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.

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Your Inside is Out 2.0

Just over five years into the life changing journey that I have experienced with my non-binary child, I have started to revisit earlier posts. They are from a time when we were in a different place than we are now.

I am sharing a post from April 2014, when my trans kid, Kris, identified as male and used he, him, his as pronouns. I am leaving it in its original form, with the only revision being my addition at the end. 

If you are unfamiliar with Kris’s story, you can catch up HERE

I originally wrote this entry 18 months ago. I find it interesting that time and a little perspective make all the difference.

Image

October 2012 “Your outside is in and your inside is out.” I don’t know exactly what John Lennon was referring to in the song Everybody’s Got Something to Hide… Whether it’s drugs, sex or spirituality, it doesn’t matter to me. Right now I can relate to the song. For quite some time I have been feeling like my outside is in and my inside is out. Today is one of those inside out days.

About 6 months ago, K asked if I would mind taking down his senior picture. It was hanging on the wall in between his brothers’ school pictures. I didn’t have a hard time with that. In fact, the picture had seemed like a sort of taunt every time I saw it. It’s a beautiful picture. K looks incredible in the picture. Yes, I could see where that might be a problem for him. His hair and make up are perfect. Lovely smile. Sparkling eyes. A gorgeous girl. Definitely not an accurate representation of my middle child, who was now a boy. I took it down. Now there was a blank spot in between my two other children’s pictures. And now instead of being taunted by the photo of the daughter who did not exist, I was being haunted by a blank space. That lasted for about 5 months. Every time I walked past that well, which was countless times a day, it seemed to mock me, the blank spot magnified. When someone came over, I was sure their eyes jumped to that empty space and what was missing. Finally I took the other pictures down as well and had a blank wall with nails poking out waiting for something to be hung on them. It was easier to look at that empty wall. It seemed really blank and took up more space than I remembered but it was definitely easier. When I mentioned first, the senior picture coming down and then next, all the pictures coming down to my mother and sister, both seemed to be upset by the idea. My sister got defensive about the “girl” pictures she had around her house. To both mom and sis, I repeated that no one was asking anyone to do anything. And the truth was, I wasn’t. I was just informing them so it wouldn’t be a shock when they came over. If they came over. Ever again. I wanted K to be comfortable in his own home. And I wanted him to be able to bring friends home, if he wanted.

I knew that there were probably other pictures that made K uncomfortable so I mentioned to him that in the future, we would be doing a whole house/all pictures overhaul. We would take everything down and then decide what’s going back up. That way, he could remove anything that caused him discomfort or pain. Was taking down these photos going to cause me some heartache? Sure, but I would get over it. And I told myself that, although my heart ached at the thought of removing those beloved photographs.

A few days later, something clicked inside me. I’m not sure what triggered it, but I knew that the time had come to tackle the pictures. It was time to move on. Before I could do that, I needed to do one thing. I went through our pre-digital camera photo albums and started scanning the “girl” pictures of K from birth on up. That was the cause of the inside out feeling. K at different ages evoked different emotions. The baby/toddler/preschool days filled my heart with love. The early elementary days made me smile. What caught me off guard (and probably shouldn’t have) was the early teen years. I felt like someone had stabbed me in the heart at the sight of my middle child with full make up and a woman’s figure. In my head, I know that’s what he looked like. It was such a sharp contrast to the boy who lived with me these days. Such a shock to the system to remember how girly my girl was. My emotions were all askew. I was mourning for the loss of my daughter once again. I was proud of the young man he was becoming. I was amazed at how much an ultra feminine picture taken 15 months ago could look so wrong. I was happy, sad, angry. All at once.

My goal was to take my special girl pictures and make an album. A sort of letting go project that would keep my memories safe and in a place where I could easily see them when needed. I told my mom about this, once again- not to cause pain or guilt or trouble- just as a warning. She replied almost angrily that she was probably going to take all of her pictures down. I just couldn’t win. Once again with the people that were expecting me to lead them in supporting me and my kids, I had done the wrong thing.

Once again, I knew that this was her issue and not mine but it just made me wonder if I was correct in my guess at her anger. Was I making my parents deal with something they didn’t want to face? Or were they embarrassed by K and ticked off at me for not nipping “this phase” in the bud? Or was it their inability to accept it and their guilt over not supporting us?

“Everybody’s got something to hide except me and my monkey.” ~John Lennon

April 2014  I’m happy to report that after my picture overhaul, K sorted out all the pictures into two groups. There were quite a few that we could display if they were black and white. Removing pink or purple made all the difference. Yes, there is a gaping hole of about 10 years when K’s pictures are just too girly and we don’t display those. But it really is okay. I love the pictures I have out. Little 2 year old K wearing his big brothers windbreaker, jeans and hair swept up in a baseball cap- that’s my little boy- the one that was always there, trying to get out. I showed my mom those pictures and said, “See, he was there all along. These are K.” I’m working on a scrapbook. It’s therapeutic for me to remember little snippets of that little girl and I have realized that I don’t have to let her go. I had a daughter for 18-1/2 years and I’ve had a son for 2-1/2 years. But I’ve had my middle child, K, for 21 years.

February 2017 It’s hard to believe that Kris will turn 24 soon. Much has happened in the 22 months since I first published this post and the 3-1/2 years since I began writing it. While Kris is still searching to find their comfort level in expressing who they are, they seem to be settled (and more at peace) with identifying as non-binary and using they, them, their pronouns. Their gender expression is strictly feminine, and often they are taken to be a young lady. (And Kris assures me that this is fine.)

A few months ago, Kris asked if we could find a picture that accurately represents who they are up on the wall. This would be the wall where my children’s school pictures were displayed, with the final photographs being their senior pictures. In the Great Photo Purge of 2012 I struggled with a replacement and finally Kris provided one of his abstract self portraits. Not having a studio portrait of Kris that compared with my sons’ senior pictures, I asked Kris how they felt about the senior picture going back up. Kris agreed that it was the best option and I dusted off Kris’s senior picture and placed it back on the wall. I will admit that I do a slight double-take at times, not expecting to see it there but it’s nice to have it back. Especially since in the picture, 2011 Kerri looks exactly like Kris does now.

All of those photographs tell Kris’s story. If I was to lay out a smattering of pictures of Kris spanning the last almost 24 years, I would see my baby girl who grew into a spirited toddler and precocious preschooler who alternated between begging to take ballet and wanting to do whatever her big brother was doing. I would watch Kerri’s energy and personality merge with her determination to become a pre-adolescent finding a way to survive. My heart would swell with pride and ache with sorrow at the teen years when Kerri was battling to make it through and somehow managed to accomplish so much that I’m proud of. Then I would reach when Kerri came out as transgender and transitioned to Kris. And I would marvel at the last five years and how far Kris has come, pulling together all those fragments from the pieces of their life leading up to this point to become the person I have always known they were.

Kris

Daily Prompt: Recognize

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.

 

Say Nothing or Something 

For the past year or so I have found myself to be in a peculiar place. It has been evident in my posts (or lack there of).

Quick background info (you can skip this if you are familiar with the story of Kris): 5 years ago my 18 year old daughter, Kerri, came out as transgender. Within 6 months, she had transitioned to male name (Kris), pronouns, presentation and took testosterone for over 3-1/2 years. Less than a year ago, Kris stopped taking testosterone and more feminine clothing began to appear in his wardrobe. He explained that he is non-binary/genderqueer- not identifying really as a boy or as a girl. Currently Kris has changed to they, them, their pronouns and their gender expression is primarily female. 

And this brings us to where I am. I’m finding myself at a loss at times when I’m faced with a new parent of a transgender child who is struggling. I will never forget what I felt when I found out that Kris was transgender. When a person in that position starts speaking, I hear a certain quality in their voice that transports me right back there. I remember feeling so incredibly much. I often felt like I was a walking exposed nerve. I know I looked the part. So I can easily relate and hopefully offer words of encouragement and comfort.

It’s the next part that has me stumped. So many parents are unsure of starting hormones, name and gender marker changes, surgeries and all that.

Kris saw a gender therapist and a psychiatrist and a doctor who had tons of experience with transgender patients. They all agreed that Kris showed very consistent signs that he was transgender and identified as a boy. Kris knew he was a boy. He was consistent, persistent and insistent. He fit the mold for the model female to male transgender person. He wanted to start testosterone as soon as he could. He was looking forward to getting top surgery but we had told him he needed to wait for that- start T and let’s see how it goes. My husband and I were very cautious entering this journey. Part of that was our fear and ignorance but then, we just wanted to be sure that we were making the right decisions with Kris. We were also dealing with a potential ticking time bomb because the truth was that Kris was over 18 and did not need our stamp of approval for anything he did. He was okay with not having biological children and ready to adopt.

And then the last year unfolded before our eyes and our transgender ftm kid became a non-binary kid whose gender expression matches their sex assigned at birth. Although Kris has been off testosterone for over a year, there are a few side effects that will never go away.

The top surgery haunts me. Or I should say, the top surgery that we did not do. Kris and I have talked about what would have happened if we let them  have that surgery that first year, like they were pushing so hard for. They’re glad we did not. Kris wants to be pregnant one day and experience pregnancy and childbirth. We are not sure if that will be possible due to the past testosterone use. Kris was 18 when we began this journey. Kris is now 23.

I don’t want to be the voice of doom or a cautionary tale. I want to be encouraging and supportive for parents who are in the position I was in 5 years ago. But I look at Kris and I worry.  And when I start responding to a parent’s concerns with my own experience, I find myself leaving out the part where Kris is now or deleting my response. I remember what it felt like in those early days- really that first year. I know that if I read about Kris now, I would look at it as if it was a lifeline. I’ve seen the look on other parents’ faces when they hear about Kris- that hope that maybe their kids will end up like Kris. The problem is- you just don’t know. For all I know, Kris could have a buzz cut and be asking if I know where their binders are next week. You don’t know until you know and then you still don’t know for sure. 

Kris and I have talked about this a lot. Not all kids are like Kris. Maybe most are not. But I keep going back to the first 3 years when Kris was certain that he was a boy. Kris had to go through those years to reach the place where they were comfortable being themselves and it helped to confirm that being a boy was not who they were. Maybe some feel it differently than Kris did/does.

I’m not even sure we belong in those groups anymore. When people hear about Kris, they jump to the conclusion that Kris is “going back to being a girl” and it literally causes me pain to try to explain it at this point. Kris has admitted to not going to LGBT groups anymore because they feel like they are taking up space that someone else needs more. This tells me that I’m not the only one in this strange place.

 So, what am I saying? I’m not sure. Each parent will be helping their child make these decisions, if the child is under 18. These are not decisions to be made lightly and having been there (although with an older child), I don’t envy the task at hand.

What do I say? Nothing? Everything? Something in between?

I just don’t know. For the time being, I will err on the side of caution and go with-

When in doubt, say nothing.

Blindside

It’s funny how things can change in a split second. One second you think you know the world you’re living in and just like that- it has changed.

That is exactly what happened when my middle child, Kris, came out as transgender. If you aren’t familiar with Kris’s background, you can read about it HERE to catch up.

Not only was I trying to understand what was going on with my kid, but I also had almost every person in my life reacting to this news and sharing their every thought, feeling and opinion on it with me. Needless to say, it was overwhelming and didn’t leave much time for me to deal with my own stuff.

In what seemed like the blink of an eye, but was actually a much longer process, we weeded out, pared down, lost and reshaped our family dynamics. When all was said and done, our circle of trusted people was very small.

As a mother, I absolutely refused to surround Kris with people who were not fully and openly supportive of him as he transitioned and/or figured out who he was. Regardless of how “okay” he seemed on any given day, I knew that he was at risk. I knew that with every text he sent me that expressed how he truly felt about himself and the world, there were millions of those thoughts swirling around in his head.

And just last week he had texted something that made my heart miss a beat. As I was texting back “Do I have to call 9-1-1?” I was moving around the house, mentally planning on how quickly I could get to him…… (I panicked but it made me realize how close to the surface that constant fear lives inside me.)

Our lives took on a different feeling and we got used to being a small tribe. We did not tolerate transphobic and homophobic people.

We knew who we could trust- or so we thought.

And then— just like that—– from inside our circle, Kris was attacked. By one of our own. As the conversation, through text, unfolded, Kris was sending me screenshots.

text

Was this for real? When I saw this text, I couldn’t believe my eyes. I was reeling, standing there in shock, and I could not imagine what Kris was feeling.

I have to give Kris a lot of credit because his responses were amazing. Although he was feeling betrayed, hurt and attacked, he never lost his cool. His texts remained rational and relevant to the conversation. At that point, I can’t say that I would have been able to do the same.

 

Until the exact moment that Kris sent me the first screenshot of this conversation, I would have sworn that there was no one in the world that I would tolerate saying these things. And then this happened. And it was probably the ONLY person, due to circumstances beyond my control, that I couldn’t cut lose. text2

I did not speak to LC, other than when necessary, for days. I was afraid of what might come out if I was to try to talk about this. There were people who were no longer part of our lives having said or done a lot less.

I shared this article on Facebook, hoping to reach some inner part of them. –If I Have Gay Children (Four Promises From a Christian Pastor and Parent) by John Pavlovitz. It’s a beautifully written article and I thought maybe by reading it, they might take a closer look at what they were saying. Instead, to my horror, LC shared the article with a challenge for people to have the courage to speak their minds on this matter…..to support their homophobic platform. After a few more homophobic posts, LC deactivated their Facebook account.

This person could not understand why everyone (in our small family unit) was mad at them and why no one was speaking to them. And they were quite offended that terms like homophobic and transphobic were being tossed their direction.

I’ll be honest with you. I shut down and closed ranks. I only spoke to my children and my husband. I didn’t trust anyone except my four people. I can’t go into the details of why it wasn’t as simple as cutting this person loose (after giving them a very thorough tongue lashing with a side of raking over the coals). I had conversations with both of Kris’s brothers and as expected, they are furious. Michael and Andrew are very protective of Kris. Andrew is Kris’s best friend and Michael takes his role as the oldest sibling very seriously. (I am so freaking lucky to have such loving and loyal kids!)

I’m not protecting LC’s privacy but that of one of my four. Please trust me when I tell you that this would make a great movie.

Kris and Andrew, my college kids, are away at school but due back for spring break so it was up to those of us who were here to talk to LC and get an idea what they were thinking. Did they really believe the things they said? Did they actually have a problem with Kris being transgender? And how the hell were we going to figure this out? Regardless, this person needed to know that Kris would be Kris and never again asked to be anyone or anything else.

I’m sure I can guess what you’re thinking. That talk must have been a doozy! Did I tear their head off? Shake some sense into them? Did anyone storm out of the room? Nope. That’s it. Just nope. LC said very little, did not seem too apologetic or the least bit remorseful. I explained why this entire incident was so harmful for Kris. They did say they supported Kris and didn’t mean for all of this to happen but when asked about the texts and the Facebook incidents, they remained silent.

I’ve given this much thought since we had that “conversation” with LC. I walked away from it feeling that nothing was resolved. That is because it would have required something from LC that was not coming. I’m not sure what I expected and I’m not sure what would make things better.

I do know that Kris and Andrew will be home in a few short weeks and we will all be sitting down once again to talk about this. LC had better step up. And I continue to be angry and frustrated and fed up.

To be continued…

jane howard

 

“It’s a good time…”

You would be surprised at the things people say to parents/loved ones of transgender people. I’m sure trans people also hear their fair share. My most recent head shaking moment occurred at a family member’s funeral.

Kris leaves for his internship
Kris leaves for his internship

A cousin put her arm around me and drew me in closer. “I wanted to talk to you. I heard that Kerri is now transgender….”

I should have known that just seconds before sitting down to a funeral service is always the optimal time to have such conversations.  “Kerri is now Kris. He identifies as male and has always felt this way.”

She continued with, “It’s a good time to be transgender….with Bruce Jenner. He’s bringing awareness….”

*****

I have to admit that people have said some really odd things to me regarding Kris but this one took the cake. I mean, really. As if Kris had used wise judgment choosing the perfect time to be transgender. And yes, I know there’s so much wrong with that last sentence. (Like it’s not a complete sentence?) It’s a good time….. Okay, in the – it’s a beautiful spring day, it’s 70F degrees out, the sun is shining—it’s a good time to play baseball- way, if it rains, the game can be canceled and rescheduled. It doesn’t matter if it’s 10 years ago and 10 years in the future. Kris doesn’t get to cancel his transgender status and put it on hold until it’s a good time.

I do realize what my cousin was trying to say. Yes, there is a growing awareness outside of the LGBTQ community regarding trans issues. And every little step is one step closer to gaining equality for all transgender people.  That’s important and it does make today better than yesterday.

There was so much I wanted to say to my cousin. Like- four years ago, when Kris first came out it wasn’t that good. And from the first time Kris articulated that he was a boy and we spent 16+ years trying to figure out what was going on wasn’t that good. Kris didn’t choose any of this- only to try to live an authentic life.

And that wasn’t even touching on the fact that she used the wrong name and pronouns for Caitlyn Jenner. But I’m pretty sure the next opportunity to have this conversation complete with all the corrections is right around the corner!

 

 

 

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.

My Changeling

From the very beginning I called Kris my little changeling. There was always something about my middle child that was a mystery to me. Although some of the mystery has been solved, that feeling lingered even throughout his transition. And so it came as no real surprise when Kris texted me that he didn’t want people to think he changed his mind but he was actually non-binary or genderqueer.

Let’s hit the PAUSE button there for a minute—–

While my computer was having its own nervous breakdown, I tried to sort out my thoughts and figure out what I was feeling. Yeah, well, that’s not happening so what’s to follow is just me giving it to you raw and uncensored.

UNPAUSE—–

I haven’t done much research into the terms genderqueer and non-binary. While I know what they mean, I don’t feel like I know enough. Not when I have a child who identifies as one or both. It wasn’t a real surprise when Kris told me. As Kerri, he was never a die-hard girly-girl and as Kris he is definitely a unique individual who is not a typical young man. But let’s think about what I said. “Girly-girl” “Macho man” Those are extremes in both instances. And I can honestly say as a woman I do not embrace all things feminine. Growing up although I had all the average girl stuff my mom never dressed me in pink or rarely purple… Really! My other two sons, Michael and Andrew, while both male are as different as night and day. Kris fits right in the middle of them nicely. When he transitioned, there were parts of Kerri that just faded away and there were parts that stayed. Some of those might be things that are attributed more to girls than boys and while I noticed them, they were Kris. So no, this wasn’t news to me at all.

But then different thoughts popped into my head- and these weren’t new thoughts. They were things that peeked out from behind my everyday thoughts and I knew that I had been pushing them aside for months, maybe even the past year, now. For the past year Kris has been very erratic taking his testosterone. He had switched from shots to gel and had given various reasons. And as he has played cat and mouse with T these past few months (unknown to me), I’ve had instances where I was catching glimpses of Kerri. I have to admit it messed with my head more than just a little bit.

Was I imagining things? Did Kris look more feminine? (Not really) Was I really hoping deep down inside for Kerri to come back? Was Kris sending out mixed signals or was he changing his mind? Could I ask him? (NO) It was my imagination, right???

Then 2 weeks ago we went to the doctor and Kris asked that his level of testosterone be lowered. His doctor cautioned him that at such a low dose, it might trigger his period. Kris responded that it did not bother him.

And then the text.

I did tell Kris that I wanted to clarify a few points so I can explain it to a few people, who would want to know- like our very important closest people- his brothers, grandparents,….his dad. And for those other people (relatives) who might not say anything to him but will make comments to me….if they are speaking to me.

We have a starting point.

He prefers his full name and male pronouns. His gender is on the outer edges of male. While this is hard to explain, I do get what he’s saying.

I have to begin doing my homework on all things non-binary and genderqueer and how it all fits or doesn’t.

I know that as he lets his hair grow, he will confuse some people. He already does.

I’m ready.

Bring it on!

“Is Miss Kerri Carpita home?”

I can pinpoint the exact minute my day changed from the low key- chilling with baby Beej day to the off-kilter not quite right day it ended up being.

I was giving Beej his bottle. He was sprawled across my lap, his one hand beating rhythmically against the bottle as his eyes wandered around the room, looking for new and fascinating things. He occasionally made an approving sound around the nipple in his mouth.

Kris was preparing to leave for a job interview. He was looking sharp, having carefully coordinated his jacket, shirt and tie. I heard a beep-beep, which I assumed was Kris checking to see if the car was locked or unlocked. He had walked out of the room just seconds before.

I heard a knock at the side door. Then I received a text from him.

‘Some guys are at the dooooooor’

I leaned over since the door was within my line of sight. It was open.

THERE- that was the exact minute when the day changed.

I stood up, still feeding the baby, and talked as I walked to the door. At this point, I thought Kris had left. “I don’t understand why the door is open right now. I don’t think it’s warm enough for it to be open.” (Beej didn’t seem too concerned. He was focusing on his bottle, and the fact that we were walking and eating at the same time.)

I didn’t know what to expect when I reached the open door. It could have been anyone from door-to-door salesmen to Jehovah Witnesses. I did not expect to see two Navy Seals recruiters on my doorstep.

“Is Miss Kerri Carpita home?” one young man asked politely.

Kerri’s name sounded foreign and strange coming from this stranger. I was used to the unexpected person asking about Kerri by that name. But they were people that knew Kerri and possibly did not know about Kris. That was to be expected. This was not.

At this point, I went numb. I forgot that I was holding Beej in my arms, giving him a bottle. I stared at these two men and answered, “No.” It didn’t even feel like the word had come from me. That was how disconnected I felt.

“Does she live here?”

I paused. “No.” I was sure that I sounded wooden.

“Do you have a forwarding address for her?”

Another hesitation on my part. “No.”

One of the men nodded slightly and they wished me a good day. As they walked down the driveway, I turned from the door, not quite sure how I felt. The numbness seemed to be slipping away and I was left with an indescribable feeling.

And as I turned to walk back into the family room, still not fully aware of Beej in my arms, I froze as I saw Kris standing just out of line of sight past the open door.

We stared at each other, wide eyed and speechless. I tried desperately to read the expression on his face, or to get a feeling for his emotional state. All I got was scrambled waves of confusion and I wasn’t sure if I was reading him or me. I quickly surmised that my expression most likely matched his.

And then the emotion that I felt began as a distant ache that blossomed into a stabbing pain in my heart. I felt the beginning of tears welling up in my eyes and I quickly turned away, walking to look out the front window.

“They are getting into their Navy-Seals mobile,” I reported to Kris, who rushed over to see. Yes, it was a Navy-Seals mobile. You’ve seen those cars, vans and trucks which are advertisements for their business- not just a panel on the side but a full work of art that covers every inch of the vehicle. Well, that’s what these two uniformed men climbed into. And if I hadn’t read it on their chests, there it was on their vehicle- “NAVY-SEALS”.

“Why?” Kris’s voice was soft and hesitant.

“I don’t know.” My response was slow and honest.

We stared at each other in silence. Then I felt those tears fighting their way out again. Probably in response to Kris’s eyes which were looking suspiciously moist behind his glasses. Beej’s slight squirming brought him back on my radar and I looked down, grateful for the distraction.

“Even if I filled something out in high school-” Kris’s voice trailed off.

“That was four years ago,” I responded. “And did you?”

Kris shook his head.

“Even if you did, it sure took them a long time to get here.”

We both smiled.

“But why?” he asked again.

We were treading lightly. Very very lightly.

In that split second after they men had left and I had turned from the door, I had a suspicion. Something that I buried when I realized that Kris was there. Right there.

After Kris left for his job interview, I pulled out that thought. Had someone played a mean joke on Kris? What else could it be? Although Kris occasionally got mail addressed to Kerri, it was usually credit card offers….never Navy recruiters. And never recruiters coming to the door. And if it was a prank, it was cruel. So incredibly cruel.

Kris reported that he wasn’t sure how the job interview went, which was out of character for him. He usually felt it went really well or that he bombed. When I saw him a few hours later, he seemed to be moving as if in slow motion. Since I was fighting my own emotions, I think I probably appeared the same.

Hours later I’m not sure what I feel. Was it shock and sadness at hearing Kerri’s name spoken by someone I didn’t know? Or just hearing Kerri’s name? Sometimes when I hear someone else called by Kerri’s name, it causes a twinge in my heart. I still have so many mixed emotions tied to that name. Was it my fear that someone was playing a cruel joke on Kris? Was I worried that Kris felt it too? Did I feel that Kris was not as safe as I thought? I don’t know. I just don’t know. And I really don’t like feeling this way.

This is an example of the odd things with which we deal with Kris being transgender. Sometimes these things make us laugh. And sometimes they do not. Maybe that’s the hardest part of all- it’s not the not knowing when something is going to pop up… it’s the not knowing how we are going to to take it. Or are we going to react the same way? Is something that’s funny to Kris going to be painful for me? Or the reverse?

And then there are people who will think that this was no big deal. But for us, today, it was. And for those that don’t understand, THAT’s kind of a big deal, too. It’s symbolic of how some people in our lives just don’t get it. I was all ready to go on about how this is never going to end as long as people who have transgender people in their lives choose to turn their backs on them and not at least TRY to understand what their person is going through. I was getting myself worked up to a pretty good rant. I’ve got it in me. See, I’ve been so flipping busy “letting things go” all over the place I feel like Elsa waving my arms this way and that with icicles forming beautiful frozen sculptures and buildings all over the place. Something tells me that until those frozen masterpieces appear, I’m going to be like a ticking time bomb. These days I’m letting go of A LOT. (And I mean A LOT!!!) There is a limit.

And tomorrow, there had better be NO recruiters knocking on my door or else the encounter will go very differently because this time I won’t be caught off guard.