Tag: gender expression

Five Years

Five Years

Thanks to Facebook I was reminded that it was five years ago since my last family reunion. Nothing about this meant anything to anyone but me.

And for me, this little tidbit was a life changer.

See, five years ago was the last time most of my extended family saw my children (save the ones who I’m friends with on Facebook who pay attention to anything I post- making that number pretty small). Michael was 21, Kris (formerly Kerri) was 18 and Andrew was 15.

Just days following that family reunion, Kris came out to us as transgender- identifying as male, not the female. Since that day- which was a major turning point in all of our lives- we have embarked on an amazing journey.

We experienced name changes, pronoun changes, wardrobe and appearance changes. We saw the effects of testosterone as Kris transitioned. And then we found out what remains when T is no longer taken. We updated a license, social security, insurance and other various documents/cards with a new name and/or gender. Our relationships with each other as well as outsiders was put to the test. While I’m happy to report that our inner group of 5 remains strong, we lost people along the way. It’s unfortunate but we know who the genuine people are in our lives and we know who will be there when the chips are down. That is a gift that is most precious.

And to the casual outside observer, say someone who isn’t really paying close attention, if they look at my Facebook page today, they see Kris (who some might remember as Kerri, some might not even notice that the name changed 3 times) 5 years older than our 2011 Kris/Kerri. If they are unaware, they will have no doubt that Kris is a girl. A woman of 23 now. And they will be wrong.

My relationship with Kris has transitioned as Kris has transitioned. These days it closely resembles what it might have looked like if Kris was still Kerri and was not transgender. Bras and feminine products are on our shopping list. Kris asks if I have red nail polish or for my opinion on their eyebrows. With only a few minor exceptions, Kris’s gender expression is female. Their gender identity is non-binary. Things are calm right now.

As for me? Well, I’m in a different place now. I’ve gotten used to seeing Kris dressed as a girl. I’ve become so accustomed to it that photos of Kris as a boy seem like long ago. I have adjusted to the name change for the most part. (Kris will remain Kris in my blogging- which is how I know that I have accepted their new name. In my head and in my writing the new name is the first to pop out and I have to correct it to Kris.)

My subconscious is another story. Kris’s pronouns are they, them, theirs. My pronouns for Kris are so inconsistent. Hes and shes are interspersed with theys- sometimes all in the same sentence. In my thoughts shes are lurking around every corner. I understand that seeing Kris as a girl is triggering those feminine pronouns. But I also feel the internal struggle with wanting to have a neat little package tied with a bow- and I know that I cannot have that. My head understands that there is not a special word that equates son or daughter in non-binary but my heart yearns for it.

I’ve lost my place in my support groups as well. I’m no longer the parent of a child who transitioned from female to male or identifies as male. While I have the experiences of the last five years. I do not know anyone who has a child who is non-binary with their gender expression matching the sex they were assigned at birth. In some circles Kris isn’t considered transgender. I read the posts and attend the meetings and support anyone I encounter who is struggling with their trans kid, but part of me feels like I no longer fit in. I seem to be surrounded by parents celebrating their children’s transitions, surgeries, name changes…… I’m so happy for them. (And confused for me.) I am sure that these wonderful people will continue to be supportive- even if I feel like I don’t belong here. I know this because these are truly the most amazing people in the world- supportive parents of transgender people.

I’m uneasy right now. In other parts of my life I am facing challenges that might make my experience with Kris look like child’s play.

Everything happens for a reason, right? Well, I know I have at least one friend who doesn’t really believe this. (And she knows who she is- if she reads this… which I hope she will because maybe it will help her to understand part of my silence lately.)

The past five years presented me with the biggest challenge of my life (or so I thought). My world was turned upside down and continued to be so for probably four of the five years. And it might be that this journey is not over yet and this is just an ebb…. waiting for the flow to return. But maybe it is not. And maybe the last five years was preparing me for what lies ahead.

One thing is certain. Wait, maybe two…… three.

  • I learned that I am much stronger than I ever realized.
  • If you truly love your child, it doesn’t matter what their name is or if they wear a dress or not. You just love them.
  • The LGBTQ community is truly AMAZING.

So as I post something to Facebook, there might be friends who look at my latest posts and think, “Hmm, not much going on there. Kids are growing up. Cute little boys. She looks older….” But the ones who know, will know. They will understand the significance of the picture I shared today. They will be familiar with the journey that got me to this place, some coming in part way, some dropping in and out, and the special ones who have been with me every step of the way.

I’m not sure what the next five years will bring and while I continue along Kris’s road, another path has joined our family’s path. I’m anxious, unsure if I’m truly up for what we will be facing, but I felt this way before….five years ago. And I’m still here. We’re all still here.

 

My Child

My Child

I know that this isn’t perfect. I can’t go back and check it for errors. I’m not even sure it accurately represents my emotions. Having a nonbinary child is not easy. As a parent, I’m learning as I go and just because your child is grown up doesn’t mean that they still don’t need their mom. -Kat

I love my kids. Sometimes it still overwhelms me how much I love them. I’ve been struggling for awhile now. I’ve hidden it, or at least tried to hide it, behind the busyness of having my oldest son and his family living with us. I knew that I was burying a lot deep inside me and not thinking about it but I didn’t realize the full extent until a few days ago.

We took Kris back to school and helped him move into a new apartment. And that stiff upper lip, that full Mom armor, my strength and fortitude and everything crumbled.

Here’s where I start jumping around…..

When I found out that the child that I had called Kerri, my daughter, for 18 years was not my little girl, I had to cope with that loss. I love Kris, no matter what, and that never wavered throughout this journey. But the bottom line is that we live in a very binary world and it stood to reason that if Kerri was not a girl, then Kerri was a boy. It was quite simple. Kris told us this. I had to let go of Kerri so that I could fully embrace Kris as a boy. I witnessed all signs of my daughter leave and I mourned. I never stopped mourning.

And something happened while I was letting Kerri go. I grew to fully embrace Kris as my son. I was able to recognize my child for who he was. Who he had always been. And I loved him even more. I ached for Kerri at times. I missed her desperately. Kerri became Kris. She, her, hers became he, him, his. Daughter became son. Periods were replaced with testosterone. And for the first time, all three of my children were wearing the same size and style underwear.

I stopped seeing Kerri and before long, her ghost was gone although her memory was always there. When I looked, I saw Kris. When I thought about him, pronouns were always male and he was Kris. Anything feminine felt wrong. We were moving on.

And then last spring/summer, I had a few instances where I felt the presence of Kerri when Kris was home. I wrote about it just a little. It freaked me out and I thought I was going crazy. I felt guilty because I thought it was my subconscious wishing Kris was Kerri. But I didn’t feel that way. It was very confusing and I didn’t talk about it much. -Then, I found out that Kris had stopped taking T and some of the puzzle pieces fell into place. It made sense that I was feeling Kerri. Kris was taking on some of the feminine aspects that I would subconsciously attribute to Kerri. I wasn’t crazy… or disloyal.

Through texts and conversations, I found out that Kris is non-binary/genderqueer. He doesn’t identify as male or female. This was a new idea for me to process and digest. It was a difficult concept to grasp.

In January I bought Kris the first dress I had purchased in 5 years. In March, he wore nail polish, and his hair was growing longer. Last week when he came home, his gender expression was completely female, bras, dresses and all. After 4 years of accepting my child as a son, as a boy….. and after wrapping my head around the reality that he was not male….. there was this.

It wasn’t until we were at his apartment trying to get some organization that it hit. And when it hit, I couldn’t breathe. Kris walked into the room and I looked up and my head screamed “KERRI!!!!” silently and my heart tore open. I couldn’t breathe. I couldn’t move. After over 4 years, I was seeing Kerri- not a glimpse or a feeling…. it was Kerri.

But this wasn’t Kerri, was it? Kris isn’t my daughter. Kris’s gender expression is full on female but he’s not a girl. Expression and identity are two different things. My heart aches. It recognizes Kerri and it ignores what my mind is telling me. And I feel guilty. And confused.

I know it can be quite simple in theory. Gender does not matter. It most definitely does not factor into my love for Kris. Whether Kris’s expression is male or female, he is my child. but child is impersonal. It doesn’t carry the same emotional attachment as son or daughter- words equated with your offspring, adding maybe another layer of attachment. And if you are thinking, it really doesn’t matter?— unless you have a non-binary child, try removing the identifying name from your children or your siblings or your parents . Refer to them as child, sibling, parent- not Mom, Dad, Brother,….

Head over to Hallmark at birthday time and take a good look. You’ve got the blue male cards for Dads, Uncles, Brothers, Sons, Nephews, Grandfathers, Grandsons. You’ve got the pink female cards for Daughters, Moms, Aunts, Grandmas, Granddaughters and Nieces.

And it’s not about the cards. Or even the gender. It’s about all of it.

When  we thought it was the appropriate time to leave, Kris looked at us and asked, “You’re leaving before dinner?” with eyes shiny with tears. I couldn’t remember the last time I saw Kris cry. I was biting the inside of my mouth, trying to keep it all together.

My mind was this calm, steady, quiet voice saying, “You need to get a grip. You need to figure this out. This is Kris.”

My heart was crying, “Kerri….”

I realized that I had never let Kerri go. I just drew her into my heart and guarded her so close inside me that I didn’t know she was there.

That was Friday.

Today is Monday. My heart aches with love and my mind is helping me embrace Kerri’s presence within Kris. As far as reconciling the child who was my daughter, transitioned to male, was my son, is non-binary, uses male pronouns and female gender expression? I’m playing it by ear.

And I’m thanking God that I have a child to be so screwed up over because I know that Kris could just as easily not be here at all and that would be unbearable. When all is said and done, I love Kris and that’s all that matters.

 

Gender Bender

Gender Bender

I recently shared that my middle child, Kris, told me that he is genderqueer or nonbinary. After some research and many conversations, we know that he definitely does not fit in the traditional gender binary. He has decided to go with genderqueer. To be honest, depending on the source there seems to be little difference between genderqueer, nonbinary and gender non-conforming. Every time I think I might have a handle on it, I read something that shakes it all up and it’s back to the drawing board for me!

kris
This is how Kris explains his gender identity.

Does it matter which term applies? Not in the least. Just the entire notion of Kris having unique gender expression is more in keeping with the child I raised. I love him and will support him and it doesn’t matter where he lands under the transgender umbrella.

My questioning and researching is more of a “Mom” thing for me. When I found out I had a colorblind child, I went to the library and learned all that I could. Two of my children were identified as gifted and talented so I jumped in with both feet, educating myself on ways I could help them succeed. And so, Kris throwing out new terms and a new concept to wrap my head around has me running to the internet and googling “genderqueer vs. nonbinary”. I want to understand what Kris is feeling. This kid has been such an enigma!!

In my research travels through the internet I came across terms that I have been hearing for awhile now. I was familiar with most but when genderqueer came up on my radar, you can bet I paused to take a closer look. I stumbled onto this video by Ashley Wylde, whose gender identity/expression is genderqueer. I love how Ashley expresses gender expression. 🙂

We are conditioned to check a box (as Ashley describes it) throughout our lives and that’s difficult to undo. People like everything to fit into a neat little package that they recognize and the minute something doesn’t match up with the ideal that they have been conditioned to expect, it rocks their boat a bit.

I realize that there will be people who will be uncomfortable at Kris’s appearance. He is a guy who might be wearing leggings or have a shawl draped over his shoulder. The funny thing is that now that Kris is expressing himself differently, I do feel more of a connection between Kris at 22 and that little kid who insisted on being called Peter Pan at 2 and wore leggings pushed up over the knees at 4 and insisted on wearing Michael’s outgrown winter coat at 7.

Am I any closer to understanding my child? I think so. I know that he will be pushing the gender binary by expressing himself in a more feminine way at times. He describes himself as a guy who likes girl stuff. Works for me! More than anything, I want him to be happy with himself and able to live in this world accepted by all and supported by those who should.

I don’t think that’s asking too much. It’s a shame that there are so many out there that think that it is.

Do You Fit the Mold?

Upon hearing my middle child’s admission that he identifies as non-binary or more so on the outer edges of maleness, I’ve been thinking a lot about gender identity and expression. I would like to share a few of my thoughts with you.

Gender identity is internal, deeply-rooted, and a central part of many people’s senses of self.*

Gender expression, on the other hand, is what everyone around us can see.*

Girls-

wear pink, dresses, make up

play house, with dolls

want to be moms, teachers, nurses

Timey Tell

Boys-

wear blue, jeans, baseball caps

play sports, cars, with Legos

want to be dads, lawyers, construction workers

IMG_1512

It looks silly when it’s laid out before you in print. While this might be something we grew up believing, or maybe we didn’t but we knew it was the expectation….. it went along with the idea that there were only two genders- male and female- and the molds were pretty straight forward. We know that even 20, 30, 40 years ago, these stereotypical descriptions just did not hold true. As more time passes, we are finding that outside of society influencing/dictating what is considered acceptable, the reality looks nothing like those two cookie cutter molds- one wearing a dress, one wearing pants.

I have never fit in the girl mold, even though I do not doubt for a second that I’m a girl. Dresses and I have had a love/hate relationship over the years. I’m not into make up. I hate cooking. My favorite clothing is my jeans, hoodies and gym shoes. I’m not a fan of bugs but have no problem beating them to death with my shoe or something else that’s nice and solid (sorry eco-system and circle of life and all that) but the sight of a mouse sends me screaming from the room like….well, a girl. But, here’s the thing about all of that. None of it makes a difference to me being a girl because that’s who I am.

Growing up in the 70’s, there was a definite girl mold out there and the expectations were very clear. There were times when I was expected to wear a dress whether I wanted to or not. My toys were dolls. The books I read all had female characters who, for the most part, fit that mold. The television shows I watched were filled with girls perpetuating that image. I wasn’t always comfortable with all of it but that’s the way it was.

As I reached adulthood and had my own daughter, I made a concentrated effort to not force her into that same mold. It’s probably a good thing, too, because my daughter ended up actually being my son. And my son ended up not being a boy who fit the boy mold.

Unfortunately, so many want to hold onto those molds- one in each hand- so neat and simple—- and so wrong. Hopefully as the idea of gender being something that is defined by a person’s innate sense of who they are and not what’s between their legs AND that every person has the right to express themselves in a way that feels right for them, we will bridge the gap between the old school boy/girl molds and the concept that there is more to a person than simpy boy or girl (and there always has been.)

I’m sharing this article on Gender Identity and Gender Expression. I think it does a good job of laying it out there for everyone to read. It is written with examples that we can relate to and understand.

*Separating Out Gender Identity from Gender Expression

What about you? Do you fit into your mold?

Happy Saturday!

-Kat