Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A rose by any other name still smells as sweet

Dear Parents of Trans kids,

In recent weeks, I've been schooled, as it were, on terminology.  If you're wondering, "Is it transgender or transgendered? Or transsexual?" Or if you're wondering if differentiating is even important...consider clicking on the link below to read an intellectual discourse on the topic.  

Like all important issues, there will always be dissension among the ranks regarding how to best define the issue, or describe the individuals who comprise a given group.  It turns out that there are many layers to this issue but the author, Julia, makes a valid point about not getting too mired up in the terminology. Her perspective is refreshingly objective and illuminating. Give it a read...

The Author

Friday, September 11, 2015

The danger of thumbtacks…this was our life at one point.

Another draft that didn't get published while we were in crisis mode…

I feel like a hamster on a treadmill.....running, running, running and not really gettin' anywhere.  And if the scenery were fabulous, I wouldn't care, but it seems I am staring at the four lanes of the beltway a LOT for the past month.  But, I have to remember that there are people who are visiting their children in the hospital and staring at the grim and heartbreaking likelihood that their kids may never come home again.  That certainly keeps everything in perspective for pretty much anyone, doesn't it?

DJ is home in the evenings again, but continues outpatient treatment for her anorexia nervosa. Again, while the 7day/week drive is tough, there is a girl in DJ's group who will need inpatient treatment for months, to the tune of $30,000/month.  WOW!  I think I can physically and monetarily afford what is in store for us, especially considering that DJ's condition really could be worse.  Some people with this disorder simply refuse to eat, even while they're in treatment.

Can you imagine it?  In drug rehab, you simply deny having drugs on the premises, and while they are in rehab, they will be successful in not using.  But when a person refuses to eat....you can't make them.  OK, you can make them "surgically" but even then, if the person were hell bent against taking in calories, they could merely rip out the tube.  What do you do then-keep the person sedated until they put on enough weight?  Wow....yeah....it could be worse.  DJ finds it difficult to eat appropriate amounts of food that would meet her needs, but she is doing it.  She doesn't refuse the Ensure when she cannot finish a meal, thank goodness, either.

But we did have to alter her "Wall of Randomness." This is a wall in her room on which she has pinned almost anything that she deems important:  ticket stubs, letters, photos, (even one of Abe Lincoln), some 3D objects like a drawer pull, a giant wooden snowflake, and a goldplated shamrock.  She has an autographed picture of Miss Virginia, 2010, who was so supportive when she met DJ.  Miss Virginia had a lifelong struggle with a speech impediment and made her platform anti bullying.  DJ met with her after her speech and shared that she was transgender.  Miss Virginia embraced her and applauded her courage.

Most of the items on the "Wall of Randomness" were held in place with thumbtacks.  Thumbtacks are sharp.  Leaving them in her room would be no more fair to her than leaving brownies out for a person battling obesity, or alcohol for an alcoholic.  When a person is feeling low on reserves, any of us will easily choose a behavior that may temporarily bring us a sense of control, but will hurt us in the end.  We had to remove the tacks.  DJ thought we were overreacting:

"I really doubt that I would go to the trouble of pulling tacks out of the wall."

"Well," her therapist replied, "two weeks ago I wouldn't have thought you would go to the trouble of inhaling bath salts either, and you probably didn't think you would either, but when you felt badly enough, you did."

Ummmm, yeah.  I concur.  Scotch tape will suffice and that is how I spent about 30 minutes of my day today, cursing silently under my breath as I pulled out easily over 100 thumbtacks.....sigh.

It takes a village

Found in the draft archives also….

By no means do I purport to be an expert on children.  In spite of the fact that I have 20 years more experience mothering and caring for children than my youngest sister, Flying Pig, I defer to her, or at least seek her advice on many matters concerning the raising of my kids, especially since the teenage years have descended upon us.  She is, in many ways, a child welfare expert by education, trade and natural ability.  And on occasion, when we doubt ourselves or are frustrated with our offspring, we go to family members who just plain have common sense about life and people, because oftentimes, they can see the forest for the trees far better than Bulldog and I can.

Among the family members whose advice we seek would be Bulldog's brother, the priest.  (I so wish he were a Brother, so I could say, "Bulldog's brother, the Brother.") My lesbian sister, Bean, my sister-in-law from my first marriage, Apple, and a few other sisters-in-law because we admired their loving and fresh approach to children.

Interestingly, we have seldom consulted any of them about how to handle issues related to DJ's coming out, or matters related to her care.   We feel pretty secure about that.  But we weren't sure how to go about informing our younger relatives-not that it was our place to inform them in any event because they were not our  children.  This decision on how, when and if to tell their children was decidedly up to them.  But we were worried about it.  Those first few months, we came up with mental lists of family members trying to decide to tell whom when, and in what order to inform them.   All kinds of factors entered the picture:  what was going on in the other persons' lives emotionally, financially, physically and  how likely would it be that we would run into them in the immediate future?  We were trying to be sensitive to our needs and theirs.

We worried the most about our little nieces and nephews.  We thought that in some cases, this situation might be beyond their parents' comfort levels.  It's one thing for a person to decide for themselves if they can accept this news, and another to make a decision to accept for one's children. And all of this was out of our hands and completely up to our adult family members.  I fretted, admittedly.  But once again, Dad's friend's advice proved to be sound. We had low expectations by preparing ourselves for the possibility of not seeing those members of our family with any frequency.  Once again, we underestimated the love and abilities of other folks and the unabashed genuine-ness that is inherent in nearly all children.

One sister-in-law, Tree-hugger, explained the situation to her son and daughter and their biggest concern was whether or not cousin-JD-now-known-as-cousin-DJ would still want to play with them.  Apple's approach was sheer brilliance and brought me to tears.  She told her two boys a story of a pirate who didn't really want to be a pirate.  He didn't feel like a pirate, didn't like dressing like a pirate and instead felt like he was really a.....let's say, a farmer, since I can't recall the example she used.  She asked her boys what they thought of that.  To them it was a simple proposition: stop being a pirate and be a farmer.  And with that, she explained about DJ.  They too just wanted reassurance that DJ would still want to play with them.

Another sister-in-law, Irish Rose, informed her children in her honest and loving way.  Admittedly, our nephew, who is a miniature philosopher, didn't understand feeling that way because he certainly didn't, but was ok with accepting someone else's feelings about themselves.  Our niece, characteristically loving and exuberant, was thrilled to have another female cousin.

To whom do we give the credit-the parents or the children?  Ideally both.  With all the folks mentioned above, as well as other members of Bulldog's family, my family, and our circle of close friends, there is this idea of finding teachable moments not only with our children, but with our family member's children, or our friend's children.  Not only do we support each other's children, but we may have to direct them, on occasion.  When Bulldog's family is gathered, and mayhem has the potential to ensue because of the sheer numbers that his Italian Catholic family comprise, particularly  when most of our multiple nieces and nephews are gathered under one small roof on Christmas Day, it was commonplace for any one of us to chorale them into helping to do chores, monitoring what they were watching on TV, and telling the older cousins that they got what they deserved when one of the younger cousins bit them since they wouldn't leave the child in question alone.  It's a very tribal way of child rearing and it works.  Moms and Dad can't be "on" all the time to catch our kid committing naughty or nice acts.  And the only way kids can figure out what is considered naughty or nice behavior is FEEDBACK.  As long as we surround ourselves with genetic family and chosen family (AKA:friends) that have some common sense, we can collectively raise our children well.

In my old neighborhood, back when I was a single mom, my good friend, also a single mom, invited us to dinner with her and her boys.  At some point, when I was preoccupied with I don't know what, she gently corrected one of my kids.  Then, later, she apologized to me for it.  It didn't bother me in the slightest.  I told her, "No worries Sue.  I believe in that whole "it takes a village to raise a child thing."

From surviving to thriving

Parents of transgender kids-I've found some unpublished drafts that I'm adding now.  Many were written when DJ was in crisis and my head and blogging ability were taking a backseat to my heart because of DJ's obvious emotional pain.  Sometimes this shit just plain hurts, but here I am five years later, having survived it because my kid survived it.  Hell, she didn't just survive-she's freaking thriving!!!  So take THAT, you haters out there.  There are more of us non-haters than there are of you.

The Author

It's funny how we want to put each other in boxes to be stored on the appropriate shelf.  One of many things I have learned, just in the past 24 hours, is that we are all complex people.  Why we feel a certain way, or act a certain way, seldom is the result of only one factor.  And furthermore, there is seldom only one solution to any problem.  If only it were that easy....

DJ is struggling in a way I've never seen her struggle before.  We would love to believe that there is an easy fix out there....just put her on an anti-depressant, that will solve the problem, or take her off one of the hormones she's on, that should do it.  Maybe if we scheduled her surgery next week she would be all better.  How about we make sure that she never crosses paths with a single person who used to know her as JD, so she won't have to suffer the indignity of now being "invisible" (DJ's word) to those folks.  We had one healthcare provider ready to assume, after not even meeting DJ, that she's bi-polar because she can spend hours composing music.  A blog reader stated that since she'd transitioned, she should be feeling fine because other trans people who have transitioned have been just fine, post transition, as if transition alone is the answer.

Here's the difficult truth:  there is no single answer or solution to finding lasting peace of mind and happiness for DJ.  It's becoming clear, or as clear as it can be after only 48 hours post-crisis, that DJ has pain she must work through, some of which originated years ago when she realized that how she felt about herself didn't match what the world expected of her because her reproductive organs were on the outside of her body rather than on the inside.  Some of the pain is a result of her "invisibility" at school (every time I think of what that must be like, I swear I feel my guts turn to water), and some a result of her trying to figure out who she is.  I'm 46 years old, and I'm still trying to figure it out.  And there may be other issues that need airing too.

Maybe I hover too much.  Maybe our family dynamic needs to shift a bit.  I don't have the answer and certainly anyone who suggests that his/her one path for happiness should work for everyone doesn't have the answer either.  While Bulldog and I know our daughter pretty well, even we accept that we don't have all the answers.  And as Bulldog has pointed out, none of this was in the parenting manual.

And it's not in a transgender manual, or a depression manual, or a self-esteem manual, or a how-to-not-be-invisible-in-high-school manual.  There is no one clear cut answer anywhere or from any one person.  But when you feel "truth" in your gut…go with it.  When the answer or solution feels right, deep in your gut, trust it.

Rebel Teacher knows best

Another "goodie" that I somehow forgot to publish a few years ago.  Rebel Teacher is the bomb.  Parents-this was eye opening for me, hearing Rebel Teacher's perspective; perhaps it will be for you, as well.

The Author

During my meltdown yesterday, when I was finally able to get to the sad part and boo-hoo a bit, I decided to NOT drive my car and instead, turn around and go see a friend in lieu of trying to make it to the hair salon.  This friend lives right up the street and actually is person who came up with my sister's name that I use in this blog - "Bean."  It's short for lesbian.  She and her husband were my sister's neighbors and referred to my sister and her girlfriend, who we'll call "Saint" because 1) she lives with my sister and 2) it's a tongue in cheek reference to the fact that she was raised in the Catholic faith and her parents feared for her soul on finding out about her orientation, as The Beans.  These folks are liberal minded, accepting and have hilarious senses of humor.

So, I stopped by to see this friend and I was so glad I did.  I've found that I am getting the most amazing insight from people and I did from her yesterday, as well.  Now, we'll call this woman Rebel Teacher because 1) she's a rebel and 2) she teaches, and loves to teach, the kids who most others think of as the rebels.  She sincerely loves the kids who are on the fringes of acceptance, and her experience is valuable.  She said to me, "It was just too easy at first, wasn't it?  DJ probably thought the hardest part would be telling you and Bulldog and the rest would be easy.  She figured her friends would be more accepting.  And then when you and Bulldog took it in stride, and she found out her friends wouldn't accept, it must have felt terrible for her."

I never thought about it like that.  DJ had such huge faith in her friends, and naturally, because she's a teenager, so little faith in us.  Once she had our acceptance, she probably figured school would be a piece of cake.

Then, Rebel Teacher added, "Being invisible is worse.  She was probably ready for someone saying something ugly.  She could respond to that."  Or, as Bulldog put it, "You can't fight back if you're not even there."

Sometimes I'm perceptive as hell, and other times, I'm as clueless as a box of rocks.  I knew being invisible was terrible, but now I understand it in another way-DJ was prepared to stand up for herself.  She wasn't prepared for.....nothing.

DJ hasn't said any of this to us, so we could be off base, but sometimes when I share insights from others, I can see a light of recognition go on in her face.  It's as if the thoughts are floating around in her head, but it's hard to explain until she hears someone else's perspective and then she either says, "No, that's not it" or "Yeah, it's kind of like that."

THIS is why we have to help each other.  Isn't it amazing how the smallest act of sharing can help another person so much?

There's this awesome woman in Australia who has been corresponding with me.  She has given me so much insight and reminders about what is and isn't important. Her stories are a reminder of the importance of perspective.  Small people are just that-SMALL.  We cannot let them become so large in our lives that they throw us of off our own tracks. And one of the best ways to keep that from happening is talking about how we feel, and listening to others who are willing to share their stories and thoughts with us.

DJ's plumbing skills

Nope-not what you think!! This is not a discussion of internal plumbing in the anatomical sense or plumbing in the sense of piping fresh water in and yucky water out.  This plumbing refers to DJ's interest in plumbing the depths of the ocean via SCUBA DIVING!!!  (At least initially.)

She's been at her college now for a few weeks.  She phoned me for a quick chat tonight prior to her physics society meeting…what exactly does one do at a physics society meeting?  I think of raised pinky fingers sipping tea from fine English bone china when I hear the word "society."

Image result for drinking tea, high society, pinky finger raised
High Society
And yet, I also picture telescopes and those things you buy in Spencers with five metal balls suspended from fishing wire (known as "Newton's Cradle" if we want to be accurate; a highly desired quality in science, or so I understand) lined up next to each other so that you pull one to the side and watch the kinetic energy travel to the ball on the opposite end, only to see the pattern repeat; the two images just don't mesh.

I have no idea what goes on at said physics society meetings, but it's close to 3 in the morning, here in the eastern USA, my brain is foggy and I digress….

Back to scuba diving.  This is an essential skill for those who want to be astronauts as it is a means of mimicking the weightlessness that one will experience in space.  Now, she will not actually be plumbing the depths of the ocean anytime soon because her university is in a landlocked part of the state; she will likely be plumbing the bottom of a pool for starters!!

Then she informed me that her assigned "mentor" had invited her to his lab and I felt kind of freaked out.  I don't know-is that the 21st century science-y way of saying, "Hey baby, want to come see my sketches?"

"How old is he?"

"I don't know-mid to late twenties. Why?"

"Is anyone else going?"

"No…but mom, he's my assigned mentor."

Oh yeah, because if a well known university gives this guy the role of "mentor" he's certain to be trustworthy, in a lab, on a Thursday night, after 9 p.m., right?

"DJ, when I was a freshman in college, I went to the university health center for an upper respiratory infection.  The 3rd year resident elected to give me a complete breast exam. I trusted him 'cause he was a doctor. ( I should have trusted my gut when it said, "What the hell does this have to do my cough and low grade fever?" and then told him to get his damn hands off of me, but we tend to blindly trust doctors, right?) "Do not give people your trust until they earn your trust."

I could hear her exasperation with me so I didn't want to press it any further.  I admit it: I suffer from a form of reverse prejudice.  I never worried about this stuff with my sons.  I worried that when my oldest son joined a fraternity (a stupid waste of $1500 to purchase a wooden paddle and booze for their frat parties) he would get hazed as part of his initiation.  He bought the whole fraternity crap, hook, line and sinker, and still will not tell us what his initiation included because he took an oath….(so rolling my eyes right now.)  And Romeo was just so earnest and aware of being safe and didn't really care for partying that  I felt like he was fairly insulated from danger. DJ has no interest in sororities (oh thank goodness…if she agreed to wear a plaid skirt and a beret on Wednesdays just because the sorority said so, I would know I'd lost her forever) nor in partying.  She is strictly and excitedly interested in math, physics, engineering and astronomy, which includes scuba diving (Yay!!) and visiting isolated labs in the late evening (not so "yay").

You want to plumb the depths of a pool in order to someday plumb the vastness of space?  That's cool.  But please, plumb your new friends and learn about the hazards of unknown men too….please. In scuba diving, you always have to be aware of your surroundings-remembering your path of entry and means of egress, watching for hazards.  Goodness girl-I hope you're doing that with all these new people.

Why couldn't she have been assigned a female mentor?  Why didn't I make her stick with Taekwondo?  Why can't she be a bit less trusting that all science guys are like Bill Nye?

The University has an app that allows students to track their whereabouts so if they don't show up when they're expected, people will know where to start looking.  Am I nuts in so wanting to make sure she uses it, that I refuse to provide spending money until she proves to me she's using it?

Yup-we have lift off.  Mom is hovering. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Helicopter_parent  She's only 5 feet off the ground presently-quick, somebody ground the helicopter with a well-thrown rock before she hovers over DJ at the University science labs.

Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Caitlin the Conundrum

This author is feeling particularly cantankerous today as she has been in considerable pain for days. Hopefully the x-ray will shed light on the issue and prescription pain meds will work their magic.  However, being presently free of pain medication, I can only offer fair warning about the post that follows. It just might be a bit crotchety-I offer apologies in advance!

I'm trying to follow Mahatma Ghandi's advice about keeping my thoughts positive as they influence my actions, and ultimately my karma.  In that vain, I will attempt to address Caitlin Jenner's perspective on marriage in a manner that is respectful…despite the fact that I personally find it mind-boggling.

But wait…stop there.  After reading articles about the interview between Cait and Ellen on TheEllenShow, and viewing the actual Cait/Ellen interview on TheEllenShow, I've come away with thinking that Cait is acting more like a politician than anything else.

Here is the portion of the original interview when Caitlin Jenner and Ellen Degeneres discussed gay marriage:


Below is the link to the article in Huffpost Women that depicts Ellen's comments on The Howard Stern Show; the article, "Ellen DeGeneres Responds to Caitlyn Jenner's Comments about Marriage Equality," was written by JamesMichael Nichols, the Deputy Gay Voices Editor of The Huffington Post on September 8, 2015. His commentary is included and perhaps apt; I'm still undecided.


I initially wondered at a man writing an article about a gay woman, and a transgender woman, for the Huffpost Women column at all. But then again, the article doesn't really examine women's issues specifically but rather the dichotomy of a transgender woman who is seeking equality and yet seems rather wishy-washy about marriage equality for gay couples. And that is not specifically a women's issue, is it?  Equality doesn't belong to just straight men and women, or just to natal men and women.  Or just to white men, or wealthy women, or women who were born with male chromosomes, are tremendously wealthy and can thus be the talk of the town because of her notoriety.

Does anyone buy her lukewarm "acceptance" of gay marriage?  It seems not, as evidenced by the myriad of comments from those who weighed in on the article, among them:

What Ellen doesn't...can't...get because Ellen is such a good, real person, is that Jenner is a media project, not a transgender person who has "come out." 
How facinating that she doesn't get it! I've always been puzzled when any minority group that is fighting for equality and understanding doesn't understand the validity in another group fighting for the same!


There are a lot of gay and transgender people who do not support same-sex marriage, just as there are Black people who don't support affirmative action or ending stop-and-frisk, or women who don't support feminism. Unfortunately, the institutions support white Christian male heteronormativity are so pervasisve that even those negatively affected by it often uphold these standards.(Emphasis added.)

So the question remains-how can a person who lobbies for equality for her "minority" somehow be unable to wholeheartedly divorce herself from her politics so that she can lobby for equality for other "minorities?"

What the hell is a minority anyway?  To put it simply, in somewhat sociological terms, it is anyone who is substantially (or perhaps merely marginally) different from those who hold the reins of society.  We all know who those folks holding the reins are:  those in positions of power, influence and almost always great wealth.  Is it really any wonder that a woman who happens to be transgender still expects to write her own rules, even when they seem to embody the height of hypocrisy?  After all, she is used to being in positions of influence and power.  Initially,  she earned her fame from the Olympics, and later, parlayed that into uber fame through her marriage to the Kardashian dynasty.  The people who got their fame from helping to free a man who was statistically likely to have killed his ex-wife and her friend.  Yes, black people are wrongly convicted far too often, but in OJ Simpson's case…his attorneys (Kardashian among them) were simply superior to the State's attorney.

My observations are thus:  Cait wants to control all situations to reflect her way of thinking.  She can profess to wanting to represent the transgender community all she wants; yet she insists on depicting the reality of being a transgender person in American society on her alleged "reality" show in a manner that  does not seem remotely realistic.  Perhaps if she removed the reality-bending lens through which she expects us to see her world she could finally be a "real" woman.  Real as in genuine because her gender has nothing to do with her reality. Her gender may certainly be real, but her perspective is not!