The road to hell…

The road to hell…

blog post blurred photo(All quotes, unless stated otherwise, are written by Sarah Plake)

A friend of mine posted on Facebook yesterday. Okay, that part isn’t new or newsworthy, it’s why that matters. Someone on a Kansas City News Facebook page shared an anti-transgender meme that featured her then nine year old child. Even now her child is, just that, a child. She thought about ignoring it but, well, this is her baby. So she called in reinforcements. That’s where I came in.

I very rarely enter the comment section. I joke that’s where the trolls live but, in reality that’s pretty close to the truth. My first foray into the comments years ago was a shock and a half. I’d expected it to be the online version of The Letter to the Editor. Heavily moderated and edited for brevity. What I found was the online version of a drunken college party but with worse grammar. But I do make exceptions on wading in there for friends.

I found the offending comment right away and my friend’s request to please remove her daughter’s photo, stressing that she was just a child. I took this photo hours later, obviously he didn’t care. And that’s why his name has not been edited out of the image. I’ve edited the girl and I’ve removed everyone else’s names. I even removed my friend’s profile picture. But him? Pfft. If he can’t be bothered to remove a child’s photo off the internet, so be it.

blog post retortThe comment was on an article regarding transgender youths and medical procedures regarding them plus transgender athletes. It quickly became obvious that pretty much nobody had a frigging clue what the hell they were talking about. I mean here’s a quote about the bills being proposed in Missouri and Kansas.

“Kansas House Bill 2210 and Missouri House Bill 33 would make it a crime for doctors to perform any gender-reassignment services, procedures or surgeries for transgender children under 18, which includes puberty blockers and hormone therapy.”

Puberty blockers for pete’s sake. They’ve been used for decades to treat precocious puberty. You know, like when a five year old girl starts getting her period or an eight year old boy grows a beard? They are not new or experimental or dangerous or permanent. There is no reason to stop them. Absolutely none.

A Republican, of course, introduced the bill in Kansas to protect children because, in his words, “I don’t think a child would ever think about something like that if their parents or others around them weren’t telling them that they can choose to be the opposite gender. I think this is something that’s just being forced on kids.”

Meanwhile his co-sponsor is only opposed to children being “surgically altered”. She goes on to say that “if a child has a tendency or curiosity, or there is a ‘fad’ to be gay, the child [needs] a parent who is open to conversation with the school, [their] pediatric physician and then an experienced child therapist to work with the child before permanent decisions are made.”

Really? Really??? I mean totally ignoring the whole bizarre “fad to be gay” thing, what did she think happened? Sadly the reality is she doesn’t have a clue. I bet she’s never spoken to a single trans adult or the parent of a trans child let alone a trans child. Neither of them have reached out to a paediatrician or any other doctor who works with transgender youths. I mean that’s all just patently obviously. No one who’d done any amount of research would think children are being “surgically altered”.

blog post commentAnd they’re not the only ones. The more I read, the more I find there’s a whole swathe of people who claim to be fighting against kids transitioning on their behalf. They can’t believe a trans child would know their gender at seven years old; someone must be forcing them to think they’re transgender. Meanwhile they’re just as likely to say that of course their five year old son picked the blue ball, he knows he’s a boy. It’s only the trans kids who don’t know their gender. The cis kids not only are allowed to know it but they have their noses rubbed in it (gender reveal parties anyone?).

And multiple people, like the co-signer, are there wailing about the six and seven year olds getting surgery and how it’s abuse and it needs to be stopped immediately! Umm… it never started to begin with. I have no idea where they come up with this idea but there’s always someone new who’s positive a kindergarten student is going in for gender confirmation surgery.

And the people who just want to be “reasonable” and let trans kids minds have a chance to mature before starting any kind of treatment. Kids and teens change their minds so often and they shouldn’t be allowed to make such life altering decisions at such a young age.

Wait… what??? Teens can join the military and see live action. They can get their driver’s license and take control of a several tonne vehicle which could easily kill themself and/or the people around them. They can take out a massive loan for post secondary education, one that will take decades to pay off, and one which they could end up taking out on a program they ultimately don’t like. They can get married. They can have a baby (or more). They can have a tattoo and/or piercing in a variety of places. They can have sex, which, depending on the person they’re with and the STI they have, can be very life altering. Where the fuck are these people at recruitment centres with their signs reading “Getting blown up is a life altering decision”? Why aren’t they protesting student loans? Especially in the States where they can’t be forgiven no matter what circumstances you’re in. Why aren’t they fighting against child brides? But, no, it’s only against trans people.

I just read a tweet by someone who goes by the name Tamra Bonvillain, which reads, “Not allowing trans teens to go on blockers/hormones is also an irreversible choice”. This is absolutely true and absolutely never mentioned in these bills or in conservative discussions regarding transgender youths. These people are saying they’re trying their hardest to protect the poor innocent children and teens but have never spoken to a single transgender youth. They’ve never thought of the ramifications of their actions. Why not? Maybe it’s because they’re not trying to protect transgender children. They don’t want to believe trans children even exist. They don’t like trans people. They don’t accept trans people. They think of trans people as being horrible and abominations of nature. And there’s no way innocent children could be any of that.

So they claim it’s adults causing it and try to legislate them out of existence. If they’re not having name changes in the classroom, or using the correct washroom, or playing on their proper team… those people don’t have to think about trans children at all. They get total ignorant bliss. Unless they have to notice because a child simply won’t just go away and then it gets ugly. I read one story a year or so ago where a child, a literal prepubescent child, wanted to use the girls washroom. Parents of her classmates got together and she was called such things as “it”, “the thing”, and “half baked maggot”. Fathers were bragging about how it was going to be their son who beat her up. Parents. Of children her own age. How could they tuck their children in at night, kiss their foreheads, and marvel at how young and precious they were while literally referring to another child that same age as insect larva? It just doesn’t make sense.

Or, well it does. They don’t like trans people. They don’t know anyone who’s trans and they don’t want to know anyone who’s trans. Children are innocent and therefore can’t be trans, someone must be forcing them. Unless they prove they really are trans and then it’s fair game to call them a maggot and share their picture in a meme that mocks them. And, well, the kids get ignored until they’re adult and can’t be legislated out of existence anymore. And then they’re mocked and harrassed for looking different and not fitting into gender norms, like they picked the wrong puberty on purpose. And so on and so forth and I’m sick of it and furious.

Friends talk and share stories about health care woes. Of having to teach even the good doctors how to treat them. Of being called “it” and “he-she” by medical professionals. Of having doctors simply refuse to treat them. Of a man who died of ovarian cancer after a three year struggle to find a doctor willing to treat him. A woman hemorrhaging from her leg who was made to walk downstairs to an ambulance, while the attendants mocked her, because they didn’t want to touch her enough to help her onto a stretcher. I even found my own psychiatric intake papers from 2016, shortly after I broke up with my then fiance, stating I had a “recent breakup with a ‘boyfriend’, who was actually a transgender female to male”. She went on to state that the relationship “was perceived to be romantic in nature”. I really doubt she’d have written any of that if Lenny had been a cis male. The psychiatrist literally recoiled when she found out.

For the love of all we hold holy and/or dear can we not just listen to other people, care for other people, and accept other people? Can we stop trying to make decisions for people without finding out what they want and actually need first. Can we accept people as, you know, people instead of othering them in a derogatory fashion? And… this should be complete and utter common sense here… can we please not take the picture(s) of children, make derogatory memes about them, and spread them around the world wide web? It doesn’t cost us a single thing to be kind.

Changes…

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It started drizzling and just didn’t let up. Meanwhile the temperature hovered around the freezing point. I made sure we had several big bottles of water, put spaghetti sauce in the crockpot (thanks Facebook memories for reminding me), and checked our flashlights and candles. Colin, who’s usually planning worst case scenarios for every storm, was scornful.

“Nothing’s going to happen Mom,” he muttered… more than once.

And he was right, kind of. Nothing happened to us at all. Our lights didn’t even flicker. But our block was the only one with power for at least an eight block radius; a tiny dab of light in a sea of black. And, during all that drizzle and wondering what was going to happen, I began to write.

I had thought about writing a blog for a while at that point. I knew Colin was questioning his sexual orientation and gender presentation but everything I could find was about children, there was nothing talking about raising a gender creative teen. That definitely was a niche that needed filling.

I got busy and set up the whole blog then wrote the first post, all without telling Colin. At first he did not want me to write the blog at all then I read him the post and he immediately changed his mind. He thought the blog sounded good but no face shots and no real names. We used artfully posed shots and pseudonyms for years.

And now it’s been seven years exactly. I can’t believe how much has changed since then. We’d only been living in North Oshawa for a year when I started. Now I’m living east of Oshawa and Colin’s north of Toronto… and we have been for almost a year. Colin was in grade 10 and he’s been out of high school with his “certificate of completion” for several years now. I was working at Tim Hortons but then became suicidal and crashed in 2016. I’ve since been diagnosed with major depressive disorder, severe anxiety, autism, ADD, and agoraphobia. I’m on disability. Colin went from being gender non-binary to female for two years. Then he found out he’d lose his fertility on hormones (and we couldn’t afford a sperm bank) so he went back to being male. Well as male as you can be when you only detransitioned for fertility reasons. And I’ve since discovered that I’m asexual and this close to being aromantic by being demiromantic. I’m finding I’m way more interested in women than men but that could simply be because I only have female friends at the moment.

Colin and I croppedWe’re heading into the 8th year of the blog. Instead of being a working single Mom I’m a disabled Granny. My visits with Colin are via Facebook video chats and are as pleasantly mundane as could be. I’ve seen his freshly shoveled deck and watched him scramble eggs. This year I’m hoping to focus more on helping me thrive… or at the very least to stop rating 7 and 8 out of 10 on the depression and anxiety scales. Small attainable goals. I’m sure I’ll succeed.

I won’t be writing again until after Christmas so I’d like to take this time to hope you have the best holiday ever, whether it’s in the past or yet to come, and that 2021 is peaceful, kind, and joyous!

Call me Colin…

Colin and his pierced ear

Colin with his first pierced ear

Colin has a way of edging topics into conversations and this time was no different. I can’t remember what the original conversation was. Computers? Video games? Politics? But I do remember the rest.

“I really like the name Colin,” he mused. “I think I’m going to keep it no matter what gender I am. Even as a girl.”

I get the feeling that most people figure Colin just “got over” being trans like he’d get over a bad first date or a friendship that drifted apart. It’s not the same thing, it’s not something you just get over. It’s a part of him, like his eye colour or shoe size. Not something he can change.

Earlier, in another conversation, Colin started talking about stopping being transgender. I asked him if he still struggled with gender dysphoria. His response?

“Not anymore. I pushed it down as hard as I could and locked it away so now I don’t feel it anymore.”

I’m no expert but I don’t think that’s how it works. I have a feeling that someday that locked away dysphoria is simply going to explode and I don’t have a clue what to do about it.

He’s not male, no matter what pronouns he uses, and he’ll continue to not be male. All I can do is hope that he accepts it when it blows up in his face and can no longer be ignored. I’ll be there the best I can. The rest is up to him.

Good luck Colin, my hidden daughter. You are loved.

Five years ago…

Five years ago a lovely young woman walked in front of a truck. She felt hopeless… without a future or an accepting family. Her name was Leelah Alcorn, something her family couldn’t accept even after death.

Don’t just love your children, accept them for who they are. It can be one hell of a ride but they’re taking that ride regardless of whether you’re with them or not and it’ll be easier on them if you’re with them.

Leelah will never have her chance but there are countless Leelah’s out there if you listen. Please support the kids (and the adults for that matter). Let them know you stand with them. Give them a chance to live. Leelah asked for this world to be fixed. Support will go a long way. And if you want to read my original post from 2014 you can find it here.

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National Coming Out Day…

Guess what day it is? No, sadly, it’s not Free Pizza for Everyone Day. You can put down the pizza cutter. Instead it’s National Coming Out Day! It’s a holiday, albeit one with no food, that was started by the Human Rights Campaign thirty-one years ago. I’ve been coming out every year for four years now but there’s always new readers and the possibility (not likely) that someone might have missed my posts.

Alright, so I’m a demiromantic, panromantic asexual. That hasn’t changed since I’ve come out back in 2015, no matter what someone who’s close to me seems to think. Demiromantic means I become romantically attached only to friends. Panromantic means I’m romantically attracted to all genders. Yes, even your gender. And asexual means I have no sexual attraction to anyone. While you’re thinking “look at those blue eyes… I wish we could bump uglies” I’m thinking “look at those blue eyes, I could stare at them for ages”.

I ran into a friend today. She said “hi” enthusiastically then gave me a hug and a kiss on the cheek. We did the usual “How are you?” then she looked uncomfortable.

“I saw Colin at the bus stop recently and he, umm, started talking about stuff. Gender stuff.”

“You mean he said he was a girl on the inside and a man on the outside?” I asked and she nodded with visible relief.

“I didn’t know what to say,” she concluded.

“I’m sure you did fine,” I replied then she started talking about a trans aunt of hers. At first she started using he/him pronouns but I keep using she/her and soon she flipped to the female pronouns.

All the while I kept thinking of Colin. I know this lady because we were in the mental health ward of the hospital together, which means lots of time for conversation there. And she lives barely a block away so we bump into each other every once in a while. However, I think Colin’s only seen her twice and for a couple of minutes at that. It makes me wonder how many strangers are wandering around wondering who “that guy” is and why Colin was talking about being a woman.

I’ve offered to help him get a free therapist and to join, not one, but two groups dealing with gender related issues but he refused. I guess he’ll keep coming out to strangers and hope someday he comes out again to himself and those he loves.

Jeremy and I

Colin and I at the Pride Parade June 2015

I wear my tears on the inside…

The conversation came out of nowhere. One minute we were getting ready to catch the bus and the next Colin was talking about whether trans people should out themselves to prospective dates. I was on the side of no and Colin, surprisingly enough, went for yes.

“It’s no one’s business what’s in someone else’s pants,” I said as I locked the front door. “Genitals are private.”

“What about you and L?” he asked. “You must know about her.”

“No,” I replied. “I’ll probably find out if we get serious but right now it’s none of my business.”

“Well it’s not right,” Colin loudly insisted. “I don’t want to find out my girlfriend’s transgender after I’ve been dating her for a while. I don’t want to find out we can’t have kids together. Not when I’ve given up my own happiness for a kid.”

Those words free fell from his mouth to crash onto the tiled floor.

“Given up my own happiness”

I couldn’t cry, I just couldn’t. He didn’t need that. His pain was his own and I couldn’t add to it.

We were halfway to the bus stop when I casually commented, “Did you know disabled kids are the least likely to get adopted?”

I tried to keep my tone light and non-committal. We’ve already had the adoption talk before and it wouldn’t help to go through it twice. But I was talking to the person who asked the store clerk if they had any special needs guinea pigs. Luckily I succeeded and he proceeded to talk about special needs all the way to the bus stop. Hopefully I’ve planted a seed.

I wish he’d put his own happiness ahead of a baby that doesn’t exist and a girlfriend he has yet to meet but that’s got to be decided by him, not me. So I’ll just keep remembering “given up my own happiness” and let the tears trickle down on the inside where he can’t see.

Colin and Angel

 

I am angry…

This post is a long time coming, it’s not something I’ve suddenly realized in the last day or two. But three incidents happened this week and they pushed me over the edge. So here I am.

I’d been enjoying some Instagram on my cell phone before I got up one sunny morning. Pictures from friends, cute shots of animals, and then a picture Alok Vaid-Menon came onto my screen. I started reading… started discovering what their day’s like. Being verbally harassed. Being spat on once or twice a day. The realization that no one would come to their aid if they were attacked. People taking pictures of them to post online and mock and they’ve done nothing except being themself. They’re not hurting anyone. I cannot understand why someone would go out of their way to harm someone who is doing nothing wrong. What is the reasoning behind this? Sigh, I’m not sure I even want to know.

The second incident happened on Facebook. A friend of mine shared an article about a study that had been done regarding pronouns and I discovered that three people out of five will deliberately use the wrong pronouns for a trans person. Excuse me but really? You’ll apologize and make sure you use your friend’s cat’s correct pronouns but you can’t offer the same kindness to a fellow human? For fuck’s sake, the cat doesn’t even care. But the human certainly does. What is wrong with people that they can’t extend common courtesy to another person just because they’re perceived as different? There is nothing wrong with being different.

Then a page named Kialo showed up in my newsfeed with a discussion on whether trans women should have the same rights as cis-women by entering women’s only spaces. I know better but I still clicked on the link, commenting on the most egregious posts. It’s still going on (and on) with the usual arguments. Genitals trump all and trans women must be men. Trans women grew up with male privilege and therefore aren’t eligible for women’s spaces. Some cis-women have been assaulted before and trans women might trigger them – ignoring the fact that trans women get assaulted more than cis woman. And, of course, one lone idiot bleating “I’m not a cis woman. I’m just a woman”. Because Latin prefixes are so scary. I gave facts and rebuttals but I’m sure most of them went unread. Hopefully someone who’s wavering took a look and gained some knowledge. Who knows.

And I am so tired. I’m tired of the same damn arguments. The same lame “I identify as an apache attack helicopter” as if two hundred other assholes haven’t already used the same line. I’m tired of my friends being narrowed down to nothing more than their genitalia… being stripped of their humanity. I’m tired of them being nothing more to a whole swathe of people than a topic of discussion on a Friday night. I don’t want to have another discussion like that again. But I will. You know why? Because my friends are the ones being attacked and if I’m tired, they’re beyond tired of arguing their very existence. Because friends stay there for the hard times, they buckle down and say “I’ll help”. I can’t do anything physically or financially but I can be supportive and I can throw fact after fact at the bigots in hopes that one will stick.

Trans people are your family, your friends, your neighbours, your store clerks. They’re in the line up behind you. They buy their gas at the same station as you. You might not think you know someone trans but in reality you do. What are you going to do about this? Would you give a tissue to Alok and sympathize that they’d been spat on? Would you use the right pronoun if asked? Would you stand up via internet or in person for a trans person’s rights? It’s really scary standing up in person but it’s something you can do. Or are you going to be on the wrong side and ignore someone’s basic humanity. It’s up to you.

Remembering Leelah Alcorn…

It was New Year’s Eve 2014 when I first heard about Leelah and how she’d chosen to walk in front of a truck instead of continuing to be ignored and misgendered at home. Colin was still non-binary, feeling like both male and female and the thought that he might end his life was chilling, even though he was being supported at home. I felt overwhelmed and the only way I could think of calming down was to write it out, and so I did.

I’m not going to write a whole new post. I’ll just leave the link to post right here. And remember, Leelah is just one of many who have taken their own lives due to lack of support. If you have a trans person in your life please, please support them and let them know they matter. It makes a difference.

What is trans…

Sleepy Colin posing filteredI woke up this morning to a call from my daughter Kait and, while we were chatting, Colin woke up and sleepily leaned against my door frame.

I loved the way he looked and managed to get a shot of him, which was nice because he’s usually not fond of having his picture taken. I guess the promise that he just had to stand there and do nothing was a bonus.

Kait and I commented he’d look so much prettier if he shaved his face and he immediately went to the washroom to do just that. I’d love to have a shaved version of the photo but he was too awake by the time he finished shaving. The picture still looks good though. Trans is beautiful.

Colin and I had a little talk yesterday after he said he wasn’t trans, which would definitely be a surprise. Obviously nothing would change either way but it’s nice to know if something that integral to his identity was still a thing. It turned out he thought you were only trans if you were actively transitioning but he still was female. I explained that if he still was female and was born with a penis, he was trans whether he was transitioning or not. It was the feeling female and being perceived as male that made him trans, not the act of taking hormones or having surgery. That sense of disassociation when he sees himself in the mirror… that sense of joy when he’s seen as a woman. As he subsequently explained to me, he feels female but is upset he’s never going to transition.

Colin’s getting tested for ADHD this month and, hopefully he’ll get put on a medication that will help him keep his scatterbrain in check. This is something he’s looking forward to. It’s not just missing part of the definition of transgender, it’s keeping track of his teacher’s lectures and remembering the information long enough to finish homework and write tests. It’s hard to be in school and miss half of what the teacher’s saying, even when he’s concentrating.

As usual, gender is not the forefront of our lives. Colin is much more interested in anime and computers. And now is time to combine both. We’re going to watch an anime called Planetarium on the computer he just rebuilt. I hope everyone has a wonderful weekend!