Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Popping the Bubble

Today something caught me off guard, in a deeply emotional way.

I heard someone say something... In passing... About a transgender person.

Now, this happens often. People say things. I stay quiet, I walk away, I don't take it personally, and, after all, I remind myself that it's not always my battle. I stay focused on my sphere of influence and I create distance. I've created a very safe bubble where our family exists.

But, today, for a brief moment, that bubble burst. And I began sobbing uncontrollably.

I know that the conversation wasn't meant to hurt me, and I wasn't angry. Angry is not the right word. It was just that I felt pain on a level I hadn't in quite some time. All of a sudden this realization hit me... That one day, Atty will have to step out of this bubble, and when she does, she will be limited and defined by this one tiny little thing. And it gutted me.

It gutted me because Atty is this profoundly beautiful little being. She is full of wisdom and love. She is radiant.

And yet still people will say "She is pretty... For being transgender."

God.

It kills me to think of it.

Her absolutely gentle heart will be overlooked by some who can only think of her as "really a boy."

Let me just take is moment to tell you who Atty is.

Atty will find you if you fall asleep anywhere other than your bed and cover you with a blanket and kiss your forehead.

Atty will rub your feet with essential oils no matter how grumpy you have been because she knows you are tired and don't feel well.

Atty will forgive you for anything and everything.

Atty cries when she knows she can't carry babies in her tummy and wonders if her brothers will give one of their babies to her one day. Atty wants to adopt all of the children who don't have families.

Atty will take care of the housework if you are sick.

Atty will always save you the last bite of something delicious no matter how much she wants it because she knows you will enjoy it, too.

Atty will sing "Let it Go" at the top of her lungs when things don't go her way.

Atty will talk to you on the phone for hours when you are lonely.

Atty will wait in bed and stay awake until you can come in to kiss her goodnight.

And when shitty things happen, like being told she can't change in the girls locker room, and her dad has to pick her up so she can change at his office and then take her back to the pool, or the Rec Center  debates taking her because they "don't want the other parents to worry about their kids seeing her", or when another mother schedules a play date with us only to cancel when she finds out Atty is transgender, Atty is forgiving and compassionate and and far more gracious than anyone I have ever met.

And it's going to be society's loss if they choose to see her through the lens of "even though" when she is seen so clearly and brilliantly through the lens of "is".





Monday, April 28, 2014

It's a Big World

Three weeks ago, a friend and I went to the Body Love Conference in Tucson, Arizona. A few weeks before the conference, you could sign up for the classes you wanted to attend. I immediately noticed a Transgender Panel was one of the first classes offered in the morning and I signed up.

I wasn't sure what to expect, but I just wanted to hear from people who had been there. We're lucky because we have a community that is accepting, but Atty doesn't know any other kids like her.  I know as a parent, it gets lonely. I don't know personally any other parents like me. We have very few resources when it comes down to it. We're sort of forging our own path. And for right now, that's easy. But it certainly gets harder from here.

The panel consisted of three people who gave us some insight into their experiences and what their journeys have been like. They all transitioned later in life and they expressed their moments of clarity, when they honestly allowed themselves to hear the truth from that place deep inside. When they allowed themselves to be who they really were.

It was so powerful. I have been going through my own transformation in the sense that I lived life the best way I could, in a certain context, because I thought it would make me happy. However, I wasn't happy. I had not been honest with myself and I began to see that I was not living an authentic life. And changing was hard - and IS hard. People thinking you've lost your mind, that you're being reckless, that you are just going through a phase, etc... I feel self-conscious about choices I'm making,  and altering others' perceptions of who I am. And I recognize that what I am going through is small potatoes compared to their experiences, but it gave me strength and perspective. Strangely enough for myself and for Atty.

They were so confident and strong and the energy was so positive. Everyone told their stories and for no reason in particular I started crying. I wasn't sobbing, I wasn't sad, I was just happy and comforted to know that there were people out there that would be a community for Atty. Just knowing there is a place for her.  I know the road gets harder from here. But I saw those human beings who had overcome and transcended and they were absolutely glorious. The thought of Atty being there one day, fully realized, beyond fear, just felt triumphant. In that moment I was crying because I was overwhelmed with gratitude that Atty is in my life, that the world is changing, that people are evolving, and that together we can rise above this limited perspective we've created.

One person said: "I don't want to be seen as anything other than a human being." We don't allow anyone to be the fullest versions of themselves when we label them: Man. Woman. Skinny. Fat. Mom. Wife. Employee. Sick. Athletic. Girl. Boy. No one gets to be their whole selves when we see the world in such a narrow way. Each label does damage not only on its own, but it brings with it personal bias, cultural expectations and definitions, personal baggage, etc...

When I left that panel I was visibly shaking with energy and light and love. I'm an infinite number of things that can't be contained or defined. So is Atty. So are you. Let's do humanity a favor and be everything we are.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

We're Still Here

I regret not updating this blog more, but I'll be honest, in the realm of Atty, everything is pretty great. Everything else has been an absolute mess... but luckily things with Atty have been calm. I think this is the quiet part we get to enjoy before hormones, and lots of Doctors appointments and the roller coaster that will be teenage life.

It's been an interesting six months or so. I've been in a personal place of exploration and transition that often feels like a free fall. But it's necessary and ultimately will be beneficial. I have Atty to thank for that. In whatever ways I thought I was open minded and liberal before her transition, I've learned that my mind wasn't even close to being expanded. 

While I often doubt my ability to parent not just a transgender child, but any children in general, I know Atty came to me for a reason. When I think back on the last couple of years, I'm amazed at how much my life has changed. I'm less afraid, I'm more honest with myself and others, I'm more adventurous, I'm less judgmental, I'm more able to see things in context, and I'm able to take chances. I owe all of that to Atty. I learned those things both from her and from parenting her.

Once, when I was talking to the kids about a chronic illness of mine, I apologized and said "I know we can't always do everything you want to do because mommy is sick, I'm sorry about that." She said "It's ok, mom. You took care of us when we were babies, it's our turn to take care of you." And she was right. We all take care of each other when we need it. There is no keeping score, no guilt. Just coming to the aid of someone else when it's necessary. She's shown me genuinely pure compassion and it has been enormously powerful. And I don't mean it lightly when I say she has changed everything about my life, top-to-bottom, inside-out.

Sometimes it's hard to find meaning in the chaos, but there always is. And as I look back at how my life has unfolded up to this point, I see purpose in every step. Not always joy, but always purpose. 


Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Secrets

The other day Atty and I were making dinner and she said "Did you know I told [so and so] from school that I am a boy?"

I have to admit, I panicked a bit. In fact, I more than panicked. If I am being completely honest, I felt a little angry. My head was filled with "Why would you do that?! You didn't ask me!" and other selfish thoughts along that line. Luckily, that day I was being rational (a rare occurrence, indeed) and actually thought twice before I spoke.

I calmly asked how the subject came up and how the conversation went. Atty was pretty nonchalant about it. She couldn't remember everything she said. But she did mention that after she told her friend, her friend simply said "I know." And they continued to play.

In my ideal world, we would never have to worry about people finding out. I wouldn't get panicky. In my ideal world, Atty would live her life like any other little girl.

But here we are. Living in a world where parents who raise transgender children are told they should be in prison for child abuse, and transgender children can't use public restrooms as the gender they identify with.

So I sat Atty down and we had a heart to heart.

"Atty,"  I said, "There is nothing you need to feel ashamed of. Ever. You are such a wonderful human being. I never want you to feel like you are keeping secrets or that you have to hide certain things about yourself. But, there are people in this world who don't understand you. And if you tell the wrong person, they might want to hurt you or be unkind to you."

I swear, sitting there, looking into Atty's kind, beautiful eyes, I felt like I was going to break down. I wanted to cry about how horrifying it was to even imagine for one second that someone would treat Atty, who is the epitome of love and compassion, with anything other than respect.

She didn't get upset. She didn't get scared. She said "I know." Which was simultaneously sad and wonderful. Sad because she knows people have rejected her and will reject her, and wonderful because she is capable of shouldering the responsibilities (even though I do my best to carry the load, I'm afraid that there is a portion of it I can never take from her, which is almost too much to bear sometimes).

In the end, we agreed that if she was feeling close to someone, and wanted to talk about it, she could ask me first if I thought it was a good idea. Then I would be prepared to deal with possible questions from parents/kids as well as simply being aware of who knew.

And I worked with her a little bit on her phrasing. Every now and then I like to check in with her and see how she is feeling, as some kids gender expression may go through phases or become more fluid. So I asked if she was a girl or a boy. She said she was a girl. I asked her what she felt like in her heart. She said she felt like a girl in her heart and mind. I told her she didn't need to say she was "really a boy" if she knew she was a girl. That if the time comes, and she wants to tell someone, she can say that her brain and her heart tell her she is a girl, she just has boy parts.

My (unexpressed) gut reaction to her wanting to share this aspect of herself with others was: "Why make things harder? Just be yourself and don't worry about it." But ultimately I had to acknowledge within myself that I would need or want to share with someone I loved that there was another facet of me. Atty had found someone who was important to her and felt like she was ready to trust her with sacred information.

I have to say, I admire her authenticity.

She wants to be her whole self with the people who love her. It took me 30 years to do that.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

I'm Back

Dear readers (if there are any left)...

I had a crazy summer. We travelled a lot, underwent some home improvement projects, and I started some new medications that did a number on me.

I've often thought of getting back to my blogs, but the thought of writing after all this time felt daunting. Even though it's just a little blog, it's been a wonderful outlet for me. And letting it go for the summer was hard, and it was always in the back of my mind.

I knew if I went much longer I wouldn't ever start again.

So here I am.

My sister called me the other day. She was upset with someone she met who had commented on a recent law about transgender bathrooms.  I won't relay all of the details of the conversation, but at one point, the other person had mentioned that it was good transgender kids had separate bathrooms, so their kids wouldn't "have to be exposed to that kind of thing." My sister let her know which end was up and did her best to educate this person (as much as she could), but we just took a moment (or twenty) to discuss the tragic idea that a child like Atty would somehow need to be kept away from the general population.

I guess a part of the conversation was how some boys would fake being transgender so they could look at girls in the bathroom or locker room. My mind still hasn't quite wrapped around the idea of this. And I don't think it ever will. It's so insane that I don't think my brain will waste time trying to process it.

A child like Atty isn't sexualizing anything, and shouldn't be viewed in a sexual way. They just want to fit in, and since we've created a fairly close-minded gender binary, there are few places for them to fit.

"Imagine resigning yourself to not ever using the bathroom in a public place. For trans people, this is often a reality. Those who are in transition or do not pass on the outside as "clearly male" or "clearly female" are thrown out of both men's and women's restrooms on a daily basis. Some places provide "unisex" or "family" restrooms, but the majority do not. If a transperson wants to go out and enjoy a concert, sporting event, or simply a day outside the home, he or she must make concessions that most people never have to think about." - Huffington Post

The school bathroom situation is constantly in the news. Parents who are worried that their children will somehow be traumatized by another six year old using the bathroom will take a family to court, fighting for, what they will call "morals." A lot of time and money would be saved if these parents would just sit down with their kids and talk to them openly and honestly. Kids get it, you know. They really do. The only kids we've come across who have been rude, have parents who have been rude to us as well. All it takes is, for young kids, the simple explanation "______ has boy/girl parts, but their heart and mind is really boy/girl, and that's how they see themselves, and that's how they want to be seen." The fact that we treat all people with kindness and respect should be a given. Kids have open hearts and minds, and I truly count on Atty's peers to make the world a place where she can thrive. Let's not, as parents, ruin it by projecting our own prejudices and insecurities onto them. 

Because this happened on Friday, and I'm begging you, please, no more. 

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Atty's Birthday

Atty's birthday was in May and I only recently got around to posting about her year on our family blog:

Atty is SEVEN!