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.

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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.

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.

Cloudy with a chance of confusion…

A few weeks ago I asked Jeremy if he felt more masculine some days and more feminine on others. He looked surprised then shook his head.

“No, I always feel the same. Mostly male with a bit of female.”

“Are you sure?” I asked. “Gender can be fluid. Some people feel more male or female on different days.”

“Umm, yeah,” he replied in confusion. “I know that. I just always feel the same.”

Alrighty then. Can someone be gender fluid and just not notice? Or maybe I’m going insane. I figure both options are equally possible.

Some days Jeremy calls himself fab-u-lous. He talks animatedly and gestures wildly. He comments on his chest (repeatedly) and smiles when I tell him he looks pretty.

“I’m going to breastfeed my baby,” he informed me proudly. “I’ll take shots and then I’ll be able to breastfeed.”

“Hon, you know those would be female hormones right?” I asked and he shook his head.

“No, they’d be breastfeeding hormones,” he protested.

He looked ready to argue furiously so I dropped it. Arguing with my single, 16 year old son over breastfeeding a baby which hasn’t even been conceived seemed like a completely unnecessary argument. And he’d need to overcome his needle phobia too.

Also, he is single now. Him and Hannah broke up several weeks ago amid vast amounts of indifference. He showed more emotion later that evening when he discovered I’d eaten the last Fudgee-o. Not exactly true love.

“My voice is too deep,” he told me another time. “I wish it was higher. It’s really low.”

He fretted about this for a few minutes while I looked sympathetic, then he changed the subject. I mentioned his concern to Lenny, telling zir I had no idea what to say because I didn’t think there was anything I could do about his voice.

Zie told me he could train his voice to be higher if he wanted and there was surgery if it really bothered him.

I mentioned this to Jeremy the next day and he looked completely baffled.

“Why would I do that?” he asked. “My voice is fine.”

“You told me yesterday that it’s too deep,” I replied. He shrugged.

“No, it’s fine,” he assured me.

I commented here about my coworker calling Jeremy a half girl and the bus driver referring to him (twice) as ma’am. Then last week I started second guessing myself. Lots of men have long hair and wear bright clothes. If it hadn’t been for those comments (among others), I would have moved on to third, fourth and fifth guessing myself. But once again he’s looking pretty and getting more double takes. I swear someone’s going to walk into a light pole watching him one of these days. And I’m getting irritated enough by the stares that I hope I’m there to see it.

We were walking home from go-karting yesterday and Jeremy sighed.

“I’m too tall,” he mused.

“I thought you wanted to grow as tall as the CN Tower,” I commented, mostly because I had no real idea what to say.

He shrugged. “Yeah… it’s just…” His voice trailed off and he shrugged again.

He had track and field today and I offered to tie his hair back for him. He shook his head.

“No, I want my hair to float behind me in the breeze when I run,” he assured me.

I’m pretty sure gender confusion is supposed to refer to the person whose gender is not entirely sorted out. Meanwhile Jeremy’s happily playing a Doctor Who video game and feeling no confusion at all while I’m confused as heck. Sometimes it’s funny how life works.