Just…ughhh

Really hard to stay positive lately…probably why I haven’t put up anything new in a while. I meant this blog as a place to sort my thoughts, clear my head, vent, whatever. But when I noticed people were actually reading it, I got a little self-conscious and started worrying about putting people off with all my problems. I’ve just had all I can do lately to keep my head up and keep pushing through, and you (at least, I do) typically pull back and avoid communicating much when that happens. But yeah, I guess I finally figured, this is my blog, I need to get this shit out somewhere, so I’m layin’ it all out there.

Everything is just bad right now. I’m getting fewer hours at work, which is kinda okay because I’m able to spend more time with my parents, but bad because I’m not gonna be able to pay the bills. I spent this afternoon with my mother because Daddy had a doctor appointment. I unpacked her suitcase–they’ve been back for almost a week–and she talked to me about what she wants at her memorial service. She weighs under 75 pounds now. The last time I was there, I noticed they seemed short-tempered with each other, and hoped it was just a bad day. But I noticed it again today. After his appointment, and after Mama’s nap, he told us the doctor gave him anxiety medication. I hope that helps, because I don’t want to have to sit my parents down and have a talk with them about being kind to each other. After he told us about his appointment, the two of them started in on the topic of K and wanting her to be responsible and get a job. They kept using masculine pronouns and calling her by her old name. I explained K’s situation to them (again) as carefully but clearly as I could and felt fairly good about their attitudes by the time I left. It just felt like such a setback–I’d had the feeling they understood everything, and it was discouraging to have to go through all that with them again.

It’s bad at work because literally my three favourite people there, most especially the one person who knows about K and has been such a source of strength for me, all are leaving within the next few weeks. I’ve been putting in applications, but everything is done online these days and I have yet to receive a call from an online application in a solid year of trying. I seriously need full-time work (full-time pay) so hopefully something will work out for me soon.

But what’s mostly bad is the situation with my ex-to-be living back in the house. That’s probably why I’m having a much harder time staying positive. I have no safe haven, as I keep saying. The stress level in the house is so high. As Jayne said in Firefly, he is damaging my calm. I downloaded a hypnotherapy app that is supposedly helping me reduce anxiety and stress…if it has, I’d hate to think how I’d be doing without it. He doesn’t understand K and has very little tolerance for her, and K simply can’t stand her dad. For the most part we stay in our separate rooms, but every couple of days or so, he’ll talk to me about the same old complaints until I can feel the top of my head starting to blow off, then I make some kind of excuse and leave.

Yeah, I’ve written all this out and I can’t say I feel any better. And to think I was so positive a few weeks ago.

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. 😦

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?

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.