The Interview

After a couple of months of trying to figure out what to write about I finally decided to share the interview I had with my son.
I wrote a few questions ahead of time for him to answer. After he answered the questions we discussed his answers to make sure that I understood what he was saying and why he feels the way he does. Once again I was floored by his ability to speak with such candor and explain himself so well.
As a mother of a trans child, I feel like every day I have more questions. The questions I will be sharing with you were helpful to me. I want to understand my child as he tries to figure out who he is and where he’s headed. I feel like the more I know the more supportive I can be.
Questions:
1. Are you to the point that you just want to be you? What does that mean or look like?
“Yes. Being me looks like how I look. Transitioning helped me look and feel better. I am more comfortable in my body.”
2. How do you feel leaving the female gender role and taking on the male one?
“It’s scary sometimes when I realize that my voice is louder now, both literally and in a social sense. But I am using my voice (and platform, if I ever have one) to speak for those who are often overlooked, ignored, or cast aside. I am using my privilege in this world to make it a better place. As a man, I can infiltrate the cis white straight men and show them how to be respectful human beings.”
(I needed more clarification on this answer. I will explain at the end)
3. What was it like in a body you didn’t want to be in?
“It was confusing. I felt in my mind and my body I was boy. When puberty came, my body no longer felt like mine. I didn’t have the knowledge or the language to tell anyone how I was feeling.”
4. Do you have any advice for the people out there who may feel like you did at 18/19?
“Trust your instinct. Don’t let the people around you, even your closest friends/ family alter your own perception of yourself. Relax, meditate and learn how to listen to yourself.”
5. Did you ever really identify as gay or was that a stepping stone?
“I still identify as gay or queer. Although I presented a woman-living- woman, I never identified as a lesbian. I don’t care about genitals insofar as I care about someone’s personality and emotional connection between us.
*I found this answer eye opening. I am fortunate to have many friends. I love them each for a different thing(s) they bring into my life. I don’t think about people’s genitals. I fell in love with my husband because of his personality and how he made me feel. Is it the same?
6. Do you have advice for those seeking any surgery?
“Surgery will not dissolve your dysphoria. The worst dysphoria is between your ears. Learn to be comfortable with what you have. Take your time and do extensive research.”
7. Do you have anything you want to say to parents about a child they may have who is trans?
“Yes. Do not dehumanize them. They are still your child. Open a dialogue, hold space for them to talk to you and give them a safe space to do so. Go through it with them, if they allow.”
Back to number 2. At first I didn’t understand what he meant by using the word “privilege.” He explained to me that in our culture, since forever, men have more of a platform than woman.
I hope you found this to be informative. It is my hope that through this blog people will understand that it’s ok to just let people live their lives.

Picture from the Past

In an earlier blog I spoke of a beautiful hand painted sepia picture I had to have of “her”. We hung it in our family room over the fire place where most if not all of the people that come to our home would  see. It was my favorite thing to look at during my recovery from my brain tumor. At that time in my life “she” was the most precious thing I could ever have wanted in my life. Seeing that picture on a daily basis made me feel calm.

I have two little nephews that knew him as “her” for 5 years.  It’s really hard for them to comprehend his transition. They don’t really ask questions too much anymore but I know they are confused.  Some days I am still confused.

I have been thinking of taking the photo down for a little while now. I am updating all photos in the house partly due to memories.  It gets so confusing for me when I look at old pictures. By confusing I mean my emotions go back and forth. I want to remember “her” and yet I want to forget. I will of course, never forget. That even sounds harsh as I read it. My emotions run high when I think about “her”.  I am still getting to know him. I raised a girl for 18 years. Or at least I thought a girl. I feel like when I look at pictures of him now, he is truly happy. He is happy with the photo he is in. He is happy with how he feels and what he is seeing whether in the photo or mirror.  

The thing is, is did I ever really know “her”? I thought “she” was happy. Yet I knew there was something different about “her”.  I just didn’t know what. I remember feeling frustrated as to why “she” didn’t do all of the stereotypical things girls do and share. When I look back at the photos of “her” I almost feel like I want to ask him multiple questions about the photo.  For example, I want to know the following: what were you feeling when this was taken? Were you happy at this time in your life? How do you feel when you see such photos of yourself as “her”? I don’t want to feel that every time I look at of photo of “her”. “She” just wasn’t one of the stereotypical girls and I was mad because that’s what I wanted. I focused on gender way more than my husband did. It’s not easy to admit that I wanted “her” to look and act a certain way and if “she” didn’t I felt judged by my peers. I was embarrassed and I feel terrible for admitting that. Going through his transition I have learned so much and have so much more to learn.

I love taking selfies with him. He is so happy. I love buying clothes for him. I can do it and know he will love what I buy. Buying clothes for “her” sucked.  It was just an awful experience. Now with all of the social media (Facebook especially) I hate when old memories pop up with photos of me and “her”. It just resonates all of the things that were hard for me as a mom raising a girl that never wanted to be a girl.

And yet now, I love posting pictures of me and him.  I love that he is so happy. I hate that he had to be “her” first.  Could it be I do not like being reminded of “her” because “she” existed first? I don’t know.

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.  

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.

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When you commit to having children, you commit to showing them unconditional love. You are happy to see them achieve, you help them back up when they fall, and you support them through their struggles. On October 23rd, 1996, I brought home my baby girl. Fast forward 21 years, and my baby girl is now my son. Having a child who transitions from one gender to another is, on one hand, a traumatic loss for a parent. More importantly, though, it is a substantial gain for your child.

This blog intends to share our separate journeys through a gender transition and bridge the gap of communication between a parent and child as we endure a massive change in our lives.

We encourage questions and constructive comments, and we wholeheartedly wish to help others who find themselves in the same situation.