Remembrance…

remembrance day poppyEvery once in a while, when the stars align in exactly the wrong way, a war occurs. Of course it’s not that simple, nothing ever is. But it happens. And farmer’s fields and peaceful valleys and streams where children splashed and swam and quiet hamlets get ploughed into mud, trenches, and barbed wire.

Often, by then it’s too late to do anything else. There are marginalized citizens, either by religion or race, being (as Colin says) genocided. Often they’re pleading for intervention and yet… the ones who call the war are never the ones in battle. They’re never the ones who lie crying for their Mom while their life bleeds away and their guts mix with the mud. They don’t have to worry if the skinny teenager standing on the road ahead is innocent or covered in bombs and ready to kill them all. The ones in charge sleep in a comfortable bed every night and dine on a hot, well cooked meal every evening. The war they unleashed is an abstract in a place far away from their lives.

I remember being taught about World War I and the cavalry division. Cavalry had always played a huge role in the British Army so the commanders naturally placed them front and centre in the battlefield. Front and centre against tanks and machine guns. The cavalry didn’t stand a chance. The commanders soon realized this as the death toll climbed but they continued following the same plans because it had always worked before (against other calvary). Of course it wasn’t them or their children dying, it was the calvary and the foot soldiers so they continued.

The most frustrating part is every war starts out with a need for all parties to sit down and negotiate a treaty. They refuse and convince thousands of their people to die, ostensibly for their freedom. Eventually those same parties all sit down and negotiate a treaty… the exact same one they needed to negotiate before all those deaths. When you get right down to it, every single war is a needless war. They all boil down to one or more parties simply refusing to negotiate or refusing to negotiate fairly.

I’m a huge fan of Doctor Who. The Doctor, the main character, was a soldier in a huge, fictional war called the Time War and he gave a speech that I think is eminently suitable. I’ll pare out the parts that are specifically related to the show:

Ah. Ah, right. And when this war is over, when you have a homeland, what do you think it’s going to be like? Do you know? Have you thought about it? Have you given it any consideration? Because you’re very close to getting what you want. What’s it going to be like? Well? Oh, you don’t actually know, do you? Because, like every other tantruming child in history, you don’t actually know what you want. So, let me ask you a question about this brave new world of yours. When you’ve killed all the bad guys, and when it’s all perfect and just and fair, when you have finally got it exactly the way you want it, what are you going to do with the people like you? The troublemakers. How are you going to protect your glorious revolution from the next one? Maybe you will win! But nobody wins for long. The wheel just keeps turning. So, come on. Break the cycle.

Because it’s not a game. This is a scale model of war. Every war ever fought, right there in front of you. Because it’s always the same. When you fire that first shot, no matter how right you feel, you have no idea who’s going to die! You don’t know whose children are going to scream and burn! How many hearts will be broken! How many lives shattered! How much blood will spill until everybody does until what they were always going to have to do from the very beginning. Sit down and talk!

Of course I understand. I mean, do you call this a war? This funny little thing? This is not a war! I fought in a bigger war than you will ever know. I did worse things than you could ever imagine. And when I close my eyes I hear more screams than anyone could ever be able to count! And do you know what you do with all that pain? Shall I tell you where you put it? You hold it tight till it burns your hand, and you say this. No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch!

No one else will ever have to live like this. No one else will have to feel this pain. Not on my watch! In other words “lest we forget”.

And so we were silent for two minutes yesterday in remembrance of World War I and II… and all the other wars. Silent so we wouldn’t forget. Silent because never again. And yet wars under a myriad of names are being waged all across this world. There are Muslims in concentration camps in China and children dying in camps in the United States. There’s an outright attack on the LGBTQ community happening through eastern Europe and Africa with Poland even declaring a third of the country LGBT free… as if every queer LGBTQ man, woman, and child is going to suddenly vanish. The Middle East is a hotbed of violence and, as always, everyone has their fingers poking in making it a hundred times worse.

We are all born the same way, birthed from a womb, whether it happens in a dirt floored hut or the private ward of a luxury hospital. We are all born innocent and ready to love and be loved. Everything else comes later. We’re born loving and taught to hate. If only there was a way we could teach all the children around the world to treat each other kindly, to accept each other’s differences, to listen and try to understand instead of resolving conflicts with fists, to hug consensually. It would make such a huge difference. Imagine those children as adults, having grown up learning fairness, kindness, and equity. Maybe someday it will happen but I don’t see it happening anytime soon.

It’s not about you…

I remember being pregnant with my children, feeling as their gentle flutters progressed into full belly flops on my bladder and painful karate kicks against the backs of my ribs. Back then I had no clue what my children would be like; they were more like ideas than real people. I’d sit in my rocking chair with my hands clasped gently over my stomach and wonder who they’d be. Dreaming of children who loved singing as much as me; envisioning singing rounds, our voices weaving together in harmony.

Then they were born. Short, chubby, bald people who looked a lot more like Winston Churchill than either their Dad or myself. People that screamed randomly, pooped on themselves, and considered “gah” to be an entire conversation. I still had no idea what they were like except loud, messy, and highly uncoordinated. They slowly evolved into their own people. Kait was colicky and had a desperate need to be held by me. She developed a heat rash across one cheek because she could only sleep while draped across my chest, listening to my heart. Colin was more laid back, willing to be held by anyone or to simply chill on a blanket. Weirdly enough Kait was the one who walked early, desperate to explore on her own while Colin was half a month past zir first birthday before zie took zir first cautious steps away from me.

As for the singing, Kait was happy enough to sing with me as a toddler (I have video proof of this) but quickly decided she couldn’t sing and refused despite encouragement from me. Colin has never sung in front of me. The only times I’ve ever heard zir sing is through zir closed bedroom door while zie listens to music.

I have never mourned their lack of interest in singing beyond some vague, wishful “gee it would be nice…” musings on a very rare occasion. Because of this I don’t have any statistical proof, however I have good reason to believe people would be fairly unsympathetic if I bemoaned my lack of musical offspring. They’d rightly ponder my mental health if I insisted on pretending my children played musical instruments and talked about our imaginary music nights; even if I coached it as needing time to let go of my need for musical children. They’d tell me to smarten up and accept the fact my children just aren’t musically inclined. That not everyone enjoys singing and to take pleasure in the children I have and appreciate the music they listen to.

I’ve watched as parents get supported for struggling, and failing, to cope with their child being transgender. I’ve seen parents talk about deliberately misgendering their child for months on end because it was too hard for them. Parents who used non-binary pronouns, despite not having a gender neutral child, because they didn’t feel ready to switch over to the pronouns their child preferred. One common thread through all these conversations is “I need…”

You know what? It’s not about you!

We don’t get to pick the kids we raise. We don’t get to choose their height, their hair colour, their IQ, their skills, their goals, or their gender. It’s that simple. I couldn’t pick singing skills and you can’t pick gender. And it doesn’t matter if you think you were raising a boy and instead, whoops, she’s a girl… or vice versa… or neither… or both.

Actually, to be fair, it does matter. When I started getting Colin tested for autism, I went through a spell of mourning. Zie’d been born absolutely perfect and then zir eyes started turning in. Surgery fixed this and everything was normal… except zie wasn’t talking. I was assured speech therapy would make a difference and soon zie would be normal. For a while that seemed to be the case but I soon realized more was going on. All my vague searches turned up autism, which wasn’t something zie’d outgrow ever. There was no “and then everything would be normal” at the end of that diagnosis. I did my brief bout of mourning away from Colin because this was my issue and not zir’s. The same goes for having an LGBTQ child. Take some private time to set aside your dreams and goals while realizing they’re yours. In the meantime be your child’s biggest supporter. Realize they need you now more than ever. They need to know you are right there behind them for support (just like that first time on the monkey bars… all set to catch them if they drop).

Because there is something matters a whole lot more. Take a good long look at this chart (these stats are worse than the ones for LGB youths, which are already too high)…

10847943_788033814566367_5352747072176063433_n

There’s a huge difference between the dark and pale blue sections. 57% is a scarily high number. Now take a closer look. That pale blue section includes “somewhat supportive parents”. The benchmark for being a good, supportive parent to a trans child is not “well I didn’t kick him/her/them out”. If you can’t manage to use your child’s preferred name and pronouns, you are not a supportive parent.

Today I read a letter about two unsupportive parents, written by their teen before she stepped in front of a transport truck, completely without hope that she’d ever be able to live her life as a girl.

Leelah

Leelah was 17 years old when she died. I’ve linked her archived Tumblr blog* to the picture but this is part of what she wrote in her note…

“When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me.

I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say “it gets better” but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse.

The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s fucked up” and fix it. Fix society. Please.”

Her parents ignored what she was saying to them. They ignored her pleas for acceptance and instead they told her she was wrong and going against god’s will. They dragged her to Christian conversion therapists who told her the same thing. When she tried to ease them into acceptance by coming out as gay instead, they took away all her social media and blocked her from her real life friends as well. They also refused any sort of transitioning help, including blockers. All they wanted was a son, even if this was an illusion. And they clung to this illusion even after her death…

misgendered memorial

Photo found via Tumblr

Even after death, her mother couldn’t accept her as Leelah. She couldn’t see what she’d done. One of Leelah’s friends corrected the post for her…

10882232_10201818064773633_5027933127446407401_n

Corrections by Shani Mer Bryan. Found on Transgender Graphics

This is what it boils down to. If you find yourself struggling with supporting your child and getting bogged down with “why me” and “I don’t know if I can deal with this”, scroll up and take a good long look at Leelah’s face. You can do this because your child is counting on you. Please go and make a better future for our childrens’ sake… for Leelah’s sake.

Also, she asked for donations to be made to any trans groups. Pick one and make a donation in her honour.

10885427_743472979077752_2790907920139759555_n

Art by Mike Kirby

And please, if you’re feeling suicidal, there are people who care. People who will listen. Go to my resources page and you will find a list of phone numbers and websites. You can also message me at secretmom@email.com. You are not alone.

* Leelah’s parents deleted her Tumblr and final words. Luckily the internet is pretty much forever and archived copies have been found.