Tag: genderqueer

Say Nothing or Something 

For the past year or so I have found myself to be in a peculiar place. It has been evident in my posts (or lack there of).

Quick background info (you can skip this if you are familiar with the story of Kris): 5 years ago my 18 year old daughter, Kerri, came out as transgender. Within 6 months, she had transitioned to male name (Kris), pronouns, presentation and took testosterone for over 3-1/2 years. Less than a year ago, Kris stopped taking testosterone and more feminine clothing began to appear in his wardrobe. He explained that he is non-binary/genderqueer- not identifying really as a boy or as a girl. Currently Kris has changed to they, them, their pronouns and their gender expression is primarily female. 

And this brings us to where I am. I’m finding myself at a loss at times when I’m faced with a new parent of a transgender child who is struggling. I will never forget what I felt when I found out that Kris was transgender. When a person in that position starts speaking, I hear a certain quality in their voice that transports me right back there. I remember feeling so incredibly much. I often felt like I was a walking exposed nerve. I know I looked the part. So I can easily relate and hopefully offer words of encouragement and comfort.

It’s the next part that has me stumped. So many parents are unsure of starting hormones, name and gender marker changes, surgeries and all that.

Kris saw a gender therapist and a psychiatrist and a doctor who had tons of experience with transgender patients. They all agreed that Kris showed very consistent signs that he was transgender and identified as a boy. Kris knew he was a boy. He was consistent, persistent and insistent. He fit the mold for the model female to male transgender person. He wanted to start testosterone as soon as he could. He was looking forward to getting top surgery but we had told him he needed to wait for that- start T and let’s see how it goes. My husband and I were very cautious entering this journey. Part of that was our fear and ignorance but then, we just wanted to be sure that we were making the right decisions with Kris. We were also dealing with a potential ticking time bomb because the truth was that Kris was over 18 and did not need our stamp of approval for anything he did. He was okay with not having biological children and ready to adopt.

And then the last year unfolded before our eyes and our transgender ftm kid became a non-binary kid whose gender expression matches their sex assigned at birth. Although Kris has been off testosterone for over a year, there are a few side effects that will never go away.

The top surgery haunts me. Or I should say, the top surgery that we did not do. Kris and I have talked about what would have happened if we let them  have that surgery that first year, like they were pushing so hard for. They’re glad we did not. Kris wants to be pregnant one day and experience pregnancy and childbirth. We are not sure if that will be possible due to the past testosterone use. Kris was 18 when we began this journey. Kris is now 23.

I don’t want to be the voice of doom or a cautionary tale. I want to be encouraging and supportive for parents who are in the position I was in 5 years ago. But I look at Kris and I worry.  And when I start responding to a parent’s concerns with my own experience, I find myself leaving out the part where Kris is now or deleting my response. I remember what it felt like in those early days- really that first year. I know that if I read about Kris now, I would look at it as if it was a lifeline. I’ve seen the look on other parents’ faces when they hear about Kris- that hope that maybe their kids will end up like Kris. The problem is- you just don’t know. For all I know, Kris could have a buzz cut and be asking if I know where their binders are next week. You don’t know until you know and then you still don’t know for sure. 

Kris and I have talked about this a lot. Not all kids are like Kris. Maybe most are not. But I keep going back to the first 3 years when Kris was certain that he was a boy. Kris had to go through those years to reach the place where they were comfortable being themselves and it helped to confirm that being a boy was not who they were. Maybe some feel it differently than Kris did/does.

I’m not even sure we belong in those groups anymore. When people hear about Kris, they jump to the conclusion that Kris is “going back to being a girl” and it literally causes me pain to try to explain it at this point. Kris has admitted to not going to LGBT groups anymore because they feel like they are taking up space that someone else needs more. This tells me that I’m not the only one in this strange place.

 So, what am I saying? I’m not sure. Each parent will be helping their child make these decisions, if the child is under 18. These are not decisions to be made lightly and having been there (although with an older child), I don’t envy the task at hand.

What do I say? Nothing? Everything? Something in between?

I just don’t know. For the time being, I will err on the side of caution and go with-

When in doubt, say nothing.

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?

The Angel on My Tree

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 the removal of the name and which were undeniably girl ornaments and no longer appropriate. Kris was happy to see the return of many of his beloved favorites sporting his name and I was happy to see them back as well, although still a little sad.

This year, I had forgotten about the feelings that accompanied the ornaments and as we struggled with getting the lights on the tree to work, all was well. Then, in one of my Facebook groups for parents of transgender kids, a mom posted-

I love my son but today I really, really miss my daughter.

One mom brought up the Christmas ornaments and that was IT.

I went off to find that box of Christmas ornaments- the ones that no longer made it onto our tree. But the box wasn’t where I remember it being and I panicked. I searched in my office, went back to the location I thought it had been but didn’t see it and it became an obsession. I had to find that box but I didn’t know where it was. I wracked my brain, trying to remember if I had put it in another box with some of Kerri’s other things or if I had found a special place for it but nothing was coming to mind. And I was panicking. Big time.

Angel Ornament

I stared at our unfinished tree and I saw the angel ornament. One of Kerri’s that sneaked her way onto the tree. She could do that because she wasn’t personalized due to the glitter. This was it. The only representation of a daughter I used to have. Or more accurately, a daughter I thought I had.

I started to think about those lost ornaments, as well as the altered ones, and what they mean to me. See, there are many people who would tell me that I have not lost my child and I should be rejoicing in that. And I do. Believe me, I DO. Every single time I see that another transgender life has been lost, I thank God that I still have Kris here with me. And when I look at the old ornaments with the new name on them, they do bring me joy because it gives me a feeling of continuity and life going on.

But those ornaments, especially the ones in the box, represent so much more than that one specific year when it was given. I hand picked each and every one with my child in mind- whatever phase or hobby was “the thing” that year. There are the ones with the girl playing the clarinet, the swimmer girl, Baby Bop, ice skating, and so many more. Each of these ornaments brings to mind a time in our family history. They remind me of my changeling, who I thought was my daughter, then thought was my son, and in the end who I learned to love simply as my child, with no qualifying relationship name other than child or kid or offspring. It’s as if every memory sweeps through me in this surge and it overwhelms me, playing with my emotions. I feel the uncertainty of those early transition days where our worlds seemed all shaken up and unfamiliar. I recall the point when I realized that I no longer thought of Kris by his birth name and the sadness that accompanied that thought mixed up with the immense relief that it was getting better. And when I reached the point where Kerri seemed like a complete person separate from Kris and I felt like I had let Kerri go, I am coming to terms with Kris’s announcement that he is genderqueer and nuances and facets of Kerri, that kid I had thought was gone, are reappearing, mixed up with Kris’s being.

I will enjoy this Christmas, being surrounded by my family. But I think I will always feel some level of sadness every year because those ornaments will always be a symbol of so much more than just Christmas or Kris or Kerri. They will be a reminder of years past, happy and sad times, and hope for the future as we look at how far we have come, not only Kris as he navigates this journey, but all of us as we travel along side him, all of us transitioning in different ways.

I am only able to write this post now because I did find that box of ornaments. It was in the original place I had put it. In my panic, I kept looking right past it.

And as we finish decorating our tree, it will be interesting to see if 6 year old CJ will allow Kris to put any of his ornaments on the tree because to quote him-

Uncle Kris has the coolest ornaments!

Oh, and that angel ornament? She has an important job. She continues to represent all of her companions of years past. When I look at her, I don’t just see the angel that she is. I see all of them- the girls playing the clarinet, the teddy bear, the ice skater, the engraved 1st Christmas ornament, the snowman, the angel, the baby in the stocking, the rocking horse, the swimmer and Baby Bop.

the missing ornaments