I have had over a day to digest the consultation with the psychiatrist. One topic stands out for me in that hour – what Jeremy was like as a child. I know why I was asked that question, gender disphoria is how you feel about your gender and that your biological sex does not mach your gender. From popular culture (or maybe not so popular!) children with gender diphoria demonstrate this from a very early age, there is intervention to stop adolescence, there is compelling evidence that your child feels that they are a different gender to their biological sex. I think these are examples at one end of the gender disphoria scale.
So where does Jeremy fit in?
The first comment from my mum was along the lines that Jeremy wasn’t like that. No he wasn’t. No he isn’t. Our home, the behaviours modeled were those of acceptance, that all love was positive, that toys were to be played with, that in addition to what they saw on TV girls could use power tools and make things and get dirty, that boys should give hugs and be gentle.
I was asked did Jeremy chose one type of toy over another. I had to be very honest. I came to parenting with a belief that my children got to play with toys. Luke had dolls, baby dolls and a Barbie. He loved his baby doll, would sing songs to it and tell it stories. He also had Lego, cars, trucks, a busy box where he could hammer and use a giant screwdriver. He had a swing set, play doh, paints and crayons. He loved to cook, and experimented with make up. He would play dress ups. His play was free of criticism. As an adult he is caring and shows so many signs of being an amazing teacher. Sadly he has chosen a different professional path, I can’t help but think that the world is losing a valuable resource for the next generation. He is also undeniably male.
As I did for my first, so I did for my second. Jeremy loved getting into the Lego and was never a fan of baby dolls. He loved his Barbies and his blocks and puzzles. We had phases where the house was full of glitter and pink and purple, intermixed with long monkey bar sessions and karaoke. But his greatest love was playing with others. As I listened to him describe his first solid memories of play they centred around playing with his friend across the street. These two little ones played all the time, outside drawing on the road, riding bikes and scooters and jumping on the trampoline. They dressed up, they loved to cook, and put on shows, they were a delight. Jeremy was not a loner, he loved company and found Defence life difficult. He always had a companion in an older brother so alone was not something he ever really experienced.
Naturally as a parent you question if the choices you had control over have a profound influence on the child that becomes an adult. I know that my natural desire was to buy the pink, the frilly, the pretty for this blonde baby. But I tempered that with instinct, allowing her to have a choice. I can’t help but think that no harm can come from allowing a child to play with as wide a range of toys, to have a wide range of experiences.
There was never any stigma attached to toddler Luke getting stuck into make up or 8 year old Kati decked out in her brother’s clothes. Superman capes and dress ups were perfectly acceptable “going to the shops” wear. Play should be fun and the game doesn’t have to end because Mummy has run out of milk.
I was criticised once, by a health professional, for making the choice to identify as a male “normal” for Jeremy. I am still puzzled by this statement. I can no more influence who Jeremy feels he is than I could his eye colour. I felt that maybe it was my attitudes that were at fault, maybe I should have been less accepting, more questioning. Then I keep coming back to the same point in time over and over – Jeremy asked to be allowed to try.
So our journey will be different, individual. But so is everyone’s, it is the myriad of human experience that creates the panoply of society, something that Jeremy and I both delight in.