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.

Jeremy and athletics…

Those two words are not commonly found together.

Jeremy was not a rough and tumble little boy. When Emma first learned how to walk, my Mom and I took her to the park and set her on the grass. She loved it and went running around madly. When Jeremy first learned how to walk, I set him on the grass and he stared at me in sheer horror. What the hell had I put him on? He burst into tears and raised his arms to be held again. After some coaxing, he finally would walk on the lawn but his exaggerated step, each foot raised as high as possible, showed how he felt about it.

Then there was the petting zoo. Emma loved it. We had to rein her in a little because she wanted to hug every animal there. I have vivid memories of taking Jeremy into a petting zoo. He wandered around for less than a minute then looked at me in disgust.

“Mom! Those animals are pooing and peeing ON. THE. GROUND!!!” he announced both loudly and emphatically.

He turned and bolted, waiting outside the gate for us, looking away in case one of the animals did something else on the ground that they weren’t supposed to.

Jeremy enjoyed the playground and quickly learned to love bike riding via Emma’s outgrown bicycles. He even grew to enjoy camping. But as he got older and playing on the playground became less frequent, I tried to find him something else to do.

Our first attempt, when Jeremy was still small, was swimming lessons. Jeremy loved the water but hated having it touch his face. This was a mandatory part of the lessons and we eventually pulled him out of classes because he was slowly beginning to hate swimming, which wasn’t our goal.

Then I tried dance. We had a dance studio across the street from us, which Emma already enjoyed. One fall afternoon we all walked over and I checked to see what classes were available. The biggest issue turned out to be his age and not his gender. He’d never taken dance before, wasn’t athletic, and wasn’t particularly coordinated. Signing him into a class with his peers, especially ones who’d been dancing for five years already, wasn’t going to work. But there was a hip hop class aimed at beginners and he’d be only one year older than the oldest child in the group. So I signed him up.

He loved his dance class. He loved the movement, he loved the music, and he loved dancing with his peers. Then came the recital. I discovered his costume two days beforehand. A black, sports themed hoodie and black pants. Jeremy was underwhelmed, he’d hoped for something with some sparkle. I brought him to the recital already dressed in his costume. Then he stood in the hallway by himself while the rest of the group hung out in the change room, which was the largest room. He couldn’t join them because there were girls changing. So he stood outside listening while they laughed together, got pictures taken, and practised. I’d been promised the girls would be joining him in the hallway before I went to my seat. That wasn’t the case. He refused to join the following year and wasn’t willing to give the school based dance classes a try.

Karate was a dismal failure. His best efforts to get into position failed and his teacher assumed he wasn’t trying, which lead to Jeremy arguing that he was trying and had just done what the teacher asked, which lead to him joining me in my kick boxing class. Which was just as dismal a failure because we were kicking and punching which was boring. And the music was gross.

Soccer, ironically enough, was a success. I signed Jeremy up for two community run programs where we used to live; soccer and a drop in playgroup. I figured he’d love the playgroup with its variety of activities and offers of ice cream and would tolerate the soccer practises. The reverse was true.

The playgroup was very loosely organized and minimally supervised. The volunteers set up the stations then sat back and kept an eye out for blood, while chatting amongst themselves. Somehow they missed Jeremy’s small but vocal fan club who followed along behind him, calling him a fag. Jeremy didn’t find this anywhere near as entertaining as they did and flat out refused to go after two sessions. He told me the kids were “bugging him”. I didn’t find out how much or what was being said until almost a month later when we were on our way to a soccer practise and they happened by. I was walking closely enough to hear them but far enough away that they didn’t know I was with Jeremy.

Soccer, on the other hand, was highly organized but minimally competitive. The volunteers set themselves up to help out small groups of children and they loved having parents there to cheer the kids on during their games. With one adult for every three children plus a group of avid parents, the bullying was non-existent.

The first half of practise was just that, practise. Jeremy enjoyed this part. The ball was stationary and he simply needed to try and kick it.

Playing soccer blurred

He was enthusiastic, I’ll give him that.

The second half of practise was the game. His team was divided into two then set to play against each other. Jeremy stood in the centre of the field and watched as they ran around him, occasionally wincing when the ball came too close. At one point they tried him in the goal, figuring he was standing around anyways so he might as well stand there. This worked as long as everyone was on the other side of the field. When the ball grew closer, Jeremy simply abandoned the goal and went to find someplace a little safer.

His favourite part of soccer was the outfit. He loved the silky material of his soccer uniform and wore it everywhere. Even now, his favourite shorts are soccer shorts.

His last time playing soccer was almost three years ago though. We have a gym in the basement of our building but Jeremy refuses to go to it because it’s boring. He’d be willing to go with me but the gym is segregated by sex so that’s not an option. We have a pool downstairs as well but it’s small and he considers that boring too.

We had to run to the bus stop last week. It was just a short run but Jeremy nearly keeled over once we reached the shelter. Obviously watching YouTube videos isn’t good for his health. I need to find him something else to do.