Tag Archives: parenting transgender children

boysmaller

Puberty

In true Melissa fashion, I’m writing this post late into the evening when I should be headed to bed. But, I know that sleep won’t come until I untangle the knots of emotions that are holding my eyelids open.

We’ve hit the next stage in our journey raising a transgender child. Up until now, our choices and decisions did not require a medical intervention. Deciding if we would allow our child to wear clothing normally worn by females, using female pronouns, allowing our child to socially transition to a female, introducing our child to others as a female.  None of those decisions required a prescription.

Puberty always felt a long way off. I swear these children just came out of me yesterday, but this year they have lockers, a school dance, need deodorant, and drink an impossible amount of milk each week. Where did the time go? How have we gone from baby bottles and diapers to a first dance dress and a discussion about personal hygiene?

I was suspicious that we might be getting close to puberty when I saw that some of the kids who were boys last May were suddenly young men in September. And recent lab work confirmed that it is time to start puberty blockers.

Conner was so relieved that she started crying. It is exhausting to constantly be worrying that your body will betray you and that the doctors might miss it until it is too late. Since the labs had been drawn, she’d spent more than one day in bed, overcome by nausea as her anxiety climbed. When we told her that the prescription for blockers was being sent in, her relief was evident by the school bus wide smile she wore for the rest of the day.

What she didn’t see, was her mom break down in tears upon seeing the message from the doctor. Why all the tears from mom? Good question.

That’s maybe a little bit why I’m here tonight typing instead of playing Township on my phone as I wait for sleep to come.

I’ve had to sort out my mix of emotions and that involved reaching out to a few trusted moms who also have transgender kids.

“I’m a mess and I’m feeling too many things,” I cried.

“Yes, we did the same thing too,” they reassured me.

It has helped to list my emotions and I’m hoping this will help another parent in a similar hot mess of emotions.

First and foremost, I’m crazy happy for my child. She feels so validated that her parents and her medical providers recognize that she needs blockers. It confirms to her that we believe her and that she won’t have to go through a male puberty. Her happiness is infectious.

I’m beyond relieved that we can stop wondering when puberty will start. I keep watching her friends show the tell-tale signs of puberty and then I look at both my children to see if I can recognize any of these signals in them. I’ve pestered my husband and his mother about when puberty started for him (to no avail, it’s like he’s blocked it out of his mind). It has caused me so much stress that it only compounds my anxiety about what this has been like for her.

I’m sad. I’m sad that she has to have a medical intervention to be who she is. I’m sad that she carries so many burdens. I’m sad that she had to wonder if she would get the medical intervention she needed to block male puberty.

I’m also angry. Why couldn’t she have been born with a female body? Why does she have to go through this? Why does it have to be so hard for her?

I feel guilty. Did I do something wrong in my pregnancy that put her in the wrong body? Could I have somehow prevented the pain that she feels? Should I be more worried about the long-term effects of puberty blockers than I am?

I’m confused. Is it wrong to feel this way? Does it lessen her identity as a transgender female to wonder if I could have prevented this? Does it make me a bad ally to wish that she has been born into the body she identifies as? Is it normal and okay to feel guilty and confused?

I’m scared.

My children are identical twins. Even though one has long hair and a mole on her cheek they are otherwise identical. What will happen when her brother continues with male puberty and she doesn’t? How will they begin to look different? Will it be hard to watch one become what the other feared she would be? How will my identity change as feeling like a mother of identical twins even if it has been years since I told anyone they are identical? Will it be hard to watch one develop while the other waits? Will my relationship with them change as they begin to look different?

Will their relationship change? Will it hurt her relationship with him when she watches him become what she feared?

I don’t have the answers. But I do have the knowledge that we’ll take each day as it comes together as a family. I do know that we are strong and we love each other and we will get through whatever comes ahead.

And I do have the absolute conviction that we are making the best decision for her.

picjumbo.com_IMG_4118

Discrimination equals bullying

It started with a frustrated question as I watched my daughter throw up (again).

“Do transgender kids miss more school than their cisgender peers?”

I posted it on my personal Facebook page and a friend immediately responded that kids who are bullied tend to miss more school.

I started to type this statement: “To the best of my knowledge, Conner isn’t being bullied. I mean, she IS being discriminated against by the school system . . .,” and that’s when I stopped typing and started crying.

She IS being bullied. She’s being bullied by the school system that tells her to stand up against bullies. I never made that connection before.

“Maybe,” I thought to myself, “Maybe, I am mistaking what the word “bullying” really means.”

So, I did what anyone else would do and I googled it. This is the first definition that popped up:

Screen Shot 2015-11-02 at 10.33.59 PM

“Use superior strength or influence to intimidate someone, typically to force him or her to do what one wants. ”

That’s exactly what’s happening here.

The school system:

  1. Is not allowing her to use the girl’s bathroom
  2. Asked her not to disclose her own personal information because they weren’t educated on how to respond to questions from parents and students.
  3. Due to the former, put her in a situation where she felt like she had to lie about why she wasn’t using the girl’s bathroom so as not to get in trouble for disclosing that she was transgender.
  4. Is not creating a culture where she feels safe to openly be who she is
  5. Is not creating a culture of safety for other LGBT kids
  6. Is creating a stressful environment where she has to be the one doing the educating instead of the other way around.

I should stop and let you know that I appreciate many people in the school system who are hoping to make things better. I understood why they needed time to get educated. The school system as a whole was completely unprepared for us.

I am frustrated because they’ve known about transgender and gender non-conforming kids in the school system before we arrived and didn’t start working on changes at that point. They recognize now that they need to make changes and we are actually meeting this week to discuss where things stand and how to move forward. That’s great. I acknowledge the work being done. But, why did it take my kid (and my mouth??) to prompt these changes?

I really wish they could hear some of the conversations my daughter has had with her healthcare team. I wish they could see how stressed she gets and how it leads to throwing up. I wish they could understand the toll it takes on her to be in an environment where she is constantly wondering if she is safe. Or if she’s going to get in trouble for talking about who she is. Of being in an environment where she is doing the educating; where she is leading a culture change.

There are transgender kids in every school system across our nation. Too many times, schools are not updating their policies towards transgender kids until faced with parents who won’t go away. Too often, a child is discriminated against, which prompts the school system to realize that their policies need changed.

Why are we okay with that? Why aren’t educators leading the change here? Why are we forcing children to create their own path because one doesn’t exist for them in their school? Why are we asking children to carry the burden of educating their teachers and their peers?

Why aren’t schools creating a culture where kids feel safe to ask the tough questions? Why are the schools participating in a form of bullying because of outdated policies and lack of education?

Why??

I want to close by saying that my daughter did come out to her friends a few weeks ago. She started by asking them if they knew what transgender meant. Their response?

“Everybody knows what transgender is unless they are a baby or an old person.”

Think about that response for a second. Your child probably knows more about transgender issues than you do.

The end to that coming out story? After some typical grade school drama, her best friend said, “You can stop trying to explain because it doesn’t matter. The only thing that matters is that you are my friend.” High five to that kid. That was over a month ago and there’s been no more discussion about it because it’s not a big deal to our kids. It’s a big deal to the school.

Our children are teaching the educators if they will only stop to listen. 

Kids get it. It’s the adults who make it more complicated than it needs to be.

 

lipstick-605298_1280

In case you missed it, it’s been a huge week in gender issues

So, in case they didn’t pop up on your Twitter feed or Facebook page, there were plenty of newsy bits dealing directly with gender issues. From Elinor Burkett’s article “What Makes a Woman” to Miley Cyrus posing naked with her pig, and now Susan Sarandon talking about her excitement over gender fluidity I’ve been busy alternately booing and cheering at my computer screen. In fact, my husband pointed out the Burkett article  with a, “Hey what do you think about this article,” then wisely removed himself to another part of the house to avoid any rage induced fallout.

If you haven’t read “What Makes a Woman” let me encourage you to read it though I’ll warn you that I found it to be an incredibly insulting piece of pseudo-feminism that failed in it’s attempt to hide transgender bigotry. For me, the long and the short of it is that Ms. Burkett fought hard to keep women from being put into boxes, but now feels entitled to put women BACK into the boxes that she’s tried so hard to avoid. She also feels entitled to tell trans women that they aren’t, in fact, women. Ms. Burkett, I define what it means for me to be a woman. My daughter will define it for herself too. Thanks for your hard work, Elinor, but you don’t get to define anyone but yourself. Here’s where you can read a great rebuttal. Here’s another one.

On a completely different note, I can’t help but bring attention (again) to Miley Cyrus who has impressed me (again) about her feelings on gender issues and sexuality. In Paper magazine (while posing naked with her pig) she says:

“I am literally open to every single thing that is consenting and doesn’t involve an animal and everyone is of age. Everything that’s legal, I’m down with. Yo, I’m down with any adult — anyone over the age of 18 who is down to love me,” she says. “I don’t relate to being boy or girl, and I don’t have to have my partner relate to boy or girl.”

We live in a society where girls continue to be shamed about their sexuality, and now Miley is telling the world that she’s open to every single thing. In a culture that pushes people into a gender binary, we have a young role model encouraging people that it’s okay not to fit into a hetero-normative box. And, that it’s okay to celebrate your sexuality. If you haven’t read the article, I recommend it too. It’s way more entertaining than the previous one I mentioned and far less likely to have you yelling at your screen.

And, in a very welcome surprise, this great little video clip of Susan Sarandon popped where she discusses her excitement about gender fluidity.

“I think it’s a more interesting world when people don’t have such narrow ideas about what they can be.”

I’ve always loved Susan Sarandon both for her acting (hello, Thelma and Louise) and her political activism. And, now I love her for this too. It was a happy little present on this Friday afternoon.

Have a great weekend!