Trans*forming Family

thoughts on the transition journey of our entire family, from the proud mother of a transgender youth

I’m not sure what “normal” means, but i think it feels like this

It’s been a while since i’ve posted anything here, and historically that has meant that things aren’t going well. This time, however, it means that we’ve been busy having a very “normal”-feeling life.

Jacob* has taught me over the last few years to refrain from using the word normal, but in this instance i think it’s the best word to describe the sense of calm and okay-ness that we are all feeling. Instead of worrying over whether or not Jacob is eating or whether i might find that he has harmed himself and fearing that i am going to lose him, i’m back to thinking about the typical day-to-day worries about the health of our aging pets and repairing the broken water heater and what to make for dinner.

In the early days of learning i had a transgender child, the fact that my child is trans was at the forefront of my mind. Now, he’s just my 16-year-old who…oh yeah…happens to be transgender.

At our PFLAG meetings, there’s an introductory part of our circle where we share our inspiration for being part of the group. I’ve pretty much always said that my son is my inspiration for being there — to support him and to learn, and to be there for other parents who are newer to the journey. At our most recent gathering i found myself saying that i am also there because, along the way, we have come to know and care about many other transgender people too, and i’ve made some really good friends that i want to support as well. I started down this road feeling very much like a mom all alone in the world, and i am now surrounded by amazing people that i love and am so very grateful to know.

Our lives have changed a lot in the last few years, and i’m happy with our evolution and i love our new normal. Thanks for being part of our journey! I look forward to sharing more of it with you.

*Jacob is the name i use for my son on this blog to protect his privacy

On being a cisgender ally to the transgender community

By now, most everyone with any interest in transgender issues has seen — or at least read about — the Piers Morgan interview with Janet Mock, her response to the sensationalistic and dehumanizing way the details of her life were presented, and the follow-up interview.

One thing that kept standing out to me in all of this was Piers Morgan’s repeated assertion that he is an ally to the transgender community, even while dismissing concerns about the framing of the interview as ridiculous.

I believe the term ally is a title that one cannot and should not impart upon oneself; it should be bestowed by members of the community one is being an ally to, only after allyship is demonstrated through behavior. And so, when someone uses “But I’m your ally!” as a defense on being called out for transphobia, homophobia, sexism, racism, or any other such behavior — that’s a pretty good sign for me that no, they aren’t, and they really don’t even understand what being an ally means.

On that note, i want to share two great pieces that have been written recently by bloggers i follow on just this subject:

If you know of other articles or essays on allyship that you think are helpful and useful, please share!

Outing a Trans Person is an Act of Violence

The World Health Organization defines violence as:

definition of violence from WHO

“The intentional use of physical force or power, threatened or actual, against oneself, another person, or against a group or community, that either results in or has a high likelihood of resulting in injury, death, psychological harm, maldevelopment or deprivation.”

 

A few days ago, i started seeing some buzz on Twitter about a piece written about a golf club that outed a trans woman. I have no interest in golf at all — could not care any less about it — but the emotional responses to the article led me to seek it out.

The first thing i noticed is that the article is really long. And, it starts out as a somewhat boring tale of a guy looking up info about golf clubs. I continued only because i had a hint of what was to follow, and the more i continued, the more horrified and sickened i became.

It’s the tale of the writer seeking out the inventor of a revolutionary golf club, who later discovers that the inventor is a transgender woman. In his initial contact with her, she made it Very Clear that their conversations would be about her invention only, and not about her personal life. He proceeded to communicate with her under this pretense.

However, the author couldn’t seem to stand the fact that he couldn’t meet his subject face-to-face. He was obsessed in a very creepy-stalker type way with verifying every iota of her personal background information. Months of scouring and snooping led him to the information that the inventor had been assigned male at birth.

Now, i would like to think that any decent, ethical human being would have stopped right there and thought: “Okay, i get it. She created this elaborate story about her past working on top-secret government projects, and she didn’t want to meet face-to-face, because she doesn’t want folks to know she is transgender. I will drop this because it’s not relevant to the story i’m writing about a high-tech golf club.”

But, no — not this author. He apparently fancied himself some sort of cross between Sherlock Holmes and Bill O’Reilly, and instead went seeking out her relatives and former associates and even delved into public records and police reports to find out everything he could about her pre-transition life. He went to the inventor’s former business associates to get their reaction to the news he was springing on them that she had “once been a man”. This is a level of assholery most folks would be ashamed to admit to, much less proudly put into print and then tweet out to the internet.

He then went to the inventor with his “discovery”, and she accurately told him that he was about to commit a hate crime by going public with this information. But hey, without disclosing her transgender status, he’d just have a boring story about golf that a limited audience would care about, i guess. So, he refused to listen to what even he described as her “desperate” plea to stop him from publishing this information, and before the story was published, she took her own life. The author then had the audacity to call his retelling of these heinous events a eulogy.

American Trans Man wrote, almost two years ago, a great post titled 14 Reasons Why It’s Not Okay To Out Someone As Trans. It’s a very good list. I have another reason; very similar to his #1 but stated more directly: it is an act of violence.

 

Coming Out Again, Again

A few nights ago, Jacob* and i had an interesting conversation about how much everyone in our household has changed since learning that he is transgender. He said that he not only feels like he has lived two different lives, but in some ways, he feels like he has had two different families as well.

Before i knew i had a trans child, i considered myself pretty progressive and socially aware. My spouse / Jacob’s dad was (and still is) part of the LGBTQ resource group where he works as a straight ally, and we had lesbian and gay friends. We donated time and money when possible to local and national organizations that work to advance human rights, social justice, and equality.

However, i was really ignorant about transgender issues as well as many other concerns of various marginalized groups, and totally unaware of my own privilege. In my household we used terminology, made jokes, and were okay with television programs and movies that, while not outright racist and/or transphobic, were definitely insensitive and offense, and we were just totally clueless on the matter. We were all products of a society which sends a message that the default is white, heterosexual, and cisgender — and anything other than that is an aberration.

Coming Out

The first time my son “came out” to us, it was to tell me that he is a boy. We had known him as our daughter for 13 years, and, being mostly unfamiliar with trans* issues, this was all new territory. We educated ourselves as much as possible with books, websites, youtube videos, blogs, online parent forums, and in-person support groups. Looking back, i realize that we were doing a lot more than just learning about how to support our child — we were unlearning a lifetime of heteronormative, cisnormative, gender-binary dogma. But, unlearning is a much slower process than learning, i think!

Coming Out Again

I had, only half-jokingly, often encouraged my son — before i knew he was transgender and when i still thought of him as my daughter — to be a lesbian. I sort-of imagined this child growing up to be a “strong independent woman who don’t need no man.” I think he humored me with that thought enough that i actually began to believe that my girl was at least somewhat into girls. So, when i learned that he was a boy, that heteronormative thinking i mentioned kicked right in and i automatically assumed he was into girls. I remember saying: “So this is why you were always attracted to feminine guys, right? Because they look like girls!” He responded with a “Heh” and i can imagine he was cringing inside. I cringe now to think of it.

And so, his second “coming out” was to tell us that he is trans and gay. Well, okay, that made sense to us, his immediate family here in the house of folks who have been transforming in thought as he transitions in body. But, when some of our relatives learned that he had a boyfriend, they had questions like: “Does this mean he is changing his mind about being a boy?” At first i was offended by that, but then i remembered my early assumptions and biases and know i just have to be patient and gentle.

Coming Out Again, Again

Speaking of that “changing his mind” question — his most recent realization about his identity is sure to bring that one more than anything thus far. But, i am confident that if i and the members of my household have come as far as we have in learning and unlearning, anyone and everyone can.

What is this realization? I will let him share this third “coming out” with you himself! He puts it into words so much better than i ever could. You can read all about it on his new blog, here:

Am I “Changing My Mind”?

jet black rainbow blog image

Finding Color In A Jet Black Rainbow :: My Son’s Blog

 

(Please follow and show him nothing but love. Thanks!)

*Jacob is the name i use at this blog to ensure my son’s privacy

“learning how not to worry”

koi pond at hotel near surgeon's office

koi pond at hotel near surgeon’s office

January 1st marked the turning of a new year; it also marked exactly three months since Jacob’s* surgery.

These last few months have felt like a new era in our home. My child, who for so long was withdrawn and depressed, is now cheerfully making positive plans for his short-term and long-term future.

For me, this has taken some adjustment. Since i first realized how serious his depression was several years ago, i’ve spent nearly every waking moment worrying about my son. I monitored his voice for the slightest signs of a change in mood, i examined his facial expressions for hints of distress, and i questioned him incessantly about how he was feeling and what he needed to help make things better.

Then, suddenly, he got what he needed: thanks to the testosterone injections he began last April and the chest reconstruction surgery in October, his voice and body fit him, and he has blossomed.

Yet, i was still conditioned to be on the alert for my depressed child — the one i must worry about constantly. So, for example, when i saw him wearing a hoodie in the house, my first thought was that he was once again sad and trying to hide from the world. But…he was just cold.

And when i saw him taking a nap in the middle of the afternoon, it had to be due to depression, i thought. But…he was just sleepy.

And so on.

I started to feel like i just didn’t know what to do with myself. I went from worrying about him practically all the time — definitely to the point that i’d neglected other things — to no longer needing to worry obsessively. And without worrying i felt lost. In sharing this with a friend, he replied that after everything we’ve been through in the past few years, learning how not to worry must be the best thing!

And it is.

*Jacob is the name i use for my son at this blog to protect his privacy

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