Tag: parenting transgender kids

What Matters

“The Trump administration on Wednesday formally withdrew Obama administration guidance enabling transgender individuals to use sex-segregated facilities, including bathrooms, of their choice.”

                                                                                   -The Washington Post

If you haven’t heard the news, you can read it here- Trump Administration Rescinds Obama Rules on Transgender Bathroom Use .

This news is upsetting and disheartening. But there are a few important things you should know- National Center for Transgender Equality has created FAQ on the Withdrawal of Federal Guidance on Transgender Students

I’ve shared an important excerpt from the FAQ sheet below.

What happens now that the Title IX guidance is rolled back?

First, it’s important to remember that—with or without the guidance—transgender students are protected under Title IX. The guidance itself didn’t change the law or create protections for transgender students that weren’t there before. It just clarified how the Department of Education would be enforcing existing laws. Even though the guidance has been withdrawn, that doesn’t change the fact that under Title IX, transgender students have a right to be treated according to their gender identity, including when it comes to restroom access. And in addition to protections under Title IX, transgender students are also protected by the U.S. Constitution and, in many states, by state laws and policies protecting them in schools.

– National Center for Transgender Equality- FAQ on the Withdrawal of Federal Guidance on Transgender Students

This matters. For transgender students who attend a supportive school, this probably won’t change their school experience. For those who have been fighting to have their basic rights met, this could be a damaging blow to their battle. For all transgender children and their parents the message that Trump’s administration is sending is powerful and harmful.

It might not be telling schools to discriminate against transgender students but it is attempting to strip those students of their rights, which actually are still protected. Unfortunately there are school districts who were just waiting for this message as a green light. This message tells transgender students that they do not matter and that they do not have the same rights as anyone else, nor do they deserve them. I want you to just think for a moment what that might feel like as a child who already might feel like they don’t quite fit.  

A message from the president of their country. Yesterday I was having a discussion with my 2nd grade reading group about the power of an emperor, and in their 7 year old minds they likened it to the president.

And this is what matters most. Transgender students will hear this message and even if they have support at school, some will still be very frightened and not safe.

We are talking about kids who might be facing daily battles just getting through a school day. Even students who can navigate their school day might be feeling unsafe out in the world. If the negative message that  the Trump administration is sending gets into a child’s head and they feel that threatened, the outcome could be dire. We are talking about a fragile, defenseless population here.

Parents of transgender kids are afraid for their children. Fear and worry are a standard part of the “parenting trans kids” package. We worry about their emotional well being, physical safety, bullies both in school and out, possible future health issues due to any treatment they receive, that they have friends, if they will find love, what their future will be, what they aren’t telling us (and there is always something they aren’t telling us),  their happiness, their life…….

We worry and we fight. Some fight LOUD and OUT and PROUD. Some are quieter but just as persistent and effective. And some are floundering, just keeping their heads above water, grateful for the parents before them who are trailblazers, sometimes battling with a sword in one hand and holding onto their child, or a few fragile families or both all at the same time.

There are parents of minor transgender children who fear being reported for child abuse by “well meaning” family, friends or neighbors.  And yes, it does happen! Divorced parents worry about losing custody of their trans child to an unsupportive parent, which could be detrimental to that child. They are afraid to advocate out of fear of retribution.

And those front line folks- they stand being attacked by hurtful or ignorant (or both) people. The very public advocates risk hate mail/messages and death threats. For fighting for what is right. I wish I was exaggerating but sadly, I’m not.

We are talking about human rights. This is what matters! It’s important that people show their support. I’m inviting you to join me in spreading a message of love and support to transgender people and their families everywhere. Make sure your schools are trans-inclusive. Educate the ignorant. Keep informed. Understand what Title IX is and how it protects transgender students. Do any of these….or all of them!

Feel free to use the picture below- it is mine to share. If you are a # person, please consider using #StandWithGavin as well as the ones below. If you are unfamiliar with Gavin,  he is a transgender student whose case will be heard by the Supreme Court next month when he fights for the right to use the school bathroom that corresponds with his gender identity.

translivesmatter

“Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” -Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

Five Years

Five Years

Thanks to Facebook I was reminded that it was five years ago since my last family reunion. Nothing about this meant anything to anyone but me.

And for me, this little tidbit was a life changer.

See, five years ago was the last time most of my extended family saw my children (save the ones who I’m friends with on Facebook who pay attention to anything I post- making that number pretty small). Michael was 21, Kris (formerly Kerri) was 18 and Andrew was 15.

Just days following that family reunion, Kris came out to us as transgender- identifying as male, not the female. Since that day- which was a major turning point in all of our lives- we have embarked on an amazing journey.

We experienced name changes, pronoun changes, wardrobe and appearance changes. We saw the effects of testosterone as Kris transitioned. And then we found out what remains when T is no longer taken. We updated a license, social security, insurance and other various documents/cards with a new name and/or gender. Our relationships with each other as well as outsiders was put to the test. While I’m happy to report that our inner group of 5 remains strong, we lost people along the way. It’s unfortunate but we know who the genuine people are in our lives and we know who will be there when the chips are down. That is a gift that is most precious.

And to the casual outside observer, say someone who isn’t really paying close attention, if they look at my Facebook page today, they see Kris (who some might remember as Kerri, some might not even notice that the name changed 3 times) 5 years older than our 2011 Kris/Kerri. If they are unaware, they will have no doubt that Kris is a girl. A woman of 23 now. And they will be wrong.

My relationship with Kris has transitioned as Kris has transitioned. These days it closely resembles what it might have looked like if Kris was still Kerri and was not transgender. Bras and feminine products are on our shopping list. Kris asks if I have red nail polish or for my opinion on their eyebrows. With only a few minor exceptions, Kris’s gender expression is female. Their gender identity is non-binary. Things are calm right now.

As for me? Well, I’m in a different place now. I’ve gotten used to seeing Kris dressed as a girl. I’ve become so accustomed to it that photos of Kris as a boy seem like long ago. I have adjusted to the name change for the most part. (Kris will remain Kris in my blogging- which is how I know that I have accepted their new name. In my head and in my writing the new name is the first to pop out and I have to correct it to Kris.)

My subconscious is another story. Kris’s pronouns are they, them, theirs. My pronouns for Kris are so inconsistent. Hes and shes are interspersed with theys- sometimes all in the same sentence. In my thoughts shes are lurking around every corner. I understand that seeing Kris as a girl is triggering those feminine pronouns. But I also feel the internal struggle with wanting to have a neat little package tied with a bow- and I know that I cannot have that. My head understands that there is not a special word that equates son or daughter in non-binary but my heart yearns for it.

I’ve lost my place in my support groups as well. I’m no longer the parent of a child who transitioned from female to male or identifies as male. While I have the experiences of the last five years. I do not know anyone who has a child who is non-binary with their gender expression matching the sex they were assigned at birth. In some circles Kris isn’t considered transgender. I read the posts and attend the meetings and support anyone I encounter who is struggling with their trans kid, but part of me feels like I no longer fit in. I seem to be surrounded by parents celebrating their children’s transitions, surgeries, name changes…… I’m so happy for them. (And confused for me.) I am sure that these wonderful people will continue to be supportive- even if I feel like I don’t belong here. I know this because these are truly the most amazing people in the world- supportive parents of transgender people.

I’m uneasy right now. In other parts of my life I am facing challenges that might make my experience with Kris look like child’s play.

Everything happens for a reason, right? Well, I know I have at least one friend who doesn’t really believe this. (And she knows who she is- if she reads this… which I hope she will because maybe it will help her to understand part of my silence lately.)

The past five years presented me with the biggest challenge of my life (or so I thought). My world was turned upside down and continued to be so for probably four of the five years. And it might be that this journey is not over yet and this is just an ebb…. waiting for the flow to return. But maybe it is not. And maybe the last five years was preparing me for what lies ahead.

One thing is certain. Wait, maybe two…… three.

  • I learned that I am much stronger than I ever realized.
  • If you truly love your child, it doesn’t matter what their name is or if they wear a dress or not. You just love them.
  • The LGBTQ community is truly AMAZING.

So as I post something to Facebook, there might be friends who look at my latest posts and think, “Hmm, not much going on there. Kids are growing up. Cute little boys. She looks older….” But the ones who know, will know. They will understand the significance of the picture I shared today. They will be familiar with the journey that got me to this place, some coming in part way, some dropping in and out, and the special ones who have been with me every step of the way.

I’m not sure what the next five years will bring and while I continue along Kris’s road, another path has joined our family’s path. I’m anxious, unsure if I’m truly up for what we will be facing, but I felt this way before….five years ago. And I’m still here. We’re all still here.

 

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.

Someday

Someday

I came across this in my Facebook newsfeed and wanted to share it. This is just a quick drop in while I’m working on a few other posts which will appear down the line.

Watch These Trans Teens Talking To Their Grown-Up Selves And Try Not To Cry

When I’m faced with a title that challenges me “not to cry”- I’m always a bit miffed. My first thought is ‘Don’t tell me what or what not to do!’ Then I move on to ‘This better be as good or bad as billed.’ Can you tell that I’m getting tired of the sensationalistic titles that fill my Facebook newsfeed?

But this one was different. The title caught my eye. I wanted to see other trans kids. My own child is 22 and he will argue the point that he is NOT a child but that remains to be seen.

So I watched. And I cried. Any and all of those kids could have been mine. These kids are beautiful and amazing and I wish them all the best!

All they want is to live their lives as their authentic selves and to be accepted. They aren’t asking to be the class president or to be the most popular—- they just want to BE.

It’s so simple and yet so hard to achieve. I feel that since my middle child first came out 4 years ago and we got dropped into Transgender Wonderland that baby steps have been made. We need more of these- many more and bigger ones- so that we can quickly reach a day where the kids on the video have lived to be that adult self they spoke to and so transgender people don’t have to give themselves advice and pep talks to get to a better place.

Someday. Hopefully someday really soon!

Take care

-Kat

Define Normal

Define Normal

Nor´mal   Pronunciation: nôr´mal

a.  
1. According to an established norm, rule, or principle; conformed to a type, standard, or regular form; performing the proper functions; not abnormal; regular; natural; analogical.

Deviations from the normal type.

We are a normal family. Well, okay. As normal as any other family is, I guess. If you were to look at us passing us on the street, after cussing us out for causing chaos as we try to navigate with 6 adults and 2 children. You would see your average stressed out mom and overworked dad with their three sons- one married with two kids and the other two college age. Nothing out of the ordinary.

And then yesterday I found myself talking to the mother of a gay child. I feel the need to explain why I had to qualify that with “gay child” so you’ll understand. The common denominator of our meeting was our inclusion in the LGBT community.

She made a point of singling me out and told me that she has been watching the television show- “I Am Jazz”. She was wondering if I was watching it. (I am.) She went on to say how it was much better than she thought it would be and she was surprised.

I asked her why.

She said, “Because they seemed just like a normal family.”

Uhm. Okay.

I could feel the intake of breath from the person next to me because he instantly got it.

She did not.

I hesitated and said, “I think shows like Jazz’s are good because they show that families with transgender loved ones are just like any other normal family.”

My very first (and overriding) reaction was to laugh. We are just like a normal family. Or at least as normal as we ever were. Our normal is just a slightly different kind of normal but normal all the same.