Tag: parent of transgender child

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

Your Inside is Out 2.0

Just over five years into the life changing journey that I have experienced with my non-binary child, I have started to revisit earlier posts. They are from a time when we were in a different place than we are now.

I am sharing a post from April 2014, when my trans kid, Kris, identified as male and used he, him, his as pronouns. I am leaving it in its original form, with the only revision being my addition at the end. 

If you are unfamiliar with Kris’s story, you can catch up HERE

I originally wrote this entry 18 months ago. I find it interesting that time and a little perspective make all the difference.

Image

October 2012 “Your outside is in and your inside is out.” I don’t know exactly what John Lennon was referring to in the song Everybody’s Got Something to Hide… Whether it’s drugs, sex or spirituality, it doesn’t matter to me. Right now I can relate to the song. For quite some time I have been feeling like my outside is in and my inside is out. Today is one of those inside out days.

About 6 months ago, K asked if I would mind taking down his senior picture. It was hanging on the wall in between his brothers’ school pictures. I didn’t have a hard time with that. In fact, the picture had seemed like a sort of taunt every time I saw it. It’s a beautiful picture. K looks incredible in the picture. Yes, I could see where that might be a problem for him. His hair and make up are perfect. Lovely smile. Sparkling eyes. A gorgeous girl. Definitely not an accurate representation of my middle child, who was now a boy. I took it down. Now there was a blank spot in between my two other children’s pictures. And now instead of being taunted by the photo of the daughter who did not exist, I was being haunted by a blank space. That lasted for about 5 months. Every time I walked past that well, which was countless times a day, it seemed to mock me, the blank spot magnified. When someone came over, I was sure their eyes jumped to that empty space and what was missing. Finally I took the other pictures down as well and had a blank wall with nails poking out waiting for something to be hung on them. It was easier to look at that empty wall. It seemed really blank and took up more space than I remembered but it was definitely easier. When I mentioned first, the senior picture coming down and then next, all the pictures coming down to my mother and sister, both seemed to be upset by the idea. My sister got defensive about the “girl” pictures she had around her house. To both mom and sis, I repeated that no one was asking anyone to do anything. And the truth was, I wasn’t. I was just informing them so it wouldn’t be a shock when they came over. If they came over. Ever again. I wanted K to be comfortable in his own home. And I wanted him to be able to bring friends home, if he wanted.

I knew that there were probably other pictures that made K uncomfortable so I mentioned to him that in the future, we would be doing a whole house/all pictures overhaul. We would take everything down and then decide what’s going back up. That way, he could remove anything that caused him discomfort or pain. Was taking down these photos going to cause me some heartache? Sure, but I would get over it. And I told myself that, although my heart ached at the thought of removing those beloved photographs.

A few days later, something clicked inside me. I’m not sure what triggered it, but I knew that the time had come to tackle the pictures. It was time to move on. Before I could do that, I needed to do one thing. I went through our pre-digital camera photo albums and started scanning the “girl” pictures of K from birth on up. That was the cause of the inside out feeling. K at different ages evoked different emotions. The baby/toddler/preschool days filled my heart with love. The early elementary days made me smile. What caught me off guard (and probably shouldn’t have) was the early teen years. I felt like someone had stabbed me in the heart at the sight of my middle child with full make up and a woman’s figure. In my head, I know that’s what he looked like. It was such a sharp contrast to the boy who lived with me these days. Such a shock to the system to remember how girly my girl was. My emotions were all askew. I was mourning for the loss of my daughter once again. I was proud of the young man he was becoming. I was amazed at how much an ultra feminine picture taken 15 months ago could look so wrong. I was happy, sad, angry. All at once.

My goal was to take my special girl pictures and make an album. A sort of letting go project that would keep my memories safe and in a place where I could easily see them when needed. I told my mom about this, once again- not to cause pain or guilt or trouble- just as a warning. She replied almost angrily that she was probably going to take all of her pictures down. I just couldn’t win. Once again with the people that were expecting me to lead them in supporting me and my kids, I had done the wrong thing.

Once again, I knew that this was her issue and not mine but it just made me wonder if I was correct in my guess at her anger. Was I making my parents deal with something they didn’t want to face? Or were they embarrassed by K and ticked off at me for not nipping “this phase” in the bud? Or was it their inability to accept it and their guilt over not supporting us?

“Everybody’s got something to hide except me and my monkey.” ~John Lennon

April 2014  I’m happy to report that after my picture overhaul, K sorted out all the pictures into two groups. There were quite a few that we could display if they were black and white. Removing pink or purple made all the difference. Yes, there is a gaping hole of about 10 years when K’s pictures are just too girly and we don’t display those. But it really is okay. I love the pictures I have out. Little 2 year old K wearing his big brothers windbreaker, jeans and hair swept up in a baseball cap- that’s my little boy- the one that was always there, trying to get out. I showed my mom those pictures and said, “See, he was there all along. These are K.” I’m working on a scrapbook. It’s therapeutic for me to remember little snippets of that little girl and I have realized that I don’t have to let her go. I had a daughter for 18-1/2 years and I’ve had a son for 2-1/2 years. But I’ve had my middle child, K, for 21 years.

February 2017 It’s hard to believe that Kris will turn 24 soon. Much has happened in the 22 months since I first published this post and the 3-1/2 years since I began writing it. While Kris is still searching to find their comfort level in expressing who they are, they seem to be settled (and more at peace) with identifying as non-binary and using they, them, their pronouns. Their gender expression is strictly feminine, and often they are taken to be a young lady. (And Kris assures me that this is fine.)

A few months ago, Kris asked if we could find a picture that accurately represents who they are up on the wall. This would be the wall where my children’s school pictures were displayed, with the final photographs being their senior pictures. In the Great Photo Purge of 2012 I struggled with a replacement and finally Kris provided one of his abstract self portraits. Not having a studio portrait of Kris that compared with my sons’ senior pictures, I asked Kris how they felt about the senior picture going back up. Kris agreed that it was the best option and I dusted off Kris’s senior picture and placed it back on the wall. I will admit that I do a slight double-take at times, not expecting to see it there but it’s nice to have it back. Especially since in the picture, 2011 Kerri looks exactly like Kris does now.

All of those photographs tell Kris’s story. If I was to lay out a smattering of pictures of Kris spanning the last almost 24 years, I would see my baby girl who grew into a spirited toddler and precocious preschooler who alternated between begging to take ballet and wanting to do whatever her big brother was doing. I would watch Kerri’s energy and personality merge with her determination to become a pre-adolescent finding a way to survive. My heart would swell with pride and ache with sorrow at the teen years when Kerri was battling to make it through and somehow managed to accomplish so much that I’m proud of. Then I would reach when Kerri came out as transgender and transitioned to Kris. And I would marvel at the last five years and how far Kris has come, pulling together all those fragments from the pieces of their life leading up to this point to become the person I have always known they were.

Kris

Daily Prompt: Recognize

Onward

I’ve been in crisis mode for awhile now. I think too much. My good friend tells me this all the time and it’s only recently that I’ve come to realize that he is right. (Please, don’t tell him though because it will just feed his ego.)

When I began this blog, I had a clear goal- to connect with others while sharing my experience having a transgender child. It was straight forward and clear. I have never been picky about who I connect with- I enjoy the interaction with everyone. I didn’t want my blog to be “all trans- all the time” because quite honestly, there is more to my life than just being the mother of a transgender kid. I love the photography challenges and daily prompts.

But I have drifted away from writing about the one thing that brought me here in the first place- having that trans kid. I have also drifted away from writing in general, which was a huge part of me long before my children were ever born and I really need to get back to that.

I attempted to back off on writing about Kris, justifying it with the explanation to myself that I really needed to sort my feelings out before sharing. Months have gone by and each time I sit down to write and I look at the unfinished (or sometimes not even started outside of a title) drafts, I realize that the excuse (and it IS an excuse) is wearing thin.

And I’m overthinking it all- Kris, why I can’t write about Kris, why I can’t write….

NaNoWriMo is breathing down my neck and this year I WILL WIN, if for no other reason than to get myself writing regularly again.

So, without further ado and nearly 300 words later, where I am (and Kris too)—the short and sweet version(or as short as I can make it):

  • As I have mentioned, Kris is non-binary and doesn’t really identify as male or female .
  • Kris prefers the pronouns “they, them, their” but is not hung up on it when misgendered.
  • Kris’s gender expression is female-the source of the misgendering.
  • Sometimes Kris might want to dress in a more masculine manner (as seen by society’s norms) but that makes them no more male than their everyday appearance, which is more feminine, makes them a girl.
  • By some people’s standards, Kris is not considered to be transgender- but by Kris’s standards they are (and that’s the only one that matters).
  • I owe no one an explanation.
  • I love Kris no matter what they wear or what name they go by.
  • I don’t have to have an epiphany.
  • I don’t have to have a lot of feelings about it.
  • They thought they were a boy but they aren’t.
  • They feel more comfortable expressing themselves in a feminine manner, which just happens to match the body they were given. Okay.
  • Kris is still Kris and that’s the same person they always were.
  • I love my kid.

Now that that’s out of the way, I really need to get back to writing this blog, improving my photography skills, and getting moving on ideas for my NaNo novel!!!

Happy Monday!

-Kat

Park Days

Park Days

I remember being at the park with the mom’s group I belonged to at the time with my two kids. Andrew wasn’t around yet. Michael was probably just under 4 years old which would make Kris around a year and a half old. Every week we would join the other moms and kids at the park.  For me it was a lifeline to other moms who were in the trenches along side me.

It was no small feat, facing that outing. It required great planning. I had to make sure our blanket was clean- and still in the car. I had to make sure I had a large supply of snacks and water bottles and a little juice. (Too much juice just bought you countless outings to the porta-john- and if there’s one thing I wanted to avoid, it was visiting there at all.) We needed sunscreen and bug spray, wipes, paper towels, changes of clothes, bandaids, diapers for Kris. The list was endless, or so it seemed. And after loading up the car and taking one last trip to the bathroom, we would head out for a morning with our friends.

We all looked forward to going to the park. Michael and Kris had many playmates to choose from, in addition to the playground equipment and exploring the grassy area, trying to climb the trees, digging in the dirt. And the best part of all is that I got to see the other moms. We sat on our blankets, swapping war stories, sharing advice and new discoveries while keeping an eye on our kids. Park days were the best!

One morning stands out in my memory. It began just like any other park day. One by one or sometimes in pairs, moms arrived. Depending on the ages of their children and how light they packed, they might bring the kids out of the car first, asking the other moms if they could keep an eye while they unpacked their car. Others, like me, were determined to do it all in one trip- kids, blanket, bags and all.

This particular morning I remember this mom, Cathy, who did not travel light, taking 3 trips back and forth as she brought food, chairs, blanket, bags and toys. Her children, Eric and Ashley, were the same ages as mine and Michael loved playing with her son. As she brought the kids up along with a bag and blanket, Eric ran off weaving in and out of swings in search of friends. He almost collided with a younger child who had come down the slide and skidded to a halt when he found Michael, giving him a friendly shove down. Cathy reprimanded him, reminding him to be careful around the smaller children. Before she had even completed her 2nd trip, Eric was throwing dirt. Cathy told him to stop throwing dirt as she was walking up with the chairs. Her back was barely turned before Eric had bent down to grab another handful. Michael had caught my eye as he had also squatted. All it took was a menacing, “Michael” from me for him to straighten up. Michael was no angel but he knew, as did Eric, that throwing dirt was not allowed.

The rest of us moms all sat on our blankets, failing miserably at holding a normal conversation, as Cathy walked back up. She set down the diaper bag and this time as she took in Eric, both hands full of dirt, arms raised, the weariness that lined her face was obvious. We stumbled at conversation while she gave Eric his first official warning. Then she uttered the words we all avoided like the plague. “If I have to warn you one more time, we are leaving.”

Yes, she went there. She had issued an ultimatum. I think we collectively held our breath.

Eric considered her threat and his arms slowly lowered, his hands opening to drop the dirt.

We could breathe again. The moment had appeared to pass.

Cathy unpacked her belongings, set up the kids’ little chairs, smoothed out her blanket and sat back, ready to join in on the conversation.

And then it happened. Without warning, Eric scooped up a handful of dirt and flung it at a passing toddler.

Time stopped.

I will never forget the defeated look on Cathy’s face. She couldn’t look any of us in the eye. I’m sure she was fighting back tears. She sighed and got to her feet. She slowly began the packing up process, folding the blanket and chairs, placing food and drinks back in the bag, gathering up toys. She turned our direction as she loaded up everything for one trip and asked, “Could you please keep an eye on them?”

We all nodded and/or murmured our consent.

And as she trudged back to her van, arms loaded, a cry arose from the playground equipment. It was coming from Eric, who had just realized what was happening.

A very resigned but determined Cathy scooped up little Ashley, who had never quite made it onto the playground area, and grabbed Eric, whose cries had escalated into screams. As Ashley realized that she was not going to be playing today, her sobbing joined her brother’s.

We sat in silence until the cries were muted by the closing of the minivan door and we watched Cathy back out of the parking space.

We talked quietly of how much we respected Cathy for following through on her threat. We felt awful for her. We knew that she had been having a rough time with Eric. Like most of us who had kids over the age of 2, 3 had been a much more trying year than 2 could ever be. We did not judge Cathy or the choices she made. If anyone had needed that morning out among her people, it had been Cathy. On any given day, one or more of us WAS Cathy. Although our parenting styles varied as much as our personalities, we still shared a common bond- that of being women who chose to leave their professions to raise their children. We did this at a time when being a stay at home mom was not valued as much as it once had been. Parents who worked did not know what it truly meant to be home with your children full time, or maybe they did and that’s why they worked. 😉  We were each others’ lifelines.

The next week when Cathy arrived at the park with all of her stuff, she brought a much 1 week wiser Eric who had learned that there are consequences to your actions. Or maybe he just learned to not get caught throwing dirt. Regardless, we greeted Cathy with a warm welcome back and sat back and listened as she shared the recounting of her week. We shared some of our own horror stories and frustrations and we felt the tension melt away. We were among friends who understood, not only because they were caring, empathetic people, but because they had been there too.

Recently for the first time I sat at a table talking with other parents of transgender children. There were five us. Other than one fleeting conversation 6 months ago, I had never had a live conversation with another parent going through the same thing I had been experiencing for the past 4 years. It was so nice. Although I’ve always known I wasn’t the only one with a transgender kid, I was sitting there thinking, I’m not the only one. As one of us spoke, the rest nodded their heads, not just nods of sympathy, empathy, compassion but nods that said, “Yes, I know exactly how you feel. I feel/felt/experienced the same thing.”

And I was reminded of those long ago days, sitting on my blanket, talking to other moms. This connection with other parents is priceless.

Park days were the days that got me through. They were the best.

They still are.

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