Four years of writing…

WordPress informed me today that I’ve been writing this blog for exactly four years now, that my first post was written on December 22, 2013. Back then we were using pseudonyms. I was Michelle, Colin was Jeremy (the male name I’d picked for Kait), and Kait was Emma(the female name I’d picked for Colin). We showed no pictures with faces and made sure to mention only that we were Canadian and near Toronto. Colin was still in high school, which he’s since graduated from (refusing their additional program called school to work) and Kait was working for No Frills, a Canadian grocery store chain. I was working full time for Tim Hortons, a Canadian coffee chain.

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Four years later and so much has changed. I’d always struggled with mild to moderate depression but it wasn’t enough to affect my job. Then it burst into full blown depression (Major Depressive Disorder) and extreme anxiety. I take a handful of pills a day and my psychiatrist doesn’t think I’ll ever work again. Which is a blow since I’m in my 40’s still but it wasn’t a surprise. I belong to a couple of groups in meatspace and do a variety of activities such as bowling, yoga, making bath bombs, and extreme couponing. Both groups are near a walking trail so I walk on the trail either before or after group to get my 10,000 steps.

Kait no longer works at No Frills, instead she’s a store clerk for a gas station, working their midnight shift. She’s doing an amazing job there, they say she’s their best night shift worker ever. Plus she loves her home and her two kitties. She’s been with her boyfriend for about as long as the blog and is doing well with him.

Colin is the focus of the blog and he’s the one who’s gone through the most transitions. He started out wondering if he were bisexual then realized he didn’t like-like boys, only girls. Right from the first post he identified with Jazz Jennings, a trans teenager from Florida, except he wasn’t uncomfortable with his body at the time, he just had a “girl’s brain”. Then, a little while later, people started doing those genetic tests. I used to hang out a lot in a forum called Regretsy (sadly it no longer exists) and one of the people did one of the tests and posted the results. I read them aloud to Colin and he got excited right at the beginning when it said the sex was male. Could he take the test too? I had no idea what he was talking about until he added “so I can find out what sex I am”. I explained it would only tell him his birth sex, not how he feels inside. Another time I pointed out we were having a lot more trans readers and Colin’s response was, “That’s not a surprise.” It took me a long time to realize that Colin wasn’t cisgender but he was patient with me. Then came the sorting out. He started out as bigender (feeling both male and female) then pangender (feeling like all genders) then started exploring more towards being female. He drifted into being female and picked out the name Emma (which was the name I’d chosen when I was pregnant with him). He was happy with the name and being referred to with female pronouns. Then he started worrying about fertility. He’s wanted to be a parent since he could talk so that wasn’t a surprise but the lack of fertility preservation was a shock. Freezing sperm only works 50% of the time and is expensive and stopping hormone therapy has an unknown success rate because it seems like only trans people are talking about it. The doctors claim 100% infertility once the hormones take effect. So now Colin’s still female but not sure about transitioning. I use Colin on the blog and both Colin and Emma at home. He’s happy with that. He’s also in school, taking mostly math, and hoping to eventually go to college. He builds and rebuilds computers in his spare time and plays PC video games.

Kait and her boyfriend are coming over for dinner, stockings, and presents tomorrow. I’m going to make Kait’s favourites; pasta with pumpkin sauce and Christmas Crack. I’ve included the link because the dessert is easy and amazingly yummy. They claim it’ll last a week, like you’re not going to eat half a pan standing over the kitchen counter. I don’t have a link to the pumpkin pasta, sadly. It was a recipe from the Today’s Parent forums, another site that no longer exists.

Colin and I are going to my parents’ house on Christmas Eve and sleeping over that night. Which saves a heck of a lot of driving, rather than going back and forth each day. Kait’s going to be there on Christmas Eve too.

I wonder where we’ll be in four more years. Where ever it is, I’m sure it’ll be fabulous!

 

Happy Holidays!

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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.

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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.

Living invisible…

When I was a kid I used to wonder how Wonder Woman found her invisible jet. I mean seriously? I have trouble finding things that are visible while she opened a see through door and hopped right on in. Now I wonder if all those rumours are right and she really is a lesbian because, in that case, she would have had all sorts of practice in being invisible. Being LGBTQ brings its own invisibility.

Several years ago I went out shopping with friends of mine. They were shopping, I just was along for the ride. I’m seriously one of those “you can take me anywhere” friends. You’re filling your gas tank? Sure, I’ll come along. You’re buying a new bed? No problem.

In this case it was the latter. My friends M and P were in the market for a new bed and were going to be in my area so of course I’d join them. We mosied into a big Canadian bed and mattress store and I hung back while they priced mattresses and pondered firm versus extra support versus memory foam.

“Hello! May I assist you?”

A clerk came running up and immediately began talking to P and myself, completely ignoring M. This despite the fact that M and P were side by side actively discussing a mattress while I hung back at least five feet. But M and P are both male… invisible relationship.

The clerk finally clued into my complete disinterest and M’s persistent questions and started talking to M but there are layers of invisibility and M’s in a wheelchair… so theirs is a double invisible relationship. It took several additional minutes and some blatant “I’m going to be in this bed too” comments from P before the clerk clued in that P was not some sort of personal assistant of M’s but, in fact, his partner. They didn’t end up buying from there.

This week I got my official documents from the hospital, including my intake paperwork from the on call psychiatrist. Back in June I’d second, third, and fourth guessed myself. Had I really seen her flinch? She’s a psychiatrist! She works with troubled people every single day! She had to be more professional, she must have just leaned back. But no, she actually flinched when she realized I’m queer*.

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Would you look at that… I not only had an imaginary boyfriend but a pretend relationship too. Does it get any better than that?

No, but it does get worse. While she was awkward around me and invalidated my relationship, she completely invalidated L’s whole self. I was invisible but trans people are pretty much invisible squared. Although maybe it’s less invisibility and more buried under tonnes of total misinformation.

Want to know what the best way is to combat this invisibility? Don’t assume. Don’t assume the person with breasts is female and the person with an adam’s apple is male. Ask if someone’s in a relationship rather than saying “So, do you have a boyfriend?” And please don’t pair little children up into cutesy relationships, let them simply be friends. That’s one of the things I’m grateful for with my parents. They never assumed I was dating my best friend, they just let me play with him. Actually, my two closest friends were male and I never thought of dating either of them.

*wanders off to ponder whether every LGBTQ person has their own invisible jet and we just haven’t found them yet*

 

 

* The psychiatrist was completely wrong about how she realized my queerness. Having a trans boyfriend did not make me queer, falling in love with him when he was bigender and half-female did.

Life with Jeremy (second edition)…

I just got a notification on my phone, a finger with a string around it. I don’t know how to make notifications so it wasn’t from me. It was a reminder that I am weird, complete with an option to be reminded of this tomorrow.

“Jeremy?” I called as I walked into the living room. “Did you just send me a notification?”

Zie slid my headphones off zir ears and looked up. “My phone’s not even on. How could I send you a message?” Zir tone was artfully innocent. And really? Zie’d been playing with zir phone, asking Google endless questions, not ten minutes earlier.

“Well I got a notification saying I’m weird and I didn’t send it.”

Jeremy’s lips curved into a smile. “Are you saying it’s wrong?”

Well no. I just shook my head and walked away, leaving zir laughing. I did, however, click no for tomorrow’s helpful reminder.

I never know what to expect with zir. Jeremy woke up crying yesterday morning and was in tears when I got home from work. Zie was laughing and cheerful last night, thrilled to be cleaning and rearranging zir room in preparation for this weekend’s painting. Jeremy didn’t sleep at all last night, which means today should be interesting. Zie has counseling this morning, a visit with zir Dad this afternoon, and a doctor’s appointment this evening. I’m planning on buying a few chocolate bars and throwing them at zir from a safe distance when zie gets growly.

I am getting glimpses of my rainbow. Jeremy’s dug out zir feminine shirts and is wearing them again, including to a family visit this weekend. Zie’s kept zir toenails polished and is back using perfume. And zir sassy attitude is back.

“There you go Angel,” Jeremy crooned. Zie placed the cat onto my bed and tucked a fuzzy blanket around her. “All nice and comfy.”

I’d just stopped zir from putting Blackie, and then Oreo, into my underwear drawer. Angel likes perching in there but the other two cats don’t. Plus all three cats are overweight and could use some exercise.

“If she wanted to go there, she would have walked there on her own.”

“Does it look like she doesn’t want to be there?” zie pointed out. Angel closed her eyes and purred a bit louder. Thanks cat.

“You seem to forget the cats have four perfectly good legs to walk themselves around with.”

To which Jeremy promptly replied, “Well you seem to forget that I have two perfectly good arms to carry them places.”

Then I posted it on Facebook. My friends promptly sided with Jeremy. Thanks friends (and I honestly mean that).

How to make my block list…

… aka why school based sexual education for children is so important.

These comments happened in the middle of a discussion about Ontario’s new sexual education curriculum, during which poster #1 and #2 argued they could teach their children just fine at home, thanks. They’d have no problems teaching their children about “the birds and the bees” and could handle their questions without any outside assistance.

Meanwhile I, as usual, referred to Jeremy as my teen and used zie/zir pronouns…

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Then came a specific question about what you would say if your eight year old child asked a pointed question like “what’s a blow job?”

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Because answering questions honestly is “abuse”

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Conventional families… what are those again?

I pointed out that she’d have a great deal of difficulty teaching her children about the LGBTQ community considering the ignorance she’d shown regarding trans issues.

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transphobic4Between these posts were ones where Poster #1 claimed Jeremy would always be a male because of genitals, continually and intentionally misgendered zir repeatedly, and flat out stated she did not want her children to learn anything at all about the LGBTQ community. To make it more interesting, before I blocked her, she admitted she’d never even met Jeremy.

I commented in the thread that she was the perfect example for why mandatory school sexual education was needed and I stand by that statement. Luckily, and even more weirdly, it turns out that her children are nowhere near elementary school age. I figured she had preteens considering her 8 to 12 year old comment but her children are university age. Hopefully they’ve grown up to be less ignorant than their mother.

Ignorance is not a family value

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.

Fear…

“Mom? I can’t do it. Please don’t make me go to school tomorrow.”

Jeremy looked up at me from zir bed, where zie lay cocooned in blankets; eyes wide and body tense. I sighed.

“How about you go tomorrow and miss Thursday,” I suggested. Thursday was the provincial literacy testing day and most of the school would be absent. “You’ll be fine. I know you can do it.”

Zie nodded slightly but zir expression wasn’t very hopeful. I wasn’t hopeful either although I tried not to show it. Instead I kissed zir goodnight and headed off to bed.

This morning I got myself ready then went to wake Jeremy up… then woke zir up again (and again). I could see actual consciousness the third time around and with it came zir anxiety.

“Mom. I can’t go to school today. I’m so dizzy. I don’t think I can stand up. Can you please call the school and tell them I won’t be there?” Jeremy’s voice was shaking by the end.

I patted zir shoulder and promised I would call. Then I promised myself I’d call our family doctor and make Jeremy an appointment. And I did. For the 23rd of April… the earliest appointment available. His receptionist did put Jeremy on the list for cancellations.

Every single week I have friends share pictures of yet another transgender teen who’s committed suicide. The latest was a young man who was popular, well supported, crowned home-coming king, and a known activist. Several people commented on how he’d spoken to and encouraged their own children. He’d been an amazing kid, a real inspiration.

I listened to Jeremy play zir video game while watching the latest episode of The Young Turks. Two weeks ago we were walking home and Jeremy commented that if zie died, all zie’d be remembered for was playing video games and being trans. I assured zir that if I’d died at 17 years old, I’d only be remembered as that quiet girl who reads a lot of books; that zie has years to grow into talents and memories. I read through the article and wished I had a pair of handcuffs so I could clip Jeremy to me and keep zir safe. Jeremy couldn’t kill zirself if I was right there 24/7.

But that’s not living (not to mention using the washroom and showering would be beyond awkward). And so I head off to work knowing that Jeremy’s going to be home alone. Reminding zir to take out the recycling while I’m away… and hoping zie at least remembers to eat and change out of zir pyjamas.

I panic every time I call home after work and zie doesn’t answer. I know full well Jeremy loves to crank zir music and will call back as soon as zie sees the “missed call” light flashing but there’s always that cold shiver pushing out from the pit of my stomach… inching up my spine to tap relentlessly against my brain. And it doesn’t stop until Jeremy’s Doctor Who ringtone plays.

Tonight Jeremy’s at zir UU Youth Group, happily eating nachos and discussing censorship with like minded peers. Tomorrow night we’ll be at PFLAG where zie’ll be eating pizza and chatting with other trans teens. And in between I’ll be at work and zie’ll be alone. And I’ll take another deep breath and hope to hear from zir on the way home.

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