The best parts…

“What was your favorite part about the conference?” It’s the question I’ve been asked the most by my friends who know how much I wanted to go.  If you read my last post, On Holy Ground, you know they are referring to the GCN Conference.  I’m on week two since being home and I’m still processing.

img_1121I would have to say I have a favorite parts.  The worship was powerful, the speakers were inspirational, the breakout sessions were informative, meeting some new moms and reconnecting with others was fun, the vigil was moving…it was all really good stuff.  A time that I will remember forever.  But what were my favorite parts?…the atmosphere and the people.

The atmosphere was relaxed, affirming, loving and well…fun.  So many smiles.  A place where you felt totally free.  You could be yourself.  It felt really good being there because I didn’t have to worry what anyone thought about my family, I didn’t have to worry about what anyone thought about my parenting, I didn’t have to hold anything back or feel censored in what I wanted to say…it was amazing.  I was so happy for the LGBTQ people who were there.  If I felt the way I did as an ally and parent there, I can’t even begin to imagine how they felt. Being your authentic self is healing.

My other favorite part…the people.  They were genuine.  There is something so intimate about being invited into someone’s story…someone’s pain.  I mean think about…we didn’t know each other, but in one of the breakout sessions we sat in a circle and they shared their deepest img_1120feelings and experiences.  I just wanted to scoop every one of them up and bring them home with me because in the midst of the smiles there was also pain.

And the hugs.  I want you to think about this for a moment. How many strangers would you go up to and hug?  It’s perfectly normal to hug our family members, and we tend to be ok with hugging our friends…but strangers?  That might seem a little strange.  But for some of the people at the conference, this is a healing thing for them.  Human contact that they are denied on a daily basis.  Several of the people who shared at the mic night on Saturday mentioned how much they liked the “mom hugs,” …one even saying that a hug from a mom is better than Prozac.

So…atmosphere and people.  Since I’ve been home these two short weeks, I’ve learned of a mom in Brazil who stabbed her 17 year old son to death because he was gay, a young man who was attacked outside a Target and hospitalized because he is gay, and a young transgender girl who took her life because of bullying.  Being in an atmosphere that is accepting and being with people who are affirming is not only life changing as many attested to…but I would venture to say…is life saving as well.

I leave you with this post from the lesbian daughter of one of my dear friends in reference to the inauguration.  Many are told to get over it, but this is what the LGBTQ community lives with on a daily basis and why this conference is so important:

“I love my job, I really do. I figure as long as my back allows me too I will keep my CNA license and use my gifts as a caregiver. Yet tonight as I made my way from room to room, every TV tuned to the event I did not want to see, I held my breath and thought this could be it. In a state with no statewide LGBTQ anti-discrimination law, at a Christian non-profit organization, working an already high-turnover position, serving a population with a drastically different worldview, though I love those I care for dearly and feel loved dearly, I worry. I worry I will slip up when I give my standard why I don’t have a boyfriend answer, or why I cut my hair like this. I worry a coworker will intentionally or unintentionally “out” me at work. I worry the lady ranting about how the “gays” are ruining America will see that twinge of pain in my eyes as I gently lay her down in bed. I worry someone will ask me about it and I will have to lie again, because it has happened and I’m worried about that day coming when I could be told you are not allowed to use your gifts.”

I love this girl…and I love her mama and the many, many more who I have crossed paths with and even those I haven’t.  I invite you to do the same.

Because love matters….

Hold onto those rabbit ears…

3d1d2912d5f866f10ad8c197590f15d1So they say God works in mysterious ways.  Sometimes He works in really weird ways too.  I recently got back from a trip to Florida.  With potty stops and gas ups, it’s a 16 hour drive.  So as you can imagine I was pretty tired when I went to bed on the night I got home.  I woke up early the next day to go to church and the first image that popped into my mind when I woke up was an old television..and I was specifically focused on the antenna or as some people call them “rabbit ears”.  I wasn’t dreaming about televisions…it just was the first thing that came to me.  AND I got the impression from God that I needed to write about it.  What??

Maybe you are young enough that you don’t even  know what I’m talking about when I mention a TV antenna.  Showing my age (sigh).  Back in the day, when you wanted to change the channel on your television you had to actually get up and turn a dial on the TV.  There were only a few channels and you were lucky if they came in clearly.  This is where the “rabbit ears” or antenna came in handy.  You would have to position them in different ways until the picture came into focus.  Sometimes as soon as you let go and stepped away the static would return.  We would gently let go and creep away as if to sneak away from the television.  Hence the aluminum foil you see in the picture.  That was a trick we would do to mimic the pressure of our hands.  It was a delicate process and it was so frustrating!

In my last post, I talked a little bit about the election and why some people might be upset about the outcome.  Since then, I’ve seen a ton of back and forth between people on Facebook.  The one thing that really jumps out at me in these conversations is the need for some to be right.  They argue their point so much that they lose sight of what the other person is trying to say.  They dismiss the other person’s feelings.

When you look at someone’s situation, it may not be clear to you why they feel the way they do about what is happening.  You may only see “static”.  It doesn’t make sense to you.  But for them, it is very real.  Take the time to stop and listen.  Flex your compassion muscles, even if you don’t totally understand, and maybe the “picture” may become a little clearer.  It’s easy to dismiss someone’s feelings when we don’t understand.  Try stepping into their shoes.  Can we just agree that if you aren’t in a group of people who are marginalized, you might not get why they might be upset about something?  You have nothing to worry about…but maybe they do?

I’ve seen so many people reply to comments, “Get over it already!  There have been plenty of presidents that have won that I didn’t like.  I wasn’t a cry baby about it.” These people aren’t “hearing” why these people are upset.  Yes, maybe they voted for Hillary and she didn’t win.  They are more upset about who won because of what it might mean for them.  And again, if you aren’t in one of the marginalized groups, you may not get that, but for them it is a real concern.

I was hoping things would have calmed down by now.  And it’s on both sides.  We need to respect each other.  Maybe agree to disagree at times.  I can say that I see people with really strong opinions about things that they really don’t know anything about.  I’ll give an example of something that I run into a lot…

People have admitted to me that they are starting to be able to wrap their brains around someone being gay.  They don’t “get it” totally, but they understand it a little more.  And then they will say, “But I just can’t get behind the whole transgender thing.”  9 times out of 10 when I ask them what it means to be transgender they either don’t know, or they have it completely wrong.  How can you be so against something that you know nothing about?  And these are the types of things I see in the arguments on FB.  Again, it’s all about being right…not about understanding.

So, I guess the bottom line is this…

Let’s have some compassion for one another.  Let’s listen to one another.  Let’s realize that people are feeling a little raw right now.  They may need space, they may need some understanding, they may need to be heard, and maybe they just need someone to hold onto them until the picture of their life is clearer.  Let’s be gentle, let’s offer support, let’s not back away from things that make us uncomfortable (and are sometimes frustrating).

We used to put so much time and effort into getting clear pictures on our television screens.  Shouldn’t we at least give that same time and effort into seeing and understanding our fellow-man?

I never said love was easy.  But it matters…now more than ever.

…And here’s hoping I don’t wake up to any more random weird images (smile).

Love you to life…

01e9a0a2a24b4d1145d1518bce5df01bba8048fa80Last summer this was a vibrant, beautiful plant.  I usually take my plants off of my deck for the winter, but last year I never got around to it.  This pot sat outside all winter through all kinds of snow, sleet, and rain.  Now normally at the beginning of spring, I will bring all of my pots out of the garage and get some nice spring flowers to plant to make my deck look nice.  Well, if you are friends with me in real life, you know that my deck was in dire need of repair.  In fact, the whole thing needed to be replaced (except for the structure).  Since I wasn’t sure when that was going to take place, I never got around to planting flowers.  So, this pot sat on my deck with dead twigs in it.  I don’t know if you can tell from this picture, but there are some twigs in there that have zero life sprouting from them.  And that’s how it looked all summer.  I did plant flowers for my front porch so every day I would go around and water my flowers…and the dead twigs on my deck.  I wasn’t really sure why I was watering a pot of dead flowers. Something in me just knew that flowers are supposed to have water…and although these were just twigs I felt compelled to water them.  And they stayed dead…all summer…until the first week in October when these beautiful little red sprigs blossomed.  I couldn’t believe it!  All that tender care all summer and it waited until the fall to spring to life!

I can’t help but be reminded of the people I have met along my journey when I think about this plant.  So many of their stories start with thoughts of death, despair, hopelessness, and they are barely clinging to life.  It’s when someone comes along and offers them unconditional love without fail that finally brings them back to life. They regain their spark, their zest for life, their love for themselves.  I have seen it happen in my own son, and in many people who I have met along the way.

I have been in a deep struggle lately.  It’s why I haven’t written much.  It is becoming increasingly more difficult for me to be a part of the church…Big C church.  It is getting harder and harder for me to separate myself from what I’m seeing happening in the lives of so many.  There are too many lifeless twigs that are dying from the lack of love and my heart just can’t take it.  It is a daily struggle and I have to keep reminding myself that these people…”church people” do not represent the God that I know and love.  People have accused me of being divisive.  They say that I talk too much about the bad parts of the church.  I’m sorry, but I can’t ignore what is happening.  There is too much at stake.  Too many people that need love to thrive.

But rather than me share with you what’s happening, I invite you to watch this video to hear from the people who are actually living it.  It is an hour and a half, but it is worth every minute.  I sobbed through most of it because I have met people in these situations.  I have entered their stories.  I have shared their grief.  And some are no longer part of this world because no one loved them back to life.

If you call yourself a Christian, I urge you to watch this video.  Especially if you are a Christian that thinks you can’t be gay and a Christian.  I’m not sure what path God is going to take me on next…but I know that the status quo just isn’t going to work for me anymore.  If you watch the video and have questions, I’d love to sit down and have a cup of coffee with you if you are local…or we can chat via email.  Be the love that so many desperately need…because love matters.

Champagne wishes and caviar dreams…

When I was in high school, there was a popular show on television called “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” hosted by Robin Leach.  Robin would interview wealthy entertainers, athletes, business people…well basically the rich and famous (smile).  I always loved seeing what kind of houses they lived in, the beautiful areas of the country, or world, where they resided, and how they got to where they were in life. It champagne-06was fun to dream of living like that someday.  I was pretty sure that would never be a reality for me, but I did have hopes that one day Ed McMahon from Publishers Clearing House would one day knock on my door with a bunch of balloons and a big cardboard check with a 1 and lots of zeros after it.

Ahhh…if only.  What a fun lifestyle that would be to live.  Lifestyle.  Way back in June I promised I would talk about why this word is such a thorn in the side of the LGBTQ community and here it is September already. Honestly I have no idea where that time has gone.  Did we have a summer??

So, something that I hear ALL the time from people is that they love gay people they just don’t agree with their lifestyle choice.  Sigh.  I really try to react to this with grace because I never thought that being gay was a choice so I can’t really relate. Now there were other things I believed about being gay that I no longer believe, but this was not one of them.

I can choose to live a healthy lifestyle.  I can eat the right foods, exercise, drink lots of water, or I can choose the opposite and eat terrible foods and live a sedentary lifestyle.  If I was rich, I could choose to live an extravagant lifestyle and have fancy cars, a really big house, trendy clothes, or I could save my money for my future needs, donate money to charity, and live a frugal lifestyle.

There is one thing I can’t choose…and that’s to live a straight lifestyle.  That’s not something that I choose…it’s something that I am…straight.  No one has ever said to me, “I’m so glad you choose to live a straight lifestyle.”  So why then do we condemn gay people for choosing to live a gay lifestyle?  It’s not a choice.  If you think it is…you haven’t met enough gay people.  You haven’t entered into their story. If you do, it becomes clear.

So…when you say, “I love you, but I don’t agree with your lifestyle.”  What you are really saying is I don’t agree with you.  And not in a “I don’t agree with your opinion” sort of way, but a deeper you.  Their very being.  Because if you ask a gay person, they will tell you they can’t separate their sexuality from who they are as a person.  And in this area, as a society, we tend to drill things down to sex.  A person is gay or straight whether they are having sex or not.  Again…it’s a part of who we are not what we do.

Robin Leach would always end his show with the tagline “champagne wishes and caviar dreams” because those are things that people associated with rich people.  I’ll end this post with this…

Once we learn that something we say or do hurts someone, we should try to do better.  So do better.  And love each other.

Because love matters…

Baltimore Pride…

For about the last three years, I’ve been wanting to attend a Pride parade.  It just never seemed to work out.  I would either totally not remember that there even was a Pride parade until it had already passed, or I would be on vacation, or have one of those nasty summer colds.  I just couldn’t seem to get there.  Until this year.  Since I help run a PFLAG group, it was on my radar screen and I was excited to finally be able to attend. Double bonus that this year it was on my birthday!  So yesterday I spent my birthday marching in my very first Pride parade (smile).

Many people ask me…why Pride?  Why do the gays have to have a special day?  The straight people don’t have that…there isn’t a straight pride parade.  My basic answer is you don’t understand it because you don’t live it.  You aren’t gay.  Every day is straight pride day.  You can walk through the streets and be yourself.  Every day.  You can hold your loved ones hand and not think a thing of it.  Every day.  You don’t have to fear for your safety because of who you are…every day.  The LGBTQ community in most areas do not have any of those luxuries.  Pride is a time for them to be together with like-minded people and be their authentic selves.  No masks.  No hiding.  No fear.  No judgement.  Until you live without that…you probably won’t understand why they value the Pride celebrations so much.

If you’ve been a reader for some time, I’ve mentioned before that when I was younger I used to march in parades (post 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8).  I know what it’s like to feel the energy of the crowd, and the excitement I feel when I hear the marching bands start to play. It’s fun.  So, I kind of knew what to expect.  Now I’m just going stop here for a moment to tell you how hot is was out there.  It was HOT!  Like fry an egg on the sidewalk hot.  I looked at the weather app on my phone for yesterday and at the time we were there for the parade it was 99 degrees.  That does not take into account the humidity and heat index. Yikes!  I took the biggest bottle of water I could find and let me tell you it was just about as big as me.  The down side to that was as it got towards the bottom of the bottle I seriously could have made hot tea with the water that was left…it got that heated.  Yuck!

Ok…back to the parade.  My PFLAG group lined up and waited for our turn to start down the parade route.  I could feel the excitement in the air, but more importantly I could feel the love and acceptance in the air.  As we rounded the corner, I was amazed at all the people who were there on the sides.  They had gates set up so they couldn’t go into the road and in some places the people were 4 and 5 rows deep.  Like I’ve mentioned, I’ve been in parades before, but I had never seen anything like this.  I read today that the Baltimore City Fire Department estimated that 10,000 people were in attendance.  I have to tell you…hearing the cheers as we went by, seeing the happy faces…I was overcome with emotion. I’m in tears just thinking about it now.  It’s something that I will never, ever forget.

We walked on and the cheering never stopped.  People were holding hands.  People were happy.  But it wasn’t without its protesters.  I saw four.  They were holding large signs with the usual things you see at things like this telling us to repent or the fires of hell were coming to get us.  I saw about four interesting outfits…hardly any clothing on, but other than that it was pretty tame. The rest of the people were dressed like me, or what you might see at the beach.  In fact, I’ve seen worse at the beach.  When we got to the end of the parade route, we were able to go over to the gated area to watch the rest of the parade go by.  One of the really encouraging things I saw were a group of churches go by.  There were several denominations: Presbyterian, Lutheran, Catholic, Unitarian Universalist, and others that I can’t remember because there were so many passing by.  It did my heart good to see them there.

Since I’m not gay, why go to a Pride parade?  There are a several reasons.  The first being that our PFLAG group wanted to get the word out that we are here.  We are needed…and we want the community to know that we exist in our county.  The second being that anything that is helpful to my son I want to support.  Even though he didn’t attend (it was too hot for him – and he isn’t a fan of big crowds)…it’s a place where he can be himself if he did attend.  The third is that I just want to be where people need love and support.  I feel such a strong calling to that and honestly I am the happiest when I am doing it.  The event isn’t just for LGBTQ people, but also for the people who love and support them.  I can’t wait to go again next year!

When I’m with my PFLAG group, or with LGBTQ folks, I feel comfortable.  I’m not on guard.  I don’t have to worry about what other people think of me.  I don’t have to be prepared to “debate” someone for supporting my kid.  As parents, we don’t have it as bad as our kids do, but we do deal with being preached at, lost relationships, sometimes lost jobs, etc…just because we love and support our kids.  With all of the negativity in the world right now regarding the LGBTQ issues, it is nice to have a place to go where you see some positive.  Just this morning one of the moms in my private FB group posted this (I got her permission to share):

Hello mamas! I have been, like a lot of us lately, really struggling with all of the negative stuff on social media that just seems to be constantly circling about. I am still learning to just walk away, get off of FB, etc. because even at this stage of the journey, I tend to knee jerk react sometimes and that usually isn’t helpful at all. So today, I was looking forward to getting to church-many of you know I attend an open and affirming church here in Hickory, NC (for reals 😃)and I love it there! Safe place with lots of love! I pulled into the parking lot and dang if we didn’t have protesters today!! 😳They had huge signs and bull horns and the thing that sent me over the edge was that there were small children with them!!! 😡 WTH??? They were yelling that the all the people that died in Orlando were burning in hell right now and we were going to burn with them! They were calling for our pastor to come out and face them- they called him a liar and a coward. It was awful! They said that they were standing far away from us so that our perversion wouldn’t touch them. It was just unbelievably awful! So much for peace 😰

These are the types of things that we and our kids deal with on a daily basis.  It’s hard sometimes to not just crawl in a hole some where and never come out.  It gets to be exhausting.

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This is my extended family. Love them!

I told my son yesterday I wished there was a Pride parade every weekend (smile).  But while I wait for 2017 Pride, I will be searching for ways to show this community that I love them, that God loves them, and that they matter more than they can imagine.

Because love matters…

 

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 someone I know who has a gay child.  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 my friends 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 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…