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The merry-go-round

J & Jo on the Gold Coast

Selfie divas

It’s been 14 months since I wrote a Parenting Jeremy.   Up until recently there has been nothing really of note to write about in our lives with respect to parenting challenges.

J is now 21 and a second year baker’s apprentice.  I have uppped stakes and moved across the country to follow a plan for myself.  I am 2000 kilometres away from this child of my heart, but he and his brother are young men and have their lives to lead and I have mine, I am only a 2 hour flight away from them.  It has been a time of change for us all, but I think we have coped well, we are ok about our apartness.  The boys are rising to the challenge of their new reality, and I love the daily insights into their lives, like the decision to change electricity and gas providers.  I am still coming to terms with mine, but my changes have been different.  I am in my parent’s home and they have loved me being here and I have enjoyed the break from being “the adult”.  The boys are “home”, they are surrounded with all the trappings of home from childhood books to family treasures.  I arrived with two suitcases of clothes and not much else.  I have a newish city, I have not lived here for 21 years, but I have loved the re-connection with those who have known me forever.  The boys and I seem to be the better for being apart so far.  I miss them and I miss my things, my wine glasses, my books, my shoe collection, my nightly cuddles, my daily train ride with my eldest.  But mostly I miss my stuff, and I can cope with that level absence.

Last Friday I had a couple of conversations, one with J and one with work.  Suddenly a reality became really really real for me, and since then each time I contemplate it I find myself welling up with tears, my voice cracks, I want to run and hide and because I am who I am, I think  must not be alone in feeling this way.  The time has come to start preparing for J’s first surgery.  This is not a new topic for me, it has always been a topic since the start of J’s journey.  I have spoken to other parents about top surgery, in matter of fact ways, discussing surgeons, when J was having his surgery, recovery and how to draw from superannuation for this surgery.  I have been factual and loving and positive.  I still am.  So why this reaction?  What has changed?

I have looked deep into my soul for the answer.  When I found myself saying “it’s like I’m losing “her” all over again” I realised that on one level I still had not fully laid a grief to bed.  I want to differentiate though between grief and not being accepting.   You can mourn or grieve for certain aspects of your life or your loved one regardless of what has happened and still be supportive and accepting.  If a loved one lost a limb, or a sense, or have some profound life-changing event happen and there can be a period of adjustment and mourning.  In my heart I know that I am supportive, I am a fierce momma bear,  this has not changed.  I have always viewed the lives of my sons as gifts that I was blessed enough to receive.  I have not taken their rearing lightly, I am still heartsore at my parenting failures, of failing to protect my eldest from the indifference and self-centredeness of a step parent, failing to see J’s distress in his teens for what it was prior to his transition and many more.    I promised J at his birth that I will always be his loving momma, and that will never change.

So I know my grief is not based on any aspect of who J is.  J is awesome, with a killer smile, wicked intellect, fantastic skills professionally, socially and with a terrific social awareness.   So why?   Why now?  Is it because now this is a reality?  I have been intellectually talking about this surgery for so long and now I have to start completing forms and talking to my employer for carer’s leave to care for J post surgery?  Maybe it is because intellectually I see this as J’s first irreversible step in his journey.  J was never on puberty blockers and our consult with his medical team was comfortingly reassuring for me with respect to starting testosterone.  I have known that J can stop T, or stay on it, that being transgender does not mean a set series of processes, that he has choices and that he can stop T if he wants to.  I know that the T will leave his body and although some physical changes will be permanent many are not.   I have tried to to bend to it all like a reed in the wind.  Instead I think I have been like a Pink Floyd lyric, I have been “comfortably numb”.

Although I was aware of these medical facts let me be crystal clear – J has never wavered in his “persistence”.  J is male, was always male, this has nothing to do with J and who he is.  This is all about how I have been an emu (or ostrich) and hidden my head in the sand. But only partly.  I have been surprised that there was a corner of my heart that still had a tiny window into the future that I wrote for J in his first fifteen years prior to transition.  J’s reality is one I would not change.  I think what this is is a reminder.  It is the tail end of losing a dream.  I am being kind to myself about feeling this grief.  To put it into perspective on the 20th anniversary of losing my grandmother I wept again for my loss, there was a sliver of pain as raw as when I first lost her.  On the day of would have been my 22nd wedding anniversary I was sobbing wreck, for no other reason really than the loss of a dream.  Then I remind myself, like all grief, it gets easier.  This too, this grief is not going to be a constant companion.  It is simply a reminder that I love deeply, and I grieve deeply.  You cannot put  timetable on grief.  Just like’s J’s progress to his true self, my progress through this process is uniquely my own.  Once upon a time I harboured secret plans for my second born, and it was a beautiful dream.   Sitting on a chair in the sun this afternoon, watching cats play on the lawn, talking about how I was feeling I acknowledged again that it was only a dream, and not one that J had ever indicated was his.

Grief is an ok place to visit, over time it loosens the claws it has dug into your heart and you breathe better.  But you see see your life with a new marker, a new anniversary when your life changed.  I am trying to embrace the change, but acknowledge that I am change weary right now and this may take a little while to accommodate.

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Posted by on June 24, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

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

 

When the safety net slips

12919214_1389899504368949_1303285219_nThere are times when those outside of the family, those who come into our lives by other means, need a hand.

Since January we have had a friend of J’s living with us.  It started off as a “Could E stay until the end of his course next week” and has stretched into a couple of months.  It was evident pretty early on that this friend needed a shoulder, a hand to hold on to.

As a 21 year old transgender male, E had not accessed any services. Living in a rural part of NSW, just over the NSW / Vic border there was even confusion about where he should have initial appointments.  Toss in parents who are, naturally, confused, angry and not accepting and we had a young man who could not go home, either to mum or dad.

I have had plenty of reason to thank the love of a benevolent god that led me to some amazing GP’s in my area.  My GP has taken over Jeremy’s treatment as the clinic that I thought we were going to does not have the capacity  to take over J’s regular testosterone shots.  This lovely GP has also assisted E in accessing services so he now has a referral  to the adult gender clinic in our city and will receive assessment and initial treatment.  We have talked through this option and reassured him that this a good thing, despite some negative comments there is a perception that this clinic is not the best.  What I will say is that those who speak highly, speak really highly of the treatment that they receive and that is good enough for me as a starter.

J is still looking for work.  The small voice of my baby that asks “are employers looking at my Facebook and deciding that they don’t like me” is so full of self doubt that it tears at my heart.  E is also looking for work, he is unable to access Centrelink as his parents both say that he can come home, which technically he could.  But he is reluctant to go home to a place where his previous name is used or he is told that being transgender “isn’t a thing”. So they are home, trying to stay active and keep the house clean.  E is doing some baby sitting.  But I get that it is hard.  Jeremy has a hotchpotch of ID, the guy can’t even buy beer because he can’t prove who he is and that is purely down to our disorganisation.  E has to look for work using his previous name because this is all so new he has not had the resources to even take the first step.

With 1.2% (approx) of the population being transgender and with awareness of transgender issues growing, the limited resources that are established are not meeting the need in our state, unless you can pay.  For some young people $60 for an initial GP consultation is beyond their means.  I am eternally grateful that those services are there though.  That doesn’t change the fact though that vulnerable young people need a helping hand navigating through the medical system.

I have no answer today.  I have to keep in mind that each person’s journey is unique and there is never a one size fits all solution.  I am pretty stoked that there is a light for E as he sends off his info and waits for his first appointment.

 

 

 
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Posted by on March 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

So why do we do this?

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Coffee with my J dude is a special treat.  Yes we do ignore each other until the coffee arrives, focusing on the screens of our phones, but when the coffee hits the table we are all talk and focus.  Yesterday we took some time to reflect on the amazing journey that we had this week.

I was so proud on Monday to stand with parents of transgender children at Parliament House as we talked to politicians about the urgent need to change the Family Law Act so that transgender children do not have to go to court to get permission to be treated by their physicians.  It is no longer an issue that affects us, our journey however has never just been about us.

For the last three and a half years I have watched families struggle, I have seen marriages end, I have provided advice and support to those who struggle with single parenthood and a transgender child. I have held my hand out to young people who have become disconnected from their families.  I have received support and love from people who have become friends that may be around the corner or on the other side of the world.

Last Monday was an amazing step for Australian transgender children. We participated in a formal event where we heard medical and legal information about what needs to change.  Then we heard two moving stories from beautiful young women, one whose mother has fought for years and through her tenacity changed Australian law via a full bench of the Family Court challenge (and subsequent decision) for the benefit of all transgender children, then another for whom the clock is ticking and who needs the law to change for teens like her.  Meeting these mothers was like homecoming, because at the very start of my journey I was connected to them by their stories.  I was sitting in an office at the RCH and asked if Jeremy would just stop all this and go back to being normal.  Instead I received reassurance and the story of these two families, de-identified.  Last Monday I realised that it was the stories of these two families that helped give me the strength to keep going.

Over three years later we still keep going, because there is so much to do.  Access to appropriate treatment for transgender youth in Australia for a start, agitating for the removal of treatment of gender identity disorder from the list of special medical procedures in the Family Law Act,many conversations need to be had.  But there are many voices to join me.

As part of this week’s spectacular events Jeremy spoke openly on radio about what not being able to access cross hormone treatment did to him physically and emotionally.  He was joined by the awesome Georgie, please, enjoy.  Life Matters – 22022016

 
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Posted by on February 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

Stop being so scared

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Eek it’s been a tough week in the media, with a lot of haters.

Read this – The Age

then this The Australian

then this news.com

then read this Ginger Gorman on News.com

The first three articles are fear mongering, biased pieces with a slim grasp on facts.  The last article is beautiful piece from a journalist and a mother who just wants to stop the fear and hate.

Like all things transgender, the more sensational the details, the more the media clamours.  Joe and Jenny Public are eternally fascinated by the weirdness of being transgender.  It is, for so many people, an experience that is so far out of their ordinary that they lap up salacious details and want justification to not be educated because that may be uncomfortable.  Such is human behaviour.

I am only one small voice – but I hope always that my voice will be joined by other small voices to become the insistent voice of love, acceptance and right.

Safe Schools has always been an LGBTIQ focused service, in that their information sessions are aimed to educate teachers about LGBTIQ specific challenges in their student population.  The first three above articles are evidence that LGBTIQ education is needed, because the fear mongering in mainstream media is just that, fear mongering.

Jeremy did not have the benefit of schooling with teachers who received Safe Schools inservice training.  I have told his story here, as it unfolded in heartbreaking episode after heartbreaking episode.  His education has suffered, his future is not the rosy tertiary educated future I always imagined.  I have often pondered how different his future would have been if Safe Schools had had the resources to get into his school that year, if then he could have hung on the final two years of formal schooling instead of floundering with distance education.

What I have heard over the last couple of years is story after story of successful inservice sessions at schools around the country that teach teachers that LGBTIQ students need some adult understanding in the form of modelling positive behaviours.  For transgender children, this layer of protection is vital.  It lifts my heart to hear parents telling stories of their transgender or gender fluid children attending school and learning and playing and growing.  So when you deny Safe Schools the opportunity to demystify being transgender, you deny a child safe education. Because those adults that are up in arms are raising children who get up in arms and those children outnumber transgender children significantly.

This is what I know:

  • having your child go to school with LGBTIQ students will not affect your child
  • having Safe Schools come in to deliver inservice or talk to students will not make your child LGBTIQ
  • having teachers who have received training from Safe Schools leads to school environments where all students accept each other and get on with learning
  • Safe Schools do not teach your children how to be gay or transgender

The fact is that your children will express their sexual preference at some point.  If your child is transgender then they will also express this at some point.  How you deal with that is your choice as a parent.

What I find distressing is that there is a need for Safe Schools at all.  I recognise that their need is vital as evidenced by the tsunami of inaccurate and hateful articles proliferating in Australian media at the moment.

Finally, a word about to the Australian Christian Lobby.  Real Christians have gay and lesbian and transgender and intersex children.  Real Christians love those children, treasure them and recognise them as the mighty miracles they are.  God does not make mistakes, therefore these amazing children are not mistakes, they are part of the diverse panoply of human existence and are loved in God’s eyes.

 

 
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Posted by on February 11, 2016 in Uncategorized