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!

-Kat

 

 

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Small Steps Toward Acceptance

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  • “The greatest gift that you can give to others is the gift of unconditional love and acceptance.” -Brian Tracy
  • “The first step toward change is awareness. The second step is acceptance.” -Nathaniel Branden
  • “Happiness can exist only in acceptance.” -George Orwell
  • “As I get older, the more I stay focused on the acceptance of myself and others, and choose compassion over judgment and curiosity over fear.” – Tracee Ellis Ross

On a recent trip, I was pleased to find these signs of an open and accepting community around town as I took an early morning walk. It gives me hope for the future. At a time when it seems like we are taking more steps back than forward, it’s encouraging that there are still people who are willing to speak out for what is right.

-Kat

Yesterday I Cried

It came in the mail the day before yesterday- an envelope addressed to Kris from the Secretary of State.

It holds Kris’s new license. New picture. Old gender marker.

Almost all of Kris’s ducks are in a row. All documentation is marked female. The only thing left to do is a legal name change- to Kris’s new chosen name. I’m not sure when that will happen. That doesn’t matter right now.

What does matter is that Kris’s gender marker is consistent everywhere.

I kept waiting to feel something. Anything. The last (nearly) six years have been quite a journey. Kris’s license change might not signal the end of the journey but it was still kind of big.

On the surface with the exception of Kris’s name, the last years could have not happened. And yet so much did- years of ups and down, self discovery and exploration, growth and acceptance. In our lives, all of this was HUGE. I can’t begin to count the times I was overcome with emotion through this time- when Kris came out, seeing Kris in a binder, calling Kris by a different name with male pronouns, losing people, watching Kris transform before my eyes, the first piece of mail with Kris’s new name on it, the pain when “Kerri” still showed up on mail, the first time Kris got a testosterone shot, the lower voice and shorter hair, shopping for girl clothes again, seeing Kris in a dress for the first time in years, and then the gradual emergence of Kris as they are today. All of these moments and countless others made me feel something- whether it was pain, heartache, joy, happiness, pride, anger, or determination- it was something.

So then Kris’s license came in the mail and—

nothing.

What was wrong with me? Was I just numb after all that had gone on? Was I too rundown to really let the emotions free? If this didn’t tug at my heart, why didn’t I at least feel happiness or peace? Was it because it didn’t really change anything except lowering our auto insurance a little? Was it because it didn’t give me a daughter and it didn’t take a son away from me? Was it because it did not clarify anything? Did I really feel nothing?

And then yesterday, I cried.

And I don’t know why.

ducks in a row

 

Transgender Day of Visibility

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Today is Transgender Day of Visibility. It is a day to celebrate the successes of the transgender community and bring awareness to what is still needed to be done.

This year finds me in a strange place. Six years ago, I thought I had a daughter. Two years ago, the last time I wrote about this day, I thought I had a son. This year, I know that I have a non-binary child. Regardless of my child’s gender identity or pronoun preference, one thing remains the same. Kris is part of a population that is invisible.

Transgender and gender non-conforming people are an important part of our society, culture, history and future. They not only deserve the same basic rights that we all deserve, but also the recognition and celebration that we all enjoy.

Why is this day important? Read here – 8 Statistics That Prove Why Transgender Day Of Visibility Is So Crucial

What can you do? Read here- 8 Ways To Participate In Transgender Day Of Visibility

I appreciate that there is a day to bring recognition to the transgender community. I understand that the more visible they are, the more acceptance and support will grow. I continue to hope that the day will come when transgender and gender non-conforming- as well as cis-gender- people will be able to live naturally and openly without the constraints of a gender binary or societal expectations.

Until that day, I will advocate and I invite you to do so as well.

-Kat

What Matters

“The Trump administration on Wednesday formally withdrew Obama administration guidance enabling transgender individuals to use sex-segregated facilities, including bathrooms, of their choice.”

                                                                                   -The Washington Post

If you haven’t heard the news, you can read it here- Trump Administration Rescinds Obama Rules on Transgender Bathroom Use .

This news is upsetting and disheartening. But there are a few important things you should know- National Center for Transgender Equality has created FAQ on the Withdrawal of Federal Guidance on Transgender Students

I’ve shared an important excerpt from the FAQ sheet below.

What happens now that the Title IX guidance is rolled back?

First, it’s important to remember that—with or without the guidance—transgender students are protected under Title IX. The guidance itself didn’t change the law or create protections for transgender students that weren’t there before. It just clarified how the Department of Education would be enforcing existing laws. Even though the guidance has been withdrawn, that doesn’t change the fact that under Title IX, transgender students have a right to be treated according to their gender identity, including when it comes to restroom access. And in addition to protections under Title IX, transgender students are also protected by the U.S. Constitution and, in many states, by state laws and policies protecting them in schools.

– National Center for Transgender Equality- FAQ on the Withdrawal of Federal Guidance on Transgender Students

This matters. For transgender students who attend a supportive school, this probably won’t change their school experience. For those who have been fighting to have their basic rights met, this could be a damaging blow to their battle. For all transgender children and their parents the message that Trump’s administration is sending is powerful and harmful.

It might not be telling schools to discriminate against transgender students but it is attempting to strip those students of their rights, which actually are still protected. Unfortunately there are school districts who were just waiting for this message as a green light. This message tells transgender students that they do not matter and that they do not have the same rights as anyone else, nor do they deserve them. I want you to just think for a moment what that might feel like as a child who already might feel like they don’t quite fit.  

A message from the president of their country. Yesterday I was having a discussion with my 2nd grade reading group about the power of an emperor, and in their 7 year old minds they likened it to the president.

And this is what matters most. Transgender students will hear this message and even if they have support at school, some will still be very frightened and not safe.

We are talking about kids who might be facing daily battles just getting through a school day. Even students who can navigate their school day might be feeling unsafe out in the world. If the negative message that  the Trump administration is sending gets into a child’s head and they feel that threatened, the outcome could be dire. We are talking about a fragile, defenseless population here.

Parents of transgender kids are afraid for their children. Fear and worry are a standard part of the “parenting trans kids” package. We worry about their emotional well being, physical safety, bullies both in school and out, possible future health issues due to any treatment they receive, that they have friends, if they will find love, what their future will be, what they aren’t telling us (and there is always something they aren’t telling us),  their happiness, their life…….

We worry and we fight. Some fight LOUD and OUT and PROUD. Some are quieter but just as persistent and effective. And some are floundering, just keeping their heads above water, grateful for the parents before them who are trailblazers, sometimes battling with a sword in one hand and holding onto their child, or a few fragile families or both all at the same time.

There are parents of minor transgender children who fear being reported for child abuse by “well meaning” family, friends or neighbors.  And yes, it does happen! Divorced parents worry about losing custody of their trans child to an unsupportive parent, which could be detrimental to that child. They are afraid to advocate out of fear of retribution.

And those front line folks- they stand being attacked by hurtful or ignorant (or both) people. The very public advocates risk hate mail/messages and death threats. For fighting for what is right. I wish I was exaggerating but sadly, I’m not.

We are talking about human rights. This is what matters! It’s important that people show their support. I’m inviting you to join me in spreading a message of love and support to transgender people and their families everywhere. Make sure your schools are trans-inclusive. Educate the ignorant. Keep informed. Understand what Title IX is and how it protects transgender students. Do any of these….or all of them!

Feel free to use the picture below- it is mine to share. If you are a # person, please consider using #StandWithGavin as well as the ones below. If you are unfamiliar with Gavin,  he is a transgender student whose case will be heard by the Supreme Court next month when he fights for the right to use the school bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity.

translivesmatter

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Ellen Speaks Out

Having a transgender child has shown me the true colors of many people in our lives and not all that I have seen is pretty.

Ellen says it better than I could, and in her own special way. We are talking about human rights. These laws that are being passed, along with bills that are in the works, are just plain wrong. It’s discrimination and it’s unlawful.

Ellen Slams Mississippi’s Anti-LGBT Law In Powerful Monologue

I’m not a political, by any means, but if people like me and you don’t speak up and stand up for what’s right, this will continue.

“We are more similar than we are different.” -Ellen DeGeneres

Bathroom Battles

Having a six year old and a toddler in the house, we seem to find ourselves engaging in bathroom talk. A LOT.

But today, I don’t want to talk about which child is creating the smell in the family room. Instead, I want to talk about Bathroom Bills.

I remember the first time I saw Kris walk into a men’s public restroom.

My husband (his father) and I were visiting Kris at college.

I stared after Kris as he casually walked into a men’s room in the campus activity center. I entered the women’s room and stared at the shaken expression on my face in the mirror.

I will never forget the complete and utter terror I felt. What if there was someone in there that did know Kris was trans and took offense? I was worried for his safety more than any thoughts of discomfort.

Kris  is my middle child. We were told he was a girl at birth. At age 18,  Kris told us that he was actually a boy. And 2 months later,  he was using the men’s room.

 

At that time I was still trying to comprehend what being transgender meant. This was just one in a series of new things I would be encountering.

I did not realize that which bathroom my kid used would become such a major issue, even possibly illegal if he chose the bathroom matching his gender identity.

“The disturbing proliferation of anti-trans bills, including 23 that target children in schools and school sports, is part of a stunning surge of more than 175 anti-LGBT bills in 32 states this year.”

New HRC Report Reveals Unprecedented Onslaught of State Legislation Targeting Transgender Americans

Bathroom Bills. You’re hearing about them all over the place. As more awareness is being brought to the T in LGBT, the issue of which bathroom transgender people use appears to have grown legs and is running out of control. And in many cases, we aren’t talking about just any transgender people. No, we are referring to our smallest and most vulnerable population- children. The number of states trying to pass legislation that requires students to use restrooms and locker rooms based on their anatomy or sex assigned at birth are on the up-rise. The scary part is that legislators are not doing their homework and educating themselves on this matter and others are following their lead.

Just this week South Dakota Republican Governor Dennis Daugaard vetoed such a bill. It is a step in the right direction. Unfortunately this battle won’t end here.

“On Thursday, the South Dakota House of Representatives failed to override the governor’s veto of a “bathroom bill” which would have required public school students to use facilities based on their “chromosomes and anatomy” at birth. The override vote in favor of the bill fell some ten votes short of the required two-thirds majority, with 36 yeas, 29 nays and five members not voting.”

– Vote to Override South Dakota ‘Bathroom Bill’ Veto Narrowly Fails

If you are not transgender or don’t have a transgender child, you might not understand what the big deal is. Take a few minutes to hear from Tyler, a transgender young man, who says it better than I could.

Kris is 23 years old now and he is an adult. But if things continue the direction they seem to be heading, it is only a matter of time before he will be at risk of losing his right to use the correct bathroom. It would be a violation of his civil rights, as these current bathroom bills are a violation of students’ rights.

Fear and ignorance are often the motivation for anti-transgender bills. As we head full swing into election mode, please keep in mind that just as the people writing these bills are sometimes ignorant on LGBT matters, it is equally important that we, as voters, make informed choices to ensure that the people holding public office represent ALL people.

 

 

 

 

Student A is ALL of Our Kids!

My previous post, Township High School District 211- Bad Form shares the highlights of this ongoing issue. I tried to keep my own personal opinion and feelings out of it, but I wanted to share my thoughts* here.

The bottom line is that this district acknowledges this student as being female in their records and in some of their actions. She has had unrestricted access to female restrooms and is able to participate in girls’ sports. She was not allowed access to the girls’ locker room and that’s where the violation to Title IX comes into play.

The district’s school board voted to accept a settlement but when the Office of Civil Rights for the US Department of Education issued a press release outlining the details, the district claimed they were inaccurate and demanded a retraction. Since the links included both on the district’s website and the OCR’s press release lead to the same agreement, it appears that someone didn’t read the fine print.

The district insists that this agreement only applies to that one student and that she is being required to use a curtained off area to change- not that she has the option.

The district was found to be violating this student’s Title IX rights. If this settlement only applies to this student, then the next one to come along, if treated any differently than what the settlement stipulates, automatically puts the district back in violation AGAIN. If we give the district the benefit of the doubt….. and we say, that isn’t the case….that the district will treat ALL students the same way and any other transgender student will be afforded the same use of restrooms and locker rooms, then WHY doesn’t this settlement apply to ALL students? 

Something is off. Something feels very wrong about this. It stinks of the district running scared in the face of a community responding negatively at the outcome.

I’ve read the comments following the articles tangled with more than one person, only to walk away from the conversation in frustration. I’m sure the district is hearing threats of lawsuits and protests from scared parents who don’t understand. And in all of my years dealing with administrators, I can tell you one thing- they don’t like the idea of angry parents storming the district…..and after having faced a month of the mob mentality, I’m sure they really don’t want this to continue.

It was the district’s responsibility to educate their community on a topic that many are ignorant and it looks like they failed. This was an opportunity to educate people, help grow understanding, teach compassion and acceptance….the list is endless. Instead they chose to go on the defensive and make it clear that they are accommodating this one student because they will loser federal funding if they don’t.

BAD FORM.

On a completely different note, I am in awe of this community and I’m PROUD to be a part of it. Since the settlement was handed down, members of a Facebook group (Illinois Parents of Transgender & Gender Diverse Children) connected with the parent of the transgender girl. When informed of the district’s actions, this group, with leadership and guidance from the parent, sprung into action. A call for help is spreading across the internet, signs are being made, talking points are being shared, and people are supporting by showing up/ speaking at tomorrow’s board meeting or writing the district directly, sharing their feelings.

 

I’m not doing this for only one kid- I’m doing it for all of our kids. They all deserve to have the same school experience as everyone else. I will be there showing my support. I hope that you will be, too!

*My own personal take on what is happening is drawn from years of a variety of education experience and from being the parent of a transgender child, and how the uneducated public respond to anything transgender. 

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? 

Some Fuzz on Friday

I’ve written before about my blog name* but finding this video in my Facebook feed this morning is just reaffirmation. It’s hard not to smile listening to those giggles.

Happy Friday!

*More about my blog name-

The Birth of a Name or why I named my blog after a weed…

Bees will buzz, kids will blow dandelion fuzz…

What Do You See?