait.

**Posted by Emma.**
As a side note, I would like to mention that my mother is still in the hospital, and as such, will not be able to reply to comments right away. I will read her any comments left though, and if she asks me to, will post replies and/or updates.

A good day…

I woke this morning to three purring cats, all snuggled over and around me, and Jeremy laughing in his room. I’m not sure what he was watching but apparently it was good.

I then got a message from a friend of mine saying the website that doxxed me is gone (for now at least). Ironically, the owner of the site got doxxed and didn’t like it, to put it mildly.

To make it even funnier and more ironic, here’s a line from his goodbye speech:

I have thought hard about the cumulative value of the site and all the opportunities it presents me and us, as a community. We have done amazing things. But, the cumulative damage outweighs all of that. It is enormous.”

The opportunities it presented? Amazing things? This whole site consisted of nothing more than bashing people anonymously. Telling lies about people they have never, and never will, meet interspersed with sharing private information like home addresses and the real names of children. Today karma bit back. Tomorrow? Well they’re worms, I’m sure they’ll pop up through a new hole at some point. But for now they’re gone.

I start intensive group therapy on Monday. It’s going to be similar to attending school, except it’s one for feelings. We have our own time tables and classes in such things as psychotherapy, coping skills, self-esteem, and stress/symptom management. We even have a lunch period where we can go down to the cafeteria to eat. I bought myself a fancy turquoise binder complete with folders and a zipper yesterday. Luckily my work lunch bag is still good.

Jeremy is eager to go back to school. The good news is he has a lovely certificate showing he graduated from his Lifeskills program in high school. The bad news is it’s apparently worth less than the paper it’s printed on. He can’t go to the local alternative high school or to the nearby continuing education school to upgrade, he doesn’t have enough education for either. But we have options we’re looking into. One is a bridge to school program through local high schools and the other is an education program run through a nearby mental health hospital. Hopefully one of the two options will pan out.

As for today, I’m anxious enough to need an Ativan and rocking while I type. Even so, it’s a peaceful day. I’m going to force myself to go to the gym for a walk on the track with my favourite music because my health is worth it.

Here’s my current favourite exercise song. Enjoy 🙂

Remembering Operation Soap…

It’s not unknown that the police arrived at Stonewall Inn on June 28th 1969 to arrest and intimidate people from the LGBTQ community. The people fought back and coordinated into groups to support and encourage each other. On June 28th, 1970 they headed onto the streets to march in remembrance of the raid and subsequent riots. And thus began Pride Parades in the United States.

Toronto’s story occurred a decade later with Operation Soap on February 5, 1981 when two hundred plain clothed police officers descended on four bathhouses in Toronto, arresting 291 people and twenty bathhouse owners. They caused $38,000 in damages ($104,147.74 in 2016 dollars), photographed people in the nude and demanded to know where they worked and how to contact their employers. Ninety percent of the charges were eventually dropped.

There were huge protests and rallies after these raids which culminated in Toronto’s Pride Week, one of the world’s largest pride celebrations. However one thing remained lacking, an official apology from the police department. That didn’t arrive until June 23, 2016, less than one year ago, when Chief Mark Saunders apologized.

A week after this apology, on July 3rd, Black Lives Matters briefly stopped the Toronto Pride Parade with a list of demands, one of which was the removal of police floats from the Pride Parade. Pride Toronto agreed with their list and I personally agree as well.

I don’t feel the police department should ever have had a float in the Pride Parade. While the parade now is less of a protest and more of a rainbow extravaganza, it still has its roots in police brutality, discrimination, and oppression. If the police want to show their support then they should show that times have changed by protecting and defending the parade members and their supporters. And, while no one’s asked me, I think they’d be better off operating a free phone charging station and offering water bottles than having yet another float. They’d get one on one contact with the public and garner lots of good will.

Jeremy disagrees with me. At first he thought the parade was a protest for equal marriage and then he wanted to know if it was illegal to have “gay sex” at that time. I tried to explain that the law had a loop hole where anal sex, between two people, was allowed but public sex wasn’t but I’m not sure if I explained myself clearly or not.

He listened patiently then informed me that “times have changed since then. They have the rainbow police car now and want to be in the parade. They arrest people for attacking gay people now. It’s time to live and let live, if they want to support gay people now then let them support gay people.”

Jeremy and I

Jeremy and I at the Oshawa 2015 Pride Parade