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.

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It’s the most wonderful time…

When I was very little, my parents used to ask me what I wanted for Christmas and my answer was always the same. A pretty tree with lots of sparkling lights. Things haven’t changed. Christmas is my absolute favourite time of the year. I love it all. The lights, the decorations, the glitter, the music, time with family and friends, pretty cards, baking, presents, and an ever present feeling of hope and goodwill. This holiday is me.

This is also the time of year I started writing this blog… three years ago. So much has changed since then. Back then Jeremy identified as a femme, bisexual male (who felt a bit like a girl on the inside) and I was completely and totally straight (and deep enough in the closet I could hang out with the lion in Narnia). Now Jeremy’s straight, agender and alternates between masculine and femme while I’m a demi-romantic, pan-romantic asexual. So the fabulous has broadened to include both of us.

Three years ago Jeremy wanted a hair straightener and Jaffa cakes. This year I got them a strand of light up mirrored disco balls and a big stuffed Freddy Fazbear from Five Nights at Freddys. Meanwhile this is what I want for Christmas…

  1. Self-cleaning kitty litter boxes
  2. Self-washing dishes
  3. Magic refilling fridge
  4. Copious amounts of writing time
  5. A huge green space beside my building
  6. Endless supply of free books on my e-reader from my favourite authors
  7. Winning lottery ticket for $15 million dollars
  8. A stay at a tropical resort

Pretty much the only one that can fit under the tree is the lottery ticket. I’m looking forward to seeing it on Christmas morning 🙂

This year we’re staying overnight at my parents’ house, which is new for us considering we live a 15 minute drive from their place. It means we can hang out on Christmas Eve and open stockings with them on Christmas morning. Plus it’s more like the Christmas I was used to growing up, when we stayed at my grandparents’ house with a bunch of relatives. I’m looking forward to hanging out with them, Karen and her family, and my cousin and his fiance.

Three years ago Jeremy and I would be watching Doctor Who on Netflix but they’ve taken it off the Canadian line up. I did promise them that I’d watch Supergirl with them as soon as they finish the dishes. I hope the show’s good.

Falling into autumn…

I walked home from the hospital under a canopy of new leaves. Now those leaves are reawakening in hues of scarlet and gold and I’m finding myself curiously adrift. I’d never planned on being alive this long and am at a loss on what to do next.

If my life was a jigsaw puzzle, the pieces would be in mid air, falling out of a featureless box. Each piece an unknown, tumbling down to who knows where.

I’ve applied for disability and have been told they routinely turn people down. But Canadian Mental Health Association will help me appeal when (if) that happens. Jeremy and I are on waiting lists for subsidized apartments… that we’ll get some year. Maybe two years… maybe four? And I’m writing away at novels with no real idea of how to get published.

two-years

I’m watching Jeremy transform into someone I love but don’t always know. They alternate between endearingly sweet and incredibly annoying and lately act traditionally masculine.

“I don’t want to go to PFLAG tonight. As a straight, white male I don’t feel comfortable there.” Jeremy informed me.

It doesn’t happen much but they left me speechless.

“Umm, I thought you were agender,” I commented after a few seconds. Jeremy snorted.

“Mo-om… that was three weeks ago!”

We have potatoes older than that and besides…

“It was yesterday,” I pointed out and they sighed.

“Well I don’t believe in gender and don’t feel like I’m a gender but if I had to choose between male and female I’d pick male.”

Clear as mud?

“You acted and felt more female than male not that long ago.”

Jeremy nodded. “I know. I felt like that then and maybe I’ll change again. I just don’t know.”

“And straight? What happened to ‘hearts instead of parts'” I asked.

Jeremy looked incredibly uncomfortable. “Don’t worry about it,” I said honestly. “Sexual orientation is hard.” They nodded and dropped the conversation so fast.

The ironic part is we actually talked about equal rights that night at PFLAG and how men’s rights need to be worked on too, which they would have loved. I reminded Jeremy that I missed a meeting on relieving anxiety because I was too anxious to go. Stuff happens and sometimes it’s as ironic as fuck.

The pieces of me changed this spring and they haven’t finished falling yet. So far all I know is that I’m different and there’s going to be a heck of a lot more glitter. Jeremy will have to sort themselves out on their own. I’m willing to bet on a fair bit of glitter and strands of coloured lights there too.

 

Just happy…

“Jeremy? Can you come into my room for a minute? I want to read you something.”

“All right, I guess,” he sighed unenthusiastically.

I heard him push back his chair and resisted the urge to cross my fingers. Sometimes he listens, most of the time he just wiggles around impatiently and changes the subject as soon as I finish speaking. I already had the tab open. I’d had it open for two hours while I worked up the guts to call him in.

How do you describe your gender?

As soon as I started reading, Jeremy began fidgeting.

“Ooo… I like this one, ‘with a “meh” sound and a wavy hand gesture’,” I looked over my shoulder. “Jeremy, stop banging around my pillow. I’m going to sleep with that tonight.”

He snickered. “Mom, you’re going to sleep with your pillow? That’s really weird.”

I grabbed the pillow and tossed it to the top of the bed. Then I repeated the previous comment, complete with hand gesture. I could see from Jeremy’s expression that he’d actually listened this time.

“Yeah, that’s someone describing their gender,” I added then kept reading, “…and ‘alien space prince’-”

“Wait? There’s royalty?” Jeremy interrupted. A grin crept across his face.

“Not really,” I replied. “It’s in their handle though and they used…” I paused to count, “seven words to describe their gender. Janitorqueer said he’s ‘a kaleidoscope of all genders’.”

Jeremy nodded then stayed silent for the rest of the replies.

“Well that’s it for me,” I said as I stifled a yawn. “I’m way too tired to stay up any longer. Go to sleep netbook.” I stood up then closed my netbook. It’s new and the hinges are a tad eager so it snapped shut.

“You just slammed that computer shut. Just wham…” Jeremy blurted.

“Yep,” I said before mimicking slamming something shut quite violently. “Just slammed it to bits.”

I held out my arms for a hug and stood on my tiptoes. Jeremy bent toward me with a wide smile and his expression startled me. Don’t get me wrong, Jeremy smiles and laughs often, but this time it was different. His smile was just that, an expression of happiness with no tinges of anything else. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen him with nothing but happiness on his face. This smile was real.

He let go then scooped his perfume off my dresser where he’s been stashing it. He gave himself a liberal squirt.

“I’m going to make myself some tea before bed,” he announced then he hurried down the hall, perfume bottle in hand.

I screw up quite regularly as a parent but reading that post to Jeremy was definitely the right thing.

Thanks for writing that Tumblr post Micah, it made a difference.

Amorphous Questions…

I finally got a response from Jeremy’s teacher about the pronoun issue; two rather long voice mails were left while I was at work today. The gist of the messages were that this is a basic grammar class and they only deal with traditional pronouns, not invented ones. (Which makes me wonder if she realizes all our words are invented; no words just magically appeared one day). If she had a transgender student in her class she would use the pronouns and name of that child’s choice, by board rules. However, additional pronouns aren’t part of the curriculum and she’s not going to cover them.

“She said they weren’t real,” Jeremy informed me angrily.

“Which ‘they’ are you talking about?” I asked. “The people or the pronouns.” If it was the people, that negated about half of her message.

“The pronouns,” he replied, much to my relief. There’s only three weeks left of school. I’d like to coast through them without any major battles.

“Well, according to the message, she said they’re only teaching traditional pronouns…” I trailed off when I noticed Jeremy’s baffled expression.

“What do you mean by traditional pronouns?”

“Him and her and he and she,” I replied. “Those are the original pronouns that people used.”

He stared at me in confusion. “But what did the people without a gender use?”

“They didn’t. They just pretended to be one gender or the other.”

“But that’s not fair!” he blurted.

“You’re right. It’s not,” I agreed.

He tucked his hair behind one ear then crossed his legs, resting his hands gently on his knees. It was a very feminine gesture.

“Jeremy? What gender do you identify with?”

“Mostly male with a bit of female,” came his immediate reply. “But still male.”

“Why did you want the pronouns brought up in class?”

He tilted his head and gazed at me thoughtfully. “Mom, we’re supposed to be the future. How can we make things better if we don’t have all the information?”

He makes my heart melt.

That ends my discussion on pronouns with the school though. Even though their current use of pronouns is making Jeremy uncomfortable, I have no tools left to argue with the school board. Jeremy identifies as male and wants to use him and he. I can’t argue on his behalf; there’s nothing tangible to argue with.

Ever since Jeremy was a toddler, I’d look at him with amorphous questions. He wasn’t the stereotypical rough and tumble little boy but he wasn’t really girlish either. He just kind of straddled the middle between both. I figured puberty would bring some answers or at the very least give some definition to the questions but, no.

He turns seventeen in another week and apparently identifies as both straight and male. Those amorphous questions still hang on.

Jeremy and I were standing at a bus stop a few days ago when one of my coworkers spotted us from her car and waved us over for a rapid, before the light changes, introduction to her husband.

“This is my coworker Michelle,” she said, gesturing towards me. “And this is Jeremy. He’s her daughter.”

The light changed and they headed off, I don’t think Jeremy even heard what she said. But that sums up how people tend to see him quite nicely.

Jeremy’s just over six feet tall, with huge hands and a deep bass voice. His clothes are brightly coloured but they were bought in the men’s department. And yet people still refer to him as ma’am and her. Jeremy doesn’t care.

He feels male… mostly. And he’s happy with male clothing… mostly. I’ll watch him playing Grand Theft Auto… then come back into the living room to find him intently watching Charmed on Netflix.

“I’ve got some new pictures of my kids,” I said cheerfully to one of my coworkers.

“This is my son, Jeremy.” I swiped the screen to his picture and turned my phone. She looked from the screen to me then back again.

“Isn’t this your daughter?” she asked hesitantly.

“No,” I replied then swiped the screen again. “This is my daughter.”

“So you have two girls?” she continued.

“Umm, no. A boy and a girl.”

That conversation’s a thousand times better than having the person recoil when I show Jeremy’s picture, like he’s going to jump out of the screen and bite them. Seriously? Just no.

If anyone came here looking for answers (or actual questions for that matter), you’ve come to the wrong post. Maybe someday we’ll have some. Or maybe Jeremy will continue to travel along through life, not exactly fitting into any category.

A letter for Jeremy’s teacher, part two…

Jeremy called me into his room after he got home from his LGBTQ youth group last night. He was wearing an old pair of pyjama bottoms while brewing himself some tea. Jeremy tends to make tea when he’s worried. He was brewing himself eight cups; that’s a lot of worry.

“What’s with the pjs?” I asked. They were at least two sizes too small and flannel. He shrugged.

“They’re not that bad,” he replied. “I can sit in them and the front thing’s not too…” His voice trailed off. I looked to the side and noticed his silky pjs neatly folded on his footstool.

“Do these not fit?” I asked. “I can take them back if you don’t like them.”

“No,” he blurted. “They fit. I’m just saving them. You know, for special occasions like if I’m going out somewhere.”

“So, you’re saving cross dressing for when you go out instead of in the comfort of your own home,” I commented drily.

Jeremy laughed then walked over to his wicker shelves. “Tea,” he mused. “I should make lemon or maybe green.” He glanced at the huge pot of water. “Or both.”

Then he turned back. “Mom, can you talk to the teacher about the words?”

Well, he lost me there. “Umm… what words?”

“You know…”

I stared at him blankly. I had no freaking idea what he was talking about. Meanwhile he looked frustrated.

“The words,” he repeated. “When you talk about someone. The words you use.”

Okay we were getting closer to a clue. “You mean pronouns?” I guessed.

“Yes,” he agreed. “Those things. The teacher only uses him and her and it’s making me uncomfortable. Can you write her a letter?” He looked away. “I can’t talk to her.”

“Okay,” I replied. It only took me a few seconds to decide. My first thought was he should speak to her but this was wildly unlike Jeremy. He’s usually very blunt about saying what he feels. He looked back and smiled.

“Can you give me some context?” I asked. “Is she teaching you about pronouns?”

He nodded. “Can you tell her the other pronouns?” He paused then added, “What are the other pronouns?”

It wasn’t like I hadn’t mentioned them before but… “There’s a few pronouns like they-”

“For more than one person,” he interrupted.

“Well usually,” I agreed. “But sometimes if someone doesn’t identify with one gender they’ll use they. Or zie…”

“Trans* people use that,” he said.

“Umm some do,” I agree. He looked at me expectantly and I gave an internal sigh. It was just over a half hour after I was supposed to go to bed. I could squeeze in a lesson on gender.

“Gender’s a spectrum…” I began. He listened intently as I spoke although none of what I said was new; I’d said it all before.

“Why are you wanting her to use more pronouns?” I asked, mainly because I knew the teacher would ask me.

“For the other kids,” he said hastily. “Just because…” His voice trailed off again as if he couldn’t think of a reason.

I wondered if this was Jeremy’s version of “I’m asking for a friend” and kept my mouth shut.

“I’ll write the letter,” I promised. “But it’ll have to be tomorrow because it’s late and I need to go to bed now.”

He held his arms out for a hug.

“Sweet dreams sunshine. Love you,” I said. I gave him a hug and kiss then went to get ready for bed. By the time I finished, he was already in his silky pyjamas.

This is the letter:

Dear Ms. Teacher,

It’s come to my attention that you were teaching pronouns in class, presumably during a language lesson. Jeremy was uncomfortable and wanted me to ask you to use more pronouns such as they and zie. If you wish to discuss this further, please feel free to call me at [phone number] or message me via [email address]. I’m off work at [time].

Thank you,
Michelle

This is my 100th post on this blog which means, since I’ve only been posting for just under half a year, that I write a lot.

My heart…

Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.
~ Elizabeth Stone

I almost missed Jeremy’s counselling appointment on Thursday. Thanks to the holiday on Monday I’ve been a day behind all week; Jeremy missed his LGBTQ group on Tuesday for that reason. When I told Jeremy I’d almost forgotten his appointment, he looked worried.

“I can’t miss that Mom. I really need this appointment,” he informed me.

Thankfully I was able to reassure him we hadn’t actually missed it, although it was close.

Once we got off the bus, I looked around at the sunshine, flowers and leaves.

“Jeremy? Remember when you first started coming here? It was pitch black when we arrived and everything was covered in snow.”

“Oh yeah,” he agreed then he gestured to the nearby lawn. “Look at the grass Mom. We have to walk across it. Come on!!!”

He grabbed my hand and started tugging. Then he grinned. “What we really need to do is skip!”

He proceeded to do just that. I, of course, joined him. We went off, hand in hand, skipping merrily. It was a rather large lawn and we ended up on the other side, laughing and out of breath.

“Now I know why women wear bras,” Jeremy commented. “That’s actually kind of uncomfortable.”

I eyed him curiously. “You talk to me about your breasts often. Do you talk to your girlfriend about them too?”

“Yeah,” he said with a smile. “Hannah finds it funny. She laughs.”

Judging by his smile, that was his goal. We went inside, effectively ending that conversation.

We were waiting for the bus after his session when he informed me he needs to buy camo for next year’s CanUUdle.

“Why?” I asked and he grinned.

“So I can hide better,” he informed me. “It’s hard to play manhunt with purple hair, an orange shirt, and bright red shorts.”

Well, I can’t argue with that logic, although I’ll wait to see how he feels next year before running out to buy an outfit for a single game. Jeremy loves bright colours; I’m not sure how often a camouflage outfit would get worn. Unless it was incredibly comfortable, probably never.

I wrote my blog post last night and shared the photo story with Jeremy. He studied each picture intently.

“Why isn’t she wearing a shirt?” he asked at one point.

“Umm, none of the people on this page identify with a gender,” I reminded him.

“Oh yeah,” he said then stayed silent for the rest of the page.

After a while I went into the living room. Jeremy was curled up in the chair at the computer in his silky pyjamas and wrapped in his fuzzy purple blanket. I’d baked brownies earlier so I got myself one and gave one to Jeremy, who accepted it cheerfully.

I smoothed the tangles in his hair, noting how much it’s grown even in the past few weeks. It’s about halfway down his shoulder blades now. Then I reminded myself I need to re-dye it this weekend. Jeremy’s loving the purple colour but it fades very quickly.

“That page I showed you earlier. I was thinking you look a lot like the person in the first photo,” I commented. “Do you agree or am I just smoking crack?”

His eyes flicked away from the screen for a second. “Yes,” he said briefly.

“Yes you agree or yes you think I’m smoking crack?”

He looked away a bit longer and grinned. “Yes, I agree. I look a lot like that person.”

I gave him a hug, breathing in the berry scent of his conditioner, and took a step back. He takes the bus by himself every Tuesday. Two buses each way and there’s a twenty minute wait downtown on his way home.

Don’t fall asleep on the bus.” The words thankfully stayed trapped in my throat.

I walked out of the living room, leaving him happily designing a Minecraft base on the moon, then I went into the bathroom and fought off a panic attack.