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.

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Parent-Teacher Conference 101

I had Lily’s first ever kindergarten parent-teacher conference this week. To all of my friends that have kids older than Lily, I am side-eyeing the shit out of you right now for not telling me how stressful this is.

I was really nervous, as in, I felt like I was going into a job interview.  It just felt like it was going to be a test of my character, a test of what kind of parent I am, what kind of parents we are, even though we’re not technically we anymore. I felt like it was judgement day, a meeting of first true impressions, a meeting where this teacher would predict Lily’s entire future based on what kind of mom I seem to be. I had this enormous battle in my mind about how this teacher was going to view this split life that my child is now living, since she was already aware of the impending divorce. Does she judge me for this? Does she know that I’m fucking up my kid? I’m assuming we’re all fucking up our kids somehow but surely those who divorce are doomed. All a bit irrational and dramatic, absolutely, but that’s how my monkey mind works.

This teacher, God love her, is a 35 year veteran of the field, which made my irrational fears even more pronounced. I was feeling as though she could smell the fear on me, like an animal would. She is by no means a scary woman. She is a sweet, southern belle from Tennessee with long blond hair that reaches past her butt, wears long flowing skirts, and has the most gentle voice I have ever heard. But knowing she’s been assessing parents’ and dealing with our shit for 35 years, she can certainly smell fear on us. I truly felt as though she could see right through me, knowing that I don’t even like kids, aside from my own. I was prepared for all the judgement… especially when I realized less than 5 minutes into the meeting that Lily’s dad wasn’t going to show up. Oh.My.God. Now we’re that dysfunctional of a family.

As she started diving into the gigantic stack of paperwork she had to go over with me, the anxiety in me shifted from my own insecurities over to the metrics she started slapping in front of me. Computer generated assessments with Lily’s name stamped all over them that truly looked like they were written in Japanese. The teacher was feverishly explaining each piece of paper, what it was assessing, how Lily faired based on “standards”, where Lily needs improvement, what grade level Lily is preforming at for math and reading, what a 1.25 in math meant versus a .78 in reading meant, what they will assess each quarter. I’m pretty sure I stopped listening at one point because this was so overwhelming. The whole dynamic of the meeting began to shift as I slowly began to realize, this teacher does not have time to judge me. All she has time to do is “assess and reassess”, in her own words.

I watched her as she was relaying all of this “necessary” information to me, as she is almost breathless because there was just so much to go through and surely we were in a time crunch because she needed to get to one of the other 17 parents in the class right after me. It started to become clear as day that the only judging she’s doing is on herself because that’s what the government is telling her to do. Assess and reassess. These kids are supposedly just a reflection of her in the state’s eyes. This poor teacher, along with all of the other public school teachers, have a ridiculous amount of stress put on them with all of these assessments and standards.

All of my original questions went by the way-side because honestly, at this point, I just wanted to know why the hell my five-year-old needs to know what a trapezoid is. I do not even know what a trapezoid is, for Christ’s sake. Seriously. Screw wanting to know if my kid is well behaved because I doubt that this lady has one second to truly focus on a student’s behavior, as long as it’s not extreme, because she’s too busy with these damn metrics. We spent approximately 25 minutes discussing assessment results and 5 minutes discussing Lily. That is beyond backwards to me.

So, I did what every obnoxious but well-meaning parent would do: I stopped her mid-whirlwind discussion and said, in the nicest way possible, “Um, what happened to kindergarten?? Isn’t Lily just supposed to learn her ABC’s and 123’s? What IS all of this? They’re FIVE!”. The teacher took a giant deep breath and paused. “Well, I know. I agree. I really dislike what we have to do here. My first kindergarten class in 1978 had nothing more than a kitchen, some books, and a playhouse. None of this”, she explained, as she looked down at the pile of paperwork that was now accumulating in front of me.

Listen, I already had a tremendous respect for teachers before this meeting. This is one job I could honestly never do. First and foremost, I hate kids, but for what teachers get paid compared to what they have to do is nothing short of obscene. Paperwork, grading, lesson plans, puking kids, behavior problems, shitty parents, the list goes on, but then to have these Core Standards, or whatever the hell they’re calling it now, dictate how these teachers are required to teach? It’s complete bullshit.

As a society, we’re all sitting around scratching our head’s wondering why ADD/ADHD is on the rise? Why are mental disorders such as depression and anxiety showing up more often in childhood? Why are our kids getting sick so much more often than in previous generations? Why are teen suicide rates climbing every year? I will tell you something, this academic pressure that begins at the age of five is not helping any of these issues. I will even be so bold to say, in my unscientific opinion, that it is probably one of the most severe contributing factors to all of what I mentioned. How can it not be? No matter how this work is being presented to children, it’s still work. There’s no rest time, very little extracurricular time for things like art, music, and science, there’s no pretend play anymore. It’s mostly work. Hard work for these babies. The work Lily is doing in kindergarten is what I did most likely in first or second grade. Why this pressure? I honestly would like to know why, because let’s face it, America is extremely far behind when it comes to education. We don’t even crack the top 20 in proficiency in math in reading globally so don’t tell me that these government mandates are working.

So, what was my lesson learned in my first parent-teacher conference? Well, first I learned that it wasn’t about me, which was shocking, but more importantly? Our educational system is failing our kids and teachers. Getting back to basics and taking some of the pressure off would benefit everyone. Let’s go back to rest time, playing house, doing more crafts and less homework, talking to our kids about how things work instead of letting computers assess how our kids work, playing puppets instead of looking at active boards. Kids need to be kids. Let’s not force them into the rat race and monkey mind so early.

As for Lily, yes, I learned she’s pretty smart…but I knew that without having an assessment tool. And right now? She’s playing on a playground with her dad, not doing any one of her 20 pages of homework. I wouldn’t have it any other way.