Religion, the original gated community…

Michelle, hope all is well and I am being very kind to myself. Thank you for asking but how are you doing?

Those words might sound mild, even a bit positive, but they brought tears to my eyes. Tim most certainly isn’t being kind to himself and there’s nothing I can do about it. His life is a tragedy in slow motion and one I’ve been watching for years.

The first thing I noticed about Tim was his vibrant personality. Even though he was still in high school, his enthusiastic energy was almost palpable; his smile as bright as his hair. The second thing I noticed were his mannerisms. Everyone knows the stereotype of a flamboyant gay male. That was Tim, right there. The kid might as well have worn a t-shirt with the caption “why yes, I am very gay”. We worked together for almost five years and I’ve lost count of the number of times a customer described him as “the gay one”.

He introduced himself to me by pointing out a young man as cute then watching to see my reaction. Several months went by with him being quite openly gay then he announced he’d met a girl for dinner. Once again he watched for reactions; this time he seemed quite shocked that people had trouble believing he’d invited a girl for a date. Later he told me he didn’t know why people were spreading rumours that he was gay. I found myself unable to think of anything to say. Within days he’d reverted back to being openly gay again.

I talked to Tim from time to time about Jeremy and why I wondered if zie was gay or bisexual. At one point I told him about how Jeremy had asked me, in grade one, if it was all right for zir to marry Albert when zie grew up. Tim’s face grew wistful. He’d made a similar comment when he was that age and one of his older brothers told him never to make a comment like that again or he’d be beaten up. I began to understand his flip-flopping.

Over the next few years he did a few more flip-flops regarding his sexual orientation. I tried my hardest to be supportive and I’m sure his other friends did as well. He slowly became more positive about being gay and joined PFLAG. Several years in a row he invited me to attend our local Evening of Hope; an event similar to the Transgender Day of Remembrance but for the whole LGBTQ community (the Trans Day of Remembrance is also observed). I made sure to attend. One year his mother called during the whole service. Candles were being named then lit and carried across the stage in front of a hushed audience. Meanwhile his phone kept ringing and ringing.

Mom, this is serious. I can’t talk right now.”
This is a memorial service.”
No I can’t leave.”
“Mom, please, you have to stop calling.”
I helped organize this. I’m needed here. I really can’t leave.”

Her son was working alongside the mayor and the police to help organize a huge event with dozens of vendors and approximately a hundred people. He hurried around, well respected and busy, taking donations, directing people to the right places, and organizing the set up. And instead of being there to support him, she was sitting at home harassing him to leave. I wouldn’t know this lady if I ran into her on the street but there’s a good chance I wouldn’t like her.

I watched as he matured into his early 20’s. He wanted to be an event planner and organize weddings. I listened as he fell in love and again when they broke up. Tim didn’t want to be a secret, he wanted a boyfriend who was willing to be out with him. Then he started looking for a new religion because the Catholic Church wasn’t supportive enough. He wanted a place that would accept him as gay. I suggested my own congregation of Unitarian Universalists and got a “maybe…” in response. I get that. I’m an atheist and he’s deeply religious; I’ve had a few friends assume that the whole congregation must be atheistic if I’m there. It’s not but I backed off, figuring he needed to find his own path. Unitarians are good at that. Maybe too good.

He continued to help with PFLAG and received an award for being a person who made a difference. His posts reflected the love he had for his family and a growing acceptance of himself. Then his posts faded, he was busy at work but fine. He couldn’t attend my parties due to work but was fine and we’d get together soon. The posts he did make were less about family and more about God. And then came this post…

Tim mormon

He deleted it almost immediately but a quick peek at his about page showed his religion as Mormon and his “interested in” section set to women. There aren’t many churches out there who are less accepting of LGBTQ people than the Catholic Church but the Mormons are definitely one of them.

There is no way this can end well. He’s not straight. He’s not even (from what he’s said during quiet, honest times) bisexual. And he’s joined a church that only loves him if he lies and only accepts him if he ignores his own romantic feelings.

I understand why people turn to religion. They look for acceptance, community, support, and (for some) a greater meaning to life. At it’s best, religion can serve these needs. What worries me is when religion is at it’s worst. It’s worst leaves people shattered and broken… clutching the fragments of their lives as they watch their community turn away. It leaves LGBTQ kids on the streets, begging and selling themselves to survive. Or walking in front of trucks convinced life will never get better. It teaches children that they are the chosen ones and the “others” are the sinners. Giving them a sense of pride for being chosen and a sense of fear that they might stumble and become one of the “others”.

Get a group of atheist parents together and you’ll hear a variety of stories about their children being harassed by other kids for not believing in God. Emma used to get chased off the bus by a girl who insisted she was going to burn in hell forever. A mother I talked to recently has a child who was having nightmares about Jesus coming to get him like some sort of bogeyman. Once again it was from peer bullying.

Years ago, our congregation welcomed an older man who had left a fundamentalist church. Every Sunday, for weeks on end, he’d come to the front of the room for  the pebbles of joy and concern ceremony and cry. He could barely choke out any words, he’d simply break down in heart wrenching tears. His former church had left huge scars on his soul. It took nearly a year before he could manage to speak. He was white, straight, and cis… with a good job, children, and a wife who loved him… and his scars nearly broke him regardless. He didn’t entirely fit into their mould so they tried to hammer him in place. They damn well shattered him.

Love isn’t trademarked, it just is, and it’s there for everyone; not just the ones religion deems worthy enough. Life is not a tragedy, love is not a mistake, and if your religion loves all the little children (except if they have a penis and are wearing a dress) then you’re doing it wrong.

On life skills and showing off Jeremy…

My ex-husband called me last week, wanting to know what I’m doing to socialize Jeremy. Aren’t I worried about him?

I definitely needed to pause before I spoke. This is a man who considers a two hour visit “long”. He offered to bring his girlfriend to Jeremy’s track and field meet at the end of grade six then had to message me to ask the name of Jeremy’s school. Zie’d been attending there since the beginning of grade two. Involved is not a word anyone uses to describe him.

“Yes, I definitely worry about Jeremy,” I began. “Zie belongs to our church’s youth group-”

“That’s exactly what I want him to do,” my ex interrupted. “My church has a youth group that meets once a week. It’s sports themed and I’d really like him to join.”

Sports? The only sport Jeremy’s played in zir entire life was soccer and that’s because a) zie loved the silky shorts and b) because the coaches wouldn’t allow bullying on the field. Zie “played soccer” for three years… where played translates to “stood motionlessly in the middle of the field”. Ironically, zir Dad only attended one soccer game and that was to show Jeremy off to a different girlfriend.

My ex was agnostic while we were together and has since joined the Mormon church. He celebrated his baptism with a cigarette, a joint, and a beer, which speaks volumes about his commitment to the church’s values. The church is committed to him though and, in return, he wants to show off the one remaining child who’ll speak to him. His trans, not-straight child… and we all know the Mormon church’s stance on LGBTQ issues.

“Jeremy’s not into sports,” I replied, which might be the understatement of the year.

“It doesn’t matter if he likes sports,” ex retorted. “It’s a chance for him to get together with other kids.”

Jeremy’s Dad hadn’t been into sports either when we were married. He liked baseball well enough and would watch hockey if the game was on but that was it. His real interests were Dungeons and Dragons, computer adventure games, and role-playing card games like Magic the Gathering. Maybe I could pique some mutual interests?

“Is there something else you can do with Jeremy? Zie loves cards, like Pokemon and Magic. And playing with RC cars and zie would enjoy learning D&D-”

“No, the youth group is good,” he said flatly. “Besides, what are you doing to socialize him?

Not that I hadn’t tried to tell him once already. I stifled a sigh and tried again. “Jeremy belongs to our church’s youth group. They meet twice a month and are going bowling in a couple more weeks. Zie also goes to PFLAG with m-”

“What’s PFLAG?”

What rock was he hiding under? And why couldn’t he stay there instead of bugging me?

“PFLAG stands for Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays but it’s for anyone in the LGBTQ community. It meets once a month and has a youth group. There’s a young adult group too and Jeremy’s going to it this Thursday.”

The young adult group turned out to be a disaster. Jeremy’s mad at them because they discriminate against straight white men. Between Lenny and I, that comment triggered an eye roll that spanned the Atlantic Ocean and half a continent.

“It’s supposed to be a safe space for everyone,” Jeremy yelled. “How can they call it safe when they make fun of straight white men all the time? Besides, how are we supposed to get straight, white men to like us if we’re mean to them?”

“Honey, it’s not your job to get them to like you.” I paused, trying to think of an example that was relevant and would resonant with zir.

“It’s like black Americans and the police. The majority of the police aren’t against black people but it’s not black people’s responsibility to make the police like them. It’s the police’s responsibility to tell their peers to be more respectful and to go after the ones who are horribly racist. The majority has to stand up against the unethical minority.”

“I still don’t think it’s fair,” zie retorted stubbornly. “If it’s a safe place, it should be safe for everyone.”

“Is this because you identify as a straight, white male?” I questioned.

I have never seen anyone look more frankly horrified in my life.

“Or maybe others see you as one?” I guessed. There had to be a reason zie felt so strongly.

Zir horror turned to shocked bewilderment. “No one ever sees me as straight,” Jeremy protested, tossing back zir hair for emphasis. As far as I know everyone thinks I’m gay.” Zie paused for a minute. “I’m not sure if they see me as male either,” zie mused.

Jeremy met up with zir Dad at our local library and I asked how the meeting went when I got home from work that evening.

It was Jeremy’s turn to roll zir eyes. “Dad wants me to join his church’s youth group so I can learn life skills. He says he’s worried about what I’m going to do once you’re 70 years old if I don’t learn these life skills now.”

Because praying over table tennis is going to teach zir how to balance a bank book.

Lenny pointed out that I’ve already taught zir how to grocery shop, pay bills, do chores and cook simple meals; all of which are more important than a youth group.

I can’t help but wonder if my ex is thinking of what inviting Jeremy to the group would really be like. You know, when Jeremy shows up in zir favourite silky blue shirt and best perfume?

I also can’t help but wonder what this Thursday’s PFLAG meeting’s going to be like after Jeremy’s steadfast protection of straight, white men.

There’s no place like home…

Update I moved the chipmunk video over to YouTube and it’s working now 🙂

We got home on Sunday afternoon and I’m still happily appreciating all the comforts of home. I love camping but truly enjoy spider free indoor plumbing… especially at 3am.

This trip involved a fair bit of uncertainty for me. We’ve camped on the same site at the same campground for years and I knew exactly what to expect there. I’d have camped there again except for one thing. The price. Fifty dollars a night is a bit steep for a vacation that involves heating my dish water over a kerosene stove and peeing with spiders.

Jeremy promised that Unicamp was really nice and that the swimming pond was huge. As big as one football field or two… or maybe even three. Got to love how specific zie is when it comes to measurements. Zie even took a picture of a small stretch of woods with a dirt path. Which let me know there were at least a few trees but otherwise I was flying blind. The website itself has no pictures except for an aerial view of the campground via Google and Jeremy was even less descriptive. What convinced me to register for a site there was the fact it’s half the price of our usual place so we could camp for twice as long.

campsite 40

I was unimpressed with the site when we arrived. Not only was it fairly open (and right beside the basketball court, hence the basketball in the photo) but it also had an outhouse right in the middle of the site. And, thanks to the location of the firepit, we’d need to position the trailer so the indoor kitchen table had a lovely view of the outhouse.

The first option we were offered was an alternate site that used to be a laneway. It still had the tire grooves. Then they offered to move the firepit, which made all the difference. The trailer tire is over the old firepit. For most of the week there were almost no other campers because it was youth week so the outhouse was only being used by me (and the spiders). It wasn’t until our last evening that other people started using it. Which was uncomfortable enough for me to not want to camp on that particular site again but by then we had less than 24 hours left until we were gone.

Jeremy talked about swimming all week so it wasn’t a surprise that zie wanted to go swimming almost as soon as my parents left. Luckily zie was willing to wait until after dinner as we missed lunch during our drive up; my parents weren’t stopping for anything. And luckily for me I’d planned a quick and easy dinner because zie wasn’t going to wait too long.

Jeremy had only been there for a weekend last year but zie was reasonably sure zie remembered the way to the beach. First we headed out past the goats…

goats2

Doesn’t every campground have goats?

… and down the trail to the beaches.

bench on beach trail

The trail looked like most of the campground. Lots of trees and undergrowth and quite a few meandering creeks. Further along there was a marshy area with lots of cat tails and frogs. Then came the main beach.

Jeremy at the main beach

Both beaches were sandy and had a dock and a picnic table. Plus there were beach toys, life jackets, and canoes free to use. Jeremy (of course) refused to swim in any normal fashion. Instead zie took pool noodles and threaded them through zir shopping buggy and swam with that. It looked completely awkward but zie loved it.

Jeremy and zir shopping buggy

I enjoyed the beach as well. We’d swim from one diving platform to another, with me diving in from each. Plus there was a big concrete block at the end of the pond. As far as I could tell, it worked as a drain, pouring water over the edge then under the nearby road to flow into a creek. But it served a second purpose… as a jumping platform. Jeremy refused to try it but I went up several times.

Michelle jumping

The water was freezing at the bottom of the pond!

We went on several walks, mostly to the nearby Cowpye Hill (accurately named) to look at the full moon. Poor Jeremy got dragged onto a hike on the Bruce Trail despite insisting that zie’s a computer nerd and doesn’t need exercise. It was a great trail, absolutely gorgeous, but it came with a warning that it was “more advanced”. I loved it. Jeremy sat and took a break on the trail while I explored the surrounding area.

The trail pretty much consisted of scrambling over rocks and roots.

The trail pretty much consisted of scrambling over rocks and roots. Also, yes, Jeremy is a foot taller than me.

Since our hike went so well, I decided to try out splelunking. To be fair, Jeremy wanted to try it as well. I think zie didn’t realize how small the caves were. I certainly didn’t. I pictured caves we could walk into and then got faced with this…

No, it wasn't any bigger on the inside. In fact it got appreciably smaller.

No, it wasn’t any bigger on the inside. In fact it got appreciably smaller.

This is me leaving that same “cave”. Jeremy couldn’t even fit. Zie did try however and went into every other cave.

me leaving Sherbet Tunnel

Jeremy and I splelunking

There were plenty of things I liked about the campground. It was quiet, friendly, and informal. There were trails everywhere for me to explore and signs dotted throughout the grounds…

signs

I found five signs and am sure there are more.

What I loved the most about our camping trip was that no one, not a single person, stared at Jeremy. In fact the only people who gave zir even a slightly long look were the ones who followed it up with a huge smile and a “Hello Jeremy! I remember you from last year!”

Jeremy claims not to notice people staring at zir (even the hugely blatant ones) but it was obvious that zie felt the lack of negative attention. Zie never goes outside without a shirt on. Never. Not even on our own balcony. And swimming is something that requires zir swimming shirt (an almost too small mesh Spiderman shirt zie’s had for years). By the end of the week zie was going swimming without zir shirt, in front of other people.

And now we’re home. Back to our kitties, our microwave, our running water, and our consistently working internet and phone service. I can’t wait to see how much Jeremy grows when we go back to Unicamp next year.

OMG muffin wrapper

Clicking on the picture will bring you to the accompanying video.

Fear…

“Mom? I can’t do it. Please don’t make me go to school tomorrow.”

Jeremy looked up at me from zir bed, where zie lay cocooned in blankets; eyes wide and body tense. I sighed.

“How about you go tomorrow and miss Thursday,” I suggested. Thursday was the provincial literacy testing day and most of the school would be absent. “You’ll be fine. I know you can do it.”

Zie nodded slightly but zir expression wasn’t very hopeful. I wasn’t hopeful either although I tried not to show it. Instead I kissed zir goodnight and headed off to bed.

This morning I got myself ready then went to wake Jeremy up… then woke zir up again (and again). I could see actual consciousness the third time around and with it came zir anxiety.

“Mom. I can’t go to school today. I’m so dizzy. I don’t think I can stand up. Can you please call the school and tell them I won’t be there?” Jeremy’s voice was shaking by the end.

I patted zir shoulder and promised I would call. Then I promised myself I’d call our family doctor and make Jeremy an appointment. And I did. For the 23rd of April… the earliest appointment available. His receptionist did put Jeremy on the list for cancellations.

Every single week I have friends share pictures of yet another transgender teen who’s committed suicide. The latest was a young man who was popular, well supported, crowned home-coming king, and a known activist. Several people commented on how he’d spoken to and encouraged their own children. He’d been an amazing kid, a real inspiration.

I listened to Jeremy play zir video game while watching the latest episode of The Young Turks. Two weeks ago we were walking home and Jeremy commented that if zie died, all zie’d be remembered for was playing video games and being trans. I assured zir that if I’d died at 17 years old, I’d only be remembered as that quiet girl who reads a lot of books; that zie has years to grow into talents and memories. I read through the article and wished I had a pair of handcuffs so I could clip Jeremy to me and keep zir safe. Jeremy couldn’t kill zirself if I was right there 24/7.

But that’s not living (not to mention using the washroom and showering would be beyond awkward). And so I head off to work knowing that Jeremy’s going to be home alone. Reminding zir to take out the recycling while I’m away… and hoping zie at least remembers to eat and change out of zir pyjamas.

I panic every time I call home after work and zie doesn’t answer. I know full well Jeremy loves to crank zir music and will call back as soon as zie sees the “missed call” light flashing but there’s always that cold shiver pushing out from the pit of my stomach… inching up my spine to tap relentlessly against my brain. And it doesn’t stop until Jeremy’s Doctor Who ringtone plays.

Tonight Jeremy’s at zir UU Youth Group, happily eating nachos and discussing censorship with like minded peers. Tomorrow night we’ll be at PFLAG where zie’ll be eating pizza and chatting with other trans teens. And in between I’ll be at work and zie’ll be alone. And I’ll take another deep breath and hope to hear from zir on the way home.

kitty cuddling

My speech on gender diversity and raising a trans kid…

Wow that’s a long title.

Since I’m nowhere near talented enough to change Jeremy’s real name in a video, I’m just going to post the transcript here. Pretend I’m talking quietly at a podium while I shift nervously and fiddle with my hair. I was wearing turquoise if that helps 🙂

 *******************************

There’s so much I didn’t know when my kids were growing up, especially when it came to gender. I look back at Jeremy when zie was little. Jeremy was equally happy with dinky cars and Polly Pockets, which was fine with me. I grew up in a family which believed toys were for all kids. When Jeremy was four, zie got a little toy shaving kit for Christmas and the first thing zie did was hop into the bathtub to shave zir legs. I figured that was because zie didn’t have a Dad at home and explained that boys shave their faces, not their legs. Jeremy looked a bit surprised but followed my instructions. Actually, the first time Jeremy shaved once puberty hit, Jeremy shaved zir legs but by then zie wasn’t using a Bob the Builder kit. Zie borrowed my razor instead; I quickly got zir one of zir own. And there was dress up time, which always consisted of Jeremy getting dressed up in Emma’s clothes, never the reverse. Emma would refer to zir as Jemmy and would pick out the clothes she thought would suit zir the best. Both kids loved this game.

I think Jeremy was around eight or nine years old when zie saw some words written on the bus shelter wall and wanted to know what they meant. The words were:

I wish I was a girl.

I had no idea what to say let alone where to start. It was a big topic that I didn’t understand very well. And Jeremy was standing there watching me expectantly, positive I had the answer. I decided to start with empathy so I said, “You know how you look like boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside…” then stopped when I saw Jeremy’s confused expression. Zie shook zir head and said “no”.

I look back now and marvel at how blind I was but then I simply figured I’d screwed up my explanation. I went on to explain that most people look like a boy on the outside and feel like a boy on the inside or look like a girl on the outside and feel like a girl on the inside but sometimes it’s the opposite. When people look like a boy on the outside and feel like a girl on the inside, or vice versa, it’s called transgender. Jeremy listened intently then was heartbroken that we couldn’t find the person who wrote the words so they’d know they weren’t alone.

Throughout this time, Jeremy would ask how I knew that zie would grow up to be a man. I knew zie’d been bullied at school with kids calling zir a he-she and I was well aware that grown adults were telling Jeremy zie needed to “be a man” so I chalked zir questions up to bullying. I assured Jeremy that zie didn’t need to do anything special in order to be a man, zie just needed to grow up. That zie could be a man and still love the colour pink and long hair and glitter. Each time Jeremy seemed reassured by my response.

A couple of years ago I became Facebook friends with Lenny. One of the first things Lenny told me is zie’s transgender and identifies between male and female, using the pronouns zie and zir. I’d had no idea people could be anything but male or female so this was a surprise. Lenny lives in England so zie’d never know if I was using the right pronouns or not but it didn’t seem fair to use the wrong ones. I insisted the kids use zir pronouns as well.

It wasn’t until last year that Jeremy began to show signs of discomfort with using male pronouns. Zie got sent home from school one day for arguing with zir teacher about the words boy and girl being opposites. Jeremy insisted they weren’t because you could feel like both a boy and a girl. The teacher argued she was talking about language and not gender then persisted in telling Jeremy zie was wrong. In the spring, Jeremy asked for the teacher to explain more pronouns than male and female and the teacher refused, claiming that she could only teach “invented” pronouns if there was a trans student in the class and then only the pronouns that student was using. Jeremy wasn’t out so I backed down. Zie didn’t come out until the end of summer.

Fifty-seven percent of unsupported trans youths attempt suicide. That statistic drops down to four percent when youths have a supportive family. I’ll do anything to make Jeremy feel supported, up to and including waving pom poms. Jeremy assures me that’s not necessary.

The hard part is how often and regularly Jeremy gets misgendered. When I talked to Jeremy’s school, their biggest concern was whether Jeremy’s gender identity and pronouns were going to be a distraction in the classroom. They use zir pronouns in official documents but call Jeremy he and him. And I can count on one hand the number of people in real life who consistently use zir pronouns. It’s so frustrating because people just don’t seem to understand how important this is to Jeremy. If they’d use the right pronouns in front of zir, even once, they’d see what a difference it makes. Give it a try, they’re not hard to use.

Thank you.

Hidden in plain sight…

On Christmas morning Jeremy eagerly opened a big bag from under the tree. The present slid out and zir face shone with joy when zie saw the picture on the box and the gift behind the cellophane panel.

“You got me a girl’s car!” zie cheerfully exclaimed.

When Emma and Mark showed up a few hours later, zie showed them zir new purple car then said casually, “I like it even though Mom got me a girl car.” The difference between zir first spontaneous words and zir calculated thoughts later break my heart.

A few days ago we were walking through our soon to be closed Target. Jeremy looked down one aisle then pointed and said, “Look at that picture!”

liked picture

 

“Do you want it?” I asked a lot more casually than I felt. What I really felt like saying was, “You pointed out something you like, in public, that’s aimed for girls. I have no money. Let’s get it anyways!”

Jeremy immediately shook zir head. “No. It wouldn’t suit the theme of my bedroom.”

I wasn’t aware zir room had any sort of theme but dropped the subject. Jeremy picked out a different picture at Dollarama. Tell me this isn’t the sweetest thing ever for a seventeen year old to pick out (ignore the brown zig zags)…

chosen picture

Seriously that’s an aww moment right there.

Then came Sunday. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it on the blog yet but I was one of four speakers giving a talk on gender diversity at our UU congregation (and the only cis-gender speaker at that). I was nervous almost to the point of hyperventilating, meanwhile Emma dug through boxes and bags of clothes to get dressed, and Jeremy wandered around in pjs. Our ride was picking us up in less than ten minutes and not only had I not practiced my speech, I hadn’t even managed to print it yet. The printer suddenly couldn’t find my phone and claimed I couldn’t print from my netbook because some other computer was waiting to print. I pictured going up in front of everyone then having to wake up my computer and log in before getting to my speech.

“I know how to get your phone to print,” Jeremy said as zie gestured for my phone. We had to be downstairs in less than a minute and zie was still in zir pjs. But if it worked… I handed over the phone. It worked.

“Thank you,” I said gratefully, “that’s going to be a huge help. Now go get dressed. Why not put on your gummy bear earrings while you’re at it.” Zie’d have time considering Emma was in the washroom.

Jeremy’s okay floated behind zir as zie hurried to zir room.

We were on the way to church when I realized Jeremy was still wearing zir plain purple studs.

“I forgot,” zie said casually.

Zie didn’t look at me but I looked at zir. Plain black coat, the greyest purple t-shirt zie owns, black track pants, loose hair, and black runners. A quick sniff confirmed zie’d skipped perfume as well. We were meeting my Mom at church then going to my parents’ house for a family dinner and celebration of my Dad’s 71st birthday. They all love zir but refuse to use the right pronouns. To them Jeremy is their grandson, their nephew, their big male cousin. And Jeremy reciprocates by hiding zirself.

We were seated before the service when Jeremy tried to hand me zir spare cellphone.

“I’ve got it set to record sound,” zie hissed in a stage whisper. “That way you can use it for… you know…” Zir eyes flicked toward my Mom, who doesn’t know about this blog.

“Hon, that’s very nice of you to offer but I’m going to be using your real name in the speech. I’ll post the video on Facebook and just share the text of the speech on the blog.”

Zie nodded reluctantly and put away the phone. The offer was touching though.

The speech was nerve wracking, although everyone assured me afterward that I sounded just fine and not even a bit nervous.

One of the other speakers wandered over to compliment me on my speech. “Do you have another child?” she asked curiously. Her gaze wandered over Emma and Jeremy.

“No, just the two,” I replied. “I was speaking about Jeremy.” She looked surprised. Jeremy sat quietly in zir seat, fiddling around with zir phone. It felt like zie was hidden in plain sight.

That night Jeremy looked around zir bedroom then mused aloud, “You know… I actually don’t think I have a theme for my room. I guess anything could fit.” Talk about a cheering moment.

Today Jeremy put on zir dangly gummy bear earrings and sprayed zirself liberally with perfume before heading out to counseling… in my coat and zir bright rainbow scarf from Lenny. This evening zie headed out to Dollarama with Emma and borrowed a bright white, blue, and purple coat from her while complaining about how boring and bland zir coat is. The coat was a bit too small. I looked at zir disappointed expression and tried to zip the jacket a bit harder. The kid couldn’t bend if zie tried but the jacket was closed and Jeremy was thrilled. I really do need to get zir a brightly coloured coat.

I took a closer look at the Dollarama picture and realized it would be no big deal to take the background off and put on a new one… and scrapbooking stores sell lovely glittery purple sheets. I assured Jeremy this would in no way change the actual words on the picture (my heart melts) and zie agrees that would look fabulous.

(I’ll post the text of the speech tomorrow once I’ve changed the names).

A winter’s walk…

I planned to go to our UU church on Sunday but Jeremy’s quiet words stopped me. Zie’d asked me for the second time if I was going to church and I told zir (again) that yes I was. Jeremy said ‘okay’ then I heard zir mutter as zie walked away, “I was hoping…”

I have no idea what zie was hoping but I put down the phone instead of calling for a ride and looked at the weather forecast instead. It had been -28C on Friday night but Sunday was mild with a high of 3C. The temperature was set to drop again on Monday.

“Why don’t we go for a walk instead,” I suggested. “We could take the bus downtown then walk along the trail to the lake.”

Jeremy bounced back into the room. “Okay,” zie said eagerly. “Just let me get my camera.”

I bought myself a camera after Christmas as a present to myself, which means Jeremy has my old camera; a bright red Olympus zie’s covered in rhinestone stickers. It looks fabulous.

I don’t think Jeremy’s uploaded any photos yet but I have some to share. Enjoy 🙂

This mallard was one of the first things we saw on our walk. He was slipping as he walked across water covered ice; which made me glad I'm not a duck.

This mallard was one of the first things we saw on our walk. He was slipping as he walked across water covered ice; which made me glad I’m not a duck.

A short while later we saw this muskrat, eating bark while sitting on the ice. I'm definitely glad I'm not a muskrat!

A short while later we saw this muskrat, eating bark while sitting on the ice. I’m definitely glad I’m not a muskrat!

We have to go under two train bridges. This was under the second one. I thought it looked neat.

We have to go under two train bridges. This was under the second one. I think it looks like it should be outside an adventure amusement park ride.

Jeremy thought it looked neat too, as you can see by zir camera.

Jeremy thought it looked neat too, as you can see by zir camera.

We finally ended up at Lake Ontario, which Jeremy calls "the ocean".

We finally ended up at Lake Ontario, which Jeremy calls “the ocean”.

And we stopped for a swing before catching the bus back home.

And we stopped for a swing before catching the bus back home.

It was a great walk.

And now I’m back to working on my speech. Our UU church is having a talk regarding transgender issues on the 1st and I’m one of four speakers; my speech is on raising a trans kid. I was supposed to have it written by last month but it will be done before the 1st. Deadlines are supposed to be rough estimates, right?

Changes and other positive stuff…

The new year is only four days old and it’s already brought multiple changes. Emma and her boyfriend came over for dinner on the 1st. Emma had some mild grumbles about Mark’s family New Year’s Eve party but nothing major. She’d also just told her Dad not to contact her again unless he’d grown up. I agreed with the sentiment but felt her message was too subtle for him to comprehend. It was a big step though as she’s always been worried that her Dad would abandon her and tolerated too much manipulation from him.

I woke on the 2nd to the real beginning of the changes. Two voice messages waited from Emma on my cellphone. Mark’s parents had heard an exaggerated version of her grumblings and told Mark she had a month to get out of their house. Which means she’ll be living here in three more weeks. Plus my phone hadn’t charged overnight (which is understandable considering my charger was unplugged) so listening to her messages took the last of my battery. This meant I’d been off Facebook for almost 24 hours by the time I got home, so it was a huge surprise when I discovered messages from friends asking about and apologizing for the upheaval, as well as an open chat message from “Facebook User”. One of my friends, who I’d had a pleasant chat with the night before, decided that myself and two other friends were deeply religious then went on to make nasty comments on a mutual group before deleting and blocking us (hence the Facebook User status). Calling me deeply religious is akin to admiring Patrick Stewart’s luxurious locks but I’ve never considered it an insult. I found myself wondering exactly how someone can go from having a friendly, casual conversation with a person to ranting and blocking them in under an hour but I guess I’ll never know. Having her block and delete herself saved me from a world of drama, which is a positive.

I was sent home work early on the 3rd, thanks to managers who knew a nasty winter storm was approaching. I got in just as the storm began and Emma arrived less than 5 minutes later. Her father began messaging and calling her almost immediately. She asked him not to call because she wasn’t home and he persisted, calling four or five times in the next half hour. The final straw was his last message in which he asked, in a whining tone, for her to please ask Jeremy if he* still liked his Dad and to text him the answer. Jeremy’s phone number has been in the family for seven years. Their Dad had it memorized when Emma held the number for the first three years but forgot it as soon as Jeremy took it over four years ago. He went on to tell Emma “you’ve been no fucking peach of a kid yourself. You’ve been a shitty kid yourself.” I listened to that message then helped Emma find a free program to block his number. It’s in the Google Play store under Calls Blacklist – Call Blocker (with a picture of a red shield and a crossed out white phone receiver). Blocking him will save her from a world of pain and drama, which is a huge positive.

Thankfully today has been fairly quiet. I went to our church’s fire communion, a UU ceremony which involves writing both things to hold on to and things to release and releasing them into a chalice flame.

fire communion

Afterwards Jeremy and I went shopping, both for groceries and to pick up Christmas items on clearance. Jeremy picked out a teal blue, glitter encrusted reindeer from Bouclair (a store zie sweetly mispronounces as Blue Care). Zie also asked if we could pick up more of that “soap for hair” while we were out (I still had some shampoo from my Christmas stocking so zie’s happy). Right now the biggest change here is the weather. It was below zero and snowing yesterday then plus 8C and drizzling today. Tomorrow’s going to be -8 with a windchill of -14. I’m just going to cart around a bottle of Advil because even if I don’t need any, I’m sure at least two of my coworkers will.

Emma shared this picture with me yesterday and I just had to share it…

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Someone in one of the forums I belong to shared this post titled 9 Ways to Save Your Life if You’re Young and Trans. It’s definitely worth a read and I’ll be adding it to my resources page as well.

This book came out about a decade too late for my kids but looks like a great bedtime story for anyone who has young children. Made by Raffi is a story about a shy young boy who gets teased. Then he discovers knitting and, with some ingenuity, makes things better…

Photo from Amazon

Written by Craig Pomranz and illustrated by Margaret Chamberlain

A friend of mine wrote some prose that is well worth reading. Seriously, hop on over and read this… You are beautiful just as you are.

I started crying on the bus yesterday when I read this cartoon but they were more happy tears than anything…

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by Sophie Labelle

Jeremy has a couple of songs zie listens to regularly. I shared one a few months ago but zie has another by Emma Blackery that zie would love to share. Enjoy…

* Jeremy is not out to zir father, hence the male pronouns.

The happy stuff…

Emma called me a week or so ago, she sounded bewildered and happy. Karen ran into her at a local store one rainy evening then drove her home.

“Does that mean I’m no longer disowned?” she asked then promptly followed that up with, “I don’t think I’m disowned anymore. She added me back on Facebook too.”

I agreed that sounded likely. We come from a family who react first and think later. Just because Karen was furious in August didn’t mean she was angry in November.

Then I got a call from my Mom. She wanted to know if I got the previous day’s newspaper. I don’t subscribe to the local paper so hadn’t.

“There’s an article about a transgender student in it. I meant to cut it out for you but forgot and put it in the garage. Just give me a minute…”

I waited while she headed for the garage and dug through their recycling bin (their cordless phones have amazing range). She finally found the paper and hurried back inside to read it to me. The student discussed bullying at his previous school then went on to talk about how great his new school was.

“Why are you trying to get Jeremy into [school]?”

“The class is small and it was recommended as a good fit,” I replied.

“I just wondered because the school this boy’s raving about is the school you’re trying to get Jeremy in,” she replied. Pages rustled in the background. “And did you know the school board is having a meeting on December 11th with transgender parents and parents raising transgender students?”

I did but hadn’t mentioned it to her, figuring she wouldn’t be interested; which was a mistake on my part. I don’t know what impressed me more. That my Mom read through a huge article on transgender students in the local paper because her grandchild’s trans, that the school I’m trying to get Jeremy in is considered good for trans students, or that my Mom made a point of sharing an upcoming LGBTQ event she figured I’d be interested in. I think it’s a three way tie.

Thursday was the Transgender Day of Remembrance and both Jeremy and I had the day off. I spent the afternoon dying zir hair purple…

ponytail

Emma gave Jeremy this lovely crushed velvet purple ponytail holder.

That evening Emma came over with a new bracelet for Jeremy…

bracelets

Then we went out for dinner at an Indian restaurant. The food was amazing but we should have gone to the local Coffee Culture for sandwiches instead as we were already rushed for time. It didn’t help that I thought I knew where we were going but we got there to find an empty sidewalk and the wrong street sign. I quickly logged onto Facebook for the address then to Google Maps. Luckily we were only three blocks away from the right address. Unluckily we were already 20 minutes late.

The first and second people we saw were members of my congregation, they’d set up a button making booth. The kids and I stood and listened to the speaker for a few minutes then there was a ten minute break. We hurried to find seats then wandered around the displays. Once again I asked people if there was a local group for trans youths and, once again, I found nothing. The break ended and I hurried back to my seat alone. The kids never came back. Instead they, along with our minister’s son, spent the rest of the time making buttons…

pins

Emma made the “Shut Up! I’m AWESOME” button for Jeremy.

Jeremy made two more buttons for me, coloured almost completely green. I have them on my jacket. One of my coworkers asked me if zie could make one for her too. Unfortunately that will have to wait until the next time we’re at a button making booth.

Afterwards I talked to one lady about Bill C-279 then she started talking to one of the PFLAG representatives. I asked the rep the same question I’d been asking all evening and she asked how old Jeremy is. I told her 17 years old and was told that was the perfect age, that quite a few youths attend their PFLAG meetings then break off into their own group… and that about 3/4’s of them identify as trans. The next meeting is this coming Thursday. Hopefully it goes well.

I posted earlier about a coworker of mine who’s been struggling with cancer. The lack of support for her bothered me and I asked my manager if I could start up a fundraiser. Despite working at a very small store, my coworkers have donated $300 and more said they plan to donate next week. This is going to be such a good surprise for her. I hope this brightens her Christmas a bit.

Jeremy had Youth Group on Friday through our UU congregation. There were going to be new kids attending and the youth leader called Jeremy to ask how zie’d like to handle pronouns. Zie decided on having everyone in the group introduce themselves and state their preferred pronouns then offered to go near the beginning, that way if any new kids were shy they wouldn’t be first and put on the spot. It ended up being moot because no new kids showed up but it was great that the youth leader called ahead of time.

And, finally, I talked to my minister today. I volunteered to do a talk on transgender issues back in the early fall because I was tired of people misgendering Jeremy and figured our welcoming congregation needed some education to be more welcoming. The minister thought it was a great idea and we set a date for the beginning of January. I was nervous for several reasons. One because I’m not good at public speaking (hopefully no one in the room will actually be expecting eye contact) and two because I’m not trans. I can give my experience at being Jeremy’s mother but can’t say what it’s like to be trans. I asked the minister how long I was expected to talk and was told for five minutes. She’s invited not one but three transgender people in to talk about their experiences. All three were at the Transgender Day of Remembrance and two are experienced public speakers (the third is a teenager). I am so happy! I wanted our congregation to get an idea of what it’s like to be transgender and what they can do to be supportive and it sounds like this is going to happen. I can’t wait for this service now.

The tree Jeremy made at Youth Group - the top is vivid purple.

The tree Jeremy made at Youth Group – the top is vivid purple.

 

Holding grudges…

It was the summer of 2001. I’d been separated from my husband for half a year and I was lonely. My two local friends weren’t dependable. One suffered from depression and would disappear for weeks on end, refusing to answer her phone or the door. The other was constantly busy and running behind… yelling we’d have to get together soon as she hurried to take her kids somewhere. I desperately wanted to connect with someone but had no idea where or how. Common interests seemed a good starting point so I worked up my courage and wrote out a few signs looking for someone to help organize an atheist group.

Weeks went by with no real interest. I had one phone call but the person was looking for an established group with regular meetings and guest speakers. He asked me to call him back once I got everything sorted out. I hope he’s not still waiting. Over a month later I received another call from a hesitant sounding woman. She belonged to the local Unitarian Universalist church and thought I might be interested in attending, assuring me it wasn’t religious and several members of the congregation were atheists. If we were interested, she’d be willing to drive us there. I agreed to give the church a try.

We showed up on the best possible day. Potluck. Jeremy was thrilled to discover they had free lunch after the service while Emma enjoyed playing downstairs in RE (Religious Education). The lady hadn’t lied. The service was secular and the people were friendly. Even so, I probably wouldn’t have gone back if it wasn’t for the kids. They’d loved church and desperately wanted to keep going. It wasn’t nearly as enjoyable for me.

Every week the service would end and I’d drift, hoping and failing to connect with anyone. People would cluster in groups and chat while I hung around the fringes and tried to look involved; drifting from one end of the room to the other hoping to find somewhere to fit. Then the kids would come upstairs, happily showing off artwork and begging for cookies and then we’d go home.

We’d been attending the church for almost a year when the minister asked if she could come to my home. She claimed it was just a friendly visit, that she tried to meet for tea with every new member and was feeling bad that she’d left our meeting for so long. I ignored my warning bells and said that was fine. She arrived on a gorgeous spring afternoon while the kids were at school and chattered about nothing of substance. Finally it came time for her to leave. She paused with studied casualness then said she’d almost forgot to mention a concern that several members of the congregation had voiced. I knew immediately this was her whole reason for arriving, the friendly visit was nothing more than an excuse. She went on to say that Jeremy was using the wrong washroom and it was bothering people.

Jeremy was in kindergarten at the time and terrified of flushing the toilet (or even hearing it flush). Zie had never been in a public washroom on zir own but that didn’t matter to her. It also didn’t matter that zie was simply going into a stall with me then washing zir hands and leaving. It wasn’t as if zie was running around the washroom, swinging on the doors and tossing the toilet paper. Then she turned it toward me. Didn’t I trust the members of the congregation? It was a small church and everyone was nice. Surely I could be a bit less paranoid and let Jeremy grow up. I couldn’t drag zir into the washroom with me forever. I reluctantly agreed, telling her I didn’t want to hear any complaints about Jeremy’s refusal to flush. The next Sunday I convinced Jeremy to try the mens room on zir own. No one showed any sign of noticing anything different.

If it was just me, I’d have left the church then and never gone back. I didn’t like how she’d manipulated me and lied in order to tell me about the washroom. I looked suspiciously at everyone in the congregation for weeks afterwards. If she was telling the truth, it could have been any one of them who’d chose not to speak to me directly and gone to complain to her. And if she was lying, she’d pinned the blame on the congregation instead of owning up to her own unease. Either way the church wasn’t comfortable for me and didn’t feel comfortable again until she retired several years later.

And now she’s back, not as a minister, just as a member of the congregation. I find myself going through our calendar and avoiding the Sundays where she’s scheduled to speak. I don’t like her, which is something I wouldn’t say to anyone in our congregation; she’s held in high regards there. It’s been over a decade now and I’d let go of my grudge except for one thing. She was there on the Sunday I outed Jeremy. Our new minister made a point of coming to speak with me about Jeremy, talking about how she’d seen zir at the youth group and found zir to be both funny and insightful. She asked about pronouns and how zie identifies. Our former minister hasn’t said a word.