Standing up…

When Jeremy was little, he was mistaken for a girl on a regular basis.jeremy-easter-2010

“What a cute little girl!”
“You’ve got such a lovely daughter?”
“How old is she?”
“What’s her name?”
“She’s so sweet!”

I didn’t bother to correct them. Jeremy didn’t mind and it simply embarrassed people. Besides, he was cute, lovely, adorable, and sweet. Even when his hair was short, he still got “such a lovely girl” comments. He was sweet.

Back then I knew nothing about trans people. I wondered why Jeremy only played girl characters in his games and played dress up right into his preteens with his sister but figured he was just imaginative and liked the way the dresses felt.

jeremy-in-2014Then he became a teenager and started experimenting more with his hair and, to a lesser extent, his clothes. The comments changed slightly to include “ma’am” and he was still, to the mildly unobservant, feminine.

He still didn’t mind being called her and she, in fact, sometimes it seemed to bring him joy. And I still had no idea what that could mean.

Now he’s almost 20 years old with mitts for hands, size 12 men’s feet, and a deep bass voice. Now he’s talking about transitioning. And I’m so scared. I belong to enough groups to know people aren’t kind to 6ft 3in women with deep voices and adam’s apples. I read the posts on Facebook. I know there’s been seven trans women (and one colin-and-laratrans man) killed so far in the States this year alone. I haven’t heard any statistics for Canada.

Jeremy talks happily about buying a bikini with a skirt and how he’s always wanted a frilly dress with lots of floofy layers. I will do everything I can to help him achieve his dreams but I can’t do everything.

Please be kind when you see my child on the street. For all that he’s 19 years old, he’s still my child. He bought a Minecraft book today and jelly beans then laughed over bathroom humour in a YouTube video.  He’s still young. He’s not a joke. He’s not a freak. He’s a person with feelings and thoughts.

One day he’s going to be stepping out that door in the dress of his dreams. You might see him or, more likely, you will see someone like him. Someone who, for whatever reason, just isn’t fitting in 100%. Please be kind, be helpful, and let him come home safely with his heart intact. Stand up for him. Stand up with him. Don’t let him feel alone against the bullies and please, please don’t let him be a statistic.

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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.

Childhood woes…

Jeremy had the best childhood I could give him*. Dolls to cuddle and trucks to play with (and cuddle). Trips to the park. Camping. Birthday parties. Trips to the indoor playground (oh the noise). Bedtime stories. Excursions to Centre Island. The Old Spaghetti Factory. If he wanted a pink stuffed bear, he got one. If he wanted a skateboard, he got one. I did my very best to suit his childhood to him and not to gender norms.

gender creative Jeremy

But there’s one thing I can’t give him. I can’t give him a girlhood. He’s got memories of wearing his sister’s dresses but they were her dresses… at home. He’s never had a fancy dress or a gaggle of female friends. He’s never been able to grow his hair long without people urging him to cut it because he looked “too girly”. He’s never been able to bring a stuffed animal or doll to school without being teased… even in grade one. He’s never had a period. He will never give birth. And he wants all these things.jeremy-in-2010

As hard as I tried, I couldn’t stop everyone from telling him how much better he looked with short hair, that only girls could wear dresses and he couldn’t, that he was too girly, too much of a f*g, and he needed to “man up”. For every person I talked to there were three others I didn’t find out about until later. Sometimes much later.

Jeremy went as Julie to PFLAG last night. She wore her Doctor Who shirt from Emma and a plain brown long skirt. Her nails were neatly done with purple polish and her makeup was subtle. Everyone was friendly at the meeting and only two people laughed on the way home. Maybe they were laughing about something else? We never asked.

I can love Jeremy and support him. I can stand by him and stand up for him. But I can’t go back and change the past. I’m sorry Jeremy. I’m so sorry that I didn’t know.

*Jeremy’s current choice of pronouns.

You spin me right round baby, right round…

It was an odd sort of day. The snow crunched underfoot as we tied our jackets around our waists due to the warmth. It was 12C and the snow was melting everywhere except for the woods where we walked. Jeremy’s cat trotted along beside us. It was peaceful.

Then Jeremy broke the silence. “Mom, my medication has really been working this time,” he stated. I nodded because it had. His yelling had dropped to pretty much nothing, chores were getting done. He’d even started cleaning up his room.

walking-lara-at-cedar-valley

Jeremy walking Lara 

“I think it was the depression that made me say I’m male. I’m really not and now I’m wondering if I’m female. I remember how happy it used to make me feel when someone thought I was a girl.”

This was pretty much the last thing I expected him to say but I rolled with it.

My memory’s not nearly good enough to remember a whole conversation verbatim but we went on to discuss hormones and surgery, names and pronouns, with Jeremy asking to please be called he/him for now. And soon the conversation went back to Jeremy’s favourite topic of computers.

I woke the next morning to find Jeremy in my computer chair. “How could they turn a penis into a vagina?” he asked. “They’re totally different.”

My favourite way to start the morning is with a simple “hi” and lots of quiet but I gamely tried to explain sexual affirmation surgery… before breakfast… while half asleep.

“But it’ll look normal, right?” he asked once I was done.

“Yes,” I assured him. “It’ll look like any other vulva.”

He looked like someone was forcing him to swallow a worm. “I guess I’ll have to make a decision,” he said quietly.

I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure trans woman are usually happier at the thought of having a vulva of their own.

“Look,” I said, leaning closer, “How do you feel inside? Do you feel male? Female? In between?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I don’t really feel like anything.”

“It sounds like maybe you’re agender.”

“Maybe,” Jeremy agreed hesitantly.

“Sweetie, you have plenty of time,” I assured him again. “You don’t have to decide anything right now or even any time soon. And, if you want, I can find someone you can talk to.”

Jeremy nodded and looked a bit happier. “By video chat,” he agreed.

So I chatted with a friend of mine who describes herself as “ambiguously female” and got a chat sorted out. Luckily she was already Facebook friends with Jeremy.

I was dozing the next morning when Jeremy wandered in. “It’s too bad you’re asleep because I wanted to talk about gender,” he said.

“Huh?” I mumbled. Apparently that qualifies as awake.

“I think I might be more gender fluid than agender,” he continued. “But I don’t want to be both male and female. I want to be one or the other. So I need to figure out who I am the most.”

“Hon, there’s nothing wrong with being both,” I assured him, quickly waking up. “If you’re both, we’ll just get you two sets of clothes.”

“But I don’t like fancy clothes,” Jeremy pointed out worriedly. I laughed.

“When you were buying your clothes in the ladies section, did I ever buy you fancy clothes?”

He smiled and agreed I hadn’t.

Then he caught me making breakfast.

“If I have surgery, it’ll be my very first surgery. I haven’t even broken a bone before.” He paused. “Oh wait, I had eye surgery when I was a baby so it would be my second surgery.”

“Let me know when I can blog this,” I commented and he shook his head.

“Not yet. My Dad reads your blog. He’s only called me once in a long time and I want him to call to talk to me, not to call about gender stuff. And I want to get things more sorted out.”

“Look Jeremy,” I said the following morning after he’d talked, yet again, about surgery. “Do you feel like a woman?”

He nodded and said yes then added, “But I also feel like a man.”

“So you’re right back where you started as bigender,” I pointed out. He shook his head.

“I feel more… what do you call it? Gender fluid.”

At least he was achieving some continuity.

So I thought and thought while he shovelled his room clean then called him into my room to share my thoughts with him.

“What?” he asked from the other side of the wall.

“Hon, this is a poignant Hallmark moment. Get your ass in here,” I replied, because we’re loving and touching like that. He wandered in and flopped down onto my bed.

“Jeremy, our society acts like we all fit into tiny boxes, all neatly labelled and sorted. We don’t. People are more unique, more messy, more creative than that. Right now you’re trying to cram yourself into a male box or a female box. Don’t. Just be your glorious self. If you feel female then act female, if you feel male then act male. You only have one life to live and it’s too short to live it stuffed in a box of other people’s expectations. You do you and be yourself fabulously.”

Jeremy held his phone up to his neck and giggled. “Look, I have a double chin. See.”

It’s a wonder this kid has made it to 19 years old. Also, we’re never getting a slot in any Hallmark ads. I glared at him.

“No, I like that,” he said hastily. “I’ll take it under consideration.”

“And you don’t need to have surgery either,” I pointed out. “I mean do you like your penis?”

Jeremy looked at me in surprise then shook his head. “Not really.”

He used to hide it as a child so that wasn’t much of a surprise.

“Okay,” I replied, thinking quickly. “Maybe more insight would be a help. Why don’t I post this and see if we can get any advice from people who have been through this before?”

He thought about it for a moment then agreed. So now it’s your turn. If your gender could be described as confused or multifaceted, please feel free to reply with how you’re doing now and what your options were/are. Thank you so much for your help.

Confusion…

I looked out the window at the gently falling snow and decided I was going to have a walk through the woods instead of a walk on the indoor track. Jeremy didn’t want to go, it was too cold… too blah. He’d much rather stay inside.

I found my hat and two mismatched gloves… there had to be another one in the winter box.

“Mom!” Jeremy screamed. “If you leave for your walk, I’m going to kill myself.”

Huh!?!

“If you walk out that door, I’ll be dead when you come back!”

And with that, he ran to his bedroom… bursting into tears moments before he slammed his door. If he hadn’t cried I’d have left. I’m not one for supporting manipulation or mind games. The tears changed the situation so I puttered around looking for the glove and doing some light tidying.

Jeremy came out less than five minutes later and asked if we could go to the hospital so he could get admitted. Apparently he’d been mad at me (I have no idea why) and was going to call and give me a 5 minute warning to get home before taking a bottle of pills. The woods are a half-hour walk away. I wouldn’t have got home in time.

And so we went off to the hospital to wait and talk with various doctors and nurses. Jeremy ranked himself a 4 or 5 on the depression scale. I’d ranked myself a 0 or 1 several days earlier. He chatted about being suicidal for years while the crisis nurse looked confused and gently suggested he might be mixing suicidal up with feeling down.

“If you were suicidal for that long, you’d be dead,” she said bluntly. He just shook his head.

“This is the same as when you came in, right Mom?” he asked as we waited to see the psychiatrist.

I found myself unsure what to say. It wasn’t anything like when I got admitted. I got put on an involuntary 72 hour form when the first doctor saw me. By the time I saw the psychiatrist, I was in hospital clothes and eating dinner in the back under constant supervision. The doctor was far more interested in Jeremy’s autism than his depression. Jeremy went in voluntarily because, well, there’s a bed and maybe he is suicidal. The doctor seemed very iffy on that maybe.

Now Jeremy’s walking home from the hospital after discharging himself because it was boring… 16 hours after reaching the floor. And I find myself struggling with how to handle an angry nineteen year old who insists he’s suicidally depressed yet only wants to kill himself if he doesn’t get his own way.

“I didn’t like the hospital… it was boring,” he repeated again.

“Did you get your prescriptions from the doctor?” I asked.

“I don’t know! I got papers from the doctor but I don’t know!” he screamed. “Are you going to stop interrupting me now!!!”

I remind him, yet again, that we don’t treat people like that. He complains, yet again, that he doesn’t like being interrupted and it’s rude. And on we go again.

And I’m tired.

A good day…

I woke this morning to three purring cats, all snuggled over and around me, and Jeremy laughing in his room. I’m not sure what he was watching but apparently it was good.

I then got a message from a friend of mine saying the website that doxxed me is gone (for now at least). Ironically, the owner of the site got doxxed and didn’t like it, to put it mildly.

To make it even funnier and more ironic, here’s a line from his goodbye speech:

I have thought hard about the cumulative value of the site and all the opportunities it presents me and us, as a community. We have done amazing things. But, the cumulative damage outweighs all of that. It is enormous.”

The opportunities it presented? Amazing things? This whole site consisted of nothing more than bashing people anonymously. Telling lies about people they have never, and never will, meet interspersed with sharing private information like home addresses and the real names of children. Today karma bit back. Tomorrow? Well they’re worms, I’m sure they’ll pop up through a new hole at some point. But for now they’re gone.

I start intensive group therapy on Monday. It’s going to be similar to attending school, except it’s one for feelings. We have our own time tables and classes in such things as psychotherapy, coping skills, self-esteem, and stress/symptom management. We even have a lunch period where we can go down to the cafeteria to eat. I bought myself a fancy turquoise binder complete with folders and a zipper yesterday. Luckily my work lunch bag is still good.

Jeremy is eager to go back to school. The good news is he has a lovely certificate showing he graduated from his Lifeskills program in high school. The bad news is it’s apparently worth less than the paper it’s printed on. He can’t go to the local alternative high school or to the nearby continuing education school to upgrade, he doesn’t have enough education for either. But we have options we’re looking into. One is a bridge to school program through local high schools and the other is an education program run through a nearby mental health hospital. Hopefully one of the two options will pan out.

As for today, I’m anxious enough to need an Ativan and rocking while I type. Even so, it’s a peaceful day. I’m going to force myself to go to the gym for a walk on the track with my favourite music because my health is worth it.

Here’s my current favourite exercise song. Enjoy 🙂

New York blues…

The older Jeremy gets, the more his opinions on just about everything differ from mine. So you can imagine my trepidation when he said he wanted to talk about the New York law regarding misgendering people intentionally and as the result of willful, wanton, or malicious conduct.

I don’t agree with it,” he started out firmly and then he went on with his usual flights of fancy.

“What if the person doing the misgendering is working three jobs to feed their family? They won’t be able to afford a twenty-five thousand dollar fine*. Especially if they’re working as a waiter or something. What if that means their children are going to starve?”

How on earth was I supposed to answer that? Do I offer Monopoly money to feed the imaginary starving children? Luckily he didn’t expect an answer. He certainly didn’t give me enough time for one.

“And what about made up pronouns?”

Made up pronouns? You mean like your old pronouns zie and zir?” I asked with a hint of anger in my voice.

“Yes,” he replied flatly. “And I would have felt that way back then too.”

“Back when you felt-”

“I didn’t just feel,” he snapped. “I was that gender.”

I nodded and he continued. “There are so many pronouns. How can people be expected to remember them all? Like, zie and zir are good pronouns, they’re used in Canada and England, but there’s so many more. And what if someone’s pronouns change regularly? Are they supposed to know them from day to day.”

As he calmed down, he circled toward his real reason. “A fine isn’t going to solve anything. Someone misgenders someone else then they learn more and stop doing it. But a fine is just going to make them angry and they won’t change.”

All I got was my mouth open before he plowed on.

“Just think Mom,” he continued. “That’s a big fine. When it goes to court they’re going to know each other’s addresses, that’ll be on the court documents. Someone’s going to get killed over this. There’s lots of guns in the States. Someone’s going to say screw it and grab their gun, go to the address, and then the person’s dead.”

“Hon, we can’t make laws based on what people might do later. You could say this about any fine-“

“No! Because it’s not the same!” he interrupted. “Those people don’t even think trans people are human. They’re not going to care. And if they have a gun…”

With that, he wound down into silence.

What on earth could I say to that? I mean I must have said something because he stopped talking about it but really… three trans people have been murdered already in the States and it’s only the 12th of January. Trans people have a 1 in 12 chance of getting murdered. And, while I still think the law is a good idea, he is right too. I hope nobody’s looking for an answer, because quite frankly I don’t have one, but he did make me think.

*I know he got the amount of the fine wrong