Family · Friday Fuzz · Gender

She is Back

Six years ago my then 18 year old daughter stood awkwardly in the doorway of the family room and uttered words that would change the course of our lives. Kerri said that she thought she was transgender and actually identified as a boy, not a girl like we thought.

If you had asked me back then where I thought we would be in six years, I would have probably done some quick math….. shocked to realize that my kids would be 27, 24 and 21. My youngest, Andrew, would be entering his last year of college! I wouldn’t be able to guess what Kerri would be doing but hopefully something in Anthropology, since that was her major entering her freshman year of college. And Michael, the oldest, would be full swing in his emergency services career, having completed his training.

I’m sure I would have felt a quick pang of panic, wondering where the time had gone and how had my kids gone and grown up on me! I know I would have gulped, unsure what my life looked like without the kids around for me to raise. Maybe I would be looking forward to an empty nest and some time to focus on myself.

But life has a funny way of taking twists and turns that you can’t anticipate and sometimes you find that you’ve wound up in a completely different place than you expected. Even more surprising is that this place holds a sense of familiarity despite all of the differences.

Last week, Kerri, now Kris, came home to prepare to leave for school. And because our time together is fleeting, I had to take advantage of the quiet time we had to touch base on where things stood regarding Kris and gender identity. If you’ve been with us on this journey, then you know that this is a valid question when it comes to Kris. And just to remind you, last time I checked in with Kris although they preferred they/them/their pronouns, their gender expression had been primarily feminine and they were not bothered when mistaken for a young woman. After confirming that they preferred that we (my husband, myself and the brothers) use they/them/their, when asked about grandparents or other unsuspecting folks using the wrong pronouns, Kris shrugged and said they did not care.

Mixed signals? Most definitely. But it was (and will always be) important to me that we are respecting Kris’s feelings and gender identity.

I opened the discussion by sharing a recent conversation Kris’s dad and I had with Kris’s grandparents regarding them being non-binary. As I described the blank looks on their faces (the grandparents’- not Kris’s) and lack of comprehension, their struggle to wrap their brains around this idea, I asked Kris (as I always have since the beginning), “What would you like us to do? We can keep trying to help them understand. And what do we do about pronouns? Should we work with them about using they/them their?”

I should clarify that all grandparents involved have always been fully supportive of Kris throughout this entire time. They accepted Kris- lock, stock and barrel- and we have never doubted their love for their grandchild for a single second.

After some thought, Kris shook their head and said, “No, it’s okay.”

Next I asked the question that I’ve only asked twice before (and it has only been twice because deep down, I already knew what the answer was). I asked which pronouns Kris wanted us (family) to use moving forward.

And for the first time in six years, I got the answer that had seemed so important at one time. Can you guess?

“She, her, hers.”

Back when it was all I wanted to hear, I imagined how I would feel if I could just use those pronouns again. But time goes on and priorities shift and perspective changes or maybe it just becomes more clear.

The truth is, I don’t feel anything like I thought I would. I’m afraid. And sad. And afraid again. And for the first time in six years, that’s all I feel. For the first time, I wasn’t feeling so many different emotions that they were difficult to sort out and identify. I spent years with piles of feelings that were a tangled mess and that glorious mess became familiar to me. I have shared some of my thoughts on this in posts- the most recent being- The Return of the Dress and Yesterday I Cried. 

I have yet to take the leap into using the new pronouns. I slipped once while talking to my friend, John, the other day. In the middle of a monologue, I referred to Kris as “she” and without missing a beat in the mid-sentence, I exclaimed, “Oh my god, I called Kris “she” and continued on.

My husband talked extensively about Kris when he arrived home from moving them into their apartment at school. He used “she, her, hers” the entire time. In my head, I was screaming, ‘Stop saying that! It’s too much! Too many shes!’

Today I’m having lunch with my best friend, Steph, who was the first person I texted when Kris gave me the answer to the pronoun question. Steph has been steadfast and committed throughout the years and her use of the preferred pronouns has been priceless. And today, at lunch with Steph, I’m going to switch. It’s going to be hard. I feel panicky at the thought of it. I’m scared. But I can do this!!!

As I look at my life now, I see that life is almost as I thought it would be, but different in an awesome way. Andrew is starting is senior year of college, as expected, and he has worked hard to reach this place. Kris took a detour for a few years but is also beginning senior year as an Anthropology major so we aren’t too far off track there. Michael has been working full-time in his chosen EMS carerr and he has a beautiful family with two boys, who have brought the joy and happiness of youth back into our lives. And me? For the time being, it appears that I’m needed in a few places so I will be learning how to take advantage of the time that I do have to focus on writing and “me” time.

Thank you for remaining part of this incredible journey!




21 thoughts on “She is Back

  1. Hi Kat, I can understand your feelings a bit. My child has just told us (myself and my older daughter) that they want to start “T” – and it has me a bit conflicted. I have only just got to the point of, mostly automatically using “he/him/his” (some how it is easier to do it within the family when we are all together), but I still struggle to do it when talking to people who have known my child for a long time. I am not ashamed of how my child identifies, just confused about how it still does not come naturally to me to describe them in the masculine to others. I am not certain what the future holds for us, except that we will go forward together, with hopefully not too many bumps that will cause pain. Although, I don’t know how I will go if they grow a beard, that’s going to be weird for a while. Thanks for being real, and sharing your journey.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Hi Claudette! I understand how you feel about pronouns. It took me a long time before I used “he/him/his” all the time without thinking. I remember suddenly realizing that I was using male pronouns in my thoughts and that was a shock. It came with practice and time. And when Kris switched to “they/them/their” I went through the same thing but it was much harder to get into the swing of it but quicker to switch to it happening naturally overall. And now, well, we will see.

      How old is your child again? When Kris brought up starting T, I was really scared. Some changes took place immediately and others were more gradual. Kris was never able to grow a beard but I can understand your reservations about how you will feel. Another change that really surprised me (but shouldn’t have) was how deep Kris’s voice was. I did get used to it over time but since stopping T, her voice has settled somewhere in between. I honestly thinks it just takes time for us as mothers to wrap our heads around the changes taking place and over time they don’t seem too strange.

      I do know that this experience has brought up feelings and thoughts that I never thought possible and while one of the hardest things I’ve experienced with one of my kids, it’s also been a real growing experience for all of us.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Eli is now 20.5. That they felt male was only brought to light in April 2016 – and I still struggle with pronouns. it will be what it will be, I know they want a beard, and a deep voice, but honestly, my brain just can’t reconcile that to my child at this stage. It has become easier, I’m sure I will get better at remembering, I have no problem telling people that my child is transgender, MY brain just doesn’t seem to have caught up with that sometimes. 🙂 Eli identifies as asexual (at least a t this stage), so my brain doesn’t have to think about all those connotations at the moment, but I do wonder what T might do to that feeling. Ah well, one thing at a time.
        i always thought my husbands illness and death was the Universe telling me that I must accept change, but it seems it has another lesson for me now. I hope I pass.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Claudette, you think the same way I do- that these things happen to teach us a lesson and help us grow. Sometimes it takes time for our brain to catch up. As a parent , our children and who we know them to be is so deeply ingrained in us that it to change what we know can take time. Even though we accept our children, these changes go against what we know.

        Kris’s voice began deepening first. Not being overly hairy and being a redhead, Kris’s hair growth was not as noticeable. It was a bit of a struggle at first but I adapted. Kris was 19 when she began T and 22 when she stopped.

        I think you’ll pass just fine, Claudette. Having a trans kid makes you learn acceptance, even if you thought you were an accepting person. It requires a level of acceptance that pushes boundaries. It sounds like you are open to it- just waiting for your brain to catch up. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It used to be a constant emotional roller coaster but in recent years, not as much. Sometimes it takes me by surprise but I’m just glad that Kris is able to feel comfortable in her body and with the person she is. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Family is family ❤️ And whatever happens, is in some way THE plan.

    I am not really familiar with pronouns and labels and the terms … we need more awareness and understanding of it in India. But I am glad to read this, identity is so important!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I think more awareness is needed all over the world. 🙂

      And I agree- whatever happens is meant to be. I love my very unique child and I’m glad that she is in my life. I’ve learned so much from her. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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