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Saying goodbye 

I came to a turning point about 12 months ago when I read an article by Mary Jacklyn Moss. In the article she talks about when her child transitioned and had she lost her child the sympathy would have been different.

I get it.

I delight every day in the happy healthy academically successful son who bounced into my life two years ago. He is a delight and I love him, I fight for him, I nurture him. I would not change him.

But two years on and I carry a huge secret. I still cry for Kate. Not every day. It’s no longer overwhelming. But I mourn my baby girl. It would be unnatural if I didn’t. Kate was a part of my life for nearly sixteen years. I would mourn the loss of anything that has been in my life for that long, of course I miss my daughter. Some of that grief is now stronger that we are so close to the start of hormone treatment. I need to be aware of that too.

Grief is a process and one that should be honoured. It is the acknowledgement that something precious has passed and the loss is felt and there is a memory to be treasured.  It cannot be rushed, it is a place of healing and knowing and no words can erase the effect.  By being open and honest with your feelings you can also heal and move forward.

So often I see posts from mums who are on board with transition but dads who aren’t, or vice versa, or parents who are trying but struggling. To you all I say “It’s ok. Cry, yell at God, pray, remember. Just don’t be overwhelmed. The child you gave birth to is a miracle. The person they have become is a miracle. Acknowledge the loss of one but embrace the joy of the other. When you think that you can’t go on, remind yourself that your success rate as a parent is pretty awesome and you can do this too.”

My daughter will always have a special place in my heart. Jeremy has a special place in my heart. They are equally precious. And as time goes on, and Jeremy becomes a more familiar entity I hope he always understands that every now and again I will need to look deep into his eyes to lose myself in the memory of my daughter.

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Posted by on February 26, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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Things getting real

2015 has been a goalpost in my mind for a long time.  I have had two years to come come to grips that this is the year that Jeremy starts his physical transition.

My own physicality was something that I put at the back of my mind.  In 2008 I started a long journey to gain strength and health through exercise and diet and by 2011 I felt amazing.  In 2012 however, a combination of factors combined to start me on a self indulgent slide back to my heaviest.  I spent last year addressing my mental health so was primed to start addressing how I look.

At Christmas I made a promise to my sister that I would exercise with her via a shared app.  Much as we would love to exercise together the Melbourne – Chicago commute is time and cost prohibitive.  So we check in with each other after we work out and this simple mechanism is enough to get me out of bed and turning on coach Justin for thirty minutes of exercise.  That plus a free food tracker has helped me to monitor what I take in.  Three weeks in and I realise the biggest difference is I now really want to change.  My muscles ache, some mornings I am really tired but I value myself enough to give myself a half hour three times a week.The changes have been small but they are there!!!!

Jeremy is not feeling great about himself so we have discussed what he can do.  I know first hand that depression sabotages your best efforts, poor self esteem can lead you back to the biscuit barrel far more than it does to the fruit bowl.  For a committed chocoholic like Jeremy the lure of the sweet is overwhelming as well.

So the plan is to help J start moving and eat better.  I’ve had to stay “no” to certain things, J has decided to make some changes and he will get support from me to help him stick to the changes that he wants to make.

Next week J has his blood tests, one step closer to starting cross hormone treatment.  These hormones will change his body, my wish is that J wants to makes changes so he can look in the mirror and see the handsome young man that I see.

 
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Posted by on January 29, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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And so this is Christmas

We are on holidays, in the loving embrace of my family. I am treading water emotionally as I had anxiety about how I would manage face to face interactions given my journey this year and being separated from my network of support has made me uncomfortable. But so far, so good.
Our journey to Queensland was joyful, lots of love and support for my blue haired baby and wonderfully restorative for me, the opportunity to be face to face with valued friends and talk about next year made me realise that near or far my safety net is strong.
Jeremy has been strengthened by so many positive interactions with family and friends including a second dinner with his dad. Each time that happens it gives him more reason to stay positive, to reject the voice in his head that whispers bad things to him. It is more reason to get up each morning.
Merry Christmas – may your gifts be ones of love and demonstrate the value that the giver places on your relationship. Jeremy and I will have you in our prayers.

 
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Posted by on December 23, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Two years

I love “Call the Midwife”, a beautiful BBC series about midwives in London in the 50’s at the advent of the NHS and in the middle of the baby boom.  Watching a Christmas special these words from an elderly character made me catch my breath as she recalled dark days in the workhouse “She had bones as fragile as a birds. The wardress brought her to me one night on account of the noise, she had chilblains, I wrapped her in my petticoat and held her all night. They took her away in the morning, I never saw her again. I had too many, I knew when they stopped singing”.

Such is a mother’s heart.  How many of us instinctively know when our babies are distressed or hurt.  In my heart I would probably know if the unthinkable happened and I lost J,

I can hear the anxiety in J’s voice on occasion.  A legacy of childhood he can still react from a very primal position when he tries to balance multiple priorities.  It is countered with a “dude, chill” from me when I am around.  Lockie has a similar strategy to manage the anxiety that gets directed at him by J.  Jeremy’s depression however is a distant memory.  For that I am profoundly grateful.  My child two years ago was a bundle of defensive anger and anxiety, careless with possessions, rude and aggressive.  We were at the end of six months of my being at home fully supporting him and his activities. I was wondering why the heck I had bothered as I felt I hadn’t made a difference.  I was stressed and broke and feeling hopeless as a parent and a provider.

Last night J had a number of friends stay over, Lockie and Titan were here too, so I got my fill of puppy cuddles.  I got to put faces to the names that I hear all the time.  J baked up a storm and cooked a fabulous roast dinner.  He and his friends watched movies, ate food and hung out.  We had pancake brunch and the dishwasher has been going all day, but J was so relaxed, happy and every inch the young man.

Next week marks two years since I introduced my son to the world.  It was a low key, tentative step.  I was anxious, confused and angry at God and a world that gave my baby this difficult path.

Our next year will be characterised by physical transformation for J as he commences cross hormone therapy.  I have often spoken about the delay in J being able to access the next stage of treatment as a gift to him so he can take the time to adjust.  So it has been for me as well.  2014 has been in some ways my own annus horrendum in terms of relationships and finances.  I stood at the edge of transformation and stepped off the ledge into the unknown to find that old hurts and pains could be healed.  I am a different person to the momma of a year ago and two years ago.  J has been vocal in his support of my transformation and I treasure his support.  I am looking to 2015 as a year of professional successes and positive action.  Woven into this will be J’s physical changes and Year 12 studies.  It will be challenging however this year of space has helped me so much in terms of getting my head around the next stage of J’s journey.

So I think for J 2015 will be when he finds his voice.  It will be a new voice for my ears but one that I will love as dearly and the beloved voice I know so well.  I am ready for this next step.

 

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Posted by on December 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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There are Speed Bumps in Everyone’s Road

I recently read an article about a MtF trans teen starting next semester presenting as her preferred gender.  I was so happy for this young woman, she looked happy and confident in her school uniform in the article in the paper and I was genuinely glad for her.  However given the reality that I have been living for the last 21 months I had a yukky feeling in the pit of my stomach.  It prompted me to post this on Face book:

As I read another article about a transgender teen or child at the start of their transition journey I give a little cheer internally. But, and it’s a big but, there is so much support and acceptance needed by society as a whole after that first step has been taken – that is the story I want to read, the story where a trans teen went to school and wasn’t treated like a freak, subject to uncomfortable stares, awkward conversations or outright abuse.

That was during the long weekend and I was up at the farm with my beloved.  We went for a drive on Sunday through the bush, a beautiful tranquil web of unsealed roads through lovely forest.  My beloved was chatting on about tales of settler families in the district, long lost stories of one naughty brother and one good brother and land, while I sat overwhelmed with quiet grief.  It is one of the things that I love most about my darling is that he will let you cry, provide comfort but no solutions.  He never makes you feel silly for being sad.  It is a rare talent and one that I treasure.

When I started talking some very deep fears came out.  I had listened to years of complaints from Jeremy before his transition about regular school, how he found other students tiresome, how he didn’t have any friends, how teachers found him weird, how he hated the bathrooms, the bus trip.  I listened and openly discussed alternatives.  One particularly bad year I would get text messages during my work day demanding that I have an action plan by the end of the day to have him in another school by the end of the week.  I had listened to numerous plans about leaving school.  I had listened to Jeremy last year about the trials that he faced daily and the decision to move him to distance education was considered and made in consultation with his health team at the RCH.  But six months in and I had so many concerns, Jeremy still didn’t seem happy, socially isolated and not completing all the required work.  We have 18 more months of education, he is only doing two subjects and not giving these his full attention, why are we going down this path where all the other previous complaints have been addressed and still it isn’t enough.  I thought I was asking the right questions and still I was not identifying that work was not completed.  Where had this gone so wrong?  What else can I do? 

I needed to talk to Jeremy.  When I arrived back in Melbourne, over Sunday night roast I told the boys about my drive, how I had a wobbly few moments after reading the article and thinking about Jeremy.  “Oh mum, I am so much happier now I don’t have to go to school anymore”, then a big hug from J.  The situation is a long way from being perfect but there is some reassurance that J is committed to distance ed and he goes not want to go back to school.

Then I read this article: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/mary-j-moss/grieving-a-child-who-is-still-alive_b_5455076.html

I had found the story of what happens down the road, that the starting point is the same for parents of transgender offspring regardless of the age they transition and the journey will have twists and turns and surprises and days that are startling in their normality.  We are a special community of parents and our babies are blessed.

 

 
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Posted by on June 19, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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A Jeremy by any other name

A call today; “Did Jeremy change his surname?”

“No mum, he’s [X]”

Funny question maybe but originally Jeremy, when he changed his name, used my surname – Jeremy Foster had an ace ring to it.  For so many people your name is a gift from your parents, it may change when you get married but fundamentally so many of us start with a first name not long after birth and never change it in any radical way.  Both my children have my surname as one of their first names and have always been told that it is their choice to use it if they want or need to.

But it got me thinking about the process in deciding to change a name when changing gender.  Jeremy made a pretty bold decision and changed totally from his previous name.  I asked him about it, his first name started with “k” and apparently the “k” names that he looked into didn’t fit.  From the middle of grade seven he contemplated “James” then settled on “Jeremy” leading up to telling people that he was transgender.  He says that the “Dean” just seemed to fit.  In choosing his own name he has taken steps in defining who he is the new gender, an empowering step for anyone I suspect.

Jeremy has friends who live gender neutrally and either have gender neutral names like “Ashley” or use initials to identify themselves. Then I thought about that other category of transgender people, those who have a name that they have chosen but for a myriad of reasons they are unable to say that name to their world.

I have had a realisation recently that Jeremy was blessed in one way, he made that bold declaration that came either from great trust or that supreme confidence that teenagers have in parents to make it all better.  Either way he took a leap of faith and the majority of his world followed suit and accepted him.  He has said that using male pronouns and the name Jeremy felt so comfortable and right like coming home.  It saddens me that in 2014 there are people who could not accept when someone close to them trusts them enough to disclose that they feel they are living in the wrong body.  It is a the sad reality that many people may never meet anyone who is transgender and so the announcement that someone close to them believes that they are the wrong gender is confronting and scary.  The reactions from family could be angry, aggressive and hurtful.  Or worse, understanding in private yet requiring the transgender person to live a double life to maintain external “normality”.

When I consider all these aspects I keep coming back to the relief that Jeremy expressed when he was allowed to live as a boy.  That relief on his part was all the convincing that I needed.  But I am a parent, not a partner or child.  I had faith in a family open in love.  I have a community who is open to alternatives.  I am blessed.

I wish I had the means to provide a safe haven for any and all who are struggling with transgender issues.  I want to hug you and tell you that you know who you are and I will help you tell the world.  Because the only thing worse than anger fear and rejection, which belong to others, is not being true to yourself.  I want to help you come home.

 

 

 
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Posted by on April 7, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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Prince Charming, the troll and social media adventures

Everywhere, if you are tuned into it, there is information about the devastating effects of cyber bullying on GLBTI teens.  Children are at their most vulnerable during the teen years, add into the mix an openly GLBTI person and you have the potential for a devastatingly negative scenario.

The percentage of trans teens who experience mental health issues, homelessness, exclusion is disproportionately high.  Our trans teens are fragile, facing exclusion because they are different, facing discrimination because they are different.  Home and family should be a haven but sadly often it is not.

Recently Jeremy experienced a form of bullying on Facebook.  His cry of pain when he read the words directed at him were purely primal and are etched on my brain and my heart,  I was on the receiving end  too via this blog, and it gave me pause because I read their opinion of me and my writing and I considered it to test if their opinion had validity. It came at a time when I was feeling vulnerable myself.  I have always tried to be fair and even handed even when writing about people who have hurt my child.  I stand by that.

I have little need for external validation but when it comes my way it certainly helps. Jeremy’s medical professionals have given us a big tick, he is depression free, he is well adjusted, he has some decisions to make and they are not urgent.  The harsh words leveled at him recently would have laid him flat a year ago, now his resilience is so much greater he has shrugged the negative opinion off as just that, someone else’s thoughts and not a true reflection of who he is.

Day by day I see my son grow in confidence, in love, basking in the joy that is being Jeremy.

 
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Posted by on March 16, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

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