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When the momma bears get angry

Holding hands

For me this picture symbolises the instant connection that J had with a young trans guy recently.  Who knew that such a short time later I have watched in horror as this young one and his mother, like so many other loving mothers, have become the target for anti transgender ignorance.

A while ago I saw a post from a fellow momma, her precious child O was struggling and she was looking for a solution.  Unlike Jeremy, O was not yet into puberty.  He was worried that people would notice that unlike other boys, people would notice that he was missing a bulge “down there”.  Let me draw a parallel – if as a parent you have a) searched the shops looking for Elsa knickers or a purple sparkly top b) that toy that everyone else is getting for Christmas c) spent hours online looking for the perfect absolutely whatever it is your child has expressed a desire for; you will understand that on occasion your child says something that strikes a chord with you and you will go to the ends of the earth to help satisfy that wish.

So when this fellow momma reached out about O’s desire many other mommas sprung into action.  One momma has sent a few prototypes for trial. Jeremy and Lockie put their creative brains together and developed a quick yet simple and washable solution to the lack of penis bulge that even the momma involved said she could put together and the momma reached out to Den and TranzWear in the US who said he would try and help.

A story was then publicised about this issue with the help of Ginger Gorman, a journalist who is working hard to raise awareness of the issues of transgender youth in Australia.

Now, in the last 24 hours this little transphobic piece popped up (San Francisco company selling “packers” for trans boys, ages 4 and up) which has resulted in hate mail and a death threat to Den and some abuse heaped on Ginger basically for promoting pedophilia.  So the angry momma bear has awoken.

I had the privilege of meeting a terrific young trans guy of a similar age and his mum last week, two beautiful people, a little one who confided in J that he was worried that people will not like him in high school, a momma who is walking in my shoes.  Two hours flew as we talked about so many things and I felt that I had met a long lost friend.  So today when I saw the snide implications that her actions, like so many other mothers, in procuring a packer and stand to pee device for her child was somehow (with murky implications) linked to pedophilia I saw red.

Den’s website TranzWear has an 18+ warning on the front page.  When I first visited the Peecock products page I had a reaction, I saw lots of phallus shaped objects in various colours, in a quantity that I had only encountered in certain shops in Fyshwick in the ACT.  Did that stop me looking as I helped my then 16 year old son to chose a stand to pee device?  No, because I knew what I was looking at.  I was also a grown up who knew that the device was to be used for my son to pee, and wise enough in the ways of the world to know that an STP is a pretty useless device for sexual gratification.  Because that that is the dangerous parallel that is being drawn at 4thWaveNow – that STPs and packers are being given to children so that adults can get sexual gratification.  Let’s name it people, and not hide behind euphemisms.

Here is my truth.  Transgender boys want to look like their peers. They are acutely aware that they lack a little bulge in their pants.  Caring and supportive parents will recognise that and do what they can, from crocheted bird seed filled cylinders to more sophisticated inventions that stay put, can be worn while swimming, can be popped in a washing machine, these are testament to the love that parents have for their child.  Post puberty there are a range of devices that enable trans guys to stand at a urinal to pee, like every other guy.  It helps these boys get through the day feeling a little safer, a little closer to how they see themselves.  It does not solve the deep down desire for a penis that can only be achieved by surgery, and not always successful surgery at that.

What Den at TranzWear did was try and help a momma.  That’s it. He is one of a few suppliers that a parent could turn to and receive support.  A death threat was unwarranted.  He has done nothing wrong.

So may I ask a favour?  Please spread the word.  Spread the word about Den and TranzWear.  You may help a young person take a step towards being comfortable with themselves.  Spread the word that STPs are cool when you want to pee and you don’t have a penis.  Please send anyone who mistakes an STP for a sex toy to me, by the time I have explained the difference they won’t make that mistake again.

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Can my arms reach all the way to you?

Brothers

One of the gifts that parents give you that you can’t give back are your siblings.  I am the eldest, with a brother and sister, mum was busy making three babies in four years.

Jeremy has an older brother, five and a half years older to be exact.  Today is his 24th birthday and he is on the other side of the world, waking up in to a late summer Berlin morning, with what may be a bit of a hangover as he has confessed that he went out last night with new friends.  It sounds like he has settled into his overseas adventure quite nicely.

I often see posts from other parents asking how siblings were told that a brother or sister is transgender. I kind of skip over those questions, because i have nothing to share.  Luke was told the same way I was told, via a message.  He reacted the same way he does to so many things, he changed his reality to suit the new truth.  He has never faltered with pronouns, never misnamed his brother, has always behaved with love and respect.  There was no angst, no anger, no attention seeking behaviour.  So I can’t help others by sharing a story that is so perfect in its unexceptional normalness.

Jeremy and Luke would have a very different relationship if my eldest child had been different.  Somehow I raised a very special young man, reserved, strong enough to show when he is vulnerable, practical, a voice of calm and reason in a maelstrom of emotion and exhaustion and exuberance that Jeremy and I create just by being together.

It wasn’t always so. When J was little he felt that everything in the house was his.  His brother’s room was fair game, he’d get in there during school hours and help himself.  Teaching him boundaries was a constant ongoing lesson.  There would be advantages though to not making a huge fuss when you are a big brother with a younger sibling who has restless fingers and a busy brain.  They were usually treats in being allowed to stay up late, which my night owl loved. As they got older they would spend time together, sometimes because they had to as we posted from location to location and sometimes because they just wanted to.

Jeremy’s transition came at a dark time for his brother.  I had declared that Luke had to leave Canberra, he was struggling with multiple issues, study, money, depression, spending time with him around his 21st I was concerned about his mental health. So J made his announcement as I was insisting that Luke make applications to universities in Melbourne and Brisbane.  We journeyed together then as J settled into his transition.  For the last eighteen months, as Jeremy has been doing distance education, Luke’s degree has been mostly late night lectures, leaving his days free and at home.  At some point during that time, my boys became close friends.

Listening to each talk about the other is a delight.  Luke has said  to me that J gets everything that he wants. J says that Luke doesn’t have to do anything around the house……… but apart from that the respect and love they have for each other is beautiful to witness. When Luke first left I asked him how he was,he said simply that he missed Jeremy.

So on this special day, when we would normally be together and having a bottle of wine and yummy meal, one part of our circle and so a part of our hearts is on the other side of the world being grown up and having adventures.  Happy Birthday Luke.  Your have shown your brother such an amazing example of how to be a man.  It may not be his version but the fabulous things about examples is that you can take the good stuff that appeals to you away.  Momma loves you.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

The semi colon project 

  

A quick note today.

On the road to recovery I decided that I wanted to honour my journey by getting this tattoo. It’s next to the boys birth dates because on that black night it was thoughts of them that stopped me doing anything final.

Unlike their birth dates which face out to the world, my semi colon faces me, a reminder that pausing is ok, chosing not to end is good.

Check out the project at The Semicolon Project or look them up on Facebook.

 
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Posted by on August 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Hindsight and 20 20 vision

so cool

There are days and then there are days.

Post Luke’s departure for Germany our lives have settled into a gentle rhythm – well for two weeks anyway, then J and I succumbed to the the dreaded lurgy, a chest rattling bronchitis that coupled itself with a fever and bonesapping lethargy.  During this period Jeremy had his first full testosterone shot.  This was quickly followed by the full effects of bronchitis and frightened me with spiking fever and lack of appetite, certainly not normal side effects of a testosterone shot.  Of we went to the weekend doctor.   Explaining Jeremy’s symptoms I added;

“Jeremy had a full testosterone dose on Friday”

“Why?” asked the doctor

“Because he is transgender, its part of his treatment”

“How long will she need to be on androgen?”

Seriously.  I did respond quite politely that treatment was forever, the doctor did check J’s blood pressure and heart beat and pulse and made sure J was only suffering from a virus and not any additional side effects.  Such is the casual ignorance that we face daily.

On the weekend, after a week of trying to get back to normal, J and I went out for lunch to a new little local place.  The weather was mild, one of those days when the air feels like milk on your skin and the sun finally made an appearance, a whisper of spring was in the air.  Over lunch J started talking about school, how he felt negative about not staying in a normal school, that he felt he could have tried harder. Had he done that he would be finishing school in three weeks time, instead his studies will be completed next year,  I must admit my response was pretty poor at the time, I think I was taken aback more than anything else.

Then yesterday I received an email from Ginger Gorman, a wonderful journalist who interviewed us a couple of months ago.  She had included some of J’s story into a wider article How do we stop transgender children being bullied at school? As I read it, the realisation hit me like a brick.  We are in the distance ed system because school was torturous, the every day rub of ignorance magnified because those that J relied on to teach him could not deal with him, added to the general ignorance of teenagers made a hostile environment.  His mental health was precarious, he was depressed, anxious.  His psychiatrist and I could see the toll it was taking.  The decision to move him away from that environment achieved one key goal.

Jeremy was mentally healthy enough to deal with the two and a half year wait for treatment,

I don’t know what the outcome would have been otherwise.  I can only say that with the benefit of hindsight, the decision that we made back then was the best one that we could.  Nothing in J’s life has been straightforward, it stands to reason that his senior studies will follow a slightly more circuitous route.

Point is he will achieve what he wants to achieve.  No one can ask for more, especially not me.

 

 
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Posted by on August 25, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Let the sunshine in

Four months today!

It’s no secret that the southern winters leave me feeling depleted.  We have been south since late 2002 so this is my 12th winter away from my beloved Queensland and it’s mild days.

For Jeremy it has been a turbulent time.  His body seems out of control, sprouting hair and acne, his voice is getting deeper and cracks on occasion.  He is restless, and yet lethargic.  He describes his hunger as constant and insatiable.  There are visible bristles on his chin, blonde and spiky and he is looking more and more like his father every day.  To be honest he has always unknowingly mimicked his father’s mannerisms, nowadays they are coming out of a face that increasingly looks like his dad and with a voice that will be deeper than his father’s.  It is a fascinating process to watch.

People had always said that Jeremy looked like me.  I’m not sad that this has changed, our faces change regardless throughout our lives and there are days when I look in the mirror and see my mum looking back when once people would remark how much I looked like my father (sans white beard).

The external manifestation of who we are is just that, external.  If the most beautiful face in the world comes with a hard heart, is that person truly beautiful?

There is always the comment that someone is a beautiful soul as if somehow that is a different and inferior type of beauty.  I would love to see a world where being kind to each other had a greater value placed on it than a thigh gap.  That kindness should colour our everyday interactions, from smiling at a stranger to the opportunity that I had today to put money into the dryers of a young family who were scratching around for change.  It wasn’t that I thought they couldn’t pay for their drying, it was that they had to make a further trip with a young child and that small act would cut down the time they had to spend doing a mundane chore.  Maybe it is the legacy of years of scouting where, as a matter of course, you did a good turn every day.  It was a practice that made you think externally, where the only reward you expected was that you had kept the promise that you made when you became a Scout (or Guide).

As Jeremy struggles with the internal turmoil that testosterone is causing I can hear him escalating in his discussions with other people. It feels to me, on occasion, that as he has struggled he has developed an almost adversarial communication style when in fact he is so unsure of everything that adversarial is the last thing he wants to be.   Last night it was a call to Lockie to let him know that pizza arrived, he was upset because Lockie was upset when he called.  I broke it down – Jeremy has been really upset with Lockie in the past when a time frame, real or perceived, has passed.  It’s a very old habit of J’s, predates his relationship with Lockie and has drilled me into being an exceptional communicator with my youngest child about any plan.  Lockie’s reaction last night was in response to Jeremy’s previous behaviour.  If Jeremy wants to change Lockie’s reaction, then he has to change his behaviour.  Like an Pantene commercial it won’t happen overnight, but they will get this aspect of their communication on track for being positive and both will feel more confident in discussing things with each other.  They are such a tight pair but I can see where their respective anxieties blocks a positive flow of communication.

I had to be confident in even starting that conversation with J last night, and I did so because right now he is transforming and has a unique opportunity to start new and positive habits.  It can happen in any kind of relationship, familiarity can lead to casual attitudes and curt communication.  But the upshot can sometimes be that people felt taken for granted, or not valued and from there something positive in your life can spiral down to negative.  If you broach where you can see this happening with people they can see your suggestion as criticism, and ain’t no one likes the criticism.  So you need to be prepared for those hurt feelings and be ready to explain where your comment came from and make sure that you are always talking from a position of love.  Sometimes it will be good and sometimes it will be really really bad.  Sorry, even when you talk from a position of love on occasion the person you are talking to can’t hear what you are saying.

So in the depths of a cold and miserable Melbourne winter, in the absence of the sun lifting my spirits, I am relying on an almost lifelong practice of helping others to bring some sunshine and beauty into my life.  Now to make sure that exercise gets back in there too!

 
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Posted by on July 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Crowdfunding update

Hi all!!

I initially promised a sneak peek at the book so have selected one of my favourite parts from chapter three, where Jeremy starts telling people about his journey.

Check out the site for my extract from the book and what you will get in return for supporting us. The smallest amount will help us get on our way towards being able to keep a roof over our heads while I power through getting this story out in the public domain.

“Parenting Jeremy” go fund me

 
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Posted by on June 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

A book in the works – some words from Jeremy

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It may be evident to people that mum has not been working lately.  She has been looking for work but at the same time she has been spending time supporting me in my studies and with my medical appointments now that I have started my testosterone shots.

She’s also been writing my story as book.  But we could use a little help to get the word out.

Finishing Parenting Jeremy

Mum has set up a Go Fund Me – and I would like to ask:

  • If you can, donate
  • If you can’t please share

A small hand will mean the ability to make this book about me a reality.

In the next couple of days watch out for the list of thank you gifts for our supporters and extracts from the book so far.

Hugs

Jeremy

 
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Posted by on June 23, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Jeremy asks that we shut up and listen

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Another week, another step in our journey, Jeremy’s third testosterone shot is today, and we may even have it all down to a fine art of pre-lodging a prescription to cut down on hospital visits.

The physical changes are small but still noticeable, his voice is starting to change, there are a small yet definite number of real facial hairs on his chin, he’s even closed that weeny gap in height between himself and his brother.

In the middle of doing school work and paid work and socialising J had an upset moment.

When he was very little his small chubby hands would grab my face and say to me “Mummy listen to me”.  This bright spark bubbled on and on and on and on singing songs and telling stories that as a busy mum sometimes the important stuff got missed.  Often the “Mummy listen to me moments” were tales of woe, easily addressed with a hug and agreement that Minka the cat was a bugger, or that it wasn’t fair that Lukey didn’t want to share the PlayStation all the time then a discussion about other people needing space or the cat not being the kind of cat who wanted to be dressed up.

Now as an adult the day is filled with snippets of information, the flow is still constant and he gets frustrated.  Sometimes, just sometimes, he needs full attention.  This very social creature has greater expectations of the people around him, he does not have the every day exchange of conversation that his nature needs that people who are employed or at school have.  He fills his day with the everyday chit chat and the important stuff that needs full attention sometimes gets lost in the babble.

Last week he did the adult equivalent of “Mummy listen to me” face grab.  He told me that when he talks to people he gets ignored and that he is puzzled and hurt, do people not like him?.  I’m unsure how people ignore him, and then I get it.  In a world where we reduce messages to 140 characters, blog posts, texts, people keep conversation to a minimum here is Jeremy who craves a more fulsome interaction.  His nature needs  long in depth conversations about cabbages and kings, politics, snake handling or whatever topic is occupying his mind.  He needs a friend or two who will join in the conversation.  Salem is a good companion but her cat conversations are limited.  J is lucky that he has in his circle an amazing young woman who has been a friend since they were six years old. She listens and laughs and contributes, her own journey has been fraught and she shares her experiences openly and with trust and love.  Sadly she lives in Canberra so face to face conversations are limited.  But that is a vital connection for J and he knows that friendship can be that complete and rewarding.

Perhaps the solution for J is to find a happy middle ground.  We can’t all of us be all things to all people at all times.  He admits that acknowledging that something has nothing to do with him is hard, and he is working on it.  Maybe he needs to realise that often people are not ignoring him but that they are involved with their own lives and problems, that to get the kind of conversation that he craves he needs to be clear with the people that he talks to and to be selective about his audience, to acknowledge that not everyone can articulate their thoughts and feelings with the skill that he can and often people are uncomfortable with such self examination to be able to respond fully.  By directing his communication he will get a better response, be more fulfilled, be a better friend and in turn receive better friendship and, like those awesome Galileo thermometers, people in his life will find their levels.

I worked hard in my professional life to be able to listen and problem solve for others, to seek solutions.  To be able to use that skill again for Jeremy is a delight.

 
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Posted by on June 15, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

So where does God fit in all this?

Jeremy a few weeks ago

My miracle

Recently I have responded to numerous posts from parents asking “How do I respond to my conservative / Christian family about my transgender child?”

To me Jeremy has always been a child who walks in the light of God, a miraculous being with the blended gifts of intelligence, practicality, empathy and tremendous good looks.  Nothing could be a greater testament to the existence of an intelligent and loving God than my precious baby.  I have always known it instinctively so when asked the question I knew that I would have to go looking, confident of a good outcome.  The New Testament is so full of love and joy I was sure I would find inspirational words.  Instead I found these words contained in Psalm 139:

For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.
I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well.
My frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place, when I was woven together in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes saw my unformed body; all the days ordained for me were written in your book before one of them came to be.

So commonly I heard that families say, in arguing that a child is transgender, “God doesn’t make mistakes”.  Psalm 139 says that God knows, even before we are born, what our lives will look like. The path of a transgender child, and adult, is different, but certainly is not a mistake in any sense of the word.   I love the thought that, even before you are born, your path is there.  There is free will, of course, we are not automatons or dolls in a cosmic dollhouse.  But knowing that despite the challenges that come with being transgender, or the parent of a transgender child, God knows that you have the strength to walk this different path is tremendously comforting for me.

I’ve been pretty angry with God these last few years, and lately his whole divine plan for me seems more like a cosmic joke.  I also know that eventually the meaning of this part of my life journey will become clear and I hope I will carry away the lessons of patience and strength that I have had to learn.  Maybe I will even learn that I am ok just as I am, and then the just as I am will be ok too.

Not everyone believes in a higher power, I respect their beliefs.  I would ask that others respect mine.

When I last wrote I thought I was writing from a place of positivism because I had woken up that morning.  It was pretty evident to those who know me that I was far from well and their contact helped me see that and I sought help. I have now woken up another 12 mornings, surrounded by the same love that has been there all the time, just able to see it more. So thank you.  Jeremy thanks you too.

 
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Posted by on June 11, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

Jeremy’s mum and the very bad week

It now kind of ok to  talk about this.

I have written recently about my struggles.  I sat last night with a plan.  I knew how I could end my life quickly and with minimum mess.  I reached out to a couple of people but was too ashamed to tell those who I knew would drop everything and come and help because it was Saturday night and I knew they had plans and time to spend with family and loved ones while I sat alone.

Dramatic huh.  Didn’t feel dramatic at the time.  Intellectually I knew I wasn’t suicidal because I had done a check on myself that I have done countless of times with others:

  • Do I have a plan? yes
  • Do I want to end everything or just make the pain stop – the pain of being a failure is overwhelming and I can’t keep hurting the boys.

Such is the liar that is depression. It has told me that I am unlovabe, ugly, useless, it whispers to me that the boys would be better with their respective fathers with their stable relationships and double incomes. It guides my hands to track pants and baggy tops, it glues my head to the pillow, it hides my tooth brush and my hair brush.  Simple jobs need extensive mental planning and far more energy than I have.  It hit home the reassurance that I gave to Jeremy so many times that the price to pay for living with joy and exuberance is sometimes a general blue feeling, on occasion it is a slide into depression.  I know this about myself.

Intrinsically I know I am no more a failure to my sons that I am poor at what I do in my profession.  I am awesome at what I do professionally and will be back working soon, would probably be back working now if I could shake this liar out of my head.  I am a good mother, my boys have all that they need materially and emotionally and frankly nearly everything they could want as well.

Without making excuses I have to acknowledge that the many multiple factors that have led me to this current period of depression are just that – multiple.  There is no one single event that has triggered this. Moving, redundancy, my eldest son’s depression, Jeremy’s depression, Jeremy’s transition, the end of my marriage, the end of my last long term relationship and the loss of a dream attached to that and the residual effect of confronting a dark chapter in my childhood have not been fully acknowledged and should be.  In coping with these factors I have not fully finalised how I feel about any of them and I have the tools to do so.

Time heals, I know that.  Time will hep me, I know that too.  Last night and during the last week I have had so many signals that to move past this current depressive episode I should confront those things that I have identified and look into the dark recesses of my mind and make sure that there is nothing lurking in the background.  It will be exhausting and confronting but from past experience will help lay the negative emotions to rest, and hopefully help bring the sunshine back into my mind.  It is a trusted method that I have used before and it works, but the cloud in my mind has hidden the solution for a while.

Depression is not being sad.  I am lucky that I have a group of women around me who know this and can see through the lie that I put to the outside world every day.  I am not ok.  I will be.  That is the key, I know that I will see the sun come up tomorrow.

NOTE: my method for dealing with depression is one suggested to me by my psychologist.  I know that there are many who benefit from antidepressants and I would always recommend seeing a mental health professional.

 
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Posted by on May 30, 2015 in Uncategorized