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, 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

Creating Experiences to Create Acceptance

When I was in middle and high school, my best friend had a super fun, under-supervised house to which we all gravitated. I was still relatively new to Florida, transplanting from the very white, middle class suburbs of Chicago with my parents. My best friend was also new to the area. Her mom was a hardworking single mom, something new and foreign to me at the time, and I really loved the carefree environment of her house. This whole “latch-key” concept was fascinating to me and allowed me to explore some freedom.

I spent a lot of time in their home. I did my first everything in this house (well, almost everything). My first beer, my first night of being wasted, my first party, my first “spin the bottle”, my first law enforcement run in, my first driving without a license…and it just so happens it’s where I met my very first gay person. I’m relatively certain that I had met a gay person before, in passing, but this gay person was my best friend’s brother so I had frequent interaction with this little person.

He was several years younger than us so maybe six when I met him, I was 12. He was flamboyant, loud, funny, annoying, and loved to wear his mother’s clothes and make up. It was very clear that he was gay from a very young age. He didn’t know it yet, or maybe he did, but we definitely knew.

I heard more teenagers call this child a faggot than I care to remember. I remember that making me feel really terrible but as a normal teenager does sometimes, I tended to side with the bullies. I probably even bullied him myself a time or two. But I remember not really understanding why he was called a faggot, why other kids were attacking his sexuality at such a young age. My best friend protected him fiercely, as much as she could but we were kids being kids, as dismissive as that may sound.

Of course, I wish now that I would have said more, done more, to protect him and his innocence, asked others what the big deal was, why they picked on him, asked him how he felt. It was just easier for me to go with the masses. To me, he was the proverbial annoying little brother but it was never about his potential sexuality for me.

I remember it bothering his older brother more than anyone that he was seemingly gay but I don’t ever remember it even being a topic of conversation between my friends. It didn’t feel shocking that he would someday date and love men romantically. He liked lipstick and he was a boy. And I didn’t give a shit about that. He was also my revelation of the no, people don’t choose to be gay, they’re born gay argument. He was just who he was and I loved him like my own brother. I still do, actually.

But he was my benchmark, Markie was. Whether he knows it or not, Mark normalized not only homosexuality for me but also just being different. He didn’t fit the mold I was used to in my sheltered life, he didn’t fall in line. He was unapologetically different in the best ways possible.

He was exposure that helped create acceptance, empathy, and love for me.

He might not have been my first exposure to differences but he was the first I can recall that had such an impact on me. I didn’t realize how much significance Mark would hold for me until lately, as I raise my own child and strive to create experiences and exposure for her.

We all get so comfortable in our patterns of our lives. Our normal, everyday life is our reality and everyone lives in their own reality. Some are filled with constant exposure to diversity and differences without effort, but many do not. Most adults enjoy the comfort of living in the mundane but the beauty of children is that they’re so curious about differences. Think about how many questions children ask in a day when they’re little. For those with their own children, remember around the age of three when your child would ask “But why?” every five seconds about every.single.thing?

Curiosity. It’s constant and it’s persistent with children.

And the older they get, the questions grow bigger with more substance.  The why grows from “Why do I have to go pee pee in the potty?” at the age of three to “Why is that kid’s skin so dark?” at the age of six.

And here we are, the adults shaping the answers to the why’s, creating experiences and knowledge for them. Creating opportunity for them to learn… or creating the opportunity for them to become fearful of differences by shutting down their curiosities.

My daughter has been asked time and again by other kids, “Why do you like dressing like a boy?”, and usually her answers are pretty solid: “Because that’s what I like” or “Because that’s what I feel comfortable in”. But the questions are getting tougher, demanding more explanations, and even are turning into a little bit of meanness from some kids.

When I was made aware of the first instance of her being picked on recently, my immediate advice to her was, “You tell him to leave you alone and it’s none of his business why you like boy things!”…but as I shared this conversation with one of her former teachers, she helped me realize that with that answer, my daughter is shutting down others’ curiosities and thereby dismissing the opportunity to learn. So we came up with a new answer, one that my daughter is comfortable with that is both factual and assertive: “I like boy things because that’s what makes me comfortable and happy. If you don’t like that, you do not have to be my friend but you do not have to be mean to me”.

Are kids still going to be mean to others? Of course. It’s beyond naive to think otherwise.

But the takeaway for me is that the more experiences we can create with exposure to anything different than our norm, the more we can open the door to differences and keep things real, the more acceptance we are creating, the more curiosities we are curing. Let’s not perpetuate even our own fears, biases, judgements and experiences with our kids. Let’s make ourselves uncomfortable by thinking outside of what we think we know about other cultures, minorities, and subgroups of people and really take the time to learn, ask questions, research together, be outside of the masses. Travel, read, discuss. Don’t miss these opportunities.

More importantly, let’s not be afraid of answering the questions. Let’s not be afraid to teach. Let’s not be offended or embarrassed by others’ ignorance. Let’s embrace it so we can educate and create open dialogue for our kids.

Everyone needs a Markie. Everyone needs several Markie’s. And if you’re lucky enough to be someone else’s Markie, don’t take the responsibility lightly. You might just change someone’s outlook for the rest of their life for the better.

Parenting, Ranting, Social Media, Uncategorized

Dear Facebook Friends, Please Stop.

I love Facebook. I really do. I love the concept. I get most of my news, my gossip, my baby picture fix, my puppy picture fix from Facebook. I’m able catch up with friends and family that live far away, I’m able to laugh at funny Vine videos and read some amazing articles. I sometimes get too much information about friends’ marital woes or personal struggles but hey, I’m one to put myself out there a lot, too, so I don’t judge. I’m among the many that have become addicted to the online connection that is social media.

I post pretty frequently and I’m not ashamed of it. Call it narcissistic or attention seeking but we live in this new age of over-sharing and I melded right in. I truly embrace most of what Facebook has to offer.

However. The politics and the hate. I can’t get on board.

Everyday that I login to Facebook, I am inundated with hateful memes, political rants, verbal attacks from party to party. I’m truly not understanding this facet of Facebook. If this is simply just an exercise of freedom of speech, please, Facebook friends, explain to me why this is necessary.

When you’re slaying hateful statements about anyone, a political party, our Commander in Chief, or even attempting to discredit someone’s beliefs, what is your purpose? Are you sincerely attempting to persuade someone to your side of the argument? If so, do you think this is a successful way to do so? Posting a meme about how “stupid liberals” are ruining the country, or something similar, do you think this is effective? Or, perhaps you’re looking for solidarity with others that believe as you do? Again, if so, is this an effective way to connect with others? I’m honestly vying for a better understanding here.

My opinion is this: it is bullying. It is adult online bullying and it really should stop.

I totally get it. Our world is in a scary space right now. Terrorists are attacking worldwide and record acts of violence are being reported everyday. We are, as a whole, as one unit, terrified. We can all agree on this, I’m certain. So, it begs the question: on some deeper level, are these posts simply a fear response? I’ll leave that answer to the shrinks of the world but what I do know is that it is far more damaging than it is helpful. As a matter of a fact, I don’t see it as at all helpful. It’s a divide. It’s hate mongering. It’s making me really dislike people that I thought I not only liked but respected.

I’m all for a good, healthy debate, so please don’t misunderstand. I’m always the first to the table to verbalize my own side of controversial topics…in person. I learned that the internet is not a healthy place to do this. I used to engage, I did, but I learned that everyone is more brave behind a keyboard, including myself. Fact. Each and every one of us has typed things that we would never convey in person that exact same way as we typed. It’s so easy to become a different, braver, meaner, more outspoken version of ourselves online. And, yes, the morals, values and opinions are the same, but they’re verbalized in such an aggressive way online. Some would argue with me here but, friends, would you honestly verbally attack me in person and call me a “stupid liberal” to my face? If so, unfriend me right this moment. I’m not into keeping verbally abusive people in my life.

In a nation and in a world where we are constantly talking about how we fear for our children and for their future, I have to ask my Facebook friends who post so much hate and one-sidedness to please…stop. This isn’t helping our kids. This isn’t helping our future. This is showing our kids that although we encourage them not to bully, adults can do it all day long. This is showing our kids that the world is so divided and broken that all we can do is throw insults around because we don’t know what else to do.

There’s a better answer: get politically involved. Write to your senators, become an activist in whatever it is that you believe in, run for office even. But please, please stop hating one another. I really want to still like all of you.