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.

All about Colin (by Colin)

One of my earliest memories was hanging out under the bridge at my old place. It was so dirty. It was a swamp. If I wasn’t careful enough my feet would go right into the soil. One of my favourite memories was that I stole my Mom’s laptop when she was at work and my friend and I stayed in this elevator for about two hours, nice and air conditioned elevator. And we just sat there on the elevator and it was fabulous. We were just playing this one game, I think it was Facade, the game where you go into this house. You’re celebrating the fact these people got married and you had to try to keep them together. It was this most challenging game and it took over YouTube longer than most games. The only game that took over longer, I think, is FNAF (Five Nights At Freddys).

I did not have a nice time going to high school. My first high school wasn’t as bad as my second. I got into arguments about doing math. A sneak preview for the second one is the second high school would change what they were doing in the day just to bug me. Manipulate the other students to not like me. Bring me to the office for barely any reason. Refuse to let me do the classes I wanted to do. They didn’t let me do any work placement stuff. Caused one of my friends to move because of the stress their parents were going under.

Now let’s get back to my first high school. They did stuff bad like I wanted to do more school work. They started handing out more then they told everyone in the class that it was my fault because I kept asking for more school work. But I got the last laugh because I pointed out that I could do the work while everyone else had free time. For the most part, if we stayed there it probably would have gotten better. But, because we moved, oh boy does it get bad.

The second school, they did stuff like, I’d bike to school and they didn’t know I was coming in because I was 10 minutes late so I’d come into class and they’d have math on the board and I’d say “Great, we’re doing math?” and they’d be like, “No, we’re doing something else, we’re doing science.” They’d say we’re doing this for you but it was always weird because they were doing it instead of math. Days that I was not at school because I had a dentist appointment, a doctor’s appointment, I had to stop the universe from imploding again, they’d always have math. They’d always talk about how they had math the day before. I asked in the third year if they were moving math and removing it if I was there or not. You’ll never guess what they said, they said they’re not. And, if you don’t understand why I thought they were, just go to the beginning and re-read again. It’s blatantly obvious. Then one day I did go into class quite upset but all I did was keep asking to do math and they sent me to the office who sent me home, in the middle of winter, and I’d forgot my jacket.

They’d do other stuff like manipulate the class to get the kids to fall into line. They make sure kids follow exactly what they say or they’d punish them, for no reason, by sending them to the office and sending them home. They’d hold back school work. There was one kid, I remember who was going home every day walking. Eventually he stopped going home early. I asked him why and it was because of the teacher. Has anyone heard of the flexing kids of snapchat? They basically just flex their money and tell people “I can afford this and you can’t”. That’s basically what my teachers would do when we got back to school every Monday. They would talk about how their trailer was amazing and how they got like a golf cart and their 16 year old kid a brand new car. Almost every kid in that class was doing horribly financially. And they’d talk for half an hour. Then it would come to me and I’d have five minutes tops. Oh and they’d talk about, like, their boat too. Keep in mind this person had a car, a house, a car for their kid, a trailer, and a boat.

My best friend for two years in high school got pushed out of where he even lived because of the stuff that was going on. I think it was mainly him being my friend that got him bullied by the teachers. I asked his parents when I saw them last if they were moving because of the school and the teachers and they said yes. And, umm, the one teacher who was nice to me got transferred to another class. A tonne of other teachers were confused about how I wasn’t listening to my teachers when I was listening to them and trying my hardest and I could just see in their faces they were confused as to why the teachers weren’t letting me go to other classes.

Now going to the best part of all, they wouldn’t go by the gender pronouns I wanted. I don’t go by them at all anymore but it was zie and zir. First thing I want to say is, I don’t think they should have been fined but it shows their character. They refused to call me by the gender pronouns I wanted for absolutely no reason. Even when the school board came in and told them they had to, nothing happened. And then they’d do this stuff that ladies first and I told them jokingly I’d have to go between because of my gender and mostly because I wanted them to stop having women go up first. And it was causing a thing where women hanged out with women and men hanged out with men. I don’t know how the others saw me because I don’t know what the teachers said when I wasn’t at school.

Now we’re at the present today. Now I’m finally getting the education I wanted. I went to the John Howard Society and got a shit ton of math done. And it was for like a year and it was great because they’d me sit down and listen to music and do as much math as I could that day. Some days would be a page and some would be five. And now I’m going through college courses.

I want to transition to female but I can’t because I want to have kids. I knew something was wrong with my gender when I was a kid, that I was probably born with the wrong gender. But I didn’t know exactly what and, to be honest, I didn’t particularly care. I was more interested in “hey, where does that creek go?” I feel upset about not transitioning.

So that’s about it. That’s my life. Other than video games, I really don’t do much anymore. I’m thinking about starting a gaming channel or something like that.

And coming up in the next blog, my views on politics. Here’s a sneak preview, politics is a bit more difficult than most people believe like Obama legalizing gay marriage is possibly one of the worst things he’s done.

Colin on the dock

p.s. How Canada did it is how Obama should have done it.

My speech on gender diversity and raising a trans kid…

Wow that’s a long title.

Since I’m nowhere near talented enough to change Jeremy’s real name in a video, I’m just going to post the transcript here. Pretend I’m talking quietly at a podium while I shift nervously and fiddle with my hair. I was wearing turquoise if that helps ūüôā

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There’s so much I didn’t know when my kids were growing up, especially when it came to gender. I look back at Jeremy when zie was little. Jeremy was equally happy with dinky cars and Polly Pockets, which was fine with me. I grew up in a family which believed toys were for all kids. When Jeremy was four, zie got a little toy shaving kit for Christmas and the first thing zie did was hop into the bathtub to shave zir legs. I figured that was because zie didn’t have a Dad at home and explained that boys shave their faces, not their legs. Jeremy looked a bit surprised but followed my instructions. Actually, the first time Jeremy shaved once puberty hit, Jeremy shaved zir legs but by then zie wasn’t using a Bob the Builder kit. Zie borrowed my razor instead; I quickly got zir one of zir own. And there was dress up time, which always consisted of Jeremy getting dressed up in Emma’s clothes, never the reverse. Emma¬†would refer to zir as Jemmy and would pick out the clothes she thought would suit zir the best. Both kids loved this game.

I think Jeremy was around eight or nine years old when zie saw some words written on the bus shelter wall and wanted to know what they meant. The words were:

I wish I was a girl.

I had no idea what to say let alone where to start. It was a big topic that I didn’t understand very well. And Jeremy was standing there watching me expectantly, positive I had the answer. I decided to start with empathy so I said, ‚ÄúYou know how you look like boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside…‚ÄĚ then stopped when I saw Jeremy’s confused expression. Zie shook zir head and said ‚Äúno‚ÄĚ.

I look back now and marvel at how blind I was but then I simply figured I’d screwed up my explanation. I went on to explain that most people look like a boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside or look like a girl on the outside and feel like a girl on the inside but sometimes it’s the opposite. When people look like a boy on the outside and feel like a girl on the inside, or vice versa, it’s called transgender. Jeremy listened intently then was heartbroken that we couldn’t find the person who wrote the words so they’d know they weren’t alone.

Throughout this time, Jeremy would ask how I knew that zie would grow up to be a man. I knew zie’d been bullied at school with kids calling zir a he-she and I was well aware that grown adults were telling Jeremy zie needed to ‚Äúbe a man‚ÄĚ so I chalked zir questions up to bullying. I assured Jeremy that zie didn’t need to do anything special in order to be a man, zie just needed to grow up. That zie could be a man and still love the colour pink and long hair and glitter. Each time Jeremy seemed reassured by my response.

A couple of years ago I became Facebook friends with Lenny. One of the first things Lenny told me is zie’s transgender and identifies between male and female, using the pronouns zie and zir. I’d had no idea people could be anything but male or female so this was a surprise. Lenny lives in England so zie’d never know if I was using the right pronouns or not but it didn’t seem fair to use the wrong ones. I insisted the kids use zir pronouns as well.

It wasn’t until last year that Jeremy began to show signs of discomfort with using male pronouns. Zie got sent home from school one day for arguing with zir teacher about the words boy and girl being opposites. Jeremy insisted they weren’t because you could feel like both a boy and a girl. The teacher argued she was talking about language and not gender then persisted in telling Jeremy zie was wrong. In the spring, Jeremy asked for the teacher to explain more pronouns than male and female and the teacher refused, claiming that she could only teach ‚Äúinvented‚ÄĚ pronouns if there was a trans student in the class and then only the pronouns that student was using. Jeremy wasn’t out so I backed down. Zie didn’t come out until the end of summer.

Fifty-seven percent of unsupported trans youths attempt suicide. That statistic drops down to four percent when youths have a supportive family. I’ll do anything to make Jeremy feel supported, up to and including waving pom poms. Jeremy assures me that’s not necessary.

The hard part is how often and regularly Jeremy gets misgendered. When I talked to Jeremy’s school, their biggest concern was whether Jeremy’s gender identity and pronouns were going to be a distraction in the classroom. They use zir pronouns in official documents but call Jeremy he and him. And I can count on one hand the number of people in real life who consistently use zir pronouns. It’s so frustrating because people just don’t seem to understand how important this is to Jeremy. If they’d use the right pronouns in front of zir, even once, they’d see what a difference it makes. Give it a try, they’re not hard to use.

Thank you.

Pronoun confusion…

I had a meeting yesterday with someone from Jeremy’s school. We sat down to discuss zir options, one of which involves transferring Jeremy to an even smaller classroom setting with higher expectations and the possibility of earning credits.¬†The staff member asked me what my hopes were for Jeremy. I immediately started talking about how much Jeremy loves working on computers and other electronic devices. Zie needs real classroom experience to learn how to fix and operate these devices; fiddling around on zir own isn’t enough. This is a talent Jeremy can use to gain real employment, unlike the school’s current¬†“opportunity”. Zir job placement right now is shredding the classroom’s paper.

“Zie needs a chance at hands on experience; to do things¬†zieself…” I paused. That wasn’t right. “Herself… himself…” I blurted. I figured I’d hit the right pronoun eventually, if I could remember any more. My head dropped onto my hands. “I stink at pronouns,” I groaned. “Words in general…”

I looked up at the staff member’s baffled expression then sighed. “Right… I’ll just redo that sentence…” And I did.

The plus side (kind of) is Jeremy finds conversations like this hilarious. And the cats have yet to notice being called zir.

On pronouns and an autumn walk…

It’s been gorgeous here for the past few days… absolutely gorgeous. We’re finally getting blue skies, sunshine, and shorts weather after a cold and rainy summer. Jeremy would have been content to stay home and play Half-Life but I dragged zir out with me for a walk yesterday afternoon.

We have a small patch of woods beside us, covering less than a city block of land, but it’s very pretty…

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There’s only one paved path through the woods but plenty of little dirt trails. Jeremy and I walked on the latter before emerging from the woods and heading over to a nearby bike trail. We were on our way back¬†when I saw our local bus approach.

“I’ve got my bus pass,” I said cheerfully. “I can get on the bus and go home.”

Jeremy looked at me incredulously. Just then the bus slowed. We were right near a bus stop so obviously someone wanted off.

“Look, the driver saw me. He knows I want the bus,” I said then I looked closer. The sunlight had been reflecting off the window but as the bus moved, I could finally see the driver’s long blonde hair and delicate features. “Oh, I mean she,” I added.

“Mom,” Jeremy chided. “You don’t know if the driver’s a man or a woman.”

“No,¬†I can see the driver now…” Maybe the glass was still covered in glare from zir angle; Jeremy’s quite a bit taller than me. I glanced beside me¬†and realized zie could see the driver just fine.

“You can’t tell what someone’s gender is ¬†just by looking at them,” zie continued.

I nodded. “You’re right, the driver might not identify as female.¬†Although statistically speaking…”

Jeremy glared at me¬†then muttered under zir breath. All I caught was, “I… don’t… female…”

I thought back to all the times my Mom argued with me. In some ways it helped me try and see things from a different perspective but sometimes I just wanted some support. I figured Jeremy was firmly in the latter category.

“I’m sorry,” I told zir¬†earnestly. “You are right. I shouldn’t have assumed. I don’t refer to any of the customers by gender when I’m at work.”

“Wait,” Jeremy said, looking at me incredulously. “You don’t use binary pronouns at work? Instead you save them to use in front of your kid who uses zie for a pronoun.”

The kid had a point. “I’m sorry, ” I said again. “I’ll try harder.”

We walked a couple of steps then zie added, “Mom, you know I’m joking right?”

Zie wasn’t angry and was in good spirits but I didn’t get the impression zie was joking at all. “It doesn’t matter,” I replied. “I’ll still try harder.” Jeremy¬†smiled.

As for work. I posted back in February about a customer of mine who joked that Jeremy wouldn’t want to dye zir hair lime green in case zie was mistaken for a “fag”. I’d been absolutely furious but stayed polite and have been polite ever since. Today we had a completely different conversation.

I was outside sweeping the parking lot when she walked over to comment on the mess. There were cups and wrappers strewn over the whole parking space.

“That must have been a man,” she commented as she drew near.

“Or an entire car full of teenagers,” I agreed, sweeping a couple more wrappers¬†into the dust pan.

“So, how are your kids?” she asked with obvious interest.

“They’re doing fine. Emma’s got a job interview tomorrow and my kidlet’s getting zir wisdom teeth extracted on Thursday, which will be interesting considering zir needle phobia.”

Now she looked confused. “She?”

I shook my head, “No, zie. I’m talking about Jeremy. Jeremy’s having zir wisdom teeth extracted… hopefully. That’s one serious phobia zie’s got.”

Her confusion deepened. “Don’t you have two kids? A boy and a girl?”

“I’ve got two kids. One girl and one kid. Jeremy doesn’t identify with a gender and uses gender neutral pronouns, zie and zir.”

“Well… that’s… different…” she sounded baffled. She paused for a moment, obviously trying to find something to say. “I was shopping recently at Penningtons (a Canadian clothing chain aimed at plus sized women) and there was a man shopping for himself. He was buying a dress and he had on women’s clothing and a hat and his hair was all styled and shaped.”

“That sounds like she was a woman,” I replied. “It was probably scary for her.”

I had no idea if it was scary or not, for all I knew she could have been having an amazing shopping trip. What I wanted was a moment of empathy. The customer went silent.

“I used to teach piano to a family years ago,” she said quietly. “The oldest boy was a teenager¬†and he used to say all sorts of homophobic stuff. One day I was teaching theory and asked him to think about what it would be like if he suddenly started having crushes on other boys… knowing how he was going to get treated… knowing he was going to get beaten up. The boy was shocked. He’d never thought about it before…” Her voice trailed off. “They had so many kids in that family, two girls and four boys. I wonder if one of them ended up gay.”

I shrugged, unable to answer, then she smiled. “Jeremy doesn’t identify as a gender… good for you.”

And with that she turned and walked away.

The letter…

This is the letter I wrote for my Mom, Amy, and Karen. Thank you for all the helpful suggestions!

*************************************************************************

I think Jeremy was about eight years old when zie* found a scrawled message on a nearby bus shelter and wanted to know what it meant.

“I wish I was a girl”

I looked at the words and didn’t know what to say. Obviously I’d have to give some sort of basic explanation of transgender but I had no idea how to broach the subject. I decided to try for the empathetic route.

“You know how you look like a boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside?”

Jeremy stared at me blankly and shook zir head. Now I wish I could go back and get zir to elaborate but back then I simply went on by clarifying that most people look like a boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside (or vice versa with girls). Jeremy seemed satisfied with my explanation and the conversation moved on from there. Zie doesn’t even remember it but it obviously stuck in my mind.

And on we went, with people sometimes thinking Jeremy was a boy… and sometimes a girl. With kids (and adults) calling zir names ranging from he-she to faggot. One neighbour, a grown man¬†at that, used to throw garbage off his balcony at Jeremy every time zie walked through the back door of our building. Thankfully they moved shortly after he started. I posted pictures of their moving truck on Facebook and baked a cake to celebrate.

It wasn’t until this year that Jeremy became more obviously uncomfortable with binary gender names, begging me to ask the teacher to explain other pronouns and arguing with the EA that male and female aren’t opposites and that you can feel like both. The teachers decided zie was simply being contrary. I decided to do some research and had¬†several in depth conversations with Jeremy.

Jeremy identifies as non binary transgender.¬†To break it down, gender is a spectrum¬†and, just like a rainbow where the colours red and purple connect instead of staying on different sides of a line, male and female are not opposites. The vast majority of people are born with the sex characteristics of a man and identify as male… or the sex characteristics of a woman¬†and identify as female. These people, aka us, are called cisgender (with a soft c). Everyone else (unless they choose to be called otherwise) falls under the trans umbrella.

Non binary simply means zie doesn’t identify as male or female. Some people identify as neither gender (agender) and some flow between the two. Jeremy consistently identifies as both. This is hard in our culture. The Bugis society in Indonesia has five genders; Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan have¬†the¬†hijra, MtF trans people who have a long history of being considered good luck; and some Native Canadian tribes have a tradition of two-spirited people, who were valued as teachers and spiritual leaders. Our culture ignores the reality that not everyone fits into standard binary roles. This is slowly changing.

Something our society currently lacks is non-binary pronouns. Jeremy tried going with the pronoun “they” for a short time but ultimately found it awkward and confusing. Zie claimed it felt like zie had 50 personalities. We found a list of pronouns¬†and went through it. Jeremy decided on zie/zir, the same pronouns that my friend Lenny uses. Zie is used the same as he and she, while zir is used the same as him and her. Both are pronounced phonetically with zie sounding like “zee” and zir sounding like “sir” (but with a zed sound). I’ve found a link that shows the pronouns used in a portion of “Alice in Wonderland” to give you an idea of how to use them.

I can’t stress enough how important it is to use these pronouns. I know they seem awkward and unwieldy, and you will make mistakes, but I can assure you it will mean the world to Jeremy. Imagine if you woke up tomorrow and everyone started calling you he, him, and sir. It might simply be weird at first but then picture it stretching on for days… months… years. The attempted suicide rate for trans people is currently at 41% and that’s from a lack of acceptance. I don’t want Jeremy to be a statistic and I will do everything I can to make zir feel safe and welcome. I’m sure you will as well.

I’ve found a video by a group of teenagers explaining the importance of pronouns and hope it will help.

If you have any questions, please feel free to ask me.

Love, Michelle

* zie and zir are the pronouns Jeremy prefers. They are fully explained in the letter.

A family visit and weekend musings…

We had a family dinner today and both my Mom and I were panicking for different reasons. My Mom was worried because this was the first dinner since Emma moved out (after a deadline was set for her to leave) and she didn’t know if dinner would end up being awkward or tense. I was worried because my parents don’t know about Jeremy’s indefinite suspension from school and I couldn’t figure out a way to tell them. Jeremy wasn’t exactly a sweet and innocent victim to begin with and, once Jeremy’s panicked reason to refuse those ballet stretches was removed, zie comes across as a complete asshole.

I could already hear the conversation, starting with shock that zie didn’t just do the stretch because “it wasn’t going to kill him” then moving on to horror that zie argued with the principal. I know where Jeremy’s coming from¬†because zie doesn’t sit alone with zir thoughts ever. I love going for long walks in the woods, with nothing but nature sounds and my own thoughts. Jeremy can’t handle a two¬†minute wait for the bus on zir own without music or a video game.¬†Twenty minutes to an hour of sitting in an office with nothing to do but flip through a magazine would have been torture. My parents’ reaction would have been to suck it up and deal because zie’s seventeen. I agree that Jeremy needs to learn ways of coping with zirself without panicking; I just don’t feel sucking up’s going to work well. Leaving school when feeling stressed was part of Jeremy’s safety plan last year but I know my parents would be on the “just suck it up” bandwagon there too. School’s not stressful… just deal.

This would end up as an hour of listening to how horrible Jeremy is and how zie’ll never have a job or any sort of normal life, which¬†makes for an awful visit. So I decided it was not happening. Of course I screwed up dismally when I decided this because I forgot Jeremy was not involved in my internal frettings and conversation.

“Okay, so it didn’t happen,” I blurted. “No indefinite suspension… no leaving school.”

“Really?” Jeremy said hopefully. “You mean I can go back on Monday? It’s all done?”

Crap! Talk about feeling two centimeters tall.

“Oh sorry hon,” I explained. “I meant we aren’t telling Nana and Grandad about the suspension. As far as they know you’re still going to school and everything’s fine.”

“Oh,” came zir quiet reply.

I shrugged and gave Jeremy¬†a half smile. “We’re already keeping a huge secret from them anyways. What’s one more?” Zie grinned back.

Mom was waiting at the front door, watching for us as we walked down the street. She had pop chilling in the fridge, a vegan casserole in the oven (alongside the meat one) and Jeremy’s favourite ice cream bars in the freezer. Dad reclined in the chair in the living room and greeted us as we walked inside. Emma and Mark arrived a short while later.

We had one brief mishap. Jeremy was chatting in the kitchen with my Mom when I heard her voice raise.

“…those sort of things are not talked about at school,” she explained. “It might be fine to talk about gender at church but school’s different. They have¬†to be neutral and gender is simply not acceptable to discuss. The teachers shouldn’t have to deal with stuff like that…”

“They’re mandated by law to deal with gender issues,” I commented as I walked into the room. Jeremy stood silent. I figured zie’d probably brought up the topic¬†to test the waters. It obviously hadn’t worked well.

“It’s something better kept private and not mentioned in school at all,” she retorted. “It’s not school appropriate.”

“Jeremy? Emma was looking for you. I think she had something to show you.” I hoped¬†Emma would play along.

“Really?” Jeremy turned and hurried out. I followed.

Emma wasn’t downstairs at all, she’d gone to use the washroom. The poor kid opened the door to find both of us standing right there. Jeremy was all excited because zir sister had something to share¬†while I was¬†winking so quickly it probably looked like I was having some sort of seizure.

“Nana was talking about gender with Jeremy,” I quickly explained. “I said you had something to show zir.”

She stared at me with more than a little irritation. “I don’t have anything to show. I don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I know,” I hissed. “It was an excuse. Find something.”

“Maybe that box of electronics,” Jeremy said hopefully.

“But I don’t know where it is,” she wailed.

“It’s an excuse,” I stressed. “It doesn’t matter if you know where it is.” I finally saw the lightbulb turn on and they headed off to Emma’s old room.

The rest of the night went wonderfully. We chatted and laughed about a variety of subjects including a long discussion regarding a giant chicken mobile on a farm north of here.

“This dinner went so well,” my Mom said happily as we said our goodbyes. And it did.

I uploaded my pictures when we got home and shared a photo from our family dinner on Facebook. It’s one of the rare good shots of my mother. She has this unusual¬†talent of looking just fine in the viewfinder then looking absolutely horrid in the photo. I’m talking sunken cheeks, half closed eyes, partially open mouth… you name it, it’s happening in the photo and it wasn’t happening half a second earlier. Most times when I share family photos they come with the warning of “my Mom doesn’t actually look like that.” This photo really does look like her. Then I showed Jeremy zir birthday scrapbook page. I used to scrapbook the day I took the pictures; right now I’m three months behind and haven’t printed out a page since February. There is a plus side to my huge whopping delay though.

“See, I used zir on your page,” I pointed out. Jeremy beamed then I closed my scrapbooking program so zie could have the desktop.

“So tomorrow I’m going to out you at church. Is there anything in particular that you want me to say?” I asked¬†then watched as Jeremy nearly spat cereal across the living room.

This was a continuation of a conversation we’d had that afternoon… not something I’d suddenly thrown at zir. I offered to be the one to explain exactly what non-binary trans is then¬†share Jeremy’s preferred pronouns and how to use them in a sentence… which means Jeremy should (hopefully) miss a good chunk of the questions. Zie only goes to the youth group and the occasional potluck so zie won’t be there. Plus we go to a welcoming UU congregation so, presumably, everyone there is likely to at least attempt to use the correct pronouns.

“I can’t think of anything,” Jeremy replied once zie’d swallowed zir¬†cereal and was past¬†the risk of choking. “I’m sure you’ll say everything.”

I stink at public speaking. I flipped on the dining room light then watched as Jeremy glared.

“I’m just getting some chocolate then I’ll turn out the lights so you can watch your video.”

“Can you get me some too?” zie asked hopefully.

“It’s dark chocolate,” I warned. Jeremy likes dark chocolate¬†sometimes and hates it other times so a warning is necessary. “I got it from Lenny.”

“The other zir,” Jeremy said with a smile, which quickly¬†widened. “The word zir sounds like an alien.¬†A really super cool alien.”

Also, I don’t actually have a conclusion but I do have two photos I took last night when we walked over to our local greenspace in an attempt to see the Northern Lights. We live¬†in an urban area and, despite the solar storms, were rated for a poor chance of viewing. Chances are the whitish film in the sky was simply clouds reflecting all the city lights but it was still neat. Enjoy ūüôā

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So… the meeting…

Well it happened.

The meeting¬†was in a crowded room with five other adults, so I was already feeling overwhelmed when I walked in. There was a brief introduction¬†where¬†I was introduced to everyone in the room… and promptly lost all their names. I was seated beside a vice principal and then there was the head of special education and Jeremy’s teacher (who I already knew) and another vice principal and someone else who took copious notes. I can’t remember her title at all.

I was immediately informed by the first VP that everyone in the meeting was there to support and help Jeremy and that the best way to do so was to make all the decisions first and then tell “him” what we’d decided. I argued vehemently that zie should be involved in the decision making and was overruled.

My first concern was the issue that had been brought up on Friday regarding¬†distractions. Everyone agreed that a stress ball would be fine for Jeremy to use and that even a spinning ring would work. Apparently the issue with having a bag on the floor was that a teacher tripped on a bag last year and fell, which meant she was off work for quite a while. However, they didn’t tell Jeremy this, choosing to detail how students might be carrying weapons or dealing drugs instead. Which at least explains why zie started ranting about how the school should have metal detectors.

This is when I lost it and flipped a proverbial table. They wanted to know if I thought having zir¬†bag of electronics on a nearby table, visible but out of reach, would be an acceptable option. I said that would be best directed¬†to Jeremy and got told no, the adults needed to make these decisions; I needed to decide for “him”. I said that Jeremy was sitting directly outside the meeting room and it would take me maybe 20 seconds, if that, to go ask zir. They didn’t feel that was appropriate. I, once again, explained that it didn’t matter what I thought was a valid option, this plan was being put in place to make Jeremy feel more safe. If zie didn’t think it would work then it wasn’t going to be a help and we’d need to think of something else.

That was when the phone rang and the first VP needed to take a call.

I stood up. “While she’s busy, I’m going to quickly ask Jeremy if this will work for zir.”

I reached for the door just in time to hear someone bark, “No! Michelle, you need to sit back down right now.”

Excuse me? I spun around, swept the room with one glance then said, “No” before walking out. Jeremy was standing talking to an adult. I’d caught zir just as zie was leaving for zir¬†student ID photo. Zie said the bag being visible was fine. I walked back in and said so to the group.

Then came gender. Kind of. I brought it up three times only to be redirected to gadgets, a topic I figured we’d already beaten to death. Nothing new was being discussed, everyone was simply rehashing how obsessive Jeremy was with them and how zie perseverates on them and won’t stop talking or fidgeting with them. Except there wasn’t any resolution to their issues, it was venting and nothing else. I was getting overwhelmed by the negativity. Finally I dragged them onto the gender topic and… nothing.

This is what it says on the school board website…

pronouns

According to the people at the meeting, those three pronouns are the only ones they can¬†use in the school. Jeremy can’t be addressed as zie/zir because “they” is the only pronoun listed other than he or she. But “he” could go by “she” if “he” wanted; totally ignoring the whole “this list is illustrative but not exhaustive” sentence.

When I tried to bring up other information in the guidelines, I got informed by the second VP that she’d help design the pamphlet and was well aware of what it meant and what they were required to do by law. That it would get too confusing if they had to address every trans student in the whole school by their preferred pronouns, making it sound like there were at least five in each class and they all wanted different pronouns. She hastily assured me this school is the most welcoming school in the area and she knew this as a member of the LGBTQ community. I don’t have a rainbow card to pull but I do have another child, who attended a different high school. Her school had rainbow “positive space” signs everywhere plus Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) notices¬†about every 10 feet down each hallway. My coworker Brian had similar stories about his former high school. In contrast, this is the only notice¬†either Jeremy or I have seen at zir school…

GSA

It took us a while to find it, that one lonely little 8.5 by 11 inch sheet on a¬†noticeboard halfway down a hallway. We’d been looking for something bigger, with an actual pride flag. Last year it took us half a year to find the GSA, only to discover no one attends. Jeremy hasn’t asked to join this year. I tried to mention Emma’s school and got cut off and informed the topic had changed.

And so it continued with me referring to Jeremy as zie and zir while everyone else said he and him. At one point the second VP drew boxes on her paper and nudged the lady beside her with a smile, drawing her attention to the paper. My heart sank. Were they really gossiping about myself or my child during the meeting? But no. She’d drawn a box around Jeremy’s name and another box around the word “they” then pointed to both. She was simply reminding the other woman about pronouns. That was one of the only bright spots of the meeting.

They have a work placement set up for Jeremy at the local board office; I believe emptying wastebaskets and taking out recycling. No one in the meeting felt zie’d be there for long. They don’t have any classes available outside the small class setting right now, so Jeremy can’t take any classes that might help with job skills.¬†And there’s no math this semester; instead zir teacher is going to teach simple machines. Her reason? Because she’d been thinking of zir. She cut out zir¬†favourite subject, the one¬†zie¬†argued and pleaded to take more of, in order to teach the class about pulleys and levers. I’m not arguing about the curruculum, simple machines sound very interesting. What irritates me is the claim that she did it for Jeremy. I assured zir we’d work on math at home. If anyone’s got any amazing math websites, please feel free to share them. Goodness knows this is not a subject I can teach.

Two people expressed concern that Jeremy’s gender identity would be a “distraction” because “he” will keep arguing with them when they¬†use the wrong pronoun. I asked if zie’d argued with them over being called “he” before and got told no. They decided zie could keep a tally of their mistakes and bring them up at the end of the class so it wouldn’t be a distraction. They didn’t want “him” bringing it up in the middle of class because an explanation would be too long.

“You don’t need to explain anything,” I pointed out. “All you need to do is say I’m sorry.”

“That would take too long and would be distracting,” she insisted.

“Simply saying I’m sorry would be a distraction?” I asked, in a tone I’ve used on my own kids countless times. Apparently grown adults squirm at that tone too.

“Yes,” she replied. I simply gave her the look.

They wanted to wrap the meeting up right then without bringing Jeremy in because nothing got really decided and maybe we should schedule…

“Jeremy’s been sitting outside waiting this whole time,” I pointed out. “Zie was told fifteen minutes ago that zie’d be allowed inside in five minutes. Plus I had this day off already but I cannot guarantee I’ll have the next day off. Zie needs to come in and hear what’s been discussed.”

They let zir in.

So that’s it. Jeremy’s still being addressed as both he and him while they insist zie can only be referred to as they. The one subject that Jeremy enjoyed will not be back until after Christmas. There are no classes aimed at helping zir find a job zie’d enjoy and they’ve already figured zie’ll tank zir placement. They won’t allow zir a placement outside the school board because zie’s not a good ambassador.¬†They don’t discuss hair colour or nail length at all with Jeremy but when they do, it’s out of a place of genuine concern for “his” wellbeing. They’ve never discussed boys and girls being opposites in the class but, if they did, it would have been an example given by other students and they couldn’t correct them because some of the students are not that bright and it would crush them to have their example corrected. Which isn’t what happened at all but…

I now have a better understanding of Jeremy’s anger issues. And, seriously, if they’re expecting zir to do a tally for¬†every time they misgender zir, I’m going to need to buy zir a bigger backpack and one hell of a large notebook.

Back to school…

It was still dark when we woke this morning. I popped the english muffins in the toaster, fished our lunch bags out of the fridge, and then I took Jeremy’s back to school photo; they made sure to pose with their netbook.

“I put the letter and all the information for your teacher in your backpack,” I assured them. “Please make sure she gets it, I didn’t destroy an entire forest just so it could sit in your backpack unread.”

letter for the teacher

Just some light reading

“I will,” they promised

I was showing Jeremy’s back to school photo to a¬†coworker when I realized I’d never asked Jeremy what pronouns to use while I’m at work.

“They,” Jeremy said¬†when I called them. They used as much scorn as a seventeen year old can muster, which is quite a bit.

Once again I discovered today that people don’t listen. I referred to Jeremy as “they” during my whole shift¬†and no one noticed. I’d say “they” and my¬†coworker would reply “he”. I wasn’t sure if I was relieved or disappointed; I think I was closer to both. At one point a relatively new coworker asked if I have a son.

“Umm… kind of… not really,” I replied awkwardly. “I’ve got two kids, Emma and Jeremy.”

She gave me a look that said she’d always suspected I was insane and I’d finally proven it.

“Is Jeremy in grade 12?” she asked. I nodded and she grinned. “So’s my Jeremy. Was he excited to go back?”

“No, they weren’t,” I said. “They were happy at home this summer.”

“Oh, my son was happy to go back. He was bored at home and…”

The conversation moved on and then another crowd of people came through the door.

I’d hoped to make it through the whole first day of school without a phone call then the phone rang five minutes before the end of my shift. At first I was relieved it was simply Jeremy. One of the educational assistants discovered a partially disassembled battery operated scooter in a school closet and figured Jeremy would love it. She was right, they did, but it wasn’t allowed on the bus. Could they walk home with the scooter instead? I gave my permission both to Jeremy and their teacher.

I figured she’d mention the letter, instead she talked about the scooter and how unsafe it was. Which was understandable¬†but as she talked I wondered if the information I’d printed was resting under Jeremy’s (hopefully) empty lunchbag.

“I sent some information with Jeremy. Did you get a chance to read any of it?” I asked.

“Oh, no,” she said awkwardly. “I got the impression it had to do with a meeting so I put it all in the office.”

Wait… what? She saw a letter addressed to her by one of her student’s parents and placed the whole thing¬†into the office without reading it? That made no sense.

“Did you at least read the letter?” I asked. “It was only one page.”

I leaned against one of the storage racks. I hadn’t hung around there since last spring when I was on the phone with Jeremy’s teacher.

“I skimmed it,” she replied. “I just want you to know I don’t agree with what you wrote. I talked about transgendered all last year.”

I bit my tongue. Hard.

“And we discussed this last year. I talked to the principal and explained everything to you. I just don’t feel…” My mind filled in comfortable. She obviously had second thoughts about that sentence and scrapped it entirely. “Our school guidelines do not require us to use invented pronouns in the classroom. I went over this with our principal and he would know. He helped write that information.”

“That’s not what it says on the district website,” I replied. “That’s not what it says in the Canadian guidelines either. I printed information from both the school board’s website and the government of Canada’s website and underlined all the relevant sections.”

“I don’t think we’re on the same page here,” she commented and I sighed.

“I don’t think so either,” I agreed.

“This is something meant to be discussed when there’s a transgendered student in the class-”

“There is now,” I said bluntly. “Jeremy is trans and they were very uncomfortable last year when you only taught binary pronouns.”

“You said in your letter that he hadn’t decided yet. When Jeremy decides what gender he’s choosing-”

“You mean when Jeremy tells you what gender they are. They’re not choosing anything and they already know their gender. I said they would tell you when they feel comfortable enough to use the pronoun ‘they’ at school. The information I printed was straight off the school board’s website. It’s easily available and I can email the links to anyone who is interested in reading it.”

She had to get off the phone then. I left work not knowing when a meeting would be arranged. If I don’t hear anything by Monday (my next weekday off) I’ll call the school and arrange a meeting myself.

I got home a couple of minutes before Jeremy then waited while they chugged a cup of orange juice. Apparently a scooter that’s supposed to be battery operated is not easy to push. Then I asked them how school was and, more specifically, what the teacher said about the letter.

“She said it was an insult and a slap in the face,” Jeremy replied. “She said she thinks about me the most out of all the students.”

She’s said this to me before too and I’m beginning to think she does. Unfortunately thinking about someone isn’t always positive.

Last year Jeremy was sent home multiple times for arguing with the teacher. Quite a few of the times were because they felt there needed to be more math. Jeremy loves math. This year, according to Jeremy, their teacher’s decided they’ve done enough math as a class. All this semester they’ll be working on science instead; science being growing plants. Which Jeremy loves… as a hobby.

I told Jeremy that today was a fresh start and to give their teacher a chance. Sadly, I think that chance has been blown.

Pronouns and a letter to the teacher…

I was talking to a friend today about pronouns and was asked if I’d thought of trialing a pronoun for Jeremy, like she did with her daughter. So I talked to Jeremy this morning and explained that I was feeling uncomfortable using him and he these days, simply because neither seems to suit Jeremy anymore. I explained what happened regarding my friend and her daughter. It felt a bit like I was pushing Jeremy by saying I want to use they and them but at the same time Jeremy seemed genuinely happy with the pronoun they… for the most part…

Jeremy: Mom, the only problem with they is it makes me sound like I’ve got about fifty personalities.

Me: And all of them are fabulous.

Jeremy (grinning): Except for Jerry. He’s an ass.

They do have a point though. It’s going to be an interesting pronoun to use when I’m talking about a few people and Jeremy “… and then they’re going home. Not everyone though, just Jeremy”. I figure we’ll get used to it in time.

So Jeremy’s using they everywhere except school and with extended family; which means I’m using they everyone except for my main Facebook page, where I’ll refrain from using pronouns as best I can. I might need a list.

I’ve spent this morning writing a letter for Jeremy’s teacher as their first day of school is this Wednesday. And here it is:

Dear Mrs. Teacher,

I would like 2014/2015 to be a good year for you, Jeremy, and the rest of the class. Jeremy¬†has spent the entire summer panicking about the upcoming year. I know he can be a handful and a half to deal with but he’s also feeling unwelcome and disliked; this in turn causes him to act up out of frustration. He’s already talking about leaving school as soon as he turns eighteen because he thinks no one wants him there.

A compromise needs to be reached regarding electronics. Jeremy¬†never goes anywhere without a bag of electronic equipment, this is a comfort for him, a coping strategy, he feels safer with them. While I don’t think he should be spending the day playing with his electronic devices, he will be calmer and better behaved with something nearby, even if it’s just in a bag by his feet. I would like to buy him a stress ball, although these days they’re fairly hard to find, he concentrates better with something in his hand. He is also coming into school with my old netbook. I would prefer him to use a school issued one, especially since it wouldn’t require an external keyboard, but I’ve been told repeatedly that his language based learning disabilities and processing issues do not qualify him. This netbook will be used for writing, other than at lunch or during any other break when he’s allowed to play games. Also, Jeremy¬†would like the opportunity to do his math assignments in paint as he finds operating a mouse easier than a pencil. If you have any math or science based websites he can work on, he’s welcome to use them as well.

Jeremy¬†identifies as gender nonconforming. I’ve spoken to several people this summer and have read the information on the [local school board]’s¬†website. His identity falls under the trans umbrella and, as such, means he gets the same rights as the other transgender students in the board. This means no comments on his hair length or how long he keeps his nails, no encouraging other students to tell him to cut his hair, and no criticizing his hair dye (his hair is not going to fall out). In short, anything that is acceptable for a female student is acceptable for him and is not to be commented on in any negative fashion. He was made very uncomfortable last year when he was being taught only binary pronouns in English. Despite what I was told by you, via the principal, it is recommended to let the students know that there are other genders and other pronouns. There is nothing on the website referring to ‚Äúinvented pronouns‚ÄĚ or only discussing them if and when a student changes pronouns. The school board is well aware that not all trans students are out and recommends acting as if you have a trans student in the class at all times.

I have referred to Jeremy as he/him throughout this letter. I, however, will be referring to him as they from now on as Jeremy does not identify as 100% male. Jeremy does wish to be called he/him at school for now at least. They will let you know if this changes.

I am enclosing half a forest of information from both the school board’s website and the government of Canada’s page. I have highlighted the parts that I feel pertain the most to Jeremy¬†but the whole documents are very helpful.

I would enjoy a chance to sit down and talk with you, [principal], and anyone else who wishes to attend in order to provide the best outcome for this upcoming school year. I can be reached at [my phone number].

Thank you,

Michelle