Tag: gender identity

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

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

 

 

The Return of the Dress

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

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.