Friday Fuzz- Shifting Responsibility

This article struck a nerve with me. Maybe it’s just specific to my experience with Kris and other people but I wonder if that might not be the case.

Transgender Children Today: Shifting the Responsibility for Change Away From Children and Onto Society

When Kris came out and we decided it was time to fill in the family- meaning my parents and siblings- I asked Kris if he wanted me to tell everyone, or did he. He was actually away at college at the time so it made sense for me to be the bearer of this news and that was what he preferred.

After a difficult childhood and very stressful four high school years, Kris was pretty fragile. Even though I felt a sense of relief upon finding out what the heck was going on with my kid, that didn’t lessen my worry for him. If anything, it made it that much bigger.

My conversations went as to be expected. There was some surprise but not much since my mother had gotten to my siblings first. The news was met with questions and sounds of support. The tone seemed to change rather quickly. I sensed anger towards Kris for the pain he was causing me. I was told that they thought that Kris should have been the one to inform them. They felt like Kris was not making any effort. When he did see family, he shifted into stealth mode right before my eyes. Kerri was back and Kris was gone. The difference? He sat in one spot, often with a book, sketchpad or journal, head down, busy reading, drawing, writing and not doing anything to attract someone’s attention. He spoke when spoken to unless it was me or his father or brothers. This was pure Kerri. When he did speak, I felt like it wasn’t the Kris we were coming to know and love. It was the shell of the Kerri they knew- the person who really didn’t exist.

I’m not going to say they didn’t try but those efforts were minimal and appeared to be tokens- not really genuine. Or maybe they were genuine but when they didn’t get the immediate response they expected, they didn’t try again. Not with Kris and not with Michael or Andrew and not with me.

The responsibility was all Kris’s and by default mine. Three years later it remains the same. And it’s wrong.

Tips for Dealing with My Child (and me)

When you are speaking to someone who is transgender or their family and friends, there are a few things that are helpful to keep in mind. I apologize if it gets a little fierce but this continues to be a sore spot for me. While it might seem like it’s specific to my own circumstances, I know that other families of transgender folks encounter some of the same issues.

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1- Use the correct gender pronouns and name. I cannot begin to express how incredibly important this is. I understand that it is difficult to just switch over but if I can do it and I’m his mother, then anyone can! It’s a matter of accepting it. Plain and simple. If you consistently use the correct pronouns and name, it begins to feel more natural and in time, the old ones just won’t work. Trying to lead the secret double life of only using the proper pronouns when he or I are around won’t cut it. You will slip up the majority of the time and won’t even notice ever more often. How do I know this? Because I notice every single time it happens. And if you aren’t making a sincere attempt to make these changes, IT HAPPENS EVERY TIME!!!

2. Treat him the same way you always would. It doesn’t matter if he’s a boy or a girl. He’s still my child. He’s still your grandchild, nephew, cousin, friend. The only thing that is changing is the packaging.

3. I don’t want to hear how every time you look at him you see the girl he used to be. That tells me one thing- that you are not really seeing him. Even though he’s the same kid he always was, those things that make him “K” might look a little different in the male form. K is still right there, where he always was.

4. Please realize that by using the wrong pronouns, you are sending a message to both me and K that you haven’t accepted him for who he is. (It’s been almost 3 years. If you haven’t taken the time to accept it after 3 years, when are you?)

5. Try to understand that even though K knows that he is male and feels it to his core, that doesn’t mean he knows how to act it. Or that he will ever act in a typical male manner. I have 2 other sons who are completely different from each other and they are not transgender. K is learning how to define himself. Although he felt male, he was raised female. He is processing everything he knows himself to be and figuring out which parts he wants to keep and which ones are just out of habit that he wants to lose and which are just too girly and no longer feel comfortable. Do NOT judge him too harshly. He has a lot going on and dealing with other people’s hang ups is not high on our priority list these days.

6. Remember that the way you act towards K, whether in his presence or absence, impacts the rest of us. We are his parents and brothers. We have gone through hell together and we will not put up with any crap. If you think that my fierce mother face is scary, you really don’t want to mess with the brothers.

7. K deserves to be loved and have the support, acceptance and love of his grandparents, uncles, aunts, cousins unconditionally. My entire family deserves the same. And all of us deserve to be given a break.

8. Last of all, please remember that this is MY CHILD that we are talking about. Every wrong pronoun and name, refusal to let go of the girl, unrealistic expectation and lack of compassion towards what we are going through causes me to retreat even more. At a time when we all really need to feel that we can count on our family, we could sure use some understanding and maybe a few free passes when it comes to the etiquette of returned phone calls and unanswered messages.

I know it isn’t easy. Just as I did when we started this journey, I keep asking that you give it an honest to goodness try!

 

 

 

 

Here’s My Penny

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For today’s blogging assignment, I’m supposed to tell you why I wanted to start a blog. I looked back at some of the things I wrote- dated 2011. Hmmmm, if I thought about it for, say 6 months or so, as I’m prone to do with some of my ideas, that means I’ve been thinking about writing a blog for 3 years. In case you didn’t guess, I don’t like to rush into things.

I used to have a daughter. At least, I think I did. When my middle child (a daughter at the time) told me that she identified as a boy, and always had, it changed my family forever. My poor busy mind couldn’t keep up with all the questions I was grappling with. How could K think she was a boy when she was clearly born a girl? How did she know? Why didn’t she tell us? What did that mean for my other two sons? Had K been pretending all of his life? Did I force him to wear dresses, play with barbies, dance? Was our history all a lie? What did that make us? How could I not know? If I was struggling, how were other people going to handle this? What if they couldn’t accept K? Did I care? What could I do to help him, his brothers, all of us?

Does your head hurt yet? Mine still does at times. I needed to process all of this, deal with it, figure out how I felt, you name it. Writing has always been my salvation, my escape, my release. It only made sense to blog.

Unfortunately trying to figure out the blogging world made my head hurt in a totally different way. And that’s how I got here.

 

Who and Why

This is my first post in the Zero to Hero Blogging Challenge. Some of this might be covered on my About Me but here goes.

My name is Kat and as far back as I can remember I have been writing stories, plotting out stories in my head, reading….. You get the idea. I participate in the Nanowrimo Contest every year. Some years I win. Some I don’t. It gets me writing and that’s the point. It’s also the reason I have begun blogging.

A few years ago my middle child told me that he is transgender- to make a long story short- he identified as a boy even though he was born with all girl parts. He was 18-1/2 and heading off to college in a few weeks.

My goal for my blog is to combine the two things- dealing with all of the changes in our lives along with getting me on track with my writing.

I have to say that this is the crappiest thing I’ve written in a long time! Yikes! Guess I can only go up from here.

Those Early Signs

K was 2 years old the first time he told us he was really a boy. That’s quite young and we didn’t take him seriously. In fact, we wrote it off as a phase, one of many K would experience over the years. I was pregnant with my 3rd child and K was about to be ousted as the baby of the family. If anything, it seemed natural for K to think he was a boy. He spent most of his time with his older brother and right after his 2nd birthday, a new boy cousin was born.

After telling us he was a boy, he began telling us that his name was “Arthur”. Yes, THE Arthur the Aardvark, star of the popular children’s tv show. Looking back, it is the first sign we had that he identified with a male character more than female. What little girl didn’t want to be rambunctious unstoppable DW, Arthur’s little sister? Well, my little girl, for one. Not long after Arthur, K moved on to “Peter”, short for Peter Pan. He took to wearing a green feathered hat at all times. We humored him. We called him by these names. But I do remember reminding him that he was really a girl. I didn’t know. I couldn’t know at that time. It was 1995.

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This continued and then the new baby was born and he was a boy. K and Andy were close from the beginning. Their personalities were very similar. They looked alike. In early baby pictures the only way we could distinguish them was by their clothing and later by K’s ginger hair. They even sounded identical. I used to say that if they did that test where they blindfold the mom and ask her to pick out her child solely by his voice, I would be screwed. They were both so articulate and I would have to listen for some catch phrase that one or the other used. So, my two younger children were two peas in a pod despite a 2-1/2 year age difference.

Last year we finally cleared up something that had been puzzling us for years. Andy, our youngest, is very smart and as I mentioned articulate. He always used vocabulary well above his age. There was only one problem. He mixed up gender pronouns ALL THE TIME! We couldn’t understand how a child who was so bright couldn’t grasp a simple concept such as boy- he/girl-she. And yet, this continued on from the time he could talk until well into preschool. Yes, it was years. Last year when 3 year old CJ mixed up his pronouns, I started thinking back to when Andy did the same thing. I know that it is common for young children to sometimes confuse gender pronouns. I even shared with CJ’s mom, Jasmine, that Andy had done the same thing but it had lasted forever. Then it occurred to me, if Andy had a little birdie (or a big sister who he idolized) telling him something that contradicted what he was being told, that could do it. I can just picture K telling him that he wasn’t a girl and to say “he” when talking about his sister. And Andy would do it. I know he would. I look at the two of them now at 18 and 21 and I’m sure of it! Yet another piece in the puzzle.

K presented us with many challenges in those early years- struggles which continue today. I’m beginning to think they might never end. But looking back at K at those young ages, when he was trying to tell us what was going on, it helps me realize that this has been there since the beginning. It supports what K told us almost 3 years ago. It explains so much. We just weren’t looking for it.