Tag: nonbinary

F is for Fluid

F is for Fluid

gen·der-flu·id
adjective
adjective: genderfluid
  1. denoting or relating to a person who does not identify themselves as having a fixed gender.

Gender-fluid.

It’s something I’ve talked about, thought about, and most likely written about over the past five plus years.

As Kris has traveled on this journey, discovering who they are and who they aren’t, how they feel and how they don’t, and how they want to be seen and how they see themselves, we have experienced peaks and valleys. The beginning was rough….really rough. Kris struggled to find their true self and I struggled to help.

As Kris has expressed feeling that their gender is more toward the female end than male although not altogether female and that their gender expression is more feminine with definite days of feeling more comfortable in male clothing, we discussed the importance of Kris’s documents being in order and all consistent- something that has been an issue for a while now.

Just over a year ago, Kris told us that they are non-binary or genderqueer and just over a week ago they confirmed that they are mostly gender-fluid (which falls under the non-binary umbrella). I already figured as much. I know my kid pretty well after 24 years of being their parent.

We reached a crossroad this week. It took place at the DMV. When Kris and I entered, we were both anxious. I was doing my best to show a confident and calm demeanor for Kris, who was oozing anxiety. (I’m not sure if I succeeded or not, but in my head I did.) Rose, the DMV employee motioned us up to the first check point. Kris held their driver’s license, physician’s note and envelope with all the documents we might need. I said simply and calmly, “We need to get the gender marker changed on this license,” motioning toward Kris’s license.

IMG_1401After Kris handed Rose the physician’s note and their license, she indicated that she needed to verify that no other identification was needed and walked off. (Kris and I knew that we had what we needed AND that we had just given Rose those items, but I understood that she might not get this request every day and perhaps had not done a gender marker change yet.) She was back quickly, assuring is that this was all we needed.

We were given a number and paperwork and pointed to the next step of the process- the waiting area. Luckily we had arrived during a lull and our number was called before we could even look for seats. At our next check point, Marta, our next DMV employee, took the paperwork and after a few questions, another non-event and we were referred to the cashier’s line.

After paying, we were seated in the section where the pictures are taken and people are given their temporary license, as the official license is mailed to your home. Marta had said that no, Kris would not be taking a new photo, which had made Kris sad. Their license showed a cute boy with buzzed hair and different glasses, looking nothing like Kris did now. I had to remind Kris that we had been down this route before and the important thing was that the gender marker.

As Gus, our final DMV employee, called out “Kristoffer!” a blank look, followed one of complete confusion crossed his face when we walked up. He repeated the name. I said, “YES,” firmly, and he looked down at something. I’ll be honest with you- I don’t know if it was a print out or on his monitor. We stood there while he looked down and then looked up again. He turned to me and indicated that I could take a seat with the others waiting and he directed Kris to the seat where the picture was taken.

I do not know if Marta had been mistaken or if Gus had determined that Kris needed a new picture that matched their appearance but we left the DMV with the paper copy of what will be Kris’s newly revised license complete with May 2017 Kris- hair down to shoulders- and a “F” female gender marker. (The name change will come later.)

I remember the last time we went through this- changing a gender marker from then female to male. We were both anxious then. I was also emotional, and I recall keeping those emotions firmly in check. Kris was so happy when they received their new license with the correct name and gender marker. I was so…. a lot of things. This time once we passed Rose’s check point, I knew that we would have no problems and other than relief, I didn’t feel much anything else. I looked at the F that now appears on Kris’s license and I only feel relief.

And don’t get me wrong— it has nothing to do with what the F stands for because although Kris identifies closer to female than male, my relief is simply because Kris’s ducks are in a row. Their license matches most of their legal documents once more and the ones that need to be changed can be done so quite easily with the license in hand. Kris can apply for a passport and we can proceed with our family trip later this year, which will include a trek into Canada. And if God forbid, Kris should have what is considered a “female’ medical emergency, it will be covered by insurance.

Maybe that crossroad is the end of Kris’s gender journey. Or maybe it is not. Only time will tell. I no longer feel the need to explain Kris’s gender to anyone. If someone should ask, I’m more than happy to respond. Some jump to conclusions but that’s on them, not me.

And even though Kris has that F on their license, I still don’t have a daughter. I have a gender-fluid child and I can say with all certainty that whether I have a child who identifies as a boy or girl or neither or both or flows back and forth depending on the day, I know that I love them and nothing will ever change that.

Thanks for stopping by!

-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

When Your Kid Comes Out…

“Nothing is permanent.

Everything is subject to change.

Being is always becoming.”

-Buddha

I’m not an expert in raising LGBTQ kids. Mine was 18 when they came out and while that might be the legal age for some things, it doesn’t mean they were an adult by any means. Since we were about to embark on a second puberty, they were far from grown up. But having experienced the last five plus years, I’ve found a few things to hold true.

  • Your child comes first. Love them. Accept them. Support them.
  • A name is just a name- no matter how attached you might think you are to the one you gave them, you will be surprised at how quickly you adapt to a new name when you just accept it.
  • Let go of what society and you consider gender norms. Open your mind to new possibilities.
  • If your child holds on to parts of their previous gender or ASAB (or whatever you prefer to call it), it does not mean that they don’t identify as the other gender. Trans boys can like make up. Trans girls can like football.
  • And holding onto those things doesn’t mean they are unsure or changing their minds. They might just like those things. Or they might be comfortable with those things, especially if they are coming out at a later age.
  • Don’t expect them to know instinctively how to be a boy or girl. Sometimes it takes time to know who you are and what feels right.
  • People might act strange. They might act accepting until they actually see your child as their true self. They might resist it. They might fade away quietly. They might disguise their discomfort behind other issues. They might not know how they feel.
  • Fight for your child.
  • Be flexible. (4 years after the child I thought was my daughter came out as my son, I was buying a dress for the Winter Ball.)
  • This is a journey. Although some kids will come out, transition and live happily ever after, some need more time.
  • Advocate for the LGBTQ community. You don’t have to be the loudest or flashiest one out there but by showing support, it’s sending a clear message to your child. It’s one thing to support your child because they are your child but by advocating it tells your child that your truly support who they are because you believe in not only them, but every person’s right to be their truest self.
  • Nothing is permanent. And if your child should say, “Hey, know what? This doesn’t feel right”- well, so what? No one was hurt and your child can move on in their journey to face new challenges.
  • And because it is so important it bears repeating- love, accept, support.

Out of everything I have experienced as a parent, this one has been the wildest ride. I know it might not be over, or it might be….and that’s just part of what it is. I’ve learned so much about myself and my family and my life. And I never thought that I would be where I am right now, which is in a much better place than I was 5-7 years ago.

TTFN!

-Kat

 

Follow Up to “Say Nothing or Something”

Yesterday’s post- Say Nothing or Something– was not the post I thought I was going to write when I began it over a week ago. In fact, I scrapped half of it and changed the name a few times. I had actually thought about the post for weeks before even trying to formulate a coherent post and in the end, I still felt that it was rambly and not quite what I wanted to say.

The past few weeks have been filled with some unpleasant blindsides, truths and a bully along with his spineless followers thrown in for good measure. I had recently said that I felt like I was being pushed out of my own life. In too many places, I was getting the message that I no longer fit in or was no longer wanted and/or needed. To say that I’ve been floundering would be something of an understatement. I can’t remember feeling this insecure and unsure since my teenage years.

And the Say Nothing post was taunting me. I might not know where I belonged anymore or where I was headed but I knew I needed to write it. And to write specifically about how I wasn’t sure if I had something to offer. (I’m not going to go into details about “the hits that just kept on coming” but suffice it to say, I was rattled in all areas of my life, and quite frankly still am.) I knew that my need to write was not a result of “the hits” because it had been flitting through my mind for awhile. So I attempted to write it. 

And here is what happened- 

You responded. Through blogging I have had the pleasure and honor of meeting incredible people. First of all, there is the blogging community. Wow! Although I have been writing my entire life, this blog was the first time I let anyone actually read what I wrote. I cannot think of a better place for a beginner to get her toes wet.

Whether you liked, commented or read my post and did nothing more, THANK YOU! This community is amazing. People are so supportive and are always willing to cheer you on and help you to succeed. My little oddities as a writer don’t seem quite so odd in this place. 🙂 I have the courage to continue to write and I’ve been toying with venturing into writing fiction here, too.  Bloggers are the best!

When I took the Blogging U courses, I met some really great people, who have become friends. I have connected with them outside of this community and their friendship means the world to me.

The other group that I’ve been blown away by is the LGBTQ community. I wasn’t sure who was going to read my blog, although I thought that they might be parents of transgender kids. (Makes sense, doesn’t it?) Some of my most enriching experiences were with the transgender people I’ve met here. I have never been looking for support or a pat on the back as a parent. As I’ve said quite a few times, I don’t know how to be any other type of mom than the one I am. I cherish the heartfelt exchanges with my fellow parents of trans kids. This group, the LGBTQ community both within the blogging world and out, are consistently the most gentle, kindest, welcoming people I have ever had the fortune to interact and connect with.

But parenting a transgender child is not easy. Especially when you spend 18 years not knowing you’re doing it! And it was as I shared our journey and heard from people who were on their own journey, but as full grown adults, that I felt that we were going in the right direction. I didn’t want Kris to feel that they had to wait for someone to die before they could be their true self. Although I will never truly know what it feels to be transgender, through research, reading and talking with Kris, I wanted to be sure I was getting an accurate feel for where they were at and what was going on inside. It was through Kris and my transgender friends here that I was able to gain a better understanding.

And my heart broke as I thought of Kris’s childhood and the confusion they must have felt for so much of it. I’ve been assured that it wasn’t all torture, gloom and doom, and there are videos, photographs and memories that support that. Still, I wanted to be sure that moving forward, my child would have to opportunity to live the same life that everyone else was given and that they would be accepted as their brothers were- for who they were- not what people wanted them to be.

As Kris has become more comfortable expressing their gender in a feminine way, there are people who thought/think that Kris changed their mind and had gone back to being a girl. I don’t feel compelled to go into a lengthy explanation. Kris is Kris. If someone asks, I will answer. The depth of the answer depends on the person. I consider this to be a huge step for me- no longer feeling the need to explain or justify Kris’s life to anyone. But it came with a price and that was that when I continued to speak as the parent of a transgender child, it didn’t really look that way anymore. If you have a nonbinary or gender variant/creative/nonconforming child, you know that appearances are a wild card on any day of the week. And those folks don’t even ask because they get it. They live it too.

It’s that world that follows the gender binary that gets caught up in semantics and all the little details. Some of those people live in the LGBT community and are parents of transgender kids. I respect their conviction that their child is transitioning to male or female, regardless of the child’s age. But I did stumble here because I didn’t want to make them feel like I was judging or questioning their choices for their kids. I was them once. And it didn’t occur to me that maybe Kris was not a boy. Luckily, we live in a world where transgender people are more visible and at times it appears that genderqueer people are highly visible. It was after reading comments on the Say Nothing post that I realized that I needed to continue to share our experience, no matter what we looked like on the outside.

More people are comfortable living with two genders- male and female. The concept of gender being inherent is foreign to them, even though they would probably admit to feeling their gender down to the fiber of their being.

Consistent, insistent, persistent. These are words that you will hear tossed around when a person questions their child’s gender. Do they show signs of these three things? Maybe that’s where I tripped up. Because Kris was all three and according to those markers along with professional assessments, Kris was a boy. But Kris wasn’t. Kris spent their life saying “I’m a boy” but that was not what Kris meant. And let me tell you, this kid has above average intelligence and always had a sophisticated vocabulary. What Kris was actually saying was “I’m not a girl.” Kris was a child. How could they know that the two don’t mean the same thing? They only knew two genders. But they knew their sense of who they are did not match the label they were given.

So my place in the LGBT world is a little bit different than I thought it was going to be. While I can still speak to what it feels like to have a female to male kid transition complete with name/gender marker changes, binder and testosterone, I can continue to stress how important it is to take your time and listen to your child but also listen to your gut instinct when it comes to this child. I can share my ftm kid experiences but I can also talk about where that led.

Do you remember the game “Don’t Break the Ice”? It had the square frame with plastic ice cubes in it and you took turns tapping on an ice cube, trying to free it without collapsing all of the other cubes? Well, my life feels that way lately- like I’m not quite sure if all my ice cubes are going to crash to the ground while I tap gently on this one. (I do have a point here.) My cubes are pretty shaky right now but thanks to the people who took part in commenting on my last post, I have safely freed one of my cubes and maybe the remaining ones are not as much in jeopardy as I thought.

I need to thank everyone who commented on my last post- Shawn, Kris, Claudette, Curious Mother, and Ruth. (I hope I didn’t miss anyone!!) You inspired me to write this post. Your comments helped ground me and give me direction. My heart was warmed so much. It’s hard to find words to express my gratitude.

There is a strong possibility that this post is just as rambly as the last one but inside I feel like something was set straight. My thoughts on this topic are focused and no longer shooting off in all different directions. And even if Kris should show up with that buzz cut looking like a boy, I’m ready.

 

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.