Saturday, October 29, 2011

Why mouthy lawyers should just shut up

Three cheers for the Colorado Girl Scouts of America organization!!!!  They welcomed a child who identifies as a female, but with XY chromosomes, to join their organization.  Unfortunately, the organization has not received word back from the child's mother if the child is still interested since her first attempt at joining was denied by a local troop.  Nonetheless, a nationally recognized organization has openly, and publicly stated that in effect, they will not make a habit of checking a child's underwear before admitting them to their organization, but rather will allow any child who feels AND PRESENTS as a girl to join their organization.  

Now, according to Judith Reisman, an attorney at Liberty University School of Law, well, see below:

"To cross that line "is child sexual abuse, the violation of children's genetic reality aided by a society that is reverting back to the dark," said Judith A. Reisman, visiting professor of law at Liberty University School of Law.
"If he has male parts, he is a male," she said."

Read more:

Now, how does Ms. Reisman propose that we confirm gender to be sure we're not allowing the wrong folks in?  Go ahead Ms. Reisman, check a child's drawers for their "parts" and let's see how long you remain in your profession, or free on the streets of America rather than behind bars, at the bottom of the jailbird pecking order.  And really, if someone is so concerned with a child's genitals and whether or not they are accurately represented by their outer attire, perhaps that is exactly where a person like that belongs.  

Not that Liberty University School of Law are touted experts in psychology, gender identity, pediatrics, or human sexuality. The School of Law is just that-an institution that prepares folks to study and practice the law.  And last time I checked, gender discrimination and checking the parts of children were both unlawful activities in most parts of the country.

Ms. Reisman, I wonder what you think of folks whose genitalia are ambiguous.  How about soldiers who lose their male parts during war-do they cease to become male?  A female relative had elective surgery to remove her ovaries and uterus to save herself from the ravages of cancer-is she now genderless?   Well guess what Ms. Reisman, experts in human anatomy, and physiology (that's the study of human "parts" for any attorney who is not familiar with the terms) are well versed in conditions where gender is NOT clearly defined just by holding up a puppy's tail and looking to see if something is hanging there, or not. Yup, that's right, there's a condition where one's genes indicate one's gender, but the external genitalia does not agree, or the exterior does agree, but the internal organs don't.  There are multiple variations of this condition which is usually caused by Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia.  And PLEASE do not throw out the stupid hermaphrodite word as it is rife with sordid connotation when in fact, it's merely a medical condition.  

For heaven's sake, when folks are born without appendages, or have misdirected circulation in their hearts, or have cleft palates, no one tries to turn their genetic condition into a definition of WHO they are.  But people get so FREAKED out about genitals, particularly those who like to mix academia with the zealous pursuit of theocracy; they have to make anything other than the binary system of gender and sexuality an aberration of nature, when in fact, it ISN'T!

Please Ms. Reisman, educate yourself on things like, oh, I don't know, genetics, normal human behavior, pediatric psychology, anatomy and physiology, pathology, culture, human sexuality, the views of the American Medical Association,  or better yet, use your law degree for something useful like, hmmm, practicing law rather than wasting it with pontificating.  While Liberty University may advocate frequent perusal of the Bible, I hope as a law professor that you cite other references before you make such broad, sweeping, ignorant, uninformed, unethical  and ridiculous statements.

Can you tell I'm pissed?

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Adventures on the playground

It's been a tough week and DJ has accidentally crossed into the line of fire.  However, in the most recent fallout, any injury she incurred was a result of her deliberately tripping into the minefield.

Last night, fair or unfair, I made a remark about all my kids being "high maintenance."  OK-I was being melodramatic. I was frustrated at my young adult children's propensity to not be problem solvers and to need direction. Yeah, yeah, I know, they're acting like typical young adults that are grasping the monkey bar behind them marked "childhood" while grasping the monkey bar in front of them marked, "adulthood."  They do not swing forward, or back because they are holding onto both bars at the same time.  Typical, expected, I KNOW.  But I had a moment, or a series of moments, of frustration.  Geez, I'm not even close to perfect.

Today, more of the same as yesterday.  Not yelling or screaming, just helping one kid over a big hump.  I've made multiple trips into town for various reasons and now it's time to pick DJ up from school and head over to the Driver's Ed place so she can take her final test. Except, I start heading home accidentally and am about to make a U-turn when DJ informs me I need to go home anyway because she needs to take her medicine.

I won't go into the particulars, but she tried to blame me for not thinking of bringing it with me when I went to pick her up after school. Then she tried to blame Bulldog because she mentioned it to him yesterday and after all, in her opinion, he should have communicated that to me.  Of course, she will not accept that saying something to me on the ride to school this morning would have been advised.  So, I have another moment.  Please don't think I screamed at DJ, I didn't but I was clearly upset and she told me I was being an "ass."  An ass?  Seriously?  OK, even if it's true, what happened to children being seen and not heard?  Yeah, yeah, it went the way of the "sparing the rod" ideology.

So I respond something to the effect of, "It's your body" and continue with if she can't take care of her needs that it is ultimately her problem, which she somehow reads as my threatening to deny her her date with the surgeon next year.  NOW who is being melodramatic?

Can you imagine a mother who would ground her child from her gender reassignment surgery?  She would be grounded for a year!!  That's how long it can take to get a surgery date.  This was never on my parent radar.  It's not like Parent magazine discusses how to parent your teenager, or your young adult child;  forget addressing the challenges that might be unique to parents of transgender kids. There are articles, ad infinitum, about getting your kid to sleep through the night or toilet training, but nothing to my knowledge that comes close to this realm.

Oh, it's ok.  We figured it out even without the assistance of a periodical.  We will not be rewarding behavior by handing out hormone pills like they're tokens, nor will we withhold them when DJ trips up.  We'll just keep reminding her to be responsible, just like we do for our other two almost grown-up kids.  Different words being exchanged, perhaps, but the same argument or challenge underneath:  encouraging them to let go of the bar behind them so they can reach out to grab the next bar in front.   

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The pain of letting go

How to pull myself out of the doldrums?  I feel like utter crap because DJ's brother is going through a hard time.  So while today's entry isn't pertinent solely to the issue of transgenderism, it is pertinent to raising kids, teenagers and young adults.  More than that, I think it may be my therapy.

"Oh, it's so much worse when they're older," a friend of mine remarked to me 10 years ago back when a tube of Clearasil was not yet a required product in our household.  I couldn't fathom it.  "You can't fix it anymore," she continued, "when they're little, mommy can make anything better."  OMG-was she ever right.

Not to diminish the hardships of raising children who throw tantrums in the mall or who just can't get the hang of potty training-that too is a tough row to hoe.  But this is a marrow deep ache that I feel everywhere and there isn't a thing I can do to help my son.  He must figure these things out on his own.  In spite of how much I want to text him and check up on him, I've managed to only do it once in the last hour, and am currently fighting the urge to do it again.

But he sounded so upset when we spoke over an hour ago.  He's learning to live in the adult world and the last couple of months have been tough.  He doesn't have the hang of it yet:  the ability to manage his time or money well, the ability to say "no" when it will save him stress, the ability to withstand chronic stress and deadlines, and the ability to bounce back well from failure.  Did I not teach him well?  Will he figure it out on his own?  And what the heck will I do when even greater heartaches come his way?

Letting go-truly the hardest thing in the world about being a parent.  Holding on tight-I can do that all the live long day, well into the night, and right into the next day-no sweat.  I know what I'm doing when it comes to holding on:  I cuddle, I comfort, I fix, I instruct, I make the hurt recede, I bolster confidence and help them to their feet again. But this letting go thing-it requires doing so much less, but is so much more demanding of my heart.  I don't know how to do it well and doubt I ever will.  Maybe that's just as well since to become good at it means I may have to lose some empathy in the process, I suspect.  Knowing that my empathy makes me suck at letting go brings me little comfort at the moment, however.  It just hurts.  Period.

I don't know if I can go through this again.  Especially with DJ.  I can't believe I'm going to say this, but I think seeing my darling girl go through these young adult growing pains may even be harder than watching my darling boys go through it ; and  navigating romance as a transgender person may involve even more challenges than for those whose minds and bodies agree; I don't even want to contemplate seeing her go through kissing a bunch of frogs until she finds her perfect prince or princess. It's too much for a mother to bear-or at least for this mother.

But in the end, good mothers have  to bear it, right? We have to find a way to bear it, somehow.  So I will close with another remembrance of my father in one of his few tender moments, when I cried, "I thought this would get easier."  What he said as he hugged me was, "It doesn't."  What he didn't say, but I could feel in his hug was, "But you'll get through it."  Since I can't hold onto my kid right now, I'll hold onto that.

Monday, October 24, 2011

A Jane Austen perspective

Am I sounding like Mary Poppins in this blog?  I wonder how the readers in Russia and Poland will react-"Mary Poppins?....huh?"  I feel as if I should apologize to my transgender readers if I make this issue sound like sunshine and roses because I know it's not.  And perhaps I assume that if something works for me, it will work for everyone.  Bulldog has pointed out to me that I seem to think I know everything and I know he's onto something.  And I know Flying Pig has gently informed me that sometimes I can sound patronizing so I worry that I may risk alienating readers with my rose colored glasses perspective.

I guess it's hard to comprehend, considering how I'm telling the e-world, and apparently, my family how to fit into this world, that actually, I consider myself one of the duller knives in the drawer.  The way I figure it is, if I can figure some things out, than most people are probably capable.  But if it took me 20 years to stumble across some truth, perhaps I can save someone else the trouble, grief and time. Maybe it's the annoying caretaker in me, truthfully, I don't know, but I've suffered enough missteps and failures in my life, witnessed as the strong disregard the strong-but-challenged-in-some-way by not turning to lend a helping hand, that I just can't be a party to it; if I feel like I'm on to something, I have a duty to share.  After all, people can simply not tune in or click on the "x" on their screen if they think I'm full of baloney.

This world rewards the folks who appear to be able to do it all.  The magazines have mother-of-the-year awards, but they are reserved for the moms who are great moms AND volunteer for 10 agencies, or work outside the home as corporate executives for non-profits.  Who are these people?  I don't know anyone like this.  To quote Miss Eliza Bennet in Pride and Prejudice, in defense of women who are not "accomplished" by 19th century standards (or today's standards for that matter) "I am no longer surprised at your knowing only six accomplished women. I rather wonder now at your knowing any."

THAT is precisely why I started this blog.  It's complete and utter bull$--- that the rest of us who don't conform with the Joneses are somewhat less than.  I huddled in my inferiority complex for a good decade before I even glimpsed of the possibility of celebrating my weaknesses and strengths and why?  Partly because I bought into this notion of self-sufficiency that is inherent in America.  I'm all for independence, don't get me wrong, but not a single thing has been accomplished by one person alone, ever, I don't think.  But some people are much better at giving the impression that they've got it all figured out and that the rest of us are a bunch of dull butter knives.  We all know this is just a form of one-upsmenship (the one time where I don't want a female or genderless equivalent of a word) designed to make the person who proposes their superiority feel, well, superior, yet we buy into all the time and we try to do more, be more, just to feel worthy.

I thank GOD for my kids and my husband.  All 4 of them simultaneously make me feel important AND illustrate where I need to grow.  My transgender daughter, DJ, has highlighted that quality more than anyone simply because her reality has been one that has been closeted for centuries, at least in American and Judeo-Christian societies.  She challenges me to be a truer, better person all the blessed time.  Not that she does it knowingly, which is what makes her even more special, as a person. So, as a family, we're succeeding in this challenge of helping her successfully transition.  Being on the "can I lend you a helping hand?" side of the team, in this instance, means that I should, and want to help those who are on the, "hey, can you lend me a hand?" side of the team.  I have definitely been on that my line of work, being old and small, that's the side of the team I often inhabit.  Which is probably why I feel like I must offer support, help, ideas, and cyber love to those on the other side of the team.  I just can't say, "Yeah, well I got mine.  Sucks to be you."

So, if I tend to sound know-it-all, I ask your forgiveness and understanding.  I just want to pass on some of our insights, failures, successes, feelings, observations, experiences and anything else that I think, and hope, will make others in our boat, or even those in some other boats, feel less alone in this journey.  At work, they call this propensity of mine, "mom-ing" as in, "You're mom-ing all over him again."  They know I mean well, even if I am occasionally annoying;  I hope you do too.

Screw Hercules

I'm supposed to be painting my guest room right now.  The paint and supplies were purchased over a month ago, and yet I still stall.  I'm attempting a new technique and am worried it won't turn out right.  Not to mention, the sheer work of taping, cutting in, rolling, moving know the grind unless you're wealthy and always pay someone to do your mundane tasks.

So, here's what I'm going to do to make it seem less daunting:  I'm going to do it in stages. Literally, one wall at a time.  Yes, this may be less efficient; I may be doubling my efforts and doubling the time to complete the task, but at least I'm getting it done.  This room was initially Romeo's room, and then became Goodwrench's room.  Both boys loved the cave-like dark colors with tribal themes, so I'll have to go over the slightly green tinged chocolate colored walls at least once with primer before I can hope that the lovely cafe au lait color I've chosen to replace the newborn-poo color will look like it does on the paint chip.  And since everything needs to be repainted-the trim and the walls-I will literally do one wall, in its entirety, at a time.

What the heck is this piece doing on a transgender blog?  Now, granted, this is a stretch and is partly because I'm stalling on beginning to paint, but does anyone else see the parallel here? Probably not because it's pretty darn obscure.  But I'm changing my room completely.  I'm worried that the end result won't be what I hoped. I know it will be an uphill climb getting there, yet the end result will hopefully be worth it....are you with me yet?  Is my room not going through a transition?

OK-I do not mean to offend anyone with the triteness of my analogy, but there's something here worth thinking about.  Granted, I'm not the one who is transitioning, DJ is.  So I really can't speak to the reality of what that process is like, personally.  But being the mother of a dependent child who is dealing with that reality daily is probably as close as another person can get to the real deal, so maybe I am onto something.

Are you considering transitioning?  Is a loved one considering the process?  Is it overwhelming, frightening, daunting?  Have you considered taking it one step at a time?  Granted, some folks, no matter what we're talking about, will do the whole shebang in one fell swoop.    More power to them if that's how they want to approach it, but if that is not your cup of tea, you are not a lesser person for it.  Give yourself permission to do it in stages.  Either cut your hair or grow it out, for now.  Tweeze your eyebrows, or stop doing it.  Too intimidated to jump into the dress or tie a windsor knot, how about some khakis and a white shirt for work?  Or jeans and a t-shirt for school.  You can go so middle of the road with either.

If baby steps are all you're comfortable with, that's ok.  There is no finish line with a person holding a timeclock.   Maybe some slight changes are just what you need to get the ball rolling.  You follow through with the small changes, you maybe make some slight waves, but FEEL so much better about yourself that you sense a molehill of self-confidance growing. Maybe at this point, you'll be ready to inform some folks about your changes and from there, you can continue to move forward.  Maybe those changes alone will make you feel comfortable enough in your skin to be happy in your life.

Transgender folks are no more either/or than anyone else, right?  You don't HAVE to do hormones, or surgery if you don't want to.  And even if you DO want to, who is to say it has to be done post haste?  Some of us think that many things in life are an all or nothing proposition.  To break anything down in baby steps seems a cop-out, to those folks who are really "goal oriented".  Or, it just doesn't even register on the radar of possibility to NOT do something in one fell swoop.  I was one of those until my father, God rest him, showed me another possibility.

Granted, this man was the one who initially taught me that you finish what you start, no stalling, get the job done, chop-chop.  But, in his middle age, he clearly learned something that he chose to impart to me, thank goodness.  I was a newly single mother after my first husband died leaving me with three children ages 9, 7 and 3.  It was summertime and I was with the kids 24/7.  Grocery shopping was sheer drudgery and I felt overwhelmed.  My father came to see me and noted that my pantry was nearly empty.  He severely chastised me initially until I told him how overwhelmed I felt at the prospect of grocery shopping-it took me two hours to do the task and the kids were swinging from the chandeliers long before the job could be completed. Up until that point, I shopped every two weeks.  My father pointed out that I could shop for a few days worth of food at a time instead.  Make the trips short and manageable.  I truly had never thought of it nor given myself permission to do something like that.  I had to be Herculean in my efficiency, instead.  This perspective, breaking it down into small manageable steps was a gift.  It made all the difference in the world.

Look at the history of humanity-most dramatic changes started with small murmurs of discontent.  Most  revolutions started with someone sticking their big toe in the water to see how it felt.  And they told someone else how the water felt fine, and the message spread from there.  Nothing wrong with you trying the same method in your personal life.  If an overnight transition is too daunting, give yourself permission to slow down.  Give yourself this gift of small moves.  You deserve it.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Vindication from the psychiatric world

Hallelujah!!  WPATH, the World Professional Association for Transgender Health has updated it's Standards of Care.  This is fantastic news for transgender folk!  It seems that there is a positive trend similar to that of homosexuals 30 years ago where the psychiatric community is recognizing that these folks, like their homosexual peers before them, are not nuts.  They aren't psychotic, nor are they neurotic.  In fact, the exact verbiage on p. 4 states:

“the expression of gender characteristics, including identities, that are not stereotypically associated with one’s assigned sex at birth is a common and culturally-diverse human phenomenon [that] should not be judged as inherently pathological or negative.”

Yeah, like we didn't already know that.  Sarcasm aside, this opens doors.  This is exciting news because if it's not viewed as a pathology and can be construed as a medical condition, that recognition may lead to more insurance companies covering treatment, i.e. hormones, at the least.

Additionally, the wording states that instead of therapists and psychiatrists acting as "gatekeepers" they should, rather, be in a supportive role while the patient works toward making decisions about how they want to address the mismatch between mind and body.  Granted, the really good therapists already knew that, but for those who maybe wanted to help and get into this field, now they have the "safety net" in the updated Standards of Care.  Most healthcare professionals don't like to deviate from the guidelines because that has the potential for making them more vulnerable to lawsuit.

Isn't vindication grand?  But there is much more than I have let on.  If you're a transgendered person or love someone who is, please check out the updated WPATH Standards of Care at the address below.  Somehow, seeing the vindication in black and white inspires hope in DJ, Bulldog and me.  I hope it will inspire hope in you, as well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's a small world

The older I get, the more I hear my peers complaining about the future generation and how they're going to screw up managing the world.  Admittedly, I've joined in this kvetching myself, from time to time.  This younger generation is lazy, has entitlement issues, and doesn't understand the work ethic, having been raised on computers, or so say us aging folk.  All of that may, or may not, be true, especially when any of our generations is compared to folks 50 years older than us.  We all paint the long-dead as saints, and subsequently, the recently dead and the living can never measure up.  But, in this person's opinion, that's horse hockey, in many, many respects.

When my grandparents came to this country, their futures seemed bright, until they faced the Great Depression.  They survived, only to hoard McDonald's napkins and condiments in their senior years.  In the event they ever faced poverty again, at least their faces would be tidy and they could enjoy their gruel with ketchup.  I seem to mock this, and perhaps I do just for a cheap laugh;  hell, I'll take a momentary smirk.  These folks comprised the Great Generation and they were great in ways generations since will never know.  But then again, this generation also barred the Irish and the "Negroes" from work.  My father tells of a story of seeing a neighborhood child chained to a dog collar in his front yard.  I am not kidding.  Like THAT would ever be allowed to continue today.  My intent is NOT to slam that generation as a whole, or any generation as a whole, merely to point out that greatness is often accompanied by instances of shame.  No generation is uniformly great.

I have a cousin who is constantly lamenting the turn this country is taking.  He is about 20 years older than I am, which constitutes a generation.  Because he's my cousin, however, I still think of him as a peer.  He is routinely commenting about how fearful he is for the future of our country.  Usually, his concerns are related to whatever crap is going on in Washington D.C. I understand his frustration, but I just can't throw the baby out with the bathwater.  Yes, the politics is utter bull$---.  And for some folks, usually the poor,  politics has a direct, negative impact on their lives.  But I cannot get all worked up thinking our future is in the toilet because the stock market is down;  I think there are much more relevant and personal issues taking place that will determine our future as a nation, and perhaps as a species.

I am biased as all hell because my daughter is transgender.  Acceptance, as I've mentioned ad infinitum, has become my focal point.  The reason why is obvious.  When DJ first came out, I sat at the computer and researched diligently.  I wanted to find all the information I could dig up so as to be properly prepared for anything that came down the pike. The news was disheartening.  The statistics varied, so I will sum up, as if anyone will be surprised by my summation:  transgender folks experience more harassment, attempts at suicide,  and violence than most other groups of people.  Bulldog and I were beside ourselves.  We had this mental idea that perhaps we needed to barricade our child from harm.  So much so, that one evening, shortly after DJ came out, we were watching TV when this horrific sound came from the deck and sounded as if someone had hurled something at our sliding glass door.  Bulldog told me to get DJ into a safer place while he investigated.  I literally grabbed her and shoved her to the floor and we scurried into an interior hallway where I attempted to bodily shield her with my embrace.  It turned out the wind had taken one of our deck umbrellas and hurled it against the door.  But that just illustrates the hunkered down posture we felt we had to take after educating ourselves.

Being prepared is smart. No question about it.  Doing your legwork with school or work is of the utmost importance.  Educating yourself about the resources available to you is your best weapon against the challenges you and your transgendered loved one may face.  At the bottom of this entry, I will be posting multiple websites that can help.  And now that I've cast a dark light on this, let me share some instances that may inspire hope.

DJ came out at the end of her freshman year.  We opted to have her home-schooled for the first semester of her sophomore year for a number of reasons. Our primary reason was her safety.  We wanted to keep her safe until we had an idea of how she would, or would not, be accepted, or harassed, at school. That first semester, she attended only one class in person, the rest she took online.  That class was drama. We reasoned that in the theatre world, there are folks of all different walks of life and thereby more acceptance.  We reasoned that the theatre teacher would likely be the most open-minded person we would be likely to find.  We were wrong.  She ridiculed our daughter to the class on days she was absent, and had inappropriate conversations with her when she was in attendance.  We raised a holy stink; she retired at the end of the school year.

But here's the flip side:  most everyone else has been accepting.  Granted, I'm sure there are kids who gawk and gossip.  As long as they keep it amongst themselves, I can't complain.  And while DJ's original circle of friends don't socialize with her anymore, they are still friendly and cordial when she crosses paths with them in the halls.  But DJ has made a whole new circle of friends who adore her.  And the vice principal and guidance counselor have been steadfast in their support.  Our friends, and parents of DJ's friends have been so open minded, that she has been invited to more than one friend's home for a sleepover.  And most recently, a young man at DJ's school not only invited her to lunch at a local restaurant, but danced with her at a school dance.

I do not believe this would have happened, with anywhere near the same frequency, if at all, during the lifetime of the Greatest Generation.  Not to slight them or diminish their bravery, but bravery and greatness, like gender and sexuality, cannot be adequately defined.  But we sure recognize it when we see it, even if we can't explain it.  Wars and the brutality of this world are usually the result of non-acceptance on a horrific scale.  If we can recognize that acceptance may be the word that describes the next generations more than entitlement, or laziness, then we can feel more hopeful for our future, not less.  Maybe I'm just seeing the cup as half full, rather than half empty, but I'm ok with that because I sleep better at night.  But it's not just my perception-it's been DJ's and our reality.  Even our son's friends have shrugged it off and invited her to hang out by the bonfire.

Some say the Internet is responsible for many of our woes. That may be true, but it's also a handy tool to spread acceptance.  We can pull up almost anything on the net now.  Our kids see folks of all different walks of life on their computers, not just the middle of the road, and commonplace, that they may run into in their everyday lives.  KNOWLEDGE is indeed power.  Knowledge of academics and knowledge of people-their experiences, their world, their struggles.  The more we know about each other, when willingly shared, the better off we all will be.  It's pretty difficult to even pretend to walk in someone else's moccasins if you don't even know other tribes exist.  So, this generation acknowledges the other tribes, and oftentimes even celebrates their differences.  Aside from 12/21/12 when the aliens are supposed to come back because the Inca calendar ends, I'm not too worried about the future.    These kids will figure something out.  Accepting each other is more than half the battle, especially as our world gets smaller and smaller.

For further information, please consider the following links:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Risk vs. Benefit

I'm considering writing an additional blog addressing my work stories.  After all, there is hilarity and pathos in the fire service for certain.  I shared what I had written with Bulldog and he responded that he thought I was giving too much information out.  I really don't care about the potential lack of anonymity, but privacy is exceedingly important to him.  Which brought me to today's topic-honoring everyone's needs.

What do you do if your need for privacy or space conflicts with that of your transgender family member?  Well, it would depend on which of you needed more privacy.  For example, if you, the family member, wanted to carry the torch of acceptance and potentially "out" your family member more than they care to be outed, then perhaps your "need" for torch carrying should take a backseat to your family member's need for privacy.  Because, after all, her need for privacy, and non-outing, trumps your need for torch carrying, most would agree.  But what if it's the other way around?  What if the transgender family member wants to be more public?

I guess, being strictly objective here, it would depend on why.  There are people in the world, we can probably all agree, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, color, you name it, who like to stir the pot just because they can.  Some of those folks may have aspects of their lives that make it easy to do so because so many people in this world are so blessed touchy, myself included.  So, if your transgender family member is just wanting to create drama for drama's sake, then reason would state that the need for drama does not outweigh the need for privacy.  But, and this is more likely and realistic, and probably more common too, if the transgender family member wants to be more public in order to further a worthy cause, then the person needing privacy might have to relent, or compromise.

You say po-tay-to, I say po-tah-to.  We all have different ideas of how we should live our lives and sometimes those ideas crash into each other, especially when those of us with differing ideas share living space.  For instance, DJ pushes Bulldog and me constantly on this.  Yet, she is one of the least dramatic people I know, other than her aunt who resides in England, a remarkable woman in her own right who deserves an entire blog entry all by herself.  The more I think about it, the more I realize that DJ is the antithesis of the Drama Queen, which just lends even more credibility to her justifications of why she wants to be as "out" as she possibly can.  She's a firm believer that she has a responsibility to others who constitute the non-accepted populace.  She truly thinks that the path to acceptance is repeated exposure to the folks that society has kept under wraps.

Bulldog, who has foresight that I still cannot comprehend after 13 years of knowing and loving him, does not care for DJ to be so public.  In his defense, he is not worried about cowardly things like, "What will people think of me?"  He is, as always, worried about DJ's safety.  And in typical non-commital fashion, because I hate making anyone disapprove of me, I can see both sides.  How do you let one person pursue their dreams and let her live her life in a manner that seems moral to her without compromising someone else's need for privacy and security and safety?

Did I ever mention that Bulldog was part of a search and rescue group?  For his sake, I won't get into specifics, but their job was to respond to building collapses and search for survivors.  I hearken to this example a lot with Bulldog because it's one he understands, which is kind of like exploiting a crack in his armor, which he occasionally resents.  Nonetheless, before rescue personnel enter a collapsed building, they do a bit of research, if you will.  They determine how sound the building is, what can be done to make it sound enough to send rescuers in without turning them into victims, as well.  It's the classic risk vs. benefit scenario.  If the risk is so high that the likelihood of benefit is exceedingly slim, then we don't chance it until we can even out the odds somewhat.  Even then, there is still a risk of turning into a victim on trying to find victims, because nothing is ever 100% certain.

Now, in DJ's world, nobody dies, violence happens only to people unknown to her, and butterflies fill the air sprinkling glitter and good will all over the earth.  How do you educate a person like that about the hazards of a roof falling in on you while you attempt to teach the world about acceptance?  I'm not sure it can be done because in addition to having that outlook, she is a teenager, which just fortifies that outlook because everyone knows teenagers think they're going to live forever; nothing bad ever happens to them, except car wrecks. bullying, harassment, drug overdose, pregnancy, disease, and other maladies that only those of us who survived the teenage years can or will recognize.  So, if we can't change her (or the conditions of the collapsed building) then what can we do?  Well, we can provide her with lots of support (or shoring, in the case of the collapsed building).   That way, if something goes terribly wrong while she, or the rescuers, are engaging in worthwhile risk-taking, we have a means of still making sure that either she (they) have a means of getting out of trouble, or we'll have a means of getting to her ( them ) in time before something grave happens to her (or them).  It's still mighty uncomfortable to those of us who worry about DJ, or the rescuers, for that matter.  But to do anything more, or less, would only lessen our loved one and her (or the rescuers) efforts.  And that disrupts that whole balance, equilibrium, yin-yang, thing that really is the best solution for almost everyone and everything.  It's so damn hard, this compromise thing, but until someone comes up with something better, it's the only thing that works with the human species.  It requires constant introspection, thought and deliberation, which many of us resist heartily.  It's easier to just go with what we want and disregard the desires of those around us because then we don't have to think at all.  But our Creator, or natural selection, or the aliens, somebody or something, caused the frontal lobes in the human brain to develop in a way to which no other species on the face of, or under the seas of, this planet can lay claim.  It's how we came to be at the top of the food chain, unless we ignore our frontal lobes and, say, go wading in the ocean at dusk, while bleeding.  Well, then you're just asking for trouble and you'll have to face the sharks on their turf.

We have to separate our animalistic "fight or flight" urges and think our way through these challenges.  Goodness knows our brains are much better at analyzing risk vs. benefit scenarios than our feelings are, because, after all, compromise is a thought, not a feeling.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Denmark, are you there?

Wow, this blog had a viewer from Denmark today.  I feel so cosmopolitan knowing that folks from as far away as Russia, and Denmark, Japan and even the US Virgin Islands have viewed this blog.  But the  important question is, how do you, the viewer feel about the blog?  How many of you are transgender?  How many are family members of a transgender person?  How many of you are just curious?

Any of the above are welcome, certainly.  But what I'd like to know is how can this blog be of service to you?  I've been thinking of including more links, but I'm exceedingly technologically challenged.  Nonetheless, I can certainly make an effort, or ask DJ for help.  I can't pretend to have all the answers but certainly we can work together to help each other, right?

I'm also curious, those of you in far off lands, how you manage to learn more than one language, because I am certain that I am not translating this blog to Russian.  I admire your abilities and would love to know of your experiences in your homelands, any and all of you who care to comment.  And please, comment and do so anonymously, if that is your wish.  I am not looking for praise, more for what you are experiencing where you live.  I may borrow some of your input for future blogs.  I get inspired by all kinds of things, but I suspect your lives may be more inspiring than I could ever imagine.  I know DJ inspires me all the time.

So, Denmark, Japan, Russia, Australia, the UK, and all US territories, as well as any other countries who contain a viewer of this blog, thanks for tuning in to my blog.  Keep coming back and share your stories, if you care to.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Hair today, gone tomorrow

Hair removal, in all its forms, is not for sissies.  Until the movie, "The Forty Year Old Virgin", men did not know the discomfort and potentials horrors of it; the only hair removal most men are familiar with is male pattern baldness, aside from shaving only the 10 square inches that comprise their faces and necks .  Women of nearly all walks of life have come face to face with it, at least in most Western cultures.   While women with XX chromosomes are certainly challenged, women with XY chromosomes may have double the challenge.

My middle sister, Bean, has a theory that the youngest born child is always the hairiest, regardless of chromosomal gender determination.  She bases this theory primarily on the fact that our youngest sister, Flying Pig, was born with a fair amount of peach fuzz on her body, which has never abated.  ("Flying Pig" is not a weight or manners reference; it's an inside joke from our father, who passed away two years ago.  He stated that he thought he would see a daughter of his graduate college when pigs started to fly.  He then, in his wit, gave my youngest sister every flying pig gift imaginable for the 10 years following her college graduation, much to her dismay.)  When DJ was born with the same peach fuzz, Bean gloated.  Her theory, thus far, was 100% correct.

This peach fuzz bothers DJ, especially when she is about to don a bathing suit, or in tonight's case, a strapless dress for a dance.  We are fortunate (I say "we" because DJ and I are in this hair management process together since she needs my assistance) that there are tools out there to assist us in this endeavor. Granted, there is electrolysis and laser hair removal, both of which work exceedingly well.  However, those processes take time and lots o' money so, for now, the less permanent methods are what we employ.  DJ, luckily, does not have an issue with facial hair.  We started her female hormones before puberty subjected her to a beard, so that is not an issue.  But there are areas on her body where the hair is darker and and more noticeable than she would like.  So, she willingly subjects herself to either waxing or to an epilady-type tool, easily purchased in most beauty supply stores.

This tool, which I swear has origins in medieval torture chambers, has these tiny little coils that are affixed to a barrel that turns unbelievably fast.  The tiny coils grasp the hairs as you run the barrel across the skin and YANK out the hairs.  It works incredibly well, but, as you can imagine, is not a painless process.  DJ is stoic and has become quite a pro at enduring this without complaining. In fact, the kid has such a great approach to life, that usually at some point in the process, she and I both end up giggling about some ridiculous thing or other related to the experience.

Just so I could speak with experience, I had DJ remove some of my arm hairs.  The process lasted about 3 seconds (I am not exaggerating) when I decided I'd had enough.  It felt like my skin was on fire as probably only 10 little hairs, over an area comprised of one square inch, were simultaneously yanked out. Ordinarily, I've got an impressive threshold for pain.  After breaking my finger last year, I stopped playing basketball only long enough to get my wedding rings off before they cut off the circulation to my finger.  So I think I can speak with some degree of authenticity when I state:  Hair removal of this sort is only for the most dedicated of women, regardless of the plumbing with which you were born.  This is why, as a rule, genetic men and transgender men alike do not endure it because only a true woman could put up with this kind of pain for the sake of beauty.  In fact, maybe that should be the litmus test to find out if someone is male or female, if for some reason you won't accept their explanation.  Forget looking in their drawers, or at their DNA under a microscope, or even at parts of the brain with magnetic resonance imaging; simply ask the question, "Would you be willing to suffer pain for decades if you could be guaranteed a measure of beauty?"  Any person who leans more heavily to the masculine side, I will wager, would say, "Hell to the NO!"  Well, the men who watch Glee would say that, the rest would simply look at you like you're nuts.

In a periodical I read, a transgender woman was informed by a female relative that the transitioning woman could not simply join the tribe of women just because she wanted to; after all, she hadn't paid her dues.  She hadn't suffered years of living as a second class citizen and therefore hadn't "earned" the right to call herself a woman.  What complete and utter crap.  Lady, have you EVER tried to remove body hair from the same geographic square footage as a transgender woman?  Unless you are unusually hirsute, I doubt it.  As far as I'm concerned, screw childbirth, period cramps and discrimination as benchmarks for womanhood.  The new threshold should be the ability to withstand hair removal, in all it's oftentimes torturous forms.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Start spreadin' the news

When DJ came out to us, it was a family affair.  She enlisted the help of two generations of family members for this endeavor.  The smart girl either knew where she could find support, or that there was safety in numbers.

The night before, she had asked if she could stay after school for a meeting followed by the football game.  She had blown us off for a number of days about following through with some chores so I told her she was to come home right after school, take care of her chores and then I would take her back for the game.  At this time, we still thought DJ was JD, our son, and Bulldog's approach was his typical "be hard on the boy so he won't slack off" in rearing JD.  He wasn't thrilled that I had compromised with JD, thinking that he should not be allowed to take part in any of his activities since he had failed to take part in our activities. I was feeling a bit tense about JD's return from school, as a result, because I knew there would be some friction in the house.

I sat on the front porch awaiting JD's return and for some strange reason, JD's brother, who we will call Romeo, joined me on the front porch to wait for JD to get off of the school bus. This was unusual but I only took note of the fact that Romeo was furiously texting someone.  But kids are always furiously texting each other, so it wasn't that notable, and besides, where the heck was JD?  Was the bus late or had he deliberately disobeyed me and stayed after school?  The little turd, he better not have!!!

Then I could make out bodies making their way toward our house.  Who was that?  Why, it was JD, and my sister, and my other sister, and her baby.  Wow, they sure were walking fast....the sister with the baby in particular.  "Maybe she has to pee or something," I thought.  I was excited to see the baby and ran to meet them half way.  "What are you doing here?" I asked my sister with the baby.  (My other sister was my neighbor so seeing her was not that unusual.)  "We're here to support JD," she replied. (Oh, so that's who Romeo was furiously texting.)


"Where's Bulldog?"

"He's napping."

"Wake him up."

Oh crap, this can't be good.  Bulldog wakes from his nap to see his living room filled with three additional people, which does not please him.  Then, when I inform him that they have something to tell us, he gets the same "oh crap" look on his face that I'm sure I had not two minutes prior.  Is someone pregnant?  Is someone on drugs?  Has someone been expelled?  We're the parents of teenagers, of course this is our thought process. Not that we asked, mind you, it's just what we were thinking, but not for long because then, as JD paused, and I got impatient, and my sister basically told JD, "Go ahead-you're on," JD said what, until then, I'd only ever heard on TV, "I'm a girl trapped in a boy's body."

JD had told Romeo, who told my sister Bean, who is lesbian and would likely be supportive.  Bean thought my other sister, Flying Pig, who specializes in dealing with children, would be the perfect advocate.  Together, they informed Bulldog and me.  He and I were about the 14th and 15th people, respectively, that knew of JD's  news.  She had already informed 10 of her closest friends at school.  I started getting images in my head of people storming our castle, a la "Shrek" or "Beauty and the Beast."  Because everyone knows, if you tell two friends, they'll tell two friends, and before you know it, an angry mob will be bearing down on you, carrying pitchforks.

But my very first utterances were, "Are you serious? Because if this is a joke, it's not funny." Bulldog was characteristically silent at this point, as he always is when the $--- first hits the fan.  However, on finding out that we had lost control of the situation even before we were aware it existed since, as stated previously we were the 14th and 15th people, respectively, to hear of the situation, THAT propelled him to speak.

"You told your closest friends?  Ten people?!"

Romeo, ready to kick Bulldog's @$$, states, "I don't think there's anything to be angry about here!"

I reply, "Hold on a second. We are on the same team. What you think is anger is abject fear."

Pretty dramatic stuff, yet, less than 12 hours later, Romeo, DJ and I are watching a movie together when Bulldog practically bursts out of his office, voice quaking, hugging us fiercely as a group, stating to DJ, "I hope I can be as brave as you are."  Equally as dramatic, but at least accepting.

But we have still not told the other remaining member of our nuclear family, our oldest son, Goodwrench.  We invite him to dinner and prepare surf n' turf, his favorite meal.  It's a lovely evening and we're going to eat on the deck overlooking our charming pond with the Canada geese landing at sunset.  Bulldog is grabbing condiments, and coming out of the house, Romeo is on his way in to get some ice, when Goodwrench looks at DJ and says, "JD, dude, you have got to change your clothes and your hair.  You're lookin' like a chick."

At that moment, my eyes alight on Bulldog and Romeo crossing paths and see an expression on Romeo's face that says, "The S--- is on."  It's pretty hilarious.  At this point, DJ actually says, "Well Goodwrench, funny you should say that...." and then she proceeds to inform him that she is, in fact a girl.

Goodwrench puts his arms on the armrests of the deckchair,  and simultaneously cocks his head to one side and says, "Really?"  Not as in, "Are you serious?!" but as in "You're shittin' me."  Then he kind of lifts both hands in the air, shrugs and says, "OK."

Huh?  This kid has borderline Tea Party leanings, much to my horror, yet he has rolled with this like a true tree hugger.  I can't believe this has gone so well thus far.  This gives me great hope because after all, if DJ has the parents on board, the brothers on board, and the aunts on board, maybe, just maybe, she can take on the world.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

The Lemonade Stand

I langorously slept till 15 minutes before I had to take DJ and her friend to school.  I've been running around all week and had decided today would be the day I would goof off at home, tidying, puttering, and the like, before I go back to my 24 hour shift tomorrow.  I threw on a t-shirt and jeans and sauntered over to DJ's room where I could detect no sign of activity.  Did she oversleep?  No, she was having a mini-meltdown.  She had been up since 6:20 trying to decide what to wear.  She had been standing in her towel for over an hour trying to decide what to wear.

I about blew a gasket.  I summoned my most "I mean business" tone of voice and informed her she was to put something on, immediately, grab her make-up and head to the car.  She trumped me by informing me in the calmest voice that she was simply not going to school today. She was like one of those protesters who fights the cops by simply going limp.  Hands down, she won this round.  Oh, but I was going to make her pay; however, I couched it in acceptable parent-speak:  "You will suffer the consequences of your decision when I get back," because I still had to get her friend to school.

DJ has never pulled a stunt like this, except for the one time I wouldn't let her bring the toy of her choice to a friend's house when she was about 8 years old.  That time, she screamed with such fury that a "Y" shaped formation of veins stood out on her little forehead.  It was actually kind of hilarious and has become one of those family stories that never die.  But that was about 8 years ago, and I certainly didn't think I'd see the peaceful form of the same resistance after such a lull in fringe behavior.  I was stymied.

I walked (stomped) my way out of the house to get her friend to school.  The poor girl was tardy because of DJ, yet, on giving her the abbreviated version of what had taken place at our house, she could only offer sympathy for DJ, and none, I noted, for me.  Hmmmm, perhaps I was too hasty in chalking her behavior up to merely teenage angst when in fact, there was more to it.

She had subtly indicated that her wardrobe issues were a result of her having the wrong plumbing.  In my haste to get her to school on time and to have the day to myself that I had planned, I didn't pay much heed to her explanation.  Her mild surprise at my lack of understanding should have brought me back to reality, but I was still on my trajectory to the stratosphere where being on time for school and having time to myself were the priorities.  The drive to school and the chat with her best friend brought me back down to earth, thank goodness, so that I could pick up a caffe mocha for her (as well as the biggest latte that Starbucks makes for me) and use it as a peace offering on my return home.

Of course her concerns were valid.  Damn it, just when I get the notion that I shouldn't put too much emphasis on her being transgendered and just treat her like a regular teenage girl, a transgender issue peaks its little head up and trips me up completely.  I have GOT to get used to thinking on two fronts! On the other hand, she might have to get better at being more direct when she has an issue like this come up.  I know that teenagers like to keep some distance between themselves and their parents when it comes to issues regarding their bodies, but we are not in a typical situation here.  And seven months from now, after her surgery, who does she think is going to be up close and personal with her new plumbing until she can adequately care for herself again?

Fodder for another conversation I never thought I'd have with one of my kids, but I write that with a smirk on my face.  Because really, this is good stuff.  Frustrating as hell at first, rife with misunderstanding initially, but I'm getting to know my kid in a way that many parents don't, even if it is due to necessity and kind of against both our wills, at first.  You know that, "if life hands you lemons" perspective?  Yeah, well, we be makin' lots of lemonade in this house. 

Monday, October 3, 2011

The spice of life

I'd like to start today by giving a shout out and a big "thank you" to my readers in Russia.  There are 14 of you now, and that thrills me.  No less important are the readers in Germany, the U.K., Japan, China, India and Malaysia.  Thank you for taking the time to read my blog and I hope that it has offered you some manner of support knowing that there is some crazy American lady on the other side of the world who is trying to do her part to foster acceptance.

That word, acceptance, has become all encompassing to me.  I had nagging little thoughts of it in my twenties when my mother-in-law from my first marriage tried my patience on a regular basis.  "Just accept that she is a strange lady who can be incredibly mean because you married her son," was what I kept trying to tell myself, to no avail.  I simply could not accept her snide remarks, no matter how hard I tried.  I knew, somehow, that if I could accept her, even in her mean-ness that I would be doing myself a favor, but it was just beyond my ability back then.  And acceptance of someone else's abuse, perhaps, is ill advised anyhow.

Acceptance of each other's quirks and differences, now that is a whole other deal.  This blog has addressed that very quality many, many times largely because it's a character trait I am trying desperately to cultivate in myself, and one I hope this blog inspires in others because my daughter's life and happiness may, at least partially, depend on acceptance from the other folks who coexist on this planet.  Last night, I had the pleasure of spending many hours in the company of folks who helped me have an even deeper acceptance, nay, appreciation of our differences as people.

The ocean, or lakes, hell even a man-made pool: most of us love the water.  Maybe we don't want to swim in it, but perhaps we like to boat in the water, or simply observe the water from a stationary vantage point.  Either way, the variations depend on the time of day, the wind, the plant life growing within it, whether or not there are schools of fishing swimming beneath the surface, if it rained last night, or if there was a hurricane 500 miles away; all these factors, and more, can change its very appearance and nature on a daily, or hourly basis.  Some of us appreciate the calm, aqua blue of the Carribean, others the dark, moodiness found in New England.  There is no way in hell I'll swim in the frigid waters off the coast of California, but the balmy tides of North Caroline suit me perfectly.  I'm picking a rather trite way of explaining acceptance, but I'm proposing more than that.

We glory and revel in the spectacular variation in the waters that our Creator has sprinkled over the face of our shared home.  We don't even attempt to make broad comments about any one type of body of water because no sooner do we try to describe it when it changes, or resists our categorization.  And isn't it wondrous, truly?  I would wager that most of us can recall an image right now of a body of water that inspired awe within us.  And we would all agree that you couldn't talk me into liking your image better than I like mine no matter what. I can, however, appreciate what you like about your image, even if it's not my favorite image.

And that is what my evening at a drag show inspired in me last night.  This drag show took place at a bar that would be known to most as a "gay" bar.    This is not the first time I've frequented a gay bar and won't be my last.   I think most homosexual people are way more interesting than straight people anyway, but that's probably because I find people with challenging lives more interesting than people who have had little challenge in their lives.  Simple can sometimes be boring.  Anyway, as I waited for the show to begin, I indulged in my favorite athletic activity:  people watching.

I had the most glorious epiphany-the spectrum of human gender, sexuality and orientation is wondrous.  It's not something merely to be put up with like swallowing a very large pill so that you can get over your case of strep throat.  Some of us are middle of the road in all aspects of life, and that deserves celebration.  But others provide a variety that is not only beautiful but can teach the rest of us to rethink the definitions of masculine, feminine, straight, gay, bisexual, transgender, etc., etc., etc.  We keep trying to define it and we simply can't.  Tell my husband, on bringing flowers home to his new daughter, that mothers are primarily the tender caretakers.  Try to convince me that I am not strong as hell, fierce even, when I don my work gear and haul myself up onto a fire engine.  And if you think that I'm not feminine because I enjoy my typical "male" work, well, we can have a hot discussion about it, name the time and place.  I find the female form stunningly beautiful and on some of my worst days, I just wish I could rest my head on a warm, soft bosom, but that doesn't mean I'm a lesbian, nor does it mean a lesbian who does, or doesn't, share that sentiment isn't a lesbian.  We simply cannot adequately define what is male, or female, or gay, or bi, so let's call a truce-let's just say we stop trying to define it, even for a day, or an hour, and see how it feels.

Most of us have seen the movie, "Mrs. Doubtfire" or perhaps, "Tootsie."  In both films, there are men who dress as women to achieve a purpose, not because they felt like they were women.  In both films, the male character became a better man in observing his more womanly attributes.  And as viewers, didn't we all just love Mrs. Doubfire?  I wanted Tootsie for my best friend.  It was almost disappointing when they returned to their less dimensional male counterparts. Why is that?  Because we are our best versions of ourselves when we can be fully who we are, honoring the traditional male and female qualities no matter in whose body they dwell in or in what proportion.  In fact, in some Native American cultures, transgender people are referred to as "Two spirits" since they often are a beautiful melding of the finest of both genders. And to traffic in stereotypes for a moment, this is why I frequently am most comfortable with somewhat "effeminate"  straight or gay men, or "masculine"  women, and lesbians, because they often seem to have many of the best male and female qualities:  protectiveness,  assertiveness, forthrightness, directness, passion, tenderness, gentleness, emotional forthcomingness;  and fewer of my least favorite male and female qualities:  dominance, cattiness, aggression and subversiveness.  I am aware that I am skating on a dangerously thin line in assigning traits by gender, but my intentions are benign, and let's face it there are some differences between the genders, we just can't figure out how to label them and maybe we shouldn't even try.

I read somewhere about opposite "energies" attracting and working well in creating a healthy couple or relationship, and I decided I like that word best of all in describing people.  They are neither male, nor female, or not even homo- or heterosexual energies, just that they are opposite and therefore attract, like magnets- a natural occurrence in the natural world where there is endless variety in all species of humans, animals, plant life, sea life, weather, you name it.  And isn't it glorious?