When the past hits your heart…

Colin saw the Chiquita banana sticker on my bananas this morning and gave me a lecture on the evils of banana corporations and how they destroyed Guatemala with the help of the US government back in the 1950’s. It wasn’t exactly the conversation I’d expected but he has eclectic tastes and a love of politics so I wasn’t too surprised. That being said, all I’d really planned on doing was making banana bread.

I got the banana bread in the oven, chatted with my sister for a bit, then got ready to wait for Kait to come over for a visit. The wait segued into a browse on Facebook and a trip through memory lane via the “On This Day” feature. One of the first things that popped up was this…

Lenny

It was a few years old (obviously) which means I made friends with him seven years ago today. I don’t know what I expected to feel when this surprise post popped up. Grief? Anger? Disappointment? What I didn’t expect to feel was nothing more than a vague sense of sadness.

It’s been just under two years since he blocked me. At the time I was devastated. We talked all the time, stopping only for sleep and work. I’d message him on my way to work, during both my breaks, then on my way home again… only to start up again after dinner and right through to bedtime. He was the first person I talked to in the morning and the last at night. He was my love and I was ready to pack up my whole life, leave my family and friends, and move halfway across the world to be with him.

I was actively suicidal when he blocked me and I couldn’t grasp the thought that the block might be forever. I hadn’t done anything to him, surely he’d calm down in a few weeks… maybe a month or two. But the days continued, each one without him. It almost physically hurt at first because I was coping with losing him on top of gaining a couple of serious mental illnesses. My entire life had flipped over and the person I talked to the most was gone.

I slowly started rebuilding myself, piece by piece. I began spending more time with family, made amends with my daughter, and coaxed Colin to try new things. I reached out for help and gained three groups to attend each week and a care team that checks in on me every two weeks. I have a friend in the building next to me and go to karaoke with her and her husband about once a month, among other visits. My life has almost completely changed from what it was before.

I don’t know what I’d do if Lenny unblocked me at this point. I wouldn’t be mean or rude by any means. Goodness knows he has his own issues to work through. But it certainly wouldn’t be the same. I can’t imagine devoting almost my whole life and all my attention to one person anymore. It’s a moot point since I can’t imagine Lenny unblocking me now. And, for the first time in several years, I’m okay with that.

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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 🙂

 *******************************

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, “You know how you look like boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside…” then stopped when I saw Jeremy’s confused expression. Zie shook zir head and said “no”.

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 “be a man” 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 “invented” 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.

An Evening of Hope…

I was going to write a blog post last night but I was exhausted and the words just weren’t making any sense so I watched Doctor Who instead. I managed to watch two whole episodes. Jeremy wanted me to watch a third but I figured zie didn’t want me passed out, drooling on zir shoulder, so I went to bed.

On Monday I volunteered to help out at this year’s Evening of Hope. It’s an annual event in our city, remembering LGBTQ people who have died by suicide or murder, and honouring people who have made a difference over the past year. My UU congregation has a button making booth where you can decorate your own button. Jeremy didn’t volunteer, instead I bribed zir to show up with the offer of a chicken or steak dinner. Not that I was extravagant, they were the best steak bits Tim Horton’s had in their warming tray.

Our booth was right beside the bandshell, the closest booth to the washrooms. Which is why I noticed an oversight. I asked who was in charge and got directed to a slightly frazzled looking gentleman on the stage.

“Excuse me? I was wondering if you have gender neutral washrooms this year?”

I was informed both washrooms were, in fact, gender neutral but the person who was supposed to bring posters to cover the male/female signs had forgotten them at home. So I offered to make some and he accepted… probably because he had no idea how bad my drawing skills are…

Just pretend the figure has arms.

Just pretend the figure has arms.

Last year the organizers strung extension cords across the park allowing each booth to set up lights. This year they decided that would be too risky, much to Jeremy’s relief. Zie’d been panicking about the rain and those cords before we even reached the park. Of course that brought about a whole new concern for zir. What would we do for lights? Could they shine a spotlight on us from stage? Could we go back home and get our emergency light? After zie’d asked variations of these questions for several minutes, I decided to give everyone a break and take zir to view the other booths.

It’s a good thing each booth had a roof because the rain started coming down quite heavily. We ran from one both to another, eyeing the free samples and asking questions. Finally we reached Jeremy’s favourite booth, the one offering free cupcakes.

Jeremy and the rainbow cupcake

You can see how hard it was raining by the state of Jeremy’s coat. You can also see zir new sparkly purple tie 🙂

Jeremy headed home as soon as zie finished eating zir cupcake and I got to work making Lenny’s button. Zie’d asked me to design one for zir. Apparently Lenny wasn’t aware of my poor drawing skills either.

I had an idea in mind, sadly just not the artistic ability. However I tried my hardest and was able to make it at least recognizable. My biggest disappointment is that I set the button down on the table to take a picture and there was a leak in the tent… right where I put the button. So my picture ended up with water splatters.

TARDIS pin

It’s a soggy TARDIS on a pride flag!

I was exhausted when I got home. I’d had choir practice on Sunday so I’d gone to bed later than I’d hoped. Then Jeremy woke me at 1am to say zie couldn’t sleep due to anxiety; zir heart was pounding too hard. I woke up at 3am when Jeremy made zirself tea then again at 3:40am when we had a brief power failure; Jeremy started yelling when all the lights went out. There were tears at 4am when Jeremy went into zir room and re-discovered the tea. Jeremy’s second hand Tassimo leaks and it had dripped all over zir netbook. It was fried. Completely and utterly fried.

My alarm went off at 4:45am. Technically. I shut it off at 4:44am as I hadn’t been asleep in well over an hour. All that kept me going that day was Advil and chocolate… and now I was home and ready for bed. I sat down at my netbook for a quick second as Jeremy looked up from zir video game.

“Mom. When I grow up I’m going to cut off my penis.”

“I don’t think that’s a good idea,” I replied, quietly stifling a yawn. “That would be better off happening in surgery with anaesthesia. It would hurt a lot otherwise.”

Jeremy nodded and went back to zir game while I headed off to bed. Later Jeremy angrily told me zie’d said it as a joke because zie was mad at zir video game.

Alrighty then. I’ve joked before about my metaphorical parenting book. Well it’s missing way too many chapters; I have no clue what’s going on.

*throws the book over my shoulder and walks away*

Hello… anyone there?

That would be me calling out the title inside Jeremy’s brain; I get the feeling he spends as little time in there as possible. I freely admit that I am venting and that I don’t understand. That being said, I don’t understand!

Take last summer for instance. Jeremy told me several times that he was interested in boys as well as girls. Over the next half year he waffled, telling me he didn’t know if he was interested in boys because he tried his hardest not to think about it… then he started telling me he was straight. Which is fine, it’s not like there’s some quota I’m trying to fill…

“Jeremy, we don’t have enough LGBTQ people in our family so you’re it. Pick a group and run with it.”

… but at the same time I really don’t get the “I’m trying hard not to think about it” comments.

When Jeremy saw the video on Just Kidding News, he insisted he needed to write a letter and share it with them. I decided to share a letter as well.

I called him into the room before I published it and said, “Hon, I need you to listen to this and tell me if my letter is correct. I’m not in your head and don’t want to put words in your mouth. Please tell me if I mis-identified you in any way.”

Jeremy listed to the letter and told me he agreed 100%. He even agreed the words “gender nonconforming” fit him. Then I asked him if I could share the letters in a closed Facebook group I belong to and he said yes. I wanted to go back and add a link to the blog a little while later and he refused.

“Jeremy? I was just wondering why you turned down the link to our blog,” I asked. “Considering how much was in the letter, I’m not sure there’s anything else in the blog that would be a surprise.”

He looked confused. “Well what was in the letter?”

I scrolled back to the post, “I said you identify as non-conforming, haven’t sorted out your gender identity yet, and are likely trans.”

He smirked. “That’s just you putting words in my mouth.” I thought the smoke coming from my ears was going to set off the alarm.

“I read you that letter,” I retorted. “AND I asked you to tell me if you agreed or disagreed with what I wrote AND you told me you agreed 100%. What the hell is the point of me asking you if you’re going to agree then and claim I made it all up later? If I’m wrong, tell me where it is so I can try and fix it.”

He looked embarrassed. “It’s fine,” he finally said. “What you wrote is fine.”

Then came this morning. To be totally honest, I can’t even remember how the conversation started. Jeremy had been up since 4am and woke me up with him rustling around, talking to himself and the cats, and making something to eat. My alarm was set for 5:45am, I had not planned on getting up almost two hours early and was not very conscious. I do remember asking him if he could at least tell me whether he was 100% male or not. I figured that one would be easy. It wasn’t. He had no idea. And once again he informed me he tries his hardest not to think about the subject. Which made me picture the inside of Jeremy’s skull looking like this…

Tumbleweeds2

 

Then to top it off, he asked when he’d ever said he was bisexual because he couldn’t remember ever saying that. I told him when (again) and he looked surprised (again). I’m sure he’ll forget again soon.

I told him I loved him, grabbed my lunch, and headed off to catch the bus. Once I got on I messaged Lenny.

“I freely admit I don’t get it. He can’t even tell me if he feels 100% male or not because he tries his hardest not to think about it. He did this with being bisexual too. Told me for ages that he didn’t know at all. Then we had a conversation where he went from saying he didn’t know to saying he was straight in less than a minute. Now he keeps forgetting he ever told me he was bi. It’s just frustrating and concerning that he blocks and hides this stuff from himself.”

Lenny replied, “This path will cause me pain is a powerful reason not to let it all hang out.”

Which makes sense. I just wish he’d spend a little more time thinking and a lot less time ignoring himself. He’s a good kid to hang around with, I wish he was happier with himself and happier to be himself.

(Also, I found the tumbleweed gif at Awesomely Luvvie)

Jeremy has a girlfriend…

When Jeremy got home yesterday he immediately wanted me to see his bedroom. He’s been working on cleaning up for several days now and spent an hour working on it that morning after I left for work.

It looked really good but he hadn’t cleaned under his bed. I got the broom and began sweeping.

“I’m in a relationship,” he blurted.

I reached the broom into the far corner beneath the bed. “Does The Doctor know?” I asked.

“Mom!” he retorted. He was probably trying to sound shocked but was laughing too much to manage. “It’s not The Doctor.”

I put the broom down. “Okay, so who is it?”

“It’s Hannah,” he replied, which wasn’t a surprise. He’s been frustrated with Hannah since late last year. She keeps picking boyfriends who have her marked as an easy lay then inappropriate behaviour ensues.

“I wouldn’t treat her like that,” he told me last spring. “I don’t know why she keeps picking assholes to date.”

This was shortly after the bus incident; one where Hannah was caught giving her boyfriend sexual favours on the bus ride home. Jeremy is in a special class and he’s quite easily the most high functioning child in the room. Hannah would be more accurately described as sweet and pliable and the boyfriend as developmentally delayed.

This incident is what prompted the school to finally offer their classes a sex ed program. Until then I’m pretty sure Jeremy was the only teen in his class who’d attended one and that’s because I sent him to the OWL program offered through our Unitarian Universalist congregation.

As an aside, I highly recommend this program to anyone with children, especially if they are or you suspect they might be LGBTQ. It’s not a religious program, Canadian Unitarian Universalists aren’t considered Christian and I’m sure a third of our congregation is atheist. It’s a comprehensive program and one which treats all sexual orientations and gender identities equal. When Emma took the program, they role played asking people out so they’d know how hard it is and be gentle with someone who’s made the effort (even if they weren’t interested). They didn’t pair the kids by gender, they drew names out of hats. Emma was paired with a girl for her turn.

Obviously sex ed for Jeremy’s classmates had come a bit too late.

Last month a friend of Jeremy, one of Hannah’s ex-boyfriends, decided to touch her inappropriately at school. She complained to one of the teachers. At first Jeremy was mad because he felt his friend hadn’t done anything and they were blaming him over nothing. Then the friend confessed. Neither teen wanted to go any further with charges so the issue was dropped. However, the school and Hannah’s parents decided it would be better if Hannah didn’t date at all anymore. Jeremy was livid.

“She wasn’t dating him and didn’t want to be touched. They’re punishing her for doing the right thing and telling someone in authority. That’s not fair.” He shook his head in disgust. “She keeps picking guys who only want her for sex and I’m not going to be like that.”

He said the last part emphatically and I believe him. That’s why he broke up with his last girlfriend. She wanted sex and he didn’t, at least not with her. And I was dancing inside because he was only 15 years old at the time. You can be sure I praised him to the sky for his decision.

Of course this is a relationship in name only. They can’t go out anywhere because she’s not allowed to date. They can’t say anything at school. I’d be surprised if they’re even able to hold hands, let alone kiss. But he can tell people outside of school that he’s dating her and I guess that’s good enough for him. As Lenny pointed out, it’s a safe relationship.

Shortly after I sat down at the computer, Jeremy appeared at my door, a huge grin on his face.

“Did you know The Doctor’s bisexual?” he asked. “There’s this guy he likes and they flirt back and forth and talk about sex. The guy can’t die either.”

“Is it Captain Jack?” I asked. I’ve only seen four episodes but Jeremy’s watched everything available on Netflix. He nodded.

“Yes, Captain Jack and the second doctor in the new seasons,” he replied.

He came back a short time later. “Mom! Mom! The Doctor went to a gay strip club,” he blurted excitedly.

One of these days I’ll have to sit down and watch the rest of the shows with him. Four episodes and some disjointed descriptions aren’t enough to know what’s going on.

And the presents are bought!!!

Jeremy’s so excited for his birthday but now that I’ve bought his presents, I might be the one who’s more excited.

I got off work early today and decided to stop in at the local mall on my way home to check out HMV. I don’t think I’ve set foot in that store in the past 10 years and was a little overwhelmed when I entered. Lots of loud music, lots of rows and racks. I noticed gift items along a nearby wall then immediately discovered a Doctor Who lamp. There was a sales clerk walking past and I asked how much the lamp was. Sixty dollars… that lamp went right back. Jeremy already has two lamps, he really doesn’t need a third. That was when I realized he was carrying a TARDIS mug complete with a lid. This one to be exact…

p4052_ex2

“Oh wow,” I blurted, staring at his hands. “How much is the mug?” It was $25. I promptly took it. “My son will love this. He loves tea.”

“Here, why don’t I show you the rest of the Doctor Who items. I wouldn’t want you to miss any,” the clerk said enthusiastically. He proceeded to lead me around the store.

Now Jeremy’s getting the mug, a TARDIS bath towel, a Doctor Who t-shirt, a TARDIS bag (which claimed to be bigger on the inside), and a Minecraft Torch that can be placed on his wall. And I found a birthday card that says “Today is going to be so happy. Today is going to make all the other days jealous”… complete with sequined string balloons on the front. And my friend Lenny is mailing him tea so he’ll have something to drink from his mug. Very helpful considering how fast the kid goes through tea.

Whew… the party’s planned, the cake’s sorted out, the candle’s ready for spinning, musical pyrotechnics, and the presents are bought. All we need to do is give invitations to his two friends and wait for his actual day.

At least I don’t need to worry about Jeremy reading this. I read posts to him and he’ll make suggestions but he doesn’t actually read the blog. This is one post I just won’t mention 🙂