Ups and downs…

I wanted to write a cheery “spa day” post with pictures of Jeremy and I enjoying family time but that didn’t happen. Not that our spa day wasn’t good, or should I say spa half-hour… or to be more accurate our very distracted spa half-hour while Jeremy watched The Young Turks and disassembled electronics…

electronic relaxation

Not the togetherness I’d been anticipating

The best part of the evening was the masks I scooped up at Shoppers Drug Mart, which smelled like chocolate. I came home from work two days ago to find Jeremy wearing another mask simply because zie liked it so much. Apparently Jeremy loves spending the afternoon giving zirself a facial while deconstructing electronics. I forsee three for $5 chocolate scented masks in Jeremy’s stocking this year.

Zie also shaved zir arm pits and let me paint zir toenails. Jeremy had always shaved from the moment puberty started (if not before). Zie loves the silky smooth feeling of freshly shaved skin and only stopped when zir teachers made a big deal about teaching gender roles in class; telling the girls they had to shave while explaining that boys don’t (meanwhile they didn’t have enough time for regular math lessons). This was one time they didn’t try to force gender roles with Jeremy but their pointing out to the entire class that zie shaved and stressing how manly it was, because body builders shave to show their muscles, didn’t help either. Jeremy doesn’t want manly, bulging muscles and didn’t want to be centered out in class. Zie immediately stopped shaving and has been anxious about starting ever since.

Jeremy was also worried about people seeing zir toenails and teasing zir about them. The sparkly polish disappeared into zir room and quickly vanished again as soon as it surfaced. Then came a comment from a stranger in our building while Jeremy was on the elevator alone. A man who looked at Jeremy, smiled, and said, “Hey, you aren’t wearing toe polish anymore? Why did you stop?” Sometimes people can be awesome! Jeremy was more than happy to put zir purple glittery polish back on when I found it once again.

slightly blurry purple toeses

Zie gets zir hobbit toes from me. Nothing like shaving your big toe for sandal season.

I woke at 3am several nights ago to find Jeremy curled in a ball on zir bedroom floor, crying that zie was a failure. Jeremy had connected one of zir tablets to a monitor, keyboard, and mouse then zie decided to upgrade the tablet to Windows 10, without realizing the upgrade would switch the tablet back to using a touch screen. The screen’s shattered and the tablet immediately refused to start. Resetting the tablet to factory settings didn’t help and doing this all in the middle of the night while exhausted definitely didn’t help. I assured zir that zie wasn’t a failure and reminded zir that the tablet screen can be replaced. Finally zie was willing to sleep.

Two days ago Jeremy happily cleaned up zir entire balcony, right down to scrubbing the balcony floor and washing the windows. Today zie washed most of the dishes, cheerfully went out grocery shopping, then came home and cried because zie was sad and didn’t know why.

Yesterday we went out for a picnic and Jeremy took selfies on my camera…

Zie melts my heart

I’ve made an appointment with our family doctor so we can get a referral to a psychiatrist (both of us, not just Jeremy) and I’ve adjusted zir medication slightly so zie’s taking the pills at the same time as me; breakfast and dinner instead of both at dinner. I’d have asked the doctor first but he’s on vacation. The sobbing on zir bedroom floor at 3am was before the medication change. The grocery shopping and cleaning the balcony was after.

Now zie’s washing the dinner dishes before we watch Doctor Who. I’m exhausted but zie’s looking forward to watching it with me and I’m not going to mess with happy family time; especially when it involves the Doctor.

Hopefully tomorrow will be another good day.

Angel and Jeremy

Sometimes all we need is a purring cat. Sometimes all the cat needs is a loving human… and sometimes both are lucky. Jeremy and Angel.

An open letter to parents…

The first post I saw on Facebook when I got up this morning was this screenshot of a little boy getting in trouble:

Facebook picture

There wasn’t a damn thing I could do as it was a screenshot posted into a group, which meant I didn’t know anyone involved. The picture has haunted me all day; the only thing I can do is write a letter and hope for the best.

 

Dear Parent,

Being a parent is the most rewarding, tiring, frustrating, infuriating, and glorious experience ever. You go into the hospital and after hours of hard work get handed this tiny pinkish bundle. Then you spend the next eighteen or so years raising that bundle into a mature and responsible adult. A lot of parenting ends up being a matter of personal choice. You pick where you’re going to live, the food you eat, religious beliefs, the clothes your child wears, and your basic philosophy in life. But there are some things you can’t chose. You can’t walk up to the doctor and request a tall, red haired, blue eyed baby for example. Some things you just have to accept.

I’m looking at your little boy’s sweet innocent face right now, all wide-eyed and uncertain, not knowing what he did wrong. Statistically speaking, chances are you’re raising a straight little boy, one who’s going to grow up and marry a woman. When you berate him for acting like a girl, you’re telling him that girls are less than boys… weaker… shameful. Is this the message you want to send about his someday bride-to-be? His sisters? His mother? If it’s shameful to act like a girl then it’s shameful to be a girl. That’s a horrible message to give any child.

There’s a good chance your little boy picked up that container of polish simply because he was curious. Little kids love to paint and are attracted to bright shiny colours; that polish was definitely both. Plus nail polish feels nice and cool as the brush slides across your fingernails. But there’s another possibility. Have you heard of pink boys? Pink boys are little boys who enjoy things that are aimed at little girls. They’re the little boys out walking their baby dolls in strollers and asking for Barbies for Christmas. They have Polly Pockets mixed in with their Lego and a small army of stuffed animals cascading across their beds. And statistically speaking, there’s a very good chance they’re going to grow up to be a member of the LGBTQ community. And there is nothing you can do to change this.

If you were told that your child had cancer and there was close to a 50% chance he could die, what would you do? I bet you’d do just about anything to save him. The suicide risk for transgender and gender nonconforming youths is around 47% (30 to 40% for LGB youths). If your child is gay, bisexual, or trans he is going to get bullied. He is going to have teachers, neighbours, and even random strangers make negative comments to him. He has a 1 in 6 chance of being beaten up to the point of needing medical attention. He doesn’t need to be a man, what he needs is you. He needs to know you are behind him ready to support him, ready to defend him if needed. You could end up being the person that keeps him alive.

I will do anything to keep my son alive. I will paint his nails, hug him while he wears a dress and tell him he looks pretty, dye his hair any colour he wants, and print out enough papers to decimate a small forest so his teachers have the information they need to teach him fairly. But that’s my son. Now the question is what are you going to do for yours?

Random Friday thoughts…

Remember Amy? My relative who I had a huge Facebook argument with back in March? The one who told my friend Lenny that zie doesn’t know what transgender really is but Amy does because she learned about it at school? She’s coming for a visit in one more month.

My Mom called me on my bus ride to work to share the good news. A week and a half long visit, right over Emma’s 19th birthday.

I got off the phone and immediately texted Lenny, telling zir that Amy was coming down for a visit. Zie knew this wasn’t good news. In fact I think the only one less excited than me about the upcoming visit was Jeremy.

His jaw dropped when I shared the news and he groaned. I assured him we’d have one small family visit then avoid her for the rest of her trip. Then he wanted to know if we could invite Lenny down to yell at her and tell her she’s wrong. Surprisingly enough Lenny turned this down. I mean who doesn’t want to fly halfway across the world (on their own dime) to yell at a total stranger?

Then there was today at work. As I’ve mentioned before, I am very socially awkward. I try but I usually feel like everyone else got a book of social guidelines and conversation tips while I got a junk mail flyer. Everyone else is having a conversation while I blurt out things like “Hey, pizza’s on two for $12”. Which means that even when I’m trying my hardest to fit in, my usual description is “weird”. So I find conversations hard at the best of times and hate conflict.

I was working with two coworkers. One is young, maybe a year older than Emma, and a constant joker. She finds everything funny and is constantly pulling pranks. The other is in her thirties and just started this week. She’s uncertain, needs a lot of reassurance and regularly asks if there’s anything she can do to help. The three of us were standing at the cash register when a customer walked past.

“I know her,” my young coworker commented. “She used to go to my school.” She paused, looking confused. “Or he,” she continued. “Or he/she… whatever.”

The kid in question couldn’t hear us. This conversation wasn’t going to affect them in the slightest. I took a deep breath.

“If you don’t know whether someone’s male or female, you can use they instead of he or she.”

She looked at me in astonishment. “Really?”

I nodded. “It’s a pronoun too.”

She laughed and said, “Michelle, you’re so funny.”

Which was pretty much what I expected to hear from her. I have the feeling she considers life in general to be one huge joke. She’s fasting right now and was laughing at one o’clock this afternoon because she was so thirsty and wouldn’t be able to drink anything for eight more hours. I don’t think I could find the humour in that but she did.

Why I spoke up is because maybe my young coworker will learn something from what I said and because I know nothing about my new coworker other than she’s anxious, eager to please, and desperately trying to fit in. Maybe she’s just anxious, I’ve got plenty of coworkers with anxiety issues (myself included), but maybe she needs the reassurance that someone in the store isn’t afraid to speak up. I have no idea if I made a difference; judging by previous experiences, chances are I never will know.

And then came tonight. Jeremy and I are going to a barbecue tomorrow and I was looking through my closet for something to wear. It’s hard because I donated most of my nice clothes when they became forty pounds too big. The remainder of my clothes are better described as casual (although some are leaning a lot closer to threadbare). I pulled out a shirt I love. It’s lime green and, I don’t know… shirred? That’s the closest word I can come up with although it’s not quite that. It’s puckered and ripply… and I spilled grease on the front. It’s not that noticeable when it’s just being held up. Jeremy looked at me in surprise when I said I couldn’t wear it because of the stain.

“You can’t really see it just by holding it up,” I explained. “Here…”

Jeremy wasn’t wearing a shirt so I stuck it over his head. He obediently held up his arms.

“Look in the mirror now. See…”

While the stains don’t show up much when the shirt’s being held, they’re very obvious when it’s worn.

“Oh yeah,” he said as his eyes focused on the biggest stain. Then he looked a bit further down. On me the shirt is almost hip length. It was a crop top on him. He grabbed the edges and stretched it down before giggling and pushing his stomach out as far as he could.

I laughed and tickled his stomach. “Don’t be a goof and don’t stretch my shirt.”

I don’t want the shirt stretched too much because someday I might figure out how to get those stains out. Hopefully. He let go of the edges and relaxed.

“The shirt looks good on you,” I commented, because it did. He eyed himself more closely then nodded.

“It shows off my breasts, even though they’re small,” he agreed before pulling the shirt off. Then he flopped down on my bed.

“My teacher doesn’t like that I’ve got long hair,” he complained. “She doesn’t like me growing my nails long either. She says only girls can have long nails.”

“Speaking of nails, you need to get yours cut,” I interrupted. “Not short, just because they’re ragged.” I hurried out of the room and came back in with clippers. “You need to cut them like this…” I showed him how to cut from each side to a point in the middle then round the tip so it’s smooth.

“You use a nail file to make the edges really smooth. I’ve got a package of them somewhere around here that I haven’t opened, you can have them if you want.”

He nodded and I went rummaging through my dresser while he continued cutting his nails. I started off in my makeup drawer. Blusher (sans lid), eyeshadow, a couple of brushes, tiny bottle of nearly nude nail polish. I pulled that out while trying to figure out where it had come from in the first place. Jeremy’s eyes lit when he saw it.

“What colour is that?” he asked.

“Beige,” I replied. “It’s just supposed to make your nails look shiny. Do you want it?”

His expression said he very much wanted it so I handed over the bottle. He stopped cutting his nails to try it on, wiping them off in frustration because the polish smudged. He cut his nails then, after I showed him how to file, tried the polish again… and again… and again.

“Mom, I’m really not good at this,” he said in frustration.

“It takes practise,” I reassured him. “Look, this is how you put the polish on. See. Even strokes from the bottom to the top and you try to only paint once. If you need another coat, you wait until it dries completely then put on another layer. Otherwise it gets gummy.”

He nodded, looking intently at his nails, and flopped back down on my bed. Then he started a monologue on how if all bathrooms and change rooms were gender neutral, it would make our world a utopia. I’m not exaggerating, he seems to feel this would bring about world peace. Then he wanted my opinion.

“Hon, I’m going to share my thoughts on the conversation and that includes how I think you’re feeling,’ I began. “If I’m wrong then let me know.”

He nodded again.

“I think right now you’re struggling with trying to sort out your gender and things that are very gender specific are making you uncomfortable.” Another nod. “But hon, not everyone’s struggling with their gender and some people, myself included, like male and female washrooms. I feel comfortable in a female washroom.”

“Then what do you suggest?” he asked angrily. “A male and female washroom for the closed minded people and a washroom for everyone else?”

“You don’t identify as either gender,” I blurted very thoughtlessly. Jeremy didn’t disagree, which means he either agreed with me or simply didn’t feel like disagreeing at that time. Either way I moved on. “But you’re not everyone. I identify as female and like using a female washroom. Not out of being closed minded, simply because it feels comfortable for me. I like the idea of having a male washroom, a female washroom, and a neutral washroom. Or when there’s single stall washrooms, having them simply be neutral washrooms. You know, like when we were at Rawlicious or that Asian fusion restaurant, the one that said their only vegan option was a bowl of miso soup. Or using your suggestion of having individual stalls with floor to ceiling doors along one side of a hallway and sinks along the other.”

He looked slightly mollified by me mentioning his idea. “Mom? Lenny uses zir for a pronoun. Are there any others?”

“Umm… there’s they,” I replied. “I can find a list of others if you want.”

He shrugged. “I don’t need to know them right now,” he assured me. “I can find out closer to when school starts.”

Which makes me worry he’s planning a continuation of the great English class pronoun war of 2014. I’ve already told him I’ll back him 110% when it comes to gender expression and gender identity but won’t back him at all if he’s being an ass. Bringing a list of pronouns into school for the sole reason of bugging his teacher would definitely fall into the latter category. But there’s almost two months of summer vacation left and we can sort that one out closer to September.

Nail polish

“Hi hon,” I called when I heard the front door opening. Colin immediately yelled “hi” back and came bounding over.

“School was good,” he informed me cheerfully. Both hands were clenched tight against his chest so I could only see the backs. This was unusual to say the least.

“Colin? What’s with your hands?” I asked as I reached toward him.

“Umm… nothing,” he said, stepping back. Then he sighed and held his hands out. His nails were painted alternating black and glittery red.

“Nice,” I commented mildly and he relaxed.

“There wasn’t much to do this afternoon and one of the teachers had polish in her purse and offered to do people’s nails.”

I figured she probably offered to do some of the girls’ nails and Colin volunteered but didn’t bother saying that. She’d obviously painted them without adding any negative commentary. If that can of worms was still closed, I didn’t need to open it.

“Let’s head out to the mall,” I said instead. “We need to pick up something for dinner.”

Jeremy looked at me like I’d suggested going outside for some naked flamenco dancing. “Just give me ten minutes so I can scrape off the nail polish,” he muttered.

“Colin, if you don’t like the nail polish then why did you get it done,” I asked. Dead silence.

“I like it,” he admitted. “I just don’t want anyone to see it.”

“Colin,” I said firmly, holding his hands. “If you like that nail polish and want it on then rock it and ignore anyone who says otherwise.”

“I really don’t want anyone to see it.” He looked even more embarrassed.

“We can buy nail polish remover while we’re out,” I promised. “And you can wear gloves.”

We were out the door as soon as he found his gloves.

The shopping trip was going fine then we went past the mall restrooms. Colin insisted he needed to use the washroom. The kid has kidneys like a camel, this was instantly suspicious.

“Colin, you’re not taking the nail polish off in there.” It was more of a hopeful question than a statement.

“Yeah,” he replied, clutching the store bag a little tighter.

“You can’t…” I swallowed ‘It’s not safe’ and said “… It can be done at home” instead.

He turned and headed down the hall with me calling, “I’m going to the store without you. You’ll have to meet me there.”

Weakest threat ever. I don’t think I’ve hovered that intently in front of the men’s room since Colin was seven and braving the men’s room alone for the first time. An older man left first then Colin followed less than a minute later.

“I told the man it was a bet. He said ‘ah’ then left,” Colin informed me. I nodded, noticing he was a lot more cheerful now that the polish was off.

His hands were back in motion, remnants of black and red flashed on each nail. Anyone who looked at his hands would know he’d been wearing nail polish. I did not bother to point this out.

I wish Colin felt comfortable wearing nail polish no matter who sees him. And I wish we live in a society where he didn’t have to worry.