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

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.

 

 

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.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Social Media

The Bullies Have Arrived. And I’m Ready To Use My Words.

My daughter was bullied for the first time two weeks ago.

Unfortunately , I’m not surprised. But that doesn’t mean it hurts any less as a mom.

When you’re a little girl that appears to be a boy, when you don’t fit into a perfect little societal norm box in this hateful world, bullies will find you.

She was on a play date in a different neighborhood. Her and her friends went to the community’s playground and met two boys around the ages of 10-12.

All started out well and fine, they all played together, until they didn’t.

The two boys began picking on my daughter, before even knowing she was a girl, making fun of her clothes, her shoes, her hair. When she corrected one of them for calling her an “ugly boy”, telling them she was a girl, they then called her a “tranny”, a freak, a fag, and gay. None of such terms were even understood by my child. Because she’s 8 and ignorant to such slurs and hatred.

She handled it well enough. She talked it out with me when I picked her up. She asked a lot of questions about the words they used and just seemed overall confused, but not overly sad.

She is the type to stuff emotions a little bit so I’m not sure the validity to her dismissive attitude but I was proud of her strength. We keep open communication about the incident and I made sure to tell her that these boys were just mean because they didn’t understand her and that they must have felt bad and ugly inside to do that to someone else, to which she responded well.

As for me? I didn’t handle it quite as gracefully.

I was so sad. I am so sad.

This is a tough pill to swallow for a parent. This bullying epidemic is some scary shit, especially when you bring the notion of social media into the conversation. It’s fucking terrifying.

I analyzed the incident for days. And by analyzed , I mean obsessed over it. And by obsessed over it, I mean I lost sleep, I cried and I thought about running away with my child somewhere it feels safer than this. Anywhere that posed promise for more open mindedness.

Because I know this won’t be the last bullying incident. I knew this was coming and it was the day I dreaded for years.

When my daughter’s gender identity adventures began at a very young age, of course I was hoping it was a phase. Of course I was.

Who would want their child to have a more difficult life? Who would want their child to be different, to stand out, to struggle? No one. Absolutely not one parent on the face of the earth.

But alas, she continued to express herself in the same patterns: “boy” toys, “boy” clothes, “boy” haircut, all with a bit of a masculine nuance to her mannerisms since age 4.

I’ve never labeled her transgender, as I’ve written and talked about publicly. Let me be clear here and interject- I would label her transgender, and let her socially transition, if she asserted herself that way, if she affirmed that in her heart she feels like a boy, if she ever went into depression or anxiety over it, or if she attempted suicide over it as many young children do when they’re trans. Because I now know that being trans a science based fact, because I’ve done my research, because I know families that have had a suicidal 7 year old because their brain doesn’t match their genitalia.

But thus far, that hasn’t been the case. We keep an open dialogue and yes, she sees someone that specializes in gender issues. Because it’s confusing as fuck, for her and more so for me. This is not a made up thing.

So, for now, she’s a girl with a very feminine name who looks like a boy and confuses so many strangers.

Which is where the bullies will continue to dive in. Because they’re afraid. Because whether you’re a child, a teen, a young adult, or full grown, fear breeds ignorance and ignorance breeds terrible behavior, as we have all been privileged to witnessing.

People are afraid of things and issues and other people that they don’t understand. They’re afraid and they react out of that fear. And the bullies aren’t taught to filter that out by their parents. Ignorance is perpetuated in their homes, it’s learned behavior. And that behavior translates into hatefulness. Just look around social media. Adults are the absolute worst offenders.

People ask me all of the time. “why do you write about this? Why do you put this information out to the universe to get scrutinized?”.

And all of this analysis of this first bullying incident solidified my answer- to preach the word of kindness. To maybe, just maybe, educate one person on what it is that makes my child different. To advocate for all differences.

I posted a little blurb about this incident on my personal Facebook page, trying to spread a message of kindness and teaching children to not say anything if they don’t have anything nice to say.

I received a private message from a person I knew from high school who stated that I set my child up for this bullying, that this is my fault, because I “let her dress like a boy”. To which I replied, I simply will not shove my child’s wants and needs aside, force her into a box, for the comfort of everyone else. No way. That would certainly make it better for everyone else wouldn’t it? But that is not allowing my child room to be who she is. That is not setting her up on a solid foundation.

She is who she is.

And that’s why I write.

For her.

To create a better world for her the only way I know how.

And to those that believe writing about this topic is over exposing her- that’s a fair concern but listen, she will grow up knowing her mother is a fighter for equality. And I hope that makes her proud. I will absolutely stop writing about this the moment she asks me to.

But in the meantime, I will fight for a better place for her to exist just how she is. Her authentic self. I will use my writing as a super power of education and plea for kindness.

And hope for a day where acceptance is commonplace and bullies have no place in the world.

A mama can hope. A mama will fight.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Uncategorized

Thickening of the Skin, Strengthening of the Spine

I had the first real heartbreaking conversation with my 8 year old daughter. The kind where she was sad and confused. The kind that began her story with friendships, fitting in, and feeling left out. The kind that makes me want to take her away to some island where her and I can just be together and safe and happy and free of hurt.

I knew it wouldn’t be long. I’ve predicted this conversation for at least 3 years. Most parents have to have these conversations in some variation, of course, but I knew ours would come a bit prematurely because my child doesn’t fit those traditional molds specific to her gender.

She does well with the one-on-one play. She has school friends, she has her neighborhood friends, but activities like recess and any type of party scenario, she tends to be a bit…awkward. Kids aren’t mean to her, they’re not bullying, and I certainly hope it stays that way, but, she struggles, internally.

A few nights ago, our community had their fall block party. There were probably 30 children there and I noticed that my child had been adopted by an older girl, an 11 year old, that just so happens to be on the autism spectrum. Their friendship seemed to happen quick and easy, despite their age difference. I observed them and it seemed to just make sense to both of them that they’re natural friends. I couldn’t help but feel and think that this was the coming together of two unique spirits, of sorts.

After this sweet girl left, my daughter wanted to leave, too. But I wasn’t quite ready, since I only socialize twice a year, and so I said to her, “why don’t you go play with one of the 30 other kids here? I’m sure you can find something to do with one or a few of them”.

She reluctantly took my advice and I continued to observe, noticing it wasn’t going so well. The boys tossed the football to her a couple times but then quickly divert to boys that could sustain more of an aggressive game. One thing my child is not is physically aggressive in sports. She’s not a tomboy.

The girls really don’t have anything in common with my daughter, being that they were in a group doing gymnastics and braiding one another’s hair, nothing my child would have any interest in, so that just left…my daughter.

As I put her to bed that evening, she said, “Mom, I wanted to leave the party tonight because I don’t fit in with anyone. The same reason why I hardly ever play with anyone at recess. No one is like me. I feel different than everyone”.

Ouch. Stab.

Open, gaping wound.

Blood spilled out of my heart.

Now. I don’t believe my child is immune to being dramatic, and she’s certainly bossy at times so I recognize that some of this falls on her because she wants to play what she wants to play, when she wants to play it. And I realize that many children feel like they don’t fit in for many reasons. But. That doesn’t negate the feelings of being different, feeling left out,…because she is, indeed, different.

It’s an awful feeling, at any age, to feel like you don’t belong. I’ve struggled with it more in my adult life than I did in my school years. We all just want to feel accepted and loved.

I could certainly go into the amazing wisdom I feel like I imparted on my child, how I told her that’s she’s incredible and unique and that because of that, she’s going to have to work a little bit harder to find her tribe. I could go on about how I told her that when someone dares to be different, and someone dares to live outside of “normalcy”, you should never compromise and your people will find you, like the sweet 11 year old found her. I could rehash how I stressed the importance of having that one really good soul that “gets” you rather than 25 fake friends that don’t really get you at all, won’t be there for you in the long run and highlighted all of the amazing friends she does have.

But here’s where I want to swing this into a selfish story:

Yes. I cheer-leaded for her last night. The first time of many, I’m assuming. I told her all of those amazing things about herself and how it makes her who she is, etc. but after I shut her door behind me, after our good, long talk, I cried. A lot.

Because this shit is hard.

We can say all day long that every child struggles, every child goes through the proverbial growing pains, and that’s very true, but I cannot ignore, for my daughter, that this is about her gender identity struggles.

30% of kids that struggle with gender identity attempt suicide and 42% engage in self harm and the stats for depression and anxiety are even more staggering. And between 5-10% of all LBGTQ youth attempt suicide. This is scary. Like, fucking terrifying, knowing this is the reason why she’s different. It is and there’s no reason to sugarcoat that fact.

She’s realizing she’s different, she’s realizing she’s not like anyone else. It’s getting harder for her. The confusion is just beginning.

And this shit is hard as a parent.

I feel it, as a mom. I feel the struggle. My friendships have changed since it’s been apparent who my child is and especially since I have written about this topic. Not all friendships, but some. I feel the distance. I feel the chatter behind my back. It’s palpable. Its like a thick cloud sometimes. It’s tangible.

I don’t have many local friends anymore, in this small, conservative area. I notice the lack of Facebook friend engagements. I notice the lack of invites to social events. It’s not in my head. It’s real. The distance is there.

People think this is my doing, that this my choice. That I want this for my child. That being out of the ordinary is my thing and I thrive on it. I’ve said it before but it’s worth repeating: no one wants their child to struggle, ever. For any reason. Being deemed “normal” or more “mainstreamed” would be much easier, yes? A parent would not choose this.

And even if these people know that this is who my child is, they want my silence. They don’t want me to make a deal out of this. They don’t want me to talk about it. They say it’s because they worry how my daughter will feel about these writings someday when she’s older, but I call bullshit. It makes them uncomfortable. They don’t say these things to my face, but they don’t have to.

And sometimes it’s painful. I’m slowing giving away my fucks, little by little, one by one. But sometimes it stings.

Then, little things happen. Just a nudge to remind me that my voice matters.

Just yesterday, my daughter and her dad went to get her hair cut. One of my friends from high school, whose son goes to my daughter’s school was there, too. I received this text from my friend:

Hi there. Just wanted to let you know that my son and I were waiting to get his hair cut here at the Great Clips. Your daughter was getting her haircut. First of all I have to tell you, she is the most beautiful little girl or handsome boy- whichever she prefers. Well, when she and her dad left, the older gentleman next to me said to the stylist- ‘was that a girl or a boy, I sure hope with that haircut it wasn’t a little girl!’ The stylist QUICKLY said. ‘Her name is in our system as a female name and she is a just a kid being who she wants to and obviously has supportive parents’. He just looked like he’d been hit in the face with a bag of bricks. I just looked over and said, ‘yes, she is my friend’s daughter and likes to associate as a boy, but I don’t believe that makes or breaks who she is as a child’. He just gave me a blank look. It was very eye opening to see what you and Lily have to deal with first hand probably on a day to day basis. It really opened my eyes to how cruel some people can be and especially regarding a child! So I truly admire you and all that you do for your daughter!”

Validation. It exists.

This text validated that, yes, people do spew their unsolicited, hateful opinions behind my back, whether they’re strangers, friends, or even family, but more importantly, someone else was able to see how hard this can be. And also? How incredible was that stylist that shut that man right up?

I was so thankful for this text, for this moment. I cried happy tears that people can open their minds if they so choose.

We see the pendulum swinging a bit in terms of LBGTQ acceptance, for sure. Just yesterday, the first openly trans political officials were elected (way to go, Virginia and Minnesota!!). And amazing as that is, the absolute HATE I read spewing online today because of those election results was so fucking depressing and made me realize how much work we still have to put in.

We’re are headed in the right direction, but it’s just awful to see so much hate, so much division over this topic, still. All because people want to live within their ignorance. They want to deny the science behind this discussion, they want to pretend it isn’t real…because it makes them uncomfortable. It’s much easier to call people “freaks” than to open their minds to other possibilities.

The take away here is: there is far more hope right now than hate.

And at the end of the day, my spine is stronger, my skin is thicker, because of raising this child of mine, thereby allowing me to teach her that she is a badass.

My child will only know how to stand tall and take no shit, letting no one talk her out of who she is. She will rise above the hate, she will look down on the ignorance. She will only know self confidence and never apologize for who she is. Her skin will be so thick that she will feel sorry for the idiots that believe that her lifestyle is a choice, whatever that ends up to be. She will be firmly planted in her truth and have no problem telling someone to “fuck off”.

We’re getting somewhere, one political office, one high school friend, and one hair stylist at a time. So, my child and I stand tall, and sometimes we will stand alone, and that’s totally ok by me. I’m more than up to the challenge and, more so, the privilege of being her mom.

Life Lessons, Parenting, Ranting, Uncategorized

The Great Bathroom Debate is Bullshit. Here’s Proof.

A few weeks ago, my non-gender conforming daughter (who is 8), and I were in a public restroom. As we were washing our hands, an older lady standing next to me looked at my daughter, (who was out of earshot at the hand dryer at the moment), then turned to me and said, “So, what’s the rule these days? When do parents allow their kids to go to the correct bathroom without a parent?”.

I fell silent for a second, completely confused as to what she was asking me. She took notice of my confusion and filled the silence with “You know what I mean. When will you allow him to go to the boy’s bathroom alone?”.

It took my brain a second to process that she was certain that my daughter was a boy and she was judging me, inferring he should be in his gender assigned bathroom.

“Oh, um. She’s a girl. She’s in the correct bathroom.”

The look on this lady’s face was somewhat indescribable. She could not have been more shocked, stammering and befuddled in that moment. I then saw the look of confusion take over her face, trying to make sense of my child’s gender and what I was saying.

She tried to backpedal and muddled something along the lines of, “Oh, well, well, I, um, just meant that she looks older and, um, I didn’t know…”.

My emotions were somewhere between annoyed, angry, and still confused by the whole conversation. The only thing I could choke out was, “Can’t judge a book by it’s cover, right?”, and she couldn’t manage any words.

First and foremost, stop judging parents, period, lady. Because that’s where she wanted to go with it, I’m certain. She wanted to get on her pedestal about how her generation allowed children to go to the bathroom alone at the age of 2 or whatever higher horse conversation she was encroaching on. I could hear it coming.

But secondly? This is exactly why the transgender bathroom debate makes no sense at all and is utter bullshit. Here it is. A prime example.

Here’s a person that assumed my child was a boy by mere esthetics. Boy clothes, plus boy hair, plus boy mannerisms must equal boy. She certainly could not see her genitalia. And because we were all in the bathroom to do what people do in the bathroom, take a piss, we were not bothering anyone. Why this woman felt the need to say anything at all is beyond me but by doing so, she proved a much larger point.

She proved that had my daughter been in the men’s bathroom, no one would have questioned her at all because she looks like a boy. If my daughter was/is trans, she’s visually acceptable and it would go without notice that she is in the stall next to another little boy. No one would know that she actually has a vagina.

The fact of the matter is, you have taken a squat in the very next stall to a trans person. You absolutely have. You just don’t know it. Because, as my daughter proved to this woman, looks can be very, very deceiving. Guys look like girls, girls look like guys, and trans people look like who they are. But more so- who cares?

Straight, gay, trans, bi- when we go into a bathroom, we all just need to go to the bathroom. That’s it. Pee, or take a shit, wash our hands, and move on. Why everyone is so goddamned concerned with our genitalia is bizarre. There are plenty of hard facts documenting that straight men are usually the perpetrators in any kind of bathroom assault or perversion so what’s with this preoccupation with transgender people or gender in general?

Since this whole bathroom debate began a couple of years ago, it caused me so much confusion about what it is everyone is so afraid of. I know the big bathroom debate is tired. I know it’s been written, it’s been discussed ad-nauseam. So, this is me half venting, half {hopefully} educating in a spill of emotion.

The truth seems to be, people just don’t want to be wrong about this marginalized community and this is why this is even still a topic of discussion. They don’t want to try to understand the biology and how it’s different from their own, or even if it’s different at all. They don’t want to realize that they’re just like everyone else.

Regardless of what your bible might tell you or what “morals and ethics” you hold true, or if you’re just one of those that believe those that challenge gender norms are “freaks”, try to put that all aside for one second. They’re people. Just living. That’s it. They’re just human beings. That’s it. Normal, breathing, thriving humans that need to go to the bathroom. If you don’t want to try to understand anything else about gender issues, fine. But just recognize the simple fact that they need to go to the fucking bathroom, just like you.

It hurts so many people when we move backwards, back towards exclusivity, opposed to inclusiveness. The us-versus-them mentality. The you’re-different-so-you-must-be-wrong mentality. And we are, indeed, slipping backward.

I hope we can do better as a whole with this entire topic. I’m not overly optimistic lately.

But also? Don’t give unsolicited parenting advice. Ever.

And, Stop judging books by their covers. Let my daughter pee and mind your own business.

 

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Life Lessons, Relationships, Uncategorized

A Lesson Learned From Walking In The Rain

I walked to the gym tonight to do some yoga. It’s about .5 mile each way.

I’d been in a funk and I needed to breathe. I realized once I got there that I only had about 20 minutes because of a cardio class that was coming in. That frustrated me but I carried on with my practice, feeling rushed. Not quite what I had imagined.

While I was there, though, a giant rainstorm rolled in, quickly, as they do in Florida. It was so rhythmic and calming that the storm actually brightened my mood. It made me slow down my practice. It made me breathe deeper and longer. It made me more mindful somehow.

There’s just something about a good, evening rainstorm sometimes.

As I finished up my practice, it was raining so hard that I couldn’t walk home. Only, no. It wasn’t that I couldn’t. It was that I didn’t want to. There was no lightening, so, no danger. It was simply that I didn’t want to be uncomfortable. I didn’t want to get wet and soggy and cold and uncomfortable.

So, I sat there. 10, 15, 20, 25 minutes went by.

I started to wonder when the storm would pass. I grew impatient because I was getting hungry. A gentleman sitting next to me, also waiting out the storm, looked at me and said, “I just looked at the radar and this storm isn’t going anywhere. Might as well make peace with it”.

What wise wording. Make peace with it. Make peace with the discomfort, essentially.

His comment sent my brain down a metaphorical highway and got me thinking…

Our species isn’t very good at making peace with discomfort- physical or emotional. We are beings that will do almost anything to avoid discomfort. We’ll pop a pill at the slightest amount of pain. We’ll write off friendships or relationships when things get complicated. We’ll guzzle alcohol at when life gets stressful.

We don’t want to sit with the lesson. We don’t want to learn what’s being taught. We just want to make things easier on ourselves and take the path of least resistance.

A very wise friend once said it so eloquently, though, “Nothing truly goes away before it teaches you what you need to learn”. And she’s so right.

Whether it’s a reoccurring bad dream about someone you’ve wronged, a romantic partner you can’t let go of, a friendship that you can’t seem to reconcile, a job that you know isn’t right for you but you stay…the lesson hasn’t been taught yet. Or more likely, the lesson hasn’t been learned yet. We must listen carefully.

And you have to be willing to be uncomfortable to work through it all.

That storm wasn’t passing tonight. So I took off my flip-flops, yanked up my yoga mat and walked through it.

It was simultaneously exhilarating and fun to walk through the rain. I felt like a kid walking barefoot through puddles. I was wet and soggy and cold when I got home. But the discomfort? It was momentary. It was fleeting. That feeling of freedom and airiness while I was walking in the rain far surpassed my discomfort. I felt really good when I got home. I felt lighter.

I needed that release of walking in the rain. That was my lesson. Right in front of me, yet hidden in my reluctance to be uncomfortable.

But. You just can’t get to the lesson without testing your comfort zone boundaries. Lessons are never easy. They’re never uncomplicated. There doesn’t seem to be much of an education in things that come easy.

It stopped raining five minutes after I got home. That storm wouldn’t pass until it taught me the lesson. I just needed to listen.

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Life Lessons, Parenting, Uncategorized

Dear Neighbors, Thank You For Being A Part of My Village

I live in the retirement capitol of the world. Literally.

The median age of my town is 67. It’s been referred to as “Heaven’s Waiting Room” and all of the other “near death” jokes you can think of. Bunko, golf, and pickle ball are the focus of most conversations and no one eats dinner after 5:30pm, (which, I’ve somehow comfortably melded into this). The speed limit here is 45 but you must drive at least 15mph under that in the left lane. And, if you’re looking for any establishment to be open after 8pm, you’re out of luck. Our Walmart is open 24 hours, though. That was giant news when it opened.

I have been here the majority of my life and it wasn’t always the most exciting place for children. When I was school-aged, most communities were strictly 55 and over (and still are), meaning, yes, that they discriminate against anyone younger living in them. That said, young families were just dispersed throughout our town since there was not one community that was geared towards that demographic. We were lucky to have one or two kids within a 3 mile radius.

I now have an 8 year old who happens to be an only child. And truth be told, I am one of those moms that hates playing with their kids. Sorry, but it’s true. I am not that kind of fun mom. I will do dance parties, watch movies, go on hikes, go to the beach, go to the pool, but if the play involves my child telling me what to say during imaginary play….nope. Sorry. I suck at it. So, she does rely on her friends, as I believe she should.

About 4-5 years ago, a home builder of those cookie-cutter type housing communities acknowledged the need for a community that appealed to younger families, noticing that this population is growing here.

Low and behold, he was building a monster community where he put in a….water slide.

:::Cue opening gates of heaven music::::

A water slide. Fucking genius. Build it and they will come.

And so all of us young families marched in like zombies to purchase a new home and asked, “Where do we sign?”, declaring, “Take my money!!”. I don’t even think any of us cared what the house necessarily looked like, what the quality was like, or how much it even cost.

There was a water slide. And playgrounds. And walking trails. And kayaks. And even promotional pictures posted of….children playing. It was a Christmas miracle.

So, I’ve painted the picture. My neighborhood houses approximately 75% of the young families of our town here. Slight exaggeration but not really.

The amazing result here is that my child now has built in friends. A plethora of young kids her age. So many that I cannot count. She’s so fortunate to have this. I’m actually envious of her childhood, at the risk of patting myself on the back.

But she’s not the only fortunate one. I am, too.

My neighbors are a huge part of my village. The village it takes to raise a kid. And I’m so thankful.

I’m able to have her put on her handy little GPS watch-phone thing and off she goes, sometimes for hours. Maybe playing video games, maybe playing and outside game of kickball, maybe playing Legos somewhere.

So, yes, my kid is the one that’s always at your house.

But it works both ways.

As I type, I’m listening to fort building and nerf gun wars upstairs after a sleepover, that was complete with popcorn, donuts, and massive amounts of YouTube viewing. Sometimes I have as many as 7 children playing at my house, recording videos, destroying my daughter’s room. And I wouldn’t have it any other way.

I hope I’m able to give other moms and dads the same breaks, breaks that they certainly deserve, that they give to me.

It might not always be an even amount of time spent between houses. I don’t keep score. My guess is that no, it isn’t. My child probably spends far more time at others’ houses than they spend here because it’s always more fun at someone else’s house.

And if that’s an issue, I would hope someone would speak up and tell me, but I’m assuming we are all in this together. We’re all here for one another, watching our kids grow up together, helping raise them together. (I do expect you to say no to her, as I’ve had to say to your kids, and I expect you to discipline her as you would your own. Again, in this together.)

I love the independence that this neighborhood gives my daughter. I love the freedom it affords her. I’m a huge advocate of breeding healthy independence and freedom because if it can’t start in early childhood, when does it start? When do we stop hovering? When they’re teens and then they go insane with their new freedoms, not knowing exactly how to channel it? I know these are controversial questions, so I’ll answer that for myself…

I’ve realized that having wonderful neighbors allows me to feel safe about letting my child experience things on her own. It has allowed her to make some of her own choices, which aren’t always going to be the right ones, and that’s ok. I trust her. And no, I don’t trust everyone else. Yes, strangers can be dangerous, and I hope I’m doing a decent job of teaching her that. I feel comfortable allowing her to find her way, within reason, because I’m surrounded by a great support system.

I understand that my style of parenting isn’t everyone’s style. We establish that day in and day out with one another, based on the online parenting wars. But I do understand that not everyone agrees with giving their children as much freedom as I give mine. And I definitely respect that. No two parenting styles are alike, which makes the world go round, and ultimately will help my child become more well-rounded, having been exposed to so many different families.

Having all of these amazing people surrounding us, allowing my child to come in and out of their homes, eating their food, playing with their children, even sleeping over at times? I can’t say it enough: I’m so thankful. It’s an amazing advantage and it’s so comforting to know you’re all here. (And special kudos to those parents that imaginary play with my kid. You’re fucking rockstars.)

Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for being a part of my village. I’m forever thankful. And I hope you feel the same.

 

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