Send your light out into the world…

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I know it’s unusual to hear from me twice in one week…but this hasn’t been an ordinary week.  I’m having a hard time being silent.  I figure you don’t have to read it if you don’t want to (smile).  I’ve been reflecting this morning on an experience I had last night, and I’d like to share some thoughts with you.

I received an email from the church where we hold our PFLAG meetings letting me know that they were having a prayer service last night in response to the Orlando shootings.  I had been longing for a gathering like this so I was happy to see that it was happening so close to home.  Now to be honest, nine years ago, I would have never have attended anything that took place in this particular church.  Just going to put that out there.  But nine years ago, I had God stuffed in a box and I didn’t think that He could handle me attending a service there.  A lot of my prejudice was, of course, due to my ignorance.  This is an excerpt taken from their brochure:

In addition to holding different beliefs on spiritual topics, individual Unitarian Universalists may also identify with and draw inspiration from many other religious or philosophical traditions.

It was the “other” in that sentence that made me uneasy.  I no longer feel that way.  I am confident in my belief in God.  I am confident in WHO I carry with me wherever I go.  I am confident in knowing that I can be with people of possible differing beliefs and be OK.  So, last night I really didn’t know what to expect, and I have to tell you it was pretty amazing.

When I entered the building, I immediately felt welcomed.  It was a pretty good turn out…young, old, straight, gay.  As the service started, I couldn’t help but be tuned in to see what religions I might encounter.  The pastor started with a song that was deeply moving to me.  Then she gave a message about why we were there.  She talked about the violence in the world.  She shared the Native American Indian legend of the two wolves inside of us that is from the Cherokee I believe.  It describes how we all have both good and evil inside of us (the two wolves) and the one we feed is the one that wins.   She then went on to talk about the three common emotions we go through when tragedy like this strikes.  She lit a candle representing fear. People were invited to share what they were afraid of and when they were finished we would respond, “You are not alone.”  She then lit a candle for sadness, and then anger with the same response for each person who shared.  The pastor then talked about what keeps us grounded.  It could be something different for each person.  It could be spending time with God, prayer, meditation, nature, etc.  She passed around little stones and asked us to think about what keeps us grounded and share it with the person next to us.  She then talked about what takes us to the next moment. How can we move on from this?  We each had a candle and the flame was passed from candle to candle until all the candles were lit.  She explained that we are the light of the world and we need to share that light.  When we pass our light on to others, our light doesn’t diminish…the light grows and expands and shines brighter into the world.

It was truly a beautiful service.  We were just people…honoring and remembering other people.  I sat next to a same-sex couple who were holding hands (this was a safe place for that), and I sat behind an opposite sex couple also holding hands. We were just people…being…people.  I felt God’s presence there.  I felt love there.  I felt acceptance there.  And it was beautiful.

Why do I share this with you?  I know not everyone will have an opportunity to experience something like this where they live.  These moments of gathering together are desperately needed.  I left there feeling like people cared.  I left there feeling united to other humans with a common cause…to love each other and to show that love to the world.

But I also want to reiterate the amount of pain LGBTQ people are feeling…along with their families.  There were some young teenagers at the service last night who just couldn’t stop weeping.  My heart breaks for them.  And parents who thought things might be getting a little better for their kids, with things like marriage equality happening, are now more afraid than ever.  We know that this was a terrorist attack, at least as best as the authorities can tell so far.  And we know that we are all in danger of that…we get it.

But, there is a difference here.  When other terrorist attacks have happened, the nation has rallied together.  Is that happening?  Yes of course, there is some of that happening, but honestly not in the same way.  And in the other terrorist attacks, the only celebrating that happened was from the terrorists themselves.  In this instance, we have our fellow-man celebrating.  Explicit tweets have gone out announcing the pleasure people have over this attack, pastors have said good riddance…Orlando is a safer place because of the attack, “those people” deserved it, etc.  There have been several copycat threats across our country that officials are scrambling to look into.  So although we all know that we are in danger of terrorists every day, we don’t have an actual target on our back like the LGBTQ community from not only terrorists, but from their fellow-man.

I’m still hearing over and over again from the moms that the silence from their Christian friends and family is deafening. The posts they do see are generally against terrorism, or about gun legislation, or about how God is love and this wasn’t from God (which is good because there is a lot of the opposite out there that state God ordained the attack).  And when friends and/or family do mention their sadness over the attack, it is often mixed in with “Although I don’t agree with their lifestyle choice, they didn’t deserve to die that way.”   That phrase “lifestyle choice” is like a dirty word to the LGBTQ community.  It is like a slap in the face so it erases any attempt of support that you were trying to give (at least to the people that I know).

I had someone tell me once, “I would share your blog posts, but I’m afraid of what people will think.  I think everyone deserves love, but they might think I’m OK with people being gay.”  I think this might be the sentiment of many people when it comes to showing gay people support. They don’t want people to think they condone that kind of “behavior.”  And believe me…I totally get that because my thoughts and beliefs were there once also.  So why is it even a big deal to publicly give your support?  Because there is SO MUCH NEGATIVE out there.  My son put it like this…

“You don’t look for the negative stuff.  You try to stay away from it.  But there is so much out there, it has a way of finding you and it just seeps into your soul.”

You know what?  God can handle you putting a post out there on FB supporting gay people.  What did Jesus do?  He hung out with everybody…he was for everybody.  You know who he had a problem with it…the religious people who were judgy and showy.  You know who Jesus had the sternest words for…the religious people.  If you follow Jesus, why can’t you be like Jesus? Your response could be contagious and show that it’s ok to give support.  But if you just can’t put it out there, please do it privately.  (and the silence comment is meant for people who post about everything – except for this).

Let the LGBTQ community know that you see them, you hear them, and you love them.  Send the light of Jesus out into the world.  It won’t diminish your faith, or your Christianity, it will grow brighter by being shared with others.  And maybe, just maybe, it will be a shield to stop the negative from seeping into the souls of God’s precious children.

I will try to let this go now (smile), and leave you with this…

Love matters…sharing that love matters even more.

 

 

Love matters now more than ever…

fdaaa725e646d03892cb48babf8124ffI don’t know what it is about Sunday’s lately.  Last week I woke up to unsettling news from one of the moms in my FB group.  While at a pride event in her town, she came across two men who were there to protest.  One of the men had on a shirt that said “Jesus is Enough,” and they were standing behind a sign that read:

We are ambassadors of Jesus Christ pleading from God a message of reconciliation.  Repent and believe for the Kingdom of God is at hand.

They had a bullhorn and were yelling “you’re disgusting” at the people enjoying the event.  When the mom went over to try to reason with them, they spit at her.  Really??  Ambassadors??  The Sunday before that I woke up to the news that two gay kids of one of our moms were severely beaten.  Both events were deeply upsetting to me.

But this Sunday as I listened to the news and heard that there was a shooting at a nightclub, my heart sank.  Before the reporter even announced it, I knew in my heart that it was a gay club.  I grabbed my phone and googled the name Pulse in Orlando and sure enough I was right…and one of my deepest fears had just become reality.  When I left for church, the report was that there were 20 dead and 23 wounded.  When I got out of church, the number of people killed had reached 49 with the wounded at 53.

The Wednesday before this atrocity took place, the parents in my PFLAG group were discussing how fearful we are for our kids safety.  I know, I know…parents always worry about their kids and their safety.  While that’s true, there is another level to the fear that we carry.  I fear for my son’s life every day.  I know that when he walks out the door there could be someone who takes their hate for him to the unthinkable level.  All of us parents of LGBTQ children dread getting THAT phone call.  Every day.  This is especially true when they are out with their significant others.  Are people going to realize that they are a couple? Will it be obvious even if they don’t display affection?  Please God let the crazies think they are just friends.

Not only do we as parents worry about their safety, but they worry as well.  They know all too well what people think of them.  They know all too well that there are people who think they “are disgusting” and would like to do them physical harm. That is why places like Pulse are so important to them.  It’s a place where they can be themselves. They can dance with their partners, they can hold hands, they can just plain old have fun in an atmosphere that is accepting.  They can’t do that in a regular bar.  I know countless LGBTQ people who have been beaten up in “straight” bars.  Imagine living your life never being able to hold hands with the person you love while walking along the beach watching a sunset.  Imagine your life never being able to steal a kiss while enjoying a special moment together in public. Ever!  That is the reality of many LGBTQ people…and it isn’t right.

This post is meant to try to shed some light on some things.  I am traumatized by this event and some of the things I’ve seen in the aftermath.  This post isn’t meant to blame anyone, lump anyone into any categories…it’s meant to be a window into what the LGBTQ community is facing and feeling.  I’m just one person.  Although I know a lot of people in this community and I’m drawing from their experiences as well as my own, it certainly doesn’t capture everything that is happening or how everyone is feeling.  My hope is that it will help you engage with people in the LGBTQ community, as well as their families, and help you understand where they may be coming from when they respond to things right now.

We are tired.  We are frustrated.  We are angry.  We are sensitive.  Oh so sensitive.  There are SO many layers to this tragedy. As a mother, I can not fathom what the parents of the victims are going through.  To get those text messages…to not be able to help.  I can’t imagine what it was like for the victims there who didn’t have families to text because they have been disowned.  I can’t imagine what it is like for some of the survivors that have had no one from their family check in on them…not to mention that fact that this may be the very thing that has outed them as gay.

People have asked me in the past…what can I do to help this community?  I know a lot of people who care and want to make a difference.  It warms my heart.  And my answer to them is…Love.  Love them.  All people need love.  But when you are seen as less then, strange, different, or “those people” love is even more important.  The problem is that sometimes when we think we are being loving, it doesn’t come across that way.  So here are some things I would like you to know:

  • Even if we didn’t know someone who was injured or died in the shooting in Orlando, we are grieving.  We are going over the “what if’s.”  We know this is a reality this community faces everyday.  And let’s face it…it’s just awful.
  • If you know someone who is LGBTQ and didn’t check in with them when this happened to see how they were doing, even if they don’t live in that state…they aren’t feeling the love you profess to have for them.
  • When you post support for attacks in other countries like Paris by changing your profile picture for instance, or post your sadness over a gorilla being shot at a zoo, but don’t say anything about this event…they aren’t feeling the love you profess to have for them.
  • When you pretend this was an attack on all of humanity, and not an attack directly on the LGBTQ community…they aren’t feeling the love you profess to have for them.  Let’s say this attack was in a Christian church.  Would it be an attack against humanity as a whole, or would you feel like Christians were targeted?

Here is something that a gay man named Dominick Pupa had to say about it:

Don’t tell me I have to view ‪Pulse Orlando as an attack on America instead of an attack on gay people.  Because we’re not Americans when you call us faggots, we’re not Americans when you legally fire us, we’re not Americans when you kill trans people, we’re not Americans when you deny us adoption rights, we’re not Americans when you say nasty sh*t to us when we’re holding hands on the street (and yeah, we do hear you), we’re not Americans when you deny us marriage licenses or a simple wedding cake with our names on it.  In all of those circumstances we’re just gay people, and being an American doesn’t matter.  So, out of respect for everyone who fought and died before me, I’m going to take a few days to mourn as a gay man before I mourn as an American.  And then after that, you can resume telling me I have to be at war with people I don’t know, even though I’ve been at war with my own countrymen my entire f’ing life.”

Strong words…but I don’t blame him at all.  My son told me yesterday that he is tired of fighting for his right to exist. That right there breaks this mama’s heart.

  • Unfortunately, there were many Christians who celebrated this attack.  Now hear me…I’m not saying all Christians. Some.  And some were pastors praising it from the pulpit.  When you argue that not all Christians are like that, and don’t acknowledge the pain people feel knowing that people want them dead…they are not feeling the love you profess to have for them. They know not all Christians feel that way.  You don’t have to argue that point.  My son also said to me this week that he is tired of people wanting him dead.  Would you want your child to walk around with that every day of their lives?
  • When you pat yourself on the back because you were kind to a gay person…they are not feeling the love that you profess to have for them.  If you claim to be a Christian, you should be kind to everyone…and not feel like you’ve done a good deed by doing so.
  • When you say I love you and I’m not judging you, but I don’t agree with your “lifestyle”…they are not feeling the love you profess to have for them.  We need to stop reducing people to genitalia and sexual acts.  They are human beings just like you.  (I will do a post about lifestyle another day).

Folks until you enter into their story…they are not going to feel the love you profess to have for them.  I wish we could be more like Joshua, a boy who just turned 12 and is part of the LGBTQ community.  This is what he said to his mom when he found out that not all of the victim’s bodies had been claimed:

“Only half of the victim’s families have come forward! Does that mean the rest of them abandoned their sons and daughters for being gay, or are too embarrassed for their family members and friends to know they had a gay child? How did I end up in a family who loves and accepts me, but so many other LGBTQ people didn’t? How is that fair? EVERYONE needs a family! The Christian Church is supposed to be a family! Christians call each other “brother” and “sister.” The Christian church is broken, just like my heart.”

I know that there are a lot of good Christians out there.  In fact, Joshua attends an affirming church and that’s one reason why he can’t understand that this happens.  There is good and bad out there every where.  Be the good.  I know many of you are and I’m so thankful for that and thankful for your support.  But sometimes when we think we are doing good, we are missing the mark.  This is just a post to give you food for thought.

When engaging with someone on this topic, remember they are in pain.  I had a charley horse in the middle of the night last night.  You feel that little “twinge” before the extreme pain kicks in.  Sometimes your words, actions, or lack of words and actions can be that little twinge that then causes extreme pain.  And just like you feel the soreness in your calf for the rest of the day…the pain of your words, or actions, or lack of actions lasts.  It’s a constant reminder of the hurt.

I will leave you with these words from the song Inscription of Hope by Z. Randall Stroope:

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining
And I believe in love, even when there’s no one there
And I believe in God, even when He is silent
I believe through any trial, there is always a way

But sometimes in this suffering and hopeless despair
My heart cries for shelter, to know someones there
But a voice rises within me, saying ‘hold on my child’
I’ll give you strength I’ll give you hope, just stay a little while

I believe in the sun, even when it is not shining
And I believe in love, even when there’s no one there
And I belive in God, even when he is silent
I believe through any trial, there is always a way

May there someday be sunshine
May there someday be happiness
May there someday be love
May there someday be peace

Love each other….because love matters more than ever now.

The Voice of a Mom…Part IV

There was something I dreaded when my kids were younger.  Well mainly when my daughter was younger.  When she saved up enough money and wanted to go to the mall, I cringed.  I knew exactly what that meant.  Beanie Babies.  She was obsessed with them and I currently have about 4 big containers full of them in my basement to prove it. Heaven forbid we get rid of them…you know…now that she is 22 years old.

She would gather up all of her money into her little hands and off we would go to the mall.  We went straight for the Beanie Baby kiosk.  The problem with this is that my daughter loved ALL OF THEM.  She would look up at the displays of animals, scrutinizing each one, to pick out the perfect companion to take home with her.  They were all perfect in her eyes of course, but because she only had enough money each time to buy one it was a painstaking process.  We would go round and round that kiosk until I was dizzy.  “McKensie you need to pick one,” I would tell her.  “I can’t decide,” she would protest.  She would eventually narrow it down to two.  Sigh.  The customary ritual was she would then tell me to put one in each hand and then put them behind my back.  After much deliberation, she would pick a hand.  Now you would think that would end it.  Right? Nope.  “I’m just not sure that’s the one I want,” she would lament.  It always got to the point were I had to tell her she had 30 seconds left to decide and she would pick one at the last second.  Memories…

This behavior is pretty typical for kids.  Indecisiveness…wanting one thing one second…and then something else the next. I think that’s one of the reasons why parents of trans kids get such a bad wrap.  People look at their own experiences with their kids and try to compare the two.  It’s like trying to compare apples and oranges.  My daughter for instance did not like to wear dresses.  Every time I would put her in one when she was a toddler she would pull at it and say, “I don’t likey it!”  She also preferred to play with dinosaurs rather than dolls.  And Lego’s with her brother, but not the pink “girly” kind.  She was what society would call a tomboy.  But not once, did she ever say that she didn’t feel like a girl.  Not once did she ask when she would be a boy.  Because…her brain and her body match…and she is a girl.

This next and last mom that is going to share has a different experience.  Again, I ask that if you comment you be respectful. She is an amazing mom who is helping others who have children that are on the same path as her child.  I respect her so much, as I do the other moms that have shared, and I am honored to have her as a friend.

10177861_10203423196682319_2655426038570311619_nAnd now the voice of a mom part IV:

I am sharing our story with my friend Lesa at her request and with my son’s approval.

In 1998, I was single and very much wanted to have a family.  Fast-forward 3 years and I was entering a conference room in China to see the most beautiful baby girl.  She was thirteen months old, had humongous black eyes, a full head of black silky hair, an adorable rosebud mouth, and dressed in a boy’s outfit.    I was in love and so thrilled to be her mother!   Upon request of the orphanage, I changed her clothes later that afternoon and of course put her in the most beautiful dress I had brought with me.  🙂

She was a quiet child, often preferring to observe the activities around her rather than directly participating, always holding back.  She had a few very close friends, but none in her grade or even in her school.  At school she preferred the interactions with the boys in her class, yet was never really one of them.  We tried several activities, including girl scouts, but still she remained on the outside, unable or unwilling to join in.  She couldn’t connect or understand the relationships with the girls and had no interest in the activities of a typical girl.  Instead she lost herself in her books – reading was a passion for many, many years.

Around the age of 5-6 years, the dresses fell by the wayside, preferring plain bottoms/tops, begrudgingly allowing me to throw a pattern in here or there.  By the middle of elementary school, the clothes evolved into her “uniform” of jeans or plain shorts and a plain t-shirt or a unisex t-shirt with a saying or cartoon picture.  Shoes were only sneakers.  Bathing suits were as plain as possible, usually a black one-piece, as nondescript as possible.  This intensified as elementary school came to a close.

Meanwhile, her friendships became fewer, sticking mainly to wonderful family friends who loved and supported her despite her “ungirly” differences.  She became more withdrawn and sad…always an underlying state of sadness.  She told me once – “I’m always sad Mom.”

As middle school came, so did puberty.  The body changes were not welcome.  She hated them, dressing more and more to conceal the changes, slouching, head down, and becoming quieter.  She had no desire to engage in anything remotely associated with being a girl, tending more toward the activities of a boy – archery, video games, and always the books – fantasy, dragons, etc.

With the start of high school, the depression became overwhelming.  She became almost totally withdrawn, sluggish, uncaring, and very angry.  Something was clearly wrong.  We started counseling.   She wouldn’t open up, but got angrier.  I felt that she could explode at any time.  Something was working at her and needed to come out.  I suspected that she was potentially dealing with sexuality issues and maybe gender issues.   We were constantly watching her; worried she would harm herself, and anguished that we couldn’t help her.  Finally, after two months, a week and a half before Christmas, she broke.  She left an index card in my laptop and went to school.  I found it later that morning while getting my younger daughter ready for school.  “Anatomy lies.”  That’s all it said.  I stared and thought, “Okay, now we know what we are dealing with.”  Of course, that opened up whole new questions of what exactly does this mean?  How in the world can I help?  What does this mean for the future?  Will she be bullied?  Harmed?  Allowed to be who she needs to be?  And who does she need to be?

Thank goodness my mom and sister live so close to us.  Without their love and support, finding our way through this would have been so much more difficult.  I was focused on my child’s mental health and supporting her.  Meanwhile, my sister dug right in and researched local resources and support groups and found one of my saviors, Catherine Hyde of Howard County PFLAG.  Catherine is mom to a transgender daughter, has walked in my shoes, and started and grew a strong and broad transparent support group.  She was, and continues to be, a wealth of information, support, love and calmness.

After repeated talks with my child, it became clear to me that she had never been a girl.  She had always been a boy, but living in a body she didn’t understand, couldn’t identify with, and began to hate.   And “she” was drowning and would not survive, let alone thrive.  I, my mom, and my sister immediately stressed that we loved him, supported him, and accepted him.  He asked that we change pronouns and refer to him as “he” and “him”.  Eventually he chose to change his name, even though I had given him a unisex name.  But that name was associated with his life as a girl and didn’t fit him anymore.  I have to say that for me, the name change was so much more difficult and sad than the gender “change” (in quotes because only the presentation/outward perception of his gender actually changed).

He is now living life as his authentic self.  He lives and presents as the boy he truly is inside and he is finding peace in that ability.  He still has his ups and downs, the depression and anxiety, prevalent in so many of the transgender kids, is still present and a constant battle.

So now to answer Lesa’s questions.

1.  How do you know it’s not a phase?

When Lesa first approached me about this project, this particular question really hit me really hard.  It is one that I have received a lot.  It generates real frustration in me.  This is a pain that these kids have lived with for a long time – most of them since they are very, very young.  In trying to process my response, the following sort of just spilled out.

The depth of the depression that often accompanies a child’s recognition of being trapped in a body he cannot identify with, actually hates, possibly wants to harm, or possibly would prefer to die rather continue to live in cannot be faked and can’t be argued with.  That is not a phase.

My child is not gender fluid.  He does not feel like a girl some days and others like a boy.  He is a boy.  He knows he is a boy and he knows that the body he lives in does not reflect who he is.  Upon sharing the news with me that he was transgender at the age of 14, and finding the love, acceptance, and support from his family, my child became happier, his depression lessened and his outlook on life improved.  He smiled and laughed more, and began socializing more with friends.  He began to blossom.  That is not a phase.

This state persisted and did not abate.  That is not a phase.

The desire to live in a body that more closely reflects his true self strengthened until it became an overwhelming need. This was not an overnight decision or a whim.  This is not a desire that cisgender (a person who identifies with the gender they were assigned at birth) kids have.  That is not a phase.

He wanted desperately to begin his transition, to find a physical body that he was more comfortable living in.  The puberty blockers were the first step to stop development of the wrong body.  That granted some relief.   That is not a phase.

This was followed closely by the desire for testosterone.  Again, no cisgender kid is going to ask for hormones of the opposite sex; however, many transgender kids beg for them.  Most transgender individuals find some relief of anxiety and become a bit more comfortable in their own skin by the introduction of the cross-gender hormones.  They begin to see body differences that start to bring their bodies in line with their identity and they feel some relief.  That is not a phase.

No matter what the age, when a child is so very consistently, insistently and persistently adamant that they are not the gender they were assigned, that is not a phase.

So let me turn the question around.  “When did you know you were a boy/girl?”  The answer is typically “I don’t know, I just knew.”  And a transgender individual will give the same response.  They just know.  And it is not a phase.

2.  Aren’t you harming your child by giving them hormones so young?  Shouldn’t you wait until their older?

I struggled with this question myself.  My son was ready to start hormones and look at top surgery the night he came out to me.  I laughed and told him he had to slow down and let me catch up.  Through reading (lots and lots of reading!), talking with other parents of trankids and medical professionals, I came to the realization that the longer we waited the more changes would be happening and the more feminine his body would become.  I couldn’t, in any good conscience, sentence him to any more feminine changes that he would have to live with the rest of his life when there was something that we could do to stop it progressing and that wouldn’t be harmful to him.  We started with puberty blockers to stop his development where it was.  During this time I studied the pros/cons of starting cross-sex hormones, for him, this would be the addition of testosterone.  After much research, I realized that the most permanent and extreme side effects are the ones that he wanted the most – voice change, Adams apple, facial and body hair, body weight redistribution.  And there are no side effects that would be harmful to his future health beyond that of what a person with natural testosterone would face.    At that point, the pros so far outweighed the cons, that there really wasn’t any other possible decision but to move forward with the hormone therapy.

3.  What’s the big deal about the bathroom?

Ah, the hot button topic.  I really don’t know how to explain this to someone who doesn’t understand that transgender people are not “pretending” to live as the other gender.  My son isn’t “dressing up” as a boy, or just presenting as a boy – but is actually a boy living inside the wrong type of body.  He is not trying to pull a fast one.  He does not identify with being a girl in any way so going into the girls bathroom is as wrong and uncomfortable for him as it is for me to go into the men’s room.  He doesn’t belong in the women’s room any more than I belong in the men’s room. Moreover, the transgender individual is not the only person uncomfortable when in the wrong bathroom – the cisgender individuals who are not expecting the “wrong” gender to be there are also be uncomfortable.  He was pushed out of the girls room several times during his transition because he “didn’t belong there – go use the boys bathroom”.

On a broader note, transgender people have been using the bathroom they identify with for as long as there have been public bathrooms – and this went virtually unnoticed.  You know why?  Because they keep a low profile.  They don’t want to be noticed – especially where they feel the most vulnerable in public – in the restroom.  They want to go in, do what they need to do, and leave.  Just like the rest of us.  By making them use the “other” restroom, you are putting them in a situation that they don’t belong in, putting the others in that restroom in a situation that they don’t belong in.  And for what reason?  Because it is not understood, it is different, and our society doesn’t handle “different” all that well.  The argument that by allowing transfemales to use the women’s room (and let’s face it, no one is arguing about the transmales using the men’s room), we are making it easier for “perverts” to enter and get to the wives and daughters, is actually backwards.  Because forcing a transmale back into the woman’s restroom, assuming that they will actually do so, means that they will be entering that restroom as their authentic self.  They are not going to change their appearance just to pee.  So they will be entering as a male.  Now a woman who sees a man in the woman’s restroom will not automatically be able to state that they don’t belong there – their internal warning radar that something is not right will be called into question, which will actually put them, as well as the transgender individual, in more danger.  And no one is more vulnerable or at risk in a restroom than a transgender person.

 4.  What do I want people to know the most?

Artwork by Jennifer White

Artwork by Jennifer White

What I really want people to understand is that this is real.  Transgender people aren’t pretending and they aren’t confused.  This isn’t a choice (and seriously, this one ticks me off the most – really, who would choose this!?).  These are real people, who have real feelings, wants, dreams, and goals.  They are loving and kind and want to be free to live their lives.  They don’t want special privileges, but rather the same rights and dignities that are afforded to the majority of the population – the rights and dignities expressed in our Constitution.  And the same love and acceptance expressed by the Golden Rule – due unto others as you would have them do unto you.  I know this is hard to understand – you can’t really understand until you walk in these shoes or love someone who does, but I implore everyone, please try.

Lesa here…well this wraps up my first ever series on my blog!  I’m so thankful for the moms who have shared a piece of their journey and heart with us.  As you can see, there are many similarities to their stories.  I have found that to be true of the parents of gay kids that I have met as well.  I think there is something to be said about that, but I will leave that for another day (smile).

When you are out and about and hear someone say something negative about someone transgender, remember these stories. Remember these kids…and stand up for them.  They need our love…

Because love matters…

The Voice of a Mom…Part III

I have a secret.  It’s one that I’ve been holding onto for 44 years.  My younger cousins will be shocked to know this secret as they think I never did anything wrong as a child.  I’m not sure I’ve ever told anyone this secret.  It happened when I was four years old.  My mom and I were carving a pumpkin for Halloween.  My dad was on night shift so it was just the two of us.  We started the process and cut the top off of the pumpkin.  Next we scooped out the guts.  My mom needed to use the restroom and before doing so she left very strict instructions not to eat any of the guts that we just scooped out while she was gone. Well that made me very curious.  I waited until I was sure she was all the way up the stairs and in the bathroom before I proceeded to take the teeniest, tiniest, ittiest bittiest piece of pumpkin pulp…and popped it into my mouth.

She came back downstairs and we completed the carving of our pumpkin.  And then it happened.  I got very sick.  I mean really sick.  I don’t remember how many times I threw up, but it was a lot.  I can only remember one other time 44 years later that I was as sick as I was that night.  She asked me over and over again, “Lesa are you sure you didn’t eat any of that pumpkin?”  And each time, “No I didn’t eat any.”  Liar, liar pants on fire!  I have no idea if the pumpkin made me sick.  I mean…isn’t that where we get the pumpkin for pumpkin pie?  Maybe you have to cook it before it’s edible?  Could it have been my guilt from knowing I did something I wasn’t supposed to do that made me so sick?  I guess we will never know…unless there is a pumpkin expert out there that will indeed tell me that raw pumpkin will make you deathly ill (smile).

My mom was trying to protect me and in return she got a sleepless night with a very sick little one.  Protecting their children is something that is just a natural instinct that comes with motherhood.  I have lots of examples of her fierce love and protective nature over me and my sister.  This is just a small example and it’s a simple one.  But for many moms, protecting our young is one of our greatest tasks.  I think you will hear that in the “voice” of the next mom that is going to share with us. As you read her story about her transgender child, you will hear the protective mama bear coming out. And when you have a LGBTQ child, this task is even more daunting as so much of the world is against your child. (here is another article that will help explain that transgender is not a choice).

This mom has a child a bit further in the journey than the first mom who shared.  Again, a very personal story will be shared with you.  Please be respectful if you decide to comment.  She is another amazing mom with a beautiful daughter and I am so happy that I’ve gotten to know her and proud to call her my friend.

10177861_10203423196682319_2655426038570311619_nAnd now the voice of a mom part III:

I am doing this writing for my friend Lesa that asked me to speak on behalf of myself & my transdaughter. I am doing this in hopes that it opens people’s eyes & hearts.

First some background…Although our journey that led us to another daughter began in my eyes many years ago, it has really only just begun.  Let me explain…Drue is my 14-year-old daughter.  She was born as Andrew (a boy).  I was so excited to have a child and didn’t care of the sex as long as my child was happy and healthy as most moms I am sure would say.  Drue joins our family with 2 other sisters. My husband and I are pretty easy-going parents and do everything with our kids.   Never in the mom handbook or “What to expect with your toddler” did it ever have a chapter on raising a transgender child.  I am damn glad it didn’t.  I didn’t need some book telling me how to prepare myself for the amazing transformation my child was about to undertake in the future ahead.

We have been so blessed with this amazing, talented, fun-loving gift.  I could tell from a very young age that Drue was different from the other little boys.  He was always very nurturing, kind, loving & sweet, so artistic and loved to learn.  He would watch every move I made and try to mimic them. I thought, “Ok, this is normal because my oldest daughter did the same.”  He carried a blanket around everywhere and would put it on his head and pretended it was his long beautiful “girl” hair.  He would wear my heels around the house and even outside on the concrete to hear them on the sidewalk.  I told myself, “What kids don’t do that?”

At around age three, Drue would play with toys that I thought were enjoyable “boy” toys, but he never seemed happy when doing so.  My oldest daughter had Barbie dolls all over the house.  One day Drue picked a Barbie up and an enormous smile filled his face…one that I haven’t ever quite seen. It was a different kind of happy.  Drue joyfully played with that doll endlessly and Barbie went everywhere with us

When we went to the store, he always chose the “girl” aisle of toys and I thought “Ok, so what…it’s just toys.” I would try to take him and almost force him to pick out “boy” toys.  Sometimes, unwillingly, I could tell he would just pick one only to satisfy me.  Finally I said to myself, “That’s it.  It is plain to see that girl toys make my child happy.”  And if he is happy so am I.  Parenting sometimes involves compromising.  You learn this pretty early.

Several years of pain and suffering inside his own head trying to figure out who he was and where he belongs really took a toll on his life.  At around 4th or 5th grade, he was bullied in school and begged me to remove him and home school him. It got to the point that he asked me to take him to the hospital for help and even said to his older sister I just don’t want to wake up. I knew at that moment I would do anything I had to do to make sure I didn’t lose my child.

After years of therapy and loving support, our child finally figured out who he was and where in this world he belonged. Andrew was always a girl trapped in a boy’s body.  It was so clear now. There is no doubt this is how our child was born.  I brought this child into this world and I made a promise to love and protect this child no matter what life brings. I told her we will make it work. We will do whatever we need to do and that she had mine and her dad’s support.  As I was saying this out loud to her, I meant every word… I really did.  I just didn’t know if I really could follow through with that.  As a mom, we always fear for our children’s safety.  This was so out of my control that I really didn’t know if I always could protect her but I know I will do my best.

As a parent I never felt a loss of a son. My child was always there…just in a different body.  I love my child for the person she is and the heart that she has.

Now for the questions that Lesa outlined:

1.  How do you know this isn’t just a phase?

A phase is a small part of life that someone can go through, but it’s not followed through with for a very long period of time.  It’s kind of like when someone changes their hair color all the time to keep up with the new “phase”.  You know it’s not a phase when it has always been there and showed up in many different ways.  When I hear people say that this “lifestyle” is a choice it burns me up inside.  No person, especially a child, would ever choose this life. It is a life full of questioning, wondering, re-building. It’s full of bullying, harassment, depression, drugs and sometimes suicide.  I wish people could understand that these are precious children full of a ton of love that are simply born in the wrong body.

2.  Are you hurting your child by giving them hormones or puberty blockers? Should you wait until they        are older?

The answer for my child’s situation is absolutely positively without a doubt NO!!  It would actually harm my child to not have blockers or start on hormones.  My daughter received a puberty blocker at age 13.  This is all a part of saving her life. So along with doctors who agreed it was time to start, the puberty blocking process began. The reason it’s so important is if you can only try to imagine being born a woman and growing a beard…no woman wants that.  Well that’s horrific to my trans daughter. This process stops facial hair, Adams apple, and voice deepening etc…   For our daughter to survive this had to be done.  In a few short months, she will start hormone therapy so she can feel more and more like a young lady as her other girlfriends do.

3.  Aren’t you saying God made a mistake?

God doesn’t create junk or mistakes.  God loves all.  This child was NO mistake. This child is one of the absolute greatest gifts in not just my life but everyone she meets. She loves deeply with no judgment on anybody.  Frankly, I feel that more of us could learn from her.  I firmly believe she was brought into my life to teach pure love & acceptance.   If we say God made a mistake, then that’s passing judgment and how can we do that as Gods children?  Are handicap children mistakes? Are drug addicted born babies mistakes? No and neither is a child that was born in the wrong body.

4.  What’s the big deal with the bathroom?

This is a touchy question and it’s been a battle that I hate arguing about.  No person understands what it’s like to walk in the shoes of our transgender children.  The bathroom and locker room is a very scary place for my child.  My child has changed clothes for gym and uses the toilet in the nurse’s office for 2 years now. The nerves and anxiety kick in and its tears and so many fears about what someone is going to say next. The funny part is when we go into a bathroom…we are going in there behind a door to use the toilet. We are not standing there to check people out. Hate to break it to everyone also but transgender people have used the restrooms for decades and guess what?? Nobody’s ever known.  They are human beings like us and they deserve to share the same rights we all have.

In ending, this is definitely not the life I pictured having, but I honestly can’t imagine it any other way.  I am the blessed one because I get to see life through Drue’s eyes.  She wants to try to better this world and I will continue to do so for her and many others.

I recently asked her if she wanted the pictures removed off the wall of her past…the old “Andrew” photos.   She said no because it was all part of who she is and the journey we are on. I couldn’t be more proud of her.  She is a pure loving child that I know is exactly where she is supposed to be in life.

Thanks for listening with open ears and I hope you have an open heart now as well if you didn’t before.

Lesa here:  Thanks once again for taking the time to read another mom’s journey.  I think it helps us to understand (as best we can) what it’s like to be in someone else’s shoes.  I also think it is an act of love to step outside of ourselves to try to gain an understanding of something before we have a strong opinion on it.  I love this mom and her family and I would protect her “cubs” as if they were my very own.

Because love matters…