“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,