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.

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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!

Looking at life from both sides…

I remember, years ago in Sociology, the teacher talked about three different kinds of parenting; authoritarian, authoritative, and permissive. Authoritarian were the strict parents, expecting respect and obedience and deciding what was best for the child. Permissive parents wanted to be their child’s friend to the point of making little to no rules. And Authoritative was a blend of the two, giving the child a say but making the final decision.

I thought about that class a couple of days ago while I read comments on a Facebook post. I watched parents from both sides expressing love for their children and child abuse by the opposing parents. It was easy to see who was authoritarian and who was authoritative.

The authoritative parents were listening to their child’s insistent claims of being the other gender. They were going to doctors, psychiatrists, and counselors to sort out what’s going on. They were listening to their child but weren’t changing anything until the professionals were called.

The authoritarian parents listened to their child’s insistent claims of being the other gender and quickly and firmly told the child, “no, you are a boy/girl. I don’t want to hear any more nonsense about this”. And, of course, the child stops talking about it for years and years until they either commit suicide or come out as an adult. But, in the meantime their parents are certain they are doing the right thing. “Children are too young for stuff like that” is a comment I see regularly. Comparing being trans to sexual abuse is another, even though they are completely different things.

The authoritarian parents ask questions like “My child wanted to be a dog. Should I have got her a collar and started feeding her on the floor?” My sister pretended to be a dog for a little while too. She had to eat at the table but could crawl around and bark as much as she wanted. I was a child myself so I don’t know how long it lasted. I’m going to guess not very long. Trans children, on the other hand, are adamant they’re the other gender (or somewhere in between) and they keep persisting. And once they transition, they stay that other gender, for the most part. It doesn’t matter if they change their mind because the only thing that happens when a child transitions is they change clothes and hair styles.

I have some sympathy for the authoritarian parents. It’s hard to listen to your child’s choices when they make such spectacularly bad decisions. You put the goldfish where?!? But then I remember Leelah Alcorn and how her parents denied her truth over and over again, even after she died. And these statistics:

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The pale blue bars show the authoritarian parents. They’re the parents who said “no, you are who we say you are”. The dark blue shows the authoritative parents. Now look at the difference, especially the last section which is attempted suicide, not just talking about it but doing it. 57 per cent, more than half of the unsupported kids versus 4 per cent for the supported kids. Is being in charge all the time worth losing your kid? Sure you get your chosen name on the gravestone instead of theirs but damn.

I know I have groups of people who don’t like me, they show up in my statistics. They either think Colin’s getting manipulated into being trans. That kiddo could give a lawyer a run for her money. Or that he’s so developmentally delayed that he simply agrees to everything I say. This would be a surprise for his teacher. You know what though? I don’t give a rat’s ass what they think. My kids are far more important.

Right now Colin’s wavering between being Colin or Emma. I have no idea how long this wavering will take and no idea what he will choose. Either way, it’s his decision, not mine. And as an authoritative parent, I will support him either way.

Clothes shopping…

It was afternoon when Emma called. I’d been having a high anxiety day and was still in my pjs.

“Mom, I’ve got a 30% off coupon at Value Village. Why don’t you meet me and we can go clothes shopping together.”

Clothes shopping was definitely at the bottom of my list of things to do. Right under scrubbing the bathroom with a toothbrush. Then my mind caught up.

“Are you scared to go into the ladies section on your own?”

“Yes,” she replied.

Okay, I’ll get dressed and I’ll meet you there.”

Emma was waving to me at the front door when I arrived. Then we went looking for their x-large section in ladies wear. This was easier said than done. Did you know they have an entire section devoted to button up sweaters? I sure didn’t. But we finally found the correct section and started riffling through the long sleeved shirts.

Emma got bored and discouraged quickly.

“I’m going to shop in the men’s department,” she said with a sigh. “At least I know the clothes will fit from there. And, with that she walked off. I kept searching and quickly found several shirts that would probably fit her and a shirt for myself. She was back with me in a couple of minutes.

“Couldn’t find anything?” I asked

“I was too scared to go into the men’s department,” she admitted.

“Well I found a bunch of shirts for you,” I assured her, gesturing to the buggy. She looked pleased with the selection.

shopping for Emma

So sparkly!

Luckily the changerooms here are unisex, just a row of rooms in the corner of the store. Emma quickly found one and started changing. She even opened the door for me to see a couple of shirts. And, by the time she was done, she had at least five “new” shirts.

Then came yesterday. We were at Dollarama when Emma gasped, “I’ve always wanted one of these!”

One of those being a purple infinity scarf. I’m trying to cut back on spending but I bought the darn thing anyways. She put it on as soon as she got home and then she started fiddling with it.

“Look,” she said as she wrapped it around her waist. “It can double as clothing if you lose all of yours.”

I think I’ll pass on that fashion statement.

It’s so nice to get my sparkly girl back again!

“I’m transitioning”…

“Well hello,” said the elderly man from our UU church. He smiled then turned to Emma. “And who might this handsome young man be?” he asked jokingly.

“I’m Emma,” Emma replied. “I’m transitioning.”

The man looked bewildered. “Erma?” he asked.

“Emma,” both Emma and I replied.

“Alma?”

“Emm-mma,” I said slowly.

He smiled and went on with his conversation. I wondered if he thought we were joking.

Emma tells everyone she’s transitioning these days from her cousins to the cashier at the grocery store and every one gives her the same blank look. We belong to online groups and PFLAG, to us it seems like half the planet is either in transition or related to someone who is. I’m guessing, judging by the blank looks we encounter, that’s not the case outside our little circle because no one seems to have a clue what she’s talking about.

I wonder how people’s reactions will change when she eventually starts taking hormones and begins to look more feminine.