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

 

Hiding in the closet…

I was chatting with friends on Facebook one evening last week when Colin walked into my room. He perched on the bed beside me and said, “If I transition, I’m think I’m going to name myself Alma instead of Emma. You know, for one of the anime characters.”

I absolutely loath the name Alma but his body, his choice. Hopefully if he ever decides to transition he’ll like another name. Or maybe it’ll grow on me. Who knows.

Then we were at the Transgender Day of Remembrance Service. As we were leaving, a woman cheerfully said, “Good evening ladies” to both of us. Colin shaved his face smooth as soon as we got home.

Transition is definitely something he thinks about although he rarely speaks of it. It came up again yesterday when we were at his doctor’s appointment, sandwiched between getting an exam to make sure he can handle anaesthesia for his wisdom teeth removal and getting his flu shot. The doctor referred to him as Emma and Colin replied that he was no longer going by Emma. The doctor was shocked and asked why. Colin sadly replied that he was too old to transition. Both of us assured him he was definitely not too old but I don’t think he believed us.

I wish both my kids happiness, peace, and the chance to be themselves. No metaphorical closets in this family. I just never expected my kid to leave the closet then run back inside, only peeking out occasionally. A friend’s kid, who’s maybe a year older than Colin, came out around the same time as Colin. She’s now fully transitioned and living as a woman. Meanwhile Colin hides in his room for hours on end, hiding from the world.

I wish he would be happy. I wish he’d start living his life no matter what gender he chooses. I wish he would just be himself.

Colin and Oreo1

Gender questions…

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Well not really but I do have almost all of my presents bought, including the ones for Colin. They’re tucked away in my dresser drawer and in the closet, just waiting to be sorted a bit more and eventually wrapped.

Yesterday Colin came up to me and asked, “Mom? Did you buy me a feminine present?”

His voice hovered halfway between longing and worry, as if he wasn’t quite sure which he wanted.

“No, I didn’t,” I replied then watched as disappointment spread across his face. “The presents I bought you are gender neutral.”

That brought out a wide grin. Neutral is safe. Neutral means no disappointment for traditionally male presents and no reminder that he isn’t transitioning to female.

Then came today. I had my group this morning then I walked halfway home on a local trail. By the time I got home I was starving and Colin wasn’t there. He called me from the gym and asked me to meet him at the front door. He also wanted me to guess what he fixed in our apartment.

I had no clue what he’d fixed and no idea even where to start, so I just guessed weird things.

“You fixed your messy habits”

He snorted. “Have you seen my room?” he asked.

“You’ve fixed your gender,” I continued.

That one got a chuckle. “I’m in the male gym so that should answer your question,” he replied.

Anyone, except for the trolls, will realize that if being in the male gym meant he wasn’t fixed, he’d only be fixed if he was in the female gym and therefore female.

The thing he’d ended up fixing was our sticky door latch, which is great. I also would have never guessed it. But the rest just makes me sigh. I know he’s female (because he’s told me multiple times). He knows he’s female. He admits it and still keeps putting up road blocks for transition.

I wish he could be happy in his own skin, whether that involves transitioning or not. It’s like watching someone hit their foot with a hammer and complain it hurts. Then don’t do it! But they keep on going. Colin talks about transitioning, talks about gender dysphoria, but he just won’t transition even though it keeps on hurting. Hopefully someday he’ll let himself be Emma again. Hopefully it’ll be soon.

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Kathleen and Colin on an autumn walk

“I won’t transition unless…”

I’d just got home from my group and a long walk and was enjoying my lunch when Colin asked me to come out of my room and go into the living room to watch a video. It was a long video and so to summarize, it talked about turning blood cells into immature eggs. So far they’re only immature but if this technology works, it means that male couples could have a baby that’s biologically both of theirs.

I watched the video in silence then Colin suddenly blurted, “What are the things scientists are doing that are good for trans people?”

“Well, those egg cells you just showed me and womb transplants into someone without a womb.” He seemed agitated so I tried to stay as calm as possible. Apparently that was the wrong choice.

Colin got very silent then yelled, “Can’t you see why this is important to me?”

“Of course I can,” I replied. “You want to have a baby of your own and grow it inside you like most women.”

He immediately calmed down then said, “I won’t transition unless I can have a womb to carry my baby.” And, with that, he left the living room.

I stood there for a few extra minutes. Obviously Colin’s still thinking of transitioning and, because he’s Colin, he’s thinking of the hardest choice possible instead of taking the easy route. It would be easy for him to stop HRT for half a year and produce his own sperm. He’s interested in women so there would already be a womb and egg in the equation.

Next step would be to use donor sperm. The baby wouldn’t be biologically his but he’d be there from conception. Those options are too easy though and, well, he wouldn’t be Colin if he didn’t pick the hardest path possible.

This conversation has long passed for him, even though it was only two days ago. Now he’s on to more important things like ordering his favourite noodle soup from Amazon. He got them this morning and is so excited. He thinks they’re being discontinued (the evidence backs him up) so finding them on Amazon made him happy.

I wish, for once, that he’d pick the easy route. I know he struggles with gender dysphoria, he’s mentioned it in passing a few times, and I know he was happy being Emma… the name he was going by just a year ago. I know he’s worried (legitimately) about being too tall and big boned but, as I’ve told him, there are cis women who are 6+ feet tall. He’d stand out but not like a clown at a funeral. And it’s okay to stand out. As the saying goes, you were born to stand out… not to fit in.

Even if womb transplants became available to the general public any time soon, they wouldn’t be immediately covered under provincial health care, they’d be an elective surgery and way out of our price range. I didn’t get into that with Colin, there’s no point yet and I have no reason to discourage him any farther.

Maybe someday I’ll have my daughter Emma back again but it won’t be today. And so I’m going to redye my hair and let Colin sort himself out. While he eats his soup of course.

How do I know I’m a boy?

Colin used to ask me this so often and it left me confused and a bit bewildered. How didn’t he know he was a boy? It’s something you just know. So I’d answer the question as best I could.

“You’re a boy because you have a penis and when you grow up you’ll be a man. Nothing’s going to change that.”

He’d calmly accept that answer and skip off, while I wondered if he was being bullied again and just wasn’t telling me. He’d already complained about being called a he-she on the playground, which is what I’d chalked the questions up to.

Fast forward through a lot of years, right up to the Q&A we did a few days ago, where Colin answered the question of “How long have you known you were trans” with…

“I honestly don’t know. Looking back, like when I was younger, I wanted to be a girl but I never knew why.”

All the time I thought he was asking because of being teased, he was asking because he felt like a girl. And that just breaks my heart.

But, at the same time, I had no real idea what transgender was. My only examples were Klinger on MASH, who is definitely not trans and a person in our town who was horribly nicknamed Terry the Fairy who paired a dress with hairy legs. I have no idea how he identified.

Our doctor wasn’t very trans friendly, something we discovered last year, and he’d have been sent to see Dr. Zucker, who is known for being transphobic when it comes to children. He felt that teens and adults knew their gender but that kids were flexible and responded “well” to conversion therapy.

I also would have needed to deal with my ex husband, who’d claim the sky was green if he thought it would hurt me. He’d have fought me long and hard and had someone in the background willing to pay for a lawyer.

So, in reality, it wouldn’t have made a difference, other than giving my ex some more ammunition and possibly traumatizing Colin, but I can’t help thinking of how I tried to help and cringing at my words. And I can’t help looking at Colin’s answer and wishing he’d had a better way and better choices.

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Colin playing in our backyard with our friends’ pick up truck

When love listens…

It was another angry morning. Colin was upset about a video someone produced, wishing single Moms a happy Father’s Day. He ranted through the whole video then pointed out there was only one happy Mother’s Day for single Dads and it had been made in retaliation.

“For a young woman, you sure get awful shirty about feminist issues,” I commented and he exploded.

“I’m not a woman! I’ll never be a woman! I don’t want to hear you say that again!!!”

“Umm okay,” I replied. I mean what else could I say? And he went on ranting about the school system and how it lets down boys and young men.

Our day went by. He went to school, getting drenched on his way, and we went grocery shopping… thankfully between rainstorms. Finally we were home and the food was put away.

“I was reading an article today,” I commented as casually as I could. “Both parents are trans and they both stopped taking their hormones and he got pregnant.”

“That’s really rare,” Colin replied.

I shrugged, “I think it’s a lot less rare than the doctors say. They only hear about it if someone wants to study it. Meanwhile trans people are the ones out there having the babies. Besides, sperm is reproduced all the time so once the hormones die down the sperm will start up again.”

Then Colin threw a curve ball.

“Mom? I can’t transition. What if I end up ugly?” he said, his voice almost a plea.

“You’re not going to be ugly,” I assured him. “Look, I see lots of before and after pictures online and hormones do amazing things. I’ll see a picture of someone who looks like your average man and, wow, she turns into a beautiful woman.”

He just smiled and went off to play video games. Meanwhile I made dinner and thought.

It wasn’t until after dinner that I approached Colin.

“I have something I want to say to you,” I started.

Colin laughed. “And I might hate you for it.”

“Hate me for what?” I asked and he laughed again.

“You’ll find out,” he replied with yet another laugh. At least he was in a good mood.

“I love you,” I started, “and I just want you to know you’re gorgeous.”

He stilled.

hard to fly“You are gorgeous no matter what but even if you transition you still will be gorgeous. You don’t have to be gorgeous by cis standards. You will be an absolutely gorgeous trans woman.”

There was absolute silence for a moment then Colin leaned over for a hug.

“I love you,” he murmured.

“I love you too,” I replied.

Maybe he will never transition. Maybe. But everything I’ve ever read or heard says it gets harder and harder not to be your true self and chances are someday Colin will need to transition. And I want him to know, no matter what, that he’s gorgeous.

My Invisible Daughter…

Colin on a spring walkThe picture showed up on my newsfeed via the “on this day” app. Colin was smiling for the camera in his usual fashion.

“You don’t show your teeth when you smile!” he exclaimed once when I commented on his shy, almost hesitant smile.

His bright blue hair was lightened by the sun and his clothes were almost blinding. Then I glanced over at today’s Colin, who was sitting on my bed and asked, “Do you miss your old bright clothes?”

“Well, yeah,” he admitted then we both fell silent. I don’t go into Superstore’s men’s department at all, which is where we bought the tops and pants, but I haven’t seen anyone wear anything similar recently. Meanwhile, all of Colin’s current clothes are various shades of grey, as if he wants to fade into the background.

I thought about my bubbly, outgoing teenager who stood up and stood out. Who was proudly out as trans, asking teachers and classmates to use his pronouns. Then I thought of all the people who refused because zie and zir were “too weird” and “too hard to remember”. The teachers who used he and him repeatedly in class, only to lie and say they used the right pronouns all the time. Pro tip, if you’re using the right pronouns “all the time” you won’t slip up 9 times out of 10 at a parent teacher conference.

I thought of all the people, especially older men, who blatantly stared at him, often turning in place to continue watching. Colin claimed he never saw them but they were so very obvious.

walking Lara at Cedar ValleyI remembered how shyly Colin came out as female and how relieved he was when I believed him. How we laughed and joked on that snowy trail, thinking up names for her and coming up with the most outrageous ones we could think of.

We sat on the news for a couple of weeks until Colin felt comfortable sharing the information. Then he got me to share the big news. He was scared of what people would say. So I explained he was now Emma and would be using she/her pronouns. My friends were awesome and immediately switched pronouns and name. My family was very supportive of him, continuing right on using Colin, he, and him. Every foray into feminine clothes brought about extreme anxiety for Colin. What were people going to say? What would they do? Would he get beaten up? Is this what would get him disowned.

Then summer rolled around and brought along Colin’s birthday, complete with a long, nasty post from his Dad that started with, “happy birthday son love you colin”. The whole fiasco ended up with Colin getting disowned by his Dad. Kait’s since been disowned and neither one of them speak to their father any more. No matter how much they know they’re better off not speaking to him, it’s bound to hurt.

Then it came time to try and start on hormones. Our family doctor was not optimistic. He admitted he had no real experience with hormones and said that one of his patients gave up and detransitioned because hormones were taking too long. Then he went on to make several questionable comments, all prefaced with “I’m not prejudiced but” and finally he explained the wait for hormone therapy would take years plus many bus trips into Toronto. Bus trips we couldn’t afford.

I searched and asked for help and finally got the number of a local clinic that does hormone therapy. Once again Colin (then Emma) was so happy. Soon she could be herself. The doctor informed Colin that he’d be rendered infertile as soon as he started hormone therapy and anyone I’d talked to who knew otherwise was anecdotal. We couldn’t afford a sperm bank.

And that was the final straw. Colin asked to go back to Colin again. Asked for me to use he and him. If he couldn’t have a baby while female, he wasn’t going to transition.

So now I have an invisible daughter. I know she’s there. I catch a glimpse of her sometimes in the way Colin fluffs back his hair. In the shape of a smile. But no one else sees her.

“Do you miss being female?” I asked and was surprised when Colin shook his head no. I thought for a moment.

“Do you still feel female?” I asked.

“Of course,” Colin replied instantly. “I just can’t be female because I want kids.”

“You’re going to need to tell your girlfriend you’re a woman,” I pointed out. It was Colin’s turn to look surprised.

“Why?” he asked.

“Aren’t you going to transition after having kids?”

“Well no,” he replied. “By the time I have kids it would be harder… well, anyways, I’m ugly enough already as it is.”

He left the room and my heart broke.

Changing the shape of your skin…

There are so many things I didn’t know before Colin came out as trans.

It hadn’t dawned on me that trans people would need to take hormones, although it obviously makes sense. I didn’t realize how strong testosterone was, that women need to take blockers to stop their testosterone while taking estrogen, when men only need to take testosterone. I didn’t realize the struggle many have with family and friends, a struggle to be accepted for who they are. And I didn’t realize how much people go through so that the shape of their body matches, as much as possible, the gender of their mind.

I belong to a group for trans people and their allies and recently one woman announced she’s dealing with kidney problems, memory loss, and dizziness… all from her hormone blocker spironolactone. When Colin told his doctor he wasn’t going to transition, his doctor responded that he was glad Colin wasn’t going to do “irreparable damage” to his body. I’m reasonably sure the doctor was referring to growing breasts and hips, which would be bringing his body more in line with his gender, but the possible damage caused by spironolactone is definitely irreversible and far more terrifying.

At this point Colin doesn’t want to ever transition. He wants children first and he figures by the time he has kids, he’ll be too old for estrogen to help bring out the woman in him. I’ve assured him that’s not the case, that I’ve seen before and after pictures multiple times of someone who looks like the manliest man and after hormones looks like the woman she is. Delaying transitioning isn’t necessarily a forever thing. But he’s young enough that even thirty seems like forever away and forty is impossible to comprehend. He’s got his school and computers and video games to keep him occupied for now.

Even though Colin’s not transitioning now (if ever), my first thought when I read the post was him. I think that’s true of all parents to think of their children, however old, when they hear of danger. I know there are other weaker blockers available now that can be used instead. Hopefully there’ll be more choices in the future.

The hard decision…

I was in the living room with Emma Colin yesterday, after taking our Christmas stuff down to storage, when he suddenly announced, “I haven’t decided yet if I’m going to transition or not but right now I’m leaning toward not.”

“Because you want to have kids?” I asked, even though I knew the answer. We’ve talked about it enough already and he’s been wavering on the border of transitioning or not for months now.

“Yes,” he replied. “It’s so hard to choose to transition and have kids. What if I decide I want to adopt and the agency doesn’t accept me?”

I had no answer for that. I have no idea what parameters adoption clinics have for their prospective clients. I made my kids at home, from scratch, for free. So I changed the topic slightly.

“If you decide you’re not going to transition, will you want me to stop calling you Emma and start calling you Colin again?”

He nodded then said, “It’s such a hard decision to make.”

“I bet it is,” I replied.

That’s something I never had to worry about. I’d just turned 25 years old when I had Kait and there was every expectation that if we did the deed enough (but not too much) a baby would ensue. I wasn’t worrying about infertility, sperm banks, or adoption… especially not at 20 years old. I tried to think of some way to support Colin, considering he wants both options, transitioning and a baby, pretty much equally.

“When I was trying to decide whether to leave your Dad or not, I thought a lot about if it would be fair to you and Kait. My thoughts ran round and around. Then I pictured Kait as an adult and in the same situation. Would I want her to stay or to go? The answer was unequivocally to go. Why would I treat myself worse than her? I too am someone else’s child. So you picture someone you love in your situation. And picture them struggling for an answer. The gender dysphoria isn’t going to get any better. Would you wish that on someone you love?”

“No,” he replied.

“So why would you wish it on you?”

“Because I really want kids,” he replied.

Which is where I bite my tongue. I know he wants kids but he doesn’t have them yet and I can’t bring myself to worry about kids who don’t exist. I care for and worry about him.

“I know,” I assured him. “Just remember this conversation and that if things get rough you always have more than one option.”

Later, after we’d eaten our fill of homemade tempura, I stood with Colin while he took his medicine and asked, “Do you want me to start calling you Colin now.”

He shook his head. “No, can you please keep calling me Emma?” he asked plaintively.

“Of course,” I replied. “I’ll call you that until you ask me not to.”

And now all I can do is hope that he finds an answer he can live with.

Four years of writing…

WordPress informed me today that I’ve been writing this blog for exactly four years now, that my first post was written on December 22, 2013. Back then we were using pseudonyms. I was Michelle, Colin was Jeremy (the male name I’d picked for Kait), and Kait was Emma(the female name I’d picked for Colin). We showed no pictures with faces and made sure to mention only that we were Canadian and near Toronto. Colin was still in high school, which he’s since graduated from (refusing their additional program called school to work) and Kait was working for No Frills, a Canadian grocery store chain. I was working full time for Tim Hortons, a Canadian coffee chain.

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Four years later and so much has changed. I’d always struggled with mild to moderate depression but it wasn’t enough to affect my job. Then it burst into full blown depression (Major Depressive Disorder) and extreme anxiety. I take a handful of pills a day and my psychiatrist doesn’t think I’ll ever work again. Which is a blow since I’m in my 40’s still but it wasn’t a surprise. I belong to a couple of groups in meatspace and do a variety of activities such as bowling, yoga, making bath bombs, and extreme couponing. Both groups are near a walking trail so I walk on the trail either before or after group to get my 10,000 steps.

Kait no longer works at No Frills, instead she’s a store clerk for a gas station, working their midnight shift. She’s doing an amazing job there, they say she’s their best night shift worker ever. Plus she loves her home and her two kitties. She’s been with her boyfriend for about as long as the blog and is doing well with him.

Colin is the focus of the blog and he’s the one who’s gone through the most transitions. He started out wondering if he were bisexual then realized he didn’t like-like boys, only girls. Right from the first post he identified with Jazz Jennings, a trans teenager from Florida, except he wasn’t uncomfortable with his body at the time, he just had a “girl’s brain”. Then, a little while later, people started doing those genetic tests. I used to hang out a lot in a forum called Regretsy (sadly it no longer exists) and one of the people did one of the tests and posted the results. I read them aloud to Colin and he got excited right at the beginning when it said the sex was male. Could he take the test too? I had no idea what he was talking about until he added “so I can find out what sex I am”. I explained it would only tell him his birth sex, not how he feels inside. Another time I pointed out we were having a lot more trans readers and Colin’s response was, “That’s not a surprise.” It took me a long time to realize that Colin wasn’t cisgender but he was patient with me. Then came the sorting out. He started out as bigender (feeling both male and female) then pangender (feeling like all genders) then started exploring more towards being female. He drifted into being female and picked out the name Emma (which was the name I’d chosen when I was pregnant with him). He was happy with the name and being referred to with female pronouns. Then he started worrying about fertility. He’s wanted to be a parent since he could talk so that wasn’t a surprise but the lack of fertility preservation was a shock. Freezing sperm only works 50% of the time and is expensive and stopping hormone therapy has an unknown success rate because it seems like only trans people are talking about it. The doctors claim 100% infertility once the hormones take effect. So now Colin’s still female but not sure about transitioning. I use Colin on the blog and both Colin and Emma at home. He’s happy with that. He’s also in school, taking mostly math, and hoping to eventually go to college. He builds and rebuilds computers in his spare time and plays PC video games.

Kait and her boyfriend are coming over for dinner, stockings, and presents tomorrow. I’m going to make Kait’s favourites; pasta with pumpkin sauce and Christmas Crack. I’ve included the link because the dessert is easy and amazingly yummy. They claim it’ll last a week, like you’re not going to eat half a pan standing over the kitchen counter. I don’t have a link to the pumpkin pasta, sadly. It was a recipe from the Today’s Parent forums, another site that no longer exists.

Colin and I are going to my parents’ house on Christmas Eve and sleeping over that night. Which saves a heck of a lot of driving, rather than going back and forth each day. Kait’s going to be there on Christmas Eve too.

I wonder where we’ll be in four more years. Where ever it is, I’m sure it’ll be fabulous!

 

Happy Holidays!