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.

5 Minutes

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You might see this image, or something similar, on social media from time to time. It is a heart consisting of transgender colors and a black ribbon- in memory of a transgender life lost.

Yesterday another transgender teenager lost their life to suicide. I won’t be sharing any other information regarding this out of respect and consideration for the family members. My heart aches unbearably for this child’s family and friends. I am mourning their tragic loss.

Unfortunately, this happens too often. The constant worry is very legitimate and quite real. I originally wrote the following post in October 2015.

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…

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Gender Revolution on National Geographic Channel

Recently National Geographic devoted an entire special issue to the topic of GENDER. Yes, it turns out there’s more to gender than meets the eye. NG takes an in-depth look at all things gender, examining it from all angles.

There are two covers- but the inside content is the same in both. I purchased both copies with plans on passing one on and keeping one to share when I need. I’m keeping the Avery copy (right) because Avery and her amazing mother, Debi Jackson, are superheroes in the parents of transgender kids circle. Debi founded Trans-Parenting, an excellent resource for support and information.

gender-revolution

In addition to the special edition issue, National Geographic is airing a 2 hour special on February 6th on the National Geographic Channel. You should check local listings for the times. I have heard from sources who took part in this project that the finished product is top-notch.

I recommend that you tune in if-

  • you are raising a gender variant child
  • you know a transgender person
  • you are educated on gender
  • you are uneducated on gender
  • you are curious about gender
  • you think you have a good understanding of what it means to be transgender or if you don’t.

So, in case you haven’t figured it out, I think everyone needs to see this and I hope that if you have the opportunity to watch it, that you do.

Here is the extended trailer from: “Gender Revolution: A Journey with Katie Couric”-

This is an exciting step forward. When I began this journey with my child, resources were scarce. I hope that as more people read and watch and learn, more will grow to be more accepting and supportive.

Hope you had a good one!

-Kat

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.

 

“And I Quote-“

In response to the Daily Post: Daily Prompt- Quote Me

Do you have a favorite quote that you return to again and again? What is it, and why does it move you?

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mlk wqw

When my middle child came out as transgender, our lives got shaken up quite a bit. Besides not really understanding what this meant for Kris and his life, we quickly learned that not everyone was going to feel comfortable with the news that our middle child, formerly known as our daughter, Kerri, was not in fact, our daughter.

These quotes resonate with me because we had to learn to bounce, and we couldn’t waste a second. So as we were heading straight for the ground, we had to pull ourselves together, hold on tight and have faith as our feet hit. We could either splatter all over the pavement and lay there a sad broken mess, or we could lightly touch the ground, bend our knees and push up, heading toward great new experiences. We chose to bounce.

In addition to potentially shattering, we could have easily turned to hate. While being shunned by the very people we thought would be our main support system, we could have turned that rejection into something ugly. There was a lot of pain and more feelings to work through than I thought possible but embracing hate was something that was not happening. Instead I chose to focus on loving the ones who were still here and cherishing their place in my life.

It has been 4-1/2 years since Kris came out to us and it feels like a lifetime. As Kris continues his work on becoming his true authentic self, and as I work to understand my middle child and to love and support him as best I can, I’m sure there will be lots of bouncing in our futures. As long as we can keep bouncing and embrace love, I think we will be just fine.

Gender Bender

I recently shared that my middle child, Kris, told me that he is genderqueer or nonbinary. After some research and many conversations, we know that he definitely does not fit in the traditional gender binary. He has decided to go with genderqueer. To be honest, depending on the source there seems to be little difference between genderqueer, nonbinary and gender non-conforming. Every time I think I might have a handle on it, I read something that shakes it all up and it’s back to the drawing board for me!

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This is how Kris explains his gender identity.

Does it matter which term applies? Not in the least. Just the entire notion of Kris having unique gender expression is more in keeping with the child I raised. I love him and will support him and it doesn’t matter where he lands under the transgender umbrella.

My questioning and researching is more of a “Mom” thing for me. When I found out I had a colorblind child, I went to the library and learned all that I could. Two of my children were identified as gifted and talented so I jumped in with both feet, educating myself on ways I could help them succeed. And so, Kris throwing out new terms and a new concept to wrap my head around has me running to the internet and googling “genderqueer vs. nonbinary”. I want to understand what Kris is feeling. This kid has been such an enigma!!

In my research travels through the internet I came across terms that I have been hearing for awhile now. I was familiar with most but when genderqueer came up on my radar, you can bet I paused to take a closer look. I stumbled onto this video by Ashley Wylde, whose gender identity/expression is genderqueer. I love how Ashley expresses gender expression. 🙂

We are conditioned to check a box (as Ashley describes it) throughout our lives and that’s difficult to undo. People like everything to fit into a neat little package that they recognize and the minute something doesn’t match up with the ideal that they have been conditioned to expect, it rocks their boat a bit.

I realize that there will be people who will be uncomfortable at Kris’s appearance. He is a guy who might be wearing leggings or have a shawl draped over his shoulder. The funny thing is that now that Kris is expressing himself differently, I do feel more of a connection between Kris at 22 and that little kid who insisted on being called Peter Pan at 2 and wore leggings pushed up over the knees at 4 and insisted on wearing Michael’s outgrown winter coat at 7.

Am I any closer to understanding my child? I think so. I know that he will be pushing the gender binary by expressing himself in a more feminine way at times. He describes himself as a guy who likes girl stuff. Works for me! More than anything, I want him to be happy with himself and able to live in this world accepted by all and supported by those who should.

I don’t think that’s asking too much. It’s a shame that there are so many out there that think that it is.