Gender questions…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well not really but I do have almost all of my presents bought, including the ones for Colin. They’re tucked away in my dresser drawer and in the closet, just waiting to be sorted a bit more and eventually wrapped.

Yesterday Colin came up to me and asked, “Mom? Did you buy me a feminine present?”

His voice hovered halfway between longing and worry, as if he wasn’t quite sure which he wanted.

“No, I didn’t,” I replied then watched as disappointment spread across his face. “The presents I bought you are gender neutral.”

That brought out a wide grin. Neutral is safe. Neutral means no disappointment for traditionally male presents and no reminder that he isn’t transitioning to female.

Then came today. I had my group this morning then I walked halfway home on a local trail. By the time I got home I was starving and Colin wasn’t there. He called me from the gym and asked me to meet him at the front door. He also wanted me to guess what he fixed in our apartment.

I had no clue what he’d fixed and no idea even where to start, so I just guessed weird things.

“You fixed your messy habits”

He snorted. “Have you seen my room?” he asked.

“You’ve fixed your gender,” I continued.

That one got a chuckle. “I’m in the male gym so that should answer your question,” he replied.

Anyone, except for the trolls, will realize that if being in the male gym meant he wasn’t fixed, he’d only be fixed if he was in the female gym and therefore female.

The thing he’d ended up fixing was our sticky door latch, which is great. I also would have never guessed it. But the rest just makes me sigh. I know he’s female (because he’s told me multiple times). He knows he’s female. He admits it and still keeps putting up road blocks for transition.

I wish he could be happy in his own skin, whether that involves transitioning or not. It’s like watching someone hit their foot with a hammer and complain it hurts. Then don’t do it! But they keep on going. Colin talks about transitioning, talks about gender dysphoria, but he just won’t transition even though it keeps on hurting. Hopefully someday he’ll let himself be Emma again. Hopefully it’ll be soon.

Kathleen and Colin2

Kathleen and Colin on an autumn walk

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The great pretender…

We were walking into our apartment and Colin, as usual, was chattering away about misogyny and misandry. I was paying more attention to getting our wagon of groceries past the front hall table than what he was saying, mainly because this is a regular topic on his part and I’ve pretty much heard everything. Plus it’s tricky getting the wagon around the table. Then, suddenly, he announced “and it goes double for my gender”.

“Which gender?” I asked since it wasn’t obvious by the conversation. “Male or female?”

“Male!” he yelled. “I’ve already told you this so many times!”

“And you’ve told me you’re female so many times before too,” I replied.

And, with that, he quieted down. “I can’t say that I’m female anymore,” he replied sadly. “It hurts me too much. I need to pretend to be male.”

I have so many emotions about this. Part of it’s sadness because he obviously wants to transition almost as much as he wants kids. Part of it’s anger because he’s been told, repeatedly, by fellow trans people that he can stop hormones for a few months and get his sperm back for conception.

I’m angry at the medical profession for being, once again, so far behind trans people on medical knowledge. They should be researching this information and, as far as I can tell, they aren’t.

I’m angry at Colin because he’s putting a non-existent child ahead of his own wellbeing. Maybe, someday, there’ll be a child but conception’s going to be damn tricky when he’s living in his bedroom 99% of the time. No one’s going to jump out of YouTube and invite him on a date.

And I’m sad because he’s so obviously not happy and not doing well mentally but keeps plugging away on the same route, getting more and more unhappy. But he’s a grown adult now and has to make his own decisions. Hopefully one day soon he’ll decide to put his own wellbeing first. Hopefully someday it’ll be his time to shine.

born to be awesome

 

The pause…

I don’t know why I’m surprised each time it happens, but I am. I’ll be in a conversation with a stranger, like a cashier, and then it comes. The pause.

“… and is your… son vegan too?” the cashier asks as she scans my vegan margarine and packages of Gardein vegan “meat”, giving Colin a not so subtle second glance.

Colin smiling on his balconyThe pause is *just* long enough to be noticeable and happens often enough that I know it’s happening. And I can’t for the life of me figure out why. Colin’s been through puberty and now wears all his clothes from the mens section of clothing stores. He’s also horrible at shaving and usually has a tad more than a 5 o’clock shadow. I know he has long hair but so many men do these days, it shouldn’t warrant confusion. And, yet, people (multiple people) still pause and give him a second glance before choosing his pronoun. Some even start out referring to him as female, only to revert to male pronouns with no little amount of embarrassment.

These days everyone we know has settled back to Colin and him, as if he never was Emma and her. As if it’s not even been half a year since he detransitioned for fertility reasons. Everyone except for his doctor’s office, who he never informed otherwise. Maybe he just forgot? Maybe he gets some relief from hearing someone calling him by his real name? I don’t know. I haven’t asked.

Meanwhile, we’ll still continue to go out for walks and shopping and Colin will continue to get “the pause”.

My Invisible Daughter…

Colin on a spring walkThe picture showed up on my newsfeed via the “on this day” app. Colin was smiling for the camera in his usual fashion.

“You don’t show your teeth when you smile!” he exclaimed once when I commented on his shy, almost hesitant smile.

His bright blue hair was lightened by the sun and his clothes were almost blinding. Then I glanced over at today’s Colin, who was sitting on my bed and asked, “Do you miss your old bright clothes?”

“Well, yeah,” he admitted then we both fell silent. I don’t go into Superstore’s men’s department at all, which is where we bought the tops and pants, but I haven’t seen anyone wear anything similar recently. Meanwhile, all of Colin’s current clothes are various shades of grey, as if he wants to fade into the background.

I thought about my bubbly, outgoing teenager who stood up and stood out. Who was proudly out as trans, asking teachers and classmates to use his pronouns. Then I thought of all the people who refused because zie and zir were “too weird” and “too hard to remember”. The teachers who used he and him repeatedly in class, only to lie and say they used the right pronouns all the time. Pro tip, if you’re using the right pronouns “all the time” you won’t slip up 9 times out of 10 at a parent teacher conference.

I thought of all the people, especially older men, who blatantly stared at him, often turning in place to continue watching. Colin claimed he never saw them but they were so very obvious.

walking Lara at Cedar ValleyI remembered how shyly Colin came out as female and how relieved he was when I believed him. How we laughed and joked on that snowy trail, thinking up names for her and coming up with the most outrageous ones we could think of.

We sat on the news for a couple of weeks until Colin felt comfortable sharing the information. Then he got me to share the big news. He was scared of what people would say. So I explained he was now Emma and would be using she/her pronouns. My friends were awesome and immediately switched pronouns and name. My family was very supportive of him, continuing right on using Colin, he, and him. Every foray into feminine clothes brought about extreme anxiety for Colin. What were people going to say? What would they do? Would he get beaten up? Is this what would get him disowned.

Then summer rolled around and brought along Colin’s birthday, complete with a long, nasty post from his Dad that started with, “happy birthday son love you colin”. The whole fiasco ended up with Colin getting disowned by his Dad. Kait’s since been disowned and neither one of them speak to their father any more. No matter how much they know they’re better off not speaking to him, it’s bound to hurt.

Then it came time to try and start on hormones. Our family doctor was not optimistic. He admitted he had no real experience with hormones and said that one of his patients gave up and detransitioned because hormones were taking too long. Then he went on to make several questionable comments, all prefaced with “I’m not prejudiced but” and finally he explained the wait for hormone therapy would take years plus many bus trips into Toronto. Bus trips we couldn’t afford.

I searched and asked for help and finally got the number of a local clinic that does hormone therapy. Once again Colin (then Emma) was so happy. Soon she could be herself. The doctor informed Colin that he’d be rendered infertile as soon as he started hormone therapy and anyone I’d talked to who knew otherwise was anecdotal. We couldn’t afford a sperm bank.

And that was the final straw. Colin asked to go back to Colin again. Asked for me to use he and him. If he couldn’t have a baby while female, he wasn’t going to transition.

So now I have an invisible daughter. I know she’s there. I catch a glimpse of her sometimes in the way Colin fluffs back his hair. In the shape of a smile. But no one else sees her.

“Do you miss being female?” I asked and was surprised when Colin shook his head no. I thought for a moment.

“Do you still feel female?” I asked.

“Of course,” Colin replied instantly. “I just can’t be female because I want kids.”

“You’re going to need to tell your girlfriend you’re a woman,” I pointed out. It was Colin’s turn to look surprised.

“Why?” he asked.

“Aren’t you going to transition after having kids?”

“Well no,” he replied. “By the time I have kids it would be harder… well, anyways, I’m ugly enough already as it is.”

He left the room and my heart broke.

Changing the shape of your skin…

There are so many things I didn’t know before Colin came out as trans.

It hadn’t dawned on me that trans people would need to take hormones, although it obviously makes sense. I didn’t realize how strong testosterone was, that women need to take blockers to stop their testosterone while taking estrogen, when men only need to take testosterone. I didn’t realize the struggle many have with family and friends, a struggle to be accepted for who they are. And I didn’t realize how much people go through so that the shape of their body matches, as much as possible, the gender of their mind.

I belong to a group for trans people and their allies and recently one woman announced she’s dealing with kidney problems, memory loss, and dizziness… all from her hormone blocker┬áspironolactone. When Colin told his doctor he wasn’t going to transition, his doctor responded that he was glad Colin wasn’t going to do “irreparable damage” to his body. I’m reasonably sure the doctor was referring to growing breasts and hips, which would be bringing his body more in line with his gender, but the possible damage caused by┬áspironolactone is definitely irreversible and far more terrifying.

At this point Colin doesn’t want to ever transition. He wants children first and he figures by the time he has kids, he’ll be too old for estrogen to help bring out the woman in him. I’ve assured him that’s not the case, that I’ve seen before and after pictures multiple times of someone who looks like the manliest man and after hormones looks like the woman she is. Delaying transitioning isn’t necessarily a forever thing. But he’s young enough that even thirty seems like forever away and forty is impossible to comprehend. He’s got his school and computers and video games to keep him occupied for now.

Even though Colin’s not transitioning now (if ever), my first thought when I read the post was him. I think that’s true of all parents to think of their children, however old, when they hear of danger. I know there are other weaker blockers available now that can be used instead. Hopefully there’ll be more choices in the future.

Detransitioning…

“Mom?”

“Yes,” I said.

I stopped walking and stood in front of Colin’s bedroom door. He was sitting at his computer desk, his video game paused behind him; one of his car games that make me dizzy when he asks me to watch.

“I don’t want you to call me Emma anymore. I want you to call me Colin from now on.”

“Are you still female?” I asked and he nodded.

“Okay,” I replied and, with that, he swung back to his game and I continued on to the kitchen.

We’ve been living in limbo since mid December, with Colin announcing every few days that he’s probably going to detransition and go back to male because he wants children… but he might stay female so keep calling him Emma. I’ve let him know that there are women who stopped their hormones and began producing sperm again. One couple I heard of ended up with twins. But there aren’t enough cases and no studies we could find. And his doctor told him he’d become infertile. That, to him, meant more than a handful of internet stories.

All I’ve ever wanted for my children is for them to be happy, not just in general but as themselves. Going back to male isn’t being himself. But it’s his life to live and his time to stretch out and make decisions. This isn’t my decision to make.

So I changed my “about” page again and got his permission to change his name on Facebook. This was more for me than him because I’m the one who tags him in funny posts, knowing he won’t see them otherwise. But it also sends a message to family and friends on what to call him.

I don’t know how long he’ll stay pretending to be male. He says he wants kids first but he’s not dating and, right now his focus is on school. He could change his mind in months if the dysphoria becomes worse. It could be years. But some day, he’ll come to me for support and I’ll have to relearn calling him Emma. No matter what, I love him either way.

Emma's new kitty ear headphones

I’ve shared it before but it’s one of my favourite pictures of him and worth sharing again ­čÖé

Detransitioning…

“I borrowed one of your shirts,” I called as Emma untied her shoes in the front hall.

She walked into the living room and looked at me, “You can keep it,” she said, “It looks good on you. Besides I won’t be needing it.”

“So you’ve decided? You’re not transitioning?” I asked.

“I can’t,” she replied. “I want to be a parent so badly.”

I’d already talked to her about adoption and using a sperm donor. She’d vetoed both, wanting a baby that came from her.

I said the first thing that came to mind. “It’s a good thing I didn’t buy an Emma name card for your bedroom door.”

“Oh yeah,” she breathed. “I would have cried.”

“Are you changing because you really are male?” I had to ask.

She shook her head, “No. I’m female.”

I don’t know what to do now. She figures she won’t need to tell the family because they don’t use her name and pronouns anyway. I think they could use a head’s up. But then there’s Facebook and her doctor’s office and, well, me. I changed pronouns quickly when she started out with zie and moved to they. I even switched quickly when she went back to he for half a year. But switching back to male everything when I know she’s a woman? That’s harder. A lot harder.

So, from now on I’ll be doing my best to refer to Emma as Colin and using the pronouns he and him. And maybe someday I’ll be able to say Emma again.