Monday, August 24, 2015

Still a quarter

What an education I've gotten today and in such short order!!  If you have been reading of late, you'll note that a "Miz Know it all" has been posting in the comments section of my blog. She recently mentioned that she, also, has a blog.  One of her recent posts, mentioned the Six Steps of "Passing." the discussion of which can be found at- 

For parents whose children have recently informed them that their child's gender is inaccurately reported on the birth certificate, "passing" commonly refers to a person successfully "appearing" as the gender with which the person identifies, and is contrary to both the birth certificate and the 1% of the body that is said to "define" gender: their genitals. 

The Six Steps are as follows:

  • Step 0, No passing
  • Step 1, Pass in a crowd
  • Step 2, Pass with longer person-to-person interactions
  • Step 3, Passing with a lover
  • Step 4, Sustained Passing
  • Step 5, Having your memory rewrite itself
  • Step 6, Knowing that you have always been female
I'd like to focus on Step 5 as this was the topic of an important conversation between a neighbor and me.  She and I were chatting this weekend and she was asking about DJ's transition from community college to a four year university, far from home.  As our conversation continued, it eventually turned to the time when DJ first came out.  This neighbor is in her 70s and is probably the coolest woman her age, out there.  She shared with me how, admittedly, she wasn't sure if she would acclimate to DJ's change well; wondrously, she explained how it's like she can't remember DJ any other "way" despite the fact that DJ transitioned (outwardly) only five years ago.

She and I discussed this at length because both of us find it so fascinating that our memories have essentially "rewritten" themselves, as well.  It's the most interesting phenomena because I have clear memories of JD and yet that kid seems like another kid entirely.  I've said this before and it bears repeating to those parents who are doubting their ability to accept their children wholeheartedly:  JD "became" (in my mind) DJ's fraternal twin who went to spend the night at a friend's house and simply never came back. I remember JD quite clearly...but he is not DJ.  And yet, they share remarkable qualities.

JD could turn anything into a toy and amuse "him"self. Fifteen years ago, the 5 year old "boy" would pick up the loose end of the seatbelt on his car seat and it would become a space ship. Currently, DJ still exhibits that quality of imagination by turning some inane object into something that piques her curiosity.  There are certain "person" qualities that transcend gender; those qualities are constant and unchanged regardless of hormones, surgery, or the lack thereof.  Yet, in many other ways, DJ is so different from JD; in this way, gender is the lens through which a person both sees the world, and perhaps is seen by the world. In this way, my pre-transition youngest child is clearly "family" to the post-transition counterpoint; simultaneously, the two are no more the "same" than two siblings are.

I cannot pretend to understand this dichotomy beyond my rudimentary attempt here.  All I know is that all of us routinely use the female pronoun in referring to DJ, even when we are speaking of her pre-transition years.  And it's just so... normal.  Early in the process, I wasn't sure how I would remember her past without remembering her as JD, and yet, it's just so easy.

Here's how:  if we related to each other only telepathically, we would likely "sense" the  gender of other persons with whom we interact.  However, I think we would also be far less likely to "categorize" others because so many of us have varying degrees of "maleness" and "femaleness" that we manifest in our daily lives.  I'm not going to even try to define what I think of as "maleness" or "femaleness" because it's nearly an impossible task.  But what if our "gender" identity is similar to a dialect?  What if someone from New England said, "I love you" and someone from Louisianna said, "I love you?"  Each would clearly sound different from each other and each would have a "culture" that has helped to shape his/her language and dialect...but would the message really be that different?

Anyway, rewriting memory doesn't make the rewritten memory false-it's just looking at the other side of the coin.  Heads or tails-it doesn't matter-it's still a quarter.  That's how I see it anyhow...Thanks for the inspiration MKIA.  BTW-what the heck does HPWT stand for? 

Friday, August 21, 2015

DJ finds her ground

Less than 24 hours after leaving, DJ called to tell me about her first night. (Good daughter!!)  She was quite excited at meeting people who share a common interest, that interest being (wait for it) ....Dungeons and Dragons.  She's attending a polytechnical university, so certainly uber cerebral geeks abound; she is one of them.

When we toured the dorm this spring, I noted a dry erase memo board with glyph-appearing writing on it attached to the door of one of the rooms. 

"Is that calculus?" I asked.

"No, it's Elvish," DJ replied.

"What does The King have to do with it?" I asked, in my head, thinking, of course, of Elvis Presley.

What I actually asked was, "What's Elvish?"

DJ explained, "It's a 'language' from Lord of the Rings." (Spoken by Elves....naturally.)

I slowly turned my head to look at her and said, "These are your people."

So yes, her dorm room is adorned with posters of Japanese Anime, her first new friends are Dungeons and Dragons aficionados, and she wore a Kiki's Big Adventure shirt paired with shorts denoting her university.  She screams GEEK.  She also screams HAPPY GEEK. She doesn't scream transgender.  It's her choice to either wave the banner or go stealth.  I'm all for stealth for now, or forever...again, it's her life and her choice.  She still lives in the Bible belt and deserves to be seen as her true self and not through a prejudiced lens.  She's just a young woman leaving home for college for the first time. Why should she be any different from any other young woman? 

She's off to a great start :)

Thursday, August 20, 2015

Fly, Baby!!

DJ left today for college.  She's transferring to a university some hours from us to major in physics and astronomy.  She does nothing by halves, does she?  Except pack for college apparently:  she insisted on packing light. Smart girl, that one.

I thought for certain Bulldog and I would both be bawling like babies. I cried after dropping both of DJ's brothers at college, but didn't shed a tear today and I think I know why:  it's her time.  She had to fight for her happiness and now that she is on her way, how could there be anything to cry about?  Don't get me wrong-I ache.  Her room is empty in the strangest way, as is my heart, at the moment.  And yet, she's ready to fly, both figuratively and literally.  Our girl wants to be an astronaut and I would be terribly surprised if she didn't achieve this, as well.

She's sleeping in another city tonight, far from home but I'm raising my glass to my best girl-spread those wings baby; don't look down and don't look back.  Just fly.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

(Perhaps I need to) Give Cait a chance!!

Ok-so I continued to binge- watch I am Cait, and I'm so glad I did. I felt like what the viewer saw was far more "real" than the Versace handbag discussion earlier in the evening.

Cait met with some other women who were all were transgender. The mentoring that most of the women engaged in was so important. If only all women did this for each other!! There were two women who talked about a "pink haze" (I think that was the phrase they used) to which I could relate.  I remember DJ going through such a phase that I attributed to adolescence and joy at being able to be who she really was.
But these women seemed to cast it in a different light-not better, not worse, just different than the perspective I had. (Rachel-my filter obscured my ability to have a global perspective again!)  What I recall was DJ expecting us to absorb, accept, and acclimate to her reality IMMEDIATELY!!  I understood that her reality had been just that for her entire life, but her reality was new to us.  It wasn't that we didn't want to absorb, accept and acclimate quickly, we just didn't know how, right away.  We had to remind her of that from time to time.  So, if I could give the Kardashians and Cait any advice it would be:  be patient with each other.  Be honest enough to say that you are trying to accept each other, but that it's a work in progress.

From an outsider's perspective, Cait's falling out with her former wife is completely understandable from both sides:  Cait wanted Kris to accept her as her wife; Kris wanted her husband. The inevitable mistakes made along the way that will occur when one or both have to let go of what they thought was their reality must be viewed as only that-inevitable missteps that occur from learning to navigate a new course. 

Hopefully people at large who happen to watch I am Cait will see the similarities between families with transgender members and families that don't have any transgender members.  The underlying issue is essentially the same:  struggle to accept each other, struggle to compromise, and struggle to identify what is MOST important and finally, the struggle to let go of what we cannot have, achieve or control while simultaneously striving for what we can have, achieve and control.

I will continue to tune in...

Monday, August 17, 2015

Caitlyn coming out

We've all heard about Caitlin Jenner's coming out.  She was previously known as the world class Olympic athlete, Bruce Jenner.  Then she maintained her fame through the expert management of her former wife, and mother of two of her children, Kris Kardashian.

Those of us who have loved ones who are transgender, or those whose natal bodies do not agree with their gender already know the bravery it took for Cait to transition.  Most of us have no idea about the additional courage required to transition so incredibly publicly. I for one applaud that courage. Admittedly, however, my feelings are mixed regarding her show I am Cait.

I've watched portions of 2 shows. The first was excruciatingly disappointing and somewhat embarrassing as she, or her producers, steered her conversation from the heartbreak of homeless transgender teens to a discussion of her designer handbag. This evening's episode seems more heartfelt and yet, as the mother of a young woman who had to fight her way to happiness, I'm still concerned.

She has bravely elected to carry the torch to illuminate some of what is the reality of the transgender person. But is her story really the story that the transgender community wants told?  I really don't know-I am not transgender and it would be arrogant for me to speak for that community.  But I've made it my business to try to anticipate how people will react for my daughter's sake, for her safety and for her happiness. Granted, my attempt at anticipating the reactions of others constitutes only an illusion of control I'd like to believe I have; this allows me to believe I can keep my daughter safe.  That being said, I'm wondering if Cait's wealthy approach to coming out of the closet will only serve to alienate people.

Reality shows are often not remotely realistic.  Cait's show, purported to be a depiction of her reality of what it is to be transgender in America, is not most people's reality; this is largely because of her fame, her wealth, her resources and her producers.  Thankfully, she is honest about her struggles and yet, her struggles are packaged in glam in this show; will any viewer ever really "get"what the struggles are really like, simply by viewing her show?

I'm open to keeping my mind open…but admit to having reservations.  Either way, yeah, I say that the lady's got courage.