It’s all you…

Someone close to us recently said that I’m forcing Colin to be trans. That it’s all my idea and he’s just going along with it. First, I don’t think the person realised how much that hurt Emma. Second, how does that even work?

Does he think I went up to Emma one day and said, “You’re a girl” and Emma simply went along with it? This kid might as well have her picture beside stubborn in the dictionary. She doesn’t roll over and accept anything. She’s also the sort of person who, if you say the sky is blue, will not only check but might just argue that how do we really know it’s blue. It could be purple and we’re simply mislabelling it. She doesn’t simply take anything as fact.

How the conversation is expected to go by transphobes:

Me: You’re really a girl
Emma: Well you’re my Mom, you know best
*pulls on dress*

How it would go in reality:

Me: You’re really a girl
Emma: Have you lost your *bleeping* mind?
*goes back to video game*

Maybe he was thinking of something more subtle? Did he think I put subliminal message tapes under her pillow at night? A crooning whisper of “you’re a girl… you’re a girl…” Or maybe hypnosis. Although, quite frankly, if hypnosis worked I’d be running a mantra of “clean your room… put away your running shoes… dishes go in the sink…”. Gender would be at the bottom of the list.

Or possibly mind controlling drugs.

*checks cupboard*
*finds no name acetaminophen*

I mean theoretically it’s mind controlling. It controls your mind into thinking you don’t hurt. But somehow I doubt it could control someone into changing genders. Let alone hold her down and force her to wear women’s shirts.

In reality the truth is simple. Emma questioned her gender for a few years and finally realised she’s a trans female. I simply came along for the ride and to support her. Hopefully this person will realise it soon and support her too.

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

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.

My dear fellow cis people…

I love you, I really do but having some of you around is like trying to explain your elderly pet.

“Ignore those growls, he’s really sweet once you get to know him. DON’T LEAVE THAT ON THE FLOOR! Sorry, he’s slightly incontinent and pees on hats. It’s not wool, is it?”

I’m going to write a few suggestions. Please read and share with your cis friends. The more people you reach, the less “those cishets” comments I get to read. And more importantly, the less vulnerable and depressed friends I need to reassure about their gender. This is very important because I’ve got a few friends who are really damn suicidal.

My first suggestion is to read my handy Introductory Guide to Trans (written from a cis point of view). You can read anything informative that you find, I just happen to have mine handy (and it explains what cis means). My second suggestion is to follow this easy list.

  1. Please don’t use elementary school knowledge to define someone else’s gender. Seriously, this is the only time people use childhood knowledge as proof. We don’t walk around saying, “Well Miss Smarty Pants! You say you have grey eyes but I learned in kindergarten that we have blue, brown, or green eyes. It’s basic knowledge!” or “You say the heart has four chambers and rounded edges but my four year old draws it with two bumps and a point. Plus it only has two chambers… if you fold it in half! What do you say about that Mister Cardiologist?”

    Gender is complex and only now just being understood. If your knowledge is from elementary school and secondary school, trust that you don’t know it all. Accept people’s knowledge of their gender to be correct instead of what you barely remember from grade nine biology.


  2. Don’t ask people about their genitals. At all. Ever. If you’re crawling into bed, you’ll find out soon enough. There’s a limited amount of variety and you’re either going to get a vulva (which I think looks a lot like Cluthu’s less cute cousin), a penis (which looks like a drunk with bad drawing skills sketched an elephant), or something in between. It’s not a surprise. It’s not like your bed partner is going to pull down their pants and, wow, there’s that pony you wanted for Christmas when you were four.

  3. No questions about surgery either. C’mon, it’s shocking if I mention I’ll probably need a hysterectomy, which means it should be equally shocking to ask anyone if they’re having top or bottom surgery. And they’re not chopping off their penis or breasts. If you’re that curious just google. Google doesn’t care what you search.

  4. Bathrooms. Here, in North America (as with most of the world) we have these magical devices called doors. We’re not peeing in a trough with everyone beside us… at least us girls aren’t. Quite frankly, I don’t care if the woman beside me has a full beard as long as she feels safe going into the stall beside me. And, for the transphobes, I just saw a woman yesterday feeding her baby while sporting a fine, full growth of 5 o’clock shadow. You cannot tell if a woman is trans. You can assume but you can’t tell. Don’t harass people going in to pee, don’t claim you’re doing so to protect “the girls”. I can assure you that every single trans woman I know would end up beating the crap out of someone abusing a kid in the washroom. My cis friends would too.

  5.  No arguing with people about their gender. It’s their body and their mind. They know their gender better than you. That includes people who currently have no real idea what their gender is. I assure you that the person you disagree with does, in fact, possess at least one mirror and has knowledge of what their genitals look and feel like. There is nothing you can say about their gender which would be a surprise. It’s not like you’re going to say, “You’re a girl” and they’re going to say, “Wow, I never noticed that vulva before. You’re right!” They can sort out their gender without your input. All that’s needed is some back up support.

  6. Do not out anyone without their permission! You have friends, not trans friends to make you look cool and trendy. They’re people, not Pokemon critters. And, as people, they deserve the right to privacy. Introduce people by their names, not their genitals. This is my friend Sarah, she was my friend in high school and played the tuba. Not, this is my friend Sarah. She was Freddie in high school and played the tuba.This ‘no outing’ goes for anyone who’s LGBTQ or anyone with a secret. You don’t decide when the secret is shared. Not your secret, not your choice.

  7. Make friends with people, not their gender. Your trans friends are friends, not collectibles. If you’re not talking about their relationships, chocolate, coffee, jobs (or lack thereof), pets, lack of interest in doing the laundry, etc then are you really friends?

Jeremy had a friend over last week who shared her cold with us and this list is ending now so I can go for a popsicle run. I have the sweetest picture of Jeremy curled up in my bed while hugging zir cellphone but I’d like to live to see 47 years old so you’ll all have to live without it. Be kind, no staring, and no peeing on hats (metaphorical or otherwise).

 

Rage…

In some ways my friend is pretty average. She has a house, three kids, a dog and a cat in small town America. Her children go to public school and are actively involved in sports. They camp, climb trees, swim, and love to get messy.

In other way’s she’s not. My friend is pansexual and non-binary, her oldest is gay, and her daughter is trans. Small town America doesn’t like them very much. And it shows. Her daughter has a diagnosis of gender dysphoria by a reputable paediatrician; she was told to follow her daughter’s lead and let her be herself. She’s bought enough clothing, from both sides of the children’s department, to open a clothing store and I’m reasonably sure she’s cleared out Target’s toy department as well. Their pantry is well stocked, the children attend school regularly, they’re clean and unbruised with that confident and slightly cocky attitude children have when they know they have a parent who is going to listen and support them. Meanwhile children’s protective services might as well have a revolving door installed on their front porch.

Children’s protective services removed her children for several months a year ago and allowed her daughter both to be beaten and have hot sauce and vinegar poured on her tongue for daring to say she was a girl. What’s a little pain now if it cures her? This preschool aged child spent months surrounded by so called professionals who berated her for saying she was a girl and insisted she had to go by her boy’s name. And now they’re back. This time claiming that if she really was a girl, she’d say so persistently and wouldn’t be scared to announce it. Once again this child, who’s biggest worry should be remembering if n comes after m, has to worry about her physical safety from the people who vowed to protect her.

My friend gets to comfort her sobbing child who wishes she could cut off her own penis and die. I don’t know what the worker gets out of it. Maybe the self satisfaction of not allowing the liberals to ruin her country.

I go on Facebook and see a veritable flood of articles about bathroom bills in various States. They all contain arguments from people who insist that there is nothing but male and female and that both are readily defined and recognizable. These people know they’re right, after all it’s obvious. There’s only been male and female forever. Won’t anyone think of the children?

Then they proceed to ignore the facts laid before them. All the various combinations of X and Y which make up people’s chromosomes. The prevalence of intersex people. All the various cultures who have and do recognize more than two genders. Studies that map how prenatal hormones shape the brain in regards to gender (most of which I’ve discussed here). They don’t need to read anyone else’s information because it’s their opinion, which they’re allowed to have, and no one can tell them otherwise.

It’s easy to shrug them off as unimportant, nothing more than wilfully ignorant trolls, except they’re not. They’re the caseworkers my friend has to deal with, the parents of her daughter’s classmates, and the coaches in their teams. They’re the people my adult friends hand their resumes to, who look at their ID then their face before filing the resume in the trash. They’re doctors and teachers and politicians. The people who won’t allow my friends to have ID that matches their gender. They’re people who have a gun and hatred and a burning need to show what they’ll do to protect the children.

They’re very eager to protect the children. Just not all the children. Not the little girl who’s being forced to hold hot sauce in her mouth until she recants and promises she’s really a boy… just please make it stop hurting. Not the six year olds with bladder infections from holding it in because they want to use the “wrong bathroom”. Not the children who get told by adults that they should kill themselves for being different. No one will miss you. They only want to protect children who were never in any danger in the first place, from a threat they made up to incite hatred.

My arms aren’t big enough to hug my friend who’s so very tired of reading articles and posts detailing society’s hatred of her… and my friend who’s positive there’s no one in the world who cares… and my friend who feels like no man will ever love her for herself… and my friends who are terrified for their children’s safety (children who are still young enough to be tucked in with a bedtime story and a kiss)… for my friend who’s growing increasingly tempted to cut off their own breasts because surgery is far too expensive in “the land of the free”… for the young artist who receives scores of hate mail every single day because she draws cartoons that depict her life.

And then some one else complains their free speech is being trampled because how dare some damn liberal disagree.

And my friend rocks her sobbing daughter to sleep.

Life… and all that stuff…

Jeremy’s off visiting zir sister Emma for the day, leaving the apartment quiet… almost overwhelmingly so. Jeremy is not a quiet person. Zie putters all day, long building elaborate water systems for zir plants, upgrading zir computer, and rebuilding zir remote control cars.

plant watering system

This is only half of zir plant watering system.

Jeremy is not quiet during any of this. Zie either has zir music on, a video, or both and zie talks to zirself the whole time. Zie answers zirself too… holding complete conversations. The only time there’s silence is when zie puts on headphones, at least until zie laughs.

I’ve made the most of my quiet day. So far I’ve taken a nap, made myself chocolate pudding, and done some scrapbooking; including a layout of one of my favourite pictures of Jeremy. It’s a selfie zie took last September at the beach.

Colin

And now I’m finally settling down to write before zie gets home. I’ve been meaning to write here for a while but life got hectic. The biggest change is my job; I transferred to a closer location. This is amazing for us because the store is a five minute walk from home instead of an hour long bus ride. At the same time, it’s a huge change for me.

I don’t handle change well *huge understatement*. I left a store where I’d worked for six years. I knew the rules, the location of everything, and all the people. I had coworkers who would hug me as soon as I got to work and coworkers who waved and said “bye” when I left. I knew most of our regulars (and we had regulars that treated the store like their second home).

I’ve lived here for three years and had previously been in the new store four times. Once to drop off a resume, once to pick up tickets to Canada’s Wonderland, and twice to order food. I was so not a regular. I didn’t know a single person who worked there either. I spent just over a week fretting that I made the worst decision of my life. Then I went to leave work one afternoon and several of my coworkers smiled and said “bye” while my supervisor looked sad and said, “you’re leaving already?”. I think it’ll be okay.

The part that’s better than okay is Jeremy. This job means that I wake up at the time I previously had to leave and am home before I used to get on my first bus back. Jeremy sees me for almost two additional hours a day and knows, if zie’s really lonely, zie can meet me at work. Zir mood has perked up dramatically. Zir sleeping is still horrible but a pleasant mood makes up for a lot!

I’m moving forward in other ways too. I got my passport and bought a plane ticket so I can visit L in 201 more days (and 1 hour and 30 minutes)!!! Plus I’ve filed for a divorce from my emotionally abusive ex-husband. As expected, he did not take this well. Since Jeremy is the one who served him, zie got stuck listening to him rant about how much he hates me and how he wants to buy me a one way ticket to London.

Jeremy rolled zir eyes when zie told me this. “I don’t think Dad understands how immigration works,” zie said dryly.

My ex called a short time later wanting to know how he can file a counter claim… for a simple divorce. We’ve been separated for fifteen years, I have no idea what he could want to counter claim about. Child support has long been hashed out and he’s 15 years behind in that. Custody has been dealt with as well. Besides, Jeremy’s almost nineteen years old, I’m reasonably sure any judge would laugh in his face if he wants to renegotiate custody.

Then the call moved back to Jeremy.

“He’s my son!” my ex retorted.

That’s when I lost it.

“Zie is not your son!” I snapped back. “Zie is your teen.”

“What?” his tone was both angry and confused, not a good combination with him. But it was too late to back down now even if I wanted to. Which I didn’t.

“Jeremy isn’t male so zie isn’t your son. And zie doesn’t use he or him for pronouns.”

“Jeremy has never told me this,” my ex replied haughtily. “Until he tells me himself that he doesn’t want me to call him my son, I’m going to continue to use male pronouns.”

That was it. I held the phone out to Jeremy, who’d been sitting beside me the whole time.

“What pronouns do you want your Dad to use?” I asked. I’d expected a quiet zie and zir.

“I am not male!” Jeremy said forcefully. “I don’t want to be called he and him. I want you to use zie and zir.”

I put the phone back against my ear. “Did you hear zir?”

I’ve never heard anyone splutter before but that’s definitely what he was doing. “That doesn’t count! It doesn’t count until I feel like asking him what pronouns he wants me to use. Until then I’m going to keep on using he and him.”

If you ever wanted to know what Jeremy’s father is like, this conversation sums him up completely. Along with the fact that he’s been arguing with Jeremy for weeks now, telling zir that we need to carpet bomb the entire Middle East. That “we” is presumably North America and not the two of them, but with my ex it’s hard to tell. The good thing is, he has nothing more flammable than his own flatulence and a cigarette lighter. Jeremy keeps trying to explain to him that there are millions of innocent people there but zir Dad isn’t overly concerned about things like morality and ethics. Unsurprisingly Jeremy has been cutting zir visits short and they weren’t exactly long to begin with.

With any luck, in another month I can start planning my divorce party. I’ll post pictures of the cake once it’s made.

I should have some sort of conclusion to put here but we’ve got thunderstorms rolling in and I just took a couple of Advil so you’ll have to settle for “The End” and a picture of Jeremy posing with zir Easter dinner.

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Happy spring!

The End!

Dear “Christian” Conservatives…

It was just over a year ago when Leelah Alcorn stepped in front of a transport truck. Just over a year ago since she was buried under a name she didn’t like and didn’t want. But you won’t use the name she chose. Unctuous sympathy drips from your mouth while you refer to her as Joshua. I’ve read your articles, the ones where you blame liberals for causing her death. You claim she died because of depression and that real therapy, which reassured her of her innate maleness, would have helped. Then you quote doctors from John Hopkins University and a study which claims that 80% of transgender youths end up cisgender by the time they’re adults. But do you know what you ignore? That study had flaws big enough to drive a truck through. The researchers lost track of a bunch of the youths and simply assumed they’d stopped being trans. That’s not research. That’s guessing and wishful thinking.

Know what else you ignore? Leelah Alcorn should have been your poster child for “curing” transgender youths. She had a traditional nuclear family and religious parents who loved and supported her as their son. They did everything the Christian conservatives suggested. They got her into Christian counselling with a counselor who treated her depression and encouraged her to be a straight male. They took away her access to liberal websites which supported her as a trans female. They brought her to church and consistently referred to her by her birth name. If your articles and views were right, she should be happily filling out college forms as Joshua.  But she’s not. She died hating her parents and begging people to change society. She died asking people to remember her as Leelah.

This new year is barely ten days old, we haven’t even hit a fortnight yet, and so far I’ve nearly lost two friends to suicide. Both friends are trans and both have families who, like Leelah, are reasonably sure this is just a phase. One has family who finally realize this is serious; they’re now making an effort at using the right name and pronouns. The other? Well this is his second attempt since October and he’s just lost an unsupported trans friend to suicide. All I can do is keep reassuring him he’s wanted and needed and hope for the best.

Meanwhile there are families doing everything wrong according to conservatives and right according to liberals. They (for the most part) have kids who are thriving. Granted, they have their own unique issues. Most families don’t have to remind their kids not to leave their breasts on the kitchen table or warn them the family dog is chewing their penis. But they’re the ones taking smiling photos of their kids dressed up for prom (complete with friends and dates) and scheduling college tours.

Please stop. Stop fretting about saving your daughters from terrified newly out trans women who just want to pee. Stop showing off your knowledge of grade five biology as if middle school is the pinnacle of education. Stop telling people you know them better than they do. Stop acting like six year old trans girls are gap toothed predators stalking their fellow Girl Scouts. And stop patronizingly referring to Leelah by her dead name. Your attitude pushed her into the path of a truck. Would you please let her rest in peace?

 

*If you’re trans and struggling, there are resources available. Please reach out. I assure you, you are wanted and needed*