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Getting curious not furious

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Jeremy Dean is now 20.  That’s a milestone within itself.  His birthday festival was spread out to accommodate the hot cross bun baking schedule at work, but he managed dinner out on the weekend before his birthday and on the night of his birthday, and he is off to the Gold Cast for a convention and a few days of combined working in the business that was started by his friend J (CritterScape) plus a few days of chillaxing with friends and E.  Certainly, working full time has given J some challenges in regards to balancing the physical demands of work, his role as a member of a household and managing the aspects of his medical care.  In 2015 in Australia there were restrictions placed on the prescription of testosterone and it can only be prescribed when “clinically justified” which translates – even for transmen whose bodies do not produce testosterone – to a yearly assessment by an endocrinologist.  Now we know this, we have known for a year that J needed to go  to the endo for an assessment of his T levels.

I’ve followed up, I’ve asked questions, I’ve offered to make phone calls.  But J is an adult and wants to manage this himself.  I’ve stepped back.  The whole referral to the endocrinologist has not come together and now J is overdue for a T shot.

In managing this I had a choice.  About a year ago when I was really angry about another family matter my beautiful and wise sister asked me to be curious not furious.  It was her way of saying “ask why” instead of reacting to the situation.  As a strategy it’s pretty freaking good.

While J is now 20, he has not outgrown all the social anxiety that has marked his late teens, and he is not very experienced in negotiating when the medical professionals drop the ball.  20 is still pretty young.  At 20 the biggest medical emergency I faced was running out of birth control, for J the impact is much more significant if he continues without testosterone including, as I have discussed previously, his menstrual cycle starting again.  Talking to E and Luke it was also evident that some of those old anxiety behaviours had crept back into his daily interactions.  Recently he and I had clashed over exaggerations that he had made and I found that he was impacting on his closest relationships by showing very old behaviours that were negative and made people suspicious of him and what he said.

So I looked critically at the situation and realised that J was kinda drowning in the looming reality of his situation which was freaking him out instead of spurring him to  researching what his options were and planning for a worst case scenario.  I am sure that this is in part because anxiety makes him so immobile he cannot think beyond the problem to a solution.  It was probably most evident when he yelled at me that he was completely incapable of managing his medical needs.  It is no good handing him the solution at this point, he needs to find the way through himself.  Because he can manage, he just needs a little mum wisdom to help him through.  So I started a bit of research, calling a specialist LGBTIQ clinic where E goes, checking in with J and letting him know what I had found, and encouraging him to make calls.  I also provided the safety net that he needed offering to take time off work, make calls, whatever he needed to get through this step to get the appointments he needed.  The good news, he got there. Appointments are made and he is back on track.

I was angry though. I’m pretty freaking tired and I keep hoping that maybe now at 20 he can deal with things.  But dealing with things is a big ask and adulting doesn’t spring fully formed from your forehead, it is a path of trial and error and risk taking and mistake making.  I hope that being a mum who continues to ask why instead of yelling why not will steer Jeremy through this next phase of his path to adulthood.

 

 
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Posted by on April 24, 2017 in parenting, transgender

 

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Juggling

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I feel like I should say sorry.

For months it has felt like writing is too hard, too hard to talk to friends, too hard to do anything except breathe and deal only with the most immediate.

Jeremy, in the meantime, is growing.  I am the proud momma to Australia’s happiest baker apprentice.  Jeremy started his apprenticeship in November and his employers are a lovely young couple who see J and his interests as cool.  They love his work ethic, he loves his job, it all works in harmony.  He is excited by the thought of his future studies and is excited to be finally on the path to what he feels is his calling.  His employers also think this is his calling, and I believe that there are few 19-year-olds who would embrace the 2 am or 4 am starts like J has.  We had a fabulous festive season bringing loaves of bread to events and saying proudly “Jeremy made this”.

He has blossomed and it has been so exciting to watch.

But it’s not enough to keep that loud voice in my head at bay.  My psychologist, in our last session said to me, as part of a broader conversation “but you are successful” and I knew I had that blank look, like when she asked me in an early session what did I do for myself.

I have periods of strength.  Those moments look good, but they are so fleeting.  Then the doubt creeps in again.  I recently sat in the car taking to my partner doing one of those stream of consciousness conversations where I told him that I felt that others look at him and feel sorry for him because he is with me.  I could see his physical reaction to that statement, I know he doesn’t feel that way.  Even though I know how many things about that statement are incorrect, negative self talk wipes all the good things away.

So what do I do? Is it the exhaustion of 8 hours a day pretending that I have it all together that then affects the balance of my day?

The temptation to curl into my own space and not emerge becomes overwhelming. But I can’t give in.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 5, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

Sticks and Stones

Sticks and Stones

A fabulous post reflecting so many conversations had with parents of transgender children.
Reblogged with the permission of the author.

Growing Up Transgender

Another week, another article on transgender children and their “crazy” / “abusive”/ “attention seeking” parents. Even when articles are not actively offensive and transphobic (as so very many are), they retain a heavy tone of scepticism and judgement. And then I get down to the comments section…

I know I shouldn’t look. I know there’s nothing there I want to see. I know I will leave in tears. But somehow, I can’t help myself. Partly, I want to learn what views are being shared, to try to understand what people are saying and, once I start, I’m so horrified, I’m unable to look away. A bigger driver though, is the knowledge that in a few years’ time my child will be the one on the internet. She won’t be able to look away, and I won’t be able to protect her. And the hurt I feel now will be nothing…

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Posted by on November 26, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Do you want to be me?

Recently there have been conversations in the parenting groups that  I am a part of about those who seek to become a part of these groups and yet are not parents, family or caregivers of a transgender person.Jeremy and Jo July 2016  It has provoked some anguish, as there have been instances where a person has come in, and I hate to say be deceitful but that has happened, and then shared personal information outside of those groups.

What many don’t understand, what can’t be understood is that for many this is a personal and sometimes painful journey. I would be kidding myself if I could say, hand to heart, that I understood the pain and fear of cancer treatment, or the loss of a baby or caring for a parent with Alzheimers.  That is not my reality.    So the challenges of my journey and those on this path are our own.

Like many others, at the start of my journey I went looking for others like me.  By joining a closed or secret Facebook group of parents like you, you can share things that many can’t share anywhere else.  We come looking for love and support but also the “me too” experience.  “Ahhhhh your son had a super girly phase before he transitioned, so did mine!!!!” moments and similar discussions create an enormous amount of relief, a sense of belonging at a time in parenting where you can feel terribly alone.  For some families it is their only space to be able to express themselves as they live “stealth” in their communities.  So to find that despite the best efforts of incredibly hard working volunteer administrators someone has slipped through the net can be incredibly distressing.

So I’ve been pondering what would motivate someone to pose as a parent of a transgender child; in the words of my beloved sister I got curious instead of furious.

There is no denying there has been a rise in the profile of transgender people in the four years that I have been on this journey with Jeremy.  Some media has been amazing, informative, well researched, and articulate.  There have been strong,beautiful parents and caregivers who put a public and human face on being transgender and raising a transgender child.  Then there are the articles, television programs, a bit more sensationalist, but  that reach a  broader audience and still manage to get the message out that up to four in a hundred children will challenge your idea of parenting.   There are the countless bloggers who share their raw experiences, who let you into their home.  Each parent who puts their story out there does so because they believe that the the more positive information that is out there, the better the world can become for our children.  I also believe that we do this for those who can’t.

So from the outside looking in, for the person who is not going through what we are going through, I guess we look inspirational.  I’ve realised it’s because we are.

So to every parent who can’t speak out, I have seen you.  I have seen you when you have had to play parent, housekeeper, mediator and suddenly therapists when in the middle of  your busy family day one child’s dysphoria becomes overwhelming.  I have seen you driving across country to meet each other.  I have seen you go toe to toe with schools, insurance companies, medical professionals and governments to demand rights for your child.  I have heard the quiet whisper that this may become overwhelming, only to see you get up the next morning to give the world a great big middle finger and keep going. I have witnessed a million moments of love and pride.  I have wept with you when you have trusted me with your child’s pain.

I have watched in awe as you have woven safety nets, under children that have been rejected by families, under each other in moments of medical or marital crisis.  I have had my hand held tight by men and women who I have never met but who completely understand the raw heart-searing pain that can occur when your child feels alone and isolated and you just can’t help, all you can do is love.

I have heard the exasperation when you have been asked for what feels like the ten thousandth time if your child has had “the surgery”.  You take up the sword daily for basic rights:

  • the right to use a public bathroom unhindered
  • the right to access treatment
  • the right to be recognised by their chosen name on school records, government records
  • the right to be spoken to using preferred pronouns
  • the right to to have medical professionals treat your child with dignity.

I watched you create a new family when your own family has rejected your child and your decision to support them.  You have shared when you patiently, albeit through gritted teeth, explained to the well meaning friend or relative that the particular article they have found is not written by the eminent professionals it appears it was but by hate groups.  You know where to find the statistics that show that you child is not just going through “a phase”.

You made a choice when you listened to your child.  You opened your heart to a different possibility of parenting.  Even though you may never have met a transgender or gender diverse person you reached out for resources and found groups of parents on a similar path.  You accepted your child, and there are days that are hard and shitty and yet you still turn up.  You turn up because one of the miracles in your family needs you.  You turn up because your child’s smile is precious and seeing it is its own reward.  You turn up because their happiness is your breath.  You are the tireless voice even when you are so very tired.  You are a million conversations with strangers to demystify being transgender / gender diverse.  You are signatures on petitions  to have discriminatory laws overturned from bathroom bills to access to cross hormone treatment.  You are strong voices howling into the maelstrom of life that our children are valid, wonderful and miraculous, look them in the eye and keep trying to deny our truth.

For so many of us, maybe all of us, this is not a path that we would have chosen for our child.  The statistics of increased discrimination, bullying, abuse and violence are frightening.  But instead of denying our children, we became voices.  Some voices are very public, but for each public voice there are potentially thousands more who are changing the world through quiet conversation and local action.    Then there are those who can only support the life that is their responsibility.  Each contribution is valid and treasured.

The online groups are special circles of love and trust.   They trust comes because we are all walking the same path.   There is a reason why we are there and why we may share certain joys and pain there.  There are those who are happy to share more widely, but for those who do not they have the right to privacy.

So I get why someone would want to explore further by walking among us.  When you skim across the surface our lives look glamorous with a soupcon of drama.  These groups are a  rich source of inspiring stories of love and joy and pain and triumph.  It’s no excuse though, there are so many of us willing to put a public face or voice to the journey through transition.  For those who wish to be private, that wish should be respected.

A final word for my fellow parents and caregivers.  We are thousands of stories of ordinary people on an extraordinary parenting journey.  What binds us is that we are testament to the power of love.

 
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Posted by on August 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

A moment of truth

 

Green Field Very big

Green field

Jeremy attended a funeral yesterday.

It was the funeral of a friend’s mother.  She was 50, had been a Rover in Brisbane, was a single parent, was the mother of a young transman.  For Jeremy there were aspects of this funeral that hit very close to home.

When he arrived home last night he asked for cuddles.  J isn’t the snugglebug that his older brother is but he is never denied a hug ever.  He started by telling me that he didn’t realise just how hard R’s life must have been, that his mother had nothing and that R and two of his brothers had to pay for the funeral.  That in between his mother passing and the funeral yesterday R had not had a moment to sit and think about his loss.

“I said  to him Mum, that he could come to us any time, that we love him and if he needs anything to let us know”.

“I’m sure that was a comfort to him kitten”

“I gave him $50 out of my savings to help, I wish I could do more, I wish I had known how hard it was for him”.

That $50 would have come from one of his money making schemes that he has tried while he continues to look for work.  It represents hours of creativity or ingenuity.  I know J would not have had a second thought about giving it to someone who he saw had a greater need.  Money has been tight in our home with now three young men, two looking for work and experiencing difficulties connecting to Centrelink,  needing food and heat and electricity and internet and that $50 takes him a little further away from his name change.  I feel that sacrifice.

Jeremy also gave me an insight last night that all that I have worked for he has seen.  It’s a message that has been lost a little lately between us.

I am terribly sad that a fellow mother has lost her life.   J is right though, R is always welcome here.

 
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Posted by on August 20, 2016 in parenting, transgender

 

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On the brink of transformation

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It’s been over six months since E joined our household.  They have been six pretty delightful months, E is a pretty cool guy, but from his perspective they have been six pretty challenging months too.

As I’ve written about before, when E first came to us he had been trying to access services in rural Victoria, on the border of NSW.   There was confusion about his referral and the original reason he came to stay with us was because he was hoping to have a face  to face meeting with the psychiatrist rather than a skype visit,  only to find his consult in Melbourne had been referred to Canberra….. little did we know it was the first of many challenges.

E was the kind of young man I would hold up as an example of how to do teen stuff right.  He worked for the major fast food chain, did the management training, I told J this would mean he would be in employment soon.  But six months on, countless job applications later and E has had a little cash in hand work and two job interviews.  We worked on his tax returns and he had some cash in his account and when this year’s group certificate came in he did his tax himself, teaching a man to fish in action.  He has been unable to register for government assistance, although I have finally talked him through the process of gently refusing the government line of “your parents will help” to keep standing up for himself and saying that they have not and it is unlikely they will.

There have been some significant wins though.  Through a little transgender community grapevine action he connected with a well known GP who had recently moved to a new practice with the ability to take on new patients who referred him to a psychiatrist with extensive experience in the LGBTIQ community.  E now has his “diagnosis” and two weeks ago had his first T shot.  He has also started progressing through the recruitment process for an employer in a field in which he is interested in working.  It’s a field where being 21 and with no experience is not seen as a barrier as he is viewed as young, enthusiastic and a model for a new generation of disability carers, if he is successful.

His smile is wider, that gorgeous enthusiasm that marked him as someone special when we first met is bubbling to the surface again.  My heart couldn’t be gladder for him.

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on July 17, 2016 in parenting, transgender

 

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Why T is not the answer

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I’ll level with you, I have started this blog post about a hundred times.  My feelings about  Jeremy are so mixed each time I try and write it I get confused and my attempts to rationalise and unpick it gets sidetracked.

But here it is.  Testosterone was not the answer.  It has been a significant part of the answer but it has not been the solution in totality.

Since November Jeremy has been finished with school work.  In the last week he finally got to Centrelink to  register for Youth Allowance.  In between he has floundered in a sea of anxiety, lack of direction and dysphoria.  I’ve done my best to provide love and support but my patience and my bank balance are wearing thin.

For nearly three years we held onto a D date of Jeremy’s 18th birthday and his first injection of T.  On reflection I had no idea what I expected from this injection.

He is becoming more masculine day by day and that is fricking awesome.  His sideburns are epic and his goatee and sideburns are starting to meet on the sides of his face.  His voice is deeper and there are even times when he is comfortable without wearing his binder.

But those mental health issues that sent us to a psychologist pre-transition are still there.  They are exacerbated when he meets people in the general public that, despite beard and deep voice, somehow still misgender him.  Dealing with Government organisations has a special challenge, and I am pleased that the Federal government employees in Newport Victoria are much more aware of gender diversity than their counterparts in Werribee.

So mothers and fathers – I thought the step of starting T would be a bigger solution than it was.  It was a significant step but if I have learned anything from the last six months it’s that Jeremy has hopes and dreams about his physicality.  There are dreams that I have offered to make a reality but he is still considering the implications for himself.  He understands that he is in a position of privilege.  It doesn’t alleviate the underlying feeling that he has that his journey is just starting.  It doesn’t help when he feels that taking the first step isn’t accepted or understood.

It’s so unfair.  I see his peers at Uni, getting part time jobs.  He is so bright and engaging and that bundle of contrary actions that has bewitched me for nineteen years.  His legacy was supposed to be bright and successful.  The poor kid can’t even prove his identity because the forms are overwhelming and the questions daunting despite my support, love and credit card.

Time to put on my big girl panties and keep fighting the good fight.  Because if the world won’t voluntarily step toward J, I will damn well make sure it does under duress.

 

 
 

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