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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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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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Joy spreaders and truth tellers

How to have a lovely day

A blob of concentrated sunshine and joy in a glass – when I look at the marmalade that I made a couple of months ago I marvel at the intense orange, how it glows.  When it sits at the bottom of a G&T my favourite drink is enriched with the rich citrusy sweetness that is verging onto the point of caramel, melding perfectly with the sharpness of tonic water, the herbal hit of the gin.  But mostly I am amazed that my first attempt at jam making resulted in this culinary miracle.

I made marmalade after a weekend away to Rutherglen.  Staying with friends in Wahgunyah, nursing both a hideous cold and bruised and battered psyche I spent a lot of time in the backyard, standing at the fire, talking.  The owner of the house was a returned serviceman, a veteran of the Vietnam war.  I always feel comfortable talking to war veterans, no idea why, I just always have.  For me it was cathartic to talk about life, the history of the house, the street, the gnarled roots that he had fashioned into a functional table, anything to distract me from the maelstrom of black so slowly lifting from my mind.  His gift to me as I left was a massive bag of oranges off the tree in the front yard.  So the great marmalade adventure began.

The marmalade found many homes, just as the boys and I couldn’t eat kilos of fresh oranges, we couldn’t eat our way through kilos of jam either.  Jars went to my best friend and her mum and brother who both happened to be visiting Melbourne.  A big jar went to the friends who took me to Wahgunyah.  Jars big and small went to many houses.  I would occasionally get a random text message from someone who had just opened a jar to to tell me that the marmalade was yum.  That feedback was as rewarding as the creating of jam to start with.

Last night, talking this over with a friend, he said to me “You spread joy JoJo”.  I’ve never really thought about it. Now that I have, I love the concept.   I also love the picture that I put at the top of this post, and I apologise for it being pretty girly, but that’s me in a nutshell, I’m all about the pretty girl stuff.  I also believe that if you have a lovely day, then those around you will have one too, They don’t have to wear makeup and perfume, but I hope that when I follow the rules above, the people around me smile, they feel valued because someone has listened to them, they start to have  a lovely day because someone wished them a lovely day.

But life can’t be all perfume and jars of jam.  In the last week or so Jeremy and I have spent a lot of time talking about relationships and love.  We talked about holding on and letting go.  We talked about not holding on to something that causes us pain.  Some of the conversations that he and I have had together and with others this week have been hard.  They have been open and honest ones but fearful because we said things that the other people may not have been ready to hear.  Those conversations are risky too, but we both believe that to be authentic we need to be honest.

In one beautiful conversation Jeremy opened up and shared his thoughts on love.  He said that he believed that true love does not mean that you mirror each other, but that you understand each others differences and still want to hang out and talk to each other about your experiences.  It echoed some advice my dad gave me once, quoting from Khalil Gibran

“But let there be spaces in your togetherness, And let the winds of the heavens dance between you.

Love one another but make not a bond of love: Let it rather be a moving sea between the shores of your souls”

I also thought “wow!!  You are going to have a phenomenal adulthood if you have this together at 18.”  So I think that J has hit this particular nail on the head.  He already understands that to be successful in a relationship he needs time to pursue his own interests, to be a good partner he has to achieve some self definition, some internal peace.  You cannot share yourself if you don’t understand yourself.

I also suspect, that someday this kid will rule the world in his own way.

 
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Posted by on September 15, 2015 in parenting, transgender

 

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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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