From Kerri to Kristoffer to Kris

Genderqueer (GQ; alternatively non-binary) is a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine—identities which are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity.

Source- Wikipedia- Genderqueer

My child is transgender, specifically (or as specifically as one can be) genderqueer. Born Kerri, transitioned to Kristoffer at 18 years and blossoming as Kris at 22, it has been a wild ride. Recently, he posted a new selfie, later adopting it as his profile picture. It’s a great picture of him. His hair is in a good place. His acne is under control. He looks relaxed and calm and might I venture to say—happy? I know this isn’t entirely true, being the receiver of some very emotional texts, but he looks good.

Since telling us that he is genderqueer and not identifying strictly as male, he has made some changes. His appearance is definitely more non-binary. In the post Gender Bender, I have a drawing with two circles- the pink representing female and the blue representing male with a mass of squiggles in between. At the time that I wrote the post, Kris was identifying more on the outer edge of maleness and the arrow points to where he landed.

In the 6 weeks since I wrote that post, things have progressed. He identifies in the center of the squiggles now, not more male or female. While he is okay with male pronouns and has said that male is his “default” I’ve noticed that he changed his name on Facebook from his full name to a more gender neutral, Kris. He has stopped taking testosterone completely and as a result some of the more feminine qualities have returned, including the hormonal fluctuations that accompanies PMS.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but months before I realized that he wasn’t on T anymore, I kept getting flashes of a sense of Kerri. I felt like I was going crazy because I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that was causing the feeling. Then I found out about him being off T and it made sense. At that point, it was hard for me to simply accept and move on. My friend, Steph, asked me if it gave me comfort to know that Kerri was still there somewhere but the truth is that no, it didn’t. I had mourned the loss of a daughter that I never really had. It had taken me a long time to let Kerri go and accept that my daughter was actually my son, and had been my son all along. I had to come to terms with the feeling I had that I had let my child down. Although some parents of trans kids make easy transitions from one child to another, I did not. Part of me will miss Kerri for the rest of my life.

When Kris told me that he was genderqueer, and when we clarified how he identifies, I came to the realization that referring to Kris as my “son” did not feel right anymore. It’s ironic that a few short years ago I was sure that I would never easily call Kris my son and while I’m not sure exactly when it happened, I did. But now it’s not that easy. And what a laugh that is! If someone had told me that calling the child I formerly thought of as my daughter was really my son and that I would be calling him by a different name with different pronouns….. and that would be the EASY part?? I would have laughed…. and not believed them. But that was actually easy. This- not so much.

Loving and accepting my child is easy. I’m sure that if the opportunity arose, it would not be difficult to explain that he is genderqueer. What to call him? Son and daughter are easy. Unfortunately, in Kris’s case, neither is really accurate. And when the person in question is almost 23 years old, child just doesn’t feel right either.

Think about that for a minute, okay? We really do place everyone in their gender box- father, husband, son, brother, uncle, grandfather, grandson, nephew // mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, grandmother, granddaughter, niece . We don’t say parent, spouse, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild and is there even a gender neutral word for uncle, aunt, niece, nephew?

I am grateful that Kris has given us a default to use- I can refer to him as my son- but if I can share a quick story about what happened when I asked him if I should still refer to him as my son? The pause after I asked was too long for comfort. The silence grew. It was awkward. Then he said yes.

That silence said it all.

It’s taking some time for adjusting. Kris is figuring out which masculine/feminine qualities he will be left with as his body adapts to the change in hormones. I’m adapting to seeing glimpses of Kerri come through and I’m trying to embrace those moments. I believe that it is fair to say that it isn’t easy for either of us. Expressing his true gender identity is going to require more strength and courage than simply being a transguy did. Some people are uneasy with the idea of someone being non-binary. They like to place everyone in a neat little box- pink or blue. As for me, setting aside my mixed up emotions about finding the right name for my child and the re-emergence of Kerri traits,I worry about Kris. I hope that I’m supporting him in the right ways.

And I look at the mom sitting next to me in a committee meeting bemoaning the fact that her son’s school schedule does not allow for him to take the number of AP classes that she wants him to have, admitting that this is the biggest problem she faces with her child and I want to punch her in the face. (Hey, what do you want? I think I’m a good person. I never said I was nice!)

Added note– Upon closer thought, I feel like I need to clarify just a few things. When Kris came out as transgender, he said he had always felt like a boy, not a girl, which led to him changing his name, starting testosterone, therapy, social transition…. When he first introduced the idea that he was actually genderqueer and did not identify strictly as male, it was confusing to me. I was familiar with the terms- genderqueer and non-binary and gender non-conforming- but somehow I wasn’t able to apply those to Kris. I guess I wondered what happened to knowing he was a guy? He went on to explain that he had always known that he was non-binary but he had to completely separate himself from any female aspect of himself in order to not be seen as a girl and to have the confidence and freedom to show his true gender expression and be seen as such. As Kris’s mom, this feels right and it makes sense to me. I feel like Kris is still a work in progress, but then again, we all are in some way, aren’t we? 

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10 thoughts on “From Kerri to Kristoffer to Kris

  1. I’ve been using “my 17-year-old” as my default non-gendered expression. I totally agree that “child” starts to sound silly as they get older. (And I must be really not-nice, because I constantly get frustrated at other people who have no idea how SIMPLE their problems with their kids are., compared to dealing with something as convoluted as gender!)

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  2. I think it is great that Kris is trying to figure out what is authentic and what is not – there is a huge difference between being a experiencing one’s self as boy and being a man – there are many different kinds of trans adults you can be – but figuring out which one fits is not easy – and may be a life long project.
    In my limited experience there is a lot of pressure if you are trans to be binary trans, and if you are AFAB to try to be read as male with a capital M. Non-binary is amorphous; it is hard to get what is in your head into a recognizable “look” or hormone regimen, without defaulting back to the binary.

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    1. Yes, Kris has talked about the pressure to be binary trans. Luckily he is at a school where he is not the only person like himself and the LGBT group seems to be very accepting. I do think this will be a lifelong journey for him and I hope he is able to find happiness within himself. 🙂

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  3. I think you need not worry about whether you’re a good parent or not. You’re doing what any loving parent would do in your situation and letting Kris be himself. A thought popped into my head about what you could call him instead of son or daughter…how about your youngest, or oldest or middle child. Not sure if that fits for you or not but maybe it will help.

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    1. I have tried using middle child. I get hung up on the child part. I do realize that he will always be my child regardless of his age but maybe it’s because of his age? At 22 he is on the brink of “really” being an adult but in so many ways he’s still young.

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      1. Yeah, I get that. 2nd born? There’s no good way to leave gender out of it without making him sound like he’s still a toddler. I’m still working on alternatives to husband and wife that don’t sound contrived yet express what they need to express. Our language is bound by the binary.

        Liked by 1 person

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