The sky is falling?

I am not afraid of the trans woman making small talk with me in the elevator. I am afraid of the person yelling that the sky is falling while claiming it’s the trans women’s fault, using poor Chicken Little and his acorn as a prop in his tale. A misdirection.

Trans women are being used in a game of shells.

Look here, the politicians say, see the danger! As the other shells swirl and hide. Look! A trans woman is in the bathroom!

I look and see her minding her own business. The politicians continue to bleat danger and wave their hands.

What are they hiding?

In the States, poor children lose their breakfasts, seniors their lunches, and families their health care… while the President golfs every weekend and lets the country pay the cost so his wife can live in gilded splendour.

Meanwhile an orange bus putts along the country, ignoring biology and bleating “peaceful” hatred. It’s freeze peach, they say. Trans people are the liars, they say. But they aren’t, so who’s the one who’s lying?

And the shells continue to spin and the sky stays firmly in place. And trans women continue to die from carefully targeted hatred.

And Chicken Little shows off his acorn as proof and the ignorant listen.

The first step…

Julie, formerly known as Jeremy, wants desperately to transition. Only one thing has been stopping her. Neither one of us knew where to start. The information must have been on one of the missing pages of my parenting books. So I asked someone in Julie’s youth group who transitioned recently and got told he went to the doctor and got referred to an endocrinologist. Yay! That sounded easy.

I booked an appointment with our family doctor and Jeremy proceeded to ask me every day for two weeks if it was almost time for her appointment. It finally came yesterday. So we headed over to our family doctor, who we’ve been seeing since before Julie was born.

To say the doctor was discouraging would be one of the bigger understatements of the year.

“Hadn’t Jeremy been transgender before? And now he’d changed and wanted to be a woman? Why wasn’t he still transgender?”

“The only place Jeremy could go was CAM-H (Canadian Association for Mental Health) and they were only just accepting people who were referred in 2015. It was going to take ages.”

“He’d only had two patients transition before in his 33 years of practise but he had several others who CAM-H had turned down. They turn down a fair number of people, he’d be surprised if they accepted Jeremy.”

“One of the people who transitioned had to stop taking her medication after years because it was so expensive.”

“It was going to be unbelievably hard. Just look at what Bruce Jenner went through and he was…”

I have no idea what he was going to say Caitlyn Jenner was. Famous? Infamous? Rich? An athlete? And all those statements were peppered with “I’m not prejudiced but…”

I listened with one ear while I Googled numbers for endocrinologists. “It wasn’t common,” the doctor explained. “I doubt there’s anyone around here.”

I had a message out for the person I’d talked to and started cold calling. The doctor was right, there wasn’t anyone. The nearest, outside of CAM-H, was in Hamilton; a two hour car ride away and I don’t know how long by bus.

His secretary called back that evening to say she’d found someone in Peterborough, which was closer but still somewhere around an hour or two by bus.

Julie slumped in her room and made stuff on Minecraft while I chatted with a friend of mine who asked me if I’d heard of Carea. They did gender care right from Oshawa. The only catch was Julie would need to have her primary doctor with them. Okay. That was easy enough.

Julie started school this week so we waited until after school before heading over to Carea. One bus! It took us just one bus to get there. And their paperwork asked for her preferred name, sex, and gender. It was nice to see that smile on Julie’s face.

The intake interview isn’t for two more weeks and then there’s another two weeks until a doctor is assigned to her but it’s so nice to have the first step taken.

I am not Ryland – the story of a tomboy

There’s a blog post by someone named Lindsay that I’ve seen a few times. It’s titled I am Ryland. I’ve ignored it until now simply because it was written back in 2014 but it’s still going around (and around… over 10k times). In it, the author explains how her gender nonconforming childhood meant she was exactly the same as the transgender boy Ryland:

The thing she fails to notice is her parents treated her the same way Ryland’s parents treat him. They listen to him and follow his lead on who he is and where his interests lie. My parents were the same way.

Penny the pony

I’m in the yellow jacket

I was a little girl who dearly loved most “boy things”. I climbed trees like a monkey (and roofs and the fences behind baseball diamonds). I collected worms, preying mantises, and spiders. I don’t think my sister Karen will ever recover from my spider collection. If we needed to dig the deepest, run the fastest, or swim the farthest, I was there. My best friends, right up until puberty, were boys and they remained mainly boys until I was an adult. Even now I’m equally comfortable with male and female friends.

Like Lindsay I wanted the privileges of being a boy. I wanted to be picked by my grade five teacher to run across the street to buy treats for the class… a reward that was supposed to be random but only went to boys. I wanted to be a tree surgeon when I grew up; I couldn’t imagine anything better than climbing trees for a living. I thought being a garbage man sounded cool too (driving that big truck) but there was the little word man which stood in my way.

The one thing I didn’t want was to be a boy. I wanted to be myself, a tomboyish girl. I wanted to run and climb and collect bugs without being told to settle down and be a lady. Ladies were boring. They sat and talked and did nothing else. They certainly didn’t lie on the ground to catch bullfrogs and they screamed when they saw mice and snakes, even though they were cool. I wanted to grow up to be a woman.

What Lindsay misses is Ryland isn’t her. He’s not a tomboy who wants male privilege. He’s a boy. He’s not confused. He’s not being ignored. And if something rare happens and he changes his mind at puberty, it won’t be traumatic. He’ll just get a new wardrobe and haircut then go on with his life.

I’m glad that both Lindsay and I had our chances to have rough and tumble childhoods. I’m glad we both had the choice to be tomboys and grow up to be women. And I’m glad Ryland’s parents are giving him the same chance to be himself.

Standing up…

When Jeremy was little, he was mistaken for a girl on a regular basis.jeremy-easter-2010

“What a cute little girl!”
“You’ve got such a lovely daughter?”
“How old is she?”
“What’s her name?”
“She’s so sweet!”

I didn’t bother to correct them. Jeremy didn’t mind and it simply embarrassed people. Besides, he was cute, lovely, adorable, and sweet. Even when his hair was short, he still got “such a lovely girl” comments. He was sweet.

Back then I knew nothing about trans people. I wondered why Jeremy only played girl characters in his games and played dress up right into his preteens with his sister but figured he was just imaginative and liked the way the dresses felt.

jeremy-in-2014Then he became a teenager and started experimenting more with his hair and, to a lesser extent, his clothes. The comments changed slightly to include “ma’am” and he was still, to the mildly unobservant, feminine.

He still didn’t mind being called her and she, in fact, sometimes it seemed to bring him joy. And I still had no idea what that could mean.

Now he’s almost 20 years old with mitts for hands, size 12 men’s feet, and a deep bass voice. Now he’s talking about transitioning. And I’m so scared. I belong to enough groups to know people aren’t kind to 6ft 3in women with deep voices and adam’s apples. I read the posts on Facebook. I know there’s been seven trans women (and one colin-and-laratrans man) killed so far in the States this year alone. I haven’t heard any statistics for Canada.

Jeremy talks happily about buying a bikini with a skirt and how he’s always wanted a frilly dress with lots of floofy layers. I will do everything I can to help him achieve his dreams but I can’t do everything.

Please be kind when you see my child on the street. For all that he’s 19 years old, he’s still my child. He bought a Minecraft book today and jelly beans then laughed over bathroom humour in a YouTube video.  He’s still young. He’s not a joke. He’s not a freak. He’s a person with feelings and thoughts.

One day he’s going to be stepping out that door in the dress of his dreams. You might see him or, more likely, you will see someone like him. Someone who, for whatever reason, just isn’t fitting in 100%. Please be kind, be helpful, and let him come home safely with his heart intact. Stand up for him. Stand up with him. Don’t let him feel alone against the bullies and please, please don’t let him be a statistic.

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.

You spin me right round baby, right round…

It was an odd sort of day. The snow crunched underfoot as we tied our jackets around our waists due to the warmth. It was 12C and the snow was melting everywhere except for the woods where we walked. Jeremy’s cat trotted along beside us. It was peaceful.

Then Jeremy broke the silence. “Mom, my medication has really been working this time,” he stated. I nodded because it had. His yelling had dropped to pretty much nothing, chores were getting done. He’d even started cleaning up his room.

walking-lara-at-cedar-valley

Jeremy walking Lara 

“I think it was the depression that made me say I’m male. I’m really not and now I’m wondering if I’m female. I remember how happy it used to make me feel when someone thought I was a girl.”

This was pretty much the last thing I expected him to say but I rolled with it.

My memory’s not nearly good enough to remember a whole conversation verbatim but we went on to discuss hormones and surgery, names and pronouns, with Jeremy asking to please be called he/him for now. And soon the conversation went back to Jeremy’s favourite topic of computers.

I woke the next morning to find Jeremy in my computer chair. “How could they turn a penis into a vagina?” he asked. “They’re totally different.”

My favourite way to start the morning is with a simple “hi” and lots of quiet but I gamely tried to explain sexual affirmation surgery… before breakfast… while half asleep.

“But it’ll look normal, right?” he asked once I was done.

“Yes,” I assured him. “It’ll look like any other vulva.”

He looked like someone was forcing him to swallow a worm. “I guess I’ll have to make a decision,” he said quietly.

I’m no expert but I’m pretty sure trans woman are usually happier at the thought of having a vulva of their own.

“Look,” I said, leaning closer, “How do you feel inside? Do you feel male? Female? In between?”

“I don’t know,” he replied. “I don’t really feel like anything.”

“It sounds like maybe you’re agender.”

“Maybe,” Jeremy agreed hesitantly.

“Sweetie, you have plenty of time,” I assured him again. “You don’t have to decide anything right now or even any time soon. And, if you want, I can find someone you can talk to.”

Jeremy nodded and looked a bit happier. “By video chat,” he agreed.

So I chatted with a friend of mine who describes herself as “ambiguously female” and got a chat sorted out. Luckily she was already Facebook friends with Jeremy.

I was dozing the next morning when Jeremy wandered in. “It’s too bad you’re asleep because I wanted to talk about gender,” he said.

“Huh?” I mumbled. Apparently that qualifies as awake.

“I think I might be more gender fluid than agender,” he continued. “But I don’t want to be both male and female. I want to be one or the other. So I need to figure out who I am the most.”

“Hon, there’s nothing wrong with being both,” I assured him, quickly waking up. “If you’re both, we’ll just get you two sets of clothes.”

“But I don’t like fancy clothes,” Jeremy pointed out worriedly. I laughed.

“When you were buying your clothes in the ladies section, did I ever buy you fancy clothes?”

He smiled and agreed I hadn’t.

Then he caught me making breakfast.

“If I have surgery, it’ll be my very first surgery. I haven’t even broken a bone before.” He paused. “Oh wait, I had eye surgery when I was a baby so it would be my second surgery.”

“Let me know when I can blog this,” I commented and he shook his head.

“Not yet. My Dad reads your blog. He’s only called me once in a long time and I want him to call to talk to me, not to call about gender stuff. And I want to get things more sorted out.”

“Look Jeremy,” I said the following morning after he’d talked, yet again, about surgery. “Do you feel like a woman?”

He nodded and said yes then added, “But I also feel like a man.”

“So you’re right back where you started as bigender,” I pointed out. He shook his head.

“I feel more… what do you call it? Gender fluid.”

At least he was achieving some continuity.

So I thought and thought while he shovelled his room clean then called him into my room to share my thoughts with him.

“What?” he asked from the other side of the wall.

“Hon, this is a poignant Hallmark moment. Get your ass in here,” I replied, because we’re loving and touching like that. He wandered in and flopped down onto my bed.

“Jeremy, our society acts like we all fit into tiny boxes, all neatly labelled and sorted. We don’t. People are more unique, more messy, more creative than that. Right now you’re trying to cram yourself into a male box or a female box. Don’t. Just be your glorious self. If you feel female then act female, if you feel male then act male. You only have one life to live and it’s too short to live it stuffed in a box of other people’s expectations. You do you and be yourself fabulously.”

Jeremy held his phone up to his neck and giggled. “Look, I have a double chin. See.”

It’s a wonder this kid has made it to 19 years old. Also, we’re never getting a slot in any Hallmark ads. I glared at him.

“No, I like that,” he said hastily. “I’ll take it under consideration.”

“And you don’t need to have surgery either,” I pointed out. “I mean do you like your penis?”

Jeremy looked at me in surprise then shook his head. “Not really.”

He used to hide it as a child so that wasn’t much of a surprise.

“Okay,” I replied, thinking quickly. “Maybe more insight would be a help. Why don’t I post this and see if we can get any advice from people who have been through this before?”

He thought about it for a moment then agreed. So now it’s your turn. If your gender could be described as confused or multifaceted, please feel free to reply with how you’re doing now and what your options were/are. Thank you so much for your help.

New York blues…

The older Jeremy gets, the more his opinions on just about everything differ from mine. So you can imagine my trepidation when he said he wanted to talk about the New York law regarding misgendering people intentionally and as the result of willful, wanton, or malicious conduct.

I don’t agree with it,” he started out firmly and then he went on with his usual flights of fancy.

“What if the person doing the misgendering is working three jobs to feed their family? They won’t be able to afford a twenty-five thousand dollar fine*. Especially if they’re working as a waiter or something. What if that means their children are going to starve?”

How on earth was I supposed to answer that? Do I offer Monopoly money to feed the imaginary starving children? Luckily he didn’t expect an answer. He certainly didn’t give me enough time for one.

“And what about made up pronouns?”

Made up pronouns? You mean like your old pronouns zie and zir?” I asked with a hint of anger in my voice.

“Yes,” he replied flatly. “And I would have felt that way back then too.”

“Back when you felt-”

“I didn’t just feel,” he snapped. “I was that gender.”

I nodded and he continued. “There are so many pronouns. How can people be expected to remember them all? Like, zie and zir are good pronouns, they’re used in Canada and England, but there’s so many more. And what if someone’s pronouns change regularly? Are they supposed to know them from day to day.”

As he calmed down, he circled toward his real reason. “A fine isn’t going to solve anything. Someone misgenders someone else then they learn more and stop doing it. But a fine is just going to make them angry and they won’t change.”

All I got was my mouth open before he plowed on.

“Just think Mom,” he continued. “That’s a big fine. When it goes to court they’re going to know each other’s addresses, that’ll be on the court documents. Someone’s going to get killed over this. There’s lots of guns in the States. Someone’s going to say screw it and grab their gun, go to the address, and then the person’s dead.”

“Hon, we can’t make laws based on what people might do later. You could say this about any fine-“

“No! Because it’s not the same!” he interrupted. “Those people don’t even think trans people are human. They’re not going to care. And if they have a gun…”

With that, he wound down into silence.

What on earth could I say to that? I mean I must have said something because he stopped talking about it but really… three trans people have been murdered already in the States and it’s only the 12th of January. Trans people have a 1 in 12 chance of getting murdered. And, while I still think the law is a good idea, he is right too. I hope nobody’s looking for an answer, because quite frankly I don’t have one, but he did make me think.

*I know he got the amount of the fine wrong