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.

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Mental health isn’t just one day…

Every year, in Canada, Bell Canada has a “Let’s Talk” event. It runs for one day at the end of January and is supposed to stimulate conversation about mental illness. Which is great but mental illness doesn’t exist for just one day.

I had a rough day with Colin but it didn’t start today, it started back in August when he came home from his psychiatrist and informed me Dr. A was going to be away for a while. My first thought was summer vacation. It was the right time of year to go.

School and family and appointments went on until one day, I said to Colin, “You haven’t seen your doctor in a while… like a really long time.  Did you make an appointment with him?”. Colin reminded me that he hadn’t made an appointment because his doctor was going away. I remembered that conversation from months earlier. Surely he had to be back by now.

That was when we got a message from the pharmacy saying that Colin’s prescription had expired a while earlier and the doctor was not responding to their faxes or returning their calls. They could no longer extend his prescription and it was ending the following week.

I had a psychiatrist’s appointment that week and Colin’s grandmother was dying in the same hospital so Colin left school a little early on the day of my appointment and came up to meet me. The receptionist informed us that his doctor was on leave and Colin should have received a letter in the summer with his temporary psychiatrist’s name and a request to make an appointment. He didn’t get a letter. There was nothing they could do other than schedule an appointment now but the earliest date available was the end of March. This was the middle of January. We made the appointment. What else could we do? It turned out we could go down to the ER and speak to the on duty psychiatrist.

Colin visited his grandmother, while I politely waited in the hall, then we went down to the ER to wait for the psychiatrist. Well he did. I was struggling with anxiety and went home. He came home quite proud of himself after talking to the doctor and we both breathed a sigh of relief that the prescription had been filled. At least until two weeks later when his blister pack of medication didn’t arrive. We were informed then that the ER doctor only prescribes enough medication for one week. That was when Colin said he wasn’t taking his medication anymore. It didn’t make a difference and he wasn’t going to sit in the ER every single week. I knew it would make a difference but had to admit I wouldn’t want to sit there each week too. And it wasn’t like I could force him to go.

Sometimes it’s not just one thing but a bunch of little things that cause mental health issues. Colin was stable on his medication until those little things piled up and toppled him off. And, to be honest, he wasn’t very compliant with his medication to begin with, something people struggling with bipolar disorder are notorious for. I quickly took over his blister pack, doling them out three times a day, until the pills ran out. Because if I left it to him he’d “forget” two out of every three pills. And we bumbled along until, thanks to a bunch of things, the pills ran out. Then, over a week or two the meds slowly left his body.

For me, today started at 3am when Colin woke up and turned on his videos in the living room. I think he was in the living room, I didn’t even open my eyes, let alone get up. “Emma?” I called. “Can you please turn that down or put on headphones?”

Medicated Colin would have complied. Medicated Colin would have turned down the video or stayed in his room with headphones on because 3am is fricking early. Not unmedicated Colin.

“No! The video isn’t on that loud and I’m working on several different computers so I can’t wear headphones. You just need to learn how to tune things out.”

“Em-”

“Tune it out Mom!”

I ended up drifting back into an uneasy sleep, never knowing when I was going to get woken up again. At one point Colin frantically asked how far our furniture had to be away from the patio doors as our building is having all with windows and patio doors replaced.

“Umm, three feet,” I replied sleepily. “But they’re on-”

“Okay,” he interrupted.

“Emma,” I continued. “They’re on penthouse right now and they’re only doing three or four apartments a week. It’s going to be spring before they get to us.”

“But we only have 24 hours,” he told me earnestly. Sure enough, I got up to find all our furniture moved away from the windows. We can’t use half our table but the windows are clear.

Then came school. He’s started a program at our local college, which isn’t far from us, maybe 5 minutes by bus. He decided not to buy a bus pass this month, instead he’s going to walk or bike. A laudable choice but it’s February. One thing we can count on is snow and slush. I figured it would take him about an hour to walk, giving him time to wade through unshovelled snow and slush.

He wanted to get to school about a half hour early today, which is fine, but he didn’t start getting ready until after 9am for a 10am start. I’m honestly not sure what he was panicking about as much of it was aimed at himself and a bit indistinct due to yelling. He needed a water bottle, maybe a plastic disposable bottle or maybe a reusable one. I told him where we keep our refillable bottles but there wasn’t one. Chances are they’re all in his room somewhere but that didn’t stop the complaints.

He left then came back for something then left again then finally came back. I began to wonder if the door was revolving.

“The sidewalks are wet and slippery,” he yelled. This wasn’t news to me. I’d told him that when he suggested biking in the first place. I thought he was going to walk.

“I need your bus pass,” he continued as he rummaged through my coat.

Then came more yelling. I was horrible and mean for not getting up to help him. It was my fault he was going to be late for school because I didn’t help him get ready. I pointed out it was his school and his responsibility. He stormed out only to call me at 9:59am.

“I’m going to be late for school and it’s your fault,” he informed me. “I’m taking my computer monitor back. I only lent it to you.”

I pointed out that he built me a computer with a monitor but it was pointless to argue. He wasn’t in a position to listen. And besides, there’s no telling what mood he’ll be in when he gets home. He could be angry, exhausted, euphoric, or just simply happy about school. What I do know is the anger will come back and keep coming back until he’s on his medication again. Uncontrolled anger is a symptom of bipolar, along with the swinging moods. It’s a rage that breaks through giddy happiness and blends in with unchecked depression.

“You don’t care,” he’ll sullenly inform me. “You only care about your book.” Or my blog, or Facebook, or whatever I happen to be doing at the time. “I could kill myself and you wouldn’t even notice!”

The only difference between the two rages is his up rage is more vocal and direct while his down rage is more quiet and manipulative. But either way it’s there.

People joke about being crazy  like it’s fun. Sharing memes about driving the crazy bus and being close enough to walk. About using the fine line between creative and crazy as a skipping rope. But it’s not fun.

Crazy is screaming at 3am because the rage is bubbling in your soul and has nowhere else to go. It’s being so happy you’re floating above the world and can see eternity… until you come crashing down. It’s lying in bed unable to get up because it’s pointless. Every single day is exactly the same and nothing will change. You will live and die in ennui until the end of eternity or until you get the guts built up to jump and end it all. But you don’t have the energy for that either. It’s the little voices that whisper and pick. You’re stupid and worthless. You don’t matter. When people say they like you they’re lying. You’re a horrible friend. It doesn’t matter if they’re in your voice or in voices of their own… they sit on your shoulder and jabber away. Crazy is not fun.

This year’s “Let’s Talk” is done. The Facebook messages and posts are over for another year. And many people will settle back down in their lives and not give mental illness much thought until the blue splashed messages appear again.

Let’s talk. Let’s talk real. Let’s talk ugly. Let’s talk scared. And, most of all, let’s listen. We’ll be here waiting.

hope says try

There may be some confusion…

Colin’s decision to postpone his transition has caused some confusion for both of us. What do I call him? Colin or Emma? I mean he’s still technically female so Emma fits but he’s also fine with Colin. He wants to be called Colin in public, except at his doctor’s office where he’s Emma. And he’s still wearing female tops.

So I’ve ended up with a mish mash of Colin and Emma, she and he whenever I talk to or about him. This seems to suit him just fine.

Christmas is coming, along with an assortment of presents. I asked Colin what he wanted on the labels.

“I don’t care,” he replied. “Colin or Emma are both okay.”

The presents are staying at home so I wrote Emma on the tags. And I’ll write Emma on his last remaining present, a pair of kitty cat ear headphones he breathlessly showed me and said, “I need these!”

Yesterday he went out and bought my stocking stuffers and a present. He had a budget of $20 and spent $70. Apparently we need to discuss restraint. My stocking stuffers are hanging out in a bundle buggy because they’re too big to fit in a reusable bag. I don’t know how he’s expecting them to go into a stocking if they can’t fit a bag and I’m curious as to what he actually got (although not curious enough to peek).

I came into the living room this morning and discovered my wrapped present with To: Mom written in the thickest black marker he could fine, I mean that marker’s bigger than jumbo. Then I looked down, wondering what name he’d pick for himself.

Emma's present to me

Apparently he’s just as confused as I am because it says From: Child

We’ll sort things out eventually and, until then he’ll live ambiguously. As long as he’s happy that’s all that really matters.

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.

On mistakes and taking advantage…

waterfall squareEmma and I went to Toronto on Saturday to spend the afternoon poking around hidden gardens and have dinner at The Old Spaghetti Factory. We had a great time and found a few lovely man made waterfalls.

One thing I also did was help a few homeless people out. Just simple things like buying flip flops for a man with no shoes, giving change to a pregnant woman, and giving half a sub to an elderly man rummaging through the trash. Nothing we couldn’t afford.

I talk a lot about Emma on the blog but I don’t often mention one simple fact. She’s autistic and emotionally delayed. So you can imagine my concern when she didn’t show up at 3:15pm from her school. My concern worsened when she wasn’t home at 3:45pm. I was just about to call her when the phone rang.

“I thought he was homeless,” she wailed from the other side of the line.

“Who?” I asked in bewilderment then got a disjointed answer in reply. I finally pieced it together. Someone on the street had a sign asking for help cashing a cheque so they could get a bus ticket home. The cheque was for $800 and he was going to leave $20 in the account for Emma for being so nice gullible.

Luckily Emma has limits on her account and could only take out one hundred dollars. That didn’t stop the guy from snagging it as he was removed by security… two minutes too late. And, double luckily, the bank is only charging her $7.50 for a bounced cheque. We can live with that.

It makes me wonder how someone can take advantage of someone who’s obviously special needs. All Emma needed to do was speak for the man to realize she wasn’t average. Plus she’d have needed help to use the bank machine. I don’t understand people can take advantage like that and, honestly, while I wonder, I don’t think I want to understand.

We had a long talk about only sharing what you can afford. We can afford $4 flip flops, we can’t afford eight hundred dollars. And I explained that cheques aren’t safe, that people can write anything on them and it takes days before that’s discovered.

“But why do banks let this happen?” she said shocked. I had no good answer.

Emma’s doing fine now, happily chattering to herself (and the cats) about computers. Now it’s my turn to shuffle around the budget… and to be glad it’s only one hundred dollars and not the whole eight.

My heart is heavy…

So far today I’ve had one friend say that, as a white woman, Heather Heyer’s death was the least she could do for the cause and another friend freely admit she has no sympathy a man who got mistaken for a Nazi and stabbed in the hand. After all, if men did more before, we wouldn’t be facing Nazi’s now.

I look at Heather Heyer and see someone who was similar to many of my friends. Passionate about her causes and devoted to beliefs, she had strong values and was considered a sweet and kind soul. Dying wasn’t the least she could do, it was the most. She gave up her life. You can’t do anything more after you’re dead.

I don’t know anything about the man who got stabbed. He could be on the verge of being nominated for sainthood or the closest thing to a Nazi. Chances are he’s somewhere in between. The part that matters is his innocence. Someone screwed up and stabbed the wrong person. He deserves our sympathy for that.

My friends are all caught up with punching Nazis in the face and proclaiming that if you don’t then you’re a sympathizer. Which I guess makes both Gandhi and Nelson Mandela sympathizers because I can’t see them walking around punching people in the face, no matter who they are.

I’m not interested in punching Nazis in the face. I think it’s ineffective and will ultimately lead to more violence. But that doesn’t make me a sympathizer and I’m furious with the black and white thinking that assumes I must be. Personally, I prefer the glitter bomb method or spraying them with non removable dye. Let them show up for work looking like a disco ball or like they shoplifted a shirt from the local mall. Keep them from hiding in the crowd.

Emma came up to me earlier and said New Jersey had declared antifa an extremist anarchist group. I shushed her and told her it was nothing more than a liberal group, formed to fight Nazis. Now I’m worried about the path it’s going and I’m worried where it’s taking my friends.

The near birthday fiasco…

I’d say it started yesterday but it really started just over a month ago when my ex-husband had his birthday. Ever since we separated he’s insisted he wants no birthday celebration at all. No calls… no cards… no presents. He doesn’t want to remember he’s ageing, leave him alone. Then, after the date, he’s mad because no one remembered his birthday. General cognition and cause and effect are not his strong suits.

This time he decided to get back at Emma for not calling. Never mind Emma never calls anyone. Never mind she’s having problems with her phone. Never mind she doesn’t keep track of dates. He was mad and he was retaliating. So he called Kait and told her he was going to deliberately misgender “Colin” in a birthday Facebook wish to get back at her. A) because that’s what loving and kind Fathers do and B) because there was no way posting his ignorance on Facebook could blow back at him…

exbirthdaywish

Emma knew just what to say

The first thing that confused James was absolutely no one wanted to here his side on why he’s misgendering his own child. So he explained anyway…

exbirthdaybirthcertificate

Then my friend Robin told him to step on a Lego and he literally took that to be a death threat…

exbirthdayfreehugs

And my friend ran with the Lego death threat. Because we all know how deadly a block of lego is when you step on it…

exbirthdaylegodeath

It’s funny in some ways but this is a grown man, Emma’s father, on her Facebook page the night before her birthday. And here is when he really started showing his true colours. First by using gay as an insult, then his above comment about not supporting “lgbt crap”, and finally by deciding Robin must be trans and referring to her as “it” and that “trans freak”. Along with this…

exbirthdaystraight

Kait finally had enough of him, after being on the brink for months, and blocked him…

exbirthdayrainbow

… and her post whooshed right over his head

Then it just got plain pathetic…

exbirthdayend

My ex and I talked a lot about being parents, when we were young and engaged, and how we wanted to raise our kids. He wanted to be a hands on Dad, something he hadn’t much experience with (as much as he loved his father). It’s like he set out to do the exact opposite.

I almost never mention my ex-husband on the blog and this thread is exactly why. He’s a living train wreck of a man, a person who lives solely to tear down other people.

Today is Emma’s birthday. She played Undertale before school while I watched then we went out for dinner with her Nana (mmm… potato curry), and now she’s heading out to Value Village to look for computer parts and/or a phone… as happy as can be. Then she’s having birthday pudding, since she decided it was too hot for cake. There was no mention of her Dad, he’s a non-existent part of her life and, sadly, that’s how it should be with him.

Emma and her new purse

Emma with her new purse and sucker