Something lovely/something ugly

About the time I started this blog, I also went in search of a community or forum where I could meet and hopefully learn from people dealing with transgender issues, in the hope that it would help me with my tg daughter, K. And I lucked into a gold mine.

I went to Google and found tgboards.com. Made a post in the “Introductions” section. And then was absolutely blown away by the outpouring of support! The people on those boards–at least, the ones I’ve encountered so far–are generous and understanding and nurturing. They’ve already helped me so much, just in feeling more positive and hopeful for the future.

What gets to me, though, is the fact that they find me somewhat of an aberration. There continue to be commenters who are complimentary about my attitude, about my wanting to educate myself to get more insights that might help me with my daughter. I pointed out that I was just a mom, just trying to understand my daughter better and support her, because I mean come on, she’s my child and I love her! The responses were all along the lines of that’s not the norm, most parents aren’t supportive, and some don’t even want to see their children anymore.

Again I learned that not all people think or feel the way I do. That sounds simplistic and I guess it is. I just want to believe it’s in our nature to be fiercely protective of our children, the way animals in the wild will kill to protect their young. We’re animals, too, and I just assumed we all had those same instincts. Learning there are parents who would turn their backs on their children at a time when the children need them most has really upset me. My children mean the world to me–they’re my reason for living. But not all parents feel that way. I know I saw this type of apathy from parents when I worked with the elementary school guidance counselor, so I’m not sure why I was surprised. I guess I have a hard time taking it in, so I have to keep relearning. Wish I didn’t. ๐Ÿ˜ฆ

Advertisements

“Busyness”

I have a busy period coming up at work, which is good. The way my home life is, I generally prefer being at work. It keeps me busy and keeps my mind off my own stuff.

I spent yesterday with my mother, helping her pack for the trip to visit my brother and his family. My parents have three grandchildren and four and a half great-grandchildren there; the newest one is due in November. I’m glad they’re going, although I always worry when I know they’re on the road. They spend a night in a motel, so the trip’s a little easier on them. It’s a nine-hour drive, and they like to do more than half the first day, so they can arrive by lunchtime the second day. They’re good about calling from the motel and then calling from my brother’s, so I know when to stop worrying. ๐Ÿ™‚

Mama’s gotten some nifty things from Hospice, including a chair for the shower and a cane. She walks fine, but sometimes she can be a little wobbly. She hasn’t started using the cane yet, though. The best thing she got is some really good pain medication; she’s been feeling better in the last few days than she has in quite a while.

I met the Hospice nurse. My mother was in the bathroom as the nurse was leaving, so my Dad and I saw her to the door. She had familiarised herself with Mama’s chart before her visit, and expressed surprise that she was still mobile. My mother is strong and strong-willed, and even though she’s slipped below 80 pounds, and is finding it harder to move around, she still does as much for herself as she can. She just isn’t quite ready to give up her independence…but she’s getting there. I mean, she let me pack her suitcase, which was definitely a first. I love being able to do things for her. As I’ve told her, many times, I’ll never be able to repay her for everything she’s done for me.

Gotta make a move

I’ve been putting off writing about my marriage/separation. It’s something I avoid in real life, too. I just feel I have so much going on, I don’t want to deal with it; but push has come to shove and it’s finally time.

We’ve been apart for more than two years, since I suddenly just moved out of the bedroom and started sleeping on the sofa. We’d steadily drifted apart over time, and it seemed the inevitable next step. We tried marriage counseling, but I think the time had already passed for that before we thought to try it. It just didn’t work.

He moved to his parents’ while they were out of the country, but when they returned he stayed on. That lasted about a year and a half, until he had some sort of panic attack or something and his therapist said it was unhealthy for him to be living with his parents. So he moved back into the house. By then, my youngest daughter had moved out to be with her boyfriend, so I moved into her room. We’re able to get along fairly well, so it’s not too horrible, but it is definitely stressful.

I feel like (other than that tiny room) I have no safe haven. The house is 1,200 square feet, so it’s hard to find privacy. K has been the most affected by his return, because they don’t have the greatest relationship. He actually tries, but he just rubs K the wrong way. He has a hard time with the GID part of her being transgender and can’t quite wrap his head around why she can’t just get a job. So the stress level in the house is quite high.

I sometimes think my medications aren’t helping me, because I’m so depressed, but then I think about everything I’m dealing with at once and realize they’re probably the only reason I’m somewhat functional. My main focus has been on my girls and my parents; honestly, I literally have had the thought that I just can’t deal with the marriage thing, and I’ve shoved it to the back of my mind. But now that he’s living here again, it’s constantly in my face and I can see how it’s putting an enormous strain on K, so I finally need to deal with it.

I had an appointment with an attorney last week, so now I have a game plan. I want us to be able to divide assets as soon as possible, because I hope to find a place for K and me up near my parents. They’re about 25 minutes north of where we live now. Getting out and getting a fresh start in a new place will be one positive thing in all the negative. We’ve barely been paying the bills as it is so there will be added financial stress, but I think we can figure out ways to shave expenses and come up with a budget we can live with.

Crazy how it seems everything happens at once.

Why K is not okay

Transgender people may be eligible for diagnosis of gender identity disorder (GID) “only if [being transgender] causes distress or disability.”[69] This distress is referred to as gender dysphoria and may manifest as depression or inability to work and form healthy relationships with others. … Moreover, GID is not necessarily permanent and is often resolved through therapy and/or transitioning.

“Transgender” article, Wikipedia

I mentioned K isn’t okay, but not why. Here’s why. She isn’t able to work because she isn’t able to leave the house unless she is with a family member. She is immersed in the personas and worlds she escapes into via video games and the internet. She is on Tumblr and has found a community there she’s comfortable with, but she doesn’t really actively participate. She does a lot of reading and reblogging but she doesn’t communicate directly with anyone. She’s fine on the surface, but right underneath that thin veneer, she’s severely depressed.

K has canceled two of her last three psychiatric appointments at the last minute; she really doesn’t like going. She says she usually just spends the appointments talking about video games. I have no idea how to go about getting her to open up and start talking about herself. I don’t want her to feel pressured, but I want her to make progress. Whenever I bring up anything having to do with real life, she changes the subject. Occasionally she will bring things up herself, but I have to play it carefully because if I seem too excited or eager to continue the conversation, she clams up. I get teensy glimpses, once in a great while. I’m learning a whole new definition of patience.

I hope to see her start opening up more this year. The end of June will mark a year since she started on hormone therapy, and that’s going well. Maybe we’ll be able to get her to the point where she can start attending some sort of group session, and interact with other people who are dealing with the same kinds of issues. I think that could really help move her forward, but so far she continues to resist. It must be a great fear in her and I wish there were some way to break through that. I think it’s going to be a long, long road.

Any ideas?

Mother’s Life

It’s not just a day! ๐Ÿ˜‰

A hard thing I’ve learned is not all mothers are loving and nurturing. Working in close proximity to social workers and psychologists, I learned of children who were in unhealthy environments and, to my despair, children who were neglected. It broke my heart to see these gorgeous children who were as skittish as a kicked puppy, and who rarely, if ever, smiled. I learned I don’t have the kind of strength to see that on a daily basis. God bless the social workers and others who make this their life’s work.

Every day, from the time I knew I had another life inside me, I have been a mother. I have actively loved my children; that is, loved them in the sense that love is a verb–by not just telling them, but showing them in all my actions. I stopped working and became a stay-at-home mom. I made sure they had books and outings and visits with relatives and friends; and thank goodness it was the pre-mobile device era, because when I took them out for a walk with the stroller, we talked. We talked and talked, about everything we saw. We took time to stop and chat with friendly neighbours. Sometimes I stopped walking and went around to the front of the stroller, so I could look them in the eyes as we conversed.

My kids have always known that when they need me, I am there. When I’m reading and one of them needs to talk, I put down my book. I give them my full attention. I went into motherhood knowing this was going to be the most important thing I’d have to do for the next 21 years, and then for the rest of my life. And I am so glad to have this “job”–it is the best part of my life.

I realise as I write this it sounds an awful lot like bragging, and isn’t that a shame? Because this isn’t and shouldn’t be considered over-the-top “mom behaviour”– this should just be how it is when you make the decision to become a mother. I don’t consider that I am special at all. In fact, the list of ways I’m sure I’ve failed my kids, and the list of mistakes I’ve made, are both quite long. I think of the things I’ve written above, the positive things, to help console myself about all the failures. And at the end of the day, the thing that helps me most is knowing that, whatever I’ve done wrong, and however I may have screwed up, at the very least they know they are loved.

K is not okay

I’ve mentioned my transgender daughter. It’s such a complex issue. (Duh.) When she told me, on February 1, 2013, I was prepared. I sort of already knew what I was about to find out. We had engaged in conversations about equality, same-sex marriage, and similar topics. I’d started noticing that she preferred video games with female protagonists; in playing games where you create your own character, her characters were always women. So when she said she wanted to talk, and then hemmed and hawed and kept darting her eyes all around the room, I tried to make it easier by asking, “Is this about gender?” She literally underwent a physical transformation at having it finally out in the open. Seriously, she looked happier, almost glowing. It was a beautiful thing.

She reminded me of a time when she was in elementary school and said to me, “Sometimes I wish I was a girl.” She said that feeling never went away. She also said she’s attracted to women; so she’s not only a transgender woman, she’s a gay transgender woman. My major reactions to all this were: 1) profound sadness that she suffered through this all by herself for so many years; and 2) fear for her because of how transgender people are treated out in the world.

People typically don’t understand transgender. Many people see it as a choice, when it literally is a gender correction; this is a female person who was born into a male body. The first thing I did was to set K up with a psychiatrist, whose first act was to send her to a physician for blood work. The lab result was that her estrogen level is high, her testosterone level is low. There is actually a physical basis in her case–not that one is needed. How she identifies is the most important thing. She once mentioned being annoyed at something she saw online that expressed admiration at how women deal with their periods. She said it should say how people deal with their periods–men and women. I was trying to wrap my head around what that meant (“Do post-surgical transgender women menstruate? How does that happen?”), and K rolled her eyes at me and said, “I’m a woman with a penis….”

Aside

Further underdoggery

Based on how I get bent out of shape over early American slaves/the settlers’ treatment of Native Americans, and the same-sex marriage issue, you’ve probably assumed there are other instances of injustice that disturb me. You’re not wrong! I pretty much take issue with anyone looking down on or denigrating anyone for any reason whatsoever. Problems with people who look different? WHY? Can you honestly say it would be a better world if everyone looked exactly the same? Variety and our differences are what make us fascinating. People from different cultures have brought a lot to this country.

People with piercings, tattoos, rainbow-dyed hair…these are people expressing themselves as they choose. If you don’t like it, that’s fine; they don’t do it for you or me. But they’re people with feelings, and they do notice your eyeroll or side-eye, so at the very least you could try to control your overt reactions. Better yet, how about trying to appreciate their uniqueness? Or, at the very least, applaud their courage for being who they really are in a world that wants us all to conform to the same “societal norms.”

Why I’m an advocate

Here’s where I start to get a little bit into backstory.

I grew up in a very small town in Virginia, as part of a very big family. I felt loved and accepted for who I was, and it was always stressed to me that I could do or be anything I wanted when I grew up. Virginia history is, largely, the history of the origin of this country, and I loved learning about it. I loved the idealism of the founding fathers and the documents they wrote. In particular, I took to heart the phrase “all men [which I interpreted as mankind] are created equal” and I believed that. Still do. So naturally the first time I stepped up on a soapbox, it was down to my outrage about slavery. I had such a hard time believing anyone felt they had the right to treat other human beings so cruelly and heartlessly.

My next cause, following closely on the heels of the first, was the treatment of the Native Americans. Again, settlers who had come here from Europe simply took what they wanted. It was so disillusioning to me, as I grew up, to have the stories I loved of the birth of our nation tarnished by the facts of how much suffering was caused to others…all due to the sense of entitlement and superiority the colonists brought with them. Truly, the U.S. has a shameful history in that regard. These were the beginnings, I suppose, of my tendency to side with the “underdog.”

In recent years I’ve become increasingly incensed over the fact that government wants to regulate what does and doesn’t constitute a legal marriage. It seems very simple and straightforward to me: Either we are all equal, or we aren’t. If we all have the right to marry whomever we choose, then we ALL have that right. Whether you marry a person of the opposite sex or the same sex, what does that matter? And for those who oppose, I ask, why do you care? How is this hurting you, or, for that matter, affecting you in any way? I don’t understand what those who oppose stand to gain by keeping same-sex couples from marrying. How does this help them? It doesn’t, it doesn’t affect them–not at all–and therefore is none of their business, so why is this even an issue? I’d like to see these same folks react to being given restrictions on who they can or can’t marry…or associate with…or do business with…or whatever. They would not stand for this behaviour directed at themselves, yet they wish to oppress others. Shameful.

I believe my interest in Equality is what made it possible for my daughter to finally talk to me and inform me that she is transgender. She heard me talking about the injustice of it, and saw me donating to the HRC (Human Rights Campaign–HRC.org if you’re interested, they’re a good organisation and you should check them out) and wondering if there was more I could do beyond donations. She realised, I think, she would be safe with me, that I wouldn’t disown her or throw her out or be repulsed. In fact, my first act on hearing the news was to google “financial aid for transgender surgery” and to immediately begin educating myself on the subject. I will do whatever it takes to get my daughter to the point where she is able to be the person on the outside she is on the inside. My only goal for her is that she will be able to participate, happily and successfully, in life. Right now, she is hiding from it, afraid to venture out of the house, and this breaks my heart. We have a long road ahead.

I’m not sure what causes me to care so deeply for those who are oppressed. But I’m grateful to have that trait, because it gave me the compassion to be as patient and understanding with my daughter as I am able to be. Some days it seems hopeless, because how can we “little people” stand up to so many, who have money and power behind them? For now, I’m fighting my own small-scale battles here at home, and through my words and actions, trying to model a life of compassion and acceptance.