Autism support…

People say they love autism. They love changing their profile pictures and banners to “light it up blue”. They love the little puzzle pieces. They love pictures of cute, adorable autistic kids and videos of them behaving properly (ie neurotypically). If you ask them, they’ll tell you that of course they support autistic people. And they do… as long as the autistic person keeps on being “normal”.

Autistic people aren’t “normal”. We rock and flap our hands. We sometimes make strange noises. We get overwhelmed and have meltdowns, which range from standing silent in the corner to screaming and crying. We eat the same thing for weeks… months… years on end and wear the same clothes day after day. We wear headphones in public, even during conversations, and cover our ears when there’s loud noises. We lack mouth filters and sometimes say things that are horribly rude without any idea of such, at least until the berating starts.

And the attitude follows us online too. We get laughed at or yelled at for mistaking a sarcastic meme for a serious one. We have no idea which emoticon to use for complex posts. We get accused of missing the point of posts when we didn’t miss it, we just felt a different point was more important. But our view doesn’t matter because it isn’t “normal”.

We don’t stay sweet, adorable children. We grow up. We’re your strange neighbour who wears the same clothes every day and talks to himself. We’re the person crying on the bus because we’ve done three transfers already and now the bus is stuck in traffic and we just want to be home. We’re the person online who’s trying to be helpful but misunderstood the meme and now looks unsympathetic. We’re the person you’ve known for two years and is “so rude” because we still haven’t learned your name, even though we know your favourite colour and you only said it once a year ago. We’re the person who will. not. stop. talking. about. ducks.

Next time you tell yourself that you support autistic people, change the word autistic to weird, strange, eccentric. Do you accept those people into your life? Because, if you don’t, you’re an autism poster supporter. So stick up that puzzle piece in April, even though autistic people don’t like it, and tell yourself you’re doing your part. But at least try to be honest with yourself. If you don’t support us in all our messy, glorious rainbow of existence, you don’t support autistic people at all.

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Trans*form the Dialogue

Trans-forming the Dialogue Logo

Simmons College is the third women’s college in the United States to officially accept trans students, both trans females and trans males who transition during their time there. Also, if anyone here is interested in applying, their Frequently asked Questions page says they work to ensure their trans students’ rooms are LGBTQ safe spaces and their student health insurance includes transgender health benefits.

I am participating in Trans*forming the Dialogue, Simmons College’s Online MSW Program’s campaign to promote an educational conversation about the transgender community. By participating in this campaign, I will be offering my perspective on what TO ask and what NOT to ask trans*people.

That being said, I’m not trans, so I’ve been picking the brains of people around me, including Jeremy. I asked Jeremy while we were on a chilly, drizzly walk to the grocery store. Zie stammered for a moment then laughed.

“I like when people ask me for my opinion on climate change or what my favourite colour is. Otherwise they can ask me what my gender is and then never comment on it again, unless they’re asking for my opinion on gender inequality. I really don’t like it when people ask me why I decided to be trans. I didn’t decide, I just am. I’m going to change the subject now…”

Then I asked my friends on several online groups and got these questions that should never be asked:

1. So, what’s in your pants? Do you have a penis?
2. Have you had surgery? So are you going to ya know, go the full way, get “the chop”?
3. What was your name before?
4. How can you be a guy if you still wear make up?
5.  Non binary isn’t a thing really is it?
6. Don’t you think if we got rid of gender roles trans people would disappear?
7. Which bathroom do you use?
8. Are you sure you aren’t…. insert rude assumption here… ?

Oh and a huge one, which wasn’t a question but is still important. If you’re talking about someone’s past in front of others, please use their current pronouns. Not only is it more comfortable for the person you’re talking about but it can also be a huge safety risk as you’re outing them.

The one good question to ask is “What pronouns do you prefer?” As Jeremy pointed out, most people want to talk about their interests and not their genitals.

As a parent, please don’t ask me if that is a boy or a girl. Don’t ask me if I’m aware that my child looks half boy – half girl, I do have eyes and I’m the one who bought zir rhinestone earrings and zir perfume. Don’t ask me what genders my kidlet is interested in. That’s no one’s business except the person my kid ends up dating.

I also really don’t want to hear the word “trendy” coming out of anyone’s mouth. Who do these people think my kid’s being trendy for? I can barely get Jeremy out of zir room. And please attempt zir pronouns. Neither of us care if you mangle them. We don’t care if you use zie constantly because you’re not exactly sure how to use zir (or vice versa)… as long as you’re trying. If you aren’t sure how to use them, please feel free to ask.

Neither male or female… just perfect

The best zir in the world…

“Where do we keep the mop?” Jeremy yelled from the kitchen. Quite frankly those are words I don’t want to hear. Neither of my kids ever volunteer to mop the floor.

“It’s in the storage closet,” I replied as I set my phone down and dislodged a cat from my lap. “Why? What happened?”

“Oh nothing,” Jeremy said hastily. “And don’t come in!”

Well that didn’t make me feel any better. Nothing upgraded my fears from zir knocking over zir water jug to an accidental flood.

“If nothing happened, what do you need the mop for?” By this time I was halfway across the room.

“You’ll see,” Jeremy crooned in a sing-song voice that practically dripped with satisfaction.

And, with that, my fear dropped. There’s a lot of things Jeremy’s happy about but causing a huge mess isn’t one of them.

I picked up my phone but didn’t go back to Facebook. Instead I listened intently just in case I was needed.

“Mom’s going to love this,” Jeremy said loudly to zirself. “She’s going to say I’m the best zir in the world!” There was silence for a few moments then zie added happily, “I’m the best zir in the whole world!”

I couldn’t help smiling, I still can’t help it now.

“Okay, you can come in now,” zie said cheerfully.

I walked over to the kitchen and looked at my microwave sitting where my fridge used to be. A half turn showed me that my shelving unit had been moved as well. And, obviously, the fridge.

“I mopped the floor where the fridge was,” Jeremy exclaimed. “Aren’t I the best ever?”

“You definitely are,” I said before I pulled zir into a hug.

kitchen

Transgender Day of Visibility

This is the post I wrote on my personal Facebook wall today…

Today is the Transgender Day of Visibility. Jeremy hasn’t been out for very long, only since the summer, although zie’s been edging towards being out for a while before that… testing the waters with both myself and other family members.

One of the hardest things for me is that some of the people I figured would be zir biggest supporters have quietly disappeared (and presumably have unfollowed me). Their silence is obvious and noticeable. What they don’t seem to realize is that I’m not posting for them. I’m not setting out to make them comfortable. My goal is to make Jeremy comfortable and to try my hardest to ensure a space for zir in this world.

Pull out your wallet and take a look at your ID. How many have a space for anyone other than male/female? There isn’t any (at least not here in Canada) and with every form I watch Jeremy’s sparkle fade a little more. My job as a mother is to stand beside zir and I want to make this country a better place for zir and for my trans friends.

I am not going to encourage Jeremy to hide or try to blend in. It might be easier for the rest of society but it is NOT easier for zir; that’s simply a tried and true path to suicide because Jeremy does not (and has not) ever fit in. Zie was born to shine. And I don’t post these things behind Jeremy’s back. While zie doesn’t use Facebook often (and never uses the Facebook profile that most people have) zie is online and does see what I post. The things I post about zir are with zir approval… including this post and the original “coming out” post.

Unlike being gay, trans doesn’t have much of a stealth option. I mean I guess I could continue to misgender Jeremy but, really, short of never posting another picture… how do I hide zir (take a good look at zir picture). Really?

Jeremy waiting for Pentatonix

I’m a mother and I stand up for both of my children, loving them 110% (it’s like one of those super saturated solutions… just deal). I will not back down, unless they ask me to, and I will not be quiet.

Today I will be walking around town with my nails painted in the colour of the trans flag while wearing a trans pride bracelet. Jeremy has the same nails and is wearing purple.

Feel free to like if you want to show support. And if you don’t want to support us, no apologies from me, I’m not changing and neither is Jeremy.

‪#‎NeverDullingZirSparkle‬

March musings…

So Jeremy hasn’t been to school since last Monday. Zie was supposed to have counselling on Tuesday but was too anxious to leave, which turned okay because zir counselor was sick and had just left for home. Zie missed school on Wednesday then came home after Youth Group and cried for a solid night and a good chunk of the next day. One of the worst feelings in the world is being stuck at work knowing your child is hurting… but also knowing zie’s going to appreciate a bedroom and food (which needs a paycheque). Except zie needed me now. Sigh. We were supposed to go to PFLAG on Thursday evening. We didn’t go. Neither did we go to the Youth Led UU service this Sunday, which was also due to anxiety.

Today is tentatively better. Jeremy barely slept last night but wanted to get back on track and stayed up for most of today. Zie spent the day rearranging zir room and has it organized quite well. Which is amazing, usually zir rearrangements look like they were done by overbooked movers in one hell of a rush. Everything crammed against one wall and you have to climb over at least a desk to reach zir bed. And zie hasn’t cried once.

Jeremy’s got counseling tomorrow (knock on wood) and then we’re going to Queen’s Park in Toronto on Thursday to show support of Bill 77, which is a bill to protect LGBTQ youths from conversion therapy in Ontario.

And tomorrow is the Transgender Day of Visibility. I just painted both mine and Jeremy’s nails purple with a top coat of silver, pink, and pale blue sparkles. They’re pretty darn visible…

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My sparkly nails.

Two things happened while I was writing this post. The first was the realization that Jeremy’s anxiety drastically increased when I added vitamins to zir daily routine. Which sent me googling “can B vitamins increase anxiety?” The answer was a big yes posted to the top of the page so I immediately skipped giving Jeremy a B50 pill. The second was when my brain kicked in and said, “Wait? Wasn’t today the day to pick up the prescriptions?” Of course it was and I’m all ready for bed. Jeremy on the other hand hasn’t set one foot out of our apartment since last Wednesday. I promptly requested a medication run and Jeremy cheerfully agreed.

Jeremy got to our front door then called back in a sing-song voice, “See you… wouldn’t want to be you… because I like being me.” Words I love to hear. Zie left wearing a pair of woman’s pants and with zir nails as glittery as a disco ball. Maybe (hopefully) tomorrow will be even better than today.

My speech on gender diversity and raising a trans kid…

Wow that’s a long title.

Since I’m nowhere near talented enough to change Jeremy’s real name in a video, I’m just going to post the transcript here. Pretend I’m talking quietly at a podium while I shift nervously and fiddle with my hair. I was wearing turquoise if that helps 🙂

 *******************************

There’s so much I didn’t know when my kids were growing up, especially when it came to gender. I look back at Jeremy when zie was little. Jeremy was equally happy with dinky cars and Polly Pockets, which was fine with me. I grew up in a family which believed toys were for all kids. When Jeremy was four, zie got a little toy shaving kit for Christmas and the first thing zie did was hop into the bathtub to shave zir legs. I figured that was because zie didn’t have a Dad at home and explained that boys shave their faces, not their legs. Jeremy looked a bit surprised but followed my instructions. Actually, the first time Jeremy shaved once puberty hit, Jeremy shaved zir legs but by then zie wasn’t using a Bob the Builder kit. Zie borrowed my razor instead; I quickly got zir one of zir own. And there was dress up time, which always consisted of Jeremy getting dressed up in Emma’s clothes, never the reverse. Emma would refer to zir as Jemmy and would pick out the clothes she thought would suit zir the best. Both kids loved this game.

I think Jeremy was around eight or nine years old when zie saw some words written on the bus shelter wall and wanted to know what they meant. The words were:

I wish I was a girl.

I had no idea what to say let alone where to start. It was a big topic that I didn’t understand very well. And Jeremy was standing there watching me expectantly, positive I had the answer. I decided to start with empathy so I said, “You know how you look like boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside…” then stopped when I saw Jeremy’s confused expression. Zie shook zir head and said “no”.

I look back now and marvel at how blind I was but then I simply figured I’d screwed up my explanation. I went on to explain that most people look like a boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside or look like a girl on the outside and feel like a girl on the inside but sometimes it’s the opposite. When people look like a boy on the outside and feel like a girl on the inside, or vice versa, it’s called transgender. Jeremy listened intently then was heartbroken that we couldn’t find the person who wrote the words so they’d know they weren’t alone.

Throughout this time, Jeremy would ask how I knew that zie would grow up to be a man. I knew zie’d been bullied at school with kids calling zir a he-she and I was well aware that grown adults were telling Jeremy zie needed to “be a man” so I chalked zir questions up to bullying. I assured Jeremy that zie didn’t need to do anything special in order to be a man, zie just needed to grow up. That zie could be a man and still love the colour pink and long hair and glitter. Each time Jeremy seemed reassured by my response.

A couple of years ago I became Facebook friends with Lenny. One of the first things Lenny told me is zie’s transgender and identifies between male and female, using the pronouns zie and zir. I’d had no idea people could be anything but male or female so this was a surprise. Lenny lives in England so zie’d never know if I was using the right pronouns or not but it didn’t seem fair to use the wrong ones. I insisted the kids use zir pronouns as well.

It wasn’t until last year that Jeremy began to show signs of discomfort with using male pronouns. Zie got sent home from school one day for arguing with zir teacher about the words boy and girl being opposites. Jeremy insisted they weren’t because you could feel like both a boy and a girl. The teacher argued she was talking about language and not gender then persisted in telling Jeremy zie was wrong. In the spring, Jeremy asked for the teacher to explain more pronouns than male and female and the teacher refused, claiming that she could only teach “invented” pronouns if there was a trans student in the class and then only the pronouns that student was using. Jeremy wasn’t out so I backed down. Zie didn’t come out until the end of summer.

Fifty-seven percent of unsupported trans youths attempt suicide. That statistic drops down to four percent when youths have a supportive family. I’ll do anything to make Jeremy feel supported, up to and including waving pom poms. Jeremy assures me that’s not necessary.

The hard part is how often and regularly Jeremy gets misgendered. When I talked to Jeremy’s school, their biggest concern was whether Jeremy’s gender identity and pronouns were going to be a distraction in the classroom. They use zir pronouns in official documents but call Jeremy he and him. And I can count on one hand the number of people in real life who consistently use zir pronouns. It’s so frustrating because people just don’t seem to understand how important this is to Jeremy. If they’d use the right pronouns in front of zir, even once, they’d see what a difference it makes. Give it a try, they’re not hard to use.

Thank you.