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

 

Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge: Day 2

Today is Day 2 of the Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge. I was nominated by my friend, Meredith at Meredith’s Musings. We met while learning the blogging ropes together. Be sure to take a trip over to her blog. She is just finishing up a different challenge over there! 🙂

kris and andrew museum

Today we find ourselves in August 2011- nearly 4 years ago. This picture might be out of focus with bad lighting but it is significant all the same. These are my sons- Kris (18 years old at the time) and Andrew (almost 16 years old). It was one of the last days before Kris went away for his freshman year of college. That’s not why it is important though.

It is the first time that I remember going out with Kris dressed as a boy. Kris, Andrew and I went to the Museum as a final outing before he left. It was just days after he had told us he was transgender and I really had no idea what it meant. I knew that he thought he was supposed to be a boy but back then, I really didn’t know anything more than that. What I did know was more misinformation than anything else. In those early days, I treaded lightly, trying to find the right way to handle this while also trying to prepare my child for college.

I was very self conscious. I was convinced that someone was going to come up to me and demand to know why I was allowing my daughter to dress as a girl. All I could see when I looked at Kris was my daughter. Looking back I can easily laugh at myself- at how much I didn’t know and how much I’ve grown since then. But at that time, I didn’t know how anyone could look at Kris and think he was a boy. There was just no way. I felt bad for him because no one would take him seriously. I didn’t want people to make fun of him. I wasn’t sure if it was a phase or not. I didn’t know what to do!!! (Remember, I was clueless back then. I had so much to learn and I just didn’t know it yet.)

But here’s the thing that stands out the most from that day. There was this flight simulator ride that they wanted to go on. When they walked up to the employee to purchase tickets, the guy said something to them,  I can’t remember exactly what, but whatever it was, it was clear that he had seen Kris as a boy. I’ll never forget the smile on Kris’s face when he walked up to me afterwards and said, “Did you hear him, Mom? He called me a guy!”

It would be months before I would get a clearer picture of what we were dealing with. There were so many baby steps…. but while so many emotional encounters have faded away, I’m still able to look at this picture and know how important this day was. The first day I went out in public with Kris. 🙂

Here is my Day 1 post.

The Five Photos, Five Stories Challenge rules require you to post a photo each day for five consecutive days and attach a story to the photo. It can be fiction or non-fiction, a poem or simply a short paragraph – it’s entirely up to you.

Then each day, nominate another blogger to carry on this challenge.

Accepting the challenge is entirely optional. This challenge is all in fun. 

I would like to nominate Joy from Tellin’ it like it is…. to carry on the challenge.

“Gender is not a choice; transition was”

friday fuzz

Read article here- As youngster transitions from girl to boy, family shifts between challenges, calm

As I read the article, a few points jumped out at me, the first being the statement where Max’s mother expresses concern over what to do if he changes his mind. “Gender is not a choice: transition was.” How simple. How true.

“There are four times when gender issues tend to emerge, Berne said: the preschool years, when gender identity is solidifying; in puberty, when bodies are changing; a few years later, when young adults head to college or begin living on their own; and finally, during midlife, when some people start questioning their life’s path.”

Kris hit three out of four. I believe he would have hit the fourth at midlife if he had not transitioned after high school.

“It challenges our sense of orderliness,” said Berne. “We can be fearful of anyone who is different.”

Understatement, right?

PATCHWORK OF POLICIES

Another understatement. Policies vary from country to country, state to state, district to district, whether it’s school, extra curricular, Scouts, sports…… not a speck of consistency EXCEPT for the Inconsistency.

“Max has taught us so much, just by being himself.”

I am speechless in agreement. What Kris has brought to our family……. there are no words.

Friday Fuzz: A Word from Kris

My Friday Fuzz feature has returned with a very special guest post. Please let me introduce you to my son, Kris. The piece that I’m featuring is one that he actually posted on Facebook right after he came out to us 3 years ago. It is completely 100% his words- not a single mom edit. I’m one of those mom’s that won’t touch her kids’ writing unless expressly asked. I have two serious writers and I know that we, writers, are a sensitive bunch.

The reason that this piece speaks so much to me is because although it seems to be quite simple with content but nothing extremely deep, the more I read it, the more I see the small glimpses of Kris’s heart in there. Even though he is there exposing something incredibly personal, he’s still guarded with what he does share. He’s holding back, protecting his heart and his inner being.

This makes me sad because three years later, he’s still holding back, hiding in the shadows, not letting people know him. (People translates to “family”.) I had the opportunity to talk frankly with Michael, my oldest son about this. Yes, he notices that at those functions Kris is always by himself, in the corner, unless one of us is with him. Three years later and he still doesn’t feel comfortable with the people he’s known his entire life.

I am using this piece with his permission so without further ado, here’s Kris-

Me! by Kristoffer on Tuesday, August 8, 2011

Hi everyone who decided to read this. I bet you’re wondering why I’m Kris on Facebook. I’ll tell you the whole story, from when it starts up to today.

When I was a kid, I would play pretend all the time. It was pretty much how I spent my life. In all of my childhood fantasies and in every story I wrote, I was a boy. I was myself and I was a boy.

Somewhere in there, I started going on Habbo, an online thing for tweens, and there I posed as a boy. I was never more comfortable than I was when I was on Habbo. I felt like I was myself when I said I was a boy.

I don’t know when I fully realized that, but I had it pretty figured out by eighth grade. I had no problem dressing and acting like a girl, but a part of me always knew I was a boy. I first came out to a few people that year , about being a guy trapped in a girl’s body. I had no clue what it meant. I nevver heard of it existing.

Then, in the summer following eighth grade, I went to the library and came across a book with a weird acronym as its title. LGBTQ, it said, and I had no clue what it meant. I checked the book out and read it cover to cover. That is when I first discovered I am transgender.

I came out to some of my friends, and the world didn’t end. I came out to my parents, and they didn’t react much. They said they’d support and love me no matter what.

During high school, my hair was pretty long, but I tried cross-dressing once, failing miserably.

I basically told myself to be a girl since it’s the body I was stuck in. I started getting my hair cut short. I got it cut shorter and shorter each time, until I realized what I was doing. I didn’twant a short hairstyle. I wanted to be a boy. I didn’t want to think that was it though. Every time I got my hair cut shorter, I thought I was more and more attractive.

I didn’t fully realize what I can do until the end of my senior year. I finally said enough’s enough and decided to stop pretending I’m a girl when I’m a guy. I told people I would cross-dress, alnd they all told me that all girls wear guys’ clothes, and it’s true. They make men’s clothing more comfortable. But I would be wearing men’s clothes for a different purpose: to be a guy.

The summer started and it finally started to sink in that I’m a guy. My mom bought me some mens clothes, and I haven’t been able to wear womens clothes since. I got some mens deodorant and I seriously can’t stop sniffing my armpits. It’s great. But anyways, I am starting to feel a lot more comfortable now that I’ve accepted myself.

The next step is having other people accept me. I’ve been a guy all my life. I’ve been forced to act like a girl by others but mostly by myself. I’m still me. I’m exactly the same person I have been all my life. You’re just learning something new about me.

I’ve been going out in public dressed as a guy, to express my gender. I have, for the most part, been passing very well. I’m not confident enough to go in the men’s room yet, but I went in there my first time out in public, and I got no weird looks. I’ll do it again some day.

Now, for those of you who care about my feelings, here is how you can effectively not insult me!

  • Refer to me as a male. Use my preferred pronouns: he, his, him
  • Please don’t call me dude or bro if you don’t call all other guys dude and bro.
  • If you don’t want to call me Kristoffer or Kris, just don’t refer to me with a name.
  • When I pass in public, don’t laugh or point out that I’m a girl. I want people to see me for who I see myself as.
  • That said, never out me. I’m a guy.
  • Don’t mention my private parts or the private parts I’m lacking. I don’t like being in this body. Don’t remind me of it.
  • Take me seriously. I may not act serious, but I am. I joke because I’m scared of making people uncomfortable. I really am serious though.
  • If you don’t know if something will insult me, ask me. I’ll be less insulted if you ask than if you just say it and it turns out to be hurtful!
  • Feel free to ask me anything you’re confused about.

As far as transitioning goes, I want to start on testosterone (T) soon,and then later on, I plan on getting top surgery, then bottom surgery.

Thank you to everyone who read this all the way through.

Kristoffer

Rambling Thoughts at 3:00a.m.

Why is it you have your most lucid thoughts late at night when you are supposed to be asleep?

I suspect this might take on more of the tone of a rant than a rambling. Instead of being that startlingly clear thought that I usually have just seconds before falling asleep only to try to recreate it by the light of day, this has nagged at me for awhile. And tonight it just won’t let go. When it has come to mind in the past- not quite formed….just a random thought… I could think about it, mull it over, write it in my head and fall asleep, probably in the middle of my most brilliant sentence. That is not the case tonight.

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Not long ago I had a conversation with a transgender friend about what her expectations were when she came out to her family. She said that she was the same person she had always been and if they could not love her upon finding this out, then how genuine had that love been before? So simple yet so very true.

Over the weekend we went to visit my husband’s parents. My mother-in-law asked about Kris and somehow we wandered off the topic of Kris’s new job and onto some of the online support groups to which I belong. She sat her back straight and stiff against her chair, arms folded across her chest. In a very firm voice she announced, “We love Kris and support him fully. I’m so glad that you have groups and people to talk to about this.”  I paused, taking in the look on her face, the finality of her words hitting me full force. This conversation was over. ****And this afternoon when I mentioned this conversation to my oldest son, Michael, he said the message was pretty clear.

A friend has been working on a letter to her family to explain that her son is non binary transgender. After sharing it, she received a carefully worded and somewhat guarded response from one person and nothing from the other. It caused me to have flashbacks to my own experiences with my sisters over the past 3 years. imagesPAAV0294

As I was messaging back and forth with her, it happened. I looked at the words that I wrote to her in response to hearing about her family’s reaction to a letter that she had taken so much time and care to write. Oh my goodness! I really wonder sometimes. To me, regardless of what’s going on, this is a time when the family bond should overrule everything and it shouldn’t matter what it is. You didn’t confess to your child committing mass murders. Support and acceptance should be instantaneous. This isn’t the time for carefully worded sentences.”

I snapped.

I was sick of it all! So incredibly sick of it!

Over the past three years I have shared exchanges, read posts and listened to the experiences of parents telling their families about their transgender children. I have felt their anxiety as they wrote and re-wrote letters, asking for feedback from us, other moms of transgender kids, in the safe places we have found with each other where we can share our honest feelings and know that we are among friends. I know the feeling of pouring out your heart to people who you think love you unconditionally only to find out that there were conditions on that love after all.

I mean, what the hell? I don’t know what I was thinking. They loved Kris when he was Kerri, screwed up beyond words, on the verge of suicide, not living an authentic life. Then he began this incredible journey to become himself. When he presented himself to those trusted people- the ones who had held him as a baby, the cousins who grew up with him and played with him…..when he shared his most precious inner self with them, they stopped loving him? I’m sure they would say that they do love him. I would have to ask, Is this how you show love? By looking through him? Pretending he doesn’t exist? By not accepting him?

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Do they have any idea what it took for us to share Kris with them? What it took for Kris to share himself with them? Unlike everyone else who they just accept as they are, FLAWS AND ALL- Kris was being held to a completely different standard. He had conditions placed on him. He had to come out the way they wanted and then he had to proceed to handle himself the way they expected him to. It did not matter that he needed to know that they accepted him as who he really was- that he needed what they all give everyone else without a second thought. Nope. His feelings were never considered throughout the past three years. And the more protective I became of him…..his dad and brothers became of him, the more rigid and closed they became. I have gotten the feeling that they are even more upset with me for wrapping my arms around my child and holding him close, that we closed ranks and stuck together, us 7.

It should not take three years for them to determine how they feel, to show support, to BE THERE. If the situation was reversed and it was my niece or nephew, although I might be shocked and need time to process it, like my own experience with Kris, all of that would be pushed back so that I could show love for the child and I would want to be sure to support the child’s parent.

So, here I am, sleepless,wondering if I’ve done something wrong, maybe expected too much from them. But then I think of how this has all fallen to me and Kris since the first time I told my parents and siblings about him. I feel as if every single move has been mine and if I didn’t promptly fall down at their feet in gratitude for the not even half-hearted attempts they made, I had wronged them yet again.

What about that kid they said they loved? He’s still here needing their love more than ever.

untitled (16)Love has to come first and if it does, the rest will work itself out.