Tag: support

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

Advertisements

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

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.

On Friendship

Friend and love.

These words have taken on a meaning that, in my eyes, has diminished their importance. Everyone is a friend. We love everyone. The words just glide effortlessly through our lips as easily as “hello” or “how are you?” I don’t use those words so lightly. 

I admit to having different levels of friends. Some might be more casual. Some closer. Some might fluctuate. And before you start thinking that I have some elaborate system of classifying my friends, you can stop right there. (I don’t have that much free time on my hands!) 

I am extremely blessed to have a small group of very close friends- my best friends. It’s strange for me to have more than one friend that is that close. For my entire life, I had one best friend and quite frankly, had no need for anyone else. It was a flawed practice. It isn’t fair to put that much on one single person. And if I’m being honest here, I’m not the easiest person to be a best friend to. (just sayin’…)

Somehow, somewhere along the way, I found myself to have these three awesome people in my life. When I think of them, I’m reminded of a scene from the tv show, Roseanne. You don’t really need to be familiar with the show to understand the scene. Darlene’s baby is being taken off all support and has little chance of survival. Darlene and her baby are surrounded by her mother, sister, aunt and grandmother as each gives baby Harris words of hope and encouragement. The part I’m referencing comes at about 35 seconds in when Darlene’s Aunt Jackie shares a story from her childhood.

“If you feel like you’re, like you’re starting to fall away, then you’re not..because we’re gonna pull you back inside.” -Jackie

These three people are the ones how have pulled me back inside time and again when I’ve been in desperate need. They have been solid and true throughout more than just what I’ve gone through with Kris. That might actually be the least of it and you can bet that no one is more surprised than me to admit that. They have stood by me throughout relative drama, numerous family health issues, and currently some pretty big ones with a loved one battling a major illness and another struggling with a mental health illness (both hitting very close to home).

When you have friends like that, you don’t use that word lightly. Not many people want to even be around someone who’s going through so much crap layered one on top of the next.

They are amazing examples of friendship.

They remind me-

  • to be patient when the other is struggling with something, no matter how big or small
  • to listen and hear.
  • to ask questions for the purpose of helping.
  • to check in…. often.
  • to offer to help out, whether it’s errands, listening, whatever – and do it often and over and over again, even if I’m sure I’ll be turned down.
  • to give them a reason to smile.
  • to let them know how much they mean to me.
  • to let them know they are never alone.
  • to give them a gentle or not-so-gentle kick in the butt, when needed.
  • to never judge.
  • to celebrate their joys and successes.
  • to trust them.
  • to encourage them when they need a little push.
  • to be open with them..
  • to be honest
  • to let them know that I will always have their back.
  • to be kind, when one is being a major pain. (I would be the pain.)
  • that life is short and making time for friends is important.
  • to laugh, cry, vent, tease, love, hug, humor, and be with them.
  • to pull them back inside when they are starting to fall away.

What I absolutely love about these friendships is that they didn’t explode into full bloom over night. One happened slow and steady, building as time passed. One was quiet and constant and just there all along. And the last took me by surprise by appearing at a time when I needed it most. These friendships help me to value all of the new friendships I have made through this blog.

My hope is that I offer something to all of you, my new friends (who are at various levels of friendship in my fictitious friend system- and it most definitely does not exist!). I can say with certainty that my interaction with all of you, whether it is daily, intermittent, through comments, likes, texts, e-mails, messages, phone calls, is priceless to me. And I openly admit that looking at my list above, so many of you have hit the mark along the way. I’m not surprised. Bloggers are awesome people!

I hope as you move through your days and celebrate, whether it is a holiday or everyday life, that you take time to cherish your friendships. (Mind you, I’m not saying to ignore your family, unless you really want to, that is….. you know what I mean.)

Happy Day! Stay dry, warm, cool, healthy and safe!

-Kat

A Little Teapot

My dearest friend, Ivy, collected teapots. I didn’t know this until just about a year ago when she was preparing to pack up her house to move. The move was bittersweet because she was not only leaving the house where she had raised her child, but also her childhood home and neighborhood.

It was not her choice but she was moving into a smaller place. Therefore, she had to make the heartbreaking decision of what to keep and what to give or throw away. Her house held not only her own precious items but those of her parents, who had been gone for awhile.

Ivy was hurting, sad, in a dark, lonely place and I wanted to do everything and anything I could to help her. One thing Ivy was not- was weak. She was a fighter and she was tough and she did not ask for help. She had been this way since the first time I met her 14 years ago. And remains so today even after what has to have been one of the roughest years of her life.

Packing up a lifetime of memories and making those hard decisions that were forced on her were painful to watch. I wanted to take her pain away but I knew I couldn’t. Sometimes in life, people you love have to go through really trying times and you have to let them. It was difficult to keep it all in balance- the desire to help her with the realization that this was something she was going to have to handle on her own. Like I said, Ivy is tough, so just getting her to let me help was a major challenge. I did what I could and tried to be nearby in case she needed me. I hovered so closely that I’m sure I tried her patience.

Ivy tells me that I’m very complex and private, that there are many layers to me and I’m very particular who I let close. I think everyone is like that to some degree and at this time, Ivy, who lives out loud and whose emotions I can read a mile away, closed up shop and shut herself away. I understood.

She was at a turning point in her life. The biggest yet. And she was scared, hurt, worried, tired, angry, and more emotions than I could list. But as I watched her pack up her life and give away, donate or throw out possessions, I was concerned. She reached a point where she was getting rid of everything. I’m all for new beginnings and fresh starts but I feared she was going to regret this. I knew it. I offered to let her store things in my garage, which she turned down. Everything had to go. Even if she didn’t realize what she was doing, I did. She was punishing herself. See, Ivy blamed herself for arriving to this place. What she didn’t want to understand is that none of us lives in a vacuum and she hadn’t gotten there alone. But she was and remains very hard on herself. Ivy is the most loving, caring person I know. She would literally give a person the coat off her back, no questions asked. She is always thinking of others and she’s so outgoing that she has no problem making everyone around her feel her love with her words, looks and hugs. And she beats herself up, mercilessly at times.

And that’s when I found out that she had collected teapots. She asked me if I knew anyone who wanted them. She expressed sorrow that the collection had to go. I offered to store them until she confirmed that there was no place in her new home for them but she refused. She asked if my daughter-in-law might like them and if not, she was donating the lot to Goodwill.

I wasn’t sure how important these teapots were to her. (I had never seen her drink tea once in all the years I had known her.) But I knew that I had to take those teapots. She might want them back one day, even though she insisted she did not. (And maybe she will never want them back.) While she packed up her collection, she gifted me with her most special teapot and I placed it in my kitchen, where I think of her every time I see it. I also took possession of her collection and stored it in a safe place.

And then last week I was browsing around my local thrift store and I saw teapots on a shelf.

Ivy came to mind and I felt a familiar twinge of sadness at the sight of someone else’s teapot collection sprinkled throughout the shelves. There’s always a story behind the items on these shelves and I often wonder how they came to be there.

And then I saw it. It was hidden behind the bigger, flashier teapots. It was actually a sweet little white teapot. Not at all Ivy’s type. But then again, her favorite teapot that she gave me isn’t my type so I hope when I give it to her this Christmas that she will remember that.

She can categorize it as Christmas and pull it out once a year. She can store it in the corner of a cabinet. She can donate it. Or she can spray paint it some cool color, because I’m itching to do it myself before giving it to her. (Can you tell I discovered the many wonders of spray paint and want to paint just about everything?)

I hope she will accept this teapot for what it symbolizes. I hope she realizes how much I love her. How proud I am of her. How much I am in awe of her. I hope she knows that I wish her happiness and joy for the rest of her life and that I hope to be part of it-that I’ve hurt every step of the way along side her but there were times when she had to go it alone. I want her to know that even if it hurts, it’s okay to keep things from the past. Less is not always more. Sometimes that item represents something so much more.

She once said that if she decided to start collecting teapots again that she would start fresh. I don’t know if that is something she will ever do or if the teapots represent a part of her past, a part of who she no longer is.

I do know that life goes on and one day we will look at that teapot (or just talk about it) and remember this time when we were SO in this moment of our lives that we thought this is what it was going to be and we will realize that we had no clue. Just like we didn’t have a clue when we met all those years ago when our kids were so young.

I will do anything for Ivy and her child, and I know she will return the favor. I’m not pretty sure nor do I feel a false sense of security. We have been to hell and back together and I KNOW that we will always be friends.

ivys-teapot

I hope she likes it!