Raising Colin…

This video was taken back in 2015, back when Colin was going by Jeremy. I talked about the video but didn’t share it since I used his real name. Today it showed up in my Facebook memories and I decided it was time to share. My apologies in advance for the volume. I tend to be very soft spoken.

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Childhood woes…

Jeremy had the best childhood I could give him*. Dolls to cuddle and trucks to play with (and cuddle). Trips to the park. Camping. Birthday parties. Trips to the indoor playground (oh the noise). Bedtime stories. Excursions to Centre Island. The Old Spaghetti Factory. If he wanted a pink stuffed bear, he got one. If he wanted a skateboard, he got one. I did my very best to suit his childhood to him and not to gender norms.

gender creative Jeremy

But there’s one thing I can’t give him. I can’t give him a girlhood. He’s got memories of wearing his sister’s dresses but they were her dresses… at home. He’s never had a fancy dress or a gaggle of female friends. He’s never been able to grow his hair long without people urging him to cut it because he looked “too girly”. He’s never been able to bring a stuffed animal or doll to school without being teased… even in grade one. He’s never had a period. He will never give birth. And he wants all these things.jeremy-in-2010

As hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop everyone from telling him how much better he looked with short hair, that only girls could wear dresses and he couldn’t, that he was too girly, too much of a f*g, and he needed to “man up”. For every person I talked to there were three others I didn’t find out about until later. Sometimes much later.

Jeremy went as Julie to PFLAG last night. She wore her Doctor Who shirt from Emma and a plain brown long skirt. Her nails were neatly done with purple polish and her makeup was subtle. Everyone was friendly at the meeting and only two people laughed on the way home. Maybe they were laughing about something else? We never asked.

I can love Jeremy and support him. I can stand by him and stand up for him. But I can’t go back and change the past. I’m sorry Jeremy. I’m so sorry that I didn’t know.

*Jeremy’s current choice of pronouns.

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.

walking-lara-at-cedar-valley

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.

On hair and gender…

“Can you cut my hair when we’re at Nana and Grandad’s?” Jeremy asked.

“Umm… yes,” I replied. I was a bit startled seeing as I’d cut their hair just over a week earlier. “How short?”

I was hoping they didn’t want too fancy a cut. I have no hair dressing skills. I can barely manage a simple braid and bang trimming. Well, hair dressers don’t seem to think I can manage bangs but my kids have never complained.

“Buzz cut,” Jeremy said happily. “You can use Grandad’s clippers.”

This was obviously going to be harder for me than them. I’d spent years fighting against so many people for their right to wear their hair the way they wanted, which was long (and usually dyed). Now suddenly they wanted it short (and undyed). But part of their right to bodily autonomy meant short hair as well as long.

“Okay,” I replied, hoping my reluctance didn’t show. If it did, Jeremy didn’t seem to notice.

I put on the #7 clipper first and soon the lawn was covered in clumps of hair. The cut looked good on them. Long enough to be feminine while short enough to be masculine.

“It looks good,” Jeremy agreed, looking at my camera phone (seriously, who needs a mirror anymore). “I’d like it shorter though.”

Shorter? Sigh. I pulled out the #5 clipper and began cutting again. Their hair became decidedly shorter. Soon I was done. The ears weren’t perfect but, if they wanted professional, they’d have taken my parents’ offer of a real hair stylist instead of me.

“Do you think he’s are feeling more like a boy again?” my Mom asked hopefully as soon as Jeremy hopped into the shower.

I thought back to the evening before. We’d been watching an anime Jeremy wanted me to see (Gurren Lagann if anyone out there’s interested) and they were excited about an upcoming character.

“Look,” they’d said, pointing at a bluish character. “They’re both a boy and a girl. They’re non-binary, just like me!”

leeron_littner

“No,” I replied honestly but as gently as I could. “I think they just wanted short hair.”

I wandered into the family room a short time later, where Jeremy was sitting with their cousins… all playing on separate devices.

“Mom, this hair cut makes me feel more feminine,” Jeremy said happily.

And why shouldn’t it. Hair is just that. It’s not gender. It’s not even a secondary sex characteristic. It’s simply a head covering (and in my case a ‘blowing across my face’ covering).

The next night Jeremy informed me, once again, that they don’t think gender exists… that it’s just something society made up.

“Are you sure you’re pangender?” I asked. “Do you think you might be agender instead?”

Jeremy thought for a moment. “I think you’re right,” they replied.

colin-and-lara

Jeremy and their cat Lara. They’re not male or female… just perfectly themself.

Our 26 hour vacation…

“Mom! Mom!! We need to get up in two hours so we should get up now, just in case!”

To say Jeremy was excited about our trip would be an understatement. I had my alarm set for 5am so they woke me at 3am. We were playing MarioKart at 5am just to keep me awake. I don’t play it any better before dawn than after. Thankfully I didn’t play any worse.

Then, finally, we left with our suitcase and bag full of food, all set for a day and a half of excitement… with only two buses and a train to get there. We got to the bus stop early, which meant we caught an earlier bus and an earlier train. Plus our train didn’t go past Union Station (in Toronto) so we had to transfer… and Union is under construction. Talk about anxiety! But we found our connecting train and then got front seats on the double decker bus…

Kathleen and Colin on the double decker GO bus

Jeremy was excited, they just don’t smile for pictures

The bus system announced it was only a 15 minute walk to Clifton Hill (the tourist trap of Niagara Falls) so we decided to save our money and walk to the hotel. Let’s just say I’m so glad Google Maps exist because we were walking the wrong way originally. But we found our hotel and it was just as elegant as we remembered.

elegance

Elegant and cheaper than the other hotels because it’s “old”… bonus!

Crowne Plaza

I bought a saver’s pack of activities back in July, which I highly recommend because it comes with WeGo bus passes (our room came with passes too). These buses took us, for free, all over the main tourist sections of the city and the buses were barely a block away.

Our first (and favourite) stop was the Whirlpool Areo Car, a gondola ride across the Niagara River whirlpool…

whirlpool areo car

Our next stop was at the butterfly conservatory. I’ve always wanted to go to one and, I think, next time I’ll go when it first opens so the place is more quiet. The crowds were too much for both Jeremy and myself but I loved the butterflies anyways.

me at the butterfly conservatory

One of my friends said I’m the friendship butterfly 🙂

Jeremy wanted to ride the boat right to the falls. It was too late (and we were too overwhelmed) on our first night but I’m glad I insisted we go first thing the following morning because they loved it!

Colin on the Hornblower cruise2

Soggy Jeremy in the middle of the falls and the mist.

Horseshoe Falls and comorant

A cormorant and Horseshoe Falls

And then we went home, hours earlier than I’d planned. I’m glad we did too because we were both exhausted and overwhelmed on the bus ride home and so happy to be back in our apartment with our own beds and kitties.

I’m glad we went. It was a lot of fun and Jeremy’s already talking about our next trip to the Falls. Next time I’ll skip the water park passes as Jeremy’s outgrown the park (although I haven’t) and use the waterpark pass money for an extra night. But not for a few more years!

rainbow

The grass is always greener…

When Jeremy first came out as non-binary, they trialed using they/them pronouns for just under a week before switching to zie/zir pronouns. I was pleased in one way because they’d chosen the same pronouns as my then best friend (now ex-boyfriend). The rest of me was disappointed because no one had ever heard of those pronouns before. If they weren’t mishearing zie for he and zir for her, I was getting “what did you just say?” and “how do you use that?” at the best and complete ignoring the pronouns at the worst. It tended to be me that got the comments simply because Jeremy doesn’t usually refer to themself in third person although they got an earful and a half at school.

Now, after two years of explaining to pretty much everyone what zie and zir are, how to use them, and why Jeremy’s using them in the first place (all of this with their permission), they’ve switched back to they and them. My first thought was ‘cool… easier pronouns’ and my second was ‘damn, I’ll need to reexplain to all my friends… but at least it’ll be easier’. Famous last words and all of that.

My Mom and sister’s first reactions were they is plural, which is true but not completely. The English language has plenty of wiggle room and people from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Austen have used singular they. It was fairly common in the 16th century too (according to the Oxford dictionary). And it’s not like the English language is static. You used to be only used as a plural pronoun, with thou as singular. I’m sure people can handle the transition to using singular they too.

Then I needed to talk to a mental health care professional. You know, someone who should have regular involvement with the LGBTQ community considering the depression statistics.

“My offspring’s name is Jeremy. They’re 19 years old,” I explained with Jeremy standing beside me.

The woman proceeded to glance, bewildered, around the room for an extra offspring. “They?” she asked hesitantly.

Because this isn’t 2016 and no one’s heard of singular they before. Although, considering she wasn’t the first or last person confused over this, maybe most people haven’t.

I think the weirdest and funniest thing is there seems to be a subset of people who think I’m forcing Jeremy to pretend to be trans for some unknown reason. I don’t get any money for this blog (or for spouting my mouth on Facebook for that matter) and Jeremy’s not meek and laid back; they are tenacious with strongly held views. To be fair, their mildest view, in one way, is regarding gender as they don’t particularly care what pronouns they’re called… as long as it’s not incessantly “he/him”. But that’s because Jeremy doesn’t hold firmly to any gender and think all genders should be abolished. And that’s *cough* a strongly held view on their part. I’ve explained to them multiple times that many other people like having a gender and identify strongly with their gender (myself included). It whooshes right over their head. According to them, gender is the root of societal evil and that’s that. Alrighty then.

If Jeremy was male, there would be no way anyone could miss it because they’d be telling everyone within ear shot that I’d lost my mind and couldn’t handle them being he. It would be their only topic and one everyone under the sun would know about. But they aren’t and they don’t. If the people who think I’m forcing them would try using female pronouns even once, and saw their smile, they’d know this for themselves.

I have one quirk regarding the pronoun and that’s treating singular they the same, grammatically, as plural they. “They’re going to the store” sounds so much better than “they’s going to the store” and it makes me sound so much less like I stumbled into a sitcom about the deep south (which would even more farther south than Oshawa or even Sarnia). If Jeremy felt strongly about grammar, I’d swallow my mild discomfort and singular they every contraction, but they don’t.

So, after two years of thinking they/them would be so much easier to explain, I’ve discovered it’s not. The good part is I’ve at least got Jane Austen on my side.

Happiness is…

Happiness is… spending time with Jeremy, either playing Mario Kart or swimming, and just having fun. We’ve been going to a different pool lately, one owned by the same landlord but in a nearby building. Jeremy loves it and I love that it’s warmer than ours.

1221 pool

“I’ll race you Mom!”

Happiness is… picking out the perfect presents for Jeremy for Christmas. Yes, I know I shop early. Yes, I know there’s still 130 more days left and it’s still only August. It’s just that Christmas is my favourite holiday of the year and they really will love  all of them.

Happiness is… watching Jeremy’s happiness at finally buying the laptop they’ve been wanting for years. And seeing their confidence bloom again. I’ve watched for several years as Jeremy hid much of their feminine side and today they casually bought a pink and white laptop bag because it’s “perfect” and a hot pink keyfinder button for their keychain.

new laptop

“I am smiling!”

Happiness is… needing to work on a suicide prevention plan and asking friends permission to add them to a contact sheet… then getting so many friends volunteer it might turn into a contact booklet. I don’t know if my friends realize how much this means to me, how much it feels like I’ve been wrapped up in their caring.

Happiness is… going for a whirlwind vacation in just under two weeks and listening to Jeremy chatter about it several times a day. We have so much planned from the butterfly conservatory, to the waterpark, to the antique aerial car over the Niagara whirlpool; I’m not sure how we’re going to fit in sleep.

fallsview waterpark

“I can’t wait until we get there Mom. What do you think we should do first?”

Happiness is… waking up to two adorable kittens snuggled beside me. Their antics amuse me and warm my heart every single day.

Smudge relaxing small

So much adorable in such a small package!

Happiness is having so many things to be happy about 🙂