Tag: transgender child

Ornaments….

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There’s no formula to living life. You don’t insert this data into a prescribed algorithm and everything turns out fine. And every person’s experience is unique to them.

As I mentioned in a previous post, Christmas can bring feelings of sadness for moms of transgender kids. It’s not all moms. Some sail through the holidays with little thought of what has been lost, able to fully focus on what IS.

But some of us have a more difficult time. It’s hard to explain exactly why that is. One thing I can assure you is that I am overly sensitive and defensive when I’m faced with someone telling me to love the child I have and be happy that he’s alive and all that.

I’m pretty sure that my feelings for my son have everything to do with my feelings of loss for the daughter I thought I had. It’s because I love and cherish my child so much that I miss the one I thought I had. But I digress..

In my mission to get the tree decorated, I enlisted CJ’s help. He is my grandson, he’s six years old and he does not know that his Uncle Kris is transgender.

His task was to help me sort ornaments into 3 piles- Kris’s ornaments, Andrew’s ornaments and everything else.

I would hold up an ornament and he would read the name and place it in the correct pile. Things were moving along nicely when we hit a roadblock. I pulled out the ornament* (pictured above) and turned it over, fully expecting to see Kris’s name on it. I hesitated when I saw “Kerri” still written across the back. Oops! How had this ornament managed to sneak through? This was the 5th Christmas since Kris had come out.

As my luck would have it, this was the one time CJ was actually paying attention. He reached for the ornament and said, “Whose is it?”

Until this year, CJ was not reading and this wouldn’t have been an issue but since I seemed to be having a streak of bad luck, he frowned and said, “Kris? That doesn’t say Kris. What is this name?”

“Kerri,” I replied. Kerri is a name he has only heard perhaps three or four times.

I placed the ornament aside and moved on to the next ornament, choosing a very cool one, hoping to distract him. No such luck. After a short pause, he asked, “Who’s Kerri?”

Another pause, this time mine. “She is a girl we used to know.”

And that was that.

Fast forward to a few hours later when I was telling Kris and Andrew about the ornament.

“That’s all?”he asked. I nodded. “She’s here in spirit.”

I nodded. “Yes, she is.”

Kris remarked, “Here’s another one.” He was holding a Furby ornament with “Kerri” written carefully across its beak.

“How did that one sneak past, too? How many more are there?” I asked.

Kris shrugged. “This one’s okay. I’m putting it on the tree anyway.” And the Furby ornament took a place of honor, front row and center. As he was walking out of the room, I heard him say, “She’s always with us.”

It wasn’t until I was talking to Kris about these ornaments that I felt the lump in my throat and the tug at my heart. As Kris is becoming more comfortable expressing his gender, which does not fit any description I can come up with other than its so KRIS, I feel Kerri more and more. At those times it’s not a tug but a gripping squeeze that takes my breath away because I’m still not accustomed to her presence mixed up so much with Kris. I still have a lot to work through in this area and as always I don’t want Kris to know that I struggle with this. I want him to feel safe and loved and accepted as he figures things out. My issues are my own and I won’t put them on him. I love him just as I always have and always will. Nothing will ever change that. None of this changes who he is.

There’s a good chance that Christmas will always be tinged with a smidge of sadness but I am choosing to hold onto all the happy memories of that “girl we used to know”.

Oh, and as far as the tree goes? Once we put the replacement angel on the tree, it will be already to be shared for Hugh’s Photo Challenge: Week 8- Charity Christmas Tree Topper Challenge. We are still pondering names- we have two possibilities- Sophie or Rafiki.

*The story behind the ornament. Kerri began taking horseback riding lessons at 13. I was nervous because horses are pretty darn big when a person is an average sized kid. Kerri was not, always having had an affinity with animals. Aside from bringing back memories of that specific time in Kerri’s life, this reminds me that this is one of countless times that Kris showed a courage, strength and determination to overcome obstacles to work towards a goal.

From Kerri to Kristoffer to Kris

From Kerri to Kristoffer to Kris

Genderqueer (GQ; alternatively non-binary) is a catch-all category for gender identities that are not exclusively masculine or feminine—identities which are thus outside of the gender binary and cisnormativity.

Source- Wikipedia- Genderqueer

My child is transgender, specifically (or as specifically as one can be) genderqueer. Born Kerri, transitioned to Kristoffer at 18 years and blossoming as Kris at 22, it has been a wild ride. Recently, he posted a new selfie, later adopting it as his profile picture. It’s a great picture of him. His hair is in a good place. His acne is under control. He looks relaxed and calm and might I venture to say—happy? I know this isn’t entirely true, being the receiver of some very emotional texts, but he looks good.

Since telling us that he is genderqueer and not identifying strictly as male, he has made some changes. His appearance is definitely more non-binary. In the post Gender Bender, I have a drawing with two circles- the pink representing female and the blue representing male with a mass of squiggles in between. At the time that I wrote the post, Kris was identifying more on the outer edge of maleness and the arrow points to where he landed.

In the 6 weeks since I wrote that post, things have progressed. He identifies in the center of the squiggles now, not more male or female. While he is okay with male pronouns and has said that male is his “default” I’ve noticed that he changed his name on Facebook from his full name to a more gender neutral, Kris. He has stopped taking testosterone completely and as a result some of the more feminine qualities have returned, including the hormonal fluctuations that accompanies PMS.

I’m not sure if I mentioned this before but months before I realized that he wasn’t on T anymore, I kept getting flashes of a sense of Kerri. I felt like I was going crazy because I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that was causing the feeling. Then I found out about him being off T and it made sense. At that point, it was hard for me to simply accept and move on. My friend, Steph, asked me if it gave me comfort to know that Kerri was still there somewhere but the truth is that no, it didn’t. I had mourned the loss of a daughter that I never really had. It had taken me a long time to let Kerri go and accept that my daughter was actually my son, and had been my son all along. I had to come to terms with the feeling I had that I had let my child down. Although some parents of trans kids make easy transitions from one child to another, I did not. Part of me will miss Kerri for the rest of my life.

When Kris told me that he was genderqueer, and when we clarified how he identifies, I came to the realization that referring to Kris as my “son” did not feel right anymore. It’s ironic that a few short years ago I was sure that I would never easily call Kris my son and while I’m not sure exactly when it happened, I did. But now it’s not that easy. And what a laugh that is! If someone had told me that calling the child I formerly thought of as my daughter was really my son and that I would be calling him by a different name with different pronouns….. and that would be the EASY part?? I would have laughed…. and not believed them. But that was actually easy. This- not so much.

Loving and accepting my child is easy. I’m sure that if the opportunity arose, it would not be difficult to explain that he is genderqueer. What to call him? Son and daughter are easy. Unfortunately, in Kris’s case, neither is really accurate. And when the person in question is almost 23 years old, child just doesn’t feel right either.

Think about that for a minute, okay? We really do place everyone in their gender box- father, husband, son, brother, uncle, grandfather, grandson, nephew // mother, wife, daughter, sister, aunt, grandmother, granddaughter, niece . We don’t say parent, spouse, child, sibling, grandparent, grandchild and is there even a gender neutral word for uncle, aunt, niece, nephew?

I am grateful that Kris has given us a default to use- I can refer to him as my son- but if I can share a quick story about what happened when I asked him if I should still refer to him as my son? The pause after I asked was too long for comfort. The silence grew. It was awkward. Then he said yes.

That silence said it all.

It’s taking some time for adjusting. Kris is figuring out which masculine/feminine qualities he will be left with as his body adapts to the change in hormones. I’m adapting to seeing glimpses of Kerri come through and I’m trying to embrace those moments. I believe that it is fair to say that it isn’t easy for either of us. Expressing his true gender identity is going to require more strength and courage than simply being a transguy did. Some people are uneasy with the idea of someone being non-binary. They like to place everyone in a neat little box- pink or blue. As for me, setting aside my mixed up emotions about finding the right name for my child and the re-emergence of Kerri traits,I worry about Kris. I hope that I’m supporting him in the right ways.

And I look at the mom sitting next to me in a committee meeting bemoaning the fact that her son’s school schedule does not allow for him to take the number of AP classes that she wants him to have, admitting that this is the biggest problem she faces with her child and I want to punch her in the face. (Hey, what do you want? I think I’m a good person. I never said I was nice!)

Added note– Upon closer thought, I feel like I need to clarify just a few things. When Kris came out as transgender, he said he had always felt like a boy, not a girl, which led to him changing his name, starting testosterone, therapy, social transition…. When he first introduced the idea that he was actually genderqueer and did not identify strictly as male, it was confusing to me. I was familiar with the terms- genderqueer and non-binary and gender non-conforming- but somehow I wasn’t able to apply those to Kris. I guess I wondered what happened to knowing he was a guy? He went on to explain that he had always known that he was non-binary but he had to completely separate himself from any female aspect of himself in order to not be seen as a girl and to have the confidence and freedom to show his true gender expression and be seen as such. As Kris’s mom, this feels right and it makes sense to me. I feel like Kris is still a work in progress, but then again, we all are in some way, aren’t we? 

Gender Bender

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.

My Thoughts on Passing

Since my son, Kris, came out to me as transgender, in the past 3+ years, the word ‘passing’ has come and gone in our vocabularies. The word never set well with me and when we used it that first year (Kris included), it was difficult for people to grasp.

Using the word ‘passing’ in reference to a person who is trying to be recognized as the gender they truly are gives the misconception that the person is not ‘really’ that gender. It invalidates them.

In that first year, as Kris was taking steps towards transition, he spent a few months moving back and forth between presenting himself as female and male and sometimes adopting a more ambiguous appearance. In those early days, he was very self-conscious- not of the male attire… but of all his female attributes. He felt his face was too soft and feminine, his body too curvy with breasts and hips and his voice too high-pitched. Although he was 100% sure that he was male, outwardly he was very aware of these parts that shouted GIRL to him. He had spent over 18 years living as a girl and even though that was completely at odds with everything he felt inside, it was also the only way he knew how to be.

When he was dressed in male clothing in the beginning, he was very concerned with passing. It was an obsession that while I thought I understood, it would be a year or two before I would really ‘get it’. The truth is that at that time- he was trying to pass as male, even though he knew that inside he was male. He was still living with so much of Kerri inside himself too, that he wasn’t quite sure who Kris was. I think he had to go through that very unsettling time of wearing those boy clothes and putting himself out there as Kris while he was still being Kerri more than he wanted to admit. And he had to PASS as Kris. cropYou might think I’m insane (and who’s to say that I’m not!) but when I look at Kris, I don’t see Kerri. Not anymore. At times they feel like two very distinct individuals who share a few common traits and a history. Like twins. So much of Kris was always there all along inside Kerri. But some things faded away and others appeared.

Kris was nervous about venturing out into the world as his true self. But he was excited, too. He changed his name and he began changing his outward appearance before he knew what was Kerri and what was Kris, and I think he was passing in those early days. He wasn’t really himself yet.

It was only as time went by and he was clearly recognized as a guy that the word ‘passing’ fell from our vocabulary. As Kris gained confidence in being himself and showing the world who he was, more and more of the Kris that I know and love today emerged. Kris is not ‘passing’ . He IS.

I’ve shared an article below that I feel does an excellent job of explaining why there are issues with the word ‘passing’. I know that this article is making the rounds in other blog posts and on Facebook but if you haven’t read it yet, it’s definitely worth the read.

Op-ed: I’m a Trans Man Who Doesn’t ‘Pass’ — And You Shouldn’t Either

I’m Looking Through You

I’m Looking Through You

In her recent post  Blind Guides, Charissa, the writer of Charissa’s Grace Notes says-

“You’re so appalled at what my body is becoming you miss the becoming of my soul.

How unbecoming…how blind.”

On the surface, the words appear to be so simple. And then, as is often the case with Charissa’s words the enormity of those words packed a punch. It came out of the blue, from around the corner and stopped me dead in my tracks.

My son is transgender. Born in a female body, he identifies as male. It’s not a choice he made. He spent most of his life trying to explain to me what he was feeling. (It’s very difficult for a 2 year old to say much more than “I’m a boy!”)

Have you ever thought about how that would feel? To be trapped inside a body that does not fit you in any way? You can’t imagine it. TRY!! please 🙂

Imagine you woke up this morning and you were as much “you” as you ever were inside but your body was that of the opposite sex. Complete package. Guys, you were a fully blossomed woman complete with breasts and your period, oozing blood for a week once a month that you couldn’t stop. Ladies, you were this hairy guy with you know what dangling between your legs. Would you feel that you were any less “you” because of these things? Is that all it would take? This possibly temporary (or maybe not) transformation into the wrong body? And imagine how it would feel if everyone did not acknowledge “you”? If your entire identity and how everyone saw you was based on your parts? If some of your closest people were saying NO? If your relatives looked away when they saw you/couldn’t meet your eyes when you spoke/ACTED LIKE YOU DON’T EXIST?

Are you no longer you?

Now, transgender people do not wake up in the wrong body one morning. They don’t choose to be a different gender. They already are that gender when they are born. The only choice they make is their decision to adapt the body they have been given to represent who they truly are and that can include a vast variety of changes. It doesn’t always mean surgery or hormones or name changes…. It is whatever it takes for them to feel like themselves- a gift most of us were given at birth.

When they make that choice, they are doing something braver and scarier than anything most of us will ever face in our lives. They are exposing their true inner selves to us. They are sharing their most private being with us. They are more vulnerable than most people ever are because they are laying it all out there for us, their trusted loved ones, to see.

And all they want? The things so many people take for granted. To be loved and accepted as who they are. It’s that simple. And what makes me so mad and sad and a million other things that I can’t even express is that most of them will settle for being TOLERATED.

Well, guess what- my child has faced a lot and will face even more throughout the course of his life. What I find unacceptable is when people (and by people, I’m talking about f-word people- I can’t use that word with them because to me it’s something sacred. It’s a word I use for the people who love us unconditionally and stick with us through thick and thin….. and I do not use that f-word with people because of some chance blood connection. Blood is not thicker than water when it comes to that word because if it does, it just made that f-word that word that comes to your mind when you hear that.) who I thought did love my kid unconditionally, now tolerate him.

And by tolerate, I mean that IF they speak to him at all it’s with those stupid inane niceties that mean NOTHING- “Hi! How are you? How’s school? Your hair/shirt/shoes are cute” They mentally check their good deed off their list and send a mental note up to God- “See how supportive I was???” and they move on, blocking my kid from their mind. They don’t really look too closely at him because when they do they can only see the girl they thought he was.

And the ones who completely ignore him, avoiding him at all cost….they probably sneak glances at him out of the corner of their eye or from across the room, as if rubbernecking at an accident on the road. All they see is someone they can’t even acknowledge.

Now to themselves and each other they voice their love and support repeatedly- and it has to be repeatedly because they need to convince themselves that it’s true. But what’s true is that when my kid or that transgender person put themselves out there to their loved one, they really did want love and support and acceptance- not tolerance. And that loved one’s inability to see my kid- REALLY LOOK AT HIM AND SEE KRIS is not accepting, not supportive and not loving. It’s saying that they don’t accept him as himself. That they would prefer to have that messed up suicidal girl they used to know. That they don’t want to make the effort to find out who Kris really is. They look through him, if they look at him at all. And it hurts Kris, and by proxy me on Kris’s behalf, more than words can say.

So, Charissa’s words bring to my mind and heart this song. 

I’m looking through you,
Where did you go?
I thought I knew you,
What did I know?
You don’t look different, but you have changed
I’m looking through you, you’re not the same

I feel like I could keep editing this piece for days and not get it right. And by editing it, I feel like it will lose the parts that are coming directly from my heart.

Please take a moment or two to stop by Charissa’s blog- Charissa’s Grace Notes . Her poetry is moving, her words are powerful and her journey is amazing.

Thank you so much for stopping by and if you actually got to the end of this post, double, triple, quadruple thanks!!!

Kat