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

There is no agenda…

Anti-trans people seem convinced there is an agenda to make kids transgender. That a little boy picked up a Barbie just once and his Mom (it’s always the Mom) immediately stuffed him into a dress and decided he was trans. Or that she wanted a little boy so badly she made her girl act like one. These people have never actually talked to the parent of a trans child and especially have never listened to one.

Jeremy picked up a Barbie when he was a toddler. I didn’t think he was trans and I certainly didn’t put him into a dress or pick out a girl’s name. I simply figured he liked Barbies. When he was six, he stole one of his sister’s nighties and wore it for months. It stayed in his dresser for several years after he outgrew it. I still didn’t think he was trans. I figured he just liked the way it swirled. He started playing online games around eight years old and played as a girl every single time. I figured it was a novelty for him. It took one thing to convince me he was trans and that was him saying, “Mom, I feel like I’m a boy on the outside and a girl on the inside. I’m half boy and half girl.”

The fact is, every narrative I know has started with the child (no matter how young). The child repeatedly wants to know when her penis is going to fall off, or if he can crawl back into Mommy’s tummy to get his boy parts, or when God is going to fix them so their insides match their outsides. Almost every narrative has confused and bewildered parents wondering what is going on and why their child is asking these questions. What can they do? How can they help? Is it all right to mourn the child they thought they had?

Parents do not want or choose this for their child. They don’t want the risks of violence and sexual assault. They don’t want the misgendering, the misinformation, the teasing, the legal loopholes, and bathroom headaches. They don’t want to argue with doctors and insurance for reasonable health care. They don’t want the potential of being ostracized from their religious community. They don’t want to lose family support. They plow through anyhow because this is their child but this isn’t what they sought.

Then there’s the fear people have of “what if the child changes their mind?” that’s brought about by misinformation or simply fabricated from a wild imagination. No one is “chopping the dick” off of any child. Children don’t get hormones either. If a child changes their mind, they simply change their clothes, pronouns, and name back. That’s it.

That’s what’s happening with Jeremy right now. He’s always been on the feminine side of the gender spectrum and, over the past year, he’s slowly drifted closer to the male side. His perfume sits unused, he wanted (and got) his hair buzzed short, he’s drifted to darker and plain clothing instead of bright colours and silky material. And none of this would make him cis. What makes him cis is that he came up to me and said, “Mom, I feel mostly male and only a little bit female. I think I’m cis now and I want to be called he and him.”

There isn’t an agenda with raising a trans youth. There are no awards, no medals, no ticker tape parades. It’s just like any other child. There’s Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and, if you’re lucky, someone will wash the dishes and remember to shower without prompting. For all people complain that kids are forced to be trans, I’m living proof that’s not the case.

I don’t have a crystal ball. I have no idea if he’ll stay cis or if he’ll end up gender fluid and, honestly, it doesn’t matter. I’m not raising the Jeremy of the future or the past. I’m raising him now and right now he’s cisgender. We’ll deal with tomorrow when it gets here. Either way he’s fabulous just as he is.

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Jeremy and his new drone from his grandparents

It’s not child abuse…

A friend of mine was accused recently of child abuse by someone she knows. Her child is loved and supported, disciplined fairly, has a clean and safe home, and plenty of food. The child is not abused by any stretch of the imagination. And most people would agree with this statement… right until they learn the child is trans. Then everything falls apart.

Some people argue it’s abuse to let a child transition because “what if they change their mind?”. Okay, so what if they do? There is no surgery performed on children. No hormones. If a child changes their mind, all that’s involved is clothing, a hair style, and some paperwork. Know how I know? Because it happens. Not nearly as often as some organizations claim but it does. Sometimes the child turns out to be between or beyond male and female… sometimes they turn out to be cisgender. And the parents do another wardrobe switch and let the kid change hair styles. And that’s it, it’s that simple.

Others argue that it’s abuse because the child is too young to know. How many people here have ever met a toddler who didn’t know their own mind. They know what they want to wear, what they want to eat, how they want their hair, and they know their gender. Most of the time people have no problem with this. They aren’t concerned when a child with a vulva says “I’m a girl” because she’s old enough to know that. It’s only if she has a penis that she’s too young.

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Jeremy at three years old

Then there’s the people who have the best of intentions. What if the child gets teased? I hate to break it to them but all children get teased at some point and it can be over anything (or nothing). You can’t prevent teasing by restricting your child. You prevent teasing by teaching children kindness, coping skills and how to handle social interactions.

Jeremy went to a birthday party when they were four years old. The girls all got princess Barbie napkins and the boys got plain blue ones. Jeremy immediately asked for a Barbie one, which surprised the mother of the birthday girl.

“I thought the boys would rather have blue,” she said in confusion as she handed Jeremy the coveted pink Barbie napkin.

Every other boy in the room immediately asked for one too. It’s easy to say that gender stereotypes are inherent but it’s hard to judge considering how we ingrain them from before birth.

What I don’t get is how people can denigrate a little boy (or a child perceived to be male) for acting feminine, for being a “sissy”, or for liking the colour pink. They consider it okay to make their child cry over their personality or preferences in order to “toughen that child up”. Even though that attitude comes with a 75% chance of suicidal depression and a 58% chance of that child attempting suicide before the age of 24 years old. Yet they’ll claim allowing the child to be well adjusted and feel happy and supported with their gender expression is abuse.

Listen to your child. Love them. Trust them. They know who they are.

Our bedtime discussion…

I’m not sure what most people discuss at bedtime but I’m reasonably sure it’s not what we talk about.

Jeremy stomped into my bedroom yesterday evening. “I’m mad at some celebrities,” they announced as they flopped onto my bed.

I put my book down beside me and waited. As far as I knew, celebrities hadn’t done anything to us.

“There are trans celebrities who won’t tell people if they’ve had surgery on their genitals or not,” Jeremy continued. “People are going to continue to be scared of surgery unless they know of people who had it done and say it’s easy and safe.”

I’ve talked to people and watched videos before; easy wasn’t a word that came to my mind when affirmation surgery was mentioned. But I could see their point.

“Besides, celebrities need to let normal people know it’s okay for them to have surgery. That way they won’t worry about having it themselves and once it becomes normal, it’ll be easier to get.”

I ignored the whole ‘celebrities are weird’ insinuation. “Except trans people already get too many pointed questions about their genitals,” I pointed out. “Everyone, even celebrities, need to be seen as more than just their private parts. Cis people aren’t asked about their privates.”

“Except everyone already knows that someone like you has a vagina and they know I have a penis. What people need is information and celebrities can give that,” they said as they Blackie’s tummy. She started purring.

“I think most people get their information from their peers,” I pointed out. “There’s all sorts of groups out there.” And Jeremy wasn’t in any of them. Were their questions just general thought or was this of specific interest to them?

“If you ever need any information you can always come to me,” I added.

Jeremy stopped petting the cat. “I have that information,” they blurted indignantly. “You signed me up for sex ed classes through our church.”

The Unitarian Universalist church has a very liberal and comprehensive program. It does not, however, delve into gender affirmation surgery. I pointed that out and Jeremy snorted.

“You’ve explained that to me too. The penis gets cut in half and turned inside out to make a vagina.” They demonstrated with their hands.

It was a little more detailed than that but they had the gist.

“Has your thoughts about your gender changed at all?” I asked hesitantly.

They shook their head. “I still think gender isn’t real, well society’s version of gender. I still believe in science’s version. People start out with basic bodies of male or female.”

“Well that’s not really science,” I pointed out. “That’s society’s version. Science is a lot more complex-”

“But people are born with either a penis or vagina,” they interrupted.

“Not exactly,” I replied. “People are born anywhere from female to male or in between. Doctors look between a baby’s legs and if what’s there is under an inch, it’s a girl with a clitoris. If it’s over three inches it’s a boy with a penis. And if it’s in between then the baby is intersex and the doctors try to guess what the baby is. They either decide it’s a really small penis or a large clitoris and, if it’s a clitoris, they’ll cut it down to size.”

Three inches sounded big for a newborn. Maybe it was two inches? How would I google something like that?

Jeremy winced. “That’s not fair. They need to let the baby decide when they’re older.”

“I agree and they’re starting to do that now.”

“But what about the chromosomes?” Jeremy asked. “Those say if they’re male or female.”

“Usually,” I replied. “But there’s more than just XX or XY. There’s single X and XXX and XYY.” Or wait, that last one might just be an airport.

“I think people need to stop giving out genders to babies,” they said emphatically. “People can decide when they’re twenty years old what their gender is.”

“Most people know their gender by the time they’re two years old,” I said as tactfully as I could, fully aware that Jeremy’s still questioning at nineteen.

They nodded, “People need to be allowed to transition as needed and they can change their mind if they want to.”

Music started playing from the other room. “Oh, my show’s back on,” they announced. “Talk to you later.” And they left, abandoning Blackie and I.

I wonder what today’s topic is going to be.

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Jeremy on a recent walk

On hair and gender…

“Can you cut my hair when we’re at Nana and Grandad’s?” Jeremy asked.

“Umm… yes,” I replied. I was a bit startled seeing as I’d cut their hair just over a week earlier. “How short?”

I was hoping they didn’t want too fancy a cut. I have no hair dressing skills. I can barely manage a simple braid and bang trimming. Well, hair dressers don’t seem to think I can manage bangs but my kids have never complained.

“Buzz cut,” Jeremy said happily. “You can use Grandad’s clippers.”

This was obviously going to be harder for me than them. I’d spent years fighting against so many people for their right to wear their hair the way they wanted, which was long (and usually dyed). Now suddenly they wanted it short (and undyed). But part of their right to bodily autonomy meant short hair as well as long.

“Okay,” I replied, hoping my reluctance didn’t show. If it did, Jeremy didn’t seem to notice.

I put on the #7 clipper first and soon the lawn was covered in clumps of hair. The cut looked good on them. Long enough to be feminine while short enough to be masculine.

“It looks good,” Jeremy agreed, looking at my camera phone (seriously, who needs a mirror anymore). “I’d like it shorter though.”

Shorter? Sigh. I pulled out the #5 clipper and began cutting again. Their hair became decidedly shorter. Soon I was done. The ears weren’t perfect but, if they wanted professional, they’d have taken my parents’ offer of a real hair stylist instead of me.

“Do you think he’s are feeling more like a boy again?” my Mom asked hopefully as soon as Jeremy hopped into the shower.

I thought back to the evening before. We’d been watching an anime Jeremy wanted me to see (Gurren Lagann if anyone out there’s interested) and they were excited about an upcoming character.

“Look,” they’d said, pointing at a bluish character. “They’re both a boy and a girl. They’re non-binary, just like me!”

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“No,” I replied honestly but as gently as I could. “I think they just wanted short hair.”

I wandered into the family room a short time later, where Jeremy was sitting with their cousins… all playing on separate devices.

“Mom, this hair cut makes me feel more feminine,” Jeremy said happily.

And why shouldn’t it. Hair is just that. It’s not gender. It’s not even a secondary sex characteristic. It’s simply a head covering (and in my case a ‘blowing across my face’ covering).

The next night Jeremy informed me, once again, that they don’t think gender exists… that it’s just something society made up.

“Are you sure you’re pangender?” I asked. “Do you think you might be agender instead?”

Jeremy thought for a moment. “I think you’re right,” they replied.

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Jeremy and their cat Lara. They’re not male or female… just perfectly themself.

The grass is always greener…

When Jeremy first came out as non-binary, they trialed using they/them pronouns for just under a week before switching to zie/zir pronouns. I was pleased in one way because they’d chosen the same pronouns as my then best friend (now ex-boyfriend). The rest of me was disappointed because no one had ever heard of those pronouns before. If they weren’t mishearing zie for he and zir for her, I was getting “what did you just say?” and “how do you use that?” at the best and complete ignoring the pronouns at the worst. It tended to be me that got the comments simply because Jeremy doesn’t usually refer to themself in third person although they got an earful and a half at school.

Now, after two years of explaining to pretty much everyone what zie and zir are, how to use them, and why Jeremy’s using them in the first place (all of this with their permission), they’ve switched back to they and them. My first thought was ‘cool… easier pronouns’ and my second was ‘damn, I’ll need to reexplain to all my friends… but at least it’ll be easier’. Famous last words and all of that.

My Mom and sister’s first reactions were they is plural, which is true but not completely. The English language has plenty of wiggle room and people from Chaucer to Shakespeare to Austen have used singular they. It was fairly common in the 16th century too (according to the Oxford dictionary). And it’s not like the English language is static. You used to be only used as a plural pronoun, with thou as singular. I’m sure people can handle the transition to using singular they too.

Then I needed to talk to a mental health care professional. You know, someone who should have regular involvement with the LGBTQ community considering the depression statistics.

“My offspring’s name is Jeremy. They’re 19 years old,” I explained with Jeremy standing beside me.

The woman proceeded to glance, bewildered, around the room for an extra offspring. “They?” she asked hesitantly.

Because this isn’t 2016 and no one’s heard of singular they before. Although, considering she wasn’t the first or last person confused over this, maybe most people haven’t.

I think the weirdest and funniest thing is there seems to be a subset of people who think I’m forcing Jeremy to pretend to be trans for some unknown reason. I don’t get any money for this blog (or for spouting my mouth on Facebook for that matter) and Jeremy’s not meek and laid back; they are tenacious with strongly held views. To be fair, their mildest view, in one way, is regarding gender as they don’t particularly care what pronouns they’re called… as long as it’s not incessantly “he/him”. But that’s because Jeremy doesn’t hold firmly to any gender and think all genders should be abolished. And that’s *cough* a strongly held view on their part. I’ve explained to them multiple times that many other people like having a gender and identify strongly with their gender (myself included). It whooshes right over their head. According to them, gender is the root of societal evil and that’s that. Alrighty then.

If Jeremy was male, there would be no way anyone could miss it because they’d be telling everyone within ear shot that I’d lost my mind and couldn’t handle them being he. It would be their only topic and one everyone under the sun would know about. But they aren’t and they don’t. If the people who think I’m forcing them would try using female pronouns even once, and saw their smile, they’d know this for themselves.

I have one quirk regarding the pronoun and that’s treating singular they the same, grammatically, as plural they. “They’re going to the store” sounds so much better than “they’s going to the store” and it makes me sound so much less like I stumbled into a sitcom about the deep south (which would even more farther south than Oshawa or even Sarnia). If Jeremy felt strongly about grammar, I’d swallow my mild discomfort and singular they every contraction, but they don’t.

So, after two years of thinking they/them would be so much easier to explain, I’ve discovered it’s not. The good part is I’ve at least got Jane Austen on my side.

Watching Jeremy return…

Right now Jeremy’s tired and a wee bit grumpy, staring at their bagel as if they’ve never seen one before and aren’t quite sure what to do with it. But, even now, they’re more here than I’ve seen in a long time.

Two weeks ago I took Jeremy to the hospital in desperation. Their anger was getting worse, their depression was deepening, and the cycles between didn’t end. I asked if they wanted to go and was floored when they said yes.

It was a long day. A psych evaluation via the emergency room always is. Jeremy was seen by triage, two nurses, an emergency room doctor, a psych nurse, the psychiatrist, a phlebotomist, and whatever the technical term for the person who runs the EKG machine. At the end they came out with a diagnosis of “likely bipolar” and two new medications.

The downside to the medication is exhaustion. We’re not sure which pill is causing it, although right now Jeremy’s leaning towards the blue-green pill, Latuda. Which explains their glazed stare at the bagel. The upside is watching Jeremy return with their quirky sense of humour and innate kindness. They joke around with their younger cousin, head out for walks with me, snuggle the cats, and chat with their grandparents.

Jeremy got their final inheritance from their grandfather on Wednesday and on of their very first purchases was a netbook for me. It’s cute, tiny, and has a blue cover which reminds me vaguely of both Tetris and Lego.

“You deserve it,” Jeremy urged.

It wasn’t expensive so I accepted.

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Me at my parents’ house with said netbook

Jeremy also bought themself a laptop off Amazon, a shiny red one with a terabyte hard drive and a quad core. Now they just have to wait until the 15th.

The main part… the good part is I have them back.

“Hey Mom! This song is so gay. Not gay in a bad way, gay in a mmm good way!”

Yep, they’re definitely back!

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Jeremy walking Lara while rocking their second best headphones. The best, from B, were charging at home.