Gender WHAT?!?

1600-genderbread-person(The image in this post would serve as an excellent talking point to educate others on the difference between gender identity and gender expression)

I know I’m writing at a mad clip as of late, and perhaps it will slow down soon, but when I have an idea or thought that won’t leave the brain I have two choices:

  1. I can talk to myself, which makes me look crazy.
  2. I can write about it, which makes me look slightly more sane.

See, most of us live in a world where men aren’t supposed to talk about their feelings, or if they do, then it should only be with their spouse or maybe a therapist.  If you’re a guy and you want to make your buddies uncomfortable start talking about your feelings, or your genderfluid kid.  The look in their eyes is priceless, like a deer in headlights, or a horse that has been spooked.  They can’t change the subject, or get away fast enough.  This is because most men “express” themselves as extremely masculine.

It’s not always our fault, we’re taught to do this, even if it isn’t how we really feel.  Guys, if you’re reading this, prepare yourselves because I’m going to share.  Ladies, for most of you, I know you have no issues with this, and may even applaud me for doing so…because it is so foreign for a seemingly masculine man to do so.  As to you wondering what this has to do with transgender children, I will get to that.

My son, Fabulous, is my inspiration for this post, because he is my most favorite unique, march to the beat of his own drum person in the world.  Fabulous loves mostly girl things, and has repeatedly (more often now) said he wants to live as a girl, and he wants to be a woman when he is older.  His behavior has made me look inward, because on some level I feel a connection to him and what he is going through.  That’s why, to begin with I will share about myself as we talk about the difference between gender identity and gender expression.

What is Gender “Identity?”

When you’re a big, masculine-appearing guy, people see you a certain way, and at times there are expectations as to how you should fit into the world.  I’m a guy, and more often than not, I like being a guy.  I like how I get treated, and how people see me most of the time.  I identify male, and am good with it.  I’m not jealous of women physically, nor do I feel I am in the wrong body.

Gender identity should be easy to understand for most people, but it’s not.  You should be able to ask yourself,  “Am I a male or a female?”  How you express yourself, your gender “expression,” is a completely different issue.  You’ll notice above, I said more often than not, I like being a guy.  I don’t believe anyone is 100% anything, or if they are, then they most likely will go through life completely single (don’t know many who can handle a 100% alpha male all the time).  I think we have elements of both genders in all of us.

Mentally, in many ways, I have come to admit there is some female in me.  I like to talk way too much, and when I say talk, I mean share.  I’ve lived over forty years as a man, and other than a couple gay friends, I don’t really know too many guys who like to share as much as I do.  I’ve learned to pick up on cues, as when I’ve said too much about something.  At times, I have had trouble making friends with other men, especially those guys who express as certain masculine tendencies. .  In many cases, what they’re into, and the way they talk just puts me off.

As for the male side of me, it sometimes is hard to quantify why you feel a certain way.  I just feel more male, and know that is what I am.  I cite the above, to simply clarify that there are many cis-gender and transgender people who have elements of both genders within them.  Although maybe I’m wrong on this point, and I’m choosing to let my freak flag fly.

What is Gender “Expression?”

This is how you express yourself to the world.  This is what we know as masculine, feminine, or androgynous.  Most people tend to favor one of the other of the spectrum, but as your expression also includes your likes and dislikes, it needs to be pointed out that how you dress is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to expression.

Gender expression is the point most cis-gendered people and even some transgender people get hung up on when it comes to how we identify as people.  People often confuse identify with expression, just as they also confuse gender with what is in your pants.  Those who have been reading my blog know that Fabulous is gender-fluid.  He will tell you he has a boy heart and a girl heart.  He presents more androgynous in his clothing choices during the day usually,  dresses as a girl at night (all night gowns), all boy at gymnastics, and sometimes on weekends, he will dress as all girl.  His hair is long enough now that if you style it up right, he looks like a petite little girl with sassy, short hair (how a friend’s 60-something year old mother labeled him, before being corrected).

Now to the part all us parents hate…what Fabulous likes.  Fabulous loves boy’s gymnastics, and inspiration struck last night when we were told that he stuck a high bar move that many boys don’t learn until they’re between 10 and 12.  He is only about to turn seven. In the past, whenever he has done something we considered “masculine,” we would think, “he’s turning the corner and about to tell us he’s a boy.”  Yeah, it doesn’t work that way, but every time things like this have happened in the past our hopes go up that he will stay gender-fluid, and that he will just grow up to a fabulous man.

Fabulous is allowed to express himself however he chooses.  He can be a girl on the inside and like boy’s gymnastics.  He can be a girl on the inside and like animals, bugs, Legos, and to run around the house without his shirt on.  He can like farts, rough-housing with his brother, and a variety of other things that people want to place firmly in the category of “things boys like.”

My wife still has a sliver of hope as to what these events mean, I can see it, and I let her have that sliver, because this has not been easy for her. It’s the family and friends that have started to drive me crazy.  Every time those in the know see or hear about him doing something masculine they can’t help but point out, “well that’s a really boy thing he just did” or a “well girl’s don’t behave like that.”  To date, I’ve kept the smile on my face, but sometimes I want to ask them, “why can’t girls like or do those things?”

Society has set up a double standard for gender expression.  Girls can wear girl and boy clothes.  Girls can play with girl and boy toys.  Girls can like sports, cheer-leading, and dance.  Boys can wear boy clothes.  Boys can like sports.  Boys can be outspoken.  Women can say what comes to mind.  Men can be aggressive.  Women can be emotional.  I could go on and on with these expression stereotypes, but we know them all.  When someone openly ignores them, then people get uncomfortable.  We’ve come a long way since I was a kid in the 1980s and 1990s, but we still have a ways to go.

Growing up, I never said to myself “I’m a girl” or even “I want to be a girl,” but I did have moments, especially during my chubby/awkward phase around puberty where I was jealous of girls and women.  Girls talked to each other, and seemed to relate to each other better.  It was easier to talk to them, at least until sexuality came into the picture.  As for adults, it was always easier to talk to women vs men.  It was these things I was jealous of.  How come it seemed like girls and women could like whatever they wanted, and no one judged them for it.  Girls could like video games, sports, any kind of music, and guys would actually think they were cool for it.  However, if a guy liked boy bands or romantic comedies then he would be met with ridicule if other guys found out.  As I went through high school, my body continued to grow and broaden.  Muscle was easy to put on, and I embraced it.  I loved playing football and wrestling, but at the same time read the Bronte sisters and Jane Austen’s complete works.  I had always loved history, and I rationalized that was why.  There were certain things I shied away from, because I didn’t want to be seen liking something that girl’s liked (even though I probably would have liked it).  Throughout it all I kept most of it to myself, after all I would be judged negatively for it.

Now all of that said, I recognize that my expression is mostly masculine.  I can be aggressive and physical.  I love to compete, with myself, against others, it doesn’t matter, sometimes it drives me.  I still love sports, but am choosy with my time.  I watch soccer religiously (Go Chelse F.C.!), and I manage and play goalkeeper for a men’s Over 30 soccer team.  I’m not big on musicals, or romance movies, and I can’t stand arts and crafts.  There are some things women do, or ways that they react that leave me flummoxed.  I also couldn’t give two shits what most people think of me.

 

When I say I have a connection with my son, it is because I understand what it is like to hide things, to keep things to yourself knowing that you will be judged for them.  I also know that expressing a liking for things traditionally associated with the other gender does not make you that gender.  It simply means that you have varied interests, which I think makes you all the more interesting, and may give more insight into the other gender.  I also understand that one reason why he is eager to socially transition is because if he is seen as a girl by society then he can express himself in whatever manner he desires with less judgement than he receives now from people.

As for sexuality…well, we’ll leave that for another time.  Fabulous is only seven, and my mind isn’t ready to process that nugget yet.

 

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Let the Child Lead the Way

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Today’s post was inspired by the daughter of a friend, and is a pivot off of yesterday’s post about Blaire White’s assertion that children should not be allowed to transition until they are older.  It isn’t the first time I’ve heard that belief, but it was the first time I’ve heard a transgender woman say that kids should be made to wait until they are adults.  Now, her claims were that it was due to the medical procedures and hormones that they would need to transition, but I think she is incredibly uninformed on what a “social” transition is, so I am going to try and explain it in a way that will help other parents new to this, along with family and friends who are working to come to grips with what it means to have a socially transitioned child in the family.

For a child to socially transition, all this means is that they begin living as the gender they identify with.  No medical procedures are needed and no drugs required.  If your son says that he is a girl, and is adamant about living that way then you let them dress and behave as the gender your child identifies with.  If they want a new name, you call them by it, and you use the pronouns associated with the gender they identify as…that’s it.  If they decide they want to go back later, they can.  At this stage nothing is irreversible.

Earlier this year an academically, peer-reviewed study was conducted and reported on in Pediatrics (Link to Article HERE).  It was one of the first scientific studies of it’s kind, and it looked at levels of anxiety and stress in socially transitioned transgender children as compared to their cis-gendered counterparts.  We have known for sometime that transgender teens and adults have traditionally suffered from higher levels of anxiety, stress, and suicidal thoughts.  We also know this has been true for younger children expressing higher degrees of dysphoria who are not allowed to socially transition.  Researchers wanted to see how what effect a social transition has on pre-pubescent children.  The results overwhelmingly showed that socially transitioned transgender children exhibit similar levels of stress and anxiety as their cis-gendered counterparts when families accept and support their social transitions.  When we don’t let them socially transition then bad things can happen, and sometimes bad things can happen before we can even act.

The testimonial I am about to share is from a friend of mine, Kathy, about her daughter, Rowan, who turns 13 today.  I know Kathy will share this with Rowan, and so I want to wish Rowan a Happy Birthday!  Thank you for being the strong, beautiful, young lady that you are.  I know your mom is proud of you.

Kathy writes:

“I am the mother of five amazing children, four biological, and one by love not blood.  I have, not one, but two gender nonconforming kids. My oldest child came out about five months ago as trans-masculine at the age of 20.  My daughter, Rowan, who is transgender, will turn 13 tomorrow. She made a complete social transition over six years ago, and at the time was just shy of turning seven.  I could write a novel about all the obvious signs that were her way of telling us that she was transgender.  The signs went back to as soon as she could communicate independently.  One night, when she was six years old, I walked in on her in the bathroom.  In her distress, she had taken cuticle clippers to her genitals, in and attempt to remove her penis. Having done some real damage, I rushed her to the emergency room.  After a small amount of repair, and a LOT of blood, the doctor told her that she was lucky. The doctor shared with us, that if she had cut herself just a little bit over to the side that she could have hit a major artery, and that she could have accidentally bled to death.  In her despair, she responded, “It doesn’t matter, I am not really alive now anyway.”  She went on to tell the doctor that being a boy was as bad as being gone.  She was six,  only six years old at the time.  Hearing these words, the doctor called for a psychological consultant, and I began to immediately look for help. She saw numerous doctors and therapists, and all of them agreed that she was “one of the clearest cases of gender dysphoria in a child” that they had ever seen.  To give her peace of mind, and alleviate her despair, we let her socially transition immediately.  Today, Rowan, is your typical teenage girl (Kathy wrote preteen, but I know that day matters, and I’m sure Rowan would point out she is a teenager now.). She likes shopping, horses, hanging out with her friends, and swooning over whatever pop star has caught her fancy at the moment. The despair and hopelessness that filled her before is gone. I know, with all that I am, that my child would not be alive today, had she not transitioned. Instead of a tormented son, we have a funny, brilliant, creative, and happy daughter. I think she is pretty darn perfect the way she is, penis and all.” 

In Rowan’s case, transition brought peace of mind for herself, and her mother.  This wasn’t a fad.  Rowan knew she wasn’t in the right body, and she was screaming out for help.  Rowan’s case of dysphoria was severe.  My own child, Fabulous, doesn’t suffer from physical dysphoria most of the time, except to say he doesn’t like his penis because it reminds him he wasn’t born a girl.  Most cases of dysphoria are somewhere in between Rowan and Fabulous, and dysphoria can be both physical and/or mental, but if we can make the anxiety, stress, and feelings of being alone go away by allowing a social transition, then who are we hurting?  As parents we are free to live our own truths.  Shouldn’t are children be allowed to do the same?

For blockers and hormones, “The Endocrine Society’s guidelines suggest starting puberty blockers for transgender children when they hit a stage of development known as Tanner stage 2 — usually around 10 or 11 years old for a girl and 11 or 12 years old for a boy. The same guidelines suggest giving cross sex hormones — estrogen for transgender girls and testosterone for transgender boys — at age 16. However, doctors caution that estrogen and testosterone, the hormones that are blocked by these medications, also play a role in a child’s neurological development and bone growth.” (From PBS.org/Frontline)

As for sexual reassignment surgery (SRS), surgeons in the United States will not perform such surgery until the age of 18.  This is in part due to the age of consent, and because it is recommended that children wait as long as possible to finish their physical development.  These recommendations are also true for top surgeries and breast augmentations.  Below is a table that can serve as a reference for those parents looking for answers, or to give those answers to family and friends who might be curious.

Event/Procedure Recommended Age Effects
Social Transition Can occur at any time No permanent effects.  Child can always go back to living as assigned gender.
Puberty Blockers Around Age 11 Prevents hormonal development, can be stopped and development will continue as assigned gender.  May affect neurological development.
Hormone Therapy Around Age 16 Development as identified gender, will cause sterility in patients.
Sexual Reassignment Surgery Age 18 in the United States Traditionally known as bottom surgery.  Genitalia is transformed to appear and function as the genitalia of identified gender.  Cannot be reversed.
Top Surgery Recommended Age 18, some doctors will perform younger. For transitioning males this is the removal of breast tissue to alter the chest to appear masculine.

For transitioning females this is breast augmentation where implants and/or breast shaping may occur to alter the breasts to appear more feminine.  To a degree, these procedures could be reversed.

As you can see, for a pre-pubescent child there are no medical choices that need to be made right away, other than finding  a therapist, which I wholly recommend.  As parents we have time to figure it out, and to get a team of professionals in place to help us make the best decisions possible.  Listen to your child, and let them lead the way.  Trust them to know who they are, and always let them know you love and support them for who they are.

Transgender Children? No. (A Response to an Irresponsible Transgender Woman)

hqdefaultI don’t mean to write everyday.  Honestly, I don’t.  However, when I watch something like this, put out by Blaire White, a 22 year old transgender woman, it makes my irritation rise.   I couldn’t help but respond to her on her YouTube page, and to also write a little here where those seeking answers might find it.  Now, to be clear, I think she is out to make a name for herself (and a career) by taking up positions that could be perceived as incendiary by many members of the LGBTQ community, and this is just another incendiary doozy.

In the spirit of fairness, I’ve included a link to her video for you to watch for yourself:

Transgender Children? No. by Blaire White

My response to her video was as follows, please excuse any grammar issues, I pasted it here as I wrote it:

“Blaire, as the father of a genderfluid son, on the verge of social transition, I think you leave some very important information out out of your video. Puberty blockers cause no lasting harm on a child, and American Endocrine Society guidelines recommend children should not be prescribed blockers until around the age of 11, or for MTFs when they reach what is known as Tanner Stage 2. If a child changes his or her mind then they simply go off the blockers and puberty commences in a normal fashion. As to your comments on hormones…you are correct in that they sterilize, but again the AES recommends children not be started on hormones until the age of 16, two years shy of the age of consent. There are also therapeutic guidelines that must be met before this can be allowed. Jazz Jennings was put on hormones younger, but she had also been living female for about 11 years at that point. Many insurance plans do not cover any procedures, and such procedures can run up and over $20,000, meaning that even if kids want it they couldn’t afford it. Finally, no American surgeon will perform top or bottom surgery until the age of consent, making them…an adult. So, in reality the only irreversible medical care a transgender child would receive does not come until around the age of 16, and then again at the age of consent when they are adults and free to decide. As for the comment about trendy…c’mon, you know better than that. Sure there are some, but no responsible medical professional in the United States would perform the surgery without letters from therapists, and a person having been on hormones for at least a year. I know of numerous therapists who have told their patients…No. Until you get your therapy and medical certifications, leave that to the professionals. Over 40% of transgender kids will attempt suicide before the age of 18, and if these medical interventions can prevent suffering and attempted suicide then they should be valid options. I don’t profess to know you, and your journey, so don’t profess to know others just because you are transgender, that’s like me saying I get what it is to be another person simply because he is a man, or because she is white. Sure we share commonalities, but our experiences may be drastically different. My seven year old does not watch YouTube, social media, etc. He doesn’t even know the term transgender, but what he has been saying since the age of 3 is that he is going to be a girl when he gets older, and that has only become more persistent and urgent in the last year. I think having a solid team of parents, therapist, and medical professionals in place is essential, but if you are going to throw your “expertise” on the internet…facts are always useful along with your opinions. I suspect you may know much of this, but for those looking for answers, I’ll leave this here as a counterpoint.”

This is the kind of thing I hate to see out there in the media, because it might persuade a parent to ignore their child’s pleading request for his or her needs to be met.  It also provides validation for those that believe a child cannot know what he or she wants, as if turning 18 magically gives you wisdom and real common sense.  It also goes against current medical research that has found a younger social transition may be beneficial to a child’s mental health, and ultimately his or her physical well-being.

Finally, I find it funny that a 22 year-old thinks she has the answers for thousands of children world-wide.  I chuckle to myself at the thought of my 22 year-old self giving advice to parents twice my age on any child-rearing topic.

I’m not going to attack Ms. White on any other grounds, and feel I provided more a counterpoint to an attack.  She may be a lovely person, who is just expressing her opinion with good intentions.  However, I’m sick of people expressing opinions without sharing any real facts to back them up.  This can be especially dangerous where desperate people looking for answers might find them.

Feel free to hit the comment button, and let me know what you think…I’m always interested in other viewpoints, especially from other parents and allies.

Opposites Attract

oppositesPeople say when you get married there will be three things that will cause fights throughout the life of your marriage, and they are money, sex, and children.   For the first, the fight will be that there is never enough.  For the second, one person will say there is never enough and the other will say there is too much or just the right amount.  However, when it comes to children the issues become far more complicated.  Marriage, partnerships, etc. bring two people into a relationship that were raised by different parents, have different personalities, and may have different ideas on how to raise their children.  Raising children can be hard enough under the best of circumstances for a husband and wife (my reality, my blog).  Now throw into the mix a child who not only challenges you in normal ways, but challenges your knowledge of what it is to be male or female, or that threatens to take away a son or daughter only to be replaced with a seemingly new child.  This will cause new issues for not only the individual parent, but for the couple as well.

Most blogs seem to paint a bright and vibrant picture filled with humor and happy thoughts, but that isn’t reality, is it?  Certainly those exist, and I will share those moments as well.  You may be thinking, I thought you were going to write about extended families.  That’s what you said in your last blog.  Indeed I did, but something happened yesterday, and while part of the aim here is to help others, it is also for me to work out what is going on for me.  Besides, I think this topic is just as important as the other, and in some ways more so, because it comes before you deal with extended families.

My wife and I have been married for almost 18 years, and we still love each other very much.  While we have many of the same likes and some similar interests, we also have some significant differences and that works for us.  I’m the extrovert in the relationship.  I’m the planner, the fixer, the talker.  We both work full-time, and juggle parenting duties with those at work.  In a world where the mom sets up play dates, and dictates social calendars, etc…in our family that task falls to me and I readily embrace it.  She handles most of your traditional mom duties when it comes to the kids and does a wonderful job, but she is a far more private person.   Shy and reserved until she knows someone, she grew up in a household where things were kept in the family and rarely shared or discussed with outsiders.  I, on the other hand, was raised in a family where there really weren’t any secrets.   As a result, I am an open book, ready to share with the world.

In the case of Fabulous, these differences came to a head last night.  While we’ve talked over the past year, last night was the most we’ve talked about what is happening, at one time.  Earlier in the day we had the realization that maybe we hadn’t been entirely on board with him transitioning, and that we just had to suck it up and make it happen if that is what he wants.  As usual, my mind started running and I thought of reaching out to another parent who I know would be willing to help.  This person is awesome and has already been where we are about to go (Be willing to accept help where offered, even if it is just an ear to vent, or a shoulder to cry on from someone who gets it).  She immediately offered to get together, with or without kids, to talk and answer questions.  I thought it was a great idea.  My wife and I could ask questions, and it would allow her to feel like she isn’t alone.  The problem with my plan was that it was a plan that was perfect for my personality, and not her’s.

At dinner she said she was good with getting together, but I failed to see the growing anxiety in her as the night went on, and this culminated just before bedtime.  I can stand in front of hundreds (and have) to speak and share.  My wife tenses up to share with just one or two people she doesn’t really know.

The crux of the heated discussion last night has to do with Fabulous starting therapy next week.  MomFab doesn’t want to do anything until after he visits the therapist and we can game plan with her.  She’s worried about his safety, his school, his friends, and how a social transition will affect all of them.  In fact, she has been so worried that she told me last night she had yet to fully process what has been going on.

My wife is the worrier of the family, especially when it comes to the kids.  I tend not to worry until the issue arises, but I will have contingency plans in place whenever possible.  In my haste to get plans in place for name changes, possible school change, etc. I’ve also come to terms/processed what is going on from an intellectual perspective. Intellectually, I have accepted it and support what Fabulous wants, but I also know that the first time I have to call him “her”, or send him off to school as my daughter…I will have issues because the emotional doesn’t give a fuck about the intellectual.  I’ll manage and it will get easier, but firsts are never easy.  My wife, on the other hand, hasn’t processed the full situation yet, either intellectually or emotionally, but I also know on the day we send him off as our daughter she will be ready in both ways.

As parents, we worry about screwing up our kids, and for Fabulous this takes on a whole other level of screwing him up.  You worry about the following:

Am I pushing him to transition?

Will the school keep him safe?

Do I need to switch his school?

Will he lose his friends and how will that affect him?

Will he get bullied?

Will he try to hurt himself as a result of any of the above?

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point.  The worries are potentially never-ending, but they are also a variation on worries parents have for their cis-gendered children.  You only need to change the circumstances of the situation to see that.

My wife worries that questions I ask Fabulous may cause him to move forward with something, or to gain a revelation.  I try to explain to her that nothing I say or do is going to change who he is.  If he is a girl, my words aren’t going to change that, and if he isn’t then my words aren’t going to make him one.  She knows this truth, but her fear is that he chooses to move forward before we have the safety net in place.  I told her last night that he may choose to move forward without us, and that I’m only trying to get as much in place as possible before that happens.

The beauty of being a couple is that you can each play to your strengths.  I can talk to other parents, gain an understanding of what they did.  I can get the do’s and dont’s, the “if I had it to do over agains,” and I can bring them home to share.  MomFab doesn’t have to meet with others until she is ready, because I am equipped and willing to do so.  Instead, she can focus on building a plan with the therapist, and worrying about many of the little things that I simply do not worry about.  In the end, this makes the plan better and more complete.

As parents, we can focus on our differences, or we can embrace them and use them to our family’s advantage.  In the end, we both want Fabulous to grow up to be as happy and safe as possible.  We don’t have to be on the same page every step of the way, as long as we are on the same page when those big decisions need to be made.  As parents we need to be able to lean on each other, to talk it out, and even when we don’t agree to be able to see the other person’s point of view.

It’s OK if your spouse isn’t on the same page right now, and it’s ok to see the situation differently, just keep communicating.  If the love is there, it will get you where you want to go.  You don’t have to be open with others, as long as you are open with each other.  I don’t know how much this helped others, but this was a ramble that I needed to write as I processed what happened last night, so at the very least…I feel better.

Next time:  I’m thinking of writing about the whole “being ready for a child’s transition”, and the excuses we make to put it off.  I think we all do this, and it might be valid to write about it and really look at how I’ve really been feeling about the whole thing.  I promise I will get to the extended family issue.

(Finally, feel free to hit like at the bottom of these posts for the posts you like.  It helps me to know what resonates with people, and it can get the blog shared with others who are out there looking to connect.)

Boy Heart Vs Girl Heart

gfluidThis is our gender fluid experience.  Fabulous will readily tell you whether happy or sad that his girl heart and his boy heart are always fighting.  On a particularly bad day, he first shared that his “boy heart is bullying his girl heart and won’t stop.”  This is what it is like to be him on an everyday basis, and yet he finds a way to get through most days happy and exuberant about life.  I’d like to think part of his outlook on life has to do with they way his mother, brother, and myself support and love him.  In the home he can be whoever he wants to be.  Sundays when many go to church, Fabulous usually has a “girl day” where he slips into a dress and asks us to use female pronouns.  Sometimes, he seems a little happier, always a little sassier, and there are times he seems a little more confrontational, especially with  his mom.

Mondays begin the school week, and walking along the cliff’s edge of the line between boy and girl.  He will quickly tell you that he is part boy and part girl, but if he could choose it would be all girl.  He doesn’t understand yet, or isn’t ready to take the step towards saying “I am a girl.”  Instead, he still says, “I want to be a girl.”  However, I can see that the urgency is growing, but I also think there are some “boy” things he isn’t ready to let go of, and that he will not be able to keep once he decides to step over the transition line.

He is a competitive gymnast, and is quite good for his age.  Most questions you ask him will favor the feminine or girl side of him, but if asked about gymnastics he will say that he wants to do boy’s gymnastics, because he loves it.  He already spends nine hours practicing a week, and would practice more if he could.  I don’t know if the thought of doing girl’s gymnastics has crossed his mind, but he does understand the apparatus are different, and that he still has a boy’s body.  See, even though we’ve discussed girls who were born boys, and even though we’ve read “I am Jazz,” and watched videos, he still thinks one day he will just wake up and be a girl.

There are mixed schools of thought in regards to what we share with our children.  There are parents who share everything early on, and for some kids they might understand some of it, but probably not all of it.  We choose to share with Fabulous what we think he needs to know.  He’s a little kid, and legal issues, etc. hold no interest for him, nor should they.  We prefer to let him dictate what he needs to keep him happy.  A doctor friend of mine used a well known phrase that says:

“Do the least amount you can to alleviate distress”

To date this has worked well for him.  When he expresses a desire for something that would ease his heart, we meet that desire.  However, there are some things we are powerless to fix, and other events that we can only react to after the fact.  The first two months of school saw him bullied by boys who thought his fairly gender neutral kitten backpack was too girly…never mind his girl tennis shoes and socks.  Mom witnessed one incident of the boys yelling at him that he had a “girl backpack, and so he must be a girl.”  The adults with the boy just stared and did nothing.  Fabulous held his head high like he had no fucks to give and kept walking.  Mom addressed it with the principal and the bullying stopped in after school.  One month later we found out it never stopped, but simply continued in school, until it culminated with the boys cornering him in the bathroom with all of them taking turns slapping his arm as he tried to exit the bathroom.  This time when the principal found out she went ballistic, making all the boys apologize, and then calling their parents to inform them what their sons had done.  Their parents, thankfully, were horrified and in the time that has passed since, the boys have been far better with one even having eaten lunch with Fabulous.  This is the life of a gender fluid boy.  He doesn’t fit in with the boys, and yet he doesn’t fully fit in with the girls.

So what about the girls?  They’ve been great.  His best friends, really his only friends are all girls.  He has a posse of three, with Wonderful still his best friend.  They keep him in a safe zone, complement his clothes, and treat him mostly as one of them.  He even had a sleepover at Wonderful’s house with another little girl, but that even ended badly because the morning saw him reminded that he wasn’t a girl, and so he lashed out at his friends who were.  Luckily, being his best friends they forgave him, and things have moved on.  Before that event, only his brother, mother, and myself have felt the sting of that lash, which means he feels really close to Wonderful, and is a complement to her love of him.

What my son has taught me so far:

There are people who say parents push this on their kids, or it’s a phase, or they’re choosing to be this way and can snap out of it.  Perhaps if you read this, you’ve dealt with those comments from friends, family, or strangers.  When I hear this, I think of my son, and the daily struggle within.  There is no way in hell he would choose to be this way, to feel his heart is constantly at war with itself.  As a three year old he picked toys his brother liked, because he was a boy and his brother was his image of what a little boy was.  It took me telling him to get what he wanted, and then buying it for him to open the flood gate of girl toys that we have bought for him since then.  It’s been this way for every step he has taken, always worried what others will think, or if his next choice will make his mom or me love him a little less.  It breaks my heart, brings me to tears thinking of how hard it must be to be him, and yet through it all he marches to his own beat, and finds joy in the world around him.

If you have a child, a grandson, or a friend who is going through this, then know that the greatest thing you can do is to love them and listen to them.  You aren’t going through what they are, and you don’t have to live their life.  If you struggle to understand or accept then you need to ask yourself, “What are you afraid of?  Embarrassment?”  What are you embarrassed of?  Were they rude?  Disrespectful?  Did they insult someone?  If all they’re doing is living their truth then you should be embarrassed of yourself, not them.  Life is hard enough without making up shit to be embarrassed about.

Some parents say they decided to accept their child because they could either have a “dead son, or a living daughter.”  While I understand the sentiment, this isn’t why I accept and cheer on Fabulous.  I push for him and cheer him on, because like any good parent…I want him to be happy.  Mom and I hope that if we do our job right that we can minimize depression, and give him the confidence to hold his head high as he moves forward in life.

In closing, I can say that it would certainly be easier if tomorrow he decided he was all boy or all girl, because we could better game plan our next steps, but that wouldn’t be his truth.  As parents, the hardest thing for many to accept is that, it isn’t about you.  It isn’t about making them adhere to what you want, or to be their best friend.  You are their parent.  You’re job is to love them unconditionally, teach them about life, and how to be independent adults when they grow up.  If you can do that, then you’ve done your job.  Mom and I do our best, and while doing that we love the shit out of both of our boys.

Next Blog Post:

Is this a teaser?  Sort of…Actually, I have a great idea for a post, and this will serve to remind me when I go to write it.  Next post, I’ll talk about extended family…how the grandparents, aunts and uncles who are in the know have handled it so far, and navigating the questions that come from older generations who want to understand but struggle to do so.  BTW, Fabulous has received nothing but love and affection from all who have been clued in to his fabulous ways.

Fast Forward Six Months!!!

malFast forward six months and I am back.  I should be working right now, but instead I’m writing a post for a blog I have not touched in quite awhile.

Why Now?

That’s a good question, I’ve been asking myself the same thing while thinking about writing this blog again.  The summer saw Fabulous go full on boy.  He was at camp, doing sports and around boys all the time, and so the defenses went up.  He’s already a master at hiding himself.  However, as summer came to an end, the girl in him started to re-emerge.  And his expression of who he is on the inside has only become more insistent.  He has worn dresses outside of the house, had a sleepover with the girls, and been mistaken on several occasions as a little girl.  However, the happiness all this brings is momentary.  Usually, it ends in a sadness that all of it reminds him, he isn’t a girl.  For the first time he has expressed dislike of his genitalia because it also reminds him of what he isn’t.  Due to all this, we have found a therapist that he will begin sessions with in the coming weeks.  As his mother and I anticipate changes my mind begins to spin as I try to find solid footing in a gender-fluid world.

Who Will Read?

Whoever wants to…other dads, moms, siblings, or kids seeking to know that there are those of us who who find it brave of them to stand up and seek their own truth.  I write because I enjoy it, and because, in this case, it might help someone feel like they’re not alone.  I find writing therapeutic.  On top of all this, there are tons of blogs, books, video journals, and podcasts by mothers of transgender spectrum kids, but little is heard from the male side of the parenting team.  Personally, I think this sucks.  There is no doubt that moms are crucial, and often their children’s biggest champions.  I’ll be the first to say my wife does so much more in the day to day taking care of the children, and that we would be lost without her.  However, there is much that a dad can do to help a transgender child find his or her truth.  In the case of Fabulous, he looks to me for safety, and he looks to me for approval.  He knows he has his mother’s, but as an assigned male he wants to know that I am ok with something before he jumps in with both feet.  My approval makes him feel empowered, and it is such an easy thing to give.  He has his own life to live, and I have mine.

When will I write?

Whenever the mood strikes me.  When I have something to say, or whenever I just need to work something out.  My goal, first and foremost, is to be the best dad I can be to Fabulous and to his brother, who I’ll call Sport.  I will try to write at least once a week, but if I don’t that just means I’m busy working and being a dad.  My hope is to learn something about myself, and if others gain insight then so much the better.

What about comments?

I will try to respond and and read comments.  Rude comments and nasty comments will be deleted.  My blog, my rules.  I don’t tolerate hate, and it has no place here.

Anonymity?

Those who find themselves here and know who I am, or who my family is, please do not out us.  There are many families and people who live stealth for good reason, and while we don’t live stealth per se, we’re not ready to be outed either as I believe control of the flow of information is crucial.

Fun Stuff?

I can’t end this post without something fun.  You may have noticed the picture for this blog, and it’s a tip of the hat to Fabulous, who will  be going as Mal for Halloween.  She’s his favorite movie character, and when the costume came he was over the moon excited about it.  We even got him some purple Doc Marten’s to go with the costume.

His birthday is around the corner, and for it he has asked to have his three best girlfriends from school over to celebrate.  He initially wanted to play games and play dress up.  Two of his BFFs know about him, but we don’t know the third one or her parents, and so reality strikes home.  Do we take the chance?  Do we run the risk?  My wife, Mom of Fabulous, or MomFab for short, will talk to Wonderful’s mom to see if she knows the other girl’s parents.  In the mean time we’ve talked Fabulous into going to see a movie with his friends.  They’ll still have fun and we’ll breath easier.

Conclusion

I’ve received some positive encouragement to start this up again…so to those of you who positively nudged me forward, thank you?  Seriously though, it’s nice to share thoughts, laugh, cry, and share angry thoughts together.  After all, nobody gets us like we get each other.  I listened to part of a podcast this morning where an 8 year old MtF expressed a desire to have a play date with another girl “like her.”  As she explained to her mom, it wasn’t because she didn’t have friends, but rather because spending time with a girl like her made her not feel all alone.  Hearing it, and thinking of Fabulous, I couldn’t help but choke down some tears at the thought that he might ever feel this way.  It also encouraged me to do this, because as parents of these special kids we need each other, and we need to remember that we’re not alone.  Even when other parents are assholes, when schools are intolerant, when churches condemn us and our families, and hardest of all, when friends and family desert us or we are forced to cut them out of our lives…we have  each other.  For me, family isn’t only blood (both my sons were fostered before we adopted them), family are those people who have your back, people you can call on for help and you know they will be there, no questions asked simply because they are needed.

I’ll probably post one more time this weekend, so come along for a ride if you want.  I’ll be around, and I’m always willing to share  and listen to those who need it.