Category: Gender

Kat Rambles 5/23/18

When your child is transgender…. gosh, how many times have I kicked off a sentence with those words in the past (nearly) seven years? I have lost count.

When your child is transgender:

  • it gives you an entirely different perspective on what it means to support the LGBT community. It puts a face on it that is so closely linked with your heart and your life that you feel a fierceness and protectiveness as a parent reaching an entirely new level. And you don’t have to be out waving the flag or wearing the colors. (Disclaimer: Not all parents will feel like this and some will hit the ground running and others will come around. Everyone’s experience is unique.)
  • you will learn what acceptance means at its truest form. You will be forced to look at your child in a different way, one you might not have dreamed, and you will have to face what’s inside your heart.
  • all your beliefs of who you are as a parent will be put to a test. Your “unconditional” love will be poked, prodded, pushed and stretched. Wait for it.
  • all of your beliefs regarding LGBT people will be put to a test. Your child is one of this group and the worst thing you can do is “accept” your child as LGBT but not accept other. It instantly invalidates your acceptance.
  • you have to be prepared for battle at any time. Especially the surprise attacks- because you will have more of those unexpected encounters than the ones you planned on. You have to be ready to fight for your kid, regardless of their age.  You will need to be flexible at all times. Sometimes you might be needed to take the lead and stand up to someone. Other times your silent presence will be enough. And there will be times when you only need to stand in the background and watch….at the ready, just in case you are needed. There is nothing more powerful than unwavering, solid parents standing with their trans kids.
  • you will find that not everyone can be trusted- and some might be people you thought you could trust.
  • you might find yourself putting your trust in “strangers” who become the most solid people in your life.
  • you will discover a whole new world, filled with unfamiliar terms, from acronyms to clothing to medical.
  • you might need to educate yourself on a few things. Cliff notes- It’s not a choice. No two transitions are alike. Acceptance, support and love are a must!
  • seeking out others who are going through the same thing can be very helpful! Other parents can be priceless in terms of support and resources.
  • you will need patience. With everyone. And everything.
  • there will be good times and bad times.
  • you need to remember that regardless of your child’s name or gender, they are still the same kid you always had.- this is just another part of them.
  • don’t sweat the small stuff. So much of it is not permanent. (We are on our 3rd name and 4th pronoun change over here. And gender expression? Well, it’s fluid so it’s …..fluid.)
  • you will be having conversations you never imagined you would have with your child.
  • you will become an expert on the difference between gender and sex.
  •  if you are struggling, it will get better. It really will. Your kid is so lucky to have you as a parent!
  • and you are not struggling, that’s awesome- your kid is so lucky to have you as a parent!
  • remember to take care of yourself. It’s really easy to let this consume your life. You need to be in a good place yourself to help your child.
  • if you are past all the sticky stuff and you see a newbie parent trying to make their way through, remember how you felt in the early days and reach out. There is nothing worse than feeling helpless to help your child and feeling like you are alone. If you can give back a little, please do. If you can do nothing else, a kind, encouraging word is priceless to someone who is floundering a bit.

fierce mama bear there

Wishing you all good things!

-Kat

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E is for Evolves #AtoZChallenge

life evolvesOne of the coolest things is to watch your children grow up and evolve into the adults they are going to be. You will see bits and pieces of the kids you raised and then there will be all the bits and pieces they picked up along the way resulting in this awesome person.

Kris is my gender fluid middle child, who uses “they/them/their” pronouns and currently has female gender expression. The journey we have taken over the last six and a half years rivals Space Mountain in the Magic Kingdom. Having a daughter for 18 years, then a son for nearly 4 years and finally seeing Kris come into themselves has been amazing.

In a few weeks Kris will be graduating from college. They are finishing a few years later than their friends but those extra years were filled with self-discovery and growth that can only be experienced through real life living. It hasn’t been easy and it won’t be easy but boy, am I proud of this kid!

“It’s never too late to  grow up and become who you really are.” -e. e. cummings

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Have a great day!

-Kat

fierce mama bear

 

Where Did Compassion Go?

“True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it.” -Daniel Goleman

Have you ever been so moved to speak out about something that it overwhelmed you- rendering you speechless? I have found myself in that place.

I have seen a trend occurring in support groups on social media. People, looking for support and understanding while they work their way through something they are experiencing with their loved one, are attacked by others in the same position. This attack takes on the forms of bullying, judging, accusing and reprimanding. It is wrapped up in the deceptive package of “tough love” or “just trying to set you straight” or some other helpful reason. And in some cases, I believe that the person truly means well. But more often, that is not the case.

When a parent is navigating something new and possibly unexpected with their child, and it can be anything from lgbt issues, health issues, learning disabilities…. whatever….., it’s rough. It can take time to process feelings, educate yourself, and get yourself on track. Everyone moves at their own speed and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

What one person easily accepts might be difficult for another to wrap their head around. Someone might be familiar with the topic and another person might have never even heard the words before. Often people are misinformed. So many may be feeling as if their world changed overnight and they are unsure how to move forward. Regardless, if they are searching for support and find themselves in a group surrounded by others in their situation, they are going to hope that these are friendly faces. If they are me (6 years ago), they are praying to find some friendly faces. Some kindness, compassion and support. To know that they are not alone.

At this point, if you’ve stuck with me, I’m sure you are thinking, ‘Kat, could you be any more vague?’

Let me give you an example- My middle child, Kris, is gender-fluid. Kris uses they, them, their pronouns.

Six and a half years ago, my middle child, Kerri, came out as transgender, and she transitioned to Kris, my son. A few years into this transition, Kris began showing more feminine traits and we discovered that Kris identified more as genderqueer or non-binary. Pronouns changed to they, them, their and gender descriptive words such as son and daughter were removed from our vocabulary. As time passed, Kris’s gender appeared to be more fluid with times where they were female and Kris temporarily used she, her, hers pronouns. The feminine period lasted for what seemed like a long time but in reality was a blink of the eye and Kris’s appearance morphed more into a cross between masculine and feminine with pronouns changing back to they, them, their. Kris has been our leader, as they should be, because it is their life, after all.

It’s quite a journey and I’ve shared parts of it here in this blog. Writing is my therapy and if I can help another parent who is in my position feel a little less alone, then it’s definitely worth it to put myself out there.

That paragraph up there, the one telling you about Kris….it’s a safe paragraph. If I was to post that in any of the many groups that I’m in for support, I am confident that the reaction would quite benign. There might be some “likes” and a few welcoming comments.

BUT, here are a few facts about us…my family and Kris:

We do not use the term “dead name” when referring to Kris before they transitioned. Kerri is Kris’s BIRTH name- the name given at birth. Kris went by the name Kerri and lived as our daughter for 18-1/2 years. Kerri is not dead- she’s just not here. Parts of her live on in Kris but not all of her. We don’t go out of our way to talk about Kerri or once having a little girl, but there are times when it makes more sense. And quite honestly, I love Kris. I loved Kris when they were Kerri. I loved Kris when they used male pronouns and I loved Kris when they used female pronouns. I love Kris. My sons grew up with Kerri. She is part of the foundation of their entire childhood and our family’s story. None of that takes anything away from Kris or our love for Kris. We have all talked about it and if Kris expressed that we do it differently, we would do it in a heartbeat.

There are pictures of Kris growing up displayed in our house. They show who Kris was. For awhile, Kris didn’t want anything up that showed them as a girl and I respectfully removed them all, only leaving out the ones that Kris approved. Time passes and Kris was okay with a few coming back out. I was so glad that I didn’t get rid of all of them.

Sometimes I miss my daughter. I suspect I always will. I realize that I probably miss the idea of her more than the reality of her. I’m okay with that. And for those months last year it felt like she was back. And if you look back at that time, you’ll find that I didn’t write much. I hope to be able to write about that time someday because I think it’s important for other parents of gender-fluid kids to hear about it. Even in the land of parents of transgender kids there are some who believe in the gender binary and I think that some of my unresolved feelings in that area floated to the surface during Kris’s recent girl stage. So, sometimes I miss my daughter and IT IS OKAY! It does not detract from my love for Kris.

Because my child’s gender is fluid, my experiences and emotions are also going to be fluid. They won’t follow a “female to male” norm. And someone else’s experience with a gender-fluid child could be (and most likely is) completely different than mine.

If I was to post some of these things in the support groups I’ve mentioned, there’s a pretty good chance I could find myself under attack. I’ve been seeing it happen regularly to some unsuspecting person who is trying to figure out which way is up and they use the wrong pronouns or their child’s birth name because they aren’t ready to let go. Don’t get me wrong— these groups are filled with kind, gentle, loving people who are quick to support and compassion—- but when you are feeling like you can’t keep your head above water, it’s the cutting words of the others- those are the ones that make you slip down lower. If you are new to this world, you don’t know any better and to be harshly reprimanded and accused of “dead naming” your child? Of not being supportive? Of being selfish because you need support and you thought you were in a safe place at a time when nothing feels quite right?

I don’t post these things because I don’t need to. I’ve worked through this. I’ve had countless conversations with Kris about the Do’s and Don’ts.

If I encounter someone who has set off a war unintentionally, I will be quick to reassure them and support them and let them know that what they are feeling, doing, saying, is okay. I will not engage in combat though. I realize that someone has to. But right now, I’m fully entrenched in two other ongoing battles that are consuming all of my energy.

What’s the point here? I don’t know. I can’t help but refer back to the title- Where did compassion go?

I’m posting without editing because if I do, this will sit in the shadows with so many other drafts. I apologize for typos- this is me in this moment and one day, I know that I will come back and edit it.

Peace and Love,

Kat

The Angel on My Tree

Originally written two years ago, I’m sharing this post again for all of those moms of transgender kids who find themselves struggling at this time of year.

IMG_9297This will mark our sixth Christmas since Kris came out as transgender and navigating the holidays has been a journey in itself. I’m happy to report that each year it becomes less and less of an issue. This year is probably the first one that will only find me shaking my head at the ornaments and wondering what’s next.

Whether you are facing your first Christmas or your tenth since your child came out, if it is causing you to feel sad or a bit blue, please know that in time, it will get better. You won’t be in this place forever and you are not alone.

Dandelion Fuzz

The holidays can be a difficult time for many people for any number of reasons. The list is endless. For me, my downfall is the ornaments on our tree. Since Michael’s first Christmas 25 years ago, my kids got ornaments with their name and the year on them. Some years I would also get a personalized family ornament. Then lets add in the ones given as gifts over the year, always with a name on them. That’s a lot of ornaments.

When Kris first came out as transgender, the impact of opening the boxes that first Christmas and seeing the name that I had given my daughter times 18 (and more) caught me off guard. That first year, all of the ornaments with Kerri’s name on them were put away in a separate box. During year two, I braved that smaller box and studied each ornament, determining which ones would survive…

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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

 

 

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