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.  

What is That??

Gender Dysphoria… do you know what that is? Let me tell you what happened when and where I was when I learned what it is.   

One afternoon Kam and I were at the psychiatrist’s office. Due to Kam’s anxiety and depression he began treatment with a psychiatrist. He begins talking with her. She is asking him all kinds of questions. How is school?  How do you feel? Tell me about your sleep patterns. Are you talking to a counselor at school? At this point in Kam’s life he had started his first semester of college. It was a not so good start. I’ll let him blog about that.

Let me take you into the office with me.  There’s a round table and two comfy chairs that I and Kam were sitting in.  The doctor is across from us. In the background is the doctor’s desk and bookshelves.  There is a big bowl of candy on the table along with her notepad and pen. As she and Kam are talking, I am looking around and listening to Kam speak.  He is answering her questions. In my head I am hearing a bit of reluctance in his voice. I’m thinking maybe it’s because I am in the room, but he did invite me to be there.  Finally a question that makes him reply with a firm answer.  I cannot remember the question because when he answered, I died inside.  His answer to her question was and I quote, “I believe I suffer from gender dysphoria”.  UMMM WHAT???? My stomach hit the floor. Right away my thoughts went right to YOU ARE NOT TRANSGENDER.  I felt sick to my stomach. What was going to happen to my child? Gender dysphoria? Never heard of it? Talk about being hit in the head with a hammer.  I was numb. I cried, died, and laughed. I don’t know why I laughed. Nothing was funny at that point.

Before we left the office I asked the doctor what might be our next step.  She referred us to a man that forever changed Kam’s life as well as mine and my husband’s. And I mean forever.  This man was a psychologist that specializes in…wait for it… gender dysphoria! Crazy right? We hooked up with him right away.  I wasted no time in getting Kam into his office. Kam began seeing him alone. My husband and I joined soon after. It was an interesting series of visits for both Kam and us.  We learned a lot. I cried a lot. We laughed a lot. It was also very hard. I think that’s where most of my emotions came out. Most of all, he was helpful. He asked questions that were hard to answer.  My feelings at first were much of denial. I felt like Kam didn’t know what he was feeling or thinking. I mean he was eighteen–so young, so innocent in his thoughts. Again my stomach was churning at each appointment.  I was afraid of what might come out of my mouth. I also lost many tears over the fact that my child had been suffering inside for so long. Kam had to go through many thought-provoking activities during his time with this doctor.  I remember he had to draw pictures and answer questions on paper. He had to provide something like a letter as to why he felt the way he felt. He was asked to recall certain times in his life up to that point. I thought all of this was quite an interesting process.  It was during this process that I and my husband learned how much Kam really wanted to be male.

Of course with the way I deal with life’s mountains is to find something to help myself get educated and to find support. I asked the doctor if there was any other family going through this with in our area that would be willing to talk to us.  We ended up meeting a terrific family and it was therapeutic for everyone involved. Kam was well on his way to transitioning at this point.

The next step for him, as told by the doctor, was to go out and live like a man.  “You want to be a man? Show yourself and live like a man”. That’s exactly what he did and never looked back.

Pronouns

Let’s talk about pronouns.  I never thought a pronoun would mean so much in my life.  18 years of parenting a female, memories of bringing home a baby girl.  We had a nursery decorated gender neutral waiting for the new arrival.

An excited new mom delivers a baby girl.  The first thing I want to do is transform that nursery to explosive pinks and ruffles.  I couldn’t wait to puke girl all over that room.

I stenciled pink bows as a border around the room.  I got eyelet lace crib bedding. Anything I could get my hands on to make this nursery all “sweet baby girl” worked for me. After all, isn’t that what new mom’s do?  I didn’t have a theme in mind. I kept it simple but the room screamed, “a baby girl is here!”

The next thing on my list was to exchange some of the gender neutral clothes I received for girly clothes.  It was so fun picking out pink, purple, lace, and girly looking outfits. Dresses to shoes and socks–it was so fun.  I loved shopping for this kid.

As parents we decided we wanted our child to grow up being heard and seen.  That being said, around the age of 5-6 she began voicing her opinion on the clothes she wanted to wear.  That began the not-so fun clothes-shopping adventures.

When it was time for the all-holy Catholic first communion she wanted to wear a suit just like all the boys.  I wouldn’t have it. She was born female. So when one is born with gendered parts of female or male isn’t that how we raise them?  There are parents in today’s world that are bringing up their child gender-neutral letting the child become who they are as they grow.  I see no problem with it. Our world needs more tolerance. That’s just my opinion. I am not sure if I could do that. Interesting thought though.

As she grew, the norm for us was to both become disappointed when clothes shopping.  I was sad that she never really wanted to wear the girly things everyone else was wearing.  I was willing to spend top dollar on clothes, bras, underwear, etc. One time (a very short lived time) there was a store that she fell in love with and I was so happy!  I bought out the store (not really). After that fad died it was back to the more neutral “blah” style. When she fell in love with a store that sold really nice bras and underwear I was elated! Really?  As I look back now, how ridiculous.

So now at his age of 21 I can go out and buy anything from underwear to suits and know he will love it!  Noticed I changed pronouns? It doesn’t happen overnight but it did happen. Do I still make mistakes? You better believe it.  It has been about two years now that his pronouns have changed. It is extremely hard to talk about him when he was a baby because as a baby he was she.  Remembering or trying to make her (as in the baby I brought up as her) him hurts my heart because “she” is gone forever. He is here now and that makes me happy to see him happy.  Statistics show children in the LGBTQ community who have parental support are more successful in life. I can’t imagine my life without my child no matter him or her. Life doesn’t guarantee anything.  Life always gives the proverbial lemons. It’s what you choose to do with the lemons that count. Everyone has a choice…it’s just will you make the right choice?

When your child transitions, pronouns are so very important to them.  It helps them feel like they are loved and supported because you are accepting them as THEY want to be accepted.  

There are so many other pronouns with in the LGBTQ community.   Each person is individual in this world. So why can’t everyone treat everyone like the individual they are?

The Best Gift I Ever Received: Part Two

Now that you know what happened to me during this brain tumor event, I’d like to tell you what my child went through.  

I can’t imagine having to pack up all the things I want with me when I am only eight years old.  Essentially that’s what we had her do. She had no clue what was really happening to me. I wanted to make sure she had all the things that gave her comfort because then I had some comfort.  Books, toys, clothes, pictures a list of phone numbers to call if she wanted. We asked her who she might want to spend nights with. At this point in her life she wasn’t super fond of sleeping elsewhere, and now she had to for seven nights.  We tried to give her as much of a say in the planning as we could. I remember grocery shopping with her. I wanted her to have all the foods she liked. Especially the cereal–we are name brand shoppers when it comes to cereal. There was no way I was going to let someone feed her “fake” cereal!  On one of my vacations I bought her a purple heart made out of rock. I gave it to her and said “keep this heart and take it wherever you go. Keep it with you and you will always have a piece of me”. Purple is my favorite color. You bet she packed that for her little journey.

Monday evening was the Fourth of July.  My friend took her to the fireworks and then for sleepover number one.  A few days she spent with my brother and his family. Another day or two a friend from her baseball team.  By the time she came to see me I could tell she was beat from all the carting around. My husband was with me 95% of the time.  I didn’t want to be alone. All reports about “Kayla” from my friends and family were great. I could tell though, that she was uncomfortable.   

I was so excited to finally see her the night she came back with my husband.  I was a little nervous because I still had much cranial swelling and a bandaged head.  I’m sure it was scary for her to see one of her parents in a hospital, looking very different than usual.   It took her quite a few minutes before she would get close to me. I couldn’t get her to sit on my bed with me.  Lucky for me I could move around the room and interact with her. She finally became more comfortable and began interacting with me a little.  Each time she came to see me after that it was a little easier for her.IMG_2623.JPG

I was released on a Sunday and so happy to be going home.  I could not drive so anything that had to do with driving I needed a driver.  Everyone was so happy to help. This was the summer I enrolled her in camp after camp.  Baseball and the YMCA camp were both a hit. This was the summer she began her hockey career as well.  

As I began to heal at home I felt that she was still scared of me.  I felt some distance that wasn’t there before my surgery.

The summer flew by and I got ready to head back to work.  At that time I was a preschool teacher and for “Kayla” it was onto fourth grade.  She had a great teacher, one that changed her forever. I noticed that she started school as a kindergartener she did well in an environment that was orderly and quiet.  She was a good student and very helpful. She had a love for school and learning. Her first grade teacher and environment didn’t work out so well. Second and third grade were great.  But it was her fourth grade teacher that really made a difference. At this point “Kayla” had been sleeping on our bedroom floor every night. Different situations would bring on small panic attacks. This lasted for almost two years.  Her fourth grade teacher and I had a talk before school started that year so he knew what she had been through over the summer. He helped her get through her thoughts and gave her self- esteem that just escalated. She overcame sleeping on the floor and soared through the rest of elementary school.  This teacher will forever hold a special place in our hearts.

The Best Gift I Ever Received: Part One

In June of 2005 I was diagnosed with a Meningioma. It is a non-malignant, slow growing brain tumor that is hormonally fed.  

For about six months my vision was blacking out in my left eye.  After many tests from multiple doctors I was sent for and MRI. That’s when “Rascal” appeared larger than life.  (I named it Rascal because, well, why not? It came out of nowhere!) I was immediately escorted up to my doctor’s office.  I was angry because I had a massage appointment and didn’t want to be late. The technician reassured me it would take but a few minutes and that I would be out on time.  As I sat in the room waiting for the Dr. I thought to myself wait a minute, something must be on the MRI.  Why else would they ask me to stay?  Well sure enough, in walks my Dr. with the results.

“So Mrs. Plotner,” he says, “your scan shows a very large mass growing over your left optic nerve causing your blackouts.”  Then tells me that he is 95% sure it is not cancer, however, it MUST come out asap. I’m looking at him like he’s the one with the tumor!  

My response is “so, I’ll schedule an appointment for when I get back from my vacation that I’m leaving for in three days”.  

“I have already set you up with a neurosurgeon on Monday–your vacation is going to be on hold.”  Then he proceeds to follow that up with, “now go and get that massage and relax.” I was waiting for that “April fools” moment…yeah that never came.

Let’s just move on to me meeting the man who would be changing my life for the better (of course not knowing that at the time).  All of my surgeries took place at Roswell Cancer Institute in Buffalo, NY. I say all of my surgeries because I ended up having two Meningiomas.  One was the size of my fist and one the size of a pea. I know how to grow ‘em. I had a full craniotomy to remove the large tumor and that was followed by gama knife surgery to shrink and kill the pea that is now dead but still resides in my brain.

Thus begins my journey of pre-tumor life and post-tumor life.  My husband was a Godsend during this time. I think it was more traumatic for him than for me.  I am lucky to have him. During this time in my life my “daughter” was only eight. My husband and I discussed everything from me possibly dying to a very strict schedule for our “daughter” which would become “her” life for the next 7 days.  Each day “she” spent differently. “She” was carted from family members’ homes to friends’ homes. There was baseball practice to attend and birthday parties to go to. We wanted “her” life to stay as normal as “normal” could be. We discussed with “her” that I would be going to the hospital for a few days and that I would be having surgery on my head.  I let “her” cut my hair off and explained that it would help the doctor if I had less hair for him to cut.

I had surgery the day after July 4th.  I didn’t get to see “Kayla” for about three days.  I’ll never forget the day “she” came to see me. My head was very much swollen and I was mostly bald.  “She” was scared. It took a while for “her” to sit with me. It was heartbreaking. I knew this feeling I had would go away.  For “her” it would most likely stay forever. I hated that. It was a very vulnerable time for me.

I shared many jokes with my doctors and the hospital staff.  I needed my sense of humor to get past all of what was happening to me. I felt like it was good to stay positive.  At one point, my doctor told me and my husband that I may not be the same person after all of this was done and over with.  He was very serious. I took that literally. It made me very anxious that I could be someone different. I still had control of me and I wanted to stay me!  After I woke up from surgery and remembered where I was and what happened, I was not going to allow myself to fall asleep. I figured If I didn’t fall asleep, I’d stay the same goofball I am.   That lasted for about three days.

It wasn’t until a few months after my ordeal that I really understood what the doctor meant.  He was right. My priorities changed. Over time, my anxiety levels decreased. I became more spiritual.  I began asking questions about my life. I tried to make a lot of “stuff” in my head more clear. I let go of grudges, had conversations with family and friends about things I wanted to make straight and marched on with a new lease on life.   It felt like a second chance–a cleanse. I took that second chance and ran with it.

I truly believe that God is using what I’ve learned during my brain tumor to help me through this difficult yet educational journey with my son.