Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Aliens, Sushi and Taboo, oh my.

This is what I get for staying up late with my kids watching alien movies and then sleeping in the next morning:  a wicked caffeine withdrawal headache.  But so worth it when I remember the fun we had.

After feeling kinda crummy following my conversation with Romeo, as detailed in yesterday's post, we went to the mall for a few hours to let the kids use their gift cards, grabbed some sushi on the way home, and then followed dinner with a game of Taboo.  Goodwrench's girlfriend joined us this time;  we'll call her Geller, after Monica Geller on the old TV show "Friends" because:  1) she looks like her 2) she's spunky like her  and 3) she has a freaky propensity for organization/neatness that I personally LOVE.  Juliet wasn't with us and she was missed; the rest of us divided into teams.  We avoided the boys vs. girls teams this time because it got too heated when we did that playing the game "Battle of the Sexes."

Taboo is a great game for getting people to come out of their shells.  All of us were somewhat reserved the first few rounds.  After that, it was no holds barred.  DJ's cheeks were pink with her exertions and extortions to try to describe the word we had to guess. The normally reserved Bulldog even became a goofball in spite of painstakingly doing his best for his team.  So much so, that I caught him shoving chopsticks under his lip doing an impression of a walrus. Geller was exasperated with his painstaking-ness because she's a "snap to it" kind of girl, which completely cracks Bulldog up.  Goodwrench is almost always easy come-easy go about almost anything, except politics and PLEASE don't get him started on THAT.  But he had to make fun of Geller because she insisted on using the game cards in an orderly, color coded method.  Romeo was laughing so hard he reminded me of his 5 year old self.  And of course, he prided himself on coming up with our team name.  When Goodwrench, Geller and Bulldog came up with "Team Awesome" for Team A, Romeo came up with "Team Better than You" for Team B, which turned out to be apt because we indeed smoked them 100 to 82.

I had to end the evening watching a happy alien movie because we all are kind of alien freaks around here.  We love talking about conspiracy theories, and UFOs, aliens, the end of the Mayan calender....or is it the Aztecs or the Incas? I can't remember.  Anyway, Goodwrench showed us an alarming YouTube video with an underlying doomsday alien invasion theme that kind of spooked me so we had to watch "Contact" so that I could believe in philanthropic aliens before I went to sleep.

And that's how we ended our evening-DJ putting her ice cold feet in my lap because the warmth of her feet is way more important than my comfort.  Romeo fretting that if I reclined on the sofa I would fall asleep (he hates it when I fall asleep when we're supposed to be watching together), Goodwrench and Geller snuggling on one end of the sofa, and Bulldog hanging in there until he went to bed because he had to get up early the next day.  He's not the big alien freak that the rest of us are, but he is patient with our weirdness. No, it wasn't Christmas day, but I felt very connected to my family and I think they felt connected too.  Never underestimate the power of Aliens, Sushi and Taboo to bring a family together.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Post-Christmas rumination

I had a long talk with Romeo this morning that has left me feeling a bit bummed.  He had hoped for a more meaningful Christmas this year in light of the fact that his girlfriend Juliet would be joining us;  he wanted to share our traditions so it would be special for her.

We don't have that many traditions due to a variety of reasons:  it's hard to get all of us together at the same time, I work shift work, the last few years have been marked by illnesses in our extended families necessitating some changes in how and when we celebrate Christmas.  So, when Romeo and Juliet arrived at our home midafternoon Christmas day, Romeo envisioned a leisurely afternoon of opening gifts.  He didn't anticipate that others in the family were eager to get started opening gifts, or giving gifts, or that we would stop the process so that we could talk to beloved relatives via skype on the other side of the world, or that we miscommunicated when we would gather so that I hurried a haphazard dinner because it had already been in the oven for 2 hours. No, I guess Christmas didn't play out the way he planned, or the way I had planned either, but we all know what they say about the best laid plans.

Well, we obviously don't all know because Romeo doesn't understand that sometimes the best laid plans go awry; I guess on some level, neither do I, hence my guilt.

So, now I'm left feeling that I dropped the ball somehow.  I know, I know, it's mother guilt and I shouldn't pay it too much heed, yet I can more successfully lay issues to rest if I think through them, which I will attempt to do here.  If you don't mind, keep reading;  if you do mind, there is a little "x" on your screen either on the top right or left of your screen (depending on whether you have a Mac or PC) that will help you escape my ruminating.

I so wish that every Christmas could be meaningful, heartfelt, and a source of real connection between family members.  After celebrating 46 Christmases, I now know that it just isn't possible.  I try, I really do, to find a way to make the day special, but I am not a mind-reader and even if I were, how could I, even with Bulldog's help, make Christmas what everyone wants it to be?

And how do I make Romeo understand that from this point forward, Christmas, no matter where or how he celebrates it, is what he makes of it?  I'm so sad he is disappointed but I hope he can understand that so much of what we get out of something is based on what we put into it-our expectations, our ability to accept what others want and need out of the occasion, our ability to accept that times change and to accept the reality that if we can hope for and achieve a few moments of real connection with each other that we have succeeded in reaching each other and that can be enough.

Romeo is crossing the bridge from childhood to adulthood and he is feeling every tiring footstep of the journey.  How do I tell him that so many of us miss those ethereal Christmases of our childhoods, where the whole day seemed endearing and full of meaning and magic?  How do I show him that the reality is, that as adults, it's what we make of it.  Some folks hit the nail on the head with their celebrations where the planets are all aligned, and Jupiter is in the 7th house, everything is timed perfectly, everyone is in the same frame of mind, and all the important people are in the same place at the same time and want to do the same things at the same time.  We've had a few of those ourselves, but some years we miss the mark because life gets in the way.  And I guess this year, we missed, at least in some aspects.  But then again, there are 364 other days of the year to connect. Or that's how I've come to look at it.  I hope he can understand and I hope for another chance next Christmas to enjoy a special day with family.

I'm not sure who I"m trying to convince here-him or me.

Monday, December 26, 2011

Wishing for a "do-over"

DJ's childhood friend came by yesterday.  They've know each other since they were six years old, attended first grade together, and hung out at each other's houses for years.  When DJ came out, this young man was quite taken aback but stated to his mom, a longtime friend of ours, that he had known DJ since they were little and would stand by her.  Which he has in many ways.  So, when he came by yesterday, I was surprised to see DJ's mood just sink.

No one else noticed her decline in spirits because they were busy visiting and DJ chose to hang out with me in the kitchen, which overlooks the family room, but affords some separation from that room.  As soon as this young man left, DJ shut herself in her room.

I gave her a few minutes and then followed her into her room.  She sat on her bed looking lost.  I had heard this nice young man inadvertently say, "How's it goin' man?" to DJ when he first came in and I saw her face fall so I knew what had upset her.  Or so I thought.  But it was more than that.  She explained her feelings to me and ended with, "I just wish we could move and leave this stupid small town and start all over somewhere new."

An appealing idea, but not possible for us.

I started to explain to Bill that DJ was upset and he was puzzled.  He expressed that the young man had been cordial, accepted DJ, and everything else I already knew as well.  I told him what DJ shared with me:

Yes, he was "nice" to her but he was one of the most flirtatious guys in school who ordinarily greeted girls by picking them up and hugging them.  The fact that he may consider her too much of a friend or sister figure didn't matter to DJ.  The fact of the matter was that DJ just wants to be treated like any other girl at school and that simply is not the way it is most of the time.  This young man's actions that were so unlike his common behaviors just signaled to DJ that she was different, again, even if he didn't intend that.

To many people at school, she is the "girl who used to be a guy" and she is SICK of it.  I can only sigh in empathy because I can only imagine what it must be like for her.  She has put up a brave front for quite awhile but she is tired now.  Most people just aren't capable of responding to the person in front of them and their awkwardness manifests itself on some molecular level that DJ can pick up and now she's so sensitized, that even if there is no awkwardness in a situation, I suspect she looks for it and finds it even when it's not there.  And who can blame her?  Not me, that's for sure.

Romeo expressed that he went through a rough time in junior high experiencing kids alternately mocking him and avoiding him and it started a process of social anxiety that he still has to work to control, on occasion.  I can sympathize, as can most of us, and we don't have the same "stigma" attached to who we are.

I  had a conversation with a young lady in a bank last week.  She made a remark, albeit innocently, about JD, having no idea how much pain she was causing me when she said it.  Our town is so small that we always run into people we know, or who recognize our last name because we've had multiple kids go through the school system here.  No wonder DJ wants to get away-there's no getting away from the stigma.

She's becoming more withdrawn when she has to go to school.  Bulldog and I are weighing the options about school.  Homeschooling is looking mighty attractive but we worry about DJ being socially isolated. Is it better to be socially isolated at home or in a school full of peers?  It's hard to say.

We are entertaining options-perhaps dual enrollment at high school and at community college.  She'll cross paths with her true friends at high school, have minimum interaction with the folks who don't matter because she'll only spend part of her day there; she can then spend a good portion of her day in a place where she can truly start over and just be DJ-the sweet, wonderful, happy go lucky girl with none of that other "she used to be" crap.  All I know is we have to do something.  I'm dreading the end of Christmas break as much as DJ is.

Friday, December 23, 2011

Donning your Bully-proof vest

Years ago, I was married to a man who had his own considerable feelings of worthlessness.  I see that now.  But back then, I didn't.  So, when he kept his feelings of worthlessness at bay by harping on my shortcomings, I bought his story about me hook, line and sinker.

Now, this man happened to be Apple's older brother.  Apple is a regular reader of this blog, so if anyone is thinking I am slamming her older brother and thereby hurting her feelings, fear not.  Apple and I have had many discourses about her brother over the years and I am not saying anything she doesn't already know.

Truth be told, Apple's brother, my first husband, often resorted to bullying.  We have all heard that bullies are insecure which is why they pick on the rest of us.  But let us dissect this in detail.  You can show me pictures of a human brain all day long but that doesn't mean I understand it's functions or how it functions.    Let's dissect bullies because if we understand the "why" of what they do, perhaps they will have less power over us.  I say "less" because I realize that if bullies are resorting to physical aggression, it's gonna hurt you no matter how much you understand WHY they do it.  BUT, when it comes to emotional and psychological bullying, or torture, let us consider that information can act like a Bully-Proof vest.

If you're not familiar with how a police officer's bullet proof vest works, let me give you a brief explanation.  When a bullet hits a police officer's bullet proof vest, the force of the bullet is immediately spread across the fabric of the vest so that it cannot penetrate the vest.  The wearer will still likely get knocked off his/her feet, may get the wind knocked out of him, may even be thrown to the ground or knocked unconscious, all of which are unsettling, but at least the wearer will survive the hit with little to no lasting consequences.

Back to Apple's brother.  The man fought with feelings of worthlessness his entire life, like so many of us do. Yet,  his problems were compounded by genuine depression and he may have been suffering from bi-polar disorder.  We will never know for certain because he took his own life 13 years ago.  I didn't have the maturity, insight, or strength of self to understand that his constant badgering, harassing, insulting and physical acting out were all about his feelings of worthlessness and his ATTEMPTS AT CONTROLLING those feelings.  When he couldn't control those feelings, which was more often than not, he attempted to control what he could, which was me.

What he harassed me about on a very regular basis was the laundry.  I hated doing laundry.  My house could be neat as a pin, with a hot, delicious dinner on the table, and children in clean diapers but I would always have at least two or three loads of laundry that needed attention.  This drove my first husband nuts.  And he refused to help me.  It was, in his view, my job.  So, when he would mock me, or harass or taunt me about it, I would usually get defensive and immediately do every bit of laundry in the house in an effort to prove to him and myself that I was not as worthless as he made me seem.

AND THIS IS HOW HE CONTROLLED HIS WORLD.  He was in a constant state of chaos on the inside, so he tried to control his outside world instead BECAUSE HE COULD.  This is what bullies do, they bully because they CAN.

Apple, in her wisdom, pointed out to me that I must have believed, on some level, every word of what he said because otherwise, it wouldn't bother me.  Granted, this seemed pretty pat, but sometimes the simplest explanation is the correct one, and so it was in this instance. It took maturity, a second marriage and years of therapy before I learned to put on my bully proof vest.  To do it, I had to look at myself really hard and accept what I saw.

I am flawed and imperfect.  My butt is too big and I have a big mouth when it comes to my opinions.  I can be introverted when I'm feeling insecure and short tempered when I'm feeling out of control.  I still suck at doing laundry (fortunately Bulldog is a laundry expert) and I hate doing paperwork.  Guess what?  I am no better or worse than most people.  It's just that most other people are REALLY good at looking as if they don't have a care in the world.  They are great fakers.  My guess is folks who get bullied most often are the ones who just aren't good at faking confidence-so sue me.  I'm too freaking honest in how I present myself to the world.

Check out the following info gleaned from the book, The Social Animal by David Brooks, pp.218-220:

"The human mind is an overconfidence machine.  The conscious level gives itself credit for things it really didn't do and confabulates tales to create the illusion it controls things it really doesn't determine...This overconfidence comes in many varieties....People overestimate what they know....they overestimate what they can know.....And the telling thing is that self-confidance has very little to do with actual competence.  A great body of research find that incompetent people exaggerate their own abilities more grossly than their better performing peers. One study showed that those who scored in the bottom quartile on tests of logic, grammar and humor were especially likely to overestimate their abilities.  Many people are not only incompetent, they are in denial about how incompetent they are."

Yet, we've bought into the idea that they know something that we don't.  Let the fabric of your Bully Proof vest be comprised of the knowledge that bullies are full of $ - - -.  They know next to nothing and their talent is acting as if they know everything.  Can you imagine if that was one of your few talents-Bullshitting?  No wonder they have to act like they do-they got nothin' else.

Your bully proof vest is comprised of knowledge of these poor folks-they are people who are not very intelligent, are insecure, and most of all, they are liars because they misrepresent themselves in the world, and they do it at your expense, so add to the list that they are cowards.  Maybe they are not like that in other aspects of their lives, maybe there are parts of their lives where they are wonderful people, but the moment they bully, they become deceitful, weak, cowardly versions of themselves.  Your vest is woven of threads that say, "I am ok, no worse or better than anyone else; I have my flaws but I'm a good person who doesn't like to hurt others.  Is that all you got?  Ignorance?  Name calling?  Are you feeling better by lying to yourself and everyone around you?  How does it feel to be a coward?  You don't mind drowning someone else so you can stay afloat? It must suck to be you."

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Re: Bullying : I Am Not a P#$$Y - this video contains mild swear words.

Cloning Juliet

Romeo's girlfriend is here with us this week.  Naturally, we will call her Juliet.  Juliet and I were discussing DJ's social issues at school.  I was explaining that this group of kids, who formerly adored JD, now basically ignore DJ.  In her impressively deep wisdom and empathy, especially in light of her very young years, she remarked, "Indifference is so much worse than anything else."

Don't get me wrong-I am thankful that no one has attempted to physically harm DJ because I know that happens to LGBTQ folks ALL  THE  TIME.  But this shunning is psychological warfare.

If I were a person who was merely disliked and that dislike came in the form of dirty looks in the hallway, kids whispering to each other as I walked past, that would be horrific to endure every single day.  However, when I sit in the same classroom with six kids, roughly one third of the classroom, who ignore me completely-they make no eye contact with me, they pretend to not see me when they divide into pairs to work on projects (I can't believe teachers still let students break into groups independently) even when I'm standing alone in the classroom while the pairs of students begin their work- THIS is the same as saying I don't exist.  My presence is SO unimportant to them, that in their view, I am simply not present.  I AM NOT THERE, in their view.

Believe me, I want to give these kids a break because I've known them since they were little kids too.  I want to acknowledge what a difficult process for them this must be, etc., etc., yet, in the end, naturally, my empathy rests with my daughter.

No wonder so many LGBTQ kids end up depressed, anxious, engage in cutting, or attempt to control their lives in unhealthy ways.  They just want to be able to call the shots in their own freaking lives, for heaven's sake.

What do we know about bullying?  Not much since it's still fairly prevalent.  But we're learning.  How many decades did we secretly harbor disgust at the victim of bullying because that person appeared weak, or obtuse, odd, antisocial, or like they just didn't fit in with any particular group?  It's the classic "Which came first, the chicken or the egg" scenario.  Was the object of bullying so very different that they seemed to invite the bullying?  Or more likely, did that person shrink in the face of bullying that came in the form of harassment, physical violence, verbal abuse, cyber bullying (the most cowardly form of bullying since the bullies are such pansies that they can't even face their victims) or shunning?

Every single one of us knows that if we put our hand in a fire we will get burned which is why we don't do it.  We avoid direct contact with fire.  We come up with elaborate ways to control fire, we make plans in the event we can't control fire.  We practically create an anti-fire culture to help us deal with the dangers of fire.  This is what happens to people who are systematically denied entry into the social fabric of their world.  They must come up with the means to avoid that very entity that has hurt them in the past, and continues to hurt them in the present, in spite of the fact that they must face that entity on a daily basis.

Now, if any one of us became so paralyzed with fear of getting burned that we couldn't even approach a candle to blow it out, the rest of us would likely look on that person with ridicule.  "Oh for God's sake, it's just a freaking candle. It's not going to hurt you!"  But what if you found out that the person who is so frightened and dreads the candle so terribly was burned horrifically in the past?  We would understand the fear completely and if we were nice people, we would assist them in both avoiding the flame when possible, and coming to grips with facing the flame when necessary.

Victims of bullying, of shunning, can become avoid-ant which can give the appearance of being overly shy, overly fearful, backward or anti-social when in fact they are trying to survive painful circumstances in the same manner that any one of us would, were we in their shoes. So let's stop blaming the "victim" or better yet, let's call these folks the survivors, of bullying, by pretending they asked for it by being different.  They aren't being different, they are being themselves.  It's the rest of us who are so busy coming up with labels for everyone who is not like us who are the problem.  We are not supposed to be identical copies, or clones, of each other.  And thank goodness for that.

Juliet understands the importance of not judging someone until you've walked in that person's shoes.  I do wish, however, that we could clone her.

Friday, December 16, 2011

The FEDS are blazing a happy trail for LGBTQs

Flying Pig has once again kept us in the loop.  Check out what she shared with us yesterday.  And once again, a grateful "Thanks and we love you Flying Pig!" goes out to her.  Another big "Thank you" to Mr. Jonathan Adams, of Lambda Legal and Child Welfare, who granted us permission to share this e-mail with our readership.

I feel like our cause is a ball that's rolling and gaining momentum.  People are listening to those who are speaking up for the LGBTQ community!!  Keep carrying the torch folks :)

Federal Agency to Support Lambda Legal/CWLA Guidelines for LGBTQ Youth in Foster Care 
"The Administration on Children, Youth and Families will make the Recommended Practice Guidelines available to every state child welfare agency in the country to help meet the needs of LGBTQ children." 

(New York, December 14, 2011) - Today, Lambda Legal and the Child Welfare League of America (CWLA) released "Recommended Practice Guidelines to Promote the Safety and Well-Being of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Questioning (LGBTQ) Youth and Youth at Risk of or Living with HIV in Child Welfare Settings." The guide includes national practice guidelines for state and local child welfare agencies to ensure safe and proper care consistent with the best interests LGBTQ children in the child welfare system. 

"The single most important principle contained in the guidelines is that affirming the sexual orientation and gender identity and expression of LGBTQ youth in care protects young peoples' emotional safety and ensures positive outcomes," said Flor Bermudez, Lambda Legal's Youth in Out-of-Home Care Staff Attorney. "We are pleased that ACYF will make the Recommended Practice Guidelines available to every state child welfare agency in the country to help meet the needs of LGBTQ children." 

"We know that child welfare agencies across the country welcome resources to improve the well-being of abused and neglected children," said ACYF Commissioner Bryan Samuels. "These guidelines provide practical examples of practices that every child welfare agency can use to better meet the needs of the LGBTQ youth in their care. I would have found this resource incredibly helpful when I was a child welfare agency director." 

LGBTQ young people in out-of-home care continue to be overrepresented in foster care and face a crisis of rejection, neglect and discrimination. The guidelines build on previous research and best practice standards developed during the last decade by child welfare, social work and civil rights experts.  Lambda Legal and CWLA hope that state child welfare agencies will use them to increase their knowledge of LGBTQ issues, influence their programmatic decisions and priorities, and set higher expectations and performance standards for the services provided to LGBTQ young people in care. 

"We have compiled this best practices guide to give easy access to critical information for anyone who has an LGBTQ youth in their care," said Chris James-Brown, CEO at the Child Welfare League of America.  "Everyone responsible for LGBTQ youth in child welfare systems, from foster parents to child welfare administrators, can use this resource to provide better care." 

The Recommended Practices Guidelines give examples of the best practice in a range of areas, including: policies prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression and HIV status; services that address family rejection; safe placement with foster or adoptive parents; access to appropriate medical and mental health care services for LGBTQ youth and youth at risk of or living with HIV; and best practices in supporting transgender and gender-nonconforming youth.  The guidelines also encourage child welfare systems to find ways to collect data to quantify outcomes for LGBTQ youth in care. 

The Recommended Practices Guidelines are available here: 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

A great therapist is worth her weight in gold

As I've noted this past few weeks, we've been in a bit of a funk around here.  And as I've noted in a very recent entry, I've been driving DJ crazy with my game of "20 Questions." So, when DJ had her appointment with her therapist, I took advantage of the opportunity to talk with DJ about this with her therapist, who we'll call....this a tough one because I don't know her personally which makes picking an apropos nickname difficult...Disc Jockey, because she has a mellifluous voice which sounds like she should be on the radio.

DJ and I sat down in Disc Jockey's office and I began by saying how bothersome I knew I was being but I needed to be able to check in with DJ to see how she was doing.  Now, as liberal, and able to see shades of gray as I'd like to think I am, it seems that when I would pose questions to DJ about her frame of mind, her mood, etc., I would be pretty black and white.  And blunt, very, very blunt.  I guess I wanted to "cut to the chase" so to speak and find out how unhappy, or not, DJ was feeling.

Bulldog and I both have fire and rescue backgrounds.  Currently, he is retired from the fire department, but works as a contractor for the federal government with issues like emergency preparedness.  I have made the following joke a million times, but it's worth saying again, here:  Bulldog has the perfect job because he gets to tell people what to do all day long and not only do they LIKE it, but they pay him to do it.  I, on the other hand, am currently employed as a firefighter/paramedic.  Our poor children have been subject to so many safety talks, lectures, horror stories and practices of preparedness that we have scared any of them off from ever pursuing similar careers.  And we often approach issues in daily life as if they are emergency scenes that we must mitigate.  This approach works really well if your house is on fire, or you are trapped inside of a car that has rolled over 4 or 5 times.  You would appreciate our blunt, get- to- the- heart- of- the- matter- so- we- can- fix- it- immediately method of incident mitigation.  But Disc Jockey pointed out, ever so gently, that perhaps I could find a different way of checking in to see how DJ is feeling.

She suggested using a "tool"-AWESOME-I am all about finding a tool to make things work better.  It's me through and through:

Can't find the paprika when you need it?  No problem, they make the perfect little shelves for spices.  I would further suggest alphabetizing them.

What's that?  You can't get out of your car because the doors are jammed shut after your wreck?  If I can't whack and pry your door open with my haligan bar, we can get out some hydraulic shears that will get you out in a jiffy.

You're having massive chest pain?  Believe it or not, I know of a tool that will help me figure out just how bad your pain is.  The Pain Scale.  "0"= no pain, "10"=the worst pain you've ever felt IN YOUR LIFE.

I can't help but wonder if Disc Jockey was attempting to encourage DJ to use a tool, or language, that DJ's literal-minded mother could understand, and was simultaneously "tossing me a (figurative) bone" (especially since she had just used that phrase in encouraging DJ to be a little more forthcoming with information) because she actually suggested using the Pain Scale as a tool so that DJ could give me quick but concise information about how she was doing without requiring a summit with heads of state in attendance.

Knowing how DJ's cute little mind works, and that I'm a sucker for goofiness, I suggested the Pediatric Pain Scale, which assigns little cartoon faces ranging from super happy to uber sad so that small children can describe how they're feeling.  Disc Jockey was thinking the very same thing and DJ approved.

Now we're both relieved:  DJ will not be subject to "20 Questions" but can provide me with the solid feedback I need to gauge how she's doing.  DJ, however, has decided to modify the pictograms.  At this juncture, a really good day will feature pictures of "unicorns, fairies and rainbows" while a really bad day will somehow depict a "chaotic zombie apocalypse", to quote her verbatim.  How she will depict feeling kind of blah or middle of the road, I haven't a clue.  But she has promised that when she draws this up that I can scan it and post it on this blog.

A really great therapist will help you navigate through your needs as a parent and your transgender child's need's.  Disc Jockey not only figured out that we needed a tool, but she helped us to come up with a solution that worked and helped us to keep our good will and senses of humor intact.  We left her office, both of us, feeling uplifted.  We celebrated with a great meal, the first time I've seen DJ really enjoy a meal in weeks.  High five to Disc Jockey!!

For a list of suggested therapists, by state, who are experienced in working with transgender kids, check the list of links and go to the "Laura's Playground" link, I believe it's under "Transgender resources".

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

One day at a time

The shoe is definitely on the other foot around here.  (I wonder how folks in other countries like my use of idioms.  I had a friend who emigrated from France, and was learning English.  Idioms were fun to her, but she was the kind of person who found everything fun.  Maybe they're just frustrating to other readers whose second language is English.  But since I don't hear from them, I cannot accommodate their wishes!! ; > )

This time last year, DJ was so happy.  We felt like we really had it going on, like we were doing something very right as parents.  Not so much right now however.  Our lovely girl is in a heck of a funk.  She just isn't herself at all.

Bulldog and I don't know what else we can do to help.  In fact, my multiple efforts at "helping" are only getting on DJ's nerves.  I want to take her emotional pulse constantly:

How're you doing?
How was school?
Are you hungry?
Did you sleep well?
Are you just having a bad day?
Did something happen to upset you?

And those are just a sampling of questions that I pose to DJ on any given day.  Often, I repeat the same questions multiple times throughout the day as well.  Sigh....

I should have known it was just too easy, that golden honeymoon period when all of us rolled with whatever came our way.  Now we're rolling like we have a flat tire....flappity, flappity.

I want to write this morning, but I got nothin'.  We need people around us.  When we have people around, we all do a little bit better.  Maybe it's just  the distraction, but hell, I'll take anything.

Bean stayed with DJ last night while I worked and Bulldog was away on business.  I left her sleeping on the couch this morning when I took DJ to school.  I had just stopped for my standard latte when Bean called me, while lying on the floor of my living room.  She's hurt her back (we can thank my father, all 3 of us for our lousy backs) and the pain literally laid her low.  On my return home, she had managed to get to her feet and we spent the next thirty minutes laughing about the terrible positions we have found ourselves in when our backs are acting up. So far, no one has found us naked and in spasm, but I think that day is coming; I just hope it happens to Bean before it happens to me!

So, maybe that is the tiny baby step we make for today.  Try to be around other people.  Get out of the house and do something fun.  Distract ourselves, or indulge ourselves by doing something we love to do.  One day at a time-that's all we have to worry about. Right?

Identical twins-one boy, one trans girl

Good Morning Blog Follower Friends,

My beloved niece, who we'll call Nightingale because she is a nurse to the very sickest of wee ones, shared this link with me.  It's a great story and shows how many families like ours there are out there.  And it cites an excellent hospital/program in Boston that helps transgender kids.  Thanks Nightingale-you are always looking out for the kids who need you, and in so many ways :)

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Quoting Tiny Tim

No matter your belief who is God, if there is a God, by what name you refer to God, or if God is only a father figure, or perhaps a mother figure as well, most of us will recognize that if we break religious teachings down to their simplest forms, they usually have at least one belief in common:  that we are to treat others as we would like to be treated, and that the surest path to redemption is loving others, serving others and surrendering our own will so that we may do that.  It is incredibly difficult to think of others if we are constantly consumed with thinking of ourselves, however.

Some years ago, before the births of my two lovely nieces, Flying Pig suffered multiple miscarriages.  While we all were saddened, needless to say, our sadness did not hold a candle to the sense of loss both Flying Pig and her husband were feeling.  At that time, I was experiencing my own bout of depression.  Somehow, it came me to do something for Flying Pig.  An inner voice told me we would both feel better.  So, for the remainder of the afternoon, I created something to commemorate her lost babies.  And when I stopped thinking of me for a bit and instead thought only of Flying Pig for a few hours, I did feel better.  And my efforts at remembering her lost little ones meant something to her too.  She still has it.

This was a revelation to me-I literally tripped over the idea of helping others to help me.  Don't you think that God, or natural selection, or the Creator, somehow hard-wired us to feel good when we help others?  And that message, helping others and surrendering ourselves, is a common theme in nearly every major organized religion in the world.  So, forget the Sodom and Gomorrah stories, and any other story that just serves to incite hatred among us.  God did not hand out guidelines so that we could use them as weapons against each other, yet that is what we have done since the beginnings of organized religion.

Hindus, Buddhists, Protestants, Jews, Catholics, Muslims, and Mormons all share a common belief in serving others.  All of those religions mention in one form or another, doing good deeds for others, that our choices dictate the states of our souls, that we should sublimate ourselves for the good of others.  At this time of year, when two of the major religions, Christianity and Judaism share religious holidays within a week of each other, perhaps now would be a lovely time to celebrate what we have in common rather than what differentiates us from each other.  I don't think God is going to ask for a religious identification card when we meet Him or Her, but I do think we will be asked to show how our lives mattered to someone besides ourselves.

So, as I listen to Christmas carols, and Adam Sandler's Chanukah song, and peruse "A Christmas Carol" by Charles Dickens, I am heartened to remember Tiny Tim who states simply and perfectly:

God Bless us, every one!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Getting to know your new son or daughter

Remember when your child was first born?  You didn't know him or her.  Your child was a complete stranger to you, yet you loved your child, desperately, in fact.  You may have had future expectations of your child, but those expectations were limited and came from your heart.  You wanted your child to feel loved, to be healthy, to grow, to be happy.

It's only as our children grow up that we start to impose more expectations on them, and usually those expectations have to do with what WE want to be happy.  Sometimes the expectations become less about our kid and more about us.  It's an easy trap to fall into.

Maybe you feel like you don't know your kid at all right now.  After all, for so many years your son has been....your son.  How can he now be your daughter?  You don't know anything about this person as a girl, you don't know her as a girl at all.  But remember, you didn't need to know anything at all about your child to love your child when she was born and that has not changed.  You love your child because she is yours to love.  You will step in front of a truck for your child because he is yours to protect.

This whole gender identity thing can be so confusing to those of us whose minds and bodies agree.  We can't understand it anymore than we understood anything about our child when he/she was first born, and yet we found a way to love that stranger-child anyway.  That is all you have to do right now.

When your brand new infant kept you up all night and would cry constantly and you didn't know what to do to help, you kept trying, even if your heart wasn't in it.  The last thing in the world you felt like doing at two in the morning was changing a diaper and pacing the floor for two hours but you did it, even if you felt like walking out of the door and never coming back.  And why did you do it?  Because not only did you love your child, but you made a commitment to care for your child.  When you felt like you just couldn't give anymore, you went through the motions anyway.  And the love grew.  The commitment grew.

You will get to know this "new" child too.  It will be a process similar to the one you employed when you first laid eyes on your kid, but in some ways a little easier, in others, a little more difficult.  It will be easier because in so many ways, you already know this person.  The core of the person is the same-your child will likely still be passionate about whatever made her passionate before.  He may not enjoy all of the same activities as he used to, but just because you don't like golf anymore, it doesn't mean you've changed as a person, right?

Trust in your love for your kid.  Keep saying the words, "I want to try" even if you are not sure you mean it.  Love really does conquer all.  It doesn't always make life easier, but it makes life possible.  It doesn't always make relationships easier, but it makes relationships possible.

When you feel like you can't give anymore, just keep going through the motions.  The love will grow, as will the acceptance.

For parents whose kids have just come out

Dear Parents,

Your kid has just dropped a bombshell that you never saw coming.  Maybe you feel physically sick, like someone is playing a sick joke on you, or perhaps you are completely at a loss for words because so many thoughts and feelings, many of them foreign and uncomfortable, are running through your head.

You are not the only parent to go through this and you are not alone.  Before you do another thing, remind yourself:  This is my child.  This person is the same person that I brought home from the hospital and nurtured all these years.  I love my child and I will not abandon my child.

Look at your child and remind yourself again:  I love my kid and I will not leave my kid.

The thought that saved me was, "At least we get to keep our kid.  Some people lose their kids, but our kid will continue to come home to us." While that thought alone did not make the process of acceptance any easier, it did serve to remind me that my not accepting could cause my kid to never be a part of my life again; and worse, could cause my kid to not want to be part of life at all.

The first few days, you will not be able to stop calling your new daughter "he" or your new son "she."  In fact, you will still consider your child to be the same gender that you always knew him or her to be.  You can, however, promise your kid that you will try to see him or her as he/she sees him or herself.  Do that now-find your kid and promise your kid that you will try.  If you can, tell your kid you love him/her too.  In all likelihood, that will be enough to start.  Perhaps, don't call your child by any name at all, but rather by a term of endearment like "Sweetie" until you can do better.  These small things will make the change more manageable for you and will let your child know that even if it's hard, you still love your child enough to make an effort.

Now what?  Reach out to others so that you can help yourself.  For some reason, this can be a painful process because it means letting go of something, or someone.  If you want to help your kid, you must help yourself first.  In an airplane, they tell you to  put the oxygen on yourself before you put it on your kid.  There is a reason for this:  if you are not well, you can't help your kid stay well.

You are not alone.  Explore this blog, and visit the links.  E-mail me for moral support.  We're here for each other so that we can support our kids.  I am at

Quoting Clint Eastwood

Dear Devoted Blog-followers, mine,

I had a lovely comment from a reader, who I will call "muscle spasm" as it loosely relates to her e-mail address.  Muscle spasm offered help in getting the word out to help other transgender, gay, or "other" groups, which I greatly appreciate.  I wrote to her hoping to hear more about her: her life, her experiences, whether she's a teen or an adult.  I've put this request out one other time in my blog and so far, I have no takers.

Perhaps my request was too general.  I will put forth a specific request and my e-mail address so that any information  you choose to share will not show up in the comments section of the blog and perhaps we can further guarantee your anonymity, if that is what has kept you from sharing your stories thus far.

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I feel when I think about the possibility of linking up with people all over the country, or even the world, to talk about this issue.  DJ has opened a whole new world for us and I feel like we (Bulldog is totally behind me on this) might have a unique opportunity to share and spread the word.  So, from time to time, I will be posting, for lack of a better word, a questionnaire, or topic.  I sincerely hope you will respond.  If you are hesitant I ask you to consider this:

This could be an opportunity to help yourself and others like you by sharing small details of your life.  You could be that tiny pebble that gets dropped into the water that sends ring after ring of knowledge, support, and truth out to the LGBT world, and possibly even the world in general.  Who knows, maybe we can be a grass roots effort that will help change our corner of the world.

So here is this month's specific question:

If you could come up with a list of Dos and Don'ts for other people you work with, or go to school with, what would they include?

For example, "Do use the correct pronoun and Don't apologize more than once if you forget."

If all you can come up with is just a "do" or only a "don't", that's fine too.  If you want to be credited with your "Do or Don't" come up with a code name for yourself and if I include "names" you will possibly see yourself in a future blog.

My e-mail is

I will not share your e-mail addresses with anyone.  Please respond.  "Go ahead, make my day."

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Fantasy Island

Holy cow-I feel like I've been run over by a truck.  This has been a  L O N G  week.  It feels like the last six days have taken two weeks to pass.  The stress, the worry, the close attention we must pay to most of DJ's waking moments is tough on Bulldog and me.  Forgive me for talking less about DJ today and more about being the parent of a child struggling with the strains of being transgender in our world.

We desperately love our children-that goes without saying.  Goodwrench, Romeo and DJ are the best kids any parents could ask for.  Most of us feel this way about our kids, and we are no exception, but that is not to say that our love for them doesn't come without a steep cost.  The cost is gray hair, wrinkles, stress, aching joints, financial strain, worry, more worry, and the feeling of being run over by a truck.  I wish the cost would be something like losing weight in my butt;  unfortunately, that is not how the world works.  As my father always used to say, "Who ever said life was fair?"

I have revisited in my head the details of what led DJ to her recent step backward.  Like many parents, my initial reaction is wanting to hunt down the person who hurt DJ and make that person pay, in some manner.  It's not rational-it's mother rage.  Fortunately, the more rational parts of my brain inform the parts that are in a rage that I need to take a step back and remember that these people who are basically shunning DJ are just kids too.  OK, OK, I know that what they're doing isn't right, but maybe they're at an impasse themselves.  The study of sociology and anthropology is quick to point out that people tend to gather in groups and then those groups tend to try to be as different as possible from each other.  DJ's group is not a very populated group;  for all intents and purposes, DJ's group is the size of a committee, while many teens belong to groups the size of congress.

Because DJ is transgender, she is on the fringes of most groups.  I hate it.  I don't hate that she's transgender, I hate that we, as a society, marginalize others.  Truthfully, I can't believe we've gone this far without major difficulty, but that may be because she's been rather sheltered until this semester.  When she first came out, she was finishing up her freshman year.  The first semester of her sophomore year, she was home-schooled, except for attending one class at school.   The second semester, she attended school all day, but spent only half of it in the regular student population, and spent the other half in the computer lab taking her advanced placement classes online.  This semester is her first semester back in regular classes all day and we made it three months before the pressure got to her.  I am not finding fault with DJ-I think she's done an admirable job of maintaining a standing position in spite of the drag of an ocean's current of misunderstanding and avoidance pulling at her.  But I am so discouraged with the world right now.

We try to shield DJ from much of our feelings because we know she doesn't want to worry us.  We try to shield her from our worry by trying not to look as if we are watching her every waking second of her day to be sure she is ok.  We try to gauge her mood, we try to distract her, we try to keep her busy and we try to monitor that she's eating well, all without her knowing that that is what we're doing.  And while I wouldn't trade a second of my life for a different life, ever, that is not to say that I don't feel like I need a break from the routine that is all encompassing of my time, attention and emotions.

I feel a bit isolated myself.  I don't want to unload on people, which is my problem, I realize.  I am lucky enough to have a few friends that I can talk to about this, however.  And then work is another issue-DJ will be missing some school, has doctor and therapy appointments and has medicinal and nutritional needs that we must monitor.  I'll have to explain any absences I may have but don't want to breach my privacy, yet I feel like an explanation will be required.

In short, a bunch of crap is settling on my shoulders and I am engaging in my fantasy of running away to Montana and becoming a waitress in a diner.  My only personal responsibilities will be to myself: showering, eating, getting to work on time, paying my bills (which are practically non-existant in my fantasy).  My only other responsibilities will be work related:  getting food to the handsome cowboys on time, cleaning their ashtrays and refilling their coffee cups without being asked, and with a smile, so I'm sure to get a great tip.  And then going home to my small apartment that takes 15 minutes to clean, getting a bowl of cereal for dinner and spending the rest of the evening reading, watching home improvement shows and perhaps having a glass of wine before bedtime.  It all sounds great, my little fantasy, until I remember that there is no husband and kids and that reading and watching TV every night can be boring and that no matter how great the cowboy looks in his Wranglers, that I would have no real relationships.  That small break from reality, my fantasy, reminds me of how much I love my life even if I need an occasional break from it.  The worry, the sadness, the necessity of having heightened awareness of DJ's every shift in mood-this will not last forever.  I have to give myself permission to wish we weren't in this current predicament of non-acceptance, and the fallout that ensues, while still recognizing that "we will get through this, together" (quoting Bulldog again).  In the meantime, I'll treat myself when I can-I'll let some of the household chores go for a bit, highlight my hair and get a pedicure.  This bump in the road is nothing that a little self-love and a glass of pinot grigio can't help.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Two steps forward, one step back

We are in a process of having to regroup.  The group of kids that has DJ feeling so alienated are likely to be in at least half of all her classes because they too are in the advanced placement classes.  We're in a small town with a relatively small high school, and the advanced placement kids are an even smaller group, which makes it very likely that DJ will have many of them in her academic classes.  We're going to have scramble to get her through the rest of this semester and then come up with a game plan for next semester.

We're learning how difficult many social situations actually are for DJ.  She has painted a pretty, if inaccurate, picture of what her school days have been like, up until now.  Now we know that in reality, roughly half of every day is a struggle as she is forced to face a group of kids who, for the most part, ignore her.  I can imagine some folks would say we should force her to face them, because she's going to have to get used to it.  Bull$- - -, is my response.  She's vulnerable as hell right now.  We'll make her get back in the saddle but not while she's still injured.  Once she's healed, we'll hoist her up onto the back of the horse that threw her, but not yet.

I'm reading The Social Animal by David Brooks.  The chapter I am currently in talks about "culture."  American culture is markedly different from  Asian cultures, or Mexican cultures.  In some ways better and in others, worse.  One hallmark of American culture is INDEPENDENCE-a valuable trait, certainly.    But true independence is practically non-existant in this world.  Almost nothing of importance is accomplished truly by oneself.  We have elevated independence to a ridiculous pedestal so that a person is looked on as weak if they need help or must take a step backward to regroup.

INTERDEPENDENCE- a much better word and one that is considerably more accurate in describing the reality of most people's lives, the reality of successful business ventures, the reality of any important accomplishment that has ever taken place in human reality, in my opinion.  In fact, I recall a conversation between my Uncle, who we'll call Boatman and his daughter, my cousin, where she stated that she didn't want to marry because she didn't want to be "dependent" on her spouse.  Uncle Boatman explained that a good marriage doesn't foster dependence but rather interdependence so that each partner enhances the other, and supports the spouse when needed, without robbing the other person of his or her autonomy.

The truth is we need each other because this world is a brutal place.  Physical survival is not the same challenge in many parts of the world as it was 10,000 years ago, but social and emotional survival will continue to be a challenge for all of us.  Whatever helps DJ get past this hurdle is what we will do. We will not discourage her from taking a step backward to get her bearings again. We will not make her feel weak because she needs some help.  We will applaud her courage in asking for help.

She's cacoon-ing right now.  She needs to be in the shelter of home. DJ has plenty of school assignments to keep her busy and as always, she's composing music.  We will encourage her to take steps forward in braving the outside world again, and soon.  Sometimes we take one step forward and two steps back; other days, we manage to take two steps forward and only step back.  Either way, we get there. Bulldog and I love our girl.  Right now, all we care about is that she knows she's safe at home.  We'll worry about the rest of the world next week.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

They are the broken ones

Do any of you watch the TV show, "Glee?"  Admittedly, both Bulldog and I watch with DJ.  Many weeks that show annoys the holy crap out of me, particularly the petite dark haired girl with the beautiful voice because she always looks like she's constipated.  But, once again, my attention deficit disorder has intervened and caused me to digress.

Santana, a cheerleader on "Glee" is a lesbian who was outed at school.  She is forced, therefore, to come out to her parents and grandmother.  Her parents accept her, but her grandmother flat out rejects her and basically kicks her granddaughter out.  The actress that portrayed the non-accepting grandmother was quite convincing.  I could almost imagine having to personally face a person like that, and I could imagine the humiliation and pain of being subject to that kind of rejection. And then, this afternoon, I found a wonderful comment from one of my blog followers who commented on her own lack of support from family.  I ached for her.

Add to that, my own fragile feeling in light of recent events in DJ's world, and I felt defeated.  And please, it's not even my own personal pain we're talking about here.  Yeah, I'm DJ's mom, and that's about as close as a person is going to get to being in another person's shoes, but who am I to talk about my pain?  Because, seriously, you folks who must live with being "different" are truly the tough people. I don't know how you do it, I really don't.  But can I say I admire the hell out of each and every one of you? You may not choose to be born this way perhaps, (none of us gets to choose that) but you do choose to be who you truly are, who you were created and meant to be, in spite of potential and actual rejection you face.

With DJ's recent setback, I am reminded again how limited so many of us are.  And how important it is for me, as DJ's mom to remind her that rejection she faces is NOT about her limitations or undesirability as a person, but is about the limitations of the person who rejects her for being who she is.  Why is it when a person publicly mistreats us that we feel like idiots?  How can the limited person make the object of their ridicule feel like she is the flawed one, when the reverse is so clearly true?

I had to share with DJ my own moments of being ridiculed.  I had to share with her the deep pain I felt when others verbally assaulted me: how it made me feel, initially, like I deserved it;  how I wanted to change myself to avoid a repeat of the ridicule.  And how crucial it is to dig in and hang onto the truth that you are not deserving of someone else's meanness and insensitivity. Bulldog and I couldn't let her continue to think that if she were just prettier, or thinner that they would actually treat her differently.  We have to let our kids know that no amount of changing ourselves will make the other people nicer, or make them accept us because, to borrow Bulldog's words, "they are the ones who are broken, not you."

These people who don't accept and who mistreat others-they are the broken ones.  Do not let them break you in the process.  Keep on keeping on.

How to make the horse drink the water

We've had a bit of a setback with DJ.  It's gut wrenching.  I don't know what happened, something at school, from the little she has conveyed.  She has not been herself in weeks and has lost a scary amount of weight in a very short time.

Why can't she talk about it?  This aspect of her personality-difficulty sharing feelings with others- could be the biggest obstacle of her life.  Being transgender is a pretty big challenge in this non-accepting world, but if you can talk about how you feel, you can work through it.  If you can't, you may pay for it in the end either through depression, isolation, feelings of despair, inability to eat, cutting, sadness, feeling suicidal, or the worst case scenario, acting on those suicidal feelings.

I want to blame myself, as most mothers might were they in my shoes.  Why didn't I catch that she wasn't eating well?  Why didn't I act when I saw she was moody?  Well,  I did catch both of them, but accepted her explanations.  "I'm full" or "my stomach is upset" were her explanations when I asked why she was eating only half of her dinner.  And since DJ just started two new medications both of which could lead to tiredness and one of which to moodiness, we chalked it up to that, as did she, when we asked.

I have to lay most of the responsibility for this at DJ's feet, unfortunately.  We have discussed the importance of talking about her feelings of loss, sadness, isolation that are bound to be a by-product of her coming out, especially in light of the fact that she lost the circle of friends that had been an integral part of her life since she was about seven years of age.  We asked questions about the friends, and she told us what she thought we wanted to hear.  And truthfully, I'm not even certain that something about this loss is the precipitating event that has led to her recent setback because she ain't tellin'.

Then, I go back to blaming myself.  Did we ask our questions the wrong way? Did we not ask frequently enough?  Did our reactions to her responses somehow serve to prohibit her from sharing more with us?

And in true pendulum fashion, I swing back the other way again:  We tried to stay in touch with how she's doing.  We met with her therapist and shared our concerns, chief among them, our suspicion that DJ was acting more ok than she really was.  But it's true, you can lead a horse to water, and you CANNOT make the horse drink.

The next and crucial step is to get DJ to see the graveness of her mistake in withholding her feelings.  And to make her understand the importance of trusting her therapist, or us, or a trusted adult with her feelings.  Otherwise, I am terrified of a domino effect that we won't be able to stop.

Please send prayers and thoughts of support our way.  We all need them, especially DJ.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

How many suitcases are you carrying?

Bulldog and I had a big heart to heart today.  I simultaneously love and hate heart to heart discussions.  They are gut wrenching if you do it right because you are forced to look at yourself and see how your faults and goof-ups have hurt someone else.  Plus, you have to go coal mining for your own hurts that may be buried deep below a layer of impressive bedrock that under normal circumstances  only a few tons of dynamite can breach.

Like so many other people, the seeds of discontent are sown long before we met or joined our lives with our spouses or significant others.  We are all the products of our upbringings and our pasts, regardless of how much we may want to believe otherwise.

I remember a guy I knew in rookie school years ago, whose name was actually Leif Ericson.  I kid you not when I say his brothers' names were Eric and Thor.  His parents either had an incredible sense of humor or were inordinately proud of their Nordic heritage, in spite of being at least a few generations removed from that part of the world.  I'm rambling...Anyway, Leif informed me that he didn't like dating women with "baggage." Good luck with that because all of us are carrying baggage-some may be lucky to tote a carry on, and others are stuck with steamer trunks, like only the wealthy on the "Titanic" would own because they paid someone else to carry them.

Granted, some of us want to clutch our baggage and wear it like a shield.  Maybe we think it will protect us from further hurt.  Some of us pretend that the baggage doesn't exist, in spite of the fact that our shins are black and blue from repeatedly having the allegedly non-existant baggage knocking us about every time we attempt to take a step forward in our lives.  Naturally, it would be better to acknowledge the existence of our baggage while simultaneously not wearing it like a freaking medal, but that is a tough act of balancing.  Yet, if we don't find a way to do this, we may inadvertently ruin our own chances of happiness and pass our baggage on to our children.  My children hope to inherit money and some of my belongings, but I am certain a complete set of matched emotions wrapped in soft-sided exteriors with hidden zippers is not what they had in mind even if it does have wheels and a handle.  Just because it's equipped with handy tools to tote the thing doesn't mean they want my luggage to haul around, if they can avoid it.

OK, in some cases, it's already too late.  I've given my kids some baggage already.  Hopefully, it's just enough to contain their deodorant, soap and a toothbrush and nothing more.  But, now that I am completely aware of my propensity to drag around my baggage and that I may be contributing to the size of their baggage, maybe I can limit my future contributions to their load.

For instance,  accepting my kids as they are is a great start.  Realizing that we are not extensions of each other and that we are wholly separate from each other is integral.  When my child says that his birth certificate is wrong and we must stop saying, "him" and start saying, "her" I must respect that.  If she is wholly separate from me, then her feelings about herself are no reflection on me whatsoever;  my refusal to accept her feelings, however, is.  If it turns out that she didn't understand herself well, and by some strange reason, decides to go back to the original "him," it is STILL no reflection on me that I honored the first request.  It's not as if I was a fool to respect his wishes, or as if I failed because I did so.

Sometimes, the best way to let a person find out if they are making a mistake, or are tripping on the most profound truth of their life is to let them take the risk.  As parents, we often add to our kids' baggage by not letting them do that.  We either want to protect them from failure, or disappointment, or what we deem "reality." Rather, let us give them the tools to pick themselves up when they fail.  Not if they fail, because they will fail at something.  So, rather than make them feel like failures to adequately prepare them for life (a perspective I think of as crap) or not letting them ever fail, why not, instead of giving them luggage, give them a luggage CART by letting them risk rejection, failure, small measures of ridicule or disappointment, so that they can learn important lessons about themselves. Lessons like, it doesn't matter if I get knocked down 5 times as long as I stand up 6 times.  Or, finding out that the closing of a door may be the only way we find the fabulous opportunity waiting behind the stunning bay window.

But our best bet of not significantly adding to our child's baggage, in this author's humble opinion, is to really see our children as wholly separate from ourselves.  We often want to project ourselves onto them.  Many times, we do this out of love, but when inappropriately applied, love can act as a tourniquet.  Maybe it's because it's not truly love to begin with-it's our refusal to accept that the person in front of us is not us but merely came from us.  The degree of how different from us they are can and will vary
W I D E L Y from family to family and from child to child.  If our child is goth, it doesn't necessarily mean a thing about us as parents.  If your child is gay, you did not fail in some way.  If your child was born in the wrong body, you accepting their information is not a reflection of you as being overly permissive, or immoral, or anything like that.

In my line of work, we sometimes cross paths with people who are drug seekers because they are addicts.  Usually, people seek pain meds because they truly are in pain and need them.  Sometimes, as in the case of addicts, they are giving us a convincing story so that we will give them morphine.  Many of my peers consider themselves fools if a patient tricks them into giving pain meds and finding out later that they are what we call "frequent flyers" and are well known addicts by the staff in the emergency room.  But if I believe a patient's story and all other indicators seem to point to the truth of her declaration, and later it turns out to not be true, for whatever reason, I am not the idiot.  I simply believed the person.  Whether or not the person was truthful, or misinformed, or flat out lying is not the point.  My acceptance, or lack thereof  is solely a reflection of me.  Whether or not the person deserves my acceptance is not a reflection of me AND is a slippery slope to making an arrogant assumption. And an even more arrogant assumption is thinking that we know the person better than they know themselves.

"It's just a phase" or "She's just trying to get attention" or "He's confused and doesn't know what he wants"-how do we really know we're right?   And in the case of our kids, if we're wrong about our assumptions about them, that can lead to some pretty deep hurt.....and baggage.

Lately, DJ's hair and make-up and music are becoming less and less to my taste.  I can hope that it's just a phase, but she might end up thinking a mohawk that stands ten inches off the top of her head is a great look for her, even when she's 30.  Lordy, I hope not, but if she does, she's not me.  Her decision to look like a 1980's throw-back truly is not a reflection of me.  Granted, while I may not want to be seen with her, I won't give in to that.  Because really, why wouldn't I want to be seen with her?  Because I would be worried what other people will think....of me.  I might SAY I'm worried what they think of her, but only because I'm seeing her as an extension of me.  Which she isn't.

So, let's do ourselves, and our kids, and the world for that matter, a big favor.  Let us admit to having our own baggage, first.  Next, let us recognize that our baggage can cause us to contribute to our childrens' baggage.  After that, let us accept that we and our children are separate from each other.  Once we get that down, accepting is pretty easy.  You're you.  I'm me.  I can and will love you no matter how different from me you are.  Period.  Isn't that what we all want?  I know I do.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Thanksgiving Top 10, not in any specific order

1. I am thankful that DJ turned out to be the daughter I always wanted.

2. I am thankful that DJ's brothers love her as much as ever so that my three kids remain as tightly bound to each other as ever.

3.  I am thankful that my two sons are the kind of young men who take courses like "Women's Studies" in college, aren't afraid of telling their mother they miss her, and choose strong, independent women to love.

4.  I am thankful for DJ's exuberance and mild manner.

5.  I am thankful that Bulldog is both a "promise keeper" and the kind of man who believes that even at 49 he can continue to grow to be a "strong, mighty oak."

6.  I am thankful that in spite of many people abusing the heck out of the 911 system, that because of the job I'm in, I am afforded the opportunity to cross paths with people at their worst moments and witness how, in spite of their obvious hardship, that love can truly conquer all.

7.  I am thankful that this old body can still DO my job, even if it's just barely.

8.  I am thankful to live in a country where I am free to write what I think, believe, and feel, and not fear persecution, prosecution, torture or death for my writings, my thoughts, or my beliefs; I am also thankful for the sacrifices of men and women who, in the past and present, continue to ensure my freedoms.

9.  I am thankful to find that in spite of there being an incredible number of mean people in the world, that their are more than enough lovely people whose goodness outshines their darkness.

10.  I am thankful for the invisible safety net which cradles me and mine and is comprised of family, friends, coworkers, blog readers, therapists, doctors, teachers, guidance counselors and pets.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Fixing my CNN mistake

 Faithful followers, it seems that the Anderson Cooper/CNN special on transgender kids was shown in the afternoon of the day that I presented the information.  So sorry about the goof-up so I will pass the buck and say it's all Flying Pig's fault!!  ha ha.

If you would like to get a good glimpse of it, however, go to the link below where you will be introduced to a sweet little girl who is explaining the inner workings of her doll house. She is charming and every bit the little girl she knows she is, regardless of what her original birth certificate says.

Apparently, a documentary movie, "Trans" is in the works and is set to be released in 2012.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Does your kid make you speak Yiddish?

Little Miss Thing, aka DJ, is quite full of herself of late.  She must always get the last word in, no matter the discussion.  She's so certain she is right and we are overreacting.  Darn blessed big for their britches.

She is in her junior year in high school and in America, that is a big year to finish getting your standardized testing done, adding extracurricular activities and memberships to important organizations to your resume.  In short, since most college applications are submitted either the fall or winter of one's senior year, the junior year is one of the last opportunities to really shine so that colleges will accept you and hopefully offer you money to attend their school.

DJ is a musical artist, or shall I say AR-TEEST, emphasis on the last syllable since she's a bit hoity toity about this endeavor.  I don't mean to say she is arrogant about her abilities, because that is not the case.  But she does subscribe to the notion that the arts are of more importance than your typical academics comprised of the histories, the maths and the dreaded english classes.  Luckily, DJ has a gifted brain.  She can hear a lecture and commit the details to memory.  Were this not the case, and she actually had to refresh with what the rest of us call studying, she would fail most of her classes, abominably.  And this quality lends itself well to standardized tests so she knocks the ball out of the park on those too.

Have I ever mentioned she is a genetic anomaly?  And I don't mean because she's transgender but because her intellect is NOT a result of any genetic contributions from either side of the family.  Well, that's not true:  Flying Pig and DJ's aunt in England, who we'll call Apple because she's the only normal fruit from two generations of her family tree, are both exceptionally bright women.  But neither of these women were direct contributors to DJ's specific DNA chain, so I have no idea where she gets her abilities.  But I digress....

In addition to being remarkable at academics, she is quite gifted musically.  Both her birth father and I can lay claim to some of that, with his contribution being more important than mine, genetically speaking.  Anyway, when she came out to us, she demonstrated this remarkable ability to compose music for orchestras.  She had no training in this area other than some guitar and drum lessons and a Music for Dummies book I purchased for her.  Nonetheless, when she blossomed as a young woman, so too did her music ability blossom.  Since then, she has composed various sonatas, symphonies and the like and she has branched out into pop music too to include techno, horror of horrors.  But she enjoys it and has posted some of her stuff on YouTube.  The folks in Spain love her apparently.

AND she has set her sights on attending the Juilliard School of the Arts in New York City, a world renowned institution.  As such, it is incredibly difficult to get into this school.  An applicant's talents must be incredible, needless to say.  And I imagined that her grades would need to be equally phenomenal.  That is not the case, entirely, apparently.  When DJ researched Juilliard with a guidance counselor at school, there was less emphasis placed on grade point average at Juilliard than at other universities where the emphasis is more on academics and where talent is secondary.

She triumphantly informed me of this recently.  AS IF knowing this, I would allow her to spend less time on her academics so she could spend more time creating, writing, playing and recording her music.  Ummmm, I don't think so.

Then, two nights ago, when DJ was inducted  in to the National Honor Society (high five for DJ) DJ poo-poo'ed the whole thing initially.  She wanted to dress in her edgy fashion for the ceremony complete with leggings and Chuck Taylor sneakers under her dress.  When I explained to her that this is a ceremony that should be afforded the respect and dignity of proper attire she responded with her typical air of dismissiveness.

"People my age don't really care about things like that," the lovely DJ tells me.

"Yeah, well, people my age are the ones who let you into college and the honor society and we do care about things like that," I retorted.

Then, later in the evening, she said something about the National Honor Society certificate being "just a piece of paper."  Her artistic thumbing her nose at convention kind of rubbed me the wrong way, so in front of her I said to Bulldog, (already knowing the answer, because any good attorney will tell you to never ask a question to which you don't already know the answer) "Were you in the Honor Society?"

"No, I wasn't. I didn't have the grades."

"Neither was I and I wanted to be," at which point I turn to DJ and explain to her that it is insulting to both the NHS, and to those who can't be in it, to dismiss membership and the paper that certifies membership as "just a piece of paper."  Somehow, we got through to her.

Maybe she's just trying on this persona like she tries on her other more edgy outfits just so she can find out if she likes it or not.  Maybe she'll discard this know-it-all, I'm-too-artistic-to-be-bothered-with-these-bourgois-academic-concerns like she outgrew her love of super flowery attire.  In the meantime, I wish she would just do her freakin' homework and clean her bathroom without my having to nag.  Then I remind myself, "Be patient, she'll only be a teenager for another three and a half years."  Oy Vey!

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A special message for young trans folks

Dear Beloved Child,

I say beloved because you are special and lovable exactly as you are.  I was thinking about this today when the song, "You are beautiful" by Christine Agullara came on the radio.  The words are so breathtaking and inspiring.  If you haven't heard it, make a point of finding it and listening to every word.

She says it so much better than I ever could and if you could just believe how true her words are, maybe it well help you to feel strong on those days when you feel lost, or like you don't fit in, or may never be accepted.

Maybe your homelife isn't happy.  Perhaps your parents will not accept your truth.  Or maybe they support you, but finding that same support in school is not possible right now.  I wish, so many of us wish, that we could make everything ok for you right now.  But to borrow the words from the movement on YouTube, please know:


There will come a day when you will be surrounded by people who love you and care that you're happy.  If those people are not the family you are born into, they will be the family you choose.  Until that time, you must, for your very survival physically and emotionally, dig deep and look for small pockets of happiness where-ever you can find them.  A smile from a perfect stranger, encouragement from a teacher, a hug from a friend, the sun streaming through the clouds, the bustle of a city, or the quiet birdsong in the morning-these small things will sustain you until your life is in a place where you can be who you are, love who you wish, present in the manner that makes you happy.  

I don't know the realities of your lives, those of you who must remain closeted for your own safety. But I can imagine how hard it must be to just be yourself. Fitting into this world where so much of who we are is judged by how we look is hard for many of us.  Your road is not an easy one, and may be considerably longer than mine, but rest assured, many of us will be, at the very least, your occasional travel companions as we struggle to be accepted and loved.  And when our paths diverge, I, like so many others, will be thinking of you, wishing you well, hoping for a happier tomorrow for you and loving you for your courage, whether we know you or not.  "You are beautiful in every single matter what they say....words can't bring you down."  For more hope-please check out:

Trans kids/teens-check out CNN tonight

Flying Pig has been sending me everything that crosses her desk regarding LGBT issues.  A big shout out and thanks to her for that!!!  We love you Flying Pig!

CNN is airing a special tonight at 8 pm eastern standard time on transgender kids and teens.  My guess is if you don't catch it tonight, you may be able to catch it on CNN's webpage.  In the meantime, if you click on this link, there are other televised features focusing on this subject, as well, that you might want to view.  It's encouraging to see how tactfully the reporters are, how understanding many families and communities are.

Family Acceptance Project-LGBT teens, check this out

Family Acceptance Project

SAN FRANCISCO – NOVEMBER 15, 2011 - New research has found that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth who attend middle or high schools with Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) have better mental health as young adults, are less likely to drop out of high school, and more likely to attend college. Published in the current issue of Applied Developmental Science, this is the first study to show that GSA participation is related to long-term benefits. The study, High School Gay–Straight Alliances (GSAs) and Young Adult Well-Being, is based on data from the Family Acceptance Project’s survey of LGBT young adults, which examined the school-related experiences of 245 LGBT young adults, ages 21 to 25.  

Prior research has shown that LGBT youth are at risk for school victimization based on their sexual orientation and gender expression; that LGB youth and young adults report higher levels of depression and other mental health problems than heterosexual peers in a range of studies; and that LGBT school bullying is related to compromised academic achievement. However, until now, there have been few indicators to show whether positive school-based supports can help prevent these negative outcomes in young adulthood. In this new study, the positive impact of GSAs was particularly strong when students viewed their Gay-Straight Alliances as effective in promoting a safer school environment.

The study also shows that the benefits of Gay-Straight Alliances diminish as levels of LGBT school victimization increase; that is, the protective nature of GSAs is not enough to overcome the negative impact of LGBT victimization on young adult mental health. Thus, the authors document that Gay-Straight Alliances cannot be proposed as the sole solution for creating safer school climates for LGBT youth. Instead, schools need to implement other efforts to reduce anti-LGBT bias in schools in combination with the formation of Gay-Straight Alliances, such as enumerated anti-harassment and nondiscrimination policies, teacher training on how to intervene in school harassment related to sexual orientation and gender expression, and an LGBT-inclusive curriculum.

These findings are of particular importance in light of recent tragic incidents of school violence – such as the murder of Larry King in 2008 and the multiple suicides of young men perceived to be gay in 2010 and 2011 who experienced high levels of LGBT school victimization. Further, several schools and districts continue to attempt to ban the formation of Gay-Straight Alliances (e.g., school board of Nassau County in 2009; Okeechobee High School in 2008 [both in Florida]; Flour Buff High School in Corpus Christi, TX, in 2011), even though GSAs are protected by the 1984 Federal Equal Access Act. In addition, the Anoka-Hennepin School District has a policy that requires staff to “remain neutral in matters related to sexual orientation including but not limited to student led discussion” that belies the purpose of GSAs which is to provide a supportive school-related environment where students can learn about and openly discuss and educate the school community on LGBT issues.

Said co-author Russell Toomey: “Given the recent attention to tragic deaths by suicide related to anti-LGBT school bullying over the past year, our research documents that having Gay-Straight Alliances in schools is an important way to boost mental health and academic achievement for LGBT young people. However, Gay-Straight Alliances should not be perceived as the only vehicle for creating safer school climates for students – clearly, our findings document that other LGBT-positive supports need to be implemented in schools for LGBT students to thrive.”

Noted co-author Stephen T. Russell: “This study adds to the mounting evidence that youth-led clubs are important for healthy development – especially for youth at risk. For LGBT youth, high school gay-straight alliances make a significant positive difference.”

Dr. Caitlin Ryan, study co-author and Director of the Family Acceptance Project at SF State University added, “This new study on the benefits of GSAs to health and education adds to our growing understanding of the importance of social environments and the need to provide institutional support for LGBT youth to promote well-being in adulthood.”

Citation: Toomey, R. B., Ryan, C., Diaz, R. M., & Russell, S. T. (2011). High school gay-straight alliances (GSAs) and young adult well-being: An examination of GSA presence, participation, and perceived effectiveness. Applied Developmental Science, 15(4),1-11.

About the Family Acceptance Project
The Family Acceptance Project is a research, intervention, education and policy initiative that is designed to: 1) improve the health, mental health, and well-being of LGBT children and adolescents; 2) strengthen and help ethnically and religiously diverse families to support their LGBT children; 3) help LGBT youth to stay in their homes to prevent homelessness and the need for custodial care in the foster care and juvenile justice systems; 4) inform public policy and family policy; and 5) develop a new evidence-based, family model of wellness, prevention, and care to promote well-being and decrease risk for LGBT youth. For more information, please visit