Tag: parenting a 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

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Where Did Compassion Go?

“True compassion means not only feeling another’s pain but also being moved to help relieve it.” -Daniel Goleman

Have you ever been so moved to speak out about something that it overwhelmed you- rendering you speechless? I have found myself in that place.

I have seen a trend occurring in support groups on social media. People, looking for support and understanding while they work their way through something they are experiencing with their loved one, are attacked by others in the same position. This attack takes on the forms of bullying, judging, accusing and reprimanding. It is wrapped up in the deceptive package of “tough love” or “just trying to set you straight” or some other helpful reason. And in some cases, I believe that the person truly means well. But more often, that is not the case.

When a parent is navigating something new and possibly unexpected with their child, and it can be anything from lgbt issues, health issues, learning disabilities…. whatever….., it’s rough. It can take time to process feelings, educate yourself, and get yourself on track. Everyone moves at their own speed and there is no right or wrong way to do it.

What one person easily accepts might be difficult for another to wrap their head around. Someone might be familiar with the topic and another person might have never even heard the words before. Often people are misinformed. So many may be feeling as if their world changed overnight and they are unsure how to move forward. Regardless, if they are searching for support and find themselves in a group surrounded by others in their situation, they are going to hope that these are friendly faces. If they are me (6 years ago), they are praying to find some friendly faces. Some kindness, compassion and support. To know that they are not alone.

At this point, if you’ve stuck with me, I’m sure you are thinking, ‘Kat, could you be any more vague?’

Let me give you an example- My middle child, Kris, is gender-fluid. Kris uses they, them, their pronouns.

Six and a half years ago, my middle child, Kerri, came out as transgender, and she transitioned to Kris, my son. A few years into this transition, Kris began showing more feminine traits and we discovered that Kris identified more as genderqueer or non-binary. Pronouns changed to they, them, their and gender descriptive words such as son and daughter were removed from our vocabulary. As time passed, Kris’s gender appeared to be more fluid with times where they were female and Kris temporarily used she, her, hers pronouns. The feminine period lasted for what seemed like a long time but in reality was a blink of the eye and Kris’s appearance morphed more into a cross between masculine and feminine with pronouns changing back to they, them, their. Kris has been our leader, as they should be, because it is their life, after all.

It’s quite a journey and I’ve shared parts of it here in this blog. Writing is my therapy and if I can help another parent who is in my position feel a little less alone, then it’s definitely worth it to put myself out there.

That paragraph up there, the one telling you about Kris….it’s a safe paragraph. If I was to post that in any of the many groups that I’m in for support, I am confident that the reaction would quite benign. There might be some “likes” and a few welcoming comments.

BUT, here are a few facts about us…my family and Kris:

We do not use the term “dead name” when referring to Kris before they transitioned. Kerri is Kris’s BIRTH name- the name given at birth. Kris went by the name Kerri and lived as our daughter for 18-1/2 years. Kerri is not dead- she’s just not here. Parts of her live on in Kris but not all of her. We don’t go out of our way to talk about Kerri or once having a little girl, but there are times when it makes more sense. And quite honestly, I love Kris. I loved Kris when they were Kerri. I loved Kris when they used male pronouns and I loved Kris when they used female pronouns. I love Kris. My sons grew up with Kerri. She is part of the foundation of their entire childhood and our family’s story. None of that takes anything away from Kris or our love for Kris. We have all talked about it and if Kris expressed that we do it differently, we would do it in a heartbeat.

There are pictures of Kris growing up displayed in our house. They show who Kris was. For awhile, Kris didn’t want anything up that showed them as a girl and I respectfully removed them all, only leaving out the ones that Kris approved. Time passes and Kris was okay with a few coming back out. I was so glad that I didn’t get rid of all of them.

Sometimes I miss my daughter. I suspect I always will. I realize that I probably miss the idea of her more than the reality of her. I’m okay with that. And for those months last year it felt like she was back. And if you look back at that time, you’ll find that I didn’t write much. I hope to be able to write about that time someday because I think it’s important for other parents of gender-fluid kids to hear about it. Even in the land of parents of transgender kids there are some who believe in the gender binary and I think that some of my unresolved feelings in that area floated to the surface during Kris’s recent girl stage. So, sometimes I miss my daughter and IT IS OKAY! It does not detract from my love for Kris.

Because my child’s gender is fluid, my experiences and emotions are also going to be fluid. They won’t follow a “female to male” norm. And someone else’s experience with a gender-fluid child could be (and most likely is) completely different than mine.

If I was to post some of these things in the support groups I’ve mentioned, there’s a pretty good chance I could find myself under attack. I’ve been seeing it happen regularly to some unsuspecting person who is trying to figure out which way is up and they use the wrong pronouns or their child’s birth name because they aren’t ready to let go. Don’t get me wrong— these groups are filled with kind, gentle, loving people who are quick to support and compassion—- but when you are feeling like you can’t keep your head above water, it’s the cutting words of the others- those are the ones that make you slip down lower. If you are new to this world, you don’t know any better and to be harshly reprimanded and accused of “dead naming” your child? Of not being supportive? Of being selfish because you need support and you thought you were in a safe place at a time when nothing feels quite right?

I don’t post these things because I don’t need to. I’ve worked through this. I’ve had countless conversations with Kris about the Do’s and Don’ts.

If I encounter someone who has set off a war unintentionally, I will be quick to reassure them and support them and let them know that what they are feeling, doing, saying, is okay. I will not engage in combat though. I realize that someone has to. But right now, I’m fully entrenched in two other ongoing battles that are consuming all of my energy.

What’s the point here? I don’t know. I can’t help but refer back to the title- Where did compassion go?

I’m posting without editing because if I do, this will sit in the shadows with so many other drafts. I apologize for typos- this is me in this moment and one day, I know that I will come back and edit it.

Peace and Love,

Kat

Yesterday I Cried

It came in the mail the day before yesterday- an envelope addressed to Kris from the Secretary of State.

It holds Kris’s new license. New picture. Old gender marker.

Almost all of Kris’s ducks are in a row. All documentation is marked female. The only thing left to do is a legal name change- to Kris’s new chosen name. I’m not sure when that will happen. That doesn’t matter right now.

What does matter is that Kris’s gender marker is consistent everywhere.

I kept waiting to feel something. Anything. The last (nearly) six years have been quite a journey. Kris’s license change might not signal the end of the journey but it was still kind of big.

On the surface with the exception of Kris’s name, the last years could have not happened. And yet so much did- years of ups and down, self discovery and exploration, growth and acceptance. In our lives, all of this was HUGE. I can’t begin to count the times I was overcome with emotion through this time- when Kris came out, seeing Kris in a binder, calling Kris by a different name with male pronouns, losing people, watching Kris transform before my eyes, the first piece of mail with Kris’s new name on it, the pain when “Kerri” still showed up on mail, the first time Kris got a testosterone shot, the lower voice and shorter hair, shopping for girl clothes again, seeing Kris in a dress for the first time in years, and then the gradual emergence of Kris as they are today. All of these moments and countless others made me feel something- whether it was pain, heartache, joy, happiness, pride, anger, or determination- it was something.

So then Kris’s license came in the mail and—

nothing.

What was wrong with me? Was I just numb after all that had gone on? Was I too rundown to really let the emotions free? If this didn’t tug at my heart, why didn’t I at least feel happiness or peace? Was it because it didn’t really change anything except lowering our auto insurance a little? Was it because it didn’t give me a daughter and it didn’t take a son away from me? Was it because it did not clarify anything? Did I really feel nothing?

And then yesterday, I cried.

And I don’t know why.

ducks in a row

 

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

Here Goes

It’s been awhile but here is a “straight from my heart and unedited” post regarding last week’s episode of Survivor: Game Changers.

In case you are not familiar with this-

On last week’s reality show- Survivor- one contestant outed a fellow tribe member as transgender during tribal council. If you google it, I’m sure you will find videos and articles galore. I just can’t share a link or the video. I can’t.

Occasionally something comes up that I just need to say.  I need to let the words flow and I have to let them just land. As a writer, I tend to do a ton of editing and proof reading and re-reading……but when one of these posts comes up, well, I listen to my heart and I let them be. Of course, if I had shared the video, it might be easier to follow my ramblings but I really can’t do it. I went back and began watching the segment for a second time and I couldn’t finish.

As you may or may not know, outing a transgender person is wrong. It’s bad. You don’t do it. NEVER! There is absolutely no context in which it might be okay to do. The only person who has the right to share that very private thing is the person himself or herself.

As I sat watching Zeke’s reaction to being outed on national television by someone he might have trusted or at the very least thought he had formed a connection with, I recognized that look on his face. I have a trans kid. And although I have not been witness to them being outed unexpectedly, I watched my child at more social functions than I want to remember with a similar expression on their face. I recognized the tightness in his shoulders, the clench of his jaw, the checked out look in his eyes.

Zeke always knew that there was a chance he might be outed. Every transgender person who is just trying to live their life runs that risk. And I myself cannot imagine living with that- always wondering if today would be the day that someone would say something- and then how would people react. Because people always react- even when they don’t. I’ve witnessed that more times than I can count.

My heart aches for Zeke. It aches for anyone who is trying to live and finding themselves in a world that has all of these antiquated gender roles and stereotypes and expectations placed on them by society. I’m fairly certain that Zeke will be fine. I sincerely hope that he is fine and that this does not cause him to lose people in his life. I know- if he had people in his life that cannot be part of his life upon finding out that he is trans, then goodbye and good riddance. But the thing is, he will take a hit that won’t be easy to recover from. Once again, I can fall back on the experiences my kid has been faced with. The world can be an unfriendly place for transgender people. My kid is grown up so I have no control over the people they come into contact with or how they are treated. And as my child is in a different place than Zeke- being non-binary- their experience in more recent times is also very different than it was when they transitioned to male back 5 years ago.

But outing Zeke was not the only thing Jeff V did that night at Tribal Council. He made a conscious choice to use Zeke being transgender as evidence of Zeke’s deceitful nature- painting him as someone who could not be trusted because after all he was keeping his transition a secret. That was adding insult to injury. Each and every part of a transgender person’s transition is private and theirs to decide if they want to share. It does not imply that a person is deceitful. Quite frankly it’s no one’s business if a person is taking hormones or has had surgery.

There are many people who know little about what it means to be transgender. They don’t understand. Some are afraid of what they don’t understand and that fear drives them to act in some pretty cruel ways. They don’t realize how deeply their words or actions wound. (I want to think that they DON’T realize, because to willfully hurt someone like that- well, ask Jeff V how that worked for him right now?)

There are people who look through transgender people. It’s like they don’t exist, as if by being transgender, they have lost their right to be recognized as a person. Once again, I’ve watched it happen to my child. It might be worse than those hurtful words or cold stares- I don’t know. I just know it chills me to my bones, makes my blood boil and causes me to not be able to sit still and do nothing. And yet, I have had to do nothing when it happens to my child. Why? Because if I was to confront any of these people for looking through my child, as if they don’t exist anymore, I would probably do bodily harm. Unfortunately my kid has grown used to it and shrugs it off. I can’t. And now because Jeff V was willing to do anything to stay in a game, Zeke runs the risk of becoming invisible to people he thought he knew.

And since I brought him up again- Jeff V- the villain. Did he mean to hurt Zeke as terribly as he did? I don’t know. Did he know that what he was doing was wrong? I believe so. Did he realize that he had crossed a line? Maybe, maybe not. But he did think his strategy through so at some point, I find it hard to believe that it did not occur to him that what he was planning on doing was VERY BAD.

Enough about him

I would like to talk about Zeke’s tribe mates. How incredible were they! Their outrage, cries of anger and distress, support of Zeke…. all of it. I studied all of them as the scene played out. Tai and Andrea were immediately upset, crying out and calling Jeff V out for his actions. Debbie and Sarah were slower to speak but also expressed their feelings. And then there was Ozzy. See, my husband and I have been watching old seasons of Survivor and we recently watched Ozzy’s first time on the show. He’s grown up a lot over the years and I was curious about his reaction. He tends to be pretty calm and cool, and as he was not reacting, I was wondering…. Ozzy is a quiet guy so as is the case with most quiet people (see me raising my hand), others make assumptions based on absolutely nothing instead of just asking. I wasn’t sure what he was thinking. And then I heard his voice and he weighed in. Zeke’s entire tribe was on his side.

If the real world can be an unfriendly place for transgender people at times , the internet can be merciless. Small people get very brave hiding behind a computer screen. I read people accusing Survivor of staging it- that the entire thing was a carefully scripted ratings grabber. These people aren’t actors. And that chaos at Tribal Council was genuine. There are some things you can’t fake. Zeke’s shell-shocked expression, Jeff Probst’s face (and if you are a Survivor fan- you know that he’s Mr. Cool- even he was shocked and appalled at Jeff V’s words).

This episode shook me to my core. It dredged up emotions that I hadn’t felt since the early days of Kris coming out. It woke the protective mom in me and I wanted to hug Zeke and do battle with Jeff V.

But it also did something else- we are a long way from late summer of 2011 when Kris came out to us. We have gone through so many highs and lows. We have lost people and gained people. To some people who  might not have been present for the past nearly 6 years, we might appear to be only slightly changed by time and nothing more. I realize that 2017 Kris looks very much like what 1993-2011 Kerri might look today and nothing like 2011-2015 Kris did. And yet watching that episode brought all that we have been through with Kris back to the surface. It reminded me of how many people I have had the pleasure of meeting and adding to that special list I call friends. It showed me how much I have changed personally- how I came into my own as a person through Kris’s journey.

And it made me the Kat that I am today who is going to add a few tags and a category to this post and press that Publish button without looking back.