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.

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An Evening of Hope…

It was Spirit Day and, in our city, also An Evening of Hope; a yearly event centered around the LGBTQ community. Every year it rains, as if the earth itself is remembering the lives lost. And every year there’s laughter, as we remember the ones still here.

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Soggy yet bright and cheerful

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The evening opened with a Metis drumming circle

cupcakes

And plenty of baked goods 🙂

liberated-washrooms

The bathrooms were liberated for the evening

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And Orlando was remembered with a great deal of ceremony (and some shuffling)

colin-making-pinsJeremy was in their glory at our UU congregation’s button making machine. They cracked jokes and hammered down buttons for almost two hours… until the baked goods were gone and the pouring rain made everyone cold and tired. Then we headed home to warm blankets, hot drinks and, in my case, Pride Kitty…

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I’m sure she’d be a real party animal.

Until next year… *hugs* and stay safe!

On life skills and showing off Jeremy…

My ex-husband called me last week, wanting to know what I’m doing to socialize Jeremy. Aren’t I worried about him?

I definitely needed to pause before I spoke. This is a man who considers a two hour visit “long”. He offered to bring his girlfriend to Jeremy’s track and field meet at the end of grade six then had to message me to ask the name of Jeremy’s school. Zie’d been attending there since the beginning of grade two. Involved is not a word anyone uses to describe him.

“Yes, I definitely worry about Jeremy,” I began. “Zie belongs to our church’s youth group-”

“That’s exactly what I want him to do,” my ex interrupted. “My church has a youth group that meets once a week. It’s sports themed and I’d really like him to join.”

Sports? The only sport Jeremy’s played in zir entire life was soccer and that’s because a) zie loved the silky shorts and b) because the coaches wouldn’t allow bullying on the field. Zie “played soccer” for three years… where played translates to “stood motionlessly in the middle of the field”. Ironically, zir Dad only attended one soccer game and that was to show Jeremy off to a different girlfriend.

My ex was agnostic while we were together and has since joined the Mormon church. He celebrated his baptism with a cigarette, a joint, and a beer, which speaks volumes about his commitment to the church’s values. The church is committed to him though and, in return, he wants to show off the one remaining child who’ll speak to him. His trans, not-straight child… and we all know the Mormon church’s stance on LGBTQ issues.

“Jeremy’s not into sports,” I replied, which might be the understatement of the year.

“It doesn’t matter if he likes sports,” ex retorted. “It’s a chance for him to get together with other kids.”

Jeremy’s Dad hadn’t been into sports either when we were married. He liked baseball well enough and would watch hockey if the game was on but that was it. His real interests were Dungeons and Dragons, computer adventure games, and role-playing card games like Magic the Gathering. Maybe I could pique some mutual interests?

“Is there something else you can do with Jeremy? Zie loves cards, like Pokemon and Magic. And playing with RC cars and zie would enjoy learning D&D-”

“No, the youth group is good,” he said flatly. “Besides, what are you doing to socialize him?

Not that I hadn’t tried to tell him once already. I stifled a sigh and tried again. “Jeremy belongs to our church’s youth group. They meet twice a month and are going bowling in a couple more weeks. Zie also goes to PFLAG with m-”

“What’s PFLAG?”

What rock was he hiding under? And why couldn’t he stay there instead of bugging me?

“PFLAG stands for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays but it’s for anyone in the LGBTQ community. It meets once a month and has a youth group. There’s a young adult group too and Jeremy’s going to it this Thursday.”

The young adult group turned out to be a disaster. Jeremy’s mad at them because they discriminate against straight white men. Between Lenny and I, that comment triggered an eye roll that spanned the Atlantic Ocean and half a continent.

“It’s supposed to be a safe space for everyone,” Jeremy yelled. “How can they call it safe when they make fun of straight white men all the time? Besides, how are we supposed to get straight, white men to like us if we’re mean to them?”

“Honey, it’s not your job to get them to like you.” I paused, trying to think of an example that was relevant and would resonant with zir.

“It’s like black Americans and the police. The majority of the police aren’t against black people but it’s not black people’s responsibility to make the police like them. It’s the police’s responsibility to tell their peers to be more respectful and to go after the ones who are horribly racist. The majority has to stand up against the unethical minority.”

“I still don’t think it’s fair,” zie retorted stubbornly. “If it’s a safe place, it should be safe for everyone.”

“Is this because you identify as a straight, white male?” I questioned.

I have never seen anyone look more frankly horrified in my life.

“Or maybe others see you as one?” I guessed. There had to be a reason zie felt so strongly.

Zir horror turned to shocked bewilderment. “No one ever sees me as straight,” Jeremy protested, tossing back zir hair for emphasis. As far as I know everyone thinks I’m gay.” Zie paused for a minute. “I’m not sure if they see me as male either,” zie mused.

Jeremy met up with zir Dad at our local library and I asked how the meeting went when I got home from work that evening.

It was Jeremy’s turn to roll zir eyes. “Dad wants me to join his church’s youth group so I can learn life skills. He says he’s worried about what I’m going to do once you’re 70 years old if I don’t learn these life skills now.”

Because praying over table tennis is going to teach zir how to balance a bank book.

Lenny pointed out that I’ve already taught zir how to grocery shop, pay bills, do chores and cook simple meals; all of which are more important than a youth group.

I can’t help but wonder if my ex is thinking of what inviting Jeremy to the group would really be like. You know, when Jeremy shows up in zir favourite silky blue shirt and best perfume?

I also can’t help but wonder what this Thursday’s PFLAG meeting’s going to be like after Jeremy’s steadfast protection of straight, white men.

Fear…

“Mom? I can’t do it. Please don’t make me go to school tomorrow.”

Jeremy looked up at me from zir bed, where zie lay cocooned in blankets; eyes wide and body tense. I sighed.

“How about you go tomorrow and miss Thursday,” I suggested. Thursday was the provincial literacy testing day and most of the school would be absent. “You’ll be fine. I know you can do it.”

Zie nodded slightly but zir expression wasn’t very hopeful. I wasn’t hopeful either although I tried not to show it. Instead I kissed zir goodnight and headed off to bed.

This morning I got myself ready then went to wake Jeremy up… then woke zir up again (and again). I could see actual consciousness the third time around and with it came zir anxiety.

“Mom. I can’t go to school today. I’m so dizzy. I don’t think I can stand up. Can you please call the school and tell them I won’t be there?” Jeremy’s voice was shaking by the end.

I patted zir shoulder and promised I would call. Then I promised myself I’d call our family doctor and make Jeremy an appointment. And I did. For the 23rd of April… the earliest appointment available. His receptionist did put Jeremy on the list for cancellations.

Every single week I have friends share pictures of yet another transgender teen who’s committed suicide. The latest was a young man who was popular, well supported, crowned home-coming king, and a known activist. Several people commented on how he’d spoken to and encouraged their own children. He’d been an amazing kid, a real inspiration.

I listened to Jeremy play zir video game while watching the latest episode of The Young Turks. Two weeks ago we were walking home and Jeremy commented that if zie died, all zie’d be remembered for was playing video games and being trans. I assured zir that if I’d died at 17 years old, I’d only be remembered as that quiet girl who reads a lot of books; that zie has years to grow into talents and memories. I read through the article and wished I had a pair of handcuffs so I could clip Jeremy to me and keep zir safe. Jeremy couldn’t kill zirself if I was right there 24/7.

But that’s not living (not to mention using the washroom and showering would be beyond awkward). And so I head off to work knowing that Jeremy’s going to be home alone. Reminding zir to take out the recycling while I’m away… and hoping zie at least remembers to eat and change out of zir pyjamas.

I panic every time I call home after work and zie doesn’t answer. I know full well Jeremy loves to crank zir music and will call back as soon as zie sees the “missed call” light flashing but there’s always that cold shiver pushing out from the pit of my stomach… inching up my spine to tap relentlessly against my brain. And it doesn’t stop until Jeremy’s Doctor Who ringtone plays.

Tonight Jeremy’s at zir UU Youth Group, happily eating nachos and discussing censorship with like minded peers. Tomorrow night we’ll be at PFLAG where zie’ll be eating pizza and chatting with other trans teens. And in between I’ll be at work and zie’ll be alone. And I’ll take another deep breath and hope to hear from zir on the way home.

kitty cuddling

The good stuff…

Jeremy loves Minecraft and plays it regularly but zie never plays on servers. Zir favourite thing in Minecraft is designing houses; huge homes with floor to ceiling windows, giant kitchens, and roof top views of the ocean. People take great delight in destroying Jeremy’s houses when zie plays online, which is why zie plays single player on our computer. Now Jeremy belongs to a private server* made solely for trans youths and, for the first time, Jeremy and zir house have been safe.

I wasn't kidding when I said huge.

Jeremy’s house. I wasn’t kidding when I said it was huge.

kitchen

I think this is the smallest kitchen Jeremy’s made. Zie has at least a hundred mods downloaded to our desktop and zir kitchen usually has chandeliers. clocks, granite counter tops, polished wood tables, and double sinks. I’m guessing zir mods don’t work on the server. Zir second kitchen looked similar to this except it was underground.

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And, as always, zie has a gorgeous ocean view. Jeremy’s next development will be an ocean side pool.

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And zir view of the town, complete with not only the trans pride flag but a house with a pride flag window.

I am so glad Jeremy’s been able to join this server. Zie’s not only enjoying designing zir house, zie’s also been taking great pleasure in creating a shared mine and a chest full of freebies to give away to the other youths. Meanwhile I’m grateful to the person who put the time and effort into creating this server as it’s often Jeremy’s only social interaction.

This weekend was different though. This weekend Jeremy went to CLUUE, a Unitarian Universalist Youth event based around the murder mystery game Clue. Zie was overwhelmed at first as there were 51 youths (Jeremy was expecting around 10 to 15) but once the popcorn came out, zie relaxed and was fine. It helps that the UU gatherings ask for preferred pronouns and have multi-gender sleeping arrangements. Jeremy headed off with zir black sparkly pjs, a floral pillowcase and no worries.

And this Thursday is our monthly PFLAG meeting so zie’ll get to spend a full hour with other trans youths 🙂 I get to hang out with other parents too. Plus there’ll be pizza and pop which is a huge sell for a teenager.

I have no real news about my Dad. He was discharged from the hospital on Friday evening then was admitted again last night. The doctors are reasonably sure he has some sort of infection although multiple tests can’t find it. He’s on six different antibiotics ranging from broad spectrum ones to ones targeted specifically for things like lung infections and c diff (which thankfully came back negative). He is doing a lot better now and hopefully will continue to improve.

 

* This server is only available for youths whose parents belong to the Parents of Transgender Children support group. If you wish for your child to be a member of this server, you can request admittance once you belong to the parenting group. A link to the parenting group can be found on my resource page.

School trepidation…

Gatineau*

The first time I heard that name was with Emma. She’d been dealing with several issues; bullying, anxiety, and an overwhelming conviction that she’d made her Dad disappear and he was never coming back. I asked the school’s social worker for help and was assured that Emma and I talked well so we didn’t need any outside help. This was flattering but not useful. I requested an assessment from the school psychologist and asked for more help. Gatineau was recommended and an assessment was scheduled immediately.

A stern looking older man met us outside their interview room. Emma immediately froze. He stared at her then barked, “She’s obviously depressed.”

“She’s very shy,” I replied as we edged past him into the room. “She’s always been scared of men. Besides, she was laughing and joking around just a minute ago.”

I looked back to see him glaring at me. “I’m the psychiatrist and I know depression when I see it. She’s depressed.”

His tone said he felt that was clearly the end of the discussion. I figured it wasn’t worth starting off with an argument, not when I was there to get Emma help so shut my mouth.

The room was filled with a huge circle of chairs and a fish tank, which looked oddly out of place. We all sat near the door, the fishes swam alone on the other side of a vast expanse of chairs. There was a man who sat across from us with a pad and pen, obviously ready to take notes. He didn’t make Emma any more comfortable although, to be fair, she could hardly get any less comfortable.

Then I thought of something else. “Before we begin, I should let you know I’m having Emma tested for Aspergers.”

The psychiatrist looked over at Emma then shook his head. “She definitely does not have that,” he replied haughtily.

I began to wonder if it was possible to pull a doctorate of psychiatry out of a cereal box. The psychologist had me fill out checklists that started almost from conception and sat with Emma for hours. Meanwhile this doctor had diagnosed her in under two minutes without speaking to either of us or even attaining eye contact with her.

The doctor settled on play therapy for Emma along with a parenting group for me. I wanted Emma to get social skills help and was assured that would come as long as I joined their parenting group. I agreed and we were placed into art and group therapy at the same time. The only caveat was I needed to miss the first three sessions as my parents were away and I needed them to watch Jeremy. I was assured that was fine.

I knew immediately the group was a poor fit. Emma was prone to slamming her bedroom door while yelling, “I hate you! You’re mean!” Meanwhile the rest of the group were dealing with youths who set fire to the living room, robbed stores, and smashed furniture.

The weeks went on. Emma enjoyed her therapy, coming home regularly with crafts, while I listened to the other parents and offered any support I could. One day our group mediator was late and conversation immediately moved to the psychiatrist.

No one in the group liked him. They disliked his attitude and distrusted his diagnoses. I commented that Emma was diagnosed with Aspergers** but hadn’t got any of the social skills help I’d been promised. The mediator stepped into the room to tell me I was wrong, their psychiatrist had ruled out that diagnosis, and my diagnosis couldn’t count because Aspergers was only diagnosed by a psychiatrist. I pointed out that he made that diagnosis in less than two minutes, without speaking to Emma; meanwhile the psychologist spent hours with her. He retaliated, saying their art therapist had also spent hours talking to Emma and agreed with the psychiatrist. I pointed out that their art therapist wasn’t a psychiatrist either, so if I couldn’t go by a psychologist’s thorough assessment, he couldn’t use six hours of art therapy for a diagnosis either. But she was well respected and spent many hours with children… and so was the psychologist. The mediator told me they’d never agreed to any further help for Emma and certainly not with social skills; they didn’t even offer it.

Didn’t even offer it. What the hell was I doing there then? I sat through the rest of the session feeling numb then talked to Emma about her sessions. I’d thought the therapist was letting Emma discuss her feelings about her father and school. Instead she’d been spending therapy listening to why her art therapist felt she didn’t have Aspergers. I pulled us out of Gatineau.

I got a withdrawal letter a month later, claiming I’d missed almost half the group sessions and had been a reluctant participant. I looked at the dates and realized he’d not only counted the initial classes but a full month of sessions after we’d left. I vowed I’d never go back to the agency.

And then came the chance for a new class for Jeremy. A smaller class setting, an LGBTQ friendly school, a program that offered a chance to earn school credits, and it was brand new and barely had any students. Jeremy could get in almost immediately. But the class was run by Gatineau.

Yeah.

I stammered that I’d been there a few years ago and had not been impressed with the service, only to be reassured that they had almost all new staff and no longer had that psychiatrist.

We had our intake assessment. The new psychiatrist was cheerful and engaging, while Jeremy was in amazing spirits and responded quite animatedly. I was told a second appointment would be set up “next week” between us, Gatineau, and someone from Jeremy’s school; probably zir teacher.

There was a message from Gatineau today, wanting to arrange Jeremy’s counselling sessions. I called them back and was told they could only offer an appointment mid-day, which means Jeremy is going to miss a full day of school every week on top of what zie’s already missing due to anxiety. Then I asked about the class.

“Oh, umm, yes. Well, that class is full right now so Jeremy’s been placed on a waiting list. We’ll let you know when he gets to the top.”

“I’ll have to call [school board member] and try to get Jeremy into a different class then. Zie needs to get out of zir current class immediately.”

“Oh! Oh!!!” She sounded shocked and a bit worried. “I’ll have to talk to J and see what she says. I’ll let you know next week where Jeremy is on the list and if we know how long it will take for him to get to the top.”

So yet more waiting. Waiting for Gatineau and waiting for the school board member to call me back.

There’s a meeting on Thursday between the school board and PFLAG to address how the board can improve how they work with LGBTQ families. I figure we’ll have quite a lot to discuss.

* Gatineau is not the real name of the agency
** Emma was diagnosed with Aspergers through the school board. However it is not a diagnosis she agrees with and she’s subsequently been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder and depression. I’ve also since discovered that Aspergers and anxiety have a lot of similar symptoms.

The most wonderful time of the year…

I am a huge Christmas nut. The lights… the decorations… the sparkles… the music… the candles… the food… the family time… I love it all.

Emma came over yesterday afternoon then we picked up Japanese food (we’d like to order half your menu of battered, deep fried vegetables please) and got out the decorations from the storage closet. Jeremy insisted we really only needed to make one trip so while I carried our tree, Jeremy stacked four rubbermaid bins on top of a skateboard then stuck the box of mini trees on top and wheeled them down the hallway to the elevator. I so wish I’d brought my phone downstairs to take a shot of that. The boxes were stacked higher than Jeremy and zie’s over 6ft tall.

Then we got started on the decorating…

Jeremy decorating the tree.

Jeremy decorating the tree.

TARDIS

Jeremy took this photo of our new TARDIS ornament.

The chandelier ornament Jeremy picked out at BouClair in remembrance of all the chandeliers we didn't buy.

The chandelier ornament Jeremy picked out at BouClair in remembrance of all the chandeliers we didn’t buy. We’d need a mansion to fit all the ones zie wants.

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Emma, Mark, and Jeremy all sat around my Christmas village to play, showing that some things don’t change. Well mostly don’t change. Jeremy would spend hours walking the little villagers around. Now they find unusual ways to leave the villagers. The lady in pink is suicidal, the man in the tree thinks he’s a bird, the man in blue thinks he’s Batman, the kids on the bench are homeless, and Santa just killed someone and stuck their body behind the fence. Umm… merry Christmas? I’m thinking I should start sleeping with one eye open.

This is the final result…

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Doesn’t everyone have a Christmas spider on top of their tree?

 

And a close up of our mini trees. Jeremy picked out rainbow lights last year and we got purple sparkly stars to go on top so they’re pride Christmas trees…

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Jeremy and I went to our first PFLAG meeting on Thursday and it went quite well. I got to talk with other parents and zie got to hang out with several kids around zir age. Both of us left in good spirits and Jeremy’s already looking forward to the next meeting. Plus I put out a shameless request in an online parenting group I belong to for friends for Jeremy on Steam so zie now has several other trans kids to play games with.

Yesterday morning we went to a meeting for Jeremy to change schools and it not only went well but it looks like Jeremy should be transferring *soon*. I have no idea how quick their definition of soon is, hopefully before Christmas. Jeremy is quite happy about that as well.

The poor kid is currently asleep on the couch after suggesting maybe we go shopping tomorrow. Between the two I know zie has to be feeling sick (Jeremy turning down a shopping trip?). I kissed zir forehead and zie doesn’t have a fever (phew). I’m thinking today’s going to be a “watching Doctor Who in pjs” day.

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