Here Goes

It’s been awhile but here is a “straight from my heart and unedited” post regarding last week’s episode of Survivor: Game Changers.

In case you are not familiar with this-

On last week’s reality show- Survivor- one contestant outed a fellow tribe member as transgender during tribal council. If you google it, I’m sure you will find videos and articles galore. I just can’t share a link or the video. I can’t.

Occasionally something comes up that I just need to say.  I need to let the words flow and I have to let them just land. As a writer, I tend to do a ton of editing and proof reading and re-reading……but when one of these posts comes up, well, I listen to my heart and I let them be. Of course, if I had shared the video, it might be easier to follow my ramblings but I really can’t do it. I went back and began watching the segment for a second time and I couldn’t finish.

As you may or may not know, outing a transgender person is wrong. It’s bad. You don’t do it. NEVER! There is absolutely no context in which it might be okay to do. The only person who has the right to share that very private thing is the person himself or herself.

As I sat watching Zeke’s reaction to being outed on national television by someone he might have trusted or at the very least thought he had formed a connection with, I recognized that look on his face. I have a trans kid. And although I have not been witness to them being outed unexpectedly, I watched my child at more social functions than I want to remember with a similar expression on their face. I recognized the tightness in his shoulders, the clench of his jaw, the checked out look in his eyes.

Zeke always knew that there was a chance he might be outed. Every transgender person who is just trying to live their life runs that risk. And I myself cannot imagine living with that- always wondering if today would be the day that someone would say something- and then how would people react. Because people always react- even when they don’t. I’ve witnessed that more times than I can count.

My heart aches for Zeke. It aches for anyone who is trying to live and finding themselves in a world that has all of these antiquated gender roles and stereotypes and expectations placed on them by society. I’m fairly certain that Zeke will be fine. I sincerely hope that he is fine and that this does not cause him to lose people in his life. I know- if he had people in his life that cannot be part of his life upon finding out that he is trans, then goodbye and good riddance. But the thing is, he will take a hit that won’t be easy to recover from. Once again, I can fall back on the experiences my kid has been faced with. The world can be an unfriendly place for transgender people. My kid is grown up so I have no control over the people they come into contact with or how they are treated. And as my child is in a different place than Zeke- being non-binary- their experience in more recent times is also very different than it was when they transitioned to male back 5 years ago.

But outing Zeke was not the only thing Jeff V did that night at Tribal Council. He made a conscious choice to use Zeke being transgender as evidence of Zeke’s deceitful nature- painting him as someone who could not be trusted because after all he was keeping his transition a secret. That was adding insult to injury. Each and every part of a transgender person’s transition is private and theirs to decide if they want to share. It does not imply that a person is deceitful. Quite frankly it’s no one’s business if a person is taking hormones or has had surgery.

There are many people who know little about what it means to be transgender. They don’t understand. Some are afraid of what they don’t understand and that fear drives them to act in some pretty cruel ways. They don’t realize how deeply their words or actions wound. (I want to think that they DON’T realize, because to willfully hurt someone like that- well, ask Jeff V how that worked for him right now?)

There are people who look through transgender people. It’s like they don’t exist, as if by being transgender, they have lost their right to be recognized as a person. Once again, I’ve watched it happen to my child. It might be worse than those hurtful words or cold stares- I don’t know. I just know it chills me to my bones, makes my blood boil and causes me to not be able to sit still and do nothing. And yet, I have had to do nothing when it happens to my child. Why? Because if I was to confront any of these people for looking through my child, as if they don’t exist anymore, I would probably do bodily harm. Unfortunately my kid has grown used to it and shrugs it off. I can’t. And now because Jeff V was willing to do anything to stay in a game, Zeke runs the risk of becoming invisible to people he thought he knew.

And since I brought him up again- Jeff V- the villain. Did he mean to hurt Zeke as terribly as he did? I don’t know. Did he know that what he was doing was wrong? I believe so. Did he realize that he had crossed a line? Maybe, maybe not. But he did think his strategy through so at some point, I find it hard to believe that it did not occur to him that what he was planning on doing was VERY BAD.

Enough about him

I would like to talk about Zeke’s tribe mates. How incredible were they! Their outrage, cries of anger and distress, support of Zeke…. all of it. I studied all of them as the scene played out. Tai and Andrea were immediately upset, crying out and calling Jeff V out for his actions. Debbie and Sarah were slower to speak but also expressed their feelings. And then there was Ozzy. See, my husband and I have been watching old seasons of Survivor and we recently watched Ozzy’s first time on the show. He’s grown up a lot over the years and I was curious about his reaction. He tends to be pretty calm and cool, and as he was not reacting, I was wondering…. Ozzy is a quiet guy so as is the case with most quiet people (see me raising my hand), others make assumptions based on absolutely nothing instead of just asking. I wasn’t sure what he was thinking. And then I heard his voice and he weighed in. Zeke’s entire tribe was on his side.

If the real world can be an unfriendly place for transgender people at times , the internet can be merciless. Small people get very brave hiding behind a computer screen. I read people accusing Survivor of staging it- that the entire thing was a carefully scripted ratings grabber. These people aren’t actors. And that chaos at Tribal Council was genuine. There are some things you can’t fake. Zeke’s shell-shocked expression, Jeff Probst’s face (and if you are a Survivor fan- you know that he’s Mr. Cool- even he was shocked and appalled at Jeff V’s words).

This episode shook me to my core. It dredged up emotions that I hadn’t felt since the early days of Kris coming out. It woke the protective mom in me and I wanted to hug Zeke and do battle with Jeff V.

But it also did something else- we are a long way from late summer of 2011 when Kris came out to us. We have gone through so many highs and lows. We have lost people and gained people. To some people who  might not have been present for the past nearly 6 years, we might appear to be only slightly changed by time and nothing more. I realize that 2017 Kris looks very much like what 1993-2011 Kerri might look today and nothing like 2011-2015 Kris did. And yet watching that episode brought all that we have been through with Kris back to the surface. It reminded me of how many people I have had the pleasure of meeting and adding to that special list I call friends. It showed me how much I have changed personally- how I came into my own as a person through Kris’s journey.

And it made me the Kat that I am today who is going to add a few tags and a category to this post and press that Publish button without looking back.

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

The Return of the Dress

Two years ago, I wrote about a dress. It wasn’t just any dress- it was my daughter’s prom dress. You can read the original post here-  All Because of a Dress.

At the time that I wrote that post, the dress was crumpled up in a garment bag, stuffed behind the chair in my home office. It was a long time before I took it out of its hiding place.

It now hangs on the back of my office door. It represents my last days with Kerri, the last dress I would buy for my daughter. And that is where I thought the story ended. But this is Kris. And as I’ve learned, not everything is permanent.

Within a few short months after purchasing that dress, I would barely recognize that my child…. or my life. That was 5 years ago.

I’ve written about the different emotions I experienced as Kerri transitioned to Kris., female to male. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve reassured other parents that everything they are feeling is valid and OKAY. And yet, the one thought- the one idea, wish, call it whatever you want- that one thing that I cannot think without intense heartache and so much self-loathing for being so incredibly selfish is the desire that I had my daughter back. I can’t speak those words- when I attempt to even say anything that implies that I ever felt like that- well, I can’t. The words just won’t come. I beat myself up. The stream of reprimands is relentless. It’s one of my deepest secrets and it’s painful to even type those words. 

And yet,  if I hear those words from another mother’s lips, I am the fiercest in letting her know that it is perfectly normal to feel that way and to just FEEL it. It’s OKAY! This is your child you are talking about here and those emotions are so strong. Don’t suppress them. Don’t feel guilty. It doesn’t mean that you don’t love your child- you are just letting go of the child you thought you had. But when it comes to me? I just can’t give myself a break or listen to my own words- not me- nope.

And why did I have to keep that dress? Any dress? I knew that Kris would never wear it again and might even be hurt that I chose to keep it. Why did I force myself to write about it at that time- when the pain was so fresh. That was torture to write. I remember sitting in the very place I’m sitting right now, feeling like the words were being torn from me.

Letting go of Kerri was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do. A year and a half ago, I wouldn’t have believed that there would be anything more difficult. If someone had said, “Just wait, Kat! It gets harder….. and the punchline is that you won’t see it coming until it hits you. Oh, and it’s not Kris,” I wouldn’t have believed it. As it was happening, I didn’t see it until I was in it. But that’s not what this post is about.

This post is about that dress- hanging there. I hardly look at it because when I’m in the room, the door is open.

And then Kris came home from spring break. Kris, my middle child, 24 years old, who was assigned female at birth, transitioned to male at 18, and then changed pronouns (they, them, their) and appearance (feminine) at 23. Not my daughter. Not my son. 

So, Kris came to my office door to talk to me and I saw the dress, hidden from Kris’s view because the door was open. I hesitated. Then I said, “I want to show you something. I’m not sure why I have it. I don’t know how you are going to feel.” 

I showed Kris the dress. I felt sheepish, embarrassed, guilty, anxious, sad….. I guess I shouldn’t have worried. Kris looked at the dress fondly and said, “Maybe I can replace the black sash and use it as my wedding dress.”

And because the mind works in miraculous ways, before the swell of emotions could rise, they were swept up and locked in a box and I was able to smile at Kris and respond, “That could be done.” I admit that I ignored the little scratching and tapping sounds coming from inside that box. So much feeling going on in there. So many stray thoughts did not make it in there- wedding dress, but not my daughter, nonbinary, dress dress wedding dress.

Maybe the story of the dress is not over. And quite possibly all of those things that I let go of when Kerri came out and became Kris aren’t gone after all. After that conversation with Kris and admitting that I still have the dress, I realized a few things.

It was hard to let go of all my hopes and dreams for my daughter but when I stripped them all down to bare bones I saw that they were still the same, they might look a little different than I thought they would. And that’s okay because I know my child very well and whatever that dream wedding was that I thought they were going to have, regardless of gender or name, Kris is so incredibly unique that no one knows what their wedding will be like, least of all Kris! 🙂

Now that a lot of what I thought was gone is back, I look at it much differently than I did before. It’s all fluid and not really important. Having my children live happy productive lives where they love and are loved, are kind, generous and caring people…..that’s what matters most.

I’ve managed to work through most of the contents of my mind’s locked box. The only thing that remains are pronouns (a topic for another day) and a label. Since Kris came out, I have grown to dislike labels but the one I struggle with most is a label that accurately expresses how I feel for Kris. And this is a biggie for me.

I have been told that son and daughter are just words, that they don’t mean anything, that child means the same thing and it’s just not that big of a deal. But for me, it is. I feel that daughter and son have an emotional attachment to them that is not present in the words child or kid or offspring. Child seems so impersonal and distant. I have been told these words hold the meaning you give to them. But I can’t get past it. It doesn’t mean that I want Kris to be my daughter. It simply means that I wish I had a word for Kris that describes the depth of feeling I have for this kid that matches. And I have been reduced to feeling guilty when calling Michael or Andrew my sons, so I try not to refer to any of my children as anything.

I’m listening to myself as I write this and a little voice keeps screaming- it’s just a label, it doesn’t matter! And the truth is, if this is the biggest problem I am facing with Kris these days, I’ll take it!

My love for my children has only grown stronger as they have grown up. I love the very cool people they have become and I can’t wait to see what their futures hold!

via Daily Prompt: Label

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.

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“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.

5 Minutes

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You might see this image, or something similar, on social media from time to time. It is a heart consisting of transgender colors and a black ribbon- in memory of a transgender life lost.

Yesterday another transgender teenager lost their life to suicide. I won’t be sharing any other information regarding this out of respect and consideration for the family members. My heart aches unbearably for this child’s family and friends. I am mourning their tragic loss.

Unfortunately, this happens too often. The constant worry is very legitimate and quite real. I originally wrote the following post in October 2015.

If you are familiar with the LGBT community, then you might have heard about the alarming statistics that accompany a person who falls in the T (Transgender) category. If you are unfamiliar with the T, the most basic definition is a person whose gender identity does not match their physical body. In my child’s case, Kris was born assigned female but does not identify as such.

Depending on the source, you’ll read that 40% (give or take a percent or two) of all transgender people will attempt to take their own life. It’s sobering. Especially when you consider that the national average is somewhere around 4%. It’s something that, as the parent of transgender person, remains in the back of my mind at all times. It lurks there in the darkest corner- the fear of losing my child. Each time I read one of those heartbreaking stories of a loss…

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Gender Revolution on National Geographic Channel

Recently National Geographic devoted an entire special issue to the topic of GENDER. Yes, it turns out there’s more to gender than meets the eye. NG takes an in-depth look at all things gender, examining it from all angles.

There are two covers- but the inside content is the same in both. I purchased both copies with plans on passing one on and keeping one to share when I need. I’m keeping the Avery copy (right) because Avery and her amazing mother, Debi Jackson, are superheroes in the parents of transgender kids circle. Debi founded Trans-Parenting, an excellent resource for support and information.

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In addition to the special edition issue, National Geographic is airing a 2 hour special on February 6th on the National Geographic Channel. You should check local listings for the times. I have heard from sources who took part in this project that the finished product is top-notch.

I recommend that you tune in if-

  • you are raising a gender variant child
  • you know a transgender person
  • you are educated on gender
  • you are uneducated on gender
  • you are curious about gender
  • you think you have a good understanding of what it means to be transgender or if you don’t.

So, in case you haven’t figured it out, I think everyone needs to see this and I hope that if you have the opportunity to watch it, that you do.

Here is the extended trailer from: “Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric”-

This is an exciting step forward. When I began this journey with my child, resources were scarce. I hope that as more people read and watch and learn, more will grow to be more accepting and supportive.

Hope you had a good one!

-Kat

When Your Kid Comes Out…

“Nothing is permanent.

Everything is subject to change.

Being is always becoming.”

-Buddha

I’m not an expert in raising LGBTQ kids. Mine was 18 when they came out and while that might be the legal age for some things, it doesn’t mean they were an adult by any means. Since we were about to embark on a second puberty, they were far from grown up. But having experienced the last five plus years, I’ve found a few things to hold true.

  • Your child comes first. Love them. Accept them. Support them.
  • A name is just a name- no matter how attached you might think you are to the one you gave them, you will be surprised at how quickly you adapt to a new name when you just accept it.
  • Let go of what society and you consider gender norms. Open your mind to new possibilities.
  • If your child holds on to parts of their previous gender or ASAB (or whatever you prefer to call it), it does not mean that they don’t identify as the other gender. Trans boys can like make up. Trans girls can like football.
  • And holding onto those things doesn’t mean they are unsure or changing their minds. They might just like those things. Or they might be comfortable with those things, especially if they are coming out at a later age.
  • Don’t expect them to know instinctively how to be a boy or girl. Sometimes it takes time to know who you are and what feels right.
  • People might act strange. They might act accepting until they actually see your child as their true self. They might resist it. They might fade away quietly. They might disguise their discomfort behind other issues. They might not know how they feel.
  • Fight for your child.
  • Be flexible. (4 years after the child I thought was my daughter came out as my son, I was buying a dress for the Winter Ball.)
  • This is a journey. Although some kids will come out, transition and live happily ever after, some need more time.
  • Advocate for the LGBTQ community. You don’t have to be the loudest or flashiest one out there but by showing support, it’s sending a clear message to your child. It’s one thing to support your child because they are your child but by advocating it tells your child that your truly support who they are because you believe in not only them, but every person’s right to be their truest self.
  • Nothing is permanent. And if your child should say, “Hey, know what? This doesn’t feel right”- well, so what? No one was hurt and your child can move on in their journey to face new challenges.
  • And because it is so important it bears repeating- love, accept, support.

Out of everything I have experienced as a parent, this one has been the wildest ride. I know it might not be over, or it might be….and that’s just part of what it is. I’ve learned so much about myself and my family and my life. And I never thought that I would be where I am right now, which is in a much better place than I was 5-7 years ago.

TTFN!

-Kat