The people we leave behind…

Meme from the blog early mama

Sometimes I wonder if they think I’m blind; if they think I don’t notice their absence on Facebook… the empty space in my like and comment sections. Sometimes I wonder if they even see my posts or if they’ve quietly unfollowed me. They’re there… but at the same time they aren’t.

I grew up in a wide spread family. My grandparents lived four hours away by car. My great-grandmother four hours away by plane. The rest were scattered across the country (and now the globe). When we all got together, we were a close-knit group and our visits were full of laughter and hugs. While we were apart I was assured our family was always together in spirit.

Our last big family reunion was almost a decade ago; combining both a wedding and a memorial service. It was nearly two weeks of family bliss. Everywhere we turned there was family. We took up huge tables at restaurants and booked half a motel. I loved introducing Emma and Jeremy to cousins, uncles and aunts… showing them the family they belonged to. We went to the town my mother, grandparents, and several great-grandparents were born and spent a glorious afternoon on a nearby island, simply sharing time together. I collected several chunks of sea-worn beach rocks from there, along with shells and driftwood, that I’ve kept on my fireplace mantle ever since; a visible reminder of family and our time together.

Newcastle beach

The first one to disappear off my statuses and updates was my sister Amy. We’ve never had a close, sisterly relationship. Our relationship could be described as tumultuous at best; when we meet, we tend to clash. The closest we’ve ever gotten is online. Then this thread happened last year, when I shared an article on Facebook discussing gender neutral washrooms in Vancouver BC.

screenshots

Click to embiggen. If Amy ever wonders why Jeremy’s not all that fond of her, this is the reason. Zie’s rarely on Facebook but did read this whole thread.

Amy hasn’t commented on a single post or picture since then. Birthdays, the death of two pets, Christmas, etc… all passed without a single like or comment from her. She also has yet to respond to my private message regarding Jeremy being trans.

Then came my big post, at Jeremy’s request, outing zir to our family and friends. The support we received was overwhelmingly positive and almost completely from friends. The solitary family member who responded on that post was my cousin’s uncle. And since then there’s been silence. The only family who likes and comments on my posts are Karen, her husband, and my Mom. To be fair, most of my relatives rarely go on Facebook but the ones who do make their absence felt. And it hurts. Ironically, I don’t think it’s because Jeremy’s trans. It’s because this should be private and I was uncouth enough to make it public. I’m being ignored because I’m socially inappropriate.

What they don’t seem to get is I’m not doing this for them. I’m not doing this for me either. I’m doing this for Jeremy, who is still floundering and still needs my emphatic and visible support. Jeremy still tries zir hardest not to think about gender or sexual orientation. Zie still isn’t sure what zie likes to wear (other than loose and comfortable). I don’t talk to Jeremy about sexual orientation at all as it’s a sure fire way to start a furious and hysterical argument on zir part because zie’s straight damn it! Even though zie tries zir hardest not to think about guys. Even though zir first reaction when they killed off the 9th Doctor in Doctor Who was “why did they have to kill the cute one?”. Even though when zie handed me the brochure that came with my camera, zir comment was “you should like this, it’s full of landscapes and cute guys”. I flipped through to discover the people pictures were split 50/50 with males and females; apparently zie never noticed. Even though zie stares at zirself in the mirror and wonders why zie looks so good in women’s clothing… before taking it off and pulling on an old t-shirt and baggy shorts.

I want Jeremy to be comfortable at home. I want zir to know this is a safe place… that I’m not only 100% behind zir but willing to step out and be in front of zir too, in the times zie’s too scared to walk alone. When zie briefly pondered wearing a dress outside, I assured zir that I’m like a pitbull, small and usually cuddly, but willing to cling on and rip out someone’s throat if zie’s threatened. Zie laughed. I wasn’t kidding.

“Mom! Guess what?”

Jeremy ran into my room, zir smile as wide as the sky and just as sunshiny.

“If I spend $6, I can subscribe to Cool Dude! I can go into his exclusive Steam group and play on Gary’s Mod with him. Oh and he’s gay.” I hadn’t thought Jeremy’s smile could get any wider, yet it did.

I will stand for Jeremy until zie’s able to stand on zir own and then I will continue to stand beside zir. If my family’s not willing to stand beside me, I’ll stand on my own. I’m grateful for the friends I have with me and the family who has stayed strong. Maybe someday the rest of the family will join them but I will not back down. I will not quiet myself for their comfort.

My child needs me. They can catch up if they want.

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Acceptance helps everyone…

I can’t remember where I read this information originally. I’m horrible for remembering stuff then forgetting completely what article or blog it came from. Although, to be fair, it was over a year ago. Anyways, I read an article (somewhere) on transgender children and how they all did much better when their parents listened to them and respected their wishes.

The vast majority of the kids stayed firm with their gender but a few went back to the gender they’d been announced at birth. Those few also were happy and glad they were listened to, they felt confident they were loved and accepted by their parents.

Around the same time that I read this article, Emma came out as bisexual… for a day. I wasn’t surprised by her announcement but for different reasons than with Jeremy.

With Jeremy there wasn’t any surprise because he’d had crushes on boys for years, only stopping when he realized his peers’ negative opinions. Emma, on the other hand, came out at her father’s baptism into the Mormon church.

We arrived at the church with no small amount of nervousness. I was meeting relatives and friends of their father whom I hadn’t seen in a decade, Jeremy stayed silent on his worries, and Emma had heard a fair bit about the Mormon church through the media and had her own concerns regarding parental love.

Their father greeted us in a full length white pant and shirt set. His rumpled, ill fitting garments gave him the appearance of someone who’d just entered a hospital with secured exits and staff who were deeply concerned with his feelings and moods.

“Mom. Dad looks like he’s in a mental hospital,” Emma muttered. Apparently we were both on the same wavelength. They’d even taken his shoes.

None of us were allowed to witness the actual baptism, which was a disappointment. Their Dad has an extreme water phobia. We were all set to eat popcorn and enjoy the show. Instead we got ushered into a small room with stacking, but padded, seats to watch a bland and generic VCR tape on the Mormon religion.

I looked over to see Emma’s head bent over her cellphone, furiously typing a text message. I opened my mouth to tell her to be respectful and put away her phone when she handed it to me and gestured at the screen.

Mom. I think I might be bisexual.

She took the phone back then backspaced and handed it back to me, the blank screen ready and waiting.

Emma. I love you always.

She smiled when she saw it then backspaced and tucked the phone into her pocket. I squeezed her hand and we settled back to watch the rest of the video. After the whole baptism was completed, we stood and I gave Emma a hug. She bent slightly to rest her head on my shoulder.

“Thanks,” she whispered into my ear. “I love you Mom.”

“I love you too sunshine,” I whispered back.

She called me the next day. “Mom, I’m straight. I don’t know why I said I might be bi, I don’t like girls at all.”

I laughed. “It’s okay either way sunshine. You’re a teenager, being confused comes with the territory.”

“But I really don’t know why I said that,” she blurted.

“Hon, what does the Mormon church think about same sex relationships?”

“Umm… not good…” she replied hesitantly. “Oh, so I was testing you and Dad. You both passed by the way.”

And that was it. I’d like to say it was smooth sailing from then on but she’s a teenager with Borderline Personality Disorder. Life’s not that easy. But it did help.

As for why I accepted Emma’s backtrack on coming out and not Jeremy’s, that would be because Emma has never once mentioned any interest in girls. Whereas Jeremy and I have conversations like this:

“Mom? What are you and Lenny talking about?”

I looked up from Facebook in surprise. I hadn’t realized he was reading over my shoulder (again).

“Lenny and I were looking at some pictures I posted on the blog and we both think he’s cute.” I flipped through the link and clicked open the picture.

Jeremy studied the picture intently then shrugged. “It’s okay if you like him but I find him a bit too feminine for my tastes.”

I didn’t think he looked feminine at all but everyone’s got their own personal likes. That being said, I dare you to read that sentence then say (and honestly believe) the phrase, “Yes, Jeremy’s 100% straight”. So far I haven’t managed although I’m faking as best I can. Jeremy says he feels loved and accepted so hopefully I’m doing a good enough job. He also thinks I ask bizarrely random questions but he should be used to that by now.

The blame game…

Jeremy didn’t put on socks when his sister and her boyfriend came over for their visit. Which was fine, except he was wearing bright red nail polish on his toes.

That was fine too, except when his sister mentioned he had polish on, his immediate response was…

“Mom made me wear it. She forced me to put it on.”

I pulled him aside and reminded him he’s a foot taller than me. I can’t force him to put on nail polish. He smiled sheepishly and apologized.

Then came his counseling appointment on Thursday. The counselor had me come in so we could sort out a few issues and figure out what goals we were all working toward. Then she mentioned Jeremy had something important to tell me.

“Your son wants you to know he’s straight. Completely, 100% straight.”

Jeremy nodded. “I’ve been trying to tell you this but you won’t listen to me and you keep bringing it up.”

I stared at him in astonishment then assured him I do listen but it’s hard when he keeps telling me different things. He glared.

“You put words in my mouth. I never said any of those things, you did.”

I was quiet for the rest of the session, mostly because I was furious.

“Fine, you’re straight,” I snapped once we got outside. “I won’t mention anything to do with sexual orientation again. But first I want a couple of answers. Why did you tell me you weren’t out anywhere?”

“Because I’m not,” he replied. “I don’t need to be out because I’m straight.”

“And when you told me you were bisexual? That wasn’t me putting words into your mouth.”

“I don’t know,” Jeremy wailed. “You keep saying I’m gay and I don’t know who I’m interested in.”

I restrained myself from hitting my head on the bus shelter wall, mostly because I ran out of pain medication and that would hurt.

“Jeremy, I have never said you were gay. I said you might be straight or bisexual, because those are the labels you mentioned, but I never once claimed you were anything else. And I’ve been after you for ages not to pin a label on yourself if you don’t know who you’re interested in. That if you feel you have to label yourself to stick with something like questioning for now.”

“Oh,” he said quietly.

“And can you please stop blaming me,” I added.

He nodded then he pulled on his headphones and proceeded to ignore me the rest of the way home.

So that’s where we are right now. Jeremy’s straight, well as straight as someone who has no idea who they’re interested in can get. And I’m scared to say anything in case it’s misconstrued. Fun times.

Standing on sand

On Monday night we came home with the anti-anxiety medication for Jeremy’s needle.

“One of these is a truth serum,” I joked. “I’m going to ask you all sorts of questions and you won’t be able to lie.”

Jeremy immediately shook his head. “I won’t answer any of your questions. You’re going to ask me who I’m interested in and I’m not going to tell you.”

“I don’t have to ask you,” I retorted. “I already know the answer. You have a deep, passionate love of ducks.”

As I hoped, Jeremy laughed. One of the shows (podcasts?) he watches on YouTube  has someone who dislikes ducks, claiming they’re evil and vicious. Jeremy has followed that opinion. It’s turned into a long standing joke of ours.

“I’m not going to ask you who you’re interested in,” I replied more seriously. “You’ll sort things out on your own. You are at least thinking about who you’re interested in, right?”

We’d had a talk on Sunday after I finished writing Voluntary Blindness and then read it to him. At that point he admitted he still was trying his hardest not to think at all about what gender(s) he was interested in, although he was sure he’s male. I’d asked him to please think about it. A friend of mine asked me what he was scared of, considering how hard he was trying not to think of this. He insisted nothing.

Jeremy shook his head and I sighed.

“Jeremy, would you at least try to think about it?” He said he would but his tone wasn’t promising.

When Jeremy got home from school today, he immediately began talking about the Olympics. I told him that, while I’m never really into the Olympics, I’m avoiding it entirely this year because it’s in Russia.

He sat down beside me. “Why?” he asked curiously.

I went onto Facebook and clicked on a link my young coworker Brian had posted about beatings occurring in Russia. I’m warning you in advance it is horribly graphic. If you’re already dealing with depression or anxiety or have been attacked, please don’t click on the link.

We watched it in silence then Jeremy said, “If I was training for the Olympics and it was in Russia, I just wouldn’t go. I’d tell them they’d have to go with the next fastest person.”

I didn’t bother to get into the whole concept of training for hours every day for years in order to get into the Olympics. Instead I pointed out there are gay athletes in this Olympics. He thought for a moment.

“What country is it that kills gay people?” he asked.

“That would be Uganda,” I replied. “Although judging by that video, I don’t think Russia’s got any issues with it either. Every single one of those videos was uploaded to the internet and it doesn’t look like there was any repercussion faced by the people doing the attacking.”

He nodded then I read him my blog post from last night. He laughed at all the appropriate parts and admitted he didn’t remember most of it.

One of my friends asked me if he identifies as queer or questioning. I asked Jeremy this earlier in the week and he said he didn’t know, then he asked what the terms meant. I had to admit I wasn’t sure either so I asked my friend if zie had a good link with definitions. Zie didn’t, so last night while Jeremy was asleep, I looked up and found a page with a whole whack of definitions, at least half of them I’ve never heard of before.

“Remember you were asking about those definitions before,” I started.

“It doesn’t matter,” Jeremy interrupted. “I’ve figured out that I’m mostly interested in girls.”

“How did you figure that out?” I asked, trying not to sound too skeptical. “You told me on Monday that you weren’t paying any attention to who you were interested in. Can you tell me you’ve been doing some serious thinking over the past day?” He shrugged.

“Jeremy, I love you for who you are, not who you’re interested in. But I want you to be honest with yourself. If you’re straight that’s fine, so am I. If you’re bisexual or pansexual that’s fine too. Same with if you’re gay. But you need to be honest with yourself.”

I didn’t mention asexual because this is one term he’s adamantly insisted is not him.

I clicked open the link and started scrolling through the definitions, reading out any which seemed relevant.

“I know I’m skipping some,” I commented. “If you’re interested, you can go back and read them yourself. This term is supposed to identify me although I’d never use it because I have no idea how to pronounce it.”

The term’s cisgender and I have no clue whether it’s pronounced size-gender, siss-gender, or sizz-gender. I can’t see it starting with a hard c sound. But with three options for pronunciation (unless it’s one I haven’t come up with), it’s a lot easier just to say I’m female.

I read the definitions for both queer and questioning to him and he shrugged again.

“It doesn’t matter,” he repeated. “I’m straight.”

By this time I’d reached the end of my patience.

“Hold on,” I snapped. “Less than five minutes ago you were mostly straight and now you’re straight. Yet you still won’t think about who you’re interested in. That doesn’t make any sense.”

“Why won’t you believe me?” he asked angrily.

“Which time am I supposed to believe you?” I asked back. “When you told me you’re bisexual? When you told me you’re straight? When you told me you’re mostly straight? I can’t believe them all. Am I supposed to believe you right now that you’re straight?”

“Yes,” he said hesitantly. His gaze slid away from mine.

“Jeremy, don’t worry so much about labels. Why not just stick with questioning until you sort things out more?” I asked. I got another shrug then he turned on his video game, effectively ending the conversation.

I find myself trying to support Jeremy while feeling like I’m standing on sand. I don’t want him to think I don’t believe him but which Jeremy do I believe? The Jeremy who says he’s straight and talks about someday when he has a wife? The Jeremy who says he’s bisexual and shyly expresses an interest in the 9th doctor in Doctor Who? The Jeremy who showed extreme disappointment when I casually mentioned the local gay bar closed (it’s on my bus route to work) because he was planning on going there some day? Who watched a music video with me which showed two young men kissing then admitted he couldn’t stop thinking about them? Who asks which countries would be safe for him to visit someday, you know, the gay friendly ones? Who dyed his hair purple and refers to himself as “fab-u-lous”? It’s like I’m raising a kaleidoscope of Jeremy’s.

I have loved this kid his whole life. I loved him when he was a wide eyed toddler taking his baby doll for a walk. I loved him when he was a preschooler who could (and did) spend hours in the snow driving his dinky cars around. I loved him and supported him when I talked to his school (repeatedly) about bullying.

“Jeremy is being called a he-she again on the playground and he doesn’t like it. Can you please talk to the students and get it to stop?”

I loved him when he had a crew cut and I loved him when he had shoulder length hair and everyone told me how pretty my daughter was. Looking back, he actually was very pretty.

I have tried my hardest to show him that I love him and I hope I’ve succeeded. I just don’t know how to show him I’m here for him, no matter what he comes out as.

I should also add that I read this post to Jeremy before publishing it and has been “Jeremy approved” with him claiming it earned ten out of ten waffles. I have no idea what that means but he sounded quite positive when he said it so I’m assuming that’s good. He does like waffles.

I don’t want Colin to “act straight”

A young coworker of mine posted a link on Facebook today to an interview by an actor who plays a flamboyantly gay character. The actor was told by a straight reporter that,  if he were gay, he’d be offended by how stereotypically gay the character was. The link shows the actor’s response.

I don’t want Colin to feel like he has to act straight. I want him to just be himself, whether he’s straight, gay, or somewhere in between. I personally don’t know where he falls. To be fair, I don’t think he does either. He’s rocking the Q for questioning.

And what is “acting straight” anyways? Right now he’s sitting in the living room playing Saint’s Row, a computer video game similar to Grand Theft Auto. Same amount of mayhem but with a less regimented story line (Colin talks a lot about his games). He’s running over pedestrians but he’s doing so with the shiniest purple car he could find and his male character is sporting purple hair. Last week, his female character sported purple hair as well.

Colin had a bubble bath two nights ago and shaved his legs. Then he put on Axe… and called it perfume.

He also doesn’t notice dirty dishes, even when he’s washing them and they’re sitting directly beside the sink and I’m expecting the health department to condemn his bedroom any day now. Pretty standard for sixteen and, thankfully, his room is slowly improving. I’ve promised we can paint it this spring if he keeps it tidy. He wants to paint it purple.

I sent Colin to the grocery store earlier this week with a three item grocery list. He’d begged for additional items at least ten times before he got out the door (I really wish I was exaggerating) and promised he’d call when he got to the store just in case I’d changed my mind. We live less than a five minute walk from the store. We can see it from the living room. So you can imagine how underwhelmed I was to get a call from him less than a minute later.

“Mom? Where did we get my hair dye?” That wasn’t the question I was expecting. I’d braced myself for another argument about his impending demise due to a lack of pizza/iced tea/root beer/cup of soup/canned ravioli/potato chips.

I reminded him of where we got it and he relayed the information to someone else.

“Who are you talking to?” I asked curiously.

“This lady wants to know where I got my hair dye,” he replied. “She’s been looking for something similar.” Colin currently has shoulder length purple hair.

We said our goodbyes and, as he was turning off his phone, I heard the lady compliment his hair and tell him how proud she was of him. I am too.