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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Changing the shape of your skin…

There are so many things I didn’t know before Colin came out as trans.

It hadn’t dawned on me that trans people would need to take hormones, although it obviously makes sense. I didn’t realize how strong testosterone was, that women need to take blockers to stop their testosterone while taking estrogen, when men only need to take testosterone. I didn’t realize the struggle many have with family and friends, a struggle to be accepted for who they are. And I didn’t realize how much people go through so that the shape of their body matches, as much as possible, the gender of their mind.

I belong to a group for trans people and their allies and recently one woman announced she’s dealing with kidney problems, memory loss, and dizziness… all from her hormone blocker¬†spironolactone. When Colin told his doctor he wasn’t going to transition, his doctor responded that he was glad Colin wasn’t going to do “irreparable damage” to his body. I’m reasonably sure the doctor was referring to growing breasts and hips, which would be bringing his body more in line with his gender, but the possible damage caused by¬†spironolactone is definitely irreversible and far more terrifying.

At this point Colin doesn’t want to ever transition. He wants children first and he figures by the time he has kids, he’ll be too old for estrogen to help bring out the woman in him. I’ve assured him that’s not the case, that I’ve seen before and after pictures multiple times of someone who looks like the manliest man and after hormones looks like the woman she is. Delaying transitioning isn’t necessarily a forever thing. But he’s young enough that even thirty seems like forever away and forty is impossible to comprehend. He’s got his school and computers and video games to keep him occupied for now.

Even though Colin’s not transitioning now (if ever), my first thought when I read the post was him. I think that’s true of all parents to think of their children, however old, when they hear of danger. I know there are other weaker blockers available now that can be used instead. Hopefully there’ll be more choices in the future.

Decisions… decisions…

Nothing much has changed on Emma’s side regarding transitioning. She knows she’s female but hasn’t decided whether to start hormones or not. She doesn’t want to be a trap (definitions 3 and 4) as she puts it.

There seems to be blocks everywhere. Having her stop transitioning and waiting for a decade or so to have biological kids is easy to say but isn’t particularly feasible as she’s already struggling with gender dysphoria. Plus, as Emma pointed out, there’s no guarantee she’ll be able to have biological kids. She could fall in love with another trans woman or a woman who’s infertile.

Sperm banks are prohibitively expensive, then there’s storage fees on top of the first payment. Plus there’s In Vitro Fertilization which only a 40% success rate per cycle for a young person. Once her spouse’s age goes past 35 years old, that rate drops.

And the last choice, on her list, adoption. This one sounds like a good option on in future. Let’s say Emma and her partner have good jobs and they want to adopt. They get a list of questions and one of the first ones is “Do you have a mental illness?” and that’s the end of the questioning because she’s no longer valid to be an adoptive parent.

Her only hope now is for a partner with a womb so they can use a sperm bank, something I haven’t looked into… yet.

I’ve found someone for her to talk to, mostly because I’m tactless and will do just about anything for my kids when they’re in a tough situation. I walked up to a total stranger and asked her if she was trans. She was. Before she could turn around and walk away, I blurted, “I’m asking for my teenager, she’s trans”. We had a good conversation and she gave me her phone number and agreed to chat with Emma.

It’s hard waiting for Emma to make up her mind. I could ask her but it’s her decision to make and she needs space to do this on her own. I just hope she makes the decision for her and not some possibly future embryo.

The hard decision…

Emma sees her doctor tomorrow about starting hormone therapy. The thing is, she’s not sure she wants to. Or, more specifically, she wants to but also wants to someday have a baby of her own. And this is one thing I can’t help her with.

It’s a hard choice at twenty to have to decide whether to make yourself infertile. It’s even harder when you’ve wanted to be a parent for your whole life. I reminded her about adoption but she wants to have a baby, not a child. I pointed out that they could go to a sperm bank to impregnate her future wife and got silence in return. And I brought up the fact that hormones work better when you’re younger and got a curt “I know”.

Emma has school tomorrow and I have a social recreation group. We’re going to meet up after both and walk to the doctor’s office. With any luck she’ll have come to a conclusion she can live with.

Update:¬†Emma’s doctor sent us home with information about sperm banks and some places to call. Her next appointment is in two months.

Won’t someone think of the children?

From the time Jeremy was a tiny child he wanted to be a Daddy. Well he first wanted to be a Mommy but I explained that little boys become Daddies when they grow up so he changed that to being a Daddy who breastfed. I decided to leave the intricacies of breastfeeding until later.

And now he’s talking more and more seriously about transitioning and realizing his fertility will be at risk. Banking sperm is prohibitively expensive, something he’s already googled and realized. Stopping hormone therapy for half a year gives only the slightest chance of conception. Surrogacy is fraught with legal tape and what if’s.

I’ve explained to Jeremy that not every cis straight couple is able to have a baby, it’s not a guarantee. I’ve explained that cis gay and lesbian couples go through similar issues too. And I’ve assured him that if he is Julie, she’s going to come out now or later and, since he only has one life to live, it might as well be now. He needs to be himself/herself.

Talking with my nineteen year old about infertility is hard.