My Invisible Daughter…

Colin on a spring walkThe picture showed up on my newsfeed via the “on this day” app. Colin was smiling for the camera in his usual fashion.

“You don’t show your teeth when you smile!” he exclaimed once when I commented on his shy, almost hesitant smile.

His bright blue hair was lightened by the sun and his clothes were almost blinding. Then I glanced over at today’s Colin, who was sitting on my bed and asked, “Do you miss your old bright clothes?”

“Well, yeah,” he admitted then we both fell silent. I don’t go into Superstore’s men’s department at all, which is where we bought the tops and pants, but I haven’t seen anyone wear anything similar recently. Meanwhile, all of Colin’s current clothes are various shades of grey, as if he wants to fade into the background.

I thought about my bubbly, outgoing teenager who stood up and stood out. Who was proudly out as trans, asking teachers and classmates to use his pronouns. Then I thought of all the people who refused because zie and zir were “too weird” and “too hard to remember”. The teachers who used he and him repeatedly in class, only to lie and say they used the right pronouns all the time. Pro tip, if you’re using the right pronouns “all the time” you won’t slip up 9 times out of 10 at a parent teacher conference.

I thought of all the people, especially older men, who blatantly stared at him, often turning in place to continue watching. Colin claimed he never saw them but they were so very obvious.

walking Lara at Cedar ValleyI remembered how shyly Colin came out as female and how relieved he was when I believed him. How we laughed and joked on that snowy trail, thinking up names for her and coming up with the most outrageous ones we could think of.

We sat on the news for a couple of weeks until Colin felt comfortable sharing the information. Then he got me to share the big news. He was scared of what people would say. So I explained he was now Emma and would be using she/her pronouns. My friends were awesome and immediately switched pronouns and name. My family was very supportive of him, continuing right on using Colin, he, and him. Every foray into feminine clothes brought about extreme anxiety for Colin. What were people going to say? What would they do? Would he get beaten up? Is this what would get him disowned.

Then summer rolled around and brought along Colin’s birthday, complete with a long, nasty post from his Dad that started with, “happy birthday son love you colin”. The whole fiasco ended up with Colin getting disowned by his Dad. Kait’s since been disowned and neither one of them speak to their father any more. No matter how much they know they’re better off not speaking to him, it’s bound to hurt.

Then it came time to try and start on hormones. Our family doctor was not optimistic. He admitted he had no real experience with hormones and said that one of his patients gave up and detransitioned because hormones were taking too long. Then he went on to make several questionable comments, all prefaced with “I’m not prejudiced but” and finally he explained the wait for hormone therapy would take years plus many bus trips into Toronto. Bus trips we couldn’t afford.

I searched and asked for help and finally got the number of a local clinic that does hormone therapy. Once again Colin (then Emma) was so happy. Soon she could be herself. The doctor informed Colin that he’d be rendered infertile as soon as he started hormone therapy and anyone I’d talked to who knew otherwise was anecdotal. We couldn’t afford a sperm bank.

And that was the final straw. Colin asked to go back to Colin again. Asked for me to use he and him. If he couldn’t have a baby while female, he wasn’t going to transition.

So now I have an invisible daughter. I know she’s there. I catch a glimpse of her sometimes in the way Colin fluffs back his hair. In the shape of a smile. But no one else sees her.

“Do you miss being female?” I asked and was surprised when Colin shook his head no. I thought for a moment.

“Do you still feel female?” I asked.

“Of course,” Colin replied instantly. “I just can’t be female because I want kids.”

“You’re going to need to tell your girlfriend you’re a woman,” I pointed out. It was Colin’s turn to look surprised.

“Why?” he asked.

“Aren’t you going to transition after having kids?”

“Well no,” he replied. “By the time I have kids it would be harder… well, anyways, I’m ugly enough already as it is.”

He left the room and my heart broke.

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I am not Ryland – the story of a tomboy

There’s a blog post by someone named Lindsay that I’ve seen a few times. It’s titled I am Ryland. I’ve ignored it until now simply because it was written back in 2014 but it’s still going around (and around… over 10k times). In it, the author explains how her gender nonconforming childhood meant she was exactly the same as the transgender boy Ryland:

The thing she fails to notice is her parents treated her the same way Ryland’s parents treat him. They listen to him and follow his lead on who he is and where his interests lie. My parents were the same way.

Penny the pony

I’m in the yellow jacket

I was a little girl who dearly loved most “boy things”. I climbed trees like a monkey (and roofs and the fences behind baseball diamonds). I collected worms, preying mantises, and spiders. I don’t think my sister Karen will ever recover from my spider collection. If we needed to dig the deepest, run the fastest, or swim the farthest, I was there. My best friends, right up until puberty, were boys and they remained mainly boys until I was an adult. Even now I’m equally comfortable with male and female friends.

Like Lindsay I wanted the privileges of being a boy. I wanted to be picked by my grade five teacher to run across the street to buy treats for the class… a reward that was supposed to be random but only went to boys. I wanted to be a tree surgeon when I grew up; I couldn’t imagine anything better than climbing trees for a living. I thought being a garbage man sounded cool too (driving that big truck) but there was the little word man which stood in my way.

The one thing I didn’t want was to be a boy. I wanted to be myself, a tomboyish girl. I wanted to run and climb and collect bugs without being told to settle down and be a lady. Ladies were boring. They sat and talked and did nothing else. They certainly didn’t lie on the ground to catch bullfrogs and they screamed when they saw mice and snakes, even though they were cool. I wanted to grow up to be a woman.

What Lindsay misses is Ryland isn’t her. He’s not a tomboy who wants male privilege. He’s a boy. He’s not confused. He’s not being ignored. And if something rare happens and he changes his mind at puberty, it won’t be traumatic. He’ll just get a new wardrobe and haircut then go on with his life.

I’m glad that both Lindsay and I had our chances to have rough and tumble childhoods. I’m glad we both had the choice to be tomboys and grow up to be women. And I’m glad Ryland’s parents are giving him the same chance to be himself.

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.

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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.

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 🙂

Watching Jeremy return…

Right now Jeremy’s tired and a wee bit grumpy, staring at their bagel as if they’ve never seen one before and aren’t quite sure what to do with it. But, even now, they’re more here than I’ve seen in a long time.

Two weeks ago I took Jeremy to the hospital in desperation. Their anger was getting worse, their depression was deepening, and the cycles between didn’t end. I asked if they wanted to go and was floored when they said yes.

It was a long day. A psych evaluation via the emergency room always is. Jeremy was seen by triage, two nurses, an emergency room doctor, a psych nurse, the psychiatrist, a phlebotomist, and whatever the technical term for the person who runs the EKG machine. At the end they came out with a diagnosis of “likely bipolar” and two new medications.

The downside to the medication is exhaustion. We’re not sure which pill is causing it, although right now Jeremy’s leaning towards the blue-green pill, Latuda. Which explains their glazed stare at the bagel. The upside is watching Jeremy return with their quirky sense of humour and innate kindness. They joke around with their younger cousin, head out for walks with me, snuggle the cats, and chat with their grandparents.

Jeremy got their final inheritance from their grandfather on Wednesday and on of their very first purchases was a netbook for me. It’s cute, tiny, and has a blue cover which reminds me vaguely of both Tetris and Lego.

“You deserve it,” Jeremy urged.

It wasn’t expensive so I accepted.

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Me at my parents’ house with said netbook

Jeremy also bought themself a laptop off Amazon, a shiny red one with a terabyte hard drive and a quad core. Now they just have to wait until the 15th.

The main part… the good part is I have them back.

“Hey Mom! This song is so gay. Not gay in a bad way, gay in a mmm good way!”

Yep, they’re definitely back!

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Jeremy walking Lara while rocking their second best headphones. The best, from B, were charging at home.