Tag: gender issues

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.

 

So What?

So What?

As Kris’s hair grows longer and his gender expression becomes more feminine, people are asking “the” questions. (And if they aren’t asking in words, their expressions are.)

Did Kris change his mind?

Is he going back to being a girl?

Is he no longer transgender? 

What’s going on?

Okay, so, maybe they are asking many questions.

In answer to those questions:

No

No

No. If you aren’t sure, think double negatives here- No, he is not no longer transgender…. (Did I confuse you?)

I don’t know.

Thanks for stopping by! -Kat

…………

Just kidding. But in all seriousness, those are my answers. Except for the last one.

What’s going on? Kris remains a work in progress. When you spend your life living a certain way- in Kris’s case, living a girl’s life when you don’t necessarily feel like a girl, that is the only life you know. When Kris came out to us as transgender at 18, he only knew how to be a girl. Although we did not force him into a girl mold, society generally does a good job of that all on its own.

After transitioning and living his life as a guy, he knew that it wasn’t a good fit either. He was letting society dictate how he lived- even in the transgender community. If he was a trans guy, he felt that he had to stay on testosterone and wear a binder and look like a guy.

But he didn’t like wearing a binder most of the time and he didn’t want to take T and his feelings about top surgery were unclear. And he did not feel like a guy.

And that is how he got to this place in his journey.

He is non-binary, not really identifying as male or female but something different. It is a difficult concept for people to wrap their heads around. It was definitely easier (easier being used in the broadest sense) for people to accept him as a guy. Most don’t understand what it means to be non-binary, especially because it isn’t as simple as boy or girl. Many hold the belief that everyone is one or the other.There is no other option…. but there is. And Kris is living proof. Even if it’s hard to understand.

But that’s not the point at all. It’s all about acceptance. I was reminded of this when I was having a conversation with a friend, just trying to process it all. After sharing some of the questions I have gotten from people, my friend nodded his head thoughtfully and said, “And let’s just say that Kris decides to go back to using Kerri or feminine pronouns or both. So what? Does it change how you feel about him? Does it hurt anyone at all if Kris is Kris or Kerri or someone else?”

And the truth is it just doesn’t matter who Kris is as long as he is happy and healthy and ALIVE.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

When Your Kid is Non-Binary…

When Your Kid is Non-Binary…

…or genderqueer or gender nonconforming or gender fluid…..

There are things you experience that others do not when your kid falls into one or all of the above categories.

Kris and Andy are home for spring break this week. Yay! We stopped at a fast food place for lunch and needed a bathroom break before ordering our food. Andy and I went to our respective restrooms with Kris trailing behind. I idly wondered if he would end up in the women’s room or not. Although he used the men’s room most of the time, since coming out he had come in with me twice in 4 years. This time he did not.

When I joined Kris and Andy, I moved toward the counter to order. “I still need to use the restroom.” I turned to Kris. “I haven’t decided which one to use.”

I told him I thought he had gone in with Andy. Andy added that he was surprised when Kris did not follow him in and then concluded that Kris had ended up with me.

Kris shook his head and said, “No. I wasn’t sure which one I wanted to go in.”

It was kind of a funny moment and Kris went off to use the facilities.

You might be wondering which one he chose? I don’t know because in the end, does it really matter?

5 Minutes

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 that no parent should ever experience, I can’t imagine being in that position.

—————————————————-

24 hours ago-

I glanced at my Facebook notifications, scanning the list, my eyes stopping at a message that my middle child, Kris, had updated his status. I clicked on the notification, idly wondering what was on his mind. With Kris, one never knew what to expect. As the page loaded, my mind did a quick recall of our last text conversation (our most common form of communication while he’s away at school), thinking that I don’t remember him responding. Before I could reach for my phone for confirmation, my eyes skimmed the status (that had finally loaded).

Two words jumped out at me- “dead” and “revived”.

That got my attention.

It was at this point that I became aware of how many tasks your mind can perform in the space of a few minutes because I went into auto pilot. For the next 5 minutes, I felt like an observer as several things happened in a short period of time.

While I was reading the response of a friend-

“Are you okay? Call me!”

I was reaching for my phone to find out when I had last heard from Kris. I was comparing the time of the last text to the time of his post. I was reading his entire post, trying to determine the meaning and validity of my rising panic.

I then asked my husband when he had last heard from Kris and his answer of “a few hours ago” was not accurate enough for me.

While I was talking to him, I had texted Kris and his brothers. To Kris I was asking what was up. Michael and Andrew received messages telling them to text Kris anything that would get a response and let me know when they heard back.

By this time, I was aware of a numbness that spread throughout me. Every few seconds a determined thought would try to break through my consciousness only to be shoved into the background by the part of my mind that was clearly taking the lead on this.

Although my mind was hard at work, it became apparent that nothing else was functioning. I was frozen. My heart wasn’t feeling a thing- only the warm cocoon of being wrapped up and swaddled safe from harm. The only physical action I seemed capable of was checking my phone and giving short terse comments to my husband. And I heard one word echoing through my mind- “Breathe. Breathe. Breathe.”

So that’s what I did. Or at least I tried to. I forced myself to breathe in and out and that simple act, one that we mostly take for granted, was really difficult and painful.

While I was reading the Facebook status to my husband, he shot out a text to Kris. Then he shared the last text conversation he had with Kris, which had taken place a few minutes before that scary status.

Kris had apparently been having an emotionally draining day and due to a few unforeseen mishaps, was feeling exhausted both physically and mentally.

As I listened to the text exchange, I was able to get a feeling for Kris’s state of mind.

And before he reached the end, where Kris proclaimed that he was dead tired and couldn’t wait to get back to his room so he could drop, I heard from him. And his brothers reported immediate responses.

I could feel the binding surrounding my heart begin to loosen, my breath came easier and my mind quieted and slowed down.

Those persistent thoughts pushed their way through the protective barriers, my heart stinging with each panicked but unrealized thought. There was no crisis. Just a huge- “what if?”

As I thought over the those last 5 minutes, I questioned my judgment. Had I overreacted? Was I unable to separate a real threat from an innocuous post? My mind swirled with thoughts of the utter panic I had fought to deny.

And then Kris sent a text

“OMG Campus security just came knocking on my door and making me open the door. My friend called them because she could not reach me.”

In that second I knew that in the midst of those thoughts that were shoved down and silenced were ones wondering if it was time for me to be making that call, looking for Kris’s address to have on hand…. And I told Kris that I was seconds away from doing the same.

————————————————————————–

I’ve had time to think about that 5 minutes. I learned a few things. I did not overreact. I know that there were even more pesky, terrifying thoughts that couldn’t even reach the surface to try to poke through. And I know that my mind was seconds away from “releasing the hounds” and letting them through so I would/could take action.

But, I also got confirmation that I’m not alone. Whether it’s that faithful friend on Facebook who reacted quickly or my other sons, who did not question me- just picked up their phones and texted, I’m not alone and Kris is not alone. I hope that this experience serves as a reminder to Kris that he does have people who care about him.

Was/Is Kris suicidal? I really hope not. But after him telling me for years that he would never take his own life, I heard him tell his psychiatrist that he was STILL having thoughts of suicide and I’m aware that not all people who attempt it, talk about it.

This episode served as a reminder to me to keep my phone close at hand and keep in touch. Regardless of the actual statistics, they are too damn high and I’m not willing to risk my child’s life.

 

If you need help, it is available: 

Trans Life Line or call US (877)565-8860 /Canada (877)330-6366

It Gets Better Project This page will give you many resources, including The Trevor Project and the GLBT National Help Center.

Source: Suicide Attempts Among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults