Feeling hopeful…

The first thing I was asked at work was if I could pick up a heavy garbage bag and carry it out to the dumpster as no one else in the store was strong enough to lift it, let alone take it to the back lot and heave it in. I picked up the bag and the whole bottom split open spilling steaming coffee grounds and filters everywhere. I had to shovel it back up. Yes, it was one of those “it can only go up from here” days. And it tentatively has.

I posted about Jeremy’s issues with zir school last week… from the disaster of a meeting on Tuesday to zir being indefinitely suspended on Thursday and then I haven’t mentioned anything since. What happened is I talked to a friend of mine who volunteers with our local chapter of PFLAG and she gave me a name to contact. He in turn directed me to a school board official who has helped them out before with LGBTQ issues.

I got a call this afternoon. The school board official has talked to Jeremy’s school and explained the board’s official policy on transgender students to them since there was a bit of a misunderstanding. I *cough* hadn’t misread the information at all and the school is required to refer to Jeremy as zie and zir. They are going to call me tomorrow to set up another meeting and the board official will be there as well. He’s agreed that Jeremy should be there too. I expressed my concerns, including the fact that what they’re considering bad behaviour on Jeremy’s part has its roots in anxiety and feeling at risk and is not a blatant attempt to disobey them. With any luck we’ll have a meeting this Friday (which is my day off).

I told Jeremy that we’d be working on the safety plan again and got a glower. Then I added we were going to be working on ways to make zir feel safe at school and got such a hopeful look.

So no real news but still better news than what we had earlier.

I’m leaving you with a quote from Jeremy from earlier this evening when zie was adjusting the speakers in the kitchen. I think it shows how zie looks at the world…

“Mom, speakers are amazing. People look at them and say ‘so, it’s just a speaker’ but all they are is just a magnet and copper wire and they make every sound imaginable.”

So… the meeting…

Well it happened.

The meeting was in a crowded room with five other adults, so I was already feeling overwhelmed when I walked in. There was a brief introduction where I was introduced to everyone in the room… and promptly lost all their names. I was seated beside a vice principal and then there was the head of special education and Jeremy’s teacher (who I already knew) and another vice principal and someone else who took copious notes. I can’t remember her title at all.

I was immediately informed by the first VP that everyone in the meeting was there to support and help Jeremy and that the best way to do so was to make all the decisions first and then tell “him” what we’d decided. I argued vehemently that zie should be involved in the decision making and was overruled.

My first concern was the issue that had been brought up on Friday regarding distractions. Everyone agreed that a stress ball would be fine for Jeremy to use and that even a spinning ring would work. Apparently the issue with having a bag on the floor was that a teacher tripped on a bag last year and fell, which meant she was off work for quite a while. However, they didn’t tell Jeremy this, choosing to detail how students might be carrying weapons or dealing drugs instead. Which at least explains why zie started ranting about how the school should have metal detectors.

This is when I lost it and flipped a proverbial table. They wanted to know if I thought having zir bag of electronics on a nearby table, visible but out of reach, would be an acceptable option. I said that would be best directed to Jeremy and got told no, the adults needed to make these decisions; I needed to decide for “him”. I said that Jeremy was sitting directly outside the meeting room and it would take me maybe 20 seconds, if that, to go ask zir. They didn’t feel that was appropriate. I, once again, explained that it didn’t matter what I thought was a valid option, this plan was being put in place to make Jeremy feel more safe. If zie didn’t think it would work then it wasn’t going to be a help and we’d need to think of something else.

That was when the phone rang and the first VP needed to take a call.

I stood up. “While she’s busy, I’m going to quickly ask Jeremy if this will work for zir.”

I reached for the door just in time to hear someone bark, “No! Michelle, you need to sit back down right now.”

Excuse me? I spun around, swept the room with one glance then said, “No” before walking out. Jeremy was standing talking to an adult. I’d caught zir just as zie was leaving for zir student ID photo. Zie said the bag being visible was fine. I walked back in and said so to the group.

Then came gender. Kind of. I brought it up three times only to be redirected to gadgets, a topic I figured we’d already beaten to death. Nothing new was being discussed, everyone was simply rehashing how obsessive Jeremy was with them and how zie perseverates on them and won’t stop talking or fidgeting with them. Except there wasn’t any resolution to their issues, it was venting and nothing else. I was getting overwhelmed by the negativity. Finally I dragged them onto the gender topic and… nothing.

This is what it says on the school board website…

pronouns

According to the people at the meeting, those three pronouns are the only ones they can use in the school. Jeremy can’t be addressed as zie/zir because “they” is the only pronoun listed other than he or she. But “he” could go by “she” if “he” wanted; totally ignoring the whole “this list is illustrative but not exhaustive” sentence.

When I tried to bring up other information in the guidelines, I got informed by the second VP that she’d help design the pamphlet and was well aware of what it meant and what they were required to do by law. That it would get too confusing if they had to address every trans student in the whole school by their preferred pronouns, making it sound like there were at least five in each class and they all wanted different pronouns. She hastily assured me this school is the most welcoming school in the area and she knew this as a member of the LGBTQ community. I don’t have a rainbow card to pull but I do have another child, who attended a different high school. Her school had rainbow “positive space” signs everywhere plus Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) notices about every 10 feet down each hallway. My coworker Brian had similar stories about his former high school. In contrast, this is the only notice either Jeremy or I have seen at zir school…

GSA

It took us a while to find it, that one lonely little 8.5 by 11 inch sheet on a noticeboard halfway down a hallway. We’d been looking for something bigger, with an actual pride flag. Last year it took us half a year to find the GSA, only to discover no one attends. Jeremy hasn’t asked to join this year. I tried to mention Emma’s school and got cut off and informed the topic had changed.

And so it continued with me referring to Jeremy as zie and zir while everyone else said he and him. At one point the second VP drew boxes on her paper and nudged the lady beside her with a smile, drawing her attention to the paper. My heart sank. Were they really gossiping about myself or my child during the meeting? But no. She’d drawn a box around Jeremy’s name and another box around the word “they” then pointed to both. She was simply reminding the other woman about pronouns. That was one of the only bright spots of the meeting.

They have a work placement set up for Jeremy at the local board office; I believe emptying wastebaskets and taking out recycling. No one in the meeting felt zie’d be there for long. They don’t have any classes available outside the small class setting right now, so Jeremy can’t take any classes that might help with job skills. And there’s no math this semester; instead zir teacher is going to teach simple machines. Her reason? Because she’d been thinking of zir. She cut out zir favourite subject, the one zie argued and pleaded to take more of, in order to teach the class about pulleys and levers. I’m not arguing about the curruculum, simple machines sound very interesting. What irritates me is the claim that she did it for Jeremy. I assured zir we’d work on math at home. If anyone’s got any amazing math websites, please feel free to share them. Goodness knows this is not a subject I can teach.

Two people expressed concern that Jeremy’s gender identity would be a “distraction” because “he” will keep arguing with them when they use the wrong pronoun. I asked if zie’d argued with them over being called “he” before and got told no. They decided zie could keep a tally of their mistakes and bring them up at the end of the class so it wouldn’t be a distraction. They didn’t want “him” bringing it up in the middle of class because an explanation would be too long.

“You don’t need to explain anything,” I pointed out. “All you need to do is say I’m sorry.”

“That would take too long and would be distracting,” she insisted.

“Simply saying I’m sorry would be a distraction?” I asked, in a tone I’ve used on my own kids countless times. Apparently grown adults squirm at that tone too.

“Yes,” she replied. I simply gave her the look.

They wanted to wrap the meeting up right then without bringing Jeremy in because nothing got really decided and maybe we should schedule…

“Jeremy’s been sitting outside waiting this whole time,” I pointed out. “Zie was told fifteen minutes ago that zie’d be allowed inside in five minutes. Plus I had this day off already but I cannot guarantee I’ll have the next day off. Zie needs to come in and hear what’s been discussed.”

They let zir in.

So that’s it. Jeremy’s still being addressed as both he and him while they insist zie can only be referred to as they. The one subject that Jeremy enjoyed will not be back until after Christmas. There are no classes aimed at helping zir find a job zie’d enjoy and they’ve already figured zie’ll tank zir placement. They won’t allow zir a placement outside the school board because zie’s not a good ambassador. They don’t discuss hair colour or nail length at all with Jeremy but when they do, it’s out of a place of genuine concern for “his” wellbeing. They’ve never discussed boys and girls being opposites in the class but, if they did, it would have been an example given by other students and they couldn’t correct them because some of the students are not that bright and it would crush them to have their example corrected. Which isn’t what happened at all but…

I now have a better understanding of Jeremy’s anger issues. And, seriously, if they’re expecting zir to do a tally for every time they misgender zir, I’m going to need to buy zir a bigger backpack and one hell of a large notebook.

Gearing up for the meeting…

I got off work this Friday to find a message from the school. This left me standing at the bus stop, cars speeding past, trying my hardest to listen. Jeremy had been sent home that day, I could call “him” to find out why. The message was hours old; the person’s name blurred by static. And, of course it was too late to call back. They did, however, want to meet on Tuesday to discuss my letter. Luckily I have Tuesday off this week and Jeremy’s anger management appointment is first thing that morning, which left most of the day clear.

I called Jeremy while I was on the bus to see what happened.

“Apparently there’s a new school rule,” zie immediately informed me. “No one in the entire school is allowed to have a bag by their desk, in case they’re going to start dealing drugs. Unless they’re in a wheelchair like [classmate] or are a teacher, because the teachers are allowed to keep their purses on the floor by their desk.”

My heart sank. I’d struggled for hours to find a compromise between Jeremy’s frantic need to have electronics nearby so zie can stay calm and zir teacher’s insistence on not having “gadgets” on Jeremy’s desk. I’d picked the smallest bag Jeremy owns…

the presents from me

The bag in question would be the blue TARDIS bag near the top, the box in front holds a coffee mug to give some perspective. I told zir that zie couldn’t have anything hanging out of the bag. I figured that would be discreet enough and not a distraction but, at the same time, it would award Jeremy with some comfort. A friend is currently mailing zir a small SuperMario star stress ball.

I called the school first thing this morning then sat around waiting for a call back. I finally got one an hour and a half later from the head of the special education department. She was able to set an appointment for tomorrow afternoon, which is great. The call tanked from there.

I stated in the letter that I would like Jeremy to attend the meeting. She didn’t think that would be a good idea, claiming that if Jeremy attends we’ll only get “his perception” and she wants me to know what’s really happening. She went on to tell me that “he found the letter to be very empowering” (this was said with a tone of disapproval) and that “he’s” taken the letter to be set in stone. Apparently the accommodations I suggested would be a distraction to all the other students in the classroom.

This left me wondering what on earth’s in the letter that’s so distracting. I didn’t ask for much. I want Jeremy to use zir netbook for assignments but zie’s not the only child in class with a laptop. I asked for zir to be able to use a stress ball, which is hardly outrageous when it comes to accomodations. Zie’ll be squeezing it, not lobbing it at zir classmates. And, of course, the infamous bag by zir feet. Presumably that would be a distraction with three teachers standing over Jeremy, telling zir to put it away now or face the consequences. I fail to see how a small bag, tucked away under the desk, would be a distraction otherwise.

She wouldn’t clarify what was the distraction though, just reiterated that we’ll discuss it at the meeting.

I insisted Jeremy needs to be at the meeting, that zie needs a voice in the discussion. I stressed that Jeremy feels unwelcome in the school; that zir voice isn’t heard. She retaliated by claiming this was an adult discussion and needed to stay among the adults. I reminded her that zie’s going to be 18 years old in half a year and is technically an adult. Zie needs to have input into zir future. I don’t think she was thinking very positive thoughts about me at this moment. I didn’t really care.

I then went on to inform her that Jeremy’s picked out pronouns and is now using zie and zir. I even spelled them out. Her response? A rather patronizing,”And that’s fine,” followed by, “now I think it best if he stays in the classroom while we discuss…” He.

So from the sounds of it I’ll be in the meeting first while we hammer out information then Jeremy can come in and offer zir input… but by then almost everything will be discussed. “Some say” being a step up from the “no say” zie was originally getting. I will have to sit down and hammer out Jeremy’s wishes and goals this afternoon once zie wakes. What a far cry from grade school where they insisted zie attend every meeting from grade six on upward because zie was going off to high school soon and needed to learn how to make decisions and use zir voice.

Last night Jeremy informed me that, while zie knows zie’s not 100% male, zie’s trying out pronouns to see which fits best… zie or he. My friend Lenny assured me this is normal and that zie needs some real life exposure to get an idea of what feels better. Normal or not, I’m already panicking at the thought of going into the school to battle for zir right to use the pronouns of zir choice. The thought of zir saying in another month that zie’d rather be referred to as he and having to re-explain all this to the school has me reaching for a paper bag to breathe into. Judging from her “that’s fine” comment, immediately followed by “he”, I’m figuring we’re going to have quite a battle on our hands no matter which pronoun ultimately feels right for Jeremy.

Which brings me to my final bit of irony. This is on the front of Jeremy’s school calendar…

year of the ally

Ally… you’re doing it wrong