The ivy is choking you – week 180

Heather Coldstream is a bit of a hero of mine, she writes so deeply and so beautifully about her life and experience as a woman who was AMAB (assigned male at birth). In this post she uses a metaphor to explain the power, and indeed, the challenges, of transitioning. It gives me so much to ponder and so much to be grateful for- that Izzy was able to strip those young shoots away before the concealed her completely. It also further fills my heart with love for those who approach this stripping away, or don’t. Bless you Heather xxx

Becoming Me

English ivy is a noxious weed where I live and I hate it. It’s also a perfect fucking metaphor for gender dysphoria.

Left alone to grow, its leaf cover and epiphytic roots will choke trees and understory plants and take years or decades off their lifespans by making them more susceptible to pests and toppling in windstorms.

Besides creating shoots to creep along the ground, it sends vines up trees to reproduce. At first, it’s just a few shoots here and there. It’s easy to peel off the strands when they’re thin, but the roots will leave little marks on the bark. If you let it go a season or more, the vines grow thicker and require real effort to remove, often with small sections of bark.

If ignored for years or decades the vines turn into woody cables thicker than your wrist, requiring a saw to cut through and…

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Doors slam

Today is a me day.  The kids are at the school holiday club today ( a special treat) and I have nothing more planned than a haircut and to run a few errands and read my book.  It’s going to be nice.  Harry even did the grocery shopping last night so I wouldn’t have to contend with that today.  On my day.

Freddie had a rough morning on my me day.  This me day.  Being the last day of the holidays, and being a tad sleepy eyed – when the kids asked me “can we watch this morning”, I wavered.  Never waiver!  It’s like the first rule of parenthood, isn’t it?  In Parenting for Dummies, I’m sure it takes up a whole chapter.  Never waiver.  I wavered.  Mistake number one. The precursor to Freddie’s rough morning.

So Freddie retired to his room with my laptop to watch a Harry Potter film and Izzy in my bed watching Ben and Holly or some such.  Izzy snuggling up with me.  Freddie shut away in his own world.  His preferred world.  To my credit, I did have the sense to include some stipulations – 8am when my alarm goes off, the devices go off, no fussing.  Get dressed, teeth and then you can play.

At 750 I alerted them.  Freddie: “Yes, yes”  Izzy “Ok mum.”

8am my alarm goes off.  Izzy:  “Okay mum, what shall we play?”  Freddie: “F***ing this, F***ing that….”  Total rage and complete loss of self-control.  Door slams.  And slams.  And slams.

My beautiful first born son, not yet eight years old, has hit me and kicked me, yelled at me, threatened me and slammed the door behind me as I retreat from the room.  I feel like a FUCKING FAILURE!  I mean please, what kind of mother has an eight-year-old child that swears at her and hits her on almost a daily basis, sometimes several times a day?  I am ashamed, not of my son but of myself.  It weighs me down this shame.  It drags behind me, clinging to my shoulders as I try to go about my day with a smile on my face.  It lies in my chest like a lump of cold hard rock, locked there so I can be sure my son feels loved and accepted.  Locked there to protect him from the judgement and disapproval of people who don’t see this side of him, but hearing it could not help but change their opinion of him.

High functioning autism is a beautiful gift and a dreadful curse, all wrapped up in the mind and body of my beautiful, first born child.  It will never go away.  Accepting that it’s not simply a failure in our parenting style is actually really difficult.  Because we are failing, almost every day, to give Freddie what he needs to live a calm and peaceful life.  His rages affect us all.  Not in the least what it must feel like to him, to lose control.  To struggle to find peace.

I’m not sure where this post is heading, perhaps it’s just a release of the intense sadness I feel today, having the time, alone, to indulge in my feelings.  Acknowledge them and accept them.  Share them.  Not having to push them to the side, Keep Calm and Carry On.

The sky is grey, heavy with rain and thunder rumbles.  Even the weather joins me today.  In quiet grief.




Seven Facts About Gender You Should Know

Originally published in HuffPost by Brynn Tannehill.

Just because you don’t understand something doesn’t invalidate it.

In the past few months there have been an increasing number of attacks on the legitimacy of transgender and gender non-conforming people coming from both the left and the right. Most of In the past few months there have been an increasing number of attacks on the legitimacy of transgender and gender non-conforming people coming from both the left and the right. Most of these attacks stem from either a flawed understanding of gender, misrepresentation of evidence, or deliberate obtuseness. The responses to these attacks have generally failed to address these underlying problems.
Gender and gender expression are complicated, but not nearly so much as critics would like to claim. They are also not inherently contradictory, nor anti-feminist. Indeed, they can be liberating for everyone. Here are the things you need to know about gender and gender identity in this blizzard of misinformation.

Click here to continue reading

What is woven

It’s taken me a while to get back to this post, “today” was last Friday.

Today was a big day.  Today was just like any other day.  But it was a big day.  Two wonderful years at kindy have come to an end, and it is the day where we step out of one bubble , and into the next, with the hope it will be as safe and indestructible as this one has been.

If you knew Izzy before you’ll know just how much her life has changed.  Not just her name and her gender marker, but her whole way of being.  Being affirmed as a female allowed Izzy to step out into the light and my god does she shine!  She was given the space to shine at her kindy.  Her teachers waited patiently and when the light began to show through they welcomed it, encouraged it and celebrated it with us.

Leaving this wonderful place today, another mum asked me – do I feel sad to be leaving it behind?  The answer is – no, I don’t.  Kindy has given me something much greater than a dependence, they’ve given my child the skills and the tools to move on to her next place in the world.  They’ve helped to provide her with a super strong sense of self.  They know her, and to be truly known is one of the most important gifts you can receive.  They’ve cemented my belief that being open about your weaknesses and honest about your needs, leads to receiving help to strengthen that which is weak and fill that which is needed.

When I say “kindy” has given us these things, of course it is the wonderful supervisor, as she calls herself (I think pillar of support and wisdom probably more apt) and teachers that I am actually referring to.  It’s not kindy itself, it’s the people who make it special.  I will miss these people and I will keep in touch, but leaving them behind is a part of life – they continue to work their magic and it is a wonderful feeling to know that they are out there doing what they do.

So while I feel I’ve had to say a goodbye of sorts, it’s less of a door closing than another one opening.  I’m excited to see how the people and experiences through this new door will enrich Izzy’s life and how she might enrich theirs.

I’ve written before about the bubbles we exist in, but today I feel like it’s more of a grand tapestry – Izzy’s has only just begun in it’s creation, each experience will add to it’s design and we have no idea how it will end up looking.  I can see it in my mind’s eye though – a life of joy, tempered by sadness and loss, as everyone’s lives are, but dominated by joy.

Here’s to open doors!


Headaches and kufuffles

There’s this really nasty tension headache that’s been imposing itself upon me the last few days.  Really nasty.  So nasty in fact that I had to ask Harry to come home from work early yesterday.  With some peace and quiet the headache faded back into a dull ache, but during a phone call to our GP just now,  it’s threatening a full scale return.

I’ve got Freddie sitting/lying on the arm of the chair next to me, humming and thumping his foot to the tune of the Irish national anthem (of course), it’s pulsating through my head and I feel like screaming.  

Last week the kids appointment letters arrived regarding their tonsillectomies set for May.  Yup, just as school goes back I’ll have the two monkeys back at home for a week.  Why my wish for them to be operated on during the holidays was not granted, I will never know.

But anyway, I digress.  Freddie’s letter was all good, but Izzy’s was addressed to the wrong freaking person – yus, having changed her NHI details in one excruciatingly revealing conversation some months back, and having since received all hospital correspondence with the correct details, we now, just a couple of weeks away from her op’ discover she is now a he.  Excuse my swearing, but FARK!

Long story short, it turns out SOMEONE has changed her record back to her birth name and gender and written on it in capital letters, actual capital letters – DO NOT CHANGE THIS CHILD’S DETAILS.  Who the hell did that I don’t know, but I wonder if they could even come close to guessing the extreme anguish and distress it has caused?

My GP discovered this info for me, because a “member of the public” can’t contact this particular office.  Even though it was this member of public who requested the name/gender marker change in the beginning.  The lady she spoke to said that if the family gives their consent then she is happy to change the record, BUT because there is this note on there she can’t until she’s spoken to the Ministry of Health.  Now the Ministry of Health says in their policy on transgender health care, that it is a human right for trans patients to have their records changed to reflect their name and gender and that no ‘proof’ of being transgender is required.  So who was it?  Why didn’t they just contact me, or our GP if there was some sort of problem?  Surely it’s a breach of Izzy’s human rights for this to have been done without our knowledge?

So yes, tension headache is returning, but two days running I can’t get Harry home early, so I’m ploughing on through.

On the bright side we celebrated Izzy’s last day at kindy today.  More on that later.

The big five

Izzy passed a new milestone – she turned a fabulous, glamorous, glorious five years old!

We celebrated with a pile of her little friends and cousins and their mum’s (plus a couple of brave dads) on a Sunday morning a couple of weeks ago and man was it lovely!  The kids played outside, sat happily at the table making masks, grazed on the party food and loved the bubble machine.  You can’t go wrong with bubbles, you really can’t.  There was a piñata and no one got a black eye.  No one!

The cake even turned out okay, and my cakes rarely turn out ok. Like when Iz turned two,  I had a disaster of a cake situation.  The first cake (yup I baked two) sank, and I mean really sank, like the crater on Mt Eden “sank”. So I whizzed up another one, like any dedicated mother right?  It OVERFLOWED in the oven!  I didn’t realise until the smoke started billowing through the house!  Not a good cake story.  I ended up covering the crater of the first in icing and chocolate fingers.

This year I decided to buy a sponge and put all my effort in to decorating the bugger, but what the heck?  When I went to the supermarkets (three different ones) to buy the sponge and to get the edible flowers which I wanted to coat in sugar and use as decoration – none of the trio stocked either!  So I searched Foolproof birthday cake and came up with a questionable recipe – put all the ingredients into the cake mixer, and mix.  This is my new go to cake recipe, and I’m sorry to say – the Hummingbird Cafe “Cake Days” recipe book has been pushed to the back of the bookcase, no longer will it taunt me with delicacies I’m just not competent enough to produce!!

All that aside, the window dressing that is, the very best thing about the party was seeing Izzy so happy, so at ease with her peers, so full of joy.  I can’t put in to words how incredible it has/is been to witness such a huge change in our child – Harry and I can only shake our heads and smile. The kind of smile that makes your face sore.  That kind of smile.  It’s honestly such an amazing feeling.

It feels like forever ago when I wrote Feeling the love rejoicing the dramatic change in Izzy’s behavior, being able to relax in playgrounds, not worrying about my child attacking someone else’s.  No.  Those days are long gone and the party was another reminder of just how powerful affirming Izzy as a girl was.

The other thing the party reminded me, was of the support and acceptance we’ve received from the families at kindy, if any of you are reading this – Thank you from the bottom of my heart!  I know you think, it’s no big deal, but it actually is.  Val, the teachers and you beautiful kindy parents (and my school friends) were my haven during those really hard early days when we were navigating Izzy’s transition and at the same time, dealing with the rejection from members of my family.  You’ve never questioned our decision or demanded explanations, or set out conditions.  Nothing changed with you guys except the name you called my child.  Thank you.

So now the kid is five.  Fabulous, glamorous, glorious five.




Life with a transgender child

Simply months ago, a new blogging friend asked me if I would consider writing a guest post for her blog – Thatswhatlynnsaid  I leapt at the chance, being a follower and fan of Lynn’s writing – she advocates for transgender people, and writes straight from her big, warm, heart.  Being me, I’ve only just got it finished!

It would be awesome if you scooted over to check it out, and while you’re there – read some of Lynn’s other posts like They’re Not Just Numbers where she writes about the homeless and you’ll figure out why I like her.

Lynn has also written a book Who Am I If You’re Not You? Loves journey beyond gender, you can read all about it here.

Lizzie Marvelly: Our toilets are the new battleground

It’s good to be in an empty house, sitting with a cup of tea when you read these sorts of articles.

That’s where I am now.  It’s 11am on a beautiful Saturday morning.

My home has been alive with constant chatter and creative energy, since 630am.  Izzy has watched 45 mins of her favourite YouTube show – CookieSwirlC, eaten breakfast, created an amazing house on wheels out of Duplo, reorganised her bedroom, dressed twice, had her nails done by Harry and filled in the rest of the time with hugs and kisses.  Freddie started the day with a rare cuddle, returned to bed to study his atlas, watched YouTube videos of Mt Ruapehu erupting, searched for his walkie talkies, designed a birthday flyer for Esme, got dressed in clothes best suited for winter, redressed in something similar but less fleece, and assembled his volcanologist kit.  Harry has been out to do the grocery shopping, I’ve baked cookies, packed lunches and filled the ice block molds in between responding to requests for help from the two creative geniuses that have the run of our home.

This is a NORMAL family!  These are normal things that happen in our family.  Then I sit down and read this in the paper and I think how the abnormal lurks just on the fringe of our society.  How the abnormal seem to have so much time on their hands beats me?  How do people have the time, between doing all this normal family shit, that surely can’t just be going on in my home, to be soooo concerned about other people’s PRIVATE business of where they go for a wee???

And I realised, this is the crap (you guys in the states are dealing with this big time I know) we need to look out for.  To YOU family, to You friends, to you other mum’s at school, at kindy, to you who support and accept Izzy, please read this article from the NZ Herald.

Let it sink in.

Think about what it means and decide, now, which side of the line you stand.  Because you who support Izzy, loud and proud or quietly and from a distance – you are her allies and by extension you are allies to transgender kids everywhere.  I ask that if you hear this fear mongering, this hate talk, this BS, SPEAK UP!  Tell the person as politely as you can, that you don’t agree with them.  Be calm, be fierce, be whatever, but please don’t be silent.

Somewhere between the broken soap dispenser, the constantly dripping tap and the hand drier that hasn’t worked in about 20 years, it appears that you’ll now find conservative lobby group Family First lurking in the background to ensure each girl who pops in for a wee between classes has the type of genitalia up her skirt that Family First deems appropriate.

Click here to read the rest of the article from NZ Herald

Being brave

(This is a week old, I must have got distracted!). 

I was planning on writing a follow up to my last (brief) post, but there’s something else on my mind, some other words that need to get out.

Today someone did something really lovely for me.  Another mum turned to me in assembly, took a deep breath, and blurted out something she’d been debating whether to say or not.  She wanted to know if she could do this lovely thing for me, but, understandably as we don’t yet know each other really well, she wasn’t sure how I would receive this offer.  Would I be insulted?  Embarrassed?  Horrified?  Clearly I was thrilled and am enjoying the spoils of her thoughtfulness as I type.  

Be brave.  If you have good thoughts act on them.  If you hear of someone in need help them.  If you see someone having a rough day – go bake those cookies, wrap them up and brighten up that persons day.  There is something very special about the connection made when someone does something for you selflessly.

Thank you “someone”, you know who you are. X

Why I’m embracing the bow tie

It’s our third day back at school.  I have precisely 14 minutes before it’s time to up sticks and leave to pick Freddie up.

It’s our third day back at school.  The third day of Freddie wearing a skirt to school.  Let me stop ya right here…Freddie is not my transgender child.  That’s Izzy.  Izzy is transgender.  Freddie is, well, Freddie is Freddie and Freddie does what feels good for Freddie.  And what feels good right now – is wearing a skirt.

Freddie wears his skirts long and flowing.  He wears his skirts (one belongs to Izzy, one is from the dress up box, and one is a donation from my wardrobe which my mum took in for him during the hols) with one of several long sleeved shirts.  He wears his shirts buttoned up to the collar.  He wears his collar with either a bow tie or a regular tie.  Freddie chooses striped socks pulled up and black dress shoes we bought him for my sisters wedding.  On top of this he wears a long blue wizard like dressing gown.  Hooded.  He is utterly and totally happy.

I can see that people are wondering, what the F is going on here?  First the little one and now the big one?  Where did they spend the holidays – some kind of re-gendering camp?  Let me ease your minds.  When Freddie was almost three we lived with his Nana, Freddie adores his Nana and very much enjoyed dressing up in her high heels and “borrowing” her t-shirts to wear as dresses.  There was “peachy” and “stripy”, two tops I remember well.  He’s always been happy to slip in to a dress/skirt/heels…  At kindergartens he wore nail polish and drew a little following of boys who also came with their nails done.

Freddie is a boy who has the confidence and the inclination to wear attire that is considered feminine.  Freddie has been brought up hearing “It isn’t what’s on the outside that counts, it’s what’s on the inside”, “Do we judge people for the way we look?  No, that’s silly.  We judge people on how they act”.

This post has been sitting in my drafts folder waiting for some love, and hear it is three weeks later.  Freddie is still wearing skirts and shirts, but we seem to have misplaced the tie!  Here’s what I’ve learnt – kids are really, really accepting.  With the exception of the very few who have something unkind to say to almost everyone smaller than them, NO ONE CARES that Freddie is wearing a dress.   As far as I can see, they just see Freddie.  It’s just another little character trait that makes up one of their school mates.

I find it interesting, because even my mum, who as I’ve said before is 100% supportive and loving, finds it difficult not to encourage Freddie to wear more “ordinary” clothes to school.  It’s intriguing is it not?  It was only in the early 20th century that woman began to wear trousers, even then it was frowned upon – but before that, just not accepted, any way or any form.  Is it not just the same now – why shouldn’t men be able to wear skirts or dresses?  In many countries men wear dresses – right?  So it’s just cultural and cultures evolve over time.  I LOVE that my kid walks his own path.  

I honestly never imagined motherhood would be such a period of evolution – the person my children have made me, is not the one who stood before.

Duty calls

Tomorrow I’m hitching a ride with Freddie’s school Principal, and sitting in on a meeting between her and another primary principal.  He’s a friend of hers who also has/had (?) a transgender kid in his school.  

School days are beginning to feel real!