Hey Thing! Come back already!!!

It’s not quite 7am and everyone’s angry.  That thing we got, that thing everyone else seemed to have but we didn’t, then we got it and it was awesome, it’s still lurking somewhere, still here, still a new part of our family, but maybe having a morning off.

It started with Izzy collecting me from my bed at 527am.  We snuggled up and waited for the “wake up” light. The thing was present.
At 6am, wake up time alerted by the arrival of pink muted light, I tumbled in to the lounge to search for diamond shaped jewels.  As a mum is oft to do.

At 602 I observed the thing grab it’s hat and gloves and slip silently out the door.

One glance at Freddie explained it all, the things sudden departure, the electricity in the air, the tense look on Harry’s face – we had a ticking bomb sprawled on the sofa and it was about to detonate.

Freddie has a new fixation.  It’s his birthday list.  People have asked him what he would like, he’s told them and now we are trying  to manage his expectations.  Because Freddie has those ASD traits, life is black and white for him.  If you ask him what he’d like for lunch and he says pancakes with bacon and maple syrup don’t be making pikelets with butter and jam.  Do you see what I mean?  

So when Freddie says, in a tense voice that I didn’t immediately pick up on, “Grandma’s getting me the Camel Back and you can get me…” I cut him off with a light hearted (foolish) reply – “No, Grandma’s got you something else.  I’m getting you the Camel Back.”

What the Dickens’s was I thinking?  Had I lost my mind? Temporarily, yes I guess I had, but only for a split second, then my life flashed before my eyes, as the road train that is Freddie jumped in to fifth gear and prepared to run me off the road. I think there was a scream of “Take no prisoners!”, then before I knew it the road train had rattled past, a door slammed three times and I was left shaken, but still wondering where those diamond shaped jewels might be hiding.

So for us it’s about constantly being on the alert, weighing what we say and how we say it.  But we’re not perfect, so far from perfect.  We forget.  We forget, and all hell breaks loose.  We wonder why, we turn on each other, we lay blame and point fingers until eventually the knowledge resurfaces, we reset, repair and on we march.

So old Freddie has retreated to my room, to watch the Fire Safety DVD he got at school last year.  He’s watched it possibly 100 times and can speak with great authority on the matter.  Watching this allows him to find the black and white he craves.  He’s retreated to a place where everything makes sense and nothing changes.  His own place of peace where his thing lurks.

It’s now 725am and I feel calmer having got this out.  Freddie feels safe in his cocoon.  Miss Izzy is tucked up in bed watching Sophia the First eating her breakfast (now when I say “Miss Izzy is tucked up in bed watching Sophia the First eating her breakfast”, what I actually mean is ” Miss Izzy is tucked up in bed, watching Sofia the First, eating her breakfast”.  Miss Izzy actually would be happy to watch Sofia the First eat her breakfast, she really loves Sofia the First, but that isn’t what she was doing).  Harry has made a second cup of coffee and is emercing himself in my book – The Transgender Child. The thing has let itself back in and is quietly hanging it’s hat and gloves up, ready to reenter our lives.

This isn’t how I pictured family life.  I would have been horrified to imagine my kids with “TV babysitters” while I tap away at my device.  I’m not the mother I thought I’d be. I thought I’d be better than this.  But  what I’ve learnt about myself is that – I’m only human, I have flaws and fragility.  I can’t be everything to everyone all the time.  And that raising two, dare I use this term – special needs kids, is challenging.  

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Nothing surprising was allowed to happen

Just minutes before it was time to pick Freddie up today, Izzy brought a book to my knee that I’ve had since I was a child.  As I read the first couple of pages, that lump formed in my throat, and like the opening quote from “The Troublesome Offspring…” it spoke to me in a way it never had before.  I think that’s the very reason I have a selection of books I always return to, because as I grow, so does the meaning I derive  from them.

Excerpt from “The Cookie Tree” By Jay Williams.

The village of Owlgate was quiet and tidy, and nothing surprising ever happened there.  Everything had a place, and everything was in it’s place.  Everybody knew why things happened and everything happened just as it was supposed to.  Nothing surprising ever happened there because nothing surprising was allowed to happen.  “That way,” said the people of Owlgate, with satisfaction, “you always know where you are.”

One morning, in the center of the village, a strange tree appeared.  It had not been there the night before, but it was there this morning.  It was a small tree with bark that shone like silver, and round golden leaves that twinkled in the sun.  And under every leaf there hung what looked like a chocolate cookie.

If you’re familiar with this book you’ll know that the children in the village accept the tree’s existence without question, but the adults have great difficulty.

I guess I’m searching for explanations: what makes it difficult for some, but so easy for others to accept Izzy’s transition?  What is it about us that defines the way we reacted to the news?  Is it nature or nurture or more likely a mixture of both?  But what events or experiences must go in to the mix to place a person on one side or the other?  I’m not sure if these are the right questions, I wish I knew a great philosopher, but it’s this which is churning around and around in my head.  Not anger, disappointment or even sadness, just a great yearning to understand – why?

 

 

 

It’s ok

Yesterday I bought Izzy her first real “girl” dress.  Up until now she’s been wearing leggings and t-shirts with one of her 5 tutus, or, much to her Nana’s disapproval, my tops as dresses!

We entered the shop, bang on opening time.  Three hopeful faces turned to us picturing their first sale of the day.  Would they know Izzy was a biological boy?  Would shock and judgment cloud their smiles?  Would heart-break creep in to this first exploration in to the female domain of dress buying? Would it be OK?

It was fine!  It was much more than fine.  It was liberating.  It was joyous.  It was monumental in our journey together.

When she spotted a gorgeous sequined tulle number from 50 metres, available in three colors, I knew that not only was I was going to have to do some creative accounting with the grocery money this week,  but that my daughter was behaving just like any other four year old sequin loving girly girl!

The tulle number was a party dress, perfect for my sister’s wedding in December but not really what I had in mind!

With the help of the shop attendant’s cajoling, promises of stickers and a pink balloon thrown in, we steered Izzy to a row of beautiful 1950’s housewife type frocks.  The type I’ve bought for my little nieces ans oohed and ahhed over on previous visits to this shop.

She tried it on. She was so happy. She’s wearing it to kindy today.  I know she’ll be over dressed. I know she’ll get paint and mud on it, but it doesn’t matter.  She’s had to compromise her dress sense for so long she deserves a little glamour. And whats more I’m giving myself permission to enjoy this too!

I had no idea

When I first sent that letter to my family, inviting them to join us in Izzy’s transition,  I had no idea that a month later my brother, and a sister, would still not have affirmed their support.  Or spoken to me.  I assumed they’d have questions, but I never thought they’d question my integrity.  I had no idea my brother would ask that Freddie refrain from referring to Izzy in front of his daughters.  Or that he’d cancel my neice’s holiday sleepovers.  I never imagined, well….maybe a little bit, that my youngest sister would write to me to explain her position on Izzy’s transition.  Or that she would lay blame on our doorstep for the percieved impact our decision would have on her family, even her unborn child.

But there were things I did know.  I knew my Mum would find a path to acceptance, I knew two of my sisters would take the news in their strides.  I knew their partners would offer support.  I knew my oldest nieces wouldn’t raise an eyebrow and would enjoy Izzy’s transition with us.  I knew my mother-in-law would be instantaneous and unwavering in her support.

I didnt know that Izzy’s Grandpa would also be comfortable with the transition – who could guess an 85 year old would be more accepting than a 30 year old!  Yay Grandpa!

When we announced Izzy’s social transition to the outside world, I had no idea there would be an overwhelming response of support.  I couldn’t have imagined the kindness shown by friends, teachers and medical professionals.  Or that Harry would recieve  the same support and kindness from his workmates.  The only questions they asked were ‘Is she happy?’, ‘do you need to talk?’, and ‘what can we do to support Izzy?’.

Of course, I knew Lou would not be phased.

What I really had no idea about though was the number of lives already touched by someone who is transgender.  I’m inspired to record these accounts and graph them somehow, because it feels like at least half the people I’ve told have shared their own story with me. If I’m just one person who’s spoken with maybe 20 people and half of those have told me of a personal experience with transgender that has touched their lives, and Harry has spoken with 6 or 7 colleagues and two have confided in him, then what are these statistics saying?

I think they send a powerful message – this isn’t some newfangled trend as some haters preach.  This isn’t unnatural or weird.  This isn’t anything to fear.  Izzy’s not different – because she’s not the only one, not by a long shot.  This is ok.  It’s hard, but it’s ok.

Another thing these shared stories have taught me, is that to wait, to wait until Izzy is older, is to allow  her to live in confusion, sadness, anger and shame.  Unsupported and unaccepted.  No parent would willingly do that to their child.

I also wonder if there’s a message here for all of us, to be more open, more accepting, less judgemental and less fearful of differences.  We’re all just human.  The same frail, vulnerable humans.  We all deserve love and acceptance.

Searching for answers

Izzy has this new habit – somewhere between 5 and 6am she pads silently into my room, somehow I always sense her movement and wake before she arrives.

She takes my hand and we go back to her bed. More often than not she’s done with sleeping and spends the next half hour presenting her case for starting the day.  But sometimes, like this morning, she snuggles down and goes back to sleep.  I love these days.

When Izzy wakes in the morning, she’s fully awake and ready with a question or a request.  This morning her first words had a power. A power in them that made my heart skip and my mind race.

“Mum why can’t boys have babies?” I did my best to explain. She said “Mum why did you do me a boy’s body? You should have done me a girl’s body, because in my heart I’m a girl and I really want to have a baby”.

So at 6am this morning I found myself explaining the adoption process to my 4 year old.  That lead to more questions ” But mum, why would a mother not want her own baby? Why would she give it away?”

I don’t want to tell my baby that some Mummies die, or that because of the inequality in our world some mothers can’t afford to feed their babies or that some mums are just too young and don’t yet want to be mums or worse still that some mums have their babies forcibly removed and spend the rest of their lives grieving their loss.

So I didn’t.   I just said, that one day she will have beautiful babies and be a wonderful mother.

Thanks Mum, she said.

I don’t want to be a grandpa

Driving down to meet some friends today, an anguished voice piped up from the back seat – “Mum, I don’t want to be a grandpa. And I’ll never be a grandma because of how I look”

What do you say to your four year old child when they voice something like this? When they’re in the middle of socially transitioning and they know that “real” girls have different bits from their bits?   When your heart is breaking because you see a harder road ahead than you ever want your child to travel.  When you want to give them the possibilities other kids have, but don’t know if that will be possible for them anymore?
I’ve been thinking about it all afternoon, trying to make sense of this topsy turvy new reality we find ourselves in. Feeling all sorts of angry and sad.  

Angry and sad until I realised – nothing’s actually changed. After all, I don’t know Freddie’s future any more than I know Izzy’s.  

Unflappable

My friend, let’s call her Louise, is super cool.  We met just a couple of years ago when our eldest children became best buddies at kindy.

We’ve got a lot in common, two kids (until she went all wonder-woman on me and had a third), husbands we like to complain about (everyone does that right?), limited wardrobes of hand-me-downs and op shop items, one car and small homes (again – until she took advantage of her husband’s lackadaisical approach to house hunting and bagged a spacious upgrade when he wasn’t looking).

Except, unlike me, this women, Louise, is un-bloody-flappable! And believe me, I’ve put her through her paces.

Like the time we were enjoying the sunshine at the beach:  We sat, smuggly congratulating ourselves on becoming ‘ladies-who-lunch’, cause in our world -shoveling the leftovers of our children’s snack boxes into our mouths (you know – apple slices that have gone brown and thus been deemed in edible, half eaten jam sandwich triangles and soggy crackers) all awhile shouting behavioural corrections to our sand throwing, bucket snatching, four children and holding a conversation – actually constitutes being a lady-who-lunches.

I said to her something like “So, pretty convinced Freddie is on the autism spectrum. We had a support worker round a few times before Christmas to help us….”

Unflapped.  Just asked how she could help.

When I told her Izzy (who was not yet Izzy) had Sensory Processing disorder and we were seeing an Occupational Therapist…

She was not flapped.  Just said that was awesome we were getting help.

When I told her we were being referred to a psychologist and psychiatrist to get to the bottom of some social conduct issues with Izzy (still prior to Izzy being Izzy)…you guessed it!

She was not flapped!  She just said how great to have the chance to get some answers.

So clearly when I told her Izzy was now Izzy, and she wasn’t at all flapped, and nor were her kids, I just wasn’t surprised. Louise is 100% unflappable.

So, here’s to unflappable women, because unflappable women raise unflappable children, and I feel unflappable children are the ones who will change our world for the better.

Blimmin’ Expert

I had an appointment tonight with the psychiatrist. It’s not often I leave the house at night,so that in itself was a bit exciting! I’d got Iz off to sleep in record time, infact the whole evening, culminating in Izzy’s gentle snores, was one of my finest achievements enabling me to be out of the house and down to town by 630!

Anyway, I had some questions for The Doctor:

Q. Are the suicide statistics for transgender people for those who are unsupported or just in general? (various research papers quote them between 42 and 50%)
A. The suicide statistics for transgender people who have not been supported, many of whom develop serious mental illnesses, are very high.
For those who are supported and remain in a supportive enviroment the statistics drop back to cisgender – denoting or relating to a person whose self-identity conforms with the gender that corresponds to their biological sex; not transgender levels.
But the statistics leap again for those transgender people who find themselves suddenly in an unsupportive environment such as a new school or work place.

Q. I’ve read that 80% of children who experience gender fluidity – Gender fluid is a gender identity which refers to a gender which varies over time. A gender fluid person may at any time identify as male, female, neutrois, or any other non-binary identity, or some combination of identities.) do not carry on to be transgender adults.
A. Between the ages of 4 and 10 it is common for children to be gender fluid. They are experimenting, working out who they are. These children make up most of the 80% who resolve that question and go on to be hetrosexual, gay or lesbian. Izzy probably falls in to the other 20%, as a child who is not questioning her gender but is clear that it is not the one she was assigned at birth, she is probably going to carry on as transgender in to adulthood. But, there is no hard and fast rule, it’s possible she may change her mind and decide she wants to be male again.

Q. Is there anything we’re not doing that we should be doing?
A. No. Carry on as you are, your job now is to protect Izzy from those who are unable to support her transition because not to do so will impact on Izzy’s mental well being. It’s also important not to back Izzy in to a corner – it doesn’t matter which gender she identifies with, she can change her mind and go back to being a boy, she can live her days out as a girl or she can exist anywhere in between.

Q. Is it true the waiting list for sex change operations is 37 years? And that the only surgeon who performed those operations is now retired?
A.  No. It is more like 70 years. And yes there is no qualified surgeon in this country.

Q.  So what the Dickens do they do?
A. There’s a state of the art hospital in Thailand which specializes in gender reassignment. It costs about $10000 to get boobs. A lot of transgender M-W don’t bother with the bottom half, they just keep that hidden.  Others go to Australia or the States.

Q. A couple of family members are really concerned about us making this decision for Izzy at such a young age.
A. The only decision you’ve made is to allow your child to live as the gender she currently identifies with. Nothing else has changed. Furthermore social transition can be reversed. The most important thing now is to protect your child from negative influences.

The Doctor then told me about his experience in transgender issues:
Three days a week he works for the area health board on a team that supports youth with serious mental health issues.  The other two days (he works one night a week at the private practice we visit him through) he works with transgender yourh and their families supporting them through blockers (these delay the onset of puberty which give the children the time to make an informed decision) and hormone treatments (male to female, female to male) and the non-medical options. He is on the board of medical professionals who review this country’s policies surrounding medical intervention and best practice for mental health care/support of transgender youth.

He’s a BLIMMIN EXPERT in a field where few have depth of experience or training!
How we ended up with, I suspect, this country’s leading expert in transgender care, is a blog worth writing. But not tonight.

Says Dad

I just received this text from Izzy’s Dad, and I love it:

A transvestite is a boy who wears girls’ clothes. Izzy is a girl who wears a boy’s body. x

What is transgender?

We were at the beach yesterday with Mum. She has been awesome support to us all, showing us through her choice to drink tea and carry on that she loves Izzy regardless. Anyway, she asked me “So, what’s the difference between transgender and transvestite?”

At the time, Izzy and Freddie were arguing over whether to explore the rock pools or return to the playground, and I was involved in an inner dialogue regarding whether or not Izzy would take a nap that afternoon and what would I cook for dinner and if she doesn’t nap would it be criminal to put Sofia the First on for Iz, an audiobook for Freddie and curl myself up on the sofa with a cup of tea and a good novel….so I said “Mum, goodness knows!”

But that got me thinking…

A transvestite is a person who enjoys wearing clothes appropriate to the opposite sex.

While transgender, according to the American Psychological Association decribes a person whose gender identity, gender expression or behaviour does not conform to that typically associated with the sex to which they were assigned at birth. They go on to explain that gender identity refers to a person’s internal sense of being male, female or something else.

Neither is sexually related.