It’s finally spring…

There’s so much to post about. Some good… some bad… and they’re all tangled together. I find that life is like spring. Some days are grey, cold, and absolutely horrid. The wind throws water, almost too cold to be considered rain, into my face and hiding under the covers seems like a viable alternative. While other days are so amazingly perfect I want to hold them against my heart forever.

I’ve taken some baby steps in the past few days. Filing my income tax, making a doctor’s appointment for Jeremy and dentist appointments for both of us, and we had an appointment to get zir onto long term disability now that zie’s aging out of children’s programs. I don’t mention zir autism much on this blog but it is a big part of our every day life.

Jeremy’s still struggling at school and missing more days than zie attends. The GSA was one of the few safe places for zir at school except the teacher who runs the program found zir too talkative and has asked that zie only attends with zir EAs, the same ones who argued that zir gender was a personal choice. I was going to argue with the school except zir counsellor has signed zir up for a small teen trans group which should start soon. Besides, zir teachers are likely going to be on strike in two more days. Jeremy’s hoping they’ll strike forever.

Spring has truly started here. The grass was completely brown last week and now it’s almost completely green, while fat buds sit on branches… seemingly seconds away from popping. Jeremy and I went for a walk in our local green space a few days ago. The trail was beyond damp…

April puddles

I’m thinking we’d have needed hip waders for the valley portion of the walk. We ended our walk a bit early, when the trail began to look more like a lake, and we were still in the highest parts of the park. Despite the sogginess it was so nice to spend some outdoors time with Jeremy. Bonus is the weather’s amazing again today and we have a Scentsy party to attend this afternoon plus the party is right beside a gorgeous walking trail! I bought some scented wax a couple of months ago and Jeremy promptly stole all of my Dulce de Leche wax for zirself. I told Jeremy zie could pick some for zirself today.

We’re going to a barbecue at my parents’ house tomorrow. Karen and her kids have been on vacation for a month so it’ll be a mini reunion. My Mom called to chat and invited us a few days ago then she brought up Jeremy’s pronouns. She explained that she feels bad but just can’t bring herself to use them, maybe she’s too old. We had a long and very positive conversation in which she mentioned Jeremy never seemed to notice that she always uses he and him. I explained that zie’d talked to me about the pronouns before and explained that zie knows she loves zir and was trying the best she could. The conversation ended with her trying out zir pronouns. I got off the phone and gave Jeremy a high five. Zie was thrilled! I don’t know if she’ll ever use the pronouns in general conversation but I’m proud of her anyways.

The person filling out Jeremy’s intake paperwork for disability had a long list of questions to read. One of the questions had to do with home and if there were any concerns about the youth facing a lack of support and needing to leave. The worker shook his head and stopped reading the question while saying, “Nope. No concerns there.”

And now it’s time to wake Jeremy up and head out into the sunshine. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

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School trepidation…

Gatineau*

The first time I heard that name was with Emma. She’d been dealing with several issues; bullying, anxiety, and an overwhelming conviction that she’d made her Dad disappear and he was never coming back. I asked the school’s social worker for help and was assured that Emma and I talked well so we didn’t need any outside help. This was flattering but not useful. I requested an assessment from the school psychologist and asked for more help. Gatineau was recommended and an assessment was scheduled immediately.

A stern looking older man met us outside their interview room. Emma immediately froze. He stared at her then barked, “She’s obviously depressed.”

“She’s very shy,” I replied as we edged past him into the room. “She’s always been scared of men. Besides, she was laughing and joking around just a minute ago.”

I looked back to see him glaring at me. “I’m the psychiatrist and I know depression when I see it. She’s depressed.”

His tone said he felt that was clearly the end of the discussion. I figured it wasn’t worth starting off with an argument, not when I was there to get Emma help so shut my mouth.

The room was filled with a huge circle of chairs and a fish tank, which looked oddly out of place. We all sat near the door, the fishes swam alone on the other side of a vast expanse of chairs. There was a man who sat across from us with a pad and pen, obviously ready to take notes. He didn’t make Emma any more comfortable although, to be fair, she could hardly get any less comfortable.

Then I thought of something else. “Before we begin, I should let you know I’m having Emma tested for Aspergers.”

The psychiatrist looked over at Emma then shook his head. “She definitely does not have that,” he replied haughtily.

I began to wonder if it was possible to pull a doctorate of psychiatry out of a cereal box. The psychologist had me fill out checklists that started almost from conception and sat with Emma for hours. Meanwhile this doctor had diagnosed her in under two minutes without speaking to either of us or even attaining eye contact with her.

The doctor settled on play therapy for Emma along with a parenting group for me. I wanted Emma to get social skills help and was assured that would come as long as I joined their parenting group. I agreed and we were placed into art and group therapy at the same time. The only caveat was I needed to miss the first three sessions as my parents were away and I needed them to watch Jeremy. I was assured that was fine.

I knew immediately the group was a poor fit. Emma was prone to slamming her bedroom door while yelling, “I hate you! You’re mean!” Meanwhile the rest of the group were dealing with youths who set fire to the living room, robbed stores, and smashed furniture.

The weeks went on. Emma enjoyed her therapy, coming home regularly with crafts, while I listened to the other parents and offered any support I could. One day our group mediator was late and conversation immediately moved to the psychiatrist.

No one in the group liked him. They disliked his attitude and distrusted his diagnoses. I commented that Emma was diagnosed with Aspergers** but hadn’t got any of the social skills help I’d been promised. The mediator stepped into the room to tell me I was wrong, their psychiatrist had ruled out that diagnosis, and my diagnosis couldn’t count because Aspergers was only diagnosed by a psychiatrist. I pointed out that he made that diagnosis in less than two minutes, without speaking to Emma; meanwhile the psychologist spent hours with her. He retaliated, saying their art therapist had also spent hours talking to Emma and agreed with the psychiatrist. I pointed out that their art therapist wasn’t a psychiatrist either, so if I couldn’t go by a psychologist’s thorough assessment, he couldn’t use six hours of art therapy for a diagnosis either. But she was well respected and spent many hours with children… and so was the psychologist. The mediator told me they’d never agreed to any further help for Emma and certainly not with social skills; they didn’t even offer it.

Didn’t even offer it. What the hell was I doing there then? I sat through the rest of the session feeling numb then talked to Emma about her sessions. I’d thought the therapist was letting Emma discuss her feelings about her father and school. Instead she’d been spending therapy listening to why her art therapist felt she didn’t have Aspergers. I pulled us out of Gatineau.

I got a withdrawal letter a month later, claiming I’d missed almost half the group sessions and had been a reluctant participant. I looked at the dates and realized he’d not only counted the initial classes but a full month of sessions after we’d left. I vowed I’d never go back to the agency.

And then came the chance for a new class for Jeremy. A smaller class setting, an LGBTQ friendly school, a program that offered a chance to earn school credits, and it was brand new and barely had any students. Jeremy could get in almost immediately. But the class was run by Gatineau.

Yeah.

I stammered that I’d been there a few years ago and had not been impressed with the service, only to be reassured that they had almost all new staff and no longer had that psychiatrist.

We had our intake assessment. The new psychiatrist was cheerful and engaging, while Jeremy was in amazing spirits and responded quite animatedly. I was told a second appointment would be set up “next week” between us, Gatineau, and someone from Jeremy’s school; probably zir teacher.

There was a message from Gatineau today, wanting to arrange Jeremy’s counselling sessions. I called them back and was told they could only offer an appointment mid-day, which means Jeremy is going to miss a full day of school every week on top of what zie’s already missing due to anxiety. Then I asked about the class.

“Oh, umm, yes. Well, that class is full right now so Jeremy’s been placed on a waiting list. We’ll let you know when he gets to the top.”

“I’ll have to call [school board member] and try to get Jeremy into a different class then. Zie needs to get out of zir current class immediately.”

“Oh! Oh!!!” She sounded shocked and a bit worried. “I’ll have to talk to J and see what she says. I’ll let you know next week where Jeremy is on the list and if we know how long it will take for him to get to the top.”

So yet more waiting. Waiting for Gatineau and waiting for the school board member to call me back.

There’s a meeting on Thursday between the school board and PFLAG to address how the board can improve how they work with LGBTQ families. I figure we’ll have quite a lot to discuss.

* Gatineau is not the real name of the agency
** Emma was diagnosed with Aspergers through the school board. However it is not a diagnosis she agrees with and she’s subsequently been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and depression. I’ve also since discovered that Aspergers and anxiety have a lot of similar symptoms.

Jeremy’s counselling appointment…

I dragged Emma to Jeremy’s counselling appointment yesterday, promising we just needed to sign him in then I’d take her to Tim Hortons for a treat and some one on one conversation. What I forgot was I’d requested a group chat at the beginning of his session.

Jeremy had his dentist appointment right before his last session and hadn’t been able to tell me if his teeth hurt or not. This was on top of not being able to tell me what clothes he wanted or if he liked his hair cut. His counselor suggested I come in for a bit at the next session to discuss my concerns.

Once again her main suggestion was that it might have something to do with autism. Otherwise all she could come up with was that maybe I do too much for him considering I’m the one who calls in his appointments from the waiting room. I’d called in because he doesn’t like the phone but told him he could be the one to dial next time. He shrugged and said he didn’t care either way.

I figured Jeremy might need someone to talk to while Amy’s down for her visit so let his counselor know, commenting that Amy had made some fairly transphobic comments on my Facebook page which had bothered Jeremy. He nodded in agreement while the counselor stared at both of us with total bewilderment.

“Why would this bother Jeremy? Is Amy transgender?”

Meanwhile I looked back with equal bewilderment. If Amy was trans, why would she be making transphobic comments on my page?

“No, she’s not,” I replied then looked at Jeremy and asked, “Can I tell her?” He nodded. “Jeremy identifies as gender nonconforming.”

The counselor’s bewilderment increased. “I don’t know what that means,” she replied. “I’ve never heard of it.”

I thought about her comment about me doing too much for Jeremy then turned and looked at him expectantly. “You explain,” I urged and then waited nervously. Part of Jeremy’s learning disabilities include processing issues. He understands a lot more than he can say and being nervous makes his ability to explain even worse. But he also needs to be able to explain for himself.

“It means I don’t exactly fit in as male or female,” he explained. “Right now I feel mostly male with a little female.”

“But you know you’re a boy right?” she asked. “You look like a boy and you know you are one. Right?”

I cringed. She might as well have picked up a sheet titled “What not to Say” and read off it.

“Well, yeah…” Jeremy said hesitantly. “Mostly…”

“I mean you’re happy with your body right?” she continued with a vague downward moving hand gesture.

“I haven’t noticed any real signs of gender dysphoria,” I interrupted. Her gaze sharpened and she looked excited.

“Ooo, you know all the lingo,” she blurted. “You didn’t do all that research just for Jeremy did you?”

The last part was incredulous. What on earth was I supposed to say? I tried not to look over at Jeremy, who probably already felt uncomfortable.

“Well, my best friend identifies as trans,” I replied. Which wasn’t why I’d done most of my reading but that wasn’t any of the counselor’s business.

She looked even more excited. “You sound very knowledgeable. So what does queer mean and why do people use it? I thought it was a slur but someone told me it’s the Q in LGBTQ.”

Oh good grief.

I took a quick peek at the clock. I’d promised Emma I’d only be a minute and we’d already been at least fifteen. And how the hell do I get into conversations like this anyways?

“Umm… it’s kind of an umbrella term people use to describe themselves if they don’t identify as straight or strictly male or female.” I wasn’t going to bring up cisgender, not if I wanted to get back into the waiting room any time soon. “People use it in order to reclaim the word but it’s a word they use to self-identify with, not one you call someone.”

I quickly changed the subject to Jeremy’s school before she could ask me any more questions, then cringed once again when I saw the clock. Poor Emma. A half hour sitting alone in a waiting room filled with grumpy adults and three year old Chatelaine magazines is not how any teen wants to spend time, especially not on a sunny, summer’s afternoon. By the time we walked upstairs and bought our food, we had five minutes alone before Jeremy came out to meet us.

Jeremy adores his counselor and other professionals speek well of her so I figure she’s not usually this tactless. I’m guessing, however, she won’t be much help with sorting out his gender identity.