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.

Genderbread-Person-3.3-Minimal.jpg

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!!!

 

 

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.

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.