Raising the trans equivalent of Jello…

Persistent and insistent.

These are the two words I see over and over when it comes to transgender children. In some ways they describe Jeremy, especially when it comes to electronics and anything purple (seriously, no, you don’t need a purple miniature frying pan when you don’t even cook) but they don’t describe zir at all when it comes to being trans. Jeremy can be so vague and ambivalent I end up feeling like I’m raising the trans equivalent of Jello.

I’m not going to say Jeremy never gave me any signs of being trans as a child because zie was definitely gender creative. Zir favourite colour was pink and zie loved Barbie, stuffed animals, and taking zir baby out for a walk in the stroller.

gender creative Jeremy

The flip side is zie was also passionate about Magic School Bus, Thomas the Tank Engine, Bob the Builder, and just about anything with wheels…

Jeremy watching Granddad fix the car

Jeremy “helping” Grandad and zir uncle fix the car

Jeremy cheerfully wore zir sister’s second hand clothes but was just as happy with Hotwheels shirts and Pokemon runners. Zie loved zir pink Build a Bear and zir Matchbox cars track and went from a very feminine looking long hairstyle to a buzz cut with equal appreciation for both. Even when zie got older and increasingly uncomfortable with pronouns, Jeremy didn’t come right out and say so. A friend of mine finally suggested a trial run of pronouns and it took changing temporarily to they and them before Jeremy finally admitted zie was trans (after months of hinting).

The only real persistence Jeremy has is the insistence that zie is definitely trans and even that’s somewhat vague. At this point Jeremy’s not sure if zie’s pangender but knows zie falls somewhere on the trans spectrum. I’ve assured zir that, yes, it’s fine not to know and zie will sort zirself out eventually. I’ve also assured zir that it’s okay to be pangender and interested in RC cars, computers, and rebuilding and rewiring everything in the apartment. It’s equally all right for zir to be female and interested in RC cars, computers, and rebuilding and rewiring everything in the apartment. Zie was very relieved about both.

Which is why I’m posting this. In an online sea of posts about toddlers demanding dresses or blue boy jeans, there needs to be an additional narrative. Not everyone sorts out their gender at two and it’s equally important to realize that someone who doesn’t figure out their gender until after puberty has just as valid a narrative as someone who sorted it all out at three. And they are just as photogenic and awesomely cute (although I could be biased there).

our new hall light

Absolutely adorable and very handy. Jeremy found this Tiffany lamp and installed it in our front hall. Next to work on shortening the chain a bit 🙂

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Engage tact before opening mouth…

I was sitting in the break room with a new coworker a few days ago, doing the whole awkward introduction thing, when I realized it was time to call Jeremy.

I usually call zir at lunchtime so I can make sure zie’s awake and functioning. Plus the call allows me to remind zir to eat, something I’ve never forgotten to do but zie manages to forget regularly.

“I was talking to my teen,” I explained as I got off the phone a couple of minutes later.

“Oh, you have kids?” she replied curiously.

It seemed like an obvious answer to me but I nodded anyway. “I’ve got a 20 year old daughter and 18 year old teen. I was talking to the 18 year old.”

Most people change the conversation there. She didn’t.

“So, your 18 year old… is it a boy or a girl?”

It? Great.

“Zie’s bi-gender,” I replied. “Zie’s trans , identifies as both male and female, and uses the pronouns zie and zir.”

Her eyes grew wider. “Oh! Both genders! Does your doctor know?”

The doctor part made me suspicious about the direction her thoughts were going but I played innocent. “Yes, we talked to him already.”

“So, umm, your child is, umm, medically male and female?”

Yep, her thoughts wandered exactly where I suspected and right where I didn’t want to go.

“No, you’re thinking of intersex. My teen is transgender,” I replied as I glanced at my phone. Damn, I still had some break left.

“Oh.” She fidgeted for a moment. “So is he, umm, a boy or a girl.”

“I’m not discussing my child’s genitals with you,” I said bluntly. I’d already given her pronouns to use and a label so she wasn’t asking for those reasons. That left only one tabloidish interest… what was in zir pants.

She looked startled for a second then the realization of what she was asking kicked in.

“I’m cool with stuff like that,” she babbled. “I knew a transgender in high school.” Cue me wincing. “He was really shy at the beginning but after a while he started wearing make up and dresses and stuff.”

“I think you mean she,” I interjected, glancing at my phone again. Usually my break finishes way too quickly. Today wasn’t one of those days. Had my timer broken?

“Oh yeah,” she said sheepishly as my timer chimed cheerfully. Finally. I couldn’t leave quickly enough.

I told Jeremy about the conversation later and zie grinned when I got to the part about refusing to disclose zir birth gender.

“Way to go!” zie exclaimed before changing the conversation to Cool Dude. I’m not entirely sure who he is, other than someone on YouTube, but Jeremy’s very impressed with him.

“Cool Dude’s gay,” zie informed me for about the twentieth time. Jeremy paused then laughed. “I don’t know why he bothered to come out. Some people you just know are gay. I’m sure you’ve met people like that before,” zie said as zie gestured flamboyantly.

I looked at zir and laughed. “Really Captain Obvious?”

“Are you calling me gay?” zie asked.

“No, I’m calling the other Jeremy gay,” I retorted.

Zie smiled. Some days zie insists zie’s straight. Sometimes zie simply insists zie’s not gay. The rest of the time zie refers to the gay community as zir community. I just take a few metaphorical Gravol and go along for the ride.

Jeremy’s smile faded. “You know what I disliked about school,” zie said abruptly. Talk about a loaded question. Especially since zie could (and does) go on for hours about the subject.

“What?” I asked cautiously.

“Every Hallowe’en all the teachers dressed up in Duck Dynasty costumes, even after they came out as homophobic. It made me so uncomfortable.”

“All of the teachers?” It was a fairly big school.

“Well not all of them but Mrs. ________ and Mrs. ________ both did.” Jeremy named both of zir educational assistants. The same ones who told Jeremy that zir gender was a choice.

I’d had no idea about the costumes. Zie’d never said anything. Of course even if zie had said something there wasn’t anything I could do about it. It wasn’t illegal to dress up as a television character. But you’d think at least one of the teachers would look at what those people were saying and think about how their students would feel about their choice. You’d think they’d think. That’s what school’s for, isn’t it?

I’ve got a kid who’s struggling with anxiety daily. It’s not even 9pm and zie’s already in bed, saying zie’s upset and doesn’t know why. We live in a complex with two pools (complete with life guards), a park with paved trails just perfect for zir to drive zir remote control cars, and a gym. Jeremy spends every day indoors waiting for me to come home. Zie could go out on zir own but would rather wait for me. Zie doesn’t feel comfortable going out alone.

Jeremy’s teacher and EAs were loudly insistent they were allies, even while misgendering Jeremy, and I know my coworker felt like she was being quite supportive too. It would be nice however if they spent a bit less time patting themselves on the back and a bit more time listening to what they’re saying. It would be even nicer if tact came in a spray bottle, like air freshener, and could be applied liberally to people when needed. I’d buy it in bulk.

 

What defines a woman?

An open letter to women and a rebuttal to Emilee Danielson

Emilee, your story is simply one single thread in a tapestry of women. It is not the whole cloth. Living for almost 50 years does not give you a magical ability to tell other women they’re wrong about themselves; all it does is allow you to identify yourself.

We are women from the moment we first heard the word girl and felt it click inside us… whether the word was aimed at us or not. We are a women from the moment we looked into a mirror and recognized the girl within… whether we could see her face or not.

A woman isn’t defined by breasts. You’re a woman whether you’re flat or have breasts that go on for days. Neither is it defined by the ability to carry an infant to term. It most certainly isn’t defined by being a martyr.

Being a woman isn’t defined by horrendous cramps or your ability to fake it through them. It isn’t defined by the size of the baby or the amount of medication you received. You’re still a woman and a mother if you adopted your child or if your partner gave birth. You’re still a woman if you’re child-free.

Emilee, you are a privileged woman in the United States. Unlike friends of mine, you have never been chased down dark streets by strangers while having slurs shouted at you simply for daring to be yourself. You have never had store clerks look you in the eye and misgender you repeatedly and on purpose because they don’t like that you exist. You have never looked at yourself in the mirror and wished you were dead when faced with the stranger staring back. You have children but you don’t have my child. You don’t stand beside your child and have strangers stare… turning so they can continue to stare as you walk past. You worry about strange men on the side of the road while being blissfully unaware of the dangers that trans women face every single day. Unaware that their risks of violence and death from strange men are staggeringly higher than yours.

No, Emilee there is more to being a woman than you could ever experience or even imagine. I find your claim to know and speak of womanhood on behalf of us all to be insulting. A real woman is defined, not by beauty or dirt under her nails, but by herself.

Ms Jenner is a woman, I am a woman, and you are a woman. Tapestries are nothing if every thread is identical. We need our differences in order to make life vibrant.

Saying goodbye…

“Mom! Mom! Something’s wrong with Ben!” Jeremy wailed. “Please, can you help me clean his cage? He needs to have a clean cage to die in!”

It was 2 o’clock on Saturday morning and the quickest I’d woke in years.

“Jeremy, give me your guinea pig and I’ll cuddle him in bed,” I said as reassuringly as I could. Zie handed me a freshly washed, sopping wet piggy and I tucked him under the covers and cradled him beside me. Ben snuffled my hair and started chewing. I’m his food lady but today I arrived empty handed. I guess he figured my hair would be good enough.

“Can you give me something to feed Ben?” I asked and Jeremy promptly handed me a carrot.

“Ben’s front leg isn’t working,” zie cried as Ben happily chewed on his favourite food. “And there’s something wrong with his left eye.” I could only see his right which looked fine to me.

I cuddled with Ben for about ten minutes then changed into a dry nightie and went back to sleep. Luckily Jeremy went to sleep as well. I snuck into the living room yesterday morning fully expecting to find a body. Instead I found a bright eyed piggy happily gnawing on his pepper; his full weight on both front legs. He’d eaten well the night before and looked perfectly fine now. I assured Jeremy all was well and zir geriatric piggy was on the mend. Then we went out for the day. Ben still looked fine when we got home.

I woke this morning and decided to start my day off with a morning hike. I had to pass the guinea pig cage to get my shoes. No squeaks greeted me. Anyone who’s ever had a piggy knows how unusual that is. Ben was curled oddly under some hay in the back corner of his cage and he bit me when I reached in. I grabbed him by the waist instead and lifted while Ben flailed… both right legs hung uselessly. His waist was tiny and his anus protruded alarmingly.

I cradled him in my arm and gently fed him a carrot, which he took eagerly, whimpering for more. Then he stopped wanting the carrot but continued to whimper helplessly. I called the local vet clinic only to find out they were closed. One more day… one last day with Ben.

Of course I needed to tell Jeremy and woke zir as gently as I could. This is zir very own pet, one we’ve had since zie was 10 years old, I knew it wouldn’t go well. I handed the piggy over and headed out for apple sauce and baby asprin. I wasn’t going to have his last day full of pain.

Thankfully I bought a mortar and pestle from Dollarama last month so I was able to grind the tablet down to a fine powder to mix with apple sauce. I found orange flavoured ones too so the bitter taste wouldn’t deter him and managed to spoon feed him the whole pill (after checking weight and dosage for cavies). Twenty minutes later he was groggy and ready to lie down. So was I.

“Mom! Mom! Ben’s doing so much better! His legs are working again and he can walk… see!” Jeremy announced eagerly.

I blinked and rolled over in time to see Jeremy place Ben on the ground. The piggy stood trembling for a second then attempted to take a step with legs that no longer worked properly. He collapsed onto his side, legs twitching frantically in his panic to get back up.

“Hon, pick him up now. Please!” I implored. Jeremy immediately complied.

“See, he’s doing even better than before,” Jeremy said happily. “Once he gets more food in him he’ll be even stronger.”

Zir words felt like a blow. Ben’s unable to walk and can no longer lap water from his water bottle. Instead I’m feeding him water from a dropper. He can’t walk and he’s having massive issues with pooping. And he’s eight years old! His brother and cage mate died on my birthday almost a full year ago. He’s an elderly pig and it’s his time to go.

After dinner I’m bundling Ben up in a dish towel and taking him out for a walk in the woods. He’s enjoying being held and, while in our arms, he can feel the wind and smell the grass, trees, and flowers. Then I’ll dose him up with more pain medication so he can have a pain free night before we say goodbye to him tomorrow.

Hopefully Jeremy will be able to forgive me for letting Ben go.

Ben2

The shopping blues…

“Mom, I can’t find a clean shirt to wear,” Jeremy said ten minutes before we needed to leave for the bus.

I got rid of all my larger shirts a month ago but that didn’t stop me from frantically pawing through my shirt drawer and closet just in case I missed something, anything. I hadn’t.

Jeremy liked my black velour holiday shirt with glitter across the front but it was too small. It was also a little over dressed for Wal-Mart but if pjs are appropriate than fancy attire should be too. Jeremy finally declared my very last t-shirt to be “okay”. Zie also took my sweater, one I’d long outgrown but loved too much to give away.

Jeremy expressing zir

Jeremy expressing zir “inner cat lady”.

Both Jeremy and I approach clothes shopping with a sense of despair coupled by a frantic desire to flee, which is why we both need new shirts badly. It’s not that either of us hate clothes particularly, we simply hate what’s out there. Why on earth would a t-shirt need pleats on the back? Or a stripe of completely different fabric along the bottom (but just on the front)? Or an entire front panel that’s a different material? Rips up the side? Ties *and* rips up the side? See through material? Jeremy abandoned me halfway through the shirt section with a promise zie’d meet me at the dressing room if I found anything. Zir “if” sounded dubious. I didn’t blame zir.

I eventually found four shirts for me to try and three shirts for Jeremy before calling zir out of the electronic department. Zie dismissed all three as being too tight and too weird; I had similar complaints. Zie finished first and raced back to the electronic department, asking me to meet zir there.

The sales associate looked up from Jeremy’s pile of shirts as I walked over with mine. She leaned close, obviously concerned.

“Did you know all these shirts are from the ladies department?” she whispered.

I leaned close as well. “Yes, I know,” I whispered back. Then I walked away and collected Jeremy for grocery shopping.

I tried not to glare at the old man blatantly staring at Jeremy when I found zir by the cellphones, although, to be honest, he was so focused on Jeremy I don’t think he’d have noticed if I even stuck my tongue out at him.

I vented to Jeremy about shirts on our way home.

“All I want is a plain, simple t-shirt with maybe a picture or a saying on it. Preferably Doctor Who. That’s it!” I exclaimed. Jeremy nodded.

“All I want is a shirt that’s not too tight and pants that have pockets. Oh and both have to be purple.”

After our last round of shopping I’m thinking we might as well ask for the moon.

Jeremy’s birthday extravaganza ~ part two

I promised Jeremy two things this birthday; a ride on one of the quad bikes at Centre Island and a rainbow Doctor Who cake. The first got fulfilled on zir birthday… then I had to complete the second.

I cheated when it came to the cake and bought a plain white cake mix which I made with a can of 7-Up (okay, Dollarama’s knock off “billion bubbles” version). Then I got out six bowls and a box of neon food colouring and got busy.

baking cake2

I’ve seen recipes with six layer cakes but I have two pans and not nearly enough patience. Instead I made each layer three colours, giving the cake an almost tie-dyed effect.

rainbow cake

I’ve baked a lot of cakes over the years and most of them I’ve summed up as “good enough”. This one ended up better than I expected…

Doctor Who cake2

Purple, sparkly, and Doctor Who!!! Also, there’s some heavy duty editing here as my camera is quite insistent that purple simply does not exist.

The purple glitter and silver stars represent space while the glittery circle is the time vortex. My reaction was “OMG… I did it! I actually did it!” while Jeremy was quite blase. Zie figured I’d pull off an absolutely magical cake no problem… despite all my previous attempts.

We had zir family birthday dinner at my parents’ house and Jeremy had an amazing time. One cousin made zir a mansion on Minecraft and then they all settled down to play SuperMario on the Wii-U until dinner.

Of course Jeremy’s favourite part of the day was the present opening and my parents’ gifts were a huge hit. Zie really wanted a remote control car, one that was strong enough to take camping and on our walks. My parents bought zir a huge orange behemoth of a truck, complete with horns and rubberized tires. Plus they got zir a red telephone booth shelving unit with windows and a door. Karen bought zir a gift card for video games which was also greatly appreciated.

I’ve tried to keep my most recent disappointment as far away from Jeremy as I can. Emma has borderline personality disorder which is a hard illness to live with from every angle (hers and ours). The two of them had a fight last week which involved Jeremy pushing Emma out of zir room. She says zie pushed her… Jeremy says zie tripped. I figure zie tripped and ended up pushing her harder than zie planned (which is less hard than she claimed). As always, the truth lies somewhere in the middle. This all would have blown over except Emma went on to tell her paternal grandmother about the argument and went on to claim zie’d been assaulting her every single day and I knew all about it. At the time, she was probably in enough emotional pain that it felt like the truth.

Their grandmother completely and utterly sided with Emma, which means assuming her other grandchild is an abusive bully. And Jeremy heard nothing from her all week; not even a Facebook birthday wish. If she truly thinks Jeremy’s been beating up zir sister every day, she obviously doesn’t know zir.

After dinner was eaten, the gifts all examined, and the cake demolished; Jeremy and zir cousins went inside to play Watch_Dogs. Soon it was time to go home. Jeremy begged to stay just a little longer as zie’d promised to show zir youngest cousin something really cool. Except zir character kept getting in massive accidents.

“My character’s immortal,” Jeremy laughed. “He lives through everything!”

“Maybe he’s Captain Jack Harkness,” I suggested and Jeremy shrugged.

“No, he’s not gay.”

I was about to point out Captain Jack wasn’t either when Jeremy looked speculative.

“Or maybe he is,” Jeremy mused and zir face brightened. “I don’t think there’s any storyline involving his sex life. He very well could be gay. That would be amazing!”

We got home and I sent the cards up on our kitchen table.

“Nobody got me specifically boy cards this year,” Jeremy said happily then zie looked more closely at the card from zir grandparents.

“They made sure to pick out gifts they knew you’d like,” I pointed out and Jeremy nodded.

“Aunt Karen didn’t pick out a boy card though. She got one that could be for a girl.”

And zie smiled the sweetest smile before heading off to zir room.

birthday cards

We braved the Pride Parade…

I had two anxiety attacks this week, one at work and one right in the middle of our doctor’s office. I came really close to passing out there although, to be fair, if I’m going to pass out his office is probably the best place. Jeremy was so sweet, hugging me on the bus and in the waiting room then sharing zir game maps in an attempt to distract me. The doctor has doubled my EffexorXR and has prescribed Ativan for my anxiety attacks, which hopefully will help (so far so good).

Then there’s Jeremy. Zie had one anxiety attack last week at 3am and one night of complete insomnia, which meant zie missed two days of school. And then zie’s been fine. It helps that I’ve signed the papers withdrawing zir from school at the end of the month. Only two more weeks.

Between the two of us, we’re both fairly fragile emotionally and neither of us are fond of crowds at the best of times… but we went to our local Pride Parade anyways.

Last night I painted my nails the colours of the ace pride flag. Well almost, I didn’t have any white nail polish (or more accurately, Emma didn’t have any) but she had a pale silver which I figured would look good. I painted Jeremy’s nails too but zie picked plain beige so I didn’t bother to take a photo.

ace nails

The best photo I could take with my cellphone

We caught the bus this morning and discovered our local Sunday bus changed, or more accurately turned into another bus route part way through our trip, and we ended up doing the milk run. Almost literally considering at one point we were taking pictures of barns and fields. What should have been a not quite 10 minute trip ended up stretching to just over a half hour. We got off downtown and I went onto my phone to check my email. I knew I’d received an email earlier saying where the pre-parade barbecue was being held, I just needed to find the folder it went to.

“Mom, you don’t need to look. The barbecue’s over there.” Jeremy pointed toward a nearby mall right as I finally realized there was music blaring from nearby. I put away my phone and we followed our ears.

The first person I met was a woman from PFLAG who greeted me with a huge smile and a hug. Then we went to get food and I found out they had vegan burgers this year (which turned out to be very popular). We wandered around for a bit, looking at the floats and trying to see if we knew anyone else.

“Can we go to Dollarama or somewhere more quiet?” Jeremy asked. “I’m getting really anxious.”

“Why don’t we go to the bridge,” I suggested and zie nodded.

Shopping isn’t relaxing for me, meanwhile the bridge was a quiet footbridge over the nearby creek. It’s a great place to take photos, which relaxes both of us.

Jeremy not only took photos with zir camera but also dropped a webcam down to take closeups of the creek.

Jeremy not only took photos with zir camera but also dropped a webcam down to take closeups of the creek.

I also managed to take a great shot of the two of us, which Jeremy agreed could be shared here. Which is nice because zie looks so cute in the photo (I love how amazingly blue zir eyes are)…

Jeremy and I

And then we went to wait for the parade to start…

Talk about relaxed!

Talk about relaxed!

The parade was small, but bigger than the one we attended two years ago, and quite colourful…

balloon rainbow

rainbow whirligig2

parade1

parade2

bracelets

parade3

parade4

I'm pretty sure I've lost these socks to Jeremy.

I’m pretty sure I’ve lost these socks to Jeremy.

It was a good afternoon but Jeremy found it quite overwhelming and wanted to head home before the post-parade party even began. Which is good to know. I’d tentatively thought about going to Toronto’s parade this year but think we’ll pass and give Jeremy another year to work on zir anxiety before braving even bigger crowds. The plus side is, for the first time in ages Jeremy’s looking forward to school tomorrow. It’s the last day of zir work placement and zie’s excited about telling everyone it’s zir birthday on Friday.

Happy Pride everyone!!!