Gender Dysphoria…

“I hate my body”

I never wanted this for my child. When I was pregnant, my mantra was “I don’t care if my baby’s a boy or girl, I just want my baby to be happy”. Untreated gender dysphoria isn’t happy. It’s sweatpants and baggy shirts unhappy. It’s a patchy shave because Julie doesn’t want to look at herself in the mirror unhappy.

The only cure is transitioning and there Julie’s stuck. She wants to transition but doesn’t want to look like a man in a dress. So she’s taking baby steps. A pretty shirt… a tiny ponytail… a necklace. Plus she’s still waiting to hear about her doctor, the one who should be able to prescribe hormones.

It boggles my mind the people who think parents choose this for their children, like being trans is some sort of trend. Like instead of buying a Cabbage Patch Kid, we’re going to have a real live Trans Kid. It’s just as much fun as having a Cabbage Patch Kid and comes with bonuses like “where will my kid pee?”, “what do you mean you can’t use her pronouns?”, and “blockers cost HOW much?”

These people seem to think it’s super easy to get a trans kid. There’s no self doubt, 3am bouts of insomnia, or tears. Just one day little Johnny picked up a Barbie and, wham, he’s in a dress (or little Jane picked up a matchbox car and suddenly she’s in a tie and snazzy button up shirt). There really doesn’t seem to be any point in talking with these people. Maybe someone out there’s had better luck than me but I’ve found yelling at rocks to be easier and the rock’s that much more likely to change it’s mind.

Meanwhile the baby steps toward transitioning seem to be helping. Julie has a package of purple razors and floral scented shaving cream for her face and arms plus just knowing the new doctor is coming is a help. She’s gone back to school, a place that lets her work at her own pace and is working toward her grade 12. And she’s working at eating healthier too so when she finally has hips and a chest, they’ll stand out from her stomach.

Then she heads back out the door in sweats and an over sized t-shirt and all I can do is think “soon… hopefully soon.”

Smudge on a walk

Julie’s tiny pony tail and silky shirt

The things I never knew before Julie…

When I read about trans people, I read the same narrative. The trans person knew since they were a young child and were insistent and persistent (unless it was unsafe for them to do so). But nothing is one size fits all and that includes gender.

  1. I never knew people often come out as gay or bisexual before coming out as trans. Julie, then Jeremy, came out as bisexual (and later retracted it) months before coming out as bi-gender and I’ve read story after similar story since then.
  2. I never knew people’s gender shifted. Gender is complicated, a lot more than I ever knew, and it’s not uncommon for someone to come out as various genders before settling on one (or staying gender fluid). Julie told me long before she came out as trans that she was just like Jazz Jennings except she had a female brain and a male body. Then she came out as bi-gender and wandered around the non-binary spectrum before settling on female. I know several people who wandered the same way and one who started out binary and moved to non-binary. To be fair, if asked, I couldn’t put into words why I’m female either, except that I feel like it. It’s difficult to pin down.
  3. I never knew there’s a correlation between being trans and being autistic. Studies show you’re statistically more likely to be trans if you have autism. The same studies do not know why. Julie was diagnosed by a psychologist when she was eight years old as having high functioning autism.
  4. I’ve always been a proponent of “stereotypes don’t matter” but didn’t think about how much until Julie came out. Stereotypes are just that. Liking cars and computers doesn’t make someone male any more than liking flowers and dresses makes someone female. Julie’s love of computers is simply a sign that she loves technology, it’s not a sign of her gender. I have a male cis friend whose heart flutters over lace parasols. It’s not a sign of his gender either.
  5. People can know they’re trans at a young age but that’s not the only narrative. People often don’t figure it out until their teens or even later. Julie was 17 before she realized she wasn’t cisgender and I’ve known people who didn’t sort this out until they were in their 20’s or 30’s.
  6. An awful lot of people like to brag about going by basic biology when it comes to gender. Personally I’d rather go by advanced. Basic isn’t my style.
  7. Being trans isn’t any different than a medical condition (well except that it’s gender and not medical). They might need surgery at some point but it’s nobody’s business and certainly not the starting point of an introduction. And then there’s the whole whack of doctor’s appointments and terminology.

If you have something you’ve learned on the journey, please feel free to write it in the comments below.

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.