Trans 101

(M)Not all people like change.  Have you ever thought about change?  Do you like it? Do you encourage it? Most of all, do you learn from it?

(M)My life has changed two times during my 48 years on this earth, once with my brain tumors and now with my son.  It’s hard not to say “daughter” or “she”. In fact I misspoke just the other day and used an incorrect pronoun while talking about my son.  It doesn’t happen very often. It used to happen ALL the time. Sometimes what we learn from change is that it takes a long time and takes practice.

In this blog Kam and I have come together to share some educational information that we feel is important.  If you see an (M) next to a sentence or paragraph that’s from mom and (K) is from Kameron.

Let’s start with some basic acronyms.

LGBTQIA: stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, and Asexual. These are terms that encompass a large range of the identities of non-heterosexual people.  (M)Just face it, it’s not boy or girl anymore.

(K)FtM: Female to Male.

(K)MtF: Male to Female.

(K)Afab: Assigned Female at Birth.

(K)Amab: Assigned Male at Birth.

(K)(Ftm, MtF, Afab, and Amab should only be used by the people who are transgender/gender noncomforming, and NOT by others describing a trans person.)  (M)I just found this out as we are sitting here discussing this.

Terminology

(K)Queer: an umbrella term some people use to define themselves. It often just means “not straight.” Queer is also a slur that is being reclaimed by those who identify as such. Rule of thumb: if you don’t identify as queer, don’t use the word! (M) And don’t use the word to describe something that may be “stupid”.

Nonbinary: a term people use to describe themselves when they don’t identify as “binary,” or strictly male or female. (M)In this day and age there are many people who do not want to identify as M or F. Perhaps they are leaving their options open.

(K)Transgender: a term people use to label themselves if their gender does not match the sex they were assigned at birth.

(K)Transsexual: an outdated term (that, to some, is considered offensive now so it’s probably best to not use it) that was used to describe people who had undergone medical steps—hormones, surgeries—in their transition. (M) I know for sure that I do not like discussing my body parts.

(K)Transvestite: someone who feels sexual pleasure from dressing up as a different gender. People who cross-dress are usually comfortable with their gender.

(K)Intersex: an individual who has elements of both males and females when they are born. For example, a man could be born with one ovary and one testicle. A woman could be born with a testicle that never fully drops. Someone who is intersex can decide how they want to identify in terms of gender.  (M) This type of birth actually happened while we were all seeing our therapist. He dealt with this type of birth.

(K)Cisgender: when a person is cisgendered, it means their gender matches the sex they were assigned at birth.

(K)Pansexual: this is a sexual orientation in which people are attracted to people regardless of gender.

(K)NEVER ASK A TRANS PERSON IF THEY ARE PLANNING TO HAVE SURGERY, OR IF THEY HAVE ALREADY HAD IT!!!!! This is a highly personal question that most trans people feel uncomfortable answering. Imagine if someone asked you what was in your pants? How would you react if someone asked you if you were planning on undergoing an invasive surgery to alter your body? (M) We are all curious about this whole community because it is different than the “norm”.  But actually, what IS normal in life? Many times we are faced with having to find new normal and continue growing and learning.

(K)Newsflash: trans people are more than their genitalia! It’s not “normal” to go up to people and ask about what’s in their pants, so why ask someone about it when you find out they’re trans?

(M) I am fascinated every day with what I learn about LGBTQ-AI.  In fact I just learned that A and I were added to the acronym. It is difficult to absorb a new culture or language.  I have been traveling to Haiti for 5 years and I am finally becoming comfortable with the language and culture. It is still a shock for the first few days I am there.  If you think about it, this community that needs more understanding and acceptance is well within our reach of making that happen. I am sure most if not all of you use google or take part in some sort of research if you want to learn about a topic or famous person.  Do the same for this community. Pass on your knowledge. There is no reason not to love or care for anyone in the entire spectrum of LGBTQ-AI.

Thanks for reading.  We hoped you learned a little something from us!

Death of a Gender

These are the blogs I like sharing because I hope that someone reading this may feel better that someone else shares the same feelings.  All too many times people tell us how we should or shouldn’t feel. I hate “should” statements. I grew up with them as a staple in my household.  Those statements did nothing other than make me feel like I was always wrong. Feelings are feelings and we should be allowed to just feel the way we feel, plain and simple, with no judgements.

When my journey as a parent of a child with gender disphoria began, I felt alone, uneducated and didn’t know where to turn.  I went to the PRIDE center to ask all kinds of questions as to how and where I could become more educated. I asked about meetings.  I googled everything I could think of. It seemed like there was so much help for families with a younger child going through transitioning but nothing for a family of an older child.  As of now I still don’t know of any support groups for parents with an older child transitioning. So, I started my own! Right now there are three of us. It’s pretty cool. We meet every 6-8 weeks.  We laugh, cry and laugh some more. You may be thinking isn’t a transchild no matter the age all the same? It isn’t to me. For me it’s a loss of my daughter I had for eighteen years. Not the loss of my child, but the loss of a gender I had known for eighteen years.  Eighteen years of memories, photos and thoughts of what life might be like with a grown up girl. Using his birth name for eighteen years and then having to change what I called him and use the complete opposite pronouns! I can’t even think of what I can compare that feeling to. I can only say that it feels like a loss.  Many photos hung on my walls displaying our little girl with long hair and a smile that melted my heart. I will never know what my daughter will be like as an adult. Since Kam’s transition, I have updated (I hate to say replaced) his photos around the house. The word “replace” seems so permenant. My “girl” is gone forever.  She has been replaced by the person that was supressed for eighteen years and that person happens to be a boy that could not be any happier to be a boy. Well at this point a man. It’s all he’s ever wanted to be.

Over the last few years watching his transition take place has been a hard pill to swallow.  Just like having a brain tumor, I had no control over what was going to happen. My husband and I weren’t always on board right away.  Our son was on the train with his bags packed and if we didn’t get on, he’d be gone. (That is my husband’s analogy and I MUST give him credit for it)  When I say ‘gone’, I don’t know where “gone” would be. I’d rather have a happy son and be a part of his everyday life than have a dead one. We chose to get on and take that ride with him.  I do not regret one day of this two plus year train ride. We still have stops to make.

When babies are born male or female, as parents it is our role to raise them to be good people.  We teach them to have morals, goals, and to be kind. We don’t necessarily teach them to be a boy or girl.  That is just innate. We do, however raise them as the gender they were assigned at birth. Girls pink boys blue.  Things are changing. Many new parents choose neutral themes for bedrooms. When it comes to dressing their child you choose boy or girl clothes.  I am not saying ALL parents do this. They definetly do not. I now have friends that are raising their child gender neutral so that the child chooses which gender they want to associate with.  I don’t think there is a right way or wrong way…I don’t judge. Society has taught us to raise our children by the gender they were assigned at birth. Alas, society may be changing.

There are no red flag behaviors.  There are no symptoms to look for.  When Kam was growing up he would always dress like a “tomboy”.  He’d have his “boy looking” clothes with a baseball hat. He usually played with boys as a child.  During pretend play, he would never want to be the mommy, baby or sister. He was the brother, cousin, dad or dog.  Never did he play “girly” dress up. He looked for the sport coats. For his first communion he wanted to wear a suit like all the other boys.  These are just a few examples of things I remember when looking back. Were they “signs”? I don’t know. There is no checklist.

What I do know is that my son is happy now.  He feels like his outside body matches his inside body.  That’s something most of us don’t even think about. In my lifetime I am not sure I will ever be able to understand what that must feel like.  Some things in life we just don’t understand.

I think that when you have a baby whether a boy or girl, as parents we have visions of what their life might be like.  I am sad that I won’t shop for a wedding dress. Maybe there would have never been a dress to shop for. I am happy that he may choose to get married and I will celebrate a wedding.  I am sad there will be no baby in my child’s tummy. How do I know that that would have ever happened any way. I am happy to be a grandparent to a child his partner may carry or they may adopt.  When I am speaking to someone about my son as a child, I see is him as the little girl he once was. I am saddened by the memories of my little girl but also happy to have had them. I’ve already had many memories with my son and I look forward to making more.  He and I will most likely never speak of “her” in the way that I want to ever again. I’m told it would be better that way.

I have found myself sitting in my room looking at old photos and letters to me signed by “her”.  Sometimes I cry. I might laugh. I’ve even found myself wondering what was going through his mind at that time.  He didn’t have the words or clear thoughts to express what he was really feeling as a little person. That makes me sad.  Then I say to myself “if I only knew” but there is no way of really knowing. You may suspect. That’s different than knowing.  I guess when your child is younger and they express gender issues, you as a parent must allow your child to explore and support them all the way.  The suicide rate is about 40%. I would rather have my son be a statistic of being a survivor.

Perhaps one day I won’t feel like I lost a gender.  For now, I take my feelings one day at a time. Some days it really gets me and others I could care less.  I love him no matter what. It’s all about finding a new normal. Hmm maybe that’s another blog?

I had a daughter for 18 years, and now I have a son for the rest of my life.

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Living Stealth – Mom’s Perspective

Recently Kam blogged about living stealth and compared it to video gaming. I’d like to share my thoughts on “living stealth” as a parent with a transgender child.  

Our journey has become easier over time. It definitely did not start that way. As you might imagine, it is very difficult to start calling your child by a different name after however many years.  Then you have to use different pronouns when talking to or about your child. When seeing old friends or family members you haven’t seen a long time, it’s very difficult to spit the pronouns out. When I meet someone for the first time, it’s a little easier because they have no idea that at birth, my, now son was my daughter. I’ve learned that It’s ok to wait for the right time for the “conversation” if you will.  I have found that sometimes I don’t even have to have the “conversation.”

When I’m “living stealth” I’m talking to someone that doesn’t know Kam’s journey, and I’m using he/him/his pronouns, but I feel like I’m lying to the person. It’s like in my mind I’m saying she/her “oh yes I have a daughter but now my daughter is my son.”  I feel like I’m “covering up” something. I have also felt that in the beginning when I wasn’t sure what to say I’d fumble with words and feel like a fool. I wanted to be faithful to my son and use his name change and correct pronouns because that’s what he wanted.  It was hard. I mean when someone asks you about your child or if you have children, the words should just flow and I felt like I couldn’t find the words. People would look at me like, “well do you or do you not have kids?” It’s not a multiple choice question.

There are people in my life now that only know Kam as Kam. I wonder, will I be judged as a parent? Will my child be seen as a freak? I remember feeling like I needed to find a reason as to why this journey began.Why us?  Why my child? How will I face family, friends, or anyone for that matter? I wanted to pretend this wasn’t happening. Then the conversation of taking ‘T’ (a fancy way of saying testosterone) came along. My husband and I were not on board with it right away. We knew we would have to get over the “living stealth” feeling quickly.  Kam’s physical appearance changed what it seemed like overnight to me. I was sad. We knew people were going to notice the physical differences in Kam. There was no hiding or waiting on our part. And we didn’t want to hide. Once we knew Kam was in it to win it, so were we.

It’s been about two years now for us. He is very happy. That is what is important to us.

Living Stealth

I’m not a huge gamer, but there are some really awesome games I like to play: The Last of Us, the Uncharted series, and Far Cry. There are others that I enjoy playing, but I’m going to keep it to these three games for the analogy I’m about to make.

In these games, there are many missions where you can either enter guns blazing, or you can approach the enemies one-by-one, quietly picking them off and turning off alarms to prevent the enemies from calling reinforcements. Both ways work, but I always try to start stealthily. Since my gaming skills are subpar, I usually end up getting caught, trying several more times, dying each time, until I finally pass the mission.

Doing things in stealth is difficult for me in video games, and for some reason I’m bad at it in real life, too. Being “stealth” as a trans person means not disclosing their previous identity, or the fact that they are trans at all. Many trans people live this way for several different reasons, whether it be for personal safety or because they just want to put their old selves behind them–it’s all valid.

There have been times where I go into a new environment (like a new job or meeting a new group of people) where I ask myself, how long can I go without mentioning my gender identity?

When I started my current job about five months ago, I told myself I wouldn’t out myself. It was a fresh start for me–where only one person there knew who I used to be because we went to high school together. I’m still not sure if she has told anyone that I was born a girl–I suppose it doesn’t matter so long as nobody treats me any differently because of it.

I told the teacher in my room that I was trans maybe 2-3 months into me being there because I was explaining why I needed to leave early (I needed to pick up my new passport with my name change and gender marker change. She didn’t really have a reaction, and she never asked me any questions. I’m not sure if she knows what being trans means, but she was still nice and respectful to me, so I don’t think her knowing that I’m trans impacted her view of me.

The reason I try to stay stealth as long as possible is because I don’t want people asking me invasive questions about my genitals or surgery plans. It’s really nobody’s business but my own, and yet not many people understand that.

The reason I end up coming out all the time to new people is because I feel like more cisgendered people need more exposure to trans people in real life–not just on TV and in movies (mostly because a lot of the representation in those outlets isn’t entirely accurate). When someone hears about trans issues in the news or wherever, they can say, “Oh I know someone who is trans!” This allows more people to be sympathetic towards trans people (hopefully).

Being stealth is nice sometimes, but I usually choose to be out and proud because I know I am surrounded by safe people in the environments I spend my time in. I am out because not every trans person can be out, and I’m out to improve the world’s perception of trans people.

Using the Bathroom – Mom’s Perspective

Everyone uses the bathroom from time to time.  I’m pretty sure we don’t even think about it. When nature calls, you go.  

Whether you’re home or out anywhere and you need to use the facility, do you think about which one to use? Unless you’re somewhere where you have to decide what the picture or words on the door mean, you usually know exactly which room to use.  Once inside the woman’s room you use a stall. For men there’s a choice. You may use a urinal or choose a stall. I’ve actually never been inside, but I just know this.

Now we all have our own bathroom issues.  Some of us may wad or wrap, sit or squat or actually be comfortable enough to perform number two.  For females, once inside we do our thing and it isn’t a problem. My son MUST choose a stall. This is where the problem occurs.  If you think about it when you’re in a stall your feet face forward no matter your business. If you think about a boy or an adult man using a stall, and their feet are facing forward it is assumed they are…well you get the picture.  

For the last three or more years my son has been using the male restroom.  He had been using it without my knowing. Imagine being at a baseball game and you see your “daughter” come out of the men’s room (I’m reliving that moment right now and my eyes are bulging out of my head like it’s happening right now)  I’m like what the?? I asked him, “Did you just use the MEN’S restroom”? Like in public, here at the baseball game? I was furious.

He replied, “Yeah.”  It was like I asked him if he wanted ice cream!  

Still completely dumbfounded I asked again “Here in this stadium, you just walked right in the men’s room and did your thing?”  

Once again he replied “Yeah.”  

I said, “Are you crazy? Someone might beat you up.”  He didn’t look like how he looks now. He was not on T back then.  He still looked kind of feminine. It really upset me. This was the first time I felt sad, angry and knew he was tackling his transition head on, and I let it show.  

After Kam shaved his head in twelfth grade he seemed to take on more of a boy look.  He also dressed in “boy” clothes. He always had a knack for dressing in boys (now mens) clothes.  Even his stance and gait of his walk seemed more on the male side. I’ve always thought that. Even as I sit here and type away, I can think of times when I would watch him walk and think why does he walk like that?  Maybe it’s just my opinion. I feel like men and women walk differently. I don’t know why.

Each year in September my son goes camping with his dad.  The year he cut his hair was the year woman and young girls started to stare at him when using the female restrooms.  One older child even told him he was in the wrong restroom. My son actually got more attention (negatively) while using the female restroom that he should have been using at that time!  This began to make him feel uncomfortable. I guess that’s when he thought to himself maybe he should try the men’s room. I can also recall time we were out to dinner and he’d ask me if I had to use the bathroom.  I figured out that he didn’t want to use the women’s restroom alone.

After I found out he had been using the men’s room for a while, he explained to me why he was in fact doing that. We had an eye opening conversation. He continued to tell me that when he used the men’s room no one stared or even looked in his direction. He simply went in, did his thing and came out.  I’m sure he washed his hands. He was just more comfortable. I was not because I knew outwardly that he physically wasn’t a boy. I was afraid that he would get assaulted. I was afraid that people would talk. Again, a HUGE reason people can’t wrap their head around someone being trans. I tell you that people do not CHOOSE this. My son had been longing to use the restroom he felt most comfortable in. I finally came to a conclusion that I knew he wasn’t going in the men’s restroom for any other reason than to do his business. It took me quite a while to realize this.  He has been on T now for almost two years. I feel that he definitely looks more male and would now DEFINITELY not look like he should be using the women’s restroom.

This was a huge victory for my son.  I love showing up at an establishment that has their restrooms labeled as whoever you are, use the restroom with no worries. #LockhouseDistilleryIMG_2721

How’s Your Daughter?

This is a very tough question to answer.  I’ve been at my current job now for four years. I’ve met many people. I am a nail technician for a private club.  I have many conversations about multiple things daily. You know how it is when you go get your hair or nails done you talk. I get excited when someone brings a book. When I first started this job, I had a daughter.  Many people (not just at work) talk about their kids. Everyone from my extended family and family’s friends, as well as my friends and coworkers both past and present know I had a daughter. During his transition it was extremely uncomfortable when a client would come in that I hadn’t seen for a bit of time. They would ask, “how’s your daughter?” No harm in that.  They had no idea how my daughter was in the process of becoming my son.

Due to the nature of my job, clients can be very loyal. As a matter of fact, most, if not all of my clients now know about my son. I have received nothing but love and support from my current clients and coworkers. In fact they are more supportive than some of my extended family. My husband’s extended family is doing quite well with all of this.

What is really weird is when I have a new client and they ask “do you have any children?” My response is still to take a moment before I speak and I say,

“Yes, a son”.  It’s getting easier. It really is.  

Let me begin by telling you that when I talk to people that need to know that my daughter is now my son, I start by smiling and saying “well, my daughter is now my son, and HE is doing well.”  Most of the time, I get a blank stare with a very confused look. Some people want to know more about it and ask questions. I love that because I hope to educate them, and it’s therapeutic for me.  

There have been (and sure there will be more) people that respond with “oh, how do you deal with that?” I usually don’t take offense.  After all I’m sure I just blindsided them with my answer to how my daughter is doing.

I’ve found a good way for me to make people feel at ease is to say, “yep, bet you didn’t see that coming.” That usually makes the person feel a little more comfortable. I try to keep my sense of humor (at times very dry) in all I do.  It’s become a coping mechanism starting back in the brain tumor season of my life. LOL. See, who laughs at a brain tumor? Back to the question at hand, how is your daughter? Going through a name change, top surgery, and watching him changing the gender markers on all of his identification was very crushing. For so long I introduced my child as my daughter.  I’ve been asked to not share the birth name–ever. I have to respect that. In fact there are many things I must respect about my now son. That’s for another blog! Anyway, I feel like I need to make people in my life that have been around for a long time more comfortable with the FACT that I now have a son. Also there are people that I don’t see frequently and those are the people that when they ask “how is your daughter?”  I say, “oh just fine”. Then I redirect with a question about them. So for those of you who may be reading this and know us and you’re now finding out about my son, next time you see me, ask me “how is your son?” Maybe you will catch me off guard!

I also like when a person responds to me by saying “how are you doing”?  I mean it’s not easy for a parent with a trans child no matter the age of the child.  I can only speak from my experience that calling your child by their birth name and introducing them as your daughter for eighteen years is really tough to change.  I mean all of a sudden as a parent you’re expected to follow all the rules of having a transgender child. By rules I mean it is a sensitive subject for everyone involved.  It’s a whole community of people that feel shunned. When they feel accepted for who they are it’s a wonderful feeling for them. And when a person misgenders or calls them not by their new name but uses their old name, it is very hurtful to them.  As a parent I signed up for unconditional love. Does it matter if I have a daughter or a son? No. Does it matter if my child is happy with who they are? Yes it sure does! Life can be hard enough with all of the ups and downs. Being a parent of a transgender child I want to make sure my child is comfortable in his own skin so that when he faces life’s ups and downs he knows he is capable of surviving.

“I’m Gay”

“I’m gay.”

“The hell you are,” one of the worst things I ever said to Kam. That night was the worst night in my life and this journey began.  

A few weeks prior Kam was at a show. He was in a great band that played various places. He is a fantastic drummer.  I held his phone for him. He asked me take pictures. At that time (and still today) I wasn’t tech savvy. That being said, I clicked on things and opened stuff, I probably dropped it too.  A text message came onto the screen and…yes I read it. I knew I was in the wrong. I felt bad, but I kept reading. This was the message that shifted my THINKING into KNOWING that something was in fact different with him (her at the time). I didn’t say anything to him right away.

One evening after I came home he was waiting up to talk to me. I admitted I saw and read the text.  He was VERY upset with me. Rightfully so. Our voices grew louder as we talked through this. We actually ended up in different rooms while yelling at each other.  Now you have to understand this was kid who never raised his voice. Heck, he never had time out while growing up! He finally said the words…

“Mom I think I’m gay.”

I died a little and replied, “oh no you’re not you were not born that way.”  He slammed his book on the table put his hood up and left for his bedroom. I waited for the door slam but in never happened. I guess the book slamming was his anger.  

The next day came and we didn’t talk. That was strange. We never had a fight before. Us not speaking was awful.  This lasted for about a day and a half. Finally I said c’mon let’s talk some more and figure this out. We both said hurtful things and understood that we didn’t mean it. This was a whole new chapter we were embarking on. Our words and emotions took us to a place neither one of us had ever been with each other before. And I knew for sure I never wanted to be there again. We sat and talked. Only a little yelling at this point. I had a lot of explaining to do about reading the text.

“I don’t know why I read it,” I said.  Who was I kidding? I saw a text on my seventeen year old’s phone that began with ‘I think I’m gay,’ of course I’m going to keep reading. Honestly though that’s all I can recall. The text was quite long.

This was the big senior year for him. He organized a Bald for Bucks Campaign at his high school. Bald for Bucks is a charity in which the proceeds go to cancer research and people can donate their hair to be made into wigs. He had a record number of staff and students participation. He also had long curly brown hair. Gorgeous. He decided to shave it all off right down to the scalp! I watched with tears in my eyes. My daughter is willingly losing all the hair I watched grow. At the same time I was very proud of her for this accomplishment and her leadership.  So now I have a bald kid who seemed to be moving in a direction that I was very unsure of. I was very uncomfortable. I can remember feeling anxious and worried about my child and what will college look like for her being gay. I was worried about bullying and having a child that would most likely be a target for hate groups.

As he graduated and summer took place things were pretty normal. He getting ready for college life and me getting ready for uncertainty. Little did I know this was start of our journey to transition.