Say Nothing or Something 

For the past year or so I have found myself to be in a peculiar place. It has been evident in my posts (or lack there of).

Quick background info (you can skip this if you are familiar with the story of Kris): 5 years ago my 18 year old daughter, Kerri, came out as transgender. Within 6 months, she had transitioned to male name (Kris), pronouns, presentation and took testosterone for over 3-1/2 years. Less than a year ago, Kris stopped taking testosterone and more feminine clothing began to appear in his wardrobe. He explained that he is non-binary/genderqueer- not identifying really as a boy or as a girl. Currently Kris has changed to they, them, their pronouns and their gender expression is primarily female. 

And this brings us to where I am. I’m finding myself at a loss at times when I’m faced with a new parent of a transgender child who is struggling. I will never forget what I felt when I found out that Kris was transgender. When a person in that position starts speaking, I hear a certain quality in their voice that transports me right back there. I remember feeling so incredibly much. I often felt like I was a walking exposed nerve. I know I looked the part. So I can easily relate and hopefully offer words of encouragement and comfort.

It’s the next part that has me stumped. So many parents are unsure of starting hormones, name and gender marker changes, surgeries and all that.

Kris saw a gender therapist and a psychiatrist and a doctor who had tons of experience with transgender patients. They all agreed that Kris showed very consistent signs that he was transgender and identified as a boy. Kris knew he was a boy. He was consistent, persistent and insistent. He fit the mold for the model female to male transgender person. He wanted to start testosterone as soon as he could. He was looking forward to getting top surgery but we had told him he needed to wait for that- start T and let’s see how it goes. My husband and I were very cautious entering this journey. Part of that was our fear and ignorance but then, we just wanted to be sure that we were making the right decisions with Kris. We were also dealing with a potential ticking time bomb because the truth was that Kris was over 18 and did not need our stamp of approval for anything he did. He was okay with not having biological children and ready to adopt.

And then the last year unfolded before our eyes and our transgender ftm kid became a non-binary kid whose gender expression matches their sex assigned at birth. Although Kris has been off testosterone for over a year, there are a few side effects that will never go away.

The top surgery haunts me. Or I should say, the top surgery that we did not do. Kris and I have talked about what would have happened if we let them  have that surgery that first year, like they were pushing so hard for. They’re glad we did not. Kris wants to be pregnant one day and experience pregnancy and childbirth. We are not sure if that will be possible due to the past testosterone use. Kris was 18 when we began this journey. Kris is now 23.

I don’t want to be the voice of doom or a cautionary tale. I want to be encouraging and supportive for parents who are in the position I was in 5 years ago. But I look at Kris and I worry.  And when I start responding to a parent’s concerns with my own experience, I find myself leaving out the part where Kris is now or deleting my response. I remember what it felt like in those early days- really that first year. I know that if I read about Kris now, I would look at it as if it was a lifeline. I’ve seen the look on other parents’ faces when they hear about Kris- that hope that maybe their kids will end up like Kris. The problem is- you just don’t know. For all I know, Kris could have a buzz cut and be asking if I know where their binders are next week. You don’t know until you know and then you still don’t know for sure. 

Kris and I have talked about this a lot. Not all kids are like Kris. Maybe most are not. But I keep going back to the first 3 years when Kris was certain that he was a boy. Kris had to go through those years to reach the place where they were comfortable being themselves and it helped to confirm that being a boy was not who they were. Maybe some feel it differently than Kris did/does.

I’m not even sure we belong in those groups anymore. When people hear about Kris, they jump to the conclusion that Kris is “going back to being a girl” and it literally causes me pain to try to explain it at this point. Kris has admitted to not going to LGBT groups anymore because they feel like they are taking up space that someone else needs more. This tells me that I’m not the only one in this strange place.

 So, what am I saying? I’m not sure. Each parent will be helping their child make these decisions, if the child is under 18. These are not decisions to be made lightly and having been there (although with an older child), I don’t envy the task at hand.

What do I say? Nothing? Everything? Something in between?

I just don’t know. For the time being, I will err on the side of caution and go with-

When in doubt, say nothing.

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35 thoughts on “Say Nothing or Something 

  1. Thank you for sharing this story. My partner (FTM) has transitioned socially and medically over this past year. It has happened very quickly in part because we believed that a quick transition would make it easier for our three children. We are very aware that it would perhaps look differently without the belief that expediency was best for the kids. Almost certainly he would have taken some more time to enjoy the ambiguity? freedom? as presenting as non-binary. That is where he has stated that he is most comfortable. And as a feminist and (former?) lesbian, I love the idea of providing examples of different kinds of women. He used to say he was simply a manly momma! But that proved hard on all the kids. His transition has resulted in our family conforming to a hetero-normativity we had not previously experienced and I am still making new observations as we live that experience.
    Although he repeatedly asked his parents, starting at age 3, to ‘make me like a boy”, he has said that he is thankful that he didn’t transition sooner because he was able to carry our last child and have that experience. He is also thankful that he was able to have the experience of being a woman in this world and carries those learnings forward with him as a man. At the same time I see him truly enjoying his own appearance, and demonstrating a confidence that didn’t exist before. He has said that he loves the way he looks and if it was “socially acceptable to be a bearded woman” he would have done that, rather than change his gender marker. Such a complex issue even at this stage of life!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Crystal! Going through this journey with Kris has been a real learning experience for us. I know that Kris would really like to carry children and give birth so I’m hoping they are able to do that. I think that gender is so complex and so unique to each person that when you don’t fit in one of the two traditional genders, it can be difficult.

      How old are your children? I have 2 grandsons (from Kris’s older brother) and as Kris’s appearance (and name) changed, it has been confusing for the 7 year old. He only knew Kris post-transition so he thought Kris was a boy. Since Kris’s gender expression is now female, he didn’t know what to think. I had to defer to his parents and might have handled it more directly if he had been my child. I can see where understanding the idea of non-binary can be confusing for kids because I clearly see that confusion in CJ, the 7 year old. Adults have a hard enough time grasping the concept.

      I think Kris coming and out and transitioning after high school gave them an experience similar to your partner’s. Growing up as a girl, Kris had the advantage of knowing what it’s like to be a girl in this world and when they transitioned to male and saw the stark contrast in how differently the two are treated, they were able to determine that they did not fit comfortably in the male world.

      When I think about how much more awareness there is on this issue now – 5+ years later- it makes me hopeful that this will become more visible so that Kris feels more accepted.

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  2. “You don’t know until you know and then you still don’t know for sure.” Kat, everything in this post has struck a deep nerve in me, which is the main reason I keep commenting. I’m going to go and write a long reply on your next post – I hope that’s OK as it’s easier continuing the discussion rather than beginning my own :-). The quote of yours that I’ve put above is as close to the nub of all of this as I can get. Pretty much everyone in the world likes to know what they know and have some certain basis on which to proceed. I’m guessing that parents of trans kids (and probably some trans people too) rarely get the relief of this certainty . . .

    Liked by 3 people

    1. It is bizarre to think that it could be a fad to be trans, like a fashion trend or something, but I think we saw a little of this with being gay back in the 80s and 90s. Transitioning should never be taken lightly and is probably one of the hardest things anyone can put themselves and their family/friends through. Unfortunately, some people have to learn the hard way. I wonder the same with all of the extreme piercings and tattooing going on with the younger crowd too. Some of that is not easily undone if at all but they approach it with reckless abandon. Personally, I have to think long and hard about any kind of body modifications I make.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I find it hard to believe that someone would put themselves through that transition process as part of a fad but there probably are some who do. All I know is that Kris is deathly afraid of needles and has passed out more than once after getting blood drawn. The fact that they were willing to put themselves through the torture of giving themself shots every week tells me that Kris was pretty darn serious about it.

        I have thought the same about the extreme piercings and tattoos going on. I wonder how those will look on a 50 year old. I know people with both but they gave their decisions much thought. There does seem to be an impulsive air to how some of these people are approaching it.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I know, right? I teach a lot of people in their early twenties and . . . SPACERS are the things that get to me. You know, those discs you put in your ears so that your ear lobes are permanently stretched. Bleurghh. (and I’m completely hypocritical bc I have an earful of piercings myself).

        Liked by 3 people

      1. Believe it or not I have actually thought about getting small spacers in my ears because I’m really self conscious about my single piercings in each ear from wearing feminine earrings for most of my life. I haven’t put an earring in there in years now but you can still see the holes and I hate that. I get very freaked out though with the bigger ones and would never go that far. Doubtful I’ll ever do any of it but there is a part of me that wants to make my presentation much edgier with some serious arm tattoos (sleeves) and a bit of rad piercings. I’m laughing at myself now thinking about it because it’s just so not me to even talk about this stuff yet I do feel tempted sometimes. See, we’re all a bit weird, aren’t we, and sometimes don’t make any sense at all. Sometimes I feel like there’s a muscle bound biker dude living inside me that is aching to get out and raise some hell. LOL, not like me at all in real life.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Kris has pierced ears and that might have been their motivation when they briefly talked about spacers but like I said, it passed.

        I think we are all a little weird. We have our “things” that maybe don’t seem like the person everyone knows us to be. I know I will never get a tattoo but I know what it would be if I had it. A silly thought but hey, it keeps me entertained. I do have double pierced ears, which people seem to be surprised by.

        Sometimes I think we need to let a little bit of that out. Maybe it has to do with age- well, MY age. When I reached 50 (besides completely freaking out inside), I felt like I was freed from some constraints that had held certain things in my entire life. I’m not obnoxious or out there or anything because, well, I’m still me. lol But I don’t let things get to me like I used to. And I’m able to walk away much easier than I ever could before.

        Liked by 2 people

      3. I have nine piercings in my ears. I had strict Christian parents who wouldn’t let me pierce my ears so when I moved out of home I’d go down to the markets every couple of weeks and put another hole in. I also shaved my head for a couple of years (after having very long red hair).
        I let my kids pierce their ears as soon as they were old enough to stand the pain and look after them as I felt prohibition would be hypocritical.
        My trans son now curses me for that bit of liberal parenting, Lesboi, as he hates the holes in both ears. I hadn’t thought of that as a reason for spacers – but you’re right: human beings are so complicated and weird!

        Liked by 2 people

      4. When Kris talked about spacers, they were over 18 so it was up to them. When my oldest son was younger, he would ask if he could get a tattoo. I always gave him the same answer- “You can when you’re 18. My only advice is that you think long and hard about it because you’ll be living with it for the rest of your life.” I know that he will probably get one but I also know he has put a lot of thought into it. I always allowed my kids freedom in how they wore their hair and/or facial hair, which drove some people in our lives crazy. lol But it’s hair- it grows back, it can be cut, it’s the easiest to undo or change if you get bored with it or don’t like it. Kris has had bleached hair, blue hair, pink hair, black hair, dark brown hair. (Kris has a head of glorious to-die-for red curls.)

        Liked by 2 people

  3. Yeah, I think Annunaki meant they finally feel they’re expressing their ‘correct’ gender rather than the one they’ve been assigned. I don’t think they meant to gatekeep but it comes across that way. So
    Much more to say ….

    Liked by 2 people

    1. See, this is why Kris and others might be feeling unwelcome in the trans community. I have a real problem with them calling themselves “gender correct”. So, if a person doesn’t transition from F to M or M to F then they are “incorrect”? I think not! Some people can’t transition fully, some don’t want to and some transition to where they’re the most comfortable, which might be somewhere in the middle. To me, they are all trans if they say they are. It’s not my job or anyone else’s to decide that for other people. But to say your gender is correct denotes that others is not and that is not ok. I get that what he means is that his gender is correct for him and hers for her, but that is not the way it sounds or feels to others.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. “To me, they are all trans if they say they are.” That right there is what says it all. I know that there are people in and out of the trans community who believe differently but I have read so much about this and met so many people and talked to them about this. There is no one steadfast definition or list of requirements for being trans. I read the post and I’ve added it to my “think about” list for today as I prepare to write a follow up post to this one. Every comment here has given me so much to think about!

        Liked by 2 people

    1. I look forward to hearing from you. I value your thoughts and feelings on this. As I was reading your comments I was also thinking that I needed to write another post about this because if I responded to the comments as in depth as I wanted to, they would be way too long. I’m taking it all in and I plan on sitting down tomorrow and trying to sort out my thoughts. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  4. There is so much in your post that resonates with me at the moment. I am trying to just let my child make their own decisions, and really they are adult so they can, but I worry about the finality of some of those. Facts are important, and we can all change on our life path sometimes, but I think that you should not feel that there are things you can’t talk about (unless you have been asked not to) because others may make judgements. Being truthful about the journey seems to be the only way forward to me. I am not sure what the future holds for my child, but I know that whatever it is we will face it with love together, and I have learnt that that is all you can hope for in this world.
    Much love and thoughts.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. Thank you, Claudette. I have taken your words to heart. As I’m reading the comments, I’m overwhelmed with the response they have evoked in me. There is so much I want to say. I’m trying to organize my thoughts. Words are failing me right now so I’m going to sleep on it. Sending love your way! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Kat, you don’t have to answer if this is too sensitive an issue, I will understand, but I can’t help wondering what your sceptic and judgemental family members and friends are taking this – “I told you so? It was just a ‘phase'”?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well, Kris, it’s kind of funny because I don’t know. I don’t speak to many of them and the ones that I still have contact with don’t have the guts to say anything. Kris changed his name again in recent months (socially- not legally) and I didn’t say a word to anyone. While I felt the need to explain and educate and help them understand 3-5 years ago, I no longer feel that way. If someone wants to question Kris’s name or appearance, they will have to ask. My tolerance and patience with the person has a direct correlation to how they have acted toward Kris the past 5 years. Having said that, if someone should have the audacity to say “I told you so” then they will get an earful about what Kris has experienced to get to this point and I will correct their notion that this was just a phase. I truly believe that we could have lost Kris.

      Liked by 3 people

  6. I see your conundrum. I think, though, that sharing Kris’s and your story is important. A friend asked me recently what I thought of letting young children transition and my answer stays the same. Let them socially transition if they want but hold off on any surgeries and be very cautious with hormones. In general, I think kids have an innate sense of their true gender at a young age, but some kids don’t. There are enough non-binary folks, both young and old, coming out now that I have to think that if I were a parent with a transgender kid I would want to know about all of the possible outcomes for my child. The key, I think, is to not pressure the child into being what they are not by forcing a binary transition on them, give them space to explore who they are, and constantly re-evaluate at every step of the way before moving forward.

    Also, I think non-binary people absolutely have a place in the trans community and their/your story is important to share. How many young people are out there right now not feeling right in their birth gender but also not right in the opposite gender? Those people need to see what other options are out there for them.

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Thank you! It helps to hear this. I really think that Kris had to take the route that they did because they had no exposure to non-binary people until just over a year ago. I feel very strongly the way you described- and if I had a younger child doing this now, that’s what I would do. Although going through puberty twice was probably not optimal, it definitely gave Kris a better experience while they lived as a guy. And Kris has always been a kid who needed to learn by doing. Someone saying that you don’t have to be a boy or a girl would never be enough for them. Shawn, I can’t tell you how much your response has put my mind at ease!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’m glad I could help a little bit Kat. That’s always my intention.
        I’m also glad that Kris has found a place that makes them happy. What a unique and amazing journey they’ve had too. I hope only the best for Kris and your family.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. You’ve been such a help to me with these dilemmas Shawn. It was due to you and a few others (like GenderNeutral and Kris and ChivalrySunDead) that I think I was better able to slow down and get used to a process of “constantly re-evaluating” (if you can ever get used to that). Wise words from you and from Kat here :-).

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you so much for the kind words Curious Mother. I’m so happy to hear that I’ve helped even just a little bit and it’s humbling to think I could do that for even one person. I’m no parent and I can’t imagine the weight you all must feel to make the right decisions for your children..all of them regardless of their gender or orientation. Parenting is one of the biggest jobs anyone can undertake, and probably the most important. I am constantly in awe of amazing parents like you and Kat who love your kids unconditionally and fight for them relentlessly. I didn’t have that kind of parent so I want to support you as much as I can and cheer you on because I know this is tough work, but oh so important too.

        Thank you for all of your support too. I really appreciate it!!

        Liked by 2 people

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