Bits and pieces of our lives…

Today is a nasty day. The sky’s grey and rain seems to be drooling from the sky in an annoying drizzle. We were going to PFLAG tonight but I’m anxious and Emma doesn’t want to go back out into the rain so we’re staying home. Just us and the internet and Emma’s super spicy soup.

It’s a great day for Kait* however. She’s booked the weekend off work and is at Anime North with her boyfriend, a tradition for them. It’s Emma** who’s into anime but, while Kait doesn’t know who the characters are, she loves the costumes regardless. She looks forward to this trip every year.

It was a great day for Emma too. She finally got to meet her new family doctor for the first time. He’s going to talk to her more at her next appointment in July but told her he’s planning on starting her on testosterone blockers before estrogen. And he made it seem like it would be soon.

I didn’t go to the appointment. Emma told me she wanted to go on her own to show the doctor this is her decision and no one else’s, which I thought was very mature of her. She has social anxiety and it wasn’t that long ago that she’d have me do all the talking for her. I’m so glad she’s able to speak for herself. She’s always had strong opinions, now she can use her own voice to share them.

We’ve both heard horror stories over the past few months. Emma was going to need intensive counselling first. She’d need to get yet another doctor. It was going to take years and years for the hormones to start, two and a half at the very least. She could very well get denied… lots of people are. None of the people who told us these stories were trans and all admitted they had no concrete information but that didn’t stop them from sharing. We’re both so glad to hear from Emma’s new doctor that this isn’t the case.

As for me, I spent the day writing and washing dishes so my day’s been quiet and, now that I know I’m not going to hang out in a crowd, my anxiety’s dropped dramatically. My busier day was on Tuesday when I went out to a nature preserve with a friend. All this rain had an effect on the trails but we still got to see chipmunks, a blue jay, and redwing blackbirds. We’re going back next week too, or maybe to somewhere higher and drier.

DSC04247

Now we just need to wait until after our camping trip in July for Emma’s next appointment.

*Kait is Emma’s real name
**Emma is Julie/Jeremy’s real name

Gender Dysphoria…

“I hate my body”

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

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

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

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

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

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

Smudge on a walk

Julie’s tiny pony tail and silky shirt

A tapestry of support…

I hear a lot about support and lack thereof. Reading posts by people who have cut family off entirely for not supporting their trans child. And, depending on the family, I get it. But what’s support?

Julie (Jeremy) informed me a few days ago that her Nana is supportive of her transitioning but that Grandad walked past and told her that he will never see her as female, she will always be male to him. That’s not supportive. And yet…

We see them every single week and talk to them daily. They bought us a tent as a very early joint birthday present for our family camping trip and are going to drive us there and back. They listen to Julie’s talk about computers and support her dream of going into robotics. They have been there for Julie her whole life.

Transitioning is a big thing but it’s not the only part of Julie’s life and, thankfully, Julie knows this. Her response to my Dad’s comment? A smile and the remark, “he’ll look silly saying I’m a man once I have breasts” followed by, “it’s no big deal though, he’ll change his mind when I start looking more like a girl.”

Every change takes time to get used to and this one is no exception. My Dad will get used to Julie’s transition eventually. Until then he’ll continue to be as supportive as he can.

Summer camping…

Jeremy building a sand castle

Julie at Bon Echo

Julie (Jeremy) and I are already getting ready for our camping trip this July. Mostly because it’s going to be huge. My whole family is going to be there (minus Emma who’d prefer to stay home). Both my sisters and their families, my parents, my cousin and his fiance, their friends, one of my sister’s friends, and (possibly) an uncle and aunt. When I say everyone I mean everyone. We have three adjoining sites and a multitude of tents and a camper. Julie and I have our own tent which has two rooms and sleeps seven. We’re more glampers than campers. Julie’s first concern was electricity for her laptop. Mine was sprawl space.

Her second concern, however, was transitioning and that has no answers from me. How far along will she be. We both know it’ll be early but how early? Will she have started hormones? How long will her hair have grown? Julie’s already told her grandparents she won’t be swimming that trip. I offered to buy the ruffled skirted bikini she wants but she doesn’t want to look like a boy in a bathing suit.

Meanwhile I worry about misgendering. If she shows up as a girl, will she be treated like a girl? Or will the family fall back on calling her Jeremy? Will my sisters explain that Julie’s transitioning or will there be an expectation of keeping things hushed for the younger children? I can’t bring myself to ask, especially since there’s only one answer which supports Julie. And, honestly, it’s not like the transition is going away. The questions will have to be answered at some point.

Julie goes back to the medical centre on Tuesday then has a family doctor appointed to her within two weeks. And hopefully then we can get some answers sorted out so we can focus on the camping part of the trip and not the gender part.

Bon Echo cliff

Because the camping part is gorgeous!

The first step…

Julie, formerly known as Jeremy, wants desperately to transition. Only one thing has been stopping her. Neither one of us knew where to start. The information must have been on one of the missing pages of my parenting books. So I asked someone in Julie’s youth group who transitioned recently and got told he went to the doctor and got referred to an endocrinologist. Yay! That sounded easy.

I booked an appointment with our family doctor and Jeremy proceeded to ask me every day for two weeks if it was almost time for her appointment. It finally came yesterday. So we headed over to our family doctor, who we’ve been seeing since before Julie was born.

To say the doctor was discouraging would be one of the bigger understatements of the year.

“Hadn’t Jeremy been transgender before? And now he’d changed and wanted to be a woman? Why wasn’t he still transgender?”

“The only place Jeremy could go was CAM-H (Canadian Association for Mental Health) and they were only just accepting people who were referred in 2015. It was going to take ages.”

“He’d only had two patients transition before in his 33 years of practise but he had several others who CAM-H had turned down. They turn down a fair number of people, he’d be surprised if they accepted Jeremy.”

“One of the people who transitioned had to stop taking her medication after years because it was so expensive.”

“It was going to be unbelievably hard. Just look at what Bruce Jenner went through and he was…”

I have no idea what he was going to say Caitlyn Jenner was. Famous? Infamous? Rich? An athlete? And all those statements were peppered with “I’m not prejudiced but…”

I listened with one ear while I Googled numbers for endocrinologists. “It wasn’t common,” the doctor explained. “I doubt there’s anyone around here.”

I had a message out for the person I’d talked to and started cold calling. The doctor was right, there wasn’t anyone. The nearest, outside of CAM-H, was in Hamilton; a two hour car ride away and I don’t know how long by bus.

His secretary called back that evening to say she’d found someone in Peterborough, which was closer but still somewhere around an hour or two by bus.

Julie slumped in her room and made stuff on Minecraft while I chatted with a friend of mine who asked me if I’d heard of Carea. They did gender care right from Oshawa. The only catch was Julie would need to have her primary doctor with them. Okay. That was easy enough.

Julie started school this week so we waited until after school before heading over to Carea. One bus! It took us just one bus to get there. And their paperwork asked for her preferred name, sex, and gender. It was nice to see that smile on Julie’s face.

The intake interview isn’t for two more weeks and then there’s another two weeks until a doctor is assigned to her but it’s so nice to have the first step taken.

Standing up…

When Jeremy was little, he was mistaken for a girl on a regular basis.jeremy-easter-2010

“What a cute little girl!”
“You’ve got such a lovely daughter?”
“How old is she?”
“What’s her name?”
“She’s so sweet!”

I didn’t bother to correct them. Jeremy didn’t mind and it simply embarrassed people. Besides, he was cute, lovely, adorable, and sweet. Even when his hair was short, he still got “such a lovely girl” comments. He was sweet.

Back then I knew nothing about trans people. I wondered why Jeremy only played girl characters in his games and played dress up right into his preteens with his sister but figured he was just imaginative and liked the way the dresses felt.

jeremy-in-2014Then he became a teenager and started experimenting more with his hair and, to a lesser extent, his clothes. The comments changed slightly to include “ma’am” and he was still, to the mildly unobservant, feminine.

He still didn’t mind being called her and she, in fact, sometimes it seemed to bring him joy. And I still had no idea what that could mean.

Now he’s almost 20 years old with mitts for hands, size 12 men’s feet, and a deep bass voice. Now he’s talking about transitioning. And I’m so scared. I belong to enough groups to know people aren’t kind to 6ft 3in women with deep voices and adam’s apples. I read the posts on Facebook. I know there’s been seven trans women (and one colin-and-laratrans man) killed so far in the States this year alone. I haven’t heard any statistics for Canada.

Jeremy talks happily about buying a bikini with a skirt and how he’s always wanted a frilly dress with lots of floofy layers. I will do everything I can to help him achieve his dreams but I can’t do everything.

Please be kind when you see my child on the street. For all that he’s 19 years old, he’s still my child. He bought a Minecraft book today and jelly beans then laughed over bathroom humour in a YouTube video.  He’s still young. He’s not a joke. He’s not a freak. He’s a person with feelings and thoughts.

One day he’s going to be stepping out that door in the dress of his dreams. You might see him or, more likely, you will see someone like him. Someone who, for whatever reason, just isn’t fitting in 100%. Please be kind, be helpful, and let him come home safely with his heart intact. Stand up for him. Stand up with him. Don’t let him feel alone against the bullies and please, please don’t let him be a statistic.

Won’t someone think of the children?

From the time Jeremy was a tiny child he wanted to be a Daddy. Well he first wanted to be a Mommy but I explained that little boys become Daddies when they grow up so he changed that to being a Daddy who breastfed. I decided to leave the intricacies of breastfeeding until later.

And now he’s talking more and more seriously about transitioning and realizing his fertility will be at risk. Banking sperm is prohibitively expensive, something he’s already googled and realized. Stopping hormone therapy for half a year gives only the slightest chance of conception. Surrogacy is fraught with legal tape and what if’s.

I’ve explained to Jeremy that not every cis straight couple is able to have a baby, it’s not a guarantee. I’ve explained that cis gay and lesbian couples go through similar issues too. And I’ve assured him that if he is Julie, she’s going to come out now or later and, since he only has one life to live, it might as well be now. He needs to be himself/herself.

Talking with my nineteen year old about infertility is hard.