Seven years ago

I love to tell my kids how they used to live in my tummy, it never ceases to please me, I do it a lot.  Therefore it’s lost it’s stop-them-in-their-tracks power and become more of a oh-god-she’s-saying-that-again type of moment for them.  But I don’t care.  Like I said, each time I say it, it pleases me.  I love it.

This morning I said to Freddie, “this time seven years ago you were still in my tummy…”.  Very shortly I shall tell him ” whaaa-hoooo, this time seven years ago you were born, my gorgeous child! “. Can’t wait.

Happy Birthday my love.

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Bucking the system

I posted last week to complain about the reaction I got when trying to explain Izzy’s name change over the phone.  It went badly.

Well now I need to post to say how amazing the reaction was at the ENT department this week.  

Izzy and I drove across town for her hearing re-check (she had a grommet replaced and we wanted to see if that improved her hearing, it has), on the way, I considered my approach.  I hoped it would be as easy as adding her “preferred name” to a form.

We arrived on the fourth floor to a bustling reception.  The small waiting room held about 30 people.

Izzy looked gorgeous in a green cotton dress with butterfly sleeves and her well scuffed, well loved ballet slippers.  A little pink clip holding her hair to the side, she looked like any other little girl, and I knew I needed to head off any confusion that might be sparked by a boys name being called in that over flowing waiting room.

My smile is set, hands unclenched and I have a quick sip of water before I approach the middle aged man at the desk…”Hi!” I say as I slip Izzy’s appointment letter across the desk.

Step one achieved, I’ve not needed to use Izzy’s previous name.

Breathe.  Smile.  Engage step two..”Ah, do you have the facility for adding a “preferred name” for a patient?  It’s just that if the name on there is called out my child may be confused, um, maybe distressed” I babble.  Babbling was not part of the plan.  Babbling isn’t cool.

“Well” says the middle aged man at the desk, pulling a sticky note from a pad, “we don’t have an official method of adding a preferred name, but if you give the name to me,  I’ll make sure the technician knows and uses it when she calls your child.”

“Oh, OK, thanks” I noticed he used the term “child” even though he had Izzy’s notes in front of them which had a boy’s name clearly marked.  He could have made a point of saying “your son” or using the name.  He didn’tt.  Instead, he sat eyes down, pen poised over the pink sticky note, quietly waiting.

“The name is …..” .  I spell it out.  Then, deep breath, I add the second part of Izzy’s name, leaving no doubt what I was giving him – a girl’s name.  Then I said, in a slightly quieter voice “we use feminine pronouns too”.

To this man’s absolute credit, he looked up, smiled, and said ” lovely.  I’ll make sure that’s the name that’s called.  Please take a seat.”. Next customer.

And he was true to his word.  In that room full of other parents and kids, my child’s preference was honored.  When the technician called her name,  she was not “outed” in front of strangers, as she could have been.  She was allowed to retain her dignity.  Nobody batted an eyelash, and that’s how it should be.

The technician, whom we had seen three long months ago, just before Izzy transitioned, was equally respectful.  Not once did she cast a questioning look at me.  Not once did she fail to use Izzy’s preferred name or pronouns.  The only reference to Izzy’s transition was her response to me saying “A lot has changed since our last visit, the behavioral issues have resolved themselves”.  She said ” I admire your strength to do the right thing by your child”.  When we left her parting words were “I wish you and your family kindness and respect.  Izzy deserves it”.

What if….

I had this weird dream the other night.  It was about Izzy.  Most of it has slipped away, as dreams are oft to do, but the feeling is still present.  It was something about finding out Izzy wasn’t what I thought she was.

So that feels like a pretty standard dream for the mum of a recently transitioned child.  Nothing surprising there.

It did however get me thinking.  What if…

What if Izzy decides she’s not Izzy anymore, and she wants to go back to being a boy?  

A month ago the answer to this was easy – we’ll throw a party! How easy life would become.  We’d get Izzy’s haircut, change her name back and crack on.

Not so now.  Now I have a daughter I love more fiercely than the son I had before.  Still the same amount of love, but different.  More conscious, more urgent, more alive.

Thinking about saying goodbye to this glorious being makes my heart break all over again.  But.  And it’s a fabulous but, I know that though my heart can be broken into a thousand jagged pieces, it can also mend, and once it’s mended, it’s bigger and stronger and more capable of love than it ever was before.

So how will I feel if my baby reverts to being a boy?  Heartbroken.  But she/he will never need to know that.  He’ll have a mum who puts on a big smile, rolls with the punches, sucks up her pride, swallows down the snide comments and once again gathers around those that will accept us and love us regardless of how we express our gender.

Feeling the love

The sun has been out for three days in a row and I feel like a human again.  A human with a future.  Life has promise again.  And I’m no longer cold.

The sun’s return has me making plans for picnics at the beach.  It has me sitting with a cup of tea, painting with Izzy.  I don’t feel the same need to keep busy, I feel so happy.

Yesterday we stayed to play after school, I stood with a couple of mum friends chatting about what to cook for dinner, birthday parties, and shooting ideas around for our next couple of school fundraisers.

Standing there, in the sun.  I realised something.  I realised how much things have changed since the last time we stood by the playground chatting.

Not once in an hour did I have to race to the rescue of another child.  You have no idea the exhilaration this filled me with.  I was standing there chatting!  I was standing there chatting, free of anxiety.  I was standing there chatting, and my child was playing beautifully!

You see, last term, before we truely understood Izzy’s feelings on her gender, school pick-ups and drop-offs were horrendous.  Something to be feared and dreaded.  That’s twice a day, five times a week.  That sort of dread wears a girl down.  It kinda makes ya wonder how you can go on.

I tried EVERYTHING – discussions, short and long.  Role playing.  Consequences.  Rewards.  Verbal praise.  Withdrawing my attention.  Ignoring.  Warnings… Everything.  But no matter what, Izzy would end up making someone cry.  She’d grab her friends around the neck and squeeze until they were so frightened they needed their mum’s to comfort them.  She hit people as she passed them.  She’d damage people’s creations.  Get in kids faces.  Generally just make herself really unpopular.

My friends were so forgiving, their children never held grudges but it was such a dreadful situation and I seemed to have no power to change it.

Then.  It stopped.  It stopped when we all affirmed Izzy in her chosen gender.  It stopped and it was nothing I did.  It wasn’t the work of any therapist.  It wasn’t the result of reading any parenting books.

It stopped because finally it was possible for Izzy to be herself.  She came out and we love her.

Image

Swimsuit debut – the results are in

I allowed myself three seconds of imagining I’d lost the swimsuit so it couldn’t be worn.  Then I took a deep breath and pulled the suit out from hiding.  

In the car on the way to swimming I mulled over the idea of suggesting Izzy get changed in the car.  I debated the pros and cons while discussing, with Izzy, for the 100th time, why we’re able to drive so fast on the motorway.  

Then I realised this whole internal dialogue was becoming boring and maybe even a bit self serving.  My daughter is brave.  She’s strong.  She knows who she is.  What does it matter if another parent does a double take. So what?  There’s no monsters at our swimming school anyway.  Right?

I’m still nervous.

So in we go.  Izzy skipping merrily to the changing rooms.  (The policy at our swim school is perfect, if a parent is assisting kids must use the change room of the parent’s gender.  So we’ve always used the girls.)  

Looking gorgeous in her pink Elsa and Anna swimsuit we make The Long Walk – up the stairs and past a seemingly endless row of parents.  Well.  I walk.  Izzy prances.  Like a show pony.  Nothing.  No furrowed brows, no whispers, no shaking heads.  

We sit down.  Scream!  I see Izzy’s teacher is away, we have Wendy though, she’ll know, right?  Lauren will have made it clear, right?  Wendy used to teach Freddie, so she knew Izzy before Izzy was Izzy.  Bloody hell!  My mouth feels dry.  I’m smiling like a mad woman.

We sit, Izzy snugglng on my knee, waiting for the lesson to begin.  A Dad next to us turns to Izzy and with a big smile compliments her on her new swimsuit.  I’ve seen this dad once a week, every week for 6 months.  His son is in the class before us.  He must have noticed Izzy’s change of name last month ( it’s a small place), and now he’s…I don’t know what exactly, but I feel like he’s acknowledging and affirming Izzy’s transition, rather than saying nothing he’s said something loud and clear.  Thank you Swimming Dad!

Turns out Izzy’s got Wendy to herself, the two other kids are away.  Wendy doesn’t miss a beat.  Chats away to Izzy like an old friend.  Lauren, God bless her, must have done a handover because Wendy knows about all Izzy’s favourite things.  

The lesson is fabulous.  Izzy does a great job listening.  I notice how she makes long and sustained eye contact with Wendy and I realise , before she was Izzy, she never looked people in the eye.  I high five myself and bask in the warmth of seeing my girl flourish.

So lesson over, we get changed and head home.  Success, and this week’s final frontier, achieved.

Swimsuit debut

Today’s the big day!  I’m undeniably nervous, but also feeling happy for Izzy.  

The Elsa and Anna swimsuit is ready to go. Thanks to a kind school mum, the frills have been moved down to create a little privacy.  Izzy has been wearing it all morning, unaware of what it means to me.

To me it feels like the final frontier, family, school, kindy, the public in general, have all seen Izzy presented as a girl.  And now, Izzy’s going to wear her girl’s swim suit.  Wear it in front of people who don’t know her but have seen her every Wednesday for the last 6 months dressed in shorts and a rash top….

Tough truths

​We’ve got an appointment coming up with Izzy’s psychologist; it was originally made to discuss how our behaviour changing plan was working out.  I’d talked to Dr # about the numerous times a day Izzy was making bad choices- breaking her brothers things, damaging the house, slamming doors.  But this was before Izzy was Izzy and it turned out that once Izzy transitioned, she wasn’t so angry anymore.

So that frees up an appointment.  I’ve asked that Dr# talk to Freddie, with these particular concerns in mind:

Freddie, as I’ve written before, has been amazing.  He’s accepted Izzy and he’s not shown any signs of any psychological damage.  He’s able to articulate what has occurred, regularly explains to his peers, and fiercely defends Izzy in the playground.

We keep the subject very open in our house, from talking about how we thought Izzy was a boy when she was born because she had boys bits and how we’ve now learnt your bits don’t always match who you are on the inside, to how Izzy can have her own children in the future and that it’s possible for her to get a pair of boobs when she’s older.

We talk about these things in all seriousness but with great humour.  When questions come up we answer them, the kids know there’s nothing to be ashamed of or to fear.  They know that whatever hurdles they each might face, we’ll be here for them and they’ll be there for each other.

But there’s one really important subject I’m fearful of broaching.  I’m scared I’ll screw it up.  I don’t know how to tell Freddie and Izzy that some people vehemently disagree with us.  That there are people who will challenge them, I’m not talking about kids, they’re handling that already, I’m talking about adults.

There are people who are convinced we’re doing the wrong thing.  Most of them, at least the ones in our family, I have to believe would understand and accept if only they would take the time to get to know Izzy on her terms.  They would see that she isn’t just a boy who likes girls things and that it’s OK.  They might even come to think we’ve done the right thing by our children.  They might even offer us back the respect they’ve stripped from us.  They might just shower our kids with love and they might just get that love returned.

This is what I want Dr# to tell Freddie, because I don’t know how to do it.

Our appointment is timely.  The following weekend is Freddie’s birthday celebration, as usual he shares it with one of his Aunties and all the family are invited to celebrate with us.  But they’re not all coming.  My brother replied to the invite promptly, they would not be coming because he’s not ready to tell his daughters about Izzy.  My youngest sister didn’t even bother responding.  But it turns out she’s coming, but her partner and their son will not be.

I’d be lying if I said I’m not hurt and angry.  I am both.  But I’m also fearful.  Will Freddie’s birthday be the first time our kids face opposition?  Not just opposition, discrimination?

I haven’t even told Freddie yet that his cousins aren’t coming, I’ve avoided the subject of party games because what the hell is pass the parcel with just two kids?

Instead of birthday cake flavours being the top of our concerns, Harry and I find ourselves tensely discussing how we will handle the situation should my sister use Freddie’s birthday party as a platform for dissent.  Would she?

I don’t want to jump to conclusions, we hope we’ll be pleasantly surprised.  But we can’t afford to go in there unprepared.

So I’m asking Dr# for a lot.  I’m asking her to prepare Freddie for something he shouldn’t have to face from family.  I’m asking her to prepare me.

I want to know – do we tell Freddie the truth about why his cousins won’t be there, or do we make excuses for them?  I honestly can’t decide what’s best for the kids, I hope Dr# will.

 

 

 

Spreading joy 

My sister has this amazing daughter.  She has a heart that’s so big it’s the very first thing you notice about her.  She has to be the most generous person I know, always thinking about others and what she can personally do to bring sunshine in to their lives.  

Thank you for being you, my darling girl.  May life give you as much joy as you give to others.

My daughter, Caitlyn Jenner, and Laverne Cox

Thank you life

gendermom

As the mother of a young transgender child, my response to Caitlyn Jenner’s headline-grabbing announcement is a visceral one. Yes, I’m kind of put off by the hype. No, I’m not a big fan of celebrity culture or reality television. But when I look at the cover of Vanity Fair, and read the news articles that respectfully use Jenner’s new name and female pronouns, I’m overwhelmed by this new state of affairs, and by a world that might just be ready to accept my daughter. And that knocks me off my feet with awe and gratitude.

I called my friend Alice, a member of our support group whose trans daughter is a few years older than mine. “Did you see it?” I said. She knew what I was talking about.

“Of course,” she said. I could hear her shaking her head over the phone, as overcome as I was…

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