Sunday, December 8, 2013

Lickin' my wounds

It's Christmas time. DJ and I were just pulling out some decorations for the house this morning.  It's snowing out, and we're headed over to our neighbor's for an open house in a little bit.  As we decorate the house, DJ and I are going back and forth between other activities:  she with finding every Khan Academy YouTube video she can find on physics (she's had a change in career plans) and I with watching "Father of the Bride II."

It's kind of a cheesy movie but it held my attention because I like Steve Martin and Martin Short is hilarious as the gay interior designer.  The movie proceeds to where the daughter is going into labor with the first grandchild.  It hits me like a ton of bricks that DJ will not experience this aspect of womanhood and motherhood, despite the fact that she may very much want to;  nor will I be able to be there with her as she experiences this, which I know I very much want to.

I wasn't one of those women who treasured her pregnancies.  They were all a means to an end to me.  And while giving birth was one of the toughest moments of my life, it was amazing going through it.  Since that time, I've been fortunate enough to assist a friend as she gave birth and I've been very lucky to be part of other women's birthing processes.  I cry nearly every time out of wonder and joy.  Connecting with women as they get to the transition phase of labor  has always been so meaningful to me.  It turns out I am a good coach and I feel honored to be able to assist by offering them emotional and physical comfort and support.

Five years ago, I knew I would likely not be part of a daughter-in-law's birthing process as she might want her mother there.  But after DJ came out, I started to realize that I wanted all those rights of passage that moms of daughters get to have, if their daughters choose the path of motherhood AND are fortunate enough to go through the "old fashioned" path of becoming a mother.  But we've been so busy with loving our daughter in the here and now, that the future is not always uppermost in our minds.

So,  I'm watching this cheesy movie and truly, it hits me like a ton of bricks: she won't be able to experience this aspect of motherhood and I won't be able to experience it with her.  The unfairness and sadness was so acute, my eyes immediately filled with tears and my throat was aching.  I pulled Bulldog into our room because I felt like I needed to share it or it would never go away.

He, of course, wanted to fix me by reminding me of what may still be possible for DJ and I don't disagree. She is very likely to be a mother if she chooses;  she may find a lovely woman to share her life with who will give birth to their child, but what Bulldog doesn't understand is a concept that women who can't get pregnant and give birth will understand completely.  We can always be thankful for what we have, and we're allowed to grieve what we may not have, as well; not instead of, necessarily, but in addition to.

I won't share this with DJ.  It would serve no purpose whatsoever.  If and when she experiences this sense of loss, Bulldog and I will help her through it.  I'll just get  my experience of loss over with now so I can be there for her if and when she experiences her own sense of loss. Still, right, wrong or indifferent, childish or's still so unfair, once again.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

DJ's first wedding

Two weeks ago, DJ attended the first family wedding since she came out four years ago. Nightingale got married and we were thrilled to share in her day.

DJ and I had attended Nightingale's shower sometime back-another first for her by way of "female traditions."  Most of "the Roses" were there:  this is a nickname the female granddaughters share as they each took their grandmother's name in one form or another.  DJ took this name as one of her middle names when she changed her name a couple of years ago, which touched her grandfather.

So, we ordered her a fabulous dress and as the morning of the wedding dawned, DJ was a bit nervous. She indicated that it was because she was going to be around a lot of people she hadn't seen in awhile and many she didn't know.  I reassured her, as we met her aunt and uncle (Bulldog's sister and brother-in-law who we'll call Samba King and Tenderheart) for breakfast, that meeting up with them would be a great way to get her feet wet since both of them are such gentle souls.  Sure enough, an hour later, she felt more confidant after breakfasting with Samba King and Tenderheart who fussed over her.

At the wedding, she and her cousin, who we'll call Belle (because she reminds me of the cartoon heroine, she's so pretty and sweet) acted like two young ladies do at weddings:  they danced and giggled.  Then her cousin Sullivan (whom I name after "Annie Sullivan" the "miracle worker" of the Helen Keller story because of her gift with autistic children) got her dancing, and Sullivan's husband, Golf Junkie, got her laughing.

Then her beloved Uncle Raucous asked her to dance.  He's had a special place in his heart for DJ from when she was known as JD.  JD used to give Uncle Raucous hell, which made Raucous roar with laughter.  I think it was more of an adjustment for him than he ever let on to let go of JD, but he has completely embraced DJ, as evidenced by his dance invitation.

When all the Roses gathered for a photo for Grandpa (who was ill and only a week  from passing away), DJ included, of course, I nearly cried.  Then, for the last song of the night, Bulldog excused himself from asking me to dance so he could ask his other best girl, his only daughter, to dance.  It was too sweet for words.  Yes, it was definitely Nightingale and Sir Nightingale's night (he too is an RN), but it was a wonderful evening for our girl too.  Good stuff all around :)

How to be non-agressively battle ready

Dear Family members whose loved one is Transgender,

If your child has just come out to you, you will be in the middle of one of the hardest conversations you will ever have.  And it will be the first of many.  You might have to figure out how to explain to the staff at your pediatrician's office to start calling your child Jesse instead of Jessica.  You might have to break the news to your child's guitar instructor that last week, he knew your child as Nathan and now he must be ok with the same kid arriving on Thursdays after school, going by the name of Nancy and be prepared for Nancy to be wearing what any child named Nancy might be wearing.

These conversations can be awkward.  You may feel paralyzed with fear about what may happen.  You might even worry what the person on the receiving end of your message might be thinking of you.  Awkward is an understatement:  excruciating, terrifying, mortifying might be more accurate.  And then, don't be surprised if these feelings are all accompanied by a chaser of GUILT:  guilt that you are worried about yourself, guilt that you don't want to have these conversations, guilt that you may wish your kid's insides matched her outsides so you could avoid all  of this.

What will follow are the even harder conversations: explanations to Great Aunt Mary how the kid she played cards with that one late night is growing her hair out, and no longer wears the oversized t-shirt and baggy jeans like her brothers did.  The conversation where you draw the line in the sand for any family member or friend who will not accept your child as the person he or she knows that he or she really is, regardless of what the genitalia and birth certificate say.

Fake it 'til you make it, ladies and gents. If you speak apologetically during these conversations, you will be treated as if you (or your child) have done something wrong; if you speak as you're frightened, don't be surprised by an angry response; if you speak as if you feel responsible, you will likely be cast as the "bad parent."  BUT, if you speak as if naturally you would believe your child, naturally you will support your child, naturally you will treat your child as he or she wants to be treated, and naturally you expect the person to whom you are speaking to do the same, you are more likely to be facing a person who will acquiesce, whether that person accepts your message as truth or not.  Your best defense is an excellent offense, but we don't need to be offensive.  Simply straightforward and matter-of-fact would be the best posture.  You are forewarning the listener of what exactly you will tolerate by your calm and confident demeanor (again-fake it, if necessary!!) which is this:  I will tolerate your questions, your unknowing misunderstanding and your confusion.  I will not tolerate your willful ignorance or misunderstanding of my child and my decision to support and love my child.

Put on your suit of armor before you do this, however.  It would be foolhardy to go to a gunfight with a squirt gun.

For more support in this, listen to what this fabulous woman has to say about hard conversations and closets:

And keep supporting your child-you're wonderful!!!

Friday, November 8, 2013

Absurd Parents

DJ has decided to go full vegetarian-no fish either.  She now eats nothing that actively breathes or urinates.  Sorry to be so blunt!  Bulldog and I are running out of meal ideas and I don't know that I necessarily want to adapt favorite meals to her liking.

"What about Chicken and Dumplings?  What do I make now.....just dumplings," I asked.

"Well, yeah," she replied.

"That's just dumb," was my intelligent retort.

Bulldog and I agree that she needs to make dinner for all of us now.  We don't mind eating as she does, we just aren't terribly creative in the vegetarian cuisine world.  We've worn out our handful of recipes rather quickly. Besides, her royal highness is pushing 19 years of age. She can cook more often.

I can practically hear her in my head decrying, "I cook!"  Brownies are not dinner.

Have I ever mentioned that she does nothing wrong.....ever?  According to her?  And the kicker is, as she's denying the mess that is her room, and stepping over any number of obstacles as she does so, she's got this innocent yet slightly exasperated expression on her face, as if to say, "What?  Whatever could you mean when you say my room is a disaster area?"

Or, if the evidence we supply is undeniable in its support of our assessment of a housekeeping skill that she needs to improve, she will dismiss us with, "That's absurd."  Yup-that's right.....she actually uses the word, "absurd."  She practically sniffs the word as she says it.  Yet, neither Bulldog or I can get mad because she somehow manages to be so nicely mild-mannered that we barely notice that we've been dismissed.  By the time we realize it, the moment for correction has passed, or it just doesn't seem so important.

Have you ever watched the movie, "Signs?"  There are multiple scenes where the daughter leaves numerous glasses of water ALL. OVER. THE HOUSE!  This is how DJ lives.  I have found 7 glasses in her room, another 3 down in the rec room by the piano, and an additional 1on the coffee table, on any given Saturday morning.  When I point this out, in mock anger, she just laughs because when she's absurd, it's funny. And it really is.

She somehow manages to become more charming all the time.....

Sunday, October 27, 2013

Old friends, new friends

It's been awhile since I've made contact with any of you fine folks who check in on DJ from time to time.  Care to share what's happening in your lives?  

Becoming more whole

It's a lazy Sunday morning for DJ.  Not for Bulldog and not for me; for her highness, it is a day to do as she pleases, until we suggest otherwise, that is.

We are approaching the one year mark of her last hospitalization and the difference between then and now is amazing and I don't want to detract in any way from her success by casting my superstitious fears out in the universe.  That being said, I'm going to give voice to them in the hope that it will stave off any bad jou-jou!

This time last year, DJ decided to cut her hair quite short and it looked fabulous on her. However, it was so unlike her to do that and it made me raise an internal, "I wonder if something's up," eyebrow.  Not much later, it turns out she was not taking her medication as required and was engaging in other activities that were potentially harmful, as well as restricting her food.

Following that hospitalization right after Christmas, we had to lay some new ground work. Bulldog and I had to learn to back off.  Our worry for her and our hovering over her in an effort to catch disaster in its infancy before it became a tsunami were exhausting to us, offensive and hurtful to her, and just plain ground us both down into the dirt.  Plus, and this is a biggy:  it didn't help one iota.  Not even a little.  If we watched her eat in an attempt to catch her not eating, we would question nearly every bite she did, or didn't put in her mouth.  A strange dichotomy because the last thing a person with an eating disorder needs to do is pay attention to what she eats!!!

We had to force ourselves not to look nearly as much.  We had to stop asking her if anything was bothering her.  In short, we had to stop checking her diaper to see if it was wet.  This was for her sanity and for ours.  Imagine what happened:  miracle of miracles, the sky did NOT fall in, our daughter did not suffer more great tragedy and Bulldog and I settled down a bit.

DJ had her fantastic trip to see Apple in England, and returned bearing gifts of all kinds.  Summer waned and as fall approached, she became anxious about school starting again.  Mostly because she's not sure what direction to take with her education and feels like she should have the answers.


She and I sat at a favorite restaurant when she shared this fairly recently. She feels like she's mooching off of Bulldog and me, she's living at home, is currently unemployed and is uncertain what direction to take with school.  I told her that I wished her brothers had waited like she is because they made plenty of mistakes by being in a hurry to get out on their own.  Plus, Bulldog and I like having her home.  We enjoy her company and there's nearly no friction between any of us.  Besides, and perhaps most importantly, she missed out on more than a few years of settling into her skin, figuring out who she is and what she wants. She was so busy being JD during the years that DJ should have been able to learn to spread her wings.  There's no hurry, no rush, to growing up and leaving, I told her.  Give yourself this gift of time-you need it and you deserve it.

OK, so Bulldog and I will continue to provide some structure for her, but we don't have to rush.  We are 10 months out from her last hospitalization, which I hope will be her last hospitalization for many, many years to come.  We know there may be other issues to contend with in her future still.  She will have to come to terms with whether or not to share her past with her future significant other, how to do that, and learning to accept that she will be a wonderful mother despite having to find another route to make that happen.

Right now she's carving her pumpkin and roasting the seeds.  She's just recently decided to omit seafood from her diet, in addition to meat, so I think she's going to take our leftover lentil soup and make some sort of lentil burgers out of it. I have no idea what to expect.  She's enjoying learning to cook, which is a bonus for us since we frequently work late.

It might be me, but I swear her face is becoming more beautiful and softer all the time.  I suppose it's the result of nearly 4 years of estrogen therapy, aside from her natural God-given face.  She still writes music prolifically, and has revisited some of her hobbies that she enjoyed before she came out, which I'm glad to see.  Maybe it means she feels more comfortable melding her history with her present.  I hope so.  

Friday, August 2, 2013

Beginning the young adult years

So, we are off on our next adventure with DJ.  She is coming up with a more definitive plan for her future.  She spent two weeks with Apple and her family, and now DJ hopes to return there next year and pursue her degree there.  Bulldog and I are quite happy for her and hope her plans come to fruition.

However, DJ is a sprite and a procrastinator, of sorts.  She is a true butterfly in that she may have a strong sense of direction, but sometimes the slightest gust of wind can throw her off course.  And then she gets distracted by some pretty flowers and forgets her way back to her original direction, until prodded.

She will be traveling slightly further from home for her classes this year.  This is a good thing as the post-secondary institution is in a more urban setting than where she is now.  She will be exposed to more cultures and beliefs than in our small town.  This would serve anyone well, but I think it will help her dating situation.

DJ has had a few young men interested in her.  One is still pursuing her, and she merely acts as if she doesn't see his advances as having a romantic connection.  She engaged in a 4 month relationship with a nice young man, and then ended it stating that she really didn't think boys were her cup of tea, after all.  While she was visiting Apple. she crossed paths with a young woman who inspired her to write a fantastic song.

DJ had expressed that she felt attracted to girls to me before.  Once she played this song for Bulldog and me, we came to see that she was sharing with us what her orientation is.  Not that we care.  In fact, I've said this before and I'll say it again:  I believe that if DJ decides to share her history with the person she falls in love with and hopes to spend her life with, the odds are more in her favor of her mate accepting her history if her mate is a woman rather than a man.

Now that many states in America are moving toward allowing gay marriage, and even if DJ resides, someday, in a state that doesn't legally recognize gay marriage, we look forward to a wedding and frankly don't care if there are two brides, or a bride and a groom.  We look forward to her being a mother and our only concern is helping her to that end in any way we can.

Back to my point:  maybe DJ will meet a nice girl that she can hang out with as a friend, or as her date.

Whatever makes her happy :)

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Proceed with caution

I mentioned yesterday my paranoia about DJ's anonymity.  I blame myself for some of my paranoia because of a decision I made almost two years ago to share my identity in my local area.  A big mistake I think.  I thought it was coming from a wanting to be brave like my daughter, but I failed to have long-term perspective.

There have been a handful of folks who have successfully transitioned and are "flying under the radar", meaning their former lives have been left in the past.....or so they thought.  With today's technology, outing someone publicly is so easy, as is getting access to someone's past.  This haunts me-there are yearbooks with JD's picture in them.  What if, for the sake of argument, DJ went on to become some well known long would it take before some @$$hole, with an axe to grind, who is jealous of her success, to float the pic of JD out on the net?  Or worse:  What if something I posted on my blog comes to light that serves to out her?

I didn't understand that there are even people in the LGBT community who might find it useful to use her success story to their advantage, even if it means causing her accidental harm.  Damn those rose colored glasses that I wore for too long!!!  Thankfully, I have a friend who has shared her perspective about the importance of caution.  Thanks to that Australian lassie!

We encourage DJ to look outside of our town for schooling and for job prospects, as well as social outings.  This has worked well for her and she is considering even driving a bit further out for school next year, as well as for a part time job.  There is much more acceptance in the area she is considering.  This upcoming year, while attending community college, she will start planning for a four year university to complete her studies in music, most likely.  Then she will be able to spread her wings more fully.  But I will likely always be looking over my shoulder for her.  I don't want her to worry about such things, so Bulldog and I will instead :)  We'll caution her to be selective about what she shares but I think she's savvy to the importance of discretion.  We all continue to learn....

Parents who are new to this:  be cautious and guard both your privacy and that of your child covetously.  At the same time, do not beat yourself up about not thinking far enough ahead.  (I will attempt to listen to my own advice!)  Your child may have an, "I don't give a damn what people think; I am who I am," perspective, out of fatigue from living a false life for so long.  It's SO understandable, but you MUST guide them until they are of age to make an informed decision for themselves.

However, there are some brave parents who are going public with their outcry on behalf of their very young transgender children.  These folks may be the exception but I'm not sure, personally.  I admire their courage, and think that their children will fare well since they transitioned so young that very few will get as "outraged" when the only "proof" that can be produced of the child's previous life is a picture of a gender neutral appearing five year old.  Let's face it, remove the trappings, i.e., clothing and haircuts, and most children appear somewhat androgynous when looking at their little faces.  It's when a picture of an "obviously" male or female person is juxtaposed against a picture of the person living as his or her true self that people tend to react to because the "difference" in gender seems more "obvious."  That's the nature of our very visually-oriented society.  So, these parents of very young children may be where one of the answers to societal acceptance lies.  We are more empathetic to a child who appears somewhat androgynous.  But who knows how their kids will feel 20 years from now?  It's too soon to tell, but I for one will not find fault with them.  I would only remind any parent who is raising a child who may be subject to deliberate or accidental misunderstanding and ridicule to proceed with caution, while being quick to forgive themselves if they make a mistake.  My thoughts are with you <3.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

It's Graduation Day....sorta

Long time, no chat.  This is largely because I fret about DJ's anonymity.  In fact, I often feel paranoid about it, but that is a potential topic for another time.

Today, high schools all over the place are holding their graduation ceremonies.  We've experienced this twice with Goodwrench and Romeo but will not be experiencing it with DJ.  Yes-she has officially graduated high school, but no, she is not taking part in the graduation ceremony at the high school from which she officially graduated.

This is a decision that she made, and Bulldog and I support.  Had she decided to "walk" on graduation day, we would have supported that, too.  It was a long and tough haul getting her to this point:  she went through three hospitalizations in 18 months, one of which to bring her outers in line with her inners, the other two related to stress and eating disorder.

I feel sad today but hope that this is the last milestone that is markedly different than what she might want.  I'm trying to be positive.  There have been so many other celebrations she has missed because she was hidden, then so many more because she wasn't accepted, the prom and graduation among them.

Dynamo was kind enough to remember us today stating that DJ's name was in the program and that she saved one for us.  She has been an unbelievably supportive and loving friend and mentor for DJ and for me.  I am so touched she thought of us today.

When DJ made the decision, she stated, "I really only went there for one  year. I don't feel a real connection to it."  Understandable, certainly.

She's our last to graduate.  When Goodwrench and Romeo graduated, it was exciting and fun to see them cross the stage and celebrate with their friends afterward.  I wanted that for her and for us.  Getting DJ to this point was a much greater challenge than it was for her brothers because of social dynamics and medical considerations.  A celebration is even more warranted for her, in my opinion.  We're having a party for her, a rather small affair, at her request, and then a few days after that, she'll be heading overseas to see Apple in the company of Sister Chromatid, so she won't fare too badly, I don't think.  But I'm still lickin' my wounds a bit.  Maybe it's just for fact, I think it is.  DJ seems to be nonplussed by this and spent the afternoon hanging out with a friend she met at community college.

It helps realizing that this is one of the last milestones of youth that she will experience differently because of her former life.  That's not to say she won't have other decisions in the future related to her previous life, but there is nothing else to stand in her way for college, or jobs, or parties, because high school was the last vestige of her previous life.  She did, we did it.  <Big SIGH of relief>

Friday, February 22, 2013

To Air or not to Err

Such a conundrum that has presented much a conundrum to drag me out of my Blog reclusiveness.....

DJ did so well last semester:  happy in the community college, found herself a sweetheart, wrote a helluva paper in defense of gay marriage and then had another set back.  We're rebounding now-much quicker than last time but it's not easy.  She is SUCH a teenager and in many ways, we've noticed a slight regression.  It's almost like she's trying to make up for lost time-can ya blamer her?  We can't.

Then, out of the blue, I get contacted by an organization interested in talking to us about our parenting.  Of course, being Bulldog's beloved, my hackles stand up initially.  But, I did a snippet of research and it seems legitimate, this organization dedicated to telling others' stories in a respectable manner.  Do we share to encourage others, even if it may make DJ more identifiable, somehow, to someone who wants to know about her previous life?

I read a book recently:  Far from the tree by Andrew Solomon.  Brave folks shared their gut-wrenching stories and it opened my eyes.  Do we owe that to others?  It's certainly worth thinking about....