Camp Lost Boys

Earlier this year I attended a sleepaway camp for adult trans men who never had a boyhood camp growing up. When I was there I tried to capture, via journal, everything I felt and experienced. Here are my journal entries I over the three days I was there. Warning: it is lengthy. But, I learned a lot and personally I think it’s worth the read.

Day One: Friday April 4th, 2018

 

The flight from Chicago to Denver is going smoothly so far. My first flight from Buffalo to Chicago also “flew by” since I slept through most of it.

I’m really looking forward to this brief sleepaway camp. I’m going to meet so many other guys like me, who all understand what it’s like to be a trans man. I’m hoping to make some lasting connections that will be beneficial for me now as well as in the near and far future.

I wish I had more time in Colorado–it truly is a beautiful state. I can see myself living there someday.

I’m not sure how long this flight is. I probably should’ve checked, but as long as I’m there by noon to meet up with my carpool, that’s all I care about.

It’s a little nerve-wracking thinking about how I’m not going to know anybody at camp. It’s the perfect opportunity for new friends! Have I established that I like making connections and am excited for more? I’m trying really hard to not have expectations so I’m not disappointed if it turns out to suck (which I doubt it will, but just in case). I keep imagining the awesome pictures I’m going to take, both of the scenery and selfies with new friends. I’m really aiming for a kickass Instagram post.

My phone decided to stop playing Spotify, so I plugged my headphones into my seat’s headphone jack and immediately heard this kickass drum solo–I stumbled onto the oldies station. I instantly had enough of that and switched my wifi on and connected back to Spotify.

The view from this plane is really pretty. We’re above the clouds, coasting at around 30,000 feet. There are thick clouds above us, and fluffy cumulus clouds below. I wish I could see the ground so I could see all the different ways people till their land. I’d also prefer to see the Rockies as we get closer.

I’ve been to Colorado twice, but never to Denver–so this is a new experience all-around. Flying on my own is nothing new to me: my parents used to send me to Baltimore every summer in high school. I’d stay with my aunt and uncle until they had their first daughter, and then it probably would’ve been too much for me to be there too.

I’ve always loved opportunities to be independent: traveling alone, doing errands alone, getting tattoos alone.

There’s only a sliver of blue sky visible right now. It’s far off in the distance, like a huge blast door on the Death Star coming to a close.

 

Now, after napping lightly on that flight, I’ve found an empty space in the Denver International airport with an outlet, so I am sitting here recharging until Jamie (my carpool driver) lands and gets the rental car. I’m really hoping we can stop at a dispensary since I have yet to go inside of one, and what kind of stoner hasn’t been inside a recreational dispensary?

I wish I had brought food that is more substantial than cheese puffs and Nilla Wafers but I am a child so…that’s where we’re at.

Jamie said he landed, I’m now waiting for him to get his bags and then he’ll meet up with me and we can start being friends!

I’m so excited to be doing this. I’m glad I am branching out and meeting more people in my community. I can’t wait to learn new things and gain new perspectives on being trans. I need to find an ATM so I can pay Jamie for gas, but this airport is so big.

 

So, a lot has happened in the last six hours or so. I met Jamie and he is super chill. He travels the country with his wife in their RV and he wants to start a rescue farm. He also loves birds! We went to a dispensary (the strictest place I’ve ever been to–we had our IDs checked at least three separate times and had to be let into a locked room where we waited in line to be helped. Then I bought one pre-rolled joint and one container of THC gummies–the watermelon flavor), then we went to Ruby Tuesday’s. I had never been there before, so their salad bar was phenomenal–I was also high.

After hanging out with Jamie we had to drive back to the airport to pick up Kaydon, our other carpool buddy. From there we drove straight to camp. It took a little over an hour and we  listened to bluegrass and jam bands on the way. Minimal highway, majorly backcountry roads.

After we checked into camp and received our drawstring bags with the camp’s info and a coffee mug, we went to our cabins to pick out our spots in the bunks. I was the first in my cabin to arrive, so I chose the bed closest to an outlet. I set up the linens I borrowed from camp. Once I felt set up, I went for a walk around the ranch we were staying at. I ran into a group of guys doing a scavenger hunt and they asked me to join, which was nice of them because I was feeling nervous about meeting new people.

 

I left the talent show early. I’m in my sweats, listening to Kate Nash’s new album. Also, I ate a gummy and shared a blunt, which both contributed to why I left the crowd early.

Anyways, dinner was really good–we had roasted chicken, mashed potatoes, broccoli soup, and oatmeal raisin cookies. They also prepared a delicious salad. I have never eaten so much salad in one day, I feel like a rabbit.

Way back before I started T, I was virtually introduced to this guy Jay who was a few months into his transition at that point. I talked to him quite a bit about what it’s like being on T. I would tell him my concerns and he’d reassure me or give a new perspective. One time, right before I started T, we skyped and talked about my biggest fears about transitioning. His other trans friend was with him so the three of us talked about it together. Well, that other trans friend – Tyler – is here at camp! The best part is that he didn’t recognize me! He said I don’t have “the baby face” anymore.

I’m feeling very Sylvia Plath tonight. I always sit away from everyone, behind the crowd, distancing myself from the event. When people walk around and mingle, I aimlessly wander and listen to the pointless thoughts swimming in my head. Will I ever fit in? I hear. Over and over. Even in this highly marginalized group, I feel I don’t belong. I tend to feel this way at big group events. Why do I always pull myself out of big social events? Why do I like to be separate and alone all of the time?

Something fun I’ve noticed is that a lot of the guys here style their facial hair the same way I do. It must be a trend or something. Everyone I’ve met so far has been exceedingly nice and welcoming, and it’s really cool to be surrounded only by guys who know what it’s like to be trans.

There’s 16 of us in this cabin; it’s the most people I’ve ever shared a sleeping space with! It’s kind of weird. I really wanted to try doing stand-up comedy at the talent show, but I was too nervous and not confident enough in my jokes.

 

Day Two: Saturday April 7th, 2018

 

Today has been jam-packed, and the weather is so nice. It’s sunny, there is minimal wind, and it feels like the upper 50s.

I woke up at 6:30am, took some pictures, then went to eat breakfast. I had oatmeal, a hard-boiled egg, palenka, and some yogurt. After that I attended a “dad chat,” where a bunch of us spoke with one another about being a parent as a trans man. People talked about adoption, carrying a child themselves, artificial insemination, and other methods. We also talked about talking to your child about gender identity and transness.

A few guys shared their personal experiences with conception. One guy had a close friend of his ejaculate into a cup, and then they used a testosterone syringe to inject it into his wife. A different gentleman carried his own child, and he said it was the most beautiful and enlightening experience he’s ever had. A third guy found an anonymous sperm donor, a fourth man picked a donor, bought the sperm, and conceived at home. Someone else had his eggs retrieved and implanted in his wife with a known donor, and then for their second child, they plan on using the same donor but with the wife’s eggs this time (I personally really like that idea. That way both children are related to both parents. I think that’s a really smart and creative way to make a family.)

Basically, there are many options for trans men who want to be parents. For myself, if I want to have my eggs retrieved or if I want to carry a child (which I really do not want to do), I have to act sooner rather than later. The longer I’m on T, the more sterile I become. What I did decide, though, is that if I do have a child, I want to raise them as gender-neutral as possible for as long as possible.

After the dad chat, Mason, Charlie, and I went to the tye-dye station to color some white shirts. I did mine pink and blue, of course. We also got to pet, brush, and feed the horses who live on the ranch.

We went to another chat where a trans rights lawyer (who is also a trans man) spoke about legal issues, especially surrounding family law and Trump’s trans military ban. If I ever have a child, I’ll need to adopt them if they’re not biologically mine or else I could have custody taken from me. He also suggested that a prenup that states that my spouse is aware that I am trans and is ok with it so in case we get divorced, my transness can’t be used against me.

There’s currently a chat going on about long-term transition things but it was starting to make me feel anxious with all the talk of blood clots and pulmonary embolisms…I had to leave. Now I’m sitting in the sun, writing. It’s so peaceful. I’m learning there’s still so much more left to accomplish as a community.

I’m so tired. The most exhausted I’ve ever been, I think. We were out in the sun today (shirtless, of course) playing basketball and this newer game called Gaga ball. I also climbed a 30 ft pole and ziplined across a field, tye-dyed a shirt, made a bracelet, and really developed a sense of community and oneness… it’s something I’ve never felt before.

After dinner we watched two films on the trans masculine experience. I left halfway through the second one though, because I was (and still am) feeling extremely emotionally drained as well as physical – and the higher altitude does not help my case.

I’ve learned a lot so far. Mostly, I think I understand now, that “trans” is an experience. In a way, it’s a path to enlightenment.

Most of all, this camp has given me hope for my future as a man, after most/all of my “transition steps” are completed. It has also encouraged me to stay creative and interested in multiple facets of creative outlets – like book writing, filmmaking, photography – they can all be a part of me just like my transness is. If I plan ahead, I can find the time to pursue a long-term project like making a documentary film on the trans experience.

So much has happened today, I’m not sure how to process all of it yet. Writing helps. I feel like a baby tran compared to most people here.

Another guy just came into the cabin and went to bed. Same.

 

Day Three: Sunday April 8th, 2018

 

The final day (or half-day, rather). I was originally supposed to leave camp right after breakfast because I couldn’t find anyone to take me to the airport later, yet early enough to catch my 4:20pm flight. But, right after breakfast, Mason mentioned that he was going near the airport – so I asked him if we could leave at 2pm instead of 3pm and we did – so I got to experience some really great things.

I hung out with a few guys and we walked around the ranch on another scavenger hunt – but this was after the hike I went on. So I did a ton of walking this weekend, which probably isn’t ideal for my ankle. Oh well.

I really connected with this guy Garrick. Some other guys I formed good connections with and hung out with are Caysin, Mason, Charlie, and Ajay. These are just the main ones. I had a lot of great conversations with pretty much everyone there, which is really cool. There were no cliques.

So after the hike and the scavenger hunt, we went to the bottom surgery chat. It was intense, emotional, and informative. Three very brave guys showed the group their results (two phalloplasty and one metoidioplasty) and talked in detail about their surgery experiences from early decision-making to recovery and post-op complications. From what I gathered, phallo poses a bigger risk for complications, and one in eight guys lose sensation in their genitals. Although, I was pretty impressed with how the phallo results looked. One guy had testicular implants, the other didn’t. A commonality among guys who had phallo is that the recipients experienced extreme pain after surgery, and they had an overwhelmingly emotional (and long) recovery period. One gentleman cried as he told us about his wife and how she had the majority of the burden of his recovery due to his limited mobility.

On the other hand, meta seems to come with fewer risks, yet not as “cis”-looking results. There are different kinds of meta, and you can get testicular implants too, if desired.

There’s so much to think about and process from this weekend, my brain feels like jelly and I’m so worn down. At least I got some sun on my face! The exhaustion is totally worth it. It was truly incredible to be surrounded by people who are just like me. I’ve gained some wisdom about becoming a man, defining my own masculinity, and transcending the binary. In talking with one dude, he described his gender identity as both a man and a woman – possessing womanly parts and a masculine outward presence. I really connected with that aspect – just being me regardless of how society labels my body and my social presence. It’s much easier said than done, but it’s something I can strive for as I continue on my crazy journey and become the person I am meant to be.

Being trans is an experience. It differs vastly from person to person, similarly to how sex, sexuality, and gender are all on a spectrum. Every body is different. Surgery results are incredibly variable. Life experiences are all over the place, and it has been amazing learning so much about my own community.

I am returning home with a newfound love for myself, my identity, and my community. I no longer feel isolated or like a freak, or like a girl who was just pretending. Society may not have a safe, comfy spot for me and my ilk, but damn it, I’m gonna fight for our spot because we are human and we deserve equal treatment.

I am returning home feeling whole, accepted, loved, and most importantly – understood.

Trans 102

(K+M) Back in July, we teamed up to write a blog defining terms and concepts in the LGBT+ community. We focused on terms related to being “trans,” as that’s the main focus of our blog. We’ve decided to do that once again, to provide some more educational material.

(K) Back in the spring of my senior year of high school, I boarded a bus at 4am with other members of my school’s Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA), and we drove to Albany where we spent the day learning about the Gender Expression Non-Discrimination Act (GENDA) and attended other various conversations about sexual orientation and gender expression throughout Albany’s convention center.

GENDA is sort of a follow-up bill to SONDA (Sexual Orientation Non-Discrimination Act), which passed in 2002. SONDA prohibits discrimination on the basis of one’s perceived sexual orientation in employment, housing, public accommodations, education, credit, and the exercise of civil rights. GENDA is essentially saying the same thing, but its protections are for transgender/non-binary/gender nonconforming, since SONDA did not explicitly create a protected category for these aforementioned individuals.

Fast forward to now, and GENDA has been passed in the State Assembly for eleven straight years, but the State Senate has never brought GENDA to the floor for a vote. This means that the transgender community in New York State is without explicit protections for over fifteen years!

If GENDA is passed, it could not be overturned by a future governor. It also stands up against transphobia, and sets a good example for other states to protect their transgender residents as well.

(M) Recently my husband and I attended a Gender forum. We, as parents of a child within that community, took in an incredible amount of information that never would have occurred to us with just our own experience.

We were greeted by a transgender woman who really knew her stuff. For example, the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and the American Psychiatric Association define being transgender as a disconnect between the sex assigned at birth and the gender the brain identifies with (being transgender IS NOT a lifestyle or a choice). A noted statistic (according to a 2016 Williams Institute Report) approximately .6% of the population identifies as transgender. This equates to approximately 1.4 million Americans and over 100,000 New Yorkers. She provided us with a great power point presentation.

The slide that resonated most with me is that every one can be described by four basic factors: biological sex, gender identity, gender expression, and sexual orientation.  Gender is more than the biological tissue you are born with. Not everyone’s gender identity matches their reproductive organs. Sexual orientation is not based on biological sex or gender identity. Not everyone fits the gender binary (the binary demonstrates that there is only male and female, nothing else can exist). These are things I would have never thought of on my own. It’s like saying, “you don’t know what it’s like to be someone else unless you’ve walked a day in their shoes.” Well, let me tell you the panel that was there to share their stories and answer questions CLEARLY were very different from one another. I learned that every single person in the community has walked very different paths and has their own journey to celebrate because all they want is to be accepted as who they are and what they contribute to society.

There were six people on this panel and of all ages 25-60+. Sadly, the only thing that was the same for them was that at one point in their life they were not accepted and felt unloved. Feelings are very hard to deal with sometimes. You want to suppress them, ignore them, or fill up your time keeping busy so that ‘feeling’ doesn’t take up your every breath. I have seen the anxiety and depression first hand and it’s not easy to watch. It is reported that 40% of transgender individuals have tried to commit suicide. 40%! At one time our child was part of that statistic.  That being said, the love and support he receives keeps him safe and happy. Many people don’t want to tell anyone due to lack of support, love and acceptance.  That leaves one to think “no one wants me and I’m better off dead.”  I just don’t understand what gives a person the power to make someone else feel so helpless and ashamed.

(K+M) Here are some of the highlights from the presentation, and these are the things we feel are important to share and educate people on.

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We found this chart to be informative and easily digestible for people who may not know the proper terminology behind these topics, or for those who may not understand the several different aspects of gender expression/identity/biological sex/sexual orientation.

Terminology

Transphobia: a dislike or prejudice towards the transgender community. Transphobia can also be internalized, when a trans person experiences hatred or shame towards themselves.

Gender Identity: Our deeply held, persistent, internal sense of self as a man, a woman, somewhere in between, or not at all. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “By age four, most children have a stable sense of their gender identity.”

Heteronormativity: The way our culture views heterosexual men and heterosexual women as “normal” and “natural.” All other genders are viewed as abnormal or inferior.

 

Some things to remember when interacting with a gender-expansive person:

You don’t have to understand a person’s gender identity to respect them and their identity. Be sure to use the person’s pronouns of their choice. Do not be afraid to ask someone which pronouns they use. Respect their name, regardless if it has been legally changed or not. And remember, be mindful of the questions you ask them (do not ask about their birth name, genitals, or sexual relationships).

Thank you for reading our second educational blog post! Stay tuned for more. 🙂

Now, go VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE VOTE!!!

 

 

Miracle on Ice

I started playing hockey when I was eight years old. I played for various house leagues and a few different travel teams as well. I wasn’t particularly good, seeing as I never made any of the teams I tried out for. But I played because I loved it. I loved the feeling of the cold air on my face and the feeling of gliding quickly across the ice.
The only significant achievement I accomplished with ice hockey is that I was on the inaugural girls varsity hockey team at my high school. I had to take a few years off after getting a couple of concussions, but when I was ready I joined my college’s girls club team for a semester. I loved being able to play competitive hockey again, but at the end of the semester I had to essentially choose between playing hockey and starting my medical/physical transition. I chose to transition because I had reached a low part in my depression and I knew I couldn’t put that off any longer.
After beginning my transition, a friend of mine introduced me to this program where you pay $12 and play a pickup hockey game. It’s all adults, and it’s pretty low-stress. It’s great when I need the exercise (which is often), and it’s a great way for me to do something I’ve always loved doing since I was a young child.
I haven’t played hockey since before I had top surgery, until last night. I hadn’t even considered this as a big milestone for myself until I was sitting in the locker room shirtless. Growing up, I never knew the words to describe what I was feeling and what I meant by, “I want to look different.” During practices, I’d stare at my reflection in the plexiglass boards and wished I didn’t have hair draping down out of my helmet. I wished my shoulders were wider. I wanted to look like a boy–because that’s what I was.
Playing hockey post-top surgery was such an incredible feeling. The shoulder pads sat flatly on my chest, and I could feel the cold air flowing beneath my jersey. Playing hockey now connects me with my younger self, who dedicated so much of his time to the sport. I feel like I’ve come full circle in this aspect of my journey, and that was only affirmed when I saw a picture of myself after the game.
In the picture, I see the person I always wanted to see looking back at me in the plexiglass. I see the guy I’ve always envisioned and dreamed I’d look like one day. I made it. Every time I see this picture I feel incredibly emotional. I made it.

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School Pictures

Ahh picture day. Some people love it, others avoid it like the plague. Personally, I never minded picture day. I was usually allowed to wear whatever t shirt I wanted, and I was never forced to wear my hair a certain way. People always told me I had a nice smile, so I enjoyed the compliments when that time came.

I never thought much of picture day, until after I had begun transitioning and realized that my high school senior portraits were obsolete–the girl in those photos didn’t exist anymore. Although I still enjoy the things I posed with in the pictures, like my snowboard, tennis racquet, and dog Lily–I no longer saw myself in those photos.

As I continued on in my transition and my physical appearance grew farther from that of various photos of me around the house, I begun to feel a strange sort of disconnect between myself and those older photos of myself. Baby and toddler pictures of me have never bothered me, since I was too young to understand gender anyways. I only start to dissociate from myself when I see pictures of myself from school. It’s me in those school pictures, but at the same time, it’s not me. It’s a version of me that no longer has a purpose. I imagine my transition similarly to that of an update on my phone or computer. I am Kam, (birth name) 2.0! I am ever evolving and ever growing.

Fast forward to now. I currently work in a school, and we had picture day a few weeks ago. Even though there is no yearbook, they still take pictures so the parents can have them, and they take photos of the staff as well, which I really enjoyed. When it was my turn, I sat down and smiled. I was allowed to see the picture right away, and I was immediately emotional. There I was, short hair, beard and all, with the standard light blue backdrop of a school-age photo. This was a sight I had never before seen. The only school photo I have of myself since I started transitioning is the picture that was taken of me right before I walked the stage at my undergraduate graduation. I was sick that day too, so it’s not my best picture if I do say so myself.

When I received the six copies of my picture a couple weeks later, I was once again overwhelmed with emotion. I finally got to see myself in this light, something I never even considered when I started transitioning. This experience is one of the many positive experiences I have encountered lately, and I am excited to continue sharing these positive things with you all!IMG_20181002_183142_841.jpg

Does your Child Have a Voice?

I am one of five children in my family. I grew up with four older brothers, a dad who encouraged competition, and a mom who didn’t really talk much. They loved us. My parents wanted the best for us. They wanted us to have respect. I can’t remember ever learning how to show respect. We weren’t encouraged to share our emotions or feelings. We were taught to speak when spoken to. We got hit when we didn’t comply. We fought like normal siblings do. I’m sure I probably got into my brothers’ stuff and got in trouble. I can’t remember any specific incident, but I was told by my mom that I did. They wanted us to do well in school. Grade wise I was probably the worst but I don’t ever remember getting reprimanded for not doing homework or getting a “D” in high school. As I look back on my childhood I didn’t have a voice. There was a lot of teasing in my family. Today one might call it bullying. Siblings do that right? It’s normal right? In today’s day and age I’m not so sure it is ok. Role models start at home. Your child’s first role model is you and their siblings if they have any.
Fast forward into my late 20s and my husband and I bring our first and only child into this world. At one point or another we’ve probably all said aloud or in our head that we aren’t going raise our children like our parents raised us. We are going to be different with our own children. I was a pre-k teacher for eight years before Kam was born. I was teaching children to have a voice. I was modeling this behavior that was never modeled for me. I was teaching children to talk to each other, share feelings and emotions. I learned how to do this while teaching them. We can all say that “if we knew then, what we know now” we would not have had the process of learning and growing. Getting to the destination has to be a process. We don’t just get in the car and then boom we are at our destination. We have to drive there. I wish my process started much earlier in life. But it didn’t. Having this feeling and then having a baby, I knew I wanted our child to have a voice. My husband and I don’t always agree. We did, however, agree on how we wanted to raise our child. Maybe that’s why we are so accepting to our son being transgender. I don’t know. I am always looking for an answer or a reason as to why some things in life happen the way they do. I (and maybe you) have to accept sometimes there just isn’t one.

Currently I am back in the public school system doing what I love, teaching pre-k. I love that I get to help shape these little humans. They are so eager to learn. I love that the children I am teaching and modeling for are mere preschoolers, they are like sponges. I am hoping to teach them acceptance, love, and kindness. That it’s ok to be different and unique. Every person has something to offer each other and this world as a whole. We have always wanted that for our child.
You never know what a child might be hearing when an adult is talking. Adults don’t always censor themselves. Body language and facial expressions say much more than words. For example, my dad’s facial expressions looked like he was always angry. He was strict and wasn’t really open to the things surrounding him. I’m not even sure how many times he said he loved me. Again something we didn’t want for Kam. I would tell Kam “if Papa ever makes you feel sad or hurts your feelings, tell him.” Not only is it good for your child to share their emotions, it’s good for the adult to learn to adjust the way they talk to a child. I am not trying to preach. I am sharing MY thoughts along with what I wanted for MY child. I think It’s great when a child feels comfortable to express themselves to each other and adults, especially the ones closest to them. I would have Kam say something like, “that hurt my feelings,” or, “I don’t like that.” This type of talk also encourages more conversation. When Kam would say that, my dad didn’t know how to respond to Kam. The two of them had a pretty good relationship. My dad didn’t really talk to Kam the way he spoke with his other grandchildren. The other grandchildren didn’t really express their feelings to him directly.
In this day and age our children need a voice more than ever for many reasons. They need to be heard by their friends and the adults in their lives. As a teacher of any grade, it’s great if a student can express whatever they might need or be feeling. As Kam was growing he didn’t understand why he felt the way he did. He would have panic attacks. I remember one specifically. We were at a wedding and we were sitting at dinner. He began breathing hard and was asking me to take him for a walk. So we left the table and went outside. I was annoyed. I remember feeling like what the heck is going on? I asked him what the heck is going on with you? Why are you behaving like this? He only responded that he was uncomfortable around a large group of people. He was uncomfortable in what he was wearing (which was a dress). This was the time I started to put things together and I could see the physical anxiety in him. From then on, I could see that he would set himself away from large groups. He didn’t even like trick or treating because there were too many kids running around.
So let me talk a little bit about my child as he is today. He is an emotional young adult. As he is growing into Kam and learning who he is, he is becoming more stable each day. He is growing into this handsome young man. I’m not just saying that because I’m his mom. I see him blossoming as a participating citizen in this crazy world and advocating for himself and others like him. In my thoughts, I feel like his life won’t be easy. I know I could be wrong. I hope I’m wrong. I fear he won’t find that special someone. Questions I ask myself all the time, will he get married, be a father, have equal opportunities? I’ve even gone as far as wondering if he will die alone. That’s morbid. But as a mom with an only child I’ve always had that thought. I don’t believe he will but I do wonder. It’s a horrible feeling. No parent wants their child left out or to feel left out. I guess I won’t know because I’ll be dead. So I shouldn’t think about it.
This blog idea came from a night out with some friends. We began talking about transgender people they know. Some of my friends work in school settings as well. I love hearing about how the schools are dealing with this topic as it becomes more prevalent. My friends have also shared stories about how parents are reacting to their child being trans. I’m sad to say that from what I have heard these parents are not particularly supportive. I can’t say it’s easy, because it isn’t. It’s a MAJOR learning curve for all involved. Some of the stories I’ve heard or read about just kill me inside.
I really feel that if parents and adults can teach children to love everyone as they are, this world would be a better place where all are accepted. That sounds so nice to me. “Normal” is different for everyone!

“T”

“Tes-tos-ter-one” noun: a steroid hormone that stimulates development of male secondary sexual characteristics, produced mainly in the testes, but also in the ovaries and adrenal cortex.
MY definition of “T” (that’s what it’s called in the trans world): OMG! My daughter is going to look like a boy, right quick, another change that I MUST watch and accept.
Well, before Kam made his decision to have top surgery, he made the decision to begin “T,” or hormone replacement therapy. The first time we discussed this, I wanted to die. Immediately my thoughts raced. I knew that the way I physically saw my daughter was going to change forever!! My emotions took over and I cried for days.
Let me backup just a bit. Kam had to do many things before starting “T.” His psychologist asked him to do some research about “T.” He was asked to make sure that he knew what the side effects might be. There was a packet of information Kam studied. He was asked multiple questions to make sure he understood what would be happening, and Kam answered every question with ease and understanding. “T” was something he really wanted. It wasn’t easy for him to wait as long as did to begin. We needed to be positive that he understood what would happen to him and that he’d have to give himself a shot a few times per month for the REST OF HIS LIFE. This coming from a kid who thought having a bloody nose would kill him.
We met the endocrinologist, asked our questions and left the room for Kam to have his consult. There are a few different vehicles for administering “T.” Kam gives himself a shot, subcutaneously (directly under the skin, into fat) every 10 days. There are many side effects a person can have while doing HRT (hormone replacement therapy). I won’t go all medical on you. I will share my opinion and my experience.
Now that it has been about two years that Kam has been on “T,” I do see that he really needed it to be perceived as a male by others. Without it, he could not be who he was meant to be and see what he thought he should see in the mirror. I had to sit by and watch my child change from looking like a female to looking every bit as a male. I wanted to make sure that I saw him every day so that too much time would not go by and then I’d see him and see a dramatic change.
The first part (although we didn’t know it at the time) was when he shaved his hair off in high school, at age 17. He had beautiful long curly hair. When pulled up or back it was still gorgeous. I cried when it all came off but was also very proud of him for donating and shaving it all off. That takes a lot of courage, especially at that age. I figured it would just grow back. Truth is, he didn’t want it anymore. So he kept it very short since then. I got used to it. After his first few shots of “T” there were changes right away. I noticed his body morphing into a different-looking physique. He almost immediately had more body hair. Acne was prevalent. He never had it before. Then his voice began changing. It was getting lower. I was watching my child go into another round of puberty. I was scared for him. My thoughts were all over the place, all the “what ifs” were swirling around. What if people would stop talking to him because they were uncomfortable? What if his friends didn’t want to be around him?
What would family and friends think or say? I mean, when you are not around a person going through a transition, it is very difficult for people to see them after time has passed. Maybe at that time I was embarrassed because I didn’t quite understand why this had to happen. What would I say to people who didn’t know he was transitioning? How do I explain? Did I have to explain? Would people talk behind my back? What if he couldn’t get a job? What if people made fun of him? Would he ever find true love? What if he didn’t like the way he looked after being on “t” for so long? What if I didn’t recognize my child of 19 years? These thoughts stayed with me until I saw for myself how happy it made him and how very handsome he had become. I had a very difficult time seeing him present as him, but having pictures of “her” around the house. Slowly I began to update most (not all) of the pictures around the house. I felt like it helped me along with the changes. I had a pit in my stomach each time I changed a photo. Photos are precious and always tied to a memory. Of course those pictures are kept in a place where if or when I choose to look at them I can. I have yet to do it and maybe I won’t ever do it. But they are there if I want to. He has hair head to toe. I can’t believe how much hair he has! He grew a beard! He loves taking care of it too. He buys product for it. He loves manicuring it, and I love that he loves it so much. He never really liked the grooming that most girls like. As a male, he loves it all, the hair, the clothes, the shoes, and the shopping. When he was growing up I can remember he always felt like he never had a “style” to what he wore or looked like. Now he feels confident with how he looks like and how he dresses.
I think for the most part, “T” has treated Kam well. I may be biased but I think he looks great. And I love his beard. I still have thoughts as to what is “T” really doing to his body that I don’t know about. I try not to worry about things that might never happen, but I know taking “T” will have an impact on him having children of his own. Sometimes I wish he would have harvested eggs but that is his decision.
There are so many ways people can get “T.” I am thankful that Kam is taking his transition one step at time. I won’t know what “she” would like in “her” twenties, thirties etc. I do know that he is handsome, happy and whole. That makes me happy.

A Decision

I don’t think there is a timeline set for a person who is transgender, nor do I believe there is a checklist for one to identify as transgender. I do believe that we are born with “hardwiring” from each parent. I mean we get their DNA. I don’t believe that we as parents create a transgender child or a gay child for that matter. I do not believe that as parents we “do” something to cause that. It isn’t anyone’s “fault.”  I also believe it’s not a choice. When I think about some of the things I have chosen in my life, I didn’t always think about the consequences. I have learned the hard way many times. There are always consequences to our choices. Some are good and some are bad. If you think about a person who is transgender or gay, many of them do not get support and in fact are horribly bullied. No one wants to be bullied or to be the outcast. So why would someone choose to be or do anything that might cause negative attention? It makes no sense.  

Have you ever wanted to change something in your life because you aren’t happy? Maybe it’s a job, a new home, starting a family, or maybe it’s a death. Let’s talk about that for a minute. Death comes in many forms. Death can be the loss of loved one. It can be a divorce. It can be the death of a good friendship, or of a job that you loved. All of these create a change in our lives. In life we are faced with many changes and some we do not want to encounter for many reasons. That list goes on and on for each of us. With any of these “deaths” we encounter, we must move on. Moving on takes courage, faith, support of some kind, and depending on the “death”–it may require a mourning phase.  

So at this point in Kam’s transition, he decides it’s time for top surgery (AKA double mastectomy). He  has been on testosterone and looks more male each day. But oh my gosh, surgically changing his body forever? Hold up. That takes courage. As a family we discussed many times what this would entail. We also did our research and realized that for Kam’s wellbeing this would be a part of his transition. We gave Kam the go ahead to research options and doctors. Once again, he did this very methodically and successfully. With the help of his psychologist, he found two renowned doctors that perform this surgery.  One in Florida, and one in Philly. Well after we got involved a little more from the insurance perspective, we found that some or most of the surgery was going to be covered no matter where he had it. But 100% of it would be covered if he had the surgery in Buffalo. We found a doctor here at a local hospital who was amazing. She just moved back into the area and is an amazing plastic surgeon. I went with Kam to meet her and for the initial consultation. I was blown away by her knowledge and bedside manner. I was also appreciative of her knowledge and compliance with the transgender community. She made Kam feel so welcome and brave. She took the time to get to know Kam and his journey.

There was some wait time due to Kam finishing school and collecting the letters and paperwork needed to have the surgery. In New York State, top surgery is covered due the psychological wellbeing of the person. It is actually seen as part of the transition. In many states the surgery is not covered and that leads to more anxiety and depression. The suicide rate is incredibly high among transgender individuals (40%).  

Surgery date is upon us and Kam is very excited and nervous. This was a kid who thought he would die from a bloody nose. He worried about having a heart attack because he was out of breath–at age 12. He worried the flu would kill him. You get the picture. So here is this brave young man voluntarily signing up for a  major, life altering surgery. The morning of surgery we all went to the hospital. Of course I went back with him whenever I could. There was no way I was going to let him be alone. We even took pictures! I was with him right up until he was wheeled away from me. I waited until he was out of sight and then cried. I’m so glad I was there because he was so nervous.  It is very nerve racking waiting to have surgery. I should know, I’ve had enough of them. Lots of doctors, nurses and equipment making noises as you just sit there and wait for your turn. So in my normal state of behavior I made friends with everyone and cracked jokes. Kam was comfortable with me around (I think).

The doctor came by for one last check and then away he went.  I watched my son be wheeled into the OR on his own free will. I was in disbelief.  While I walked to the waiting room to join my husband I thought to myself, “wow, he REALLY wants this”.  I was both proud, sad and scared. I joined my husband and we waited. I must have looked at the tv screen where his name was over a million times.   It seemed like his name never moved. We were told the surgery would take roughly 2-3 hours. During that time I paced. I prayed. I journaled. I cried and I laughed.  I also had Tim Horton’s and played candy crush saga. Journaling really helped me that day. I found peace in my prayers. So many memories flooded my mind. Memories from early pool days in cute little bikinis to what will I think or how will I feel when my son goes shirtless?  At that point I couldn’t imagine what my body language might suggest when I did see him for the first time. I kept reminding myself that this whole surgery is happening because my child needed to feel and look more masculine. He needed to match his inner shell with his outer shell.  It was a necessity for him. (Quick side note, not all individuals that are trans choose to have surgery.) Anyway, the day was filled with tears and what ifs. “What if’s” are the worst. They do nothing but bring negativity. I had to really be present to make my “what if’s” positive.  

Finally, word came that Kam is recovering and did great throughout the surgery. Praise God! Whew. Surgery took a little longer due to a small delay in the beginning–something that would have been nice to know from the start. I could not wait any longer to see him. I raced through the hallway to his room and watched him wake from the anesthetic. I was so relieved just to see him. He seemed very excited to get on home and heal.

I must admit I loved having the opportunity to play mom again. He doesn’t live at home but during his recovery he stayed at home. Recovery for me was easy. Just emptying drains, recording pills and making sure he was comfortable.  

His first trip back to see the doctor was amazing. When the bandages came off and he took one look at his new chest…it was all I needed to see that we, HE made the right decision. I was so happy for him. His scaring was minimal. But his smile was not.  

The first time I saw him without a shirt it was in a picture. It was a great picture. The ocean behind him, his arms spread wide and a smile as big as his arm span. The first time I saw him in person without the shirt I didn’t think much. My feelings were not like I thought they would be. I thought I would be scared.  I actually thought I would be embarrassed because I was picturing my little girl without a shirt. When it finally happened, I didn’t feel that way at all. I was actually more concerned with watching him without his shirt. He was so confident and proud. How could I feel any less than the same. I was relieved because he was so brave. Multiple times throughout his transition I have projected my feelings to be one way and was wronged many times. I like that. As a child, bra shopping and body image was very uncomfortable for him. But now, my son is feeling very much like a whole person. He has never really felt that way growing up and that makes me sad. Now, he’s different in a way where I feel his wholeness. I love that. My son is really brave and full of courage to be the person he was supposed to be all along.  I’m so happy for him. He is not ashamed as he once was. I love him.