Uncategorized

The S.H.A.R.E. Movement Is Here!

Welcome to S.H.A.R.E.!!

Supporting Happiness, Acknowledgement, Respect, and Equality: A card sharing movement for LGBTQ+ friends who could use some cheer!

~~~~~~~~

I have an amazing friend I met through advocacy work, Ashley, and she brought this amazing idea to me yesterday. I just had to copilot this movement.

The holidays can be a difficult time for so many of us, specifically for some of our LGBTQ+ friends that aren’t in contact with their families or maybe just need a little boost of love.

So, we’re here to spread CHEER and POSITIVITY through greeting cards filled with heartfelt messages.

What a way to spread JOY and LOVE!

Here’s how it works:

  • Click this link.
  • Sign up as a sender and we will contact you with details on how to help.
  • Sign up as a receiver, or someone you know who would appreciate a holiday card, and they shall receive!
  • Share, share, share, share this S.H.A.R.E. Movement on social media!

We hope for this to grow into a huge movement for other holidays, birthdays, weddings, graduations, or any event where an LGBTQ+ friend needs a pick-me-up.

{Please note that home addresses are needed for greeting card deliveries. Privacy, security, and safety is our top priority so if sharing an email address feels more comfortable, do that! And we will send some virtual cheer!}

GET SHARING! Let’s spread some love this holiday season!!

Questions? Email me: VanessaVNichols@gmail.com

Thanks for being a part of something special,

Vanessa and Ashley

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Social Media

The 10 Things People Say to Parents of Trans Kids

Last week, our school board finally made a decision to protect our trans kids in school.

It’s been on their docket for well over a year, so it was about time.

There was an uproarious school board meeting in 2016 when one of the first trans kids came out publicly to challenge the {oh so exhausted} bathroom conversation. And the conversation continued to get louder as trans students, allies, community advocates, and parents pushed for policies and guidelines to keep our kids safe.

It took quite some time and a whole lot of conversation but the superintendent finally pushed these supportive guidelines out after ten of us spoke during September 2018 board meeting, which seemed to be his tipping point. Finally. They’re on the right side of history.

It was a big win for our small, red county in southwest Florida.

But of course, the fight is far from over.

The opposition is out in full force donning all of their ignorance and hatred. All because one uber conservative school board member dog whistled for her base to assemble. They’re digging their heels in, kicking and screaming that the guidelines are “radical”, especially because they state that parental involvement isn’t necessary if a student comes out at school; the school is to respect and honor that student, (as they should since family acceptance is not always guaranteed and home can be a flat out dangerous environment).

It’s an ongoing discussion.

And because I’m a public advocate for trans rights, specifically for students in our district, I field a ton of hatred and tongue lashings via every virtual media outlet possible. Keyboard warriors unite!

But some questions I receive are out of genuine curiosity. Questions that I believe most parents of trans kids field nearly every single day.

So, I would like to dispel some myths and hopefully even squash some outright dangerous lies. Especially since the Trump administration is attempting to erase our entire trans community by redefining gender, which scientists have fiercely rejected, yet, here we are.

Here goes.

1. You Make Your Kids Trans

Sigh.

I literally cannot get my child to do the two simple chores I ask him to do in a week. I can’t get him to brush his teeth twice a day. I can’t get him to keep his clothes neat in his drawers.

I certainly cannot make him into something he isn’t.

And I know because I tried to force him into being a girl once upon a time, before I understood what it meant to be transgender. Because I really did secretly want a girl, the gender he was assigned at birth.

I dressed him in pinks and purples with bows and headbands, up until he made his own clothing choices. And even though I allowed him to wear boy clothes as he grew, trying to support his unique character, I was still rooted in the idea that he couldn’t possibly know his gender at such a young age.

I wanted to wait and see what age would bring, despite his verbiage of feeling like a boy in his mind. Which in turn, only soaked him in shame. So much so that he was self-harming at age 8.

Once we sought professional guidance, I realized that he knew exactly who he was. He began using his new name and pronouns and like magic, he was happier, well adjusted, confident, and no longer self harming.

We don’t make our children into what they’re not. We follow their lead. Not to mention, why would we sign our kids up purposefully for a lifetime of societal rejection? That defies all logic.

They were born this way. And if you need science to prove it, there’s plenty of it.

2. They’re Too Young To Make Life Altering Decisions

Referenced above, I myself once thought that elementary aged children don’t know themselves well enough to understand their gender.

Which actually sounds ridiculous as I type this out.

Because…what age were you when you realized you were a boy or a girl?

I was 3. I loved dresses that twirled, carried around baby dolls, and embraced everything else that falls into the category of the female gender.

But more so, since it isn’t about just toys and clothes, I never had a devout misalignment between my brain and my body like our trans kids (and adults) do. I was in complete acceptance of who I was as a female in a female body.

My son was drawing himself as a male character by the age of 3 or 4, imaginary playing as male characters, begging to change his name from that same age. Because his body and his brain weren’t aligned.

So, kids know. Just as we knew.

Usually the “what if this is just a phase?!” question is asserted in this same conversation. And to that I say, “what if it is?!”. Who cares? At least I followed my child’s lead and allowed him some autonomy in exploring his gender identity. It’s really ok.

Also, we cannot confuse gender identity with sexuality. Gender doesn’t have anything to do with who we are attracted to but I believe many of us confuse the two, therefore believing kids are just too young to know themselves since sexual preference usually emerges around puberty.

Oh, and a change in name and pronouns…is not life altering, but it is life enhancing for our trans kids.

3. You’re Pumping Your Kids Full of Hormones and Mutilating Their Genitals

Um. No.

This actually makes me fucking angry.

Medical professionals are a part of our kids’ lives, as in, a trifecta of physicians including a primary care doctor, a mental health professional and an endocrinologist. And this team develops a treatment plan for our kids including talk therapy, possibly puberty blockers, which simply pause puberty since that time in life can be detrimental to our trans youth, and maybe, possibly, eventually, hormone replacement therapy that aligns with their gender identity. This usually would be prescribed in the teen years, as puberty would be occurring.

And gender confirmation surgery might be discussed as a young adult. Possibly.

Not every trans person follows the above mentioned treatment plan.

Everyone’s transition is different.

But I assure you, we are not pumping our young children full of hormones or surgically altering them.

Just no. Stop.It.

4. Being Transgender is a Mental Illness

I might hate this one the most. Not because there is anything wrong with mental illness. I live with one myself (severe anxiety).

I loathe this one because it’s used in such a dismissive, oppressive way towards the trans community.

The World Health Organization historically classified being trans as a mental illness, just as homosexuality was at one time, but it is now considered a “health condition”, solely for the purposes of allowing access to medical treatments that trans folks might choose to seek, such as hormone replacement therapy, so their body can align with their identity, so they can minimize gender dysphoria.

Gender dysphoria, the condition of feeling one’s emotional and psychological identity as male or female to be opposite to one’s biological sex, does remain in the Diagnostic Statistical Manual as a mental health diagnosis, where professionals, including the American Academy of Pediatrics, have agreed that the only course of treatment is that of the affirmation model, meaning to guide them in transition socially, and possibly medically {hormones and/or gender confirmation surgery}, if diagnostic criteria has been met.

To put in perspective what that means- not all mental health issues listed in the DSM V have a cure per se, or aren’t exactly mental at all, such as restless leg syndrome or narcolepsy which are also listed. They require a diagnosis for a treatment plan but they’re not something to be undone or medicated even.

So, the only time mental illness comes into the conversation might be if the individual experiences anxiety or depression, which usually is the result of family, peer, or society’s rejection of them.

Family rejection remains high, unfortunately, even given all of the scientific data that supports that being transgender is, indeed, real. And statistics show that suicide rates can be as high as 58% when a young trans person is rejected by their family, comparatively to 4% if accepted.

And of course, most of us acknowledge that the general population remains grossly undereducated on this subject, which results in stressful social situations, which can certainly contribute to emotional distress.

So, we have to do better about educating one another. And stop the stigmas.

5. You’re Pushing Your Liberal Agenda

I’m not even sure what this means but I hear it all.of.the.time.

The way I translate this is, “we need to just ignore this entire community to preserve everything we view as ‘normal’ because it threatens the patriarchy”.

But I doubt anyone would own my interpretation.

So, what I’ll say is- ok. Sure.

Our “liberal agenda” consists of fighting for equality for our kids and for all trans people. Because they’re American citizens and they deserve some equity in society. And they need to stop being “other-ed” by society.

Our kids aren’t political pawns. They’re humans. And because they do happen to be trans, they need advocates fighting for their basic civil rights.

If that’s “pushing a liberal agenda”, yep. You’re right. That’s what we’re up to.

We prefer the term “social justice warriors”, but potato, pata-toe. “Liberal agenda” will work.

6. I Don’t Understand What it Means to be Transgender

This sounds innocent enough, innocuous even. And I’m always, always happy to educate when I hear these words.

But this usually results in people steering clear of the scary family with a trans kid. They might not outwardly spew hate, they might even do a great job of tolerating us, but because they’re not educated, they keep at an arm’s length.

Which is fine. But personally, I would rather they ask questions, even if they’re invasive.

Questions are good. Sticking your head in the sand is bad.

7. What Will I Ever Tell My Cis (non trans) Kids?!

This is an easier question to answer than it sounds.

Kids are easy. And whether you are onboard with what it means to be trans or not, you frankly don’t need to say much.

It’s as simple as, “well, little Sally, your friend at school who you’ve known as Lily is now going by the name of Dylan and will be using he and him instead of she and her. He feels like a boy in his heart and brain and so this is honoring him. Try your best to respect his new name and pronouns. It’s ok if you make a mistake. Just gently correct yourself”.

And, like magic, kids will simply say…”Ok!”.

That’s usually that.

Yes, really.

The remainder of the conversation is really up to you and how much you want to explain.

There are some great books available for young kids. And older middle and high school kids, trust me when I tell you that they already know.

Because kids are very accepting and loving.

It’s the parents that teach bigotry and hatred.

Keep the conversation simple and honest.

8. You and Your Child Are Going To Hell

I cant even with the religion conversation. And I hate the phrase “I can’t even”.

There’s so many things in the Bible that aren’t honored on a daily basis, like, hello, you’re not supposed to touch the skin of a pig? Or be around a woman on her period? And you’re supposed to gouge a man’s eyes out if they force him to sin?

Get the hell out of here. No pun intended.

But other than that, my God wouldn’t want you to be an asshole. He would want you to be accepting and loving and He will sort us all out.

And yes, God does make mistakes so don’t come at me with that shit either about Him “not making mistakes”.

We have glasses for bad eyesight, braces for bad teeth, hair color for grey aging, and so on. Sometimes, bodies aren’t perfect in terms of how we see ourselves. And trans people are no exception.

God loves everyone. Full stop.

9. If Your Child Has A Penis, They Are Male, A Vagina, They Are Female

First, the obsession with genitals is alarming. It’s very strange to me when grown adults talk about children’s genitals.

But if you must, I’ll engage.

This is fake news.

Because, did you know that 1 out of 1500 babies are born intersex, which means they have sex characteristics of both male and female, such as a penis and ovaries.

Which gender are they?

Unfortunately, for many years, doctors were making that decision and surgically modifying these babies at birth…only to choose the wrong gender in some cases. Some intersex people never even knew this about themselves. Some that do are very private about it.

All of this to say, genitals do not always determine gender. Even though many of us do identify with the gender assigned at birth, gender lives in the brain. And science, once again, has drilled down on this with research.

10. But! Bathrooms!

I know, I know. You don’t want your precious girl in the bathroom with a penis lurking.

This whole bathroom debate is a complete fallacy with zero substance.

Studies have shown that not one incident is on record of a trans person perpetrating in a bathroom. Not one. Cis men are the ones we need to watch out for. Not trans people.

When is the last time you saw someone’s genitals in a bathroom anyway? I never have. Because I go in the bathroom to do my business.

And I have news for you- you’ve shared a bathroom with a trans person whether you realize it or not. That’s a fact.

But the bathroom debate that was sparked a few years back, and just won’t die, is all a distraction and aimed to continue to the oppression of and discrimination towards trans people. There’s no other basis for it to exist.

Not to mention, when my child was still identifying as female, he was policed in bathrooms constantly since he presents in such a masculine way. Everyone assumed he was a boy and would call him out when he was SEVEN YEARS OLD.

This is unacceptable. Don’t police genitals, friends. It’s weird. It’s creepy. It’s unnecessary.

And if you’re along this line of thinking, shouldn’t you also be concerned about gay and lesbians in bathrooms? I mean, they’re attracted to the same sex, yet they miraculously don’t go around humping and molesting in bathrooms. Because they’re far more focused on peeing.

And if you’re worried about high school locker rooms and kids seeing the opposite sex genitals, our tran kids are very private about their bodies. They’re acutely aware that their bodies and brains aren’t aligned. They tend to use the stalls. And again, I never saw any genitals in my years of changing into my PE clothing.

So, please. Just take a shit, pee, change your clothes, whatever, be sure to wash your hands and exit the bathroom. That’s is all.

*******

Whew. That was information overload. But all very necessary to work through for those that need to catch up.

We are in desperate need of an education so we can see more allies rising up for this amazing, resilient community.

Our kids are the bravest of the brave and we, as their parents, are the fiercest or the fierce.

Once you break down your biases, challenge everything you’ve known in terms of gender, and get to know our kids, get to know our families, you’ll find that are all the same, navigating this thing called life. Doing the best we can.

No matter what happens in the world, our trans kids will always exist and we mama and papa bears will always love, support and advocate for them.

Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

In This Climate of Attempted Erasure: Parenting a Trans Child

I’ve had such a difficult time finding my words within this past week. But I need to do some processing here.

Last Monday, I woke up to the news of the Trump administration’s attempt to erase trans people out of existence. 

Like many parents of trans kids, I felt as though I was living in an alternate universe when the news went viral. This couldn’t possibly be real. This couldn’t possibly be something that could materialize. These are our kids, our flesh and blood, that we are already fighting like hell to be seen and acknowledged and affirmed.

This made it heavier.

I’ve sat through the past 18 months with my mouth agape, unable to truly accept what this administration has managed to rollback not only for the trans community but across the political, lawful board. Nothing ceases to amaze me these days.

Yet, I had to work pretty hard to wrap my mind around the reality that yes, this might certainly happen. That my child’s whole life might have just become a hell of a lot more challenging.

As if the trans community needed this on their shoulders. As if their life isn’t already a warrior march.

This redefining of gender, as they aim to do which would be based on genitalia only, would limit my son’s entire life, no exaggeration. It would require him to live his life as female, as assigned at birth, completely undermining the scientific advancements, the medical bodies affirming this community, the insurmountable research that’s been collected in support of this community, and then most obvious – that trans people simply know who they are.

Several policy rollbacks for the trans community had already been implemented since Trump has been president.  But this move is bold. And it’s inhumane. And its void of any compassion, to say the least.

And its frightening.

There are an estimated 2 million transgender Americans. And they are being told they aren’t real, that their lived experiences aren’t viable.

And here I sit looking at my child, talking with him, living with him, raising him to the best of my ability, seeing him through so many challenges already…he couldn’t be any more real, tangible, worthy, and valid.

Yet, here we are. It’s surreal.
I’m not sure what happened to empathetic, rational beings. Do they even exist in this climate?

And in the same week that this federal news floated down, our local school board did something amazing and finally set forth guidelines to support our trans kiddos. A battle that been fought for well over a year in our district.

This was a big win.

However.
The backlash has been overwhelming. An entire community of parents are largely digging their heels in, protesting and fighting to rescind the new guidelines. Because BATHROOMS. And because of the constant irrational, illogical vilification of trans people.

And because I’m a public advocate (that’s me in that news link above), I’ve fielded an unfathomable amount of hate.

I’ve been told by local people that:
My child is mentally ill.
My child would be better off if I were dead.
Trans kids should be completely segregated.
“Normal kids” shouldn’t be around or exposed to my child.

Amongst other vile things.

The response has been far more terrible than that of anything community advocates have ever seen. Citizens are more concerned about this than issues that are far more problematic such as school shootings, forced testing, budget woes, or anything else related to our public schools. Even though our trans kids do not pose any threat whatsoever, that they are the ones at risk. And that’s based on facts that are being widely ignored.

Yet, here we are. It’s surreal.

It’s exhausting. It’s defeating. It’s lonely. It’s scary. It’s isolating.
And that fight-or-flight response in the depths of my being is palpable.

I’ve considered Canada. I’ve considered Costa Rica. Both countries protect and affirm my child far more than this “Land of the Free”.

But then I take a breath and I look around.
I look at so many amazing trans friends that we’ve made. I look at all of these beautiful lives. These beautiful faces. These souls that simply cannot be erased. These souls that need our advocacy, need our activism, need our voices, need allies standing next to them on the front lines.

Parenting a transgender child in this climate of attempted erasure feels like we are on the brink of an all out mutiny. It feels like the dog whistle for social justice warriors, for additional allies, is loud and permeable, leaking into the universe for the most giant call to action.

It feels like equality is never found riding in the center of neutrality.
And we must march far off course to rally and assert the need for justice.

It feels like resistance rising.

This is my child. This is my whole world whose life is being threatened.
This feels like the fight of my life.

And I will remain in this fight not only for my son, but for those who have lost their lives to suicide because they weren’t accepted, for those who struggle everyday to been heard, to be seen, for those who are in the closet, for those living loud, for those who can’t fight, for those who are afraid, for those with no other support, and for those who aren’t even born yet.

This administration has completely underestimated the resilience of this entire community.

Erasure is quite literally impossible.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child

Dear Trans Teens,

I know I’ve upset some of you with my last post and that’s not sitting well with me. I received a couple of very angry comments.

And I want to say I’m sorry.

And I hope you’ll read on to gain a little more clarity.

First and foremost, I actually don’t view you as “youth”. Although you are legally labeled as such, you’re not exactly who I picture in my own mind, (since my son is only 9), when I say “trans youth”.

But more so, I don’t picture you as youth because I know you’re doing a lot of adult-type work. Work that’s advanced well beyond your years. More work than we can imagine as your parents.

You are the fight. You are the movement.

We know you’re having to advocate for yourself in so many spaces. We know you’re the ones fighting the true fight that we as cis people will never understand.

I certainly cannot walk in your shoes.

But I would if I could.

I don’t want you at the forefront of this war. I hate that you have to be there. I want to do it for you. Because it’s completely unjust.

I absolutely wish I could take all of your pain and hardship away. Every single one of you.

I’m fighting for every.single.one. of you because I don’t want you any of you to experience the pain you’re living.

And I’m fighting so hard for my son in hopes he won’t struggle…but I’m not naive. I know struggles lie before him that I cannot fathom.

But this is why I will take this kind of tired a million times over.

We would lay our lives down for you as parents. We would do anything to make your lives easier and we are listening.

Your lived experience is certainly valid, but so is ours as your parents. And we need support and connections, too. Our struggles are different, but they’re real for us.

This is new to us and we are learning and we are transitioning with you and we are wanting to shield you from any path that’s difficult. But we know we can’t and that’s exhausting in ways that are different from your fight. Not more exhausting, just different. And if you decide to have children someday, you’ll have an appreciation for what I’m saying here.

My post wasn’t to take alway from anyone, as I mentioned. We are on the same team, I promise you that. And I certainly don’t want cookies, empathy, or praise. I need none of those things from anyone, especially from you, the ones on the front lines of this.

My post was to educate those who don’t walk any of this, especially those with cisgender kids. Nothing more.

It is an honor and a privilege to parent my trans child. I wouldn’t have it any other way. I will accept this exhaustion for him in every lifetime, and I would choose it all over again. Because he is giving me an invaluable education. One that I am eternally grateful for everyday.

Please give us as parents some grace. We are trying to understand this the best we possibly can. We are.

I’m proud of you and I’m thankful to you because you are paving the way for my child, too, in ways that I can’t imagine and in ways that certainly matter more than my exhaustion. And that certainly isn’t lost on me.

Thank you for all you do and for who you are.

Carry on, warriors.

Love,

This Mama Bear

Parenting, Politics, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting

Why Parents of Trans Kids Are A Special Kind of Tired

Yes. All parents walking the earth are tired.

We are all absolutely in solidarity with that fact.

We could all use about a week on a deserted island without any children, technology, or responsibilities of any kind.

But I feel the need to tell you about the special kind of tired that parents of transgender kids are experiencing.

It’s different than most versions of tired.

And this isn’t to “one-up”. And this certainly isn’t to take away from an LGBTQIA child themselves, their own struggles and hardships. This isn’t to take away from, or distract from… anyone.

This isn’t a competition.

This is just to simply explain and shed light on how we’re feeling, since it’s of my belief that we, the parents of trans youth, are living in our own marginalized community.

Unless we happen to live in some uber progressive area, we are all acutely aware of the discrimination that the trans community faces. We see it everyday, especially on social media. We hear it on the news, we see how the current administration is rolling back Obama-era LGBTQIA protections.

Or maybe we all aren’t as aware as I hope we are. Maybe that’s utopian of me. Because it doesn’t matter to most if it’s not personal, if it doesn’t hit your heart.

I’m not sure.

I digress.

Although the conversation about trans folks is seemingly becoming more expansive, even a bit more accepted amongst the general public, (especially with headlines such as the American Academy of Pediatrics recent policy statement on how to care for trans youth best is by affirming them), we still have such a long way to go overall.

And who is leading the fight for trans youth?

Parents. {Mostly. But not ever to slight or dishonor our trans warriors themselves.}

And it is indeed a fight.

The pioneer parents in this fight have been visibly on the scene for less than a decade. True publicity and awareness for trans youth has really only been discussed for the last 3-5 years. And amazing strides have been made in many ways.

I, myself, just joined the fight within the last 9 months.

And I. Am. Tired.

In the short amount of time I’ve been on a mama bear, warrior path, yes, I’m a special kind of tired.

Because we are the advocates, the fierce allies, the public speakers, the meeting schedulers, the school board meeting attendees, the researchers, the therapist seekers, the medical professional seekers.

We are the ones out in front of our kids with swords and shields, fighting like hell for equality and basic human rights.

We are fighting for our kids to be heard. To be seen. To be viewed the same as every other child.

We are fighting for policy changes, locally and globally.

We are fighting for bullying protections, for bathroom spaces, for name changes, for gender marker revisions, for medical care.

We are thinking about our children nonstop while they’re at school, wondering if others are being kind, if the correct name and pronouns are being used, if teachers are abiding by our requests, if our kids are being bullied, assaulted, chastised, outcasted.

We are wiping our kids’ tears for far different reasons than that of any other parents, fielding emotional meltdowns, especially when dysphoria hits our kids, when they loathe their bodies, when they’re frustrated.

We are navigating emotional issues when their peers reject them, when they can’t find jobs, when they can’t participate in sports with the rest of their cisgender peers, when others refuse to use their chosen name or intentionally misgender them, when adults harass them, when people tell them God hates them and they’re going to hell. When their classmates tell them they should kill themselves.

We are running to doctors to treat urinary tract infections because they held their pee all day so they didn’t have to use the bathroom in which they feel unsafe.

We are sometimes not even the biological parents fighting this fight. We are the amazingly unselfish, loving adoptive parents, accepting and affirming someone else’s child who was rejected by their own family, by their own blood. Just for living their truth.

All the while, we are simultaneously defending ourselves from hate.

We are falsely accused of pushing agendas, of having some sort of “liberal” brainwashing scheme that we are somehow instilling in our children and poisoning every other child within a 100 mile radius.

We are falsely accused of administering hormones and “mutilating” our children at the young ages of 7, 8, 9, and 10.

We are falsely accused of being crazy, of making our children mentally ill, of abusing our children, of allowing them to be transgender.

We are told we are wrong.

We are told that our children are confused, sick, misguided.

We are fighting false claims coming from anti-LGBTQ+ hate groups, Christian extremists, politicians, none of whom base their claims on facts or research. We fight the ignorance and dismissiveness of the general public.

We are the educators, the question fielders, the soundboards.

We are losing friends and families, fighting battles that our children might know nothing about.

We are fighting online trolls, personal attacks, worrying about safety for our families, especially since trans women are being murdered at alarming rates.

We are also having to pack away the child we thought we birthed, the assigned gender of our child, the hopes and dreams we had tied up in that little human. Some of us are even grieving a loss of sorts that’s very difficult for others to understand. We are grappling, struggling to understand what’s happening, how our child is feeling, how best to help them.

We are putting old pictures away that are hurtful to our kids, literally packing away our memories, careful to not use their birth name, vigilant about using the correct pronouns even though it might feel profoundly unnatural to us.

We are doing an unbelievable amount of emotional work.

And we are tired.

Because none of this is for us. This isn’t about us.

Because when we have children, nothing is about us, our needs, our wants.

Because this is about loving fiercely, loving unconditionally, and loving unapologetically.

Because this is about paving the very best path for our children that we possibly can, leading with love and acceptance, working with what we’re given in our hate-filled society.

Because that’s what makes our tired a different kind of tired: our tired involves fighting hate, discrimination, prejudice, erasure, and bigotry.

Unfounded, unacceptable, misaligned hate is pervasive in our lives. Just because our kids are trying to live their lives as who they really are, without hurting anyone or interfering with anyone else’s life.

They just want to live. And we just want them to live.

This isn’t an attention grab. This isn’t a post for accolades. This isn’t for praise.

This is for knowledge sake.

This is for awareness.

Because we are tired.

And we just want our kids to be able to have the same rights, the same opportunities, as every other human.

And we won’t rest until that’s real.

———————–

Edit: I had no idea this post would resonate with so many and make it around the internet. Thank you for reading.

I’ve upset some wonderful people and I’m so sorry if you’re one of them. Please click here if you’re a trans teen.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Ranting, Uncategorized

Gender Best Guess Parties

Hi.

My name is Vanessa and I hate gender reveal parties.

There. I said it.

I can already hear the clicking off of my page, and your eyes are rolling so hard that they might pop out of your head, because my opinion doesn’t matter. But listen, I have some valid reasons that might make sense to you if you read on.

I’m not aiming to change thoughts on these parties, because, at the end of the day, you do you, but just hear me out and you might learn something from my rambling. Or, at least I’ll give you a good excuse to argue in the comment section.

Around 2010-2011-ish, a year or two after I birthed my child, these gender reveal parties started popping up everywhere.

And I was so confused.

I mean, I saw couples go all out for these events. Fireworks, and smoke, and balloons, and surprise cake filling, all filled with the color that supposedly suggests the sex of the baby. Sometimes, like, super over the top shit goes down at these parties. This is a big deal for a whole lot of people these days.

But. What’s the purpose?

When these parties surfaced, I wasn’t some warrior on a path to dissolve the gender construct and it wasn’t because I’m a feminist who thought them to be inappropriate since they perpetuate the gender bias and ultimately the patriarchy.

I just simply thought they were silly.

Aside from feeling that they’re a bit lavish and silly, it also occurred to me that these parties are literally celebrating genitals. And that’s weird.

As expecting parents, typically, we can’t wait for that 20-week big ultrasound, for the tech to exclaim “It’s a boy/girl!”. And they do that solely by looking at…genitals. So, these parties feel a lot like, “Hey, come and guess what kind of genitalia my baby has!!”. You might as well have penis or vagina shaped cookies on the table, too.

Ew.

And I know you’re pushing back right now, arguing that it’s a celebration of the gender itself, right? But is it? And if so, why?

Turns out, for me, I became the mom of a transgender son. I was one of the thousands who thought that I had birthed a gender, a girl in my case, one that would love to go shopping with me, share make-up and maybe love gymnastics, only to be oh so very wrong. I had the nursery painted purple, donned my child in all pink at his first birthday, complete with a tutu and headband, tried to shove him into that gender conforming box.

And he would have none of it.

As soon as he could assert his opinions and his choices, around the age of 2-4, he was all boy. For him, his gender identity didn’t match his genitals. And that does happen more than you probably realize. So, it would have been a complete waste of good pink unicorn poop shooting out of a cannon, had I celebrated that way.

But aside from that, what I’ve learned is that gender is nothing more than a social construct. If you don’t believe me, dig into history and read up on how gender roles have changed over time, how that up until the 1920’s, little boys wore dresses and kept long hair until they were between the ages of 6-8. That these pink and blue boxes that we all like to put almost everything in life into didn’t really surface until the last century. Girls like pink, and make-up, and princesses. And boys like dirt, and sports, and trucks. That’s what we’ve been groomed to believe in modern day society.

It just seems narrow to me to celebrate these gender roles and societal norms for girls and boys. Especially since you have no idea what your child will gravitate towards and what they’re going to capable of. It might not fit into the box that you’re hoping for.

And if you’re saying “No, no, no! My child can like whatever they want! My girl can love sports and the color blue and my son can dance if he wants!”…then what on earth are we celebrating at a gender reveal party if that were true?

Even if I can’t get anyone on board with any of the above, here’s my final thought: Oftentimes, we hear “I don’t care what the gender is, as long as they’re healthy”, and if we mean that, why have a party to reveal the gender? What significance does it truly hold? I can’t think of anything worthy or reasonable to answer those questions.

I’m all for a good, fun party, for sure, but this is one party theme that has always rubbed me the wrong way, even before I knew my son was trans. When I’m scrolling my feed and I see pictures or videos of pink or blue sky writings announcing the sex of babies, I have relabeled them as “Gender Best Guess Parties” in my head.

And then I imagine a rainbow of colors shooting out of that firework, or oozing out of that cupcake.

Because our kids are so much more than just pink or blue. Let them be colorful.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Uncategorized

Let’s Talk About Sexuality Vs. Gender Identity

I read a post today that I wanted to love deeply. It was about parents needing to accept the fact that they might have an LGBTQ kid.

I really, really wanted to love this post because it’s so true.

Parents that don’t accept and affirm their LGBTQ kids are assholes.

They just are and I’m done mincing words about that.

I don’t give a shit who or what is telling you that being LGBTQ is wrong but it’s a bunch of self-serving, self-indulgent bullshit. If a book written a billion centuries ago, and then rewritten, and interpreted a billion different ways, is telling you that your kid is going to hell for loving someone of the same sex, therefore you as a parent cannot love them, I suggest digging deep in your soul to see if you’re prepared for your child to live a life of depression, emotional distress, and possibly suicide. This is the reality for them when they live in the closet. Check the stats. 

I would gladly give up eternity if it means that my child can live a happy, healthy, full life here on earth. If I believed in that sorta thing.

I agree that it’s high time for parents to get with the fucking program and realize that you cannot choose who your child will love or how they will self-express and identify. I’m not saying it will be easy for everyone, but it will be worth it. Take the time to reconcile that shit within yourself and your faith but ultimately- unconditionally love your kid.

Yes.

However.

The aforementioned post was lacking and needs some clarity. Specifically on the topic of delineating gender identity versus sexuality.

So, if you’re a woke folk who is with me so far, please read on for clarity.

Gender Identity, by definition: {noun} a person’s perception of having a particular gender, which may or may not correspond with their birth sex.

Sexuality, by definition: {noun} a person’s sexual orientation or preference. 

These are not one in the same and we must recognize this and understand the difference so we can all be awesome LGBTQ allies.

I am a mom of a transgender son.

When he was really young, around age 5, he started to verbalize his gender identity by saying things such as, “Mama, I feel like a boy in my heart and in my mind”.

And because I myself didn’t completely understand the concept, I patted him on the head and said, “No worries, my love. We will talk about this when you get older”, firmly planted my in my thoughts that puberty would sort through this one way or the other. I assumed that I was supportive because I allowed him to dress in all boy’s clothes, play with boy toys, cut his hair short, and so on. {See my Scary Mommy post that ran in 2015 before I was a woke soul.}

I didn’t comprehend that gender identity lives in the brain and formulates very early in life, unlike sexuality. My child knew who he was and he tried to tell me.

Just like you or I have known our whole lives whether we were a boy or a girl, so do trans kids. It’s already developed in their brains, early on.

Similarly, if someone offered you a million dollars right this minute, but the condition was that you must change your gender, surgically and all, chances are, you wouldn’t do it because it isn’t who.you.are. in your soul. And you wouldn’t want to live that way.

I refused to listen to my son back then because I was lacking the education. Until he became self-conscience, isolated himself, and even self-harmed at the tender age of 8. It was then, I finally realized, when a literal brick fell on my head, that I was confusing gender identity with sexuality to an extent. I was intermingling the two, assuming that they were both determined with age, maturity, and development.

Then there are kids who gender-bend, are gender fluid, or non-binary.

These are kids who don’t necessarily feel as those their assigned gender doesn’t match with how they’re feeling in their minds, but they play with the confines of gender roles. They might float between feeling like a girl and a boy, expressing themselves in fluid ways. Maybe they’re exploring, maybe they’re just fine with identifying as male or female but they live outside of that box, (that we so love to put everyone in), maybe they identify as non-binary (which can also fall under the transgender umbrella, if the individual so defines themselves this way), or maybe they just like what they like without boundaries or labels.

All acceptable. And none of which should make any parent uneasy or uncomfortable.

None of these things I’ve mentioned so far determines if you’re gay, straight, bi-sexual, pansexual, etc. None.

Young boys that like to wear dresses, play with dolls, and paint their toenails? Doesn’t mean they’re gay.
Young girls that love short hair and football and despise makeup? Doesn’t mean they’re lesbian.

Sexuality defines that part.

Sexuality and sexual preference is when puberty comes into the discussion. Around that awful, dreaded time of hormone surges, around the ages of 10-13, this is when we start to realize who we’re attracted to, who makes us feel funny, who we start to look at in that way, who we get those butterflies -in-our-stomach feelings about. Those proverbial crushes start to form and heartbreaks are inevitable. We all remember this part of life. Sigh.

This is when our LGBTQ kids might come out as gay, bi, lesbian, etc. usually. Hopefully we’re creating open, safe spaces for them at home to feel free enough to share how their feeling at any moment of any day about gender identity and sexuality. These really shouldn’t be awkward, uncomfortable conversations.

And regardless of, or because of, all of the above, we love our kids selflessly and let go of all of the binary hopes and dreams we might have had for them. We realize that they are their own person and we follow their lead.

But it’s important to know the lingo to be a proper, effective ally.

I’m certainly no expert and I’m not aiming to condescend. I’m learning and growing every single day because I’ve been fortunate enough to be chosen to parent a transgender child, so I’m hopeful that by passing on the correct information, we can get to a place of understanding and acceptance together.

The more you know.

 

 

Parenting, Raising a Trans Child, Uncategorized

How We Knew It Was Time

This piece is deeply personal.

My inner battle whether to make this public was a bit tormenting.

I felt as though I was treading on thin ice, whether this is telling too much of my child’s story, which is his to tell, and wanting to help other parents who happen to be in my same shoes of raising a transgender child.

Because, what if others hadn’t shared? Where would we be in this journey?

What if, in December of 2017, my son wasn’t able to scroll social media with me only to see Jacob Lemay in my feed? A trans boy exactly his age. That was a pivotal moment for my son. What if his mom didn’t share publicly? Would my son have trusted me enough to share more of his feelings, without seeing one of his peers going through the same exact journey? I don’t think so.

Ultimately, I’m hoping to help others, as others have helped me, because I know I so appreciate those who have told their story.

I want to de-stigmatize, normalize, and hope to help humanize. (And yes, my son has given me permission to write this, absolutely.)

I want kids to stop taking their lives because they feel alone. I want them to know they matter and that they’re loved.

So here it is:

3 years ago, I wrote this  about my non-gender conforming child. I went pretty public with it.

When I read it now, I laugh a little at myself, cringe a little, and realize just how ignorant I was. And still am on so many levels. I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I didn’t do all of the proper research, I didn’t really listen to anyone, not even my own child. I pushed it all away a bit.

I needed my denial.

Because after all, he was “so young” and I just wanted to see where this gender piece would go with “a little more maturity”. That was my thinking because apparently there’s no manuals that come with raising kids, let alone kids who gender bend.

When he was 6, he looked up at me with his big green eyes when I went to tuck him into bed one night and he said, “Mama. I feel like a boy in my heart and in my mind”, my response was, “Aww, that’s totally ok, babe. And we can talk about this when you get older!”. And every question after that when he asked about “becoming a real boy” was met with that same answer: “We will talk about that when you’re a little older”.

I thought I was being so very supportive since I was allowing him to dress how he wanted, choose his own toys, cut his hair off.

Yet, I was so dismissive.

I knew the stats. I knew the high suicide rates of trans youth. I knew the mental health struggles of non-affirmed trans youth. I also supported those parents who affirmed their young trans kids, allowing them to socially transition. But because my child was seemingly happy, well adjusted, and well liked, I didn’t think we fell into this category.

Because I thought I knew better than him. A 6 year old can’t possibly know more about himself than his mother does, right?

Oh how very wrong I was.

So much has changed since my child was 6 years old. We’ve grown so much physically, emotionally.

What I do know now, in this moment of this day, of this month, of this year, is that what was best for my child, who was assigned female at birth, was a social transition.

He has a new name and male pronouns.

And I have a happy, energetic, out-going, self-confident child. Something I didn’t have before.

The reason why I’m writing this is because after we came out on my private social media page, I received so many messages filled with questions. Many of which came from a place of personal experience, because they have a close family member, or even their own child, who is similar to mine.

And they want to know how I knew that transitioning at the age of 8 was the right thing to do.

My answer is this: it was the only thing to do. Because my child was hurting. And it was obvious.

In the fall of 2017, he started self-harming. He was biting himself to the point of giant bruises and bleeding. His answer when I asked him why he was doing this to himself was…”Because I like the pain. It feels good”.

He was withdrawn a bit from friends, especially at school, struggling to fit in, and he wouldn’t talk to me about his emotions, even denying that he was struggling with friends. He didn’t know how to articulate it all. He was full of shame. He was internalizing everything and he was hurting.

I’ve never felt more terrified in my entire life.

I assumed it was the gender component rocking him at his core because it’s been so prevalent in our lives since age 3-4, but if I’m being honest, I was hoping it wasn’t. I was hoping it was the divorce or some innocuous thing that we could tackle. Maybe even hopeful that it was a sensory issue. I was hoping for almost anything else to be behind this.

Because I was scared. I was scared of the label of “transgender”. I was scared because I don’t want his life to be any more difficult than it would as a cisgender (a person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth) or even as a lesbian.

So, we sought help from a professional. Someone amazing who has experience with the transgender community.

A few months into his sessions, he began to open up, telling her how he feels. And how he feels is that he knows he’s a boy in his heart and in his mind. And he just wanted the inside to match the outside.

So, we played with the new name amongst ourselves, in our home.

And a different child emerged.

One that is so full of life and light.
One that is so full of confidence.
One that will now look us in the eye.
One that has a different shine to his smile.
One that isn’t full of shame.
One that isn’t withdrawn.
One that isn’t self-harming.

He was a caterpillar morphing into a butterfly. He needed his wings.

And that’s how I knew.

This is the answer. This is how we fixed his hurt. We lifted the shame and the confusion. We let him be himself.

I’m listening now. And I’m sad I wasn’t listening then.  I screwed up, as we all do as parents.

But I’m here with him, I caught up to him, following his lead now, letting him explore every aspect of this new world, his new freedom.

This is how I knew. And it was the easiest decision I ever made.

And I’m not scared anymore. He is changing hearts. He is showing me what it means to be brave.

This was our experience, what led us to where we are, but this certainly isn’t everyone’s. It’s really ok to follow your child’s lead if they’re expressing, consistently and persistently, that they’re a different gender than what they’re assigned. My advice would be to let them explore it. Allow that space. Let them play with a new name and pronouns. It’s really not a big deal to allow this exploration.

You might be beautifully surprised by the discoveries that are made. They know themselves. They truly do.

Let them lead with this, you follow.

**********

Good reads:

https://www.pinknews.co.uk/2018/03/15/transgender-people-are-born-that-way-a-new-study-has-found/

https://www.thetimes.co.uk/edition/news/science-pinpoints-dna-behind-gender-identity-3vmrgrdnv

https://news.utexas.edu/2018/03/30/name-use-matters-for-transgender-youths-mental-health

If you would like additional resources, or have any questions, please ask me.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Politics, Social Media, Uncategorized

About That Letter. A Follow Up.

Well. Wow.

Hi.

I’m Vanessa. Welcome to my tiny space on the internet.

One week ago, I wrote an open letter to teachers that went viral. It had an organic reach of over 500,000 views in 4 days, which is giant for this little blog. (For reference, 2000 views per post is average for me.) Love What Matters also picked it up and was able to reach even more for me, to get my message to educators. And it’s still racking up the views as I type.

I’ve never had a post go “viral” from my blog. Many of my most popular writings were republished on online journal outlets, such as Scary Mommy, BLUNT Moms, etc., but never have I written anything that reached the masses from this space. I am one small whisper in the loud, vast chatter of the blogging world.

I was shocked that this specific post resonated with so many people. I didn’t feel like it was so wonderfully written or anything special. And this isn’t me just being humble. This is me saying that it wasn’t that unique but the reason why it touched so many is simple:

Teachers do not get the recognition and accolades and appreciation that they deserve. Ever. And they were just grateful to have someone say “thank you”.

I’ve been sitting with that all week.

It’s incredibly heartbreaking to me that we forget about the most important people in our world. The special humans that chose to make their life’s work about bettering our entire society: teachers, first responders, and social workers are the first that come to mind for me. Of course, our military, too. We forget to thank them and we forget to respect them. And none of these professions make nearly enough money to do what they do. They do it for the greater good. They do it for their passion.

And the comments I received, the messages, the emails, from teachers on that post were sobering. I need to share a few to drive this home for everyone. (I want to share all 200 of them but I chose the ones that hit me the hardest.):

~~~~~~

*I absolutely would protect my students if that’s what it came to because that’s my job when their parents aren’t there. I just hope my own family will forgive me and understand my love for my students didn’t outweigh my love for them if something would ever happen to me in the line of duty.

~~~~~~~

*Thank you for this. I retired at the end of last year after 33 years. I chose to work in high poverty areas. These areas are also rife with abuses of all sorts. I can remember having to have a discussion with my fourth graders after a shooting. They were scared. As their teacher, I didn’t know what to say. They knew I would die defending them if I needed to. I loved my job, but I realized the stress was getting to my health and it was time for me to go. I visit 2 of my old schools and just hate that we have to buzz people in because we can’t be sure about anyone. It is a sad day and most teachers I know around where I live do not want to be armed. They want to do their jobs without fear. My heart breaks reading some of the ignorant comments from people who think the job is soooo easy. I asked a person once to come sit and watch what I do after they criticized teachers in general. Their reply was something I can’t put in my print.

~~~~~~~

*Thank you for this. I had a shooting at my school more than 22 years ago – it was a parent to a staff member (no one was injured) but the students saw this and a shotgun slug shot was fired into an empty classroom. I have been a teacher for more than 30 years and every time these events happens, I look over my shoulder or out my classroom windows twice just to make sure I am aware of my surroundings. More and more teachers are leaving because people with feelings opposite of yours are pounding teachers efficacy into the ground. The general public hasn’t a clue what teachers actually do and due to confidentiality, we cannot share the most serious and detailed parts of our jobs. We need more people like you sharing these thoughts and feelings with the world and with those who make education policies. Thank you again for this, it will be shared with fellow teachers.

~~~~~~~

*I love teaching and wouldn’t change anything about my career path. But as a teacher I feel society’s loathing of us every day. We are disrespected and hated. Society does not want their tax increases to go toward our salaries, school supplies, buildings, etc. Unfortunately, society only cares about teachers when they are shielding students from bullets.

~~~~~~

*I received this immediately after leaving a memorial service for one of the children killed in Parkland. I sat in my car, and cried thanking The Holy One that someone could put into words what lay so heavy on my heart. I immediately shared this with the teachers at my grandsons’ school. I pray that it will bring them comfort.

~~~~~~

Wow.

Just. Wow.

I am crying rereading these.

I cannot imagine feeling so under appreciated and ridiculed in a profession that very few are willing or able to do.

What this experience did for me was gave me even more appreciation to those that are molding our future generations. It made want to shower them with praise. It made me recoil on my annoyance of homework and projects and realize they are absolutely just doing their job. It gave me even more compassion for these special souls that get up everyday to meet our children and care for them almost as much as I do.

So, hey, everyone with a child in school: please, please say “thank you” to their teachers. Somehow. Words, letters, emails, coffee, gifts, chocolate, whatever. Just please, say thank you.

And thanks to all of you that read my letter and reacted with such love and positivity. I’m honored to have made it to so many of you.

Oh, and, lastly, to those that accused me of fear mongering or made this into a gun debate, let me be clear that my sole intention was to thank teachers for all they do. I don’t care which side of the gun debate fence they’re on, I don’t care which side of the political fence they’re on, I simply wanted to say thank you.

With or without the threat of gun violence, they are amazing humans that deserved to be recognized. Full stop.

Life Lessons, Parenting

Dear Teachers,

I’ve been trying to write this for two days. I keep writing and erasing, writing and erasing.

Because the truth is, I can’t find enough words of gratitude for what it is you do for all of us on a daily basis.

I started to think back to my own years of schooling and all of the amazing educators I was fortunate enough to have. Every single one of you were brilliant, even those that I didn’t care for, especially the ones I didn’t care for because I probably learned the most from you.

Your patience, your dedication, your passion. It all resonated with me. I remember your names, your faces, your messages, your encouragement, your wisdom, your individual skill sets, your special qualities that made you unique, your ability to remember our names 20 years later, your ability to show up for us.

You set me up for success to brave this world. You paved the way for me and all of your students, because that’s what you signed up to do.

You chose your career on sheer selflessness. You chose it on passion. You chose it based on the love for children. The love to educate our youth and to make them better. We are all keenly aware that you didn’t choose this path based on the financial reward.

You spend your own money on supplies, you have very little free time in the evenings and on weekends. You spend those hours grading papers, answering parents’ emails and texts, planning, conferencing, organizing, thinking, crafting.

Now I have a school aged child of my own. In the most violent time in history, I’m raising a child. And you, dear teachers, are raising my child right along with me, carrying burdens that I cannot fathom.

You spend more time with our children on a daily basis than we do during the course of the week. You know them better than we do in some aspects. You have tasks so large that we as parents can not reconcile in our minds how you manage not only the personalities of 15-60 students, but of their parents too.

You are an educator, a babysitter, a therapist, a nurse, a referee, a judge, a mediator, an analyst, a friend, a confidant, a mentor, and a coach all rolled into one. There’s no other profession like yours where you have to wear so many hats.

You have to bear the brunt of how much each and everyone of us suck at parenting in a million different ways.

And here, in 2018, you now have to enter your school on a daily basis faced with a fear so large, so insurmountable, that my heart aches for you. In addition to all of the responsibilities you already have, you now have to worry, and even prepare, to take a bullet for our kids. You have to have that additional nagging stress of “what if today is the day it’s our school?”.

I just can’t sit with that comfortably. It rocks me to my core that this is what it’s come to.

And as I scroll through social media today, I see some offering up your services to arm you with guns, train you to also be policemen and women of our schools to combat the evilness that has penetrated our schools over and over. Some want you to bear that load of being the one to pull the trigger in the face of danger, of delineating and diffusing a violent situation, basically taking on second profession, wear yet another hat.

I see these people, most whom are not teachers, offering this as a solution without even asking you how you feel about it, without even considering the tremendous responsibilities you already carry without having to also worry about carrying a concealed weapon.

And I’m sorry.

I’m sorry so much has fallen on you. It’s unfair. All of it.

So much stress, so much worry, so much anxiety, so much thought process that already goes into your daily grind. I cannot imagine how this all feels to you right now.

As a parent, I have felt sick to my stomach this week when I’ve dropped my child off to school. I should never have to have the thought in my mind that this might be the last time I see her when she’s simply going to school, a place that should obviously be a safe haven.

I cannot imagine how you feel inside these buildings in these times of uncertainly, with the amount of tragic events happening weekly within schools’ walls. It’s too heavy.

And I want you to know I’m fighting for change.

I am one fed up mama. I’m fed up for our children and I’m fed up for you, our educators. And I’m pledging to fight until we see more and more years pass before the next tragedy, not just days.

I will fight until there’s a time when this is all a distant memory and we can look back and say, “man, that was a scary time but look how far we’ve come”. I will fight for schools to be a safer place and fight for a day when you feel like you don’t have to have your guard up. I promise, I’m fighting.

I know we can do this and we will but in the meantime, teachers…thank you.

Thank you for showing up.

I will never have enough words of gratitude and thankfulness.

You are true heroes. My words will never fill that statement with enough power.