It’s finally spring…

There’s so much to post about. Some good… some bad… and they’re all tangled together. I find that life is like spring. Some days are grey, cold, and absolutely horrid. The wind throws water, almost too cold to be considered rain, into my face and hiding under the covers seems like a viable alternative. While other days are so amazingly perfect I want to hold them against my heart forever.

I’ve taken some baby steps in the past few days. Filing my income tax, making a doctor’s appointment for Jeremy and dentist appointments for both of us, and we had an appointment to get zir onto long term disability now that zie’s aging out of children’s programs. I don’t mention zir autism much on this blog but it is a big part of our every day life.

Jeremy’s still struggling at school and missing more days than zie attends. The GSA was one of the few safe places for zir at school except the teacher who runs the program found zir too talkative and has asked that zie only attends with zir EAs, the same ones who argued that zir gender was a personal choice. I was going to argue with the school except zir counsellor has signed zir up for a small teen trans group which should start soon. Besides, zir teachers are likely going to be on strike in two more days. Jeremy’s hoping they’ll strike forever.

Spring has truly started here. The grass was completely brown last week and now it’s almost completely green, while fat buds sit on branches… seemingly seconds away from popping. Jeremy and I went for a walk in our local green space a few days ago. The trail was beyond damp…

April puddles

I’m thinking we’d have needed hip waders for the valley portion of the walk. We ended our walk a bit early, when the trail began to look more like a lake, and we were still in the highest parts of the park. Despite the sogginess it was so nice to spend some outdoors time with Jeremy. Bonus is the weather’s amazing again today and we have a Scentsy party to attend this afternoon plus the party is right beside a gorgeous walking trail! I bought some scented wax a couple of months ago and Jeremy promptly stole all of my Dulce de Leche wax for zirself. I told Jeremy zie could pick some for zirself today.

We’re going to a barbecue at my parents’ house tomorrow. Karen and her kids have been on vacation for a month so it’ll be a mini reunion. My Mom called to chat and invited us a few days ago then she brought up Jeremy’s pronouns. She explained that she feels bad but just can’t bring herself to use them, maybe she’s too old. We had a long and very positive conversation in which she mentioned Jeremy never seemed to notice that she always uses he and him. I explained that zie’d talked to me about the pronouns before and explained that zie knows she loves zir and was trying the best she could. The conversation ended with her trying out zir pronouns. I got off the phone and gave Jeremy a high five. Zie was thrilled! I don’t know if she’ll ever use the pronouns in general conversation but I’m proud of her anyways.

The person filling out Jeremy’s intake paperwork for disability had a long list of questions to read. One of the questions had to do with home and if there were any concerns about the youth facing a lack of support and needing to leave. The worker shook his head and stopped reading the question while saying, “Nope. No concerns there.”

And now it’s time to wake Jeremy up and head out into the sunshine. It’s going to be a beautiful day.

Depression lies…

To me depression is like being underwater in winter clothes, except you can breathe… mostly. It clings to you, dragging you down, making every movement a supreme effort. Noises are oddly muffled or painfully loud and don’t always make sense. And no matter how many people are around, you’re alone… completely alone.

We used to travel across Canada when I was a child and I vividly remember the tunnels through the mountains. You’d see them in the distance, a circle of blackness drawing closer, distinct against the brightness of the day. And then the blackness would swallow everything. The tunnel was grey monotony, punctuated by identical dull lights. No way to judge distance… no way to tell how long was left. It felt like forever until suddenly blue sky appeared ahead, and once out, the tunnel no longer seemed real.

Depression clings and says it’s forever, showing no sign of a way out. It whispers in your ears and tells you that you’re alone, no one could understand. It claims life is hopeless and that you have no future.

IT LIES!

Just like the tunnel, depression doesn’t last forever. Eventually there’s a glimpse of blue sky and suddenly you’re in fresh air and sunshine, taking deep breaths and listening to the wind through the trees. More importantly, you are not alone in this world. You are never alone.

Reaching out while depressed is one of the hardest things imaginable but please, try. No matter what depression says, there are people who care. They might not be the people who are immediately around you but they are there and they will help.

I’ve told my children repeatedly that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Yes it ends the pain but it also ends everything else. It ends the warmth of early morning sunshine streaming across your cheeks… spring birdsong… the cool sweetness of an ice cream cone… arms wrapped around you in a hug… how bright the stars are on a crisp winter’s night… the smell of wood smoke… the gooey warmth of a melted marshmallow… the rasp of a kitten’s tongue.

My nephews would have had an aunt except she killed herself when her marriage ended, years before they were alive. She never got to see her brother marry my sister… never got to marvel over their oldest son when he was born… or comfort and hold her brother when her nephew almost died of meningitis when he was a few weeks old. She missed seeing them buy their first house… every Christmas… every birthday… every camping trip. She’s missed her youngest nephew’s wild gymnastics moves and trampoline stunts.

It’s been over twenty years now. She missed every possibility of moving on from her husband and every chance of finding someone new. She missed the chance of having children of her own and watching them play with her nephews… every chance of watching her parents cradling her babies. Yes, she was depressed, but it wasn’t twenty years worth of depression. Depression claims it’s forever. IT LIES. Death is forever, depression is a loud and painful bump on the road by comparison.

Reach out for help. If you find it too hard to call then reach out by text or email. Remember, you don’t necessarily have to talk. The first time I was majorly depressed, I sat in my doctor’s office and cried. They’ve seen it all, I still walked out with a prescription for anti-depressants.

I have a list of resources here with world-wide suicide lines.

Just, please. You are unique, you are treasured, and you will be missed. Give yourself a chance.

A new year… a fresh start…

Jeremy and I had a great New Year’s Eve. Karen came over with her boys and we had a vegan fondue and homemade pizza. I got the recipe for the fondue from the Vegetarian Times…

Blonde Bliss vegan fondue

Blonde Bliss vegan fondue

This recipe made tonnes of fondue dip, which would be helpful at a huge party but was overkill for the five of us. I see it being transformed into soup in the near future.

Karen made a chocolate fondue for the kids, which was a success for two of them. Jeremy, in particular, pretty much cleaned it up but zie’s always been a chocoholic (zie comes by it naturally).

chocolate fondue

You can see Jeremy’s favourite cup in the corner. It’s a mason jar on a wine stem and Jeremy thinks it’s the fanciest cup ever.

And then Jeremy and I played Doctor Who Yahtzee. Jeremy quickly decided zie’d gain an advantage if zie surrounded zirself with Doctor Who paraphernalia. Every roll of the dice was accompanied by the TARDIS noise and zir handful of Doctor Who characters joined us.

Jeremy's Doctor Who conga line

The 9th Doctor looks surprisingly relaxed

I love the New Year. For all it’s an arbitrary date, I love the chance at a fresh start, a time to try and make things better. It’s a chance to reflect over the previous year and ponder the future. And I do resolutions.

1) Exercise at least three times a week and eat healthy – in some ways I’d love to look amazing this summer but my main reason is for health. I’m watching as more and more of my friends suffer from type two diabetes, high cholesterol, back problems, knee problems, breathing problems, etc. I’m really the only parent my kids have and they need me. I want to be healthy and here for them.

2) Spend more time with my kids – this one is tricky for an introvert who works in the public. Often by the time I get home, I’m totally peopled out and need time to recharge. But it doesn’t take long to play a game of Doctor Who Yahtzee and it would do both Jeremy and I some good to go for a walk, even if zir purple car tags along. Emma’s coming over this afternoon so I can start this resolution pretty much right away. And, even though Jeremy’s not exactly awake, I started off zir day with a good morning hug.

3) Watching my finances – I’m spending too much time dipping into overdraft and we’ve been eating out a bit too much too. I need to plan more “fancy” meals at home. There are things I’d like to do with Jeremy this summer which I won’t be able to do if our money’s frittered away on take out food.

4) Reach out more – I waited too long to extend an open offer to anyone who wanted to have Christmas dinner at our house. I need to try harder to reach a hand out to others. I put it off because I’m already stretched pretty thin, forgetting that when I’m reaching out to someone, they’re reaching out to me too. It’s a help for everyone including me.

5) Organize my life better – I won’t be stretched nearly as thin if I’m not going three directions at once. Life’s too busy to spend running around in circles.

I hope 2015 is a fabulous year for all of us. *throws confetti in the air*

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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)…

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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…

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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.

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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.

I am looking for information…

I’m not going to say why but I would dearly love articles and/or information explaining why and how it’s important to support the gender expression of transgender and gender non conforming children. Specifically toddler/pre-school age children up to and including early elementary.

I would love as many articles/information as you can find. Please flood me with information and ask as many people as you can. I promise this is very important.

Thank you.

At work today…

It was dark when I woke up this morning. All I wanted to do was turn off my alarm and drift back to sleep. My bed was comfy and my cats were snuggled around me like purring hot water bottles. But I got up because of rent and groceries and all those fun things. Jeremy had a P.A. Day and got to sleep in.

I walked to my first bus in the dark… and the second bus as well. Actually it was still dark when I got off that bus and headed into work. I opened the door and could feel my heart plummet toward my shoes. It felt like I hadn’t even left since yesterday, like I’d gone out the door after work then turned and came right back in. I wanted desperately to go home and still had an eight and a half hour shift ahead of me.

“Michelle!”

One of my coworkers saw me and waved. Then another waved as well. I smiled and waved back before heading into the staff only area.

“Michelle! I saw your Facebook post! I just wanted to say I think you’re such an awesome Mom!” A friend of me hurried over and gave me a hug. “There was one thing I didn’t understand though. In your post you said a word. Transgender. What does that mean?”

“Umm… it’s when your gender and body don’t match. Jeremy looks like a boy on the outside but doesn’t feel like a boy on the inside,” I replied.

She grinned. “You really are an awesome Mom. I wish you were my Mom.” Then she gave me another hug.

I’m not quite 3 months older than her. That would be interesting.

“Michelle!” One of my managers came into the staff only area and grinned when she saw me. “Did you look beside the computer?”

I drew a complete blank. All I could think of was the computer in our break room and I had no idea what anyone could have done to make it interesting. Heck, it’s been slowly dying for months now with no one paying it any attention. I’m guessing the occasional warning to replace the hard drive isn’t a good thing.

“I haven’t got that far yet,” I explained. “I only just got here.”

She laughed. “You goof, I mean your computer at home. Did you sneak a peek at what Jeremy’s making you for Christmas?”

Oh right. I called Jeremy before zie left for school yesterday. Jeremy asked me not to look by the computer because zie’d been working on my Christmas present that morning and left it sitting there.

“No,” I assured her. “I didn’t peek. I really don’t know what zie’s making me.”

She gave me a mock suspicious look. “Okay, I guess I’ll trust you.”

“Michelle! Guess what I made you?” one of my coworkers asked as she came around the corner of the break room.

It was Diwali yesterday so chances were it was a food item.

“Did you make me dal?” I asked eagerly and she nodded.

“I added eggplant and potato to it too,” she said as she handed me a still warm container.

“Thanks,” I said happily and gave her a hug after I opened the lid and sniffed. It smelled wonderful. It tasted just as good too.

And that’s why I commute an hour each way for a minimum wage job… because my coworkers are amazing 🙂

Thank you!

Jeremy has known about this blog since I started writing it. They enjoy listening to the blog posts but it hasn’t really affected them. There’s been a couple of times I’ve commented on “our blog” or “our views” and each time they’ve quickly retaliated with “it’s your blog”.

Jeremy has me for support and their sister but that’s pretty much it. Their closest friend moved in June and, as I posted yesterday, they aren’t getting support from the school. I know my family loves Jeremy but I can’t see them hauling up a rainbow flag and practicing saying “they” for a pronoun. They’re far more likely to declare Jeremy to be weird and claim “he’ll outgrow it”. So no real support there either. Even their counselor has no information on being trans and, on top of that, she’s been sick for the past month. Jeremy hasn’t seen her since July.

I got up this morning and replied to comments on yesterday’s post… then replied to comments during both my breaks and on the bus ride home. When I got home, Jeremy informed me one of their educational assistants had read the letter. She wanted Jeremy to know they can’t use the netbook as a way to calm down, it was strictly for school work. This wasn’t in the letter at all. Meanwhile she didn’t ask which pronoun Jeremy would rather her use, which was in the letter. Maybe she skimmed it too.

I pulled Jeremy over to the computer and started reading the comments. They sat and listened to every one of them, insisting I read them all, even the ones not aimed at us.

“Look Mom, we’ve had 114 people read our blog today,” they said excitedly once I was done. Our blog.

We went for a picnic in our local conservation area and for the first time Jeremy opened up on their thoughts about trans in general. Then they commented on how life would be better if we lived in Minecraft.

“There would be no racism,” they mused. “Plus there’s no gender in Minecraft and you can change how you look as many times as you want.” They paused, obviously lost in thought. “Oh, and you could punch down trees with your fist.”

Thank you for being here because I can’t do this on my own.