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.

World’s worst whack-a-mole game Part 2…

There’s another hateful meme going around the internet and this time it’s pretending to be a joke. An April Fool’s joke to be exact. I have to admit, transphobes have pretty weird ideas of what constitutes a joke.

transphobic meme

First of all the meme starts with the misunderstanding that mother and father, in all their various forms, has been banned and replaced by the word parent. That comes from a suggestion by the Prime Minister to Service Canada employees to use gender neutral words instead of assuming someone’s gender or until the parent specifies their preference.

For example, the Service Canada employee asks if you are little Sarah’s parent. You say, “Yes I am.” You will continue to be referred to as her parent. If you say, “Yes, I’m her mother” you will be referred to as her mother. No one is saying that Mama and Papa are offensive. They’re simply saying not everyone is a mother or father. Some people really do use the word “parent” to describe themselves. Non-binary people exist.

Then comes the complete and utter foolishness in claiming it shows a lack of common sense to affirm the existence of non-binary people. A lack of common sense would come from the people who look at this world filled with a rainbow of people and say, “Nope, just two genders. I can’t see you.” Talk about burying your head in the sand.

Plus the sign the A&W bear is holding uses the word “peoplekind” which is something I’ve only heard right wingers use since Trudeau said it as a joke, and the misspelling of the word rule. If a Liberal wrote the sign, it would read “humankind rules” or “everyone rules” to include, well, everyone. There’s no point in pretending Liberals are idiots because we patently aren’t. That claim only makes the people saying that look like fools.

And, of course, there’s the burger, made to look as idiotic as possible with trendy implausible ingredients. Ground beef instead of a patty? Quinoa for a bun? If I were making a LGBTQ burger, it would be an amazingly tasty vegan burger with your choice of toppings (like Harveys) with the proceeds going to a LGBTQ charity like Cyndi Lauper’s True Colors program.

What’s patently obvious is this “joke” is sad, transphobic, and juvenile with a burger pulled right off of Pinterest, which wasn’t credited. The people sharing it, unironically, are the dinosaurs of our world, becoming extinct so the next generation can stand up tall and take over. And that generation is the most LGBTQ friendly generation in recorded history. The future is rainbow and full of promise!

Facebook memes…

I was on the bus this morning, scrolling through Facebook, when I saw a meme… one of those “Like and share if you love your son with all your heart” images. My first thought was ‘it would be nice to have a meme to share for Jeremy’, my second was ‘I could make one’, and my third was ‘with all my heart?’ Zie takes up a lot of space but I’ve got another kid and cats and chocolate too. I decided to make at least one meme when I got home and some chocolate pudding.

I was on my way home this afternoon, once again scrolling through Facebook, and I saw a post asking if anyone had seen any gender neutral kid memes. I wasn’t alone… for the meme at least and probably not for the leaving space in my heart for chocolate either.

I’ve made two memes, one for non-binary kids and one for gender creative kids and stuck them on my Facebook page. Now everyone can join in on the meme sharing craze 🙂 Also, if you have a kidlet that’s being missed by the meme’s let me know and I’ll see what me and my decade old scrapbooking program can do.

You are so beautiful…

It was almost dinner time and Jeremy and I were on my parents’ couch. I was chatting on Facebook messenger with my friend Lenny while Jeremy played around with the panoramic setting on zir new phone. Light streamed through the living room window, highlighting Jeremy’s hair. Zie looked lovely. I quickly snapped a picture before we got up to make our plates.

“You look beautiful,” I said as I stood on tiptoe to kiss zir cheek. Jeremy usually smiles at that but today zie didn’t.

“What’s wrong?” I asked. “Don’t you like being called beautiful?” Zie shook zir head.

“Would you rather be called handsome?” I was surprised when zie nodded.

“Oh, okay,” I replied. “I’ll start calling you handsome.”

I was going to say more but zie’d walked into the kitchen with the rest of the family and I didn’t want to embarrass zir. Discussing gender and terms of affection in front of family would be embarrassing for everyone but I’m more concerned about Jeremy. I figured the conversation could wait until later.

Later didn’t come until we got back home.

“Do you remember the conversation we had about beautiful and handsome last month?” I asked almost as soon as we walked in our door.

Jeremy finished pulling off zir shoes then shook zir head.

Jeremy’s face had been cheerful and animated that autumn afternoon as zie gestured, describing something I can no longer recall. I’d watched for a minute then said zie looked handsome. Jeremy’s hands stilled and zie winced.

“I asked you if you’d rather be called handsome or beautiful and you told me you’d like to be called beautiful.”

Jeremy squirmed with embarrassment. “I’m allowed to change my mind sometimes,” zie pointed out. “I’m still sorting stuff out.”

“That’s fine,” I replied gently.

Maybe I’ll just call zir cute and fabulous.

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…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

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.

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.

An afternoon walk…

Jeremy and I went for a walk yesterday. It was a gorgeous summer day (we got good weather just in time for fall) and it was nice just to get out and spend some time together. I got an amazing shot of them in the woods, but it’s a full face shot so I can’t share it here; they truly looked lovely though. Meanwhile we simply chattered about nothing in particular.

We were walking back towards home when I looked over at Jeremy and remembered something they’d said this winter.

“Mom, I’ve thought about killing myself this month. My life’s pointless, it’s just not going to get any better. I’m never going to amount to anything.”

“Jeremy,” I said hesitantly. “You know I go on a parenting group for mothers. There’s a few people in that group who don’t identify with either gender. One thing to remember though is they’ve grown up, are in relationships, and have kids.”

“Are there any fathers in that group?”

I shook my head. “There’s another group for fathers though.”

“What do they wear?”

“Whatever they want to wear,” I replied. “Some wear masculine clothes, some wear feminine, some alternate between, and some try for more neutral clothes. It just depends on what they feel more comfortable in.” They smiled.

We walked a bit further. “Do any of them live nearby,” they asked hopefully.

“Umm, I know someone who lives across the lake but that’s not exactly convenient. Why?”

“I was hoping maybe they could come in and talk to my teacher… but it wouldn’t make a difference. When that kid came out as trans in the other class…”

I looked over to see Jeremy scowl. “Our teacher sat us down to explain that the kid was male and not female and one of my classmates started to cry because he had to stay a girl and wasn’t allowed to change. She cried so much the teacher ended up sending her into the hall to calm down. She didn’t try to explain anything to [classmate] at all. She should have told her it didn’t have anything to do with her. If it was me, I’d have sent her home for a week.”

“That’s not fair either,” I interrupted. “She’s developmentally delayed. She should have gotten an explanation instead of being sent into the hall.”

“That’s why I said a week,” Jeremy protested. “I’d go look up information.”

“You wouldn’t need a week. The teacher should have already had the information ready ahead of time.” They nodded.

“I’m going to do a teach,” they said decisively. “I’ll explain everything and they’ll have to listen, no excuses.”

So Jeremy’s going to teach a group of teens in a life skills class about non-binary trans… under the supervision of their teacher, who’s been critiquing Jeremy’s hair and nails for the past two years. This is going to be one heck of an interesting fall.

And now I’m off to dye their hair purple and watch an episode of Doctor Who. School goes back in tomorrow.

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 “invented pronouns” 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

Just happy…

“Jeremy? Can you come into my room for a minute? I want to read you something.”

“All right, I guess,” he sighed unenthusiastically.

I heard him push back his chair and resisted the urge to cross my fingers. Sometimes he listens, most of the time he just wiggles around impatiently and changes the subject as soon as I finish speaking. I already had the tab open. I’d had it open for two hours while I worked up the guts to call him in.

How do you describe your gender?

As soon as I started reading, Jeremy began fidgeting.

“Ooo… I like this one, ‘with a “meh” sound and a wavy hand gesture’,” I looked over my shoulder. “Jeremy, stop banging around my pillow. I’m going to sleep with that tonight.”

He snickered. “Mom, you’re going to sleep with your pillow? That’s really weird.”

I grabbed the pillow and tossed it to the top of the bed. Then I repeated the previous comment, complete with hand gesture. I could see from Jeremy’s expression that he’d actually listened this time.

“Yeah, that’s someone describing their gender,” I added then kept reading, “…and ‘alien space prince’-”

“Wait? There’s royalty?” Jeremy interrupted. A grin crept across his face.

“Not really,” I replied. “It’s in their handle though and they used…” I paused to count, “seven words to describe their gender. Janitorqueer said he’s ‘a kaleidoscope of all genders’.”

Jeremy nodded then stayed silent for the rest of the replies.

“Well that’s it for me,” I said as I stifled a yawn. “I’m way too tired to stay up any longer. Go to sleep netbook.” I stood up then closed my netbook. It’s new and the hinges are a tad eager so it snapped shut.

“You just slammed that computer shut. Just wham…” Jeremy blurted.

“Yep,” I said before mimicking slamming something shut quite violently. “Just slammed it to bits.”

I held out my arms for a hug and stood on my tiptoes. Jeremy bent toward me with a wide smile and his expression startled me. Don’t get me wrong, Jeremy smiles and laughs often, but this time it was different. His smile was just that, an expression of happiness with no tinges of anything else. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d seen him with nothing but happiness on his face. This smile was real.

He let go then scooped his perfume off my dresser where he’s been stashing it. He gave himself a liberal squirt.

“I’m going to make myself some tea before bed,” he announced then he hurried down the hall, perfume bottle in hand.

I screw up quite regularly as a parent but reading that post to Jeremy was definitely the right thing.

Thanks for writing that Tumblr post Micah, it made a difference.