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…

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…

The Voice of a Mom…Part II

As most kids, when my sister and I were little we would get very excited when we would hear the ice cream truck music close by.  We would quickly run in the house jumping up and down begging for some money so we could get back outside to flag the truck down.  We would run down to the curb and wave our arms frantically to get the drivers attention.  It was a sad day when you didn’t make it out there in time to catch his attention.  One of these occasions caused my sister great angst.  We perused the side of the truck and carefully picked out what we wanted to order.  We stood in line and waited our turn trying to be patient.  When it was my sister’s turn, the man behind the counter loudly proclaimed, “And what can I get for you young man?”  My sister immediately burst into tears and quickly ran up the steps to our house without any ice cream.

It was an honest mistake.  She was about 6 years old at the time with short hair, a simple t-shirt and shorts.  But this mistake totally devastated her.  Being on this journey, I think of that story often.  Even though I don’t have a transgender child, I am friends with some transgender people and I know many moms of transgender children.  I can’t imagine how hard it is for them to deal with this on a daily basis…people seeing them as a different gender then how they see themselves.

As promised, I have a guest today who is going to share a very personal part of her family’s journey.  She has the youngest child out of the three moms that will be sharing with us.   She is an amazing mom with a beautiful little girl and I am proud to know her and glad that she considers me a friend.   I ask that you be respectful if you decide to comment.  (to learn some scientific information about what transgender means – here is an article that you might find helpful).

10177861_10203423196682319_2655426038570311619_nAnd now the voice of a mom part II:

Hi, 
My dear friend Lesa asked me to share some of my experiences as a parent to a transgender
child, since she has been getting some questions and would like to share as much 
information as possible.  She provided specific questions that she’s been getting.  These 
questions are all valid and are honestly questions that I’ve asked myself and professionals.  I 
also want to thank you for reading this.  It means that you must be open enough to want to 
learn about a topic that is hard to understand if you aren’t living it firsthand, and I appreciate 
that.  First, it probably makes the most sense to begin by giving a brief synopsis of my family’s 
story. 
 
I am a mom to a six (and a half – she would want me to add) year old transgender girl, which 
means born anatomically male, identifies as female in gender.  I’m also married to a 
wonderful husband, have three step-children who I adore, have a Master’s degree and work 
full time in a helping profession.  When my daughter was born, she was assigned male at 
birth.  I was ecstatic to have a little boy.  He was perfect, healthy and loving – what I often 
referred to as an “easy baby.”  I loved everything about being a mom.  At age three (some 
examples were as early as two), when he was able to begin expressing himself verbally more 
clearly, he would often express a desire for more feminine things.  He wanted to wear female 
clothes, went straight to the girls side of the Stride Rite shoe store and the ‘girls’ toy aisle, 
insisted on dressing as a female character for Halloween, and played with dolls.  At the time, I 
wrote this off as being a phase, knowing that gender is often explored pretty broadly during 
this age.  In hindsight I knew something was different about my child even then.  I remember 
having a sinking feeling every time he told me he wanted to wear a dress or nail polish, and I 
felt guilty when I firmly told him he could not dress as a girl for Halloween, but I was trying to 
(naively) guide him in the “right” direction.   
 
By age four these expressions had become more common.  Because of the constant 
requests to paint his nails, wear dresses and perfume, play with dolls, etc, on occasion we 
allowed this in the house.  He would say he wished I would let him be the girl that he was.  My 
sweet little boy started to become more introverted and seemed more sad.  At preschool he 
preferred to play house and only played with other little girls.  Even though I made him dress 
as a boy, he always insisted upon wearing one or two subtle feminine items like a scarf or 
toenail polish.  I would occasionally receive comments from others about how feminine by 
child was.  At this point I deduced that my child would likely be gay, and started preparing 
myself for this.   
 
Almost to the day of his fifth birthday, the mild requests about his gender identity became 
insistent, persistent and consistent statements that he was, in fact, a girl.  He started acting 
out in preschool.  He would cry for over an hour and beg not to go out of the house unless he 
could go as the girl that he was.  One evening he told me that I should have named him 
“sadness” because he was sad “all the time.”  We started looking for counselors.  One night 
soon after, at five years old, my child – who has generally lived a pretty charmed life – told me 
that if I didn’t allow him to be the girl that he was, he wanted to kill himself.  To this day I don’t 
know how my sweet little five year old even knew those words, or how she could know herself 
so well or express herself so clearly, but I knew this wasn’t going away.  I didn’t know what to 
do except hug *her* and say okay, I’m listening, and we will figure this out together.   
 
Once she made that statement my world turned upside down.  I could no longer continue to 
live in denial about what was happening.  I had a lot to learn and a lot of people to talk to, and 
fast.  The next morning I met with the owner of the preschool, who said they had suspected 
she was transgender for some time now.  I took her that night and bought her her first dress. 
I have never seen her happier.  Words can’t express the happiness she expressed over this. 
The more parents of transgender/gender fluid children I talked with, the more I heard the 
same story we were living.   After gaining a wealth of information we started using female 
pronouns and it was glaringly obvious that this was the right thing to do. Over the following 
months we established a relationship with a therapist who has supported our path, and I 
made it my other full time job to learn everything I could about this topic.  I attended support 
groups in three counties as well as gender conferences.  I talked to so many people with 
either personal or professional experience on the issue.  I read everything I could get my 
hands on.  I cried…wept at times.  I lost countless hours of sleep, and 30 pounds since I could 
hardly eat.  But every single problem we encountered with my daughter immediately 
dissipated once we allowed her to socially transition – to live as the girl that she is, or as the 
gender she identifies with. 
 
She now lives as the female that she is.  She is excelling at school.  She laughs when I 
remind her that she once asked to be called “sadness”, and often remarks how happy she is 
and how much she loves her life. I could go on and on about ways this difficult decision has 
ended up bettering her life, but there isn’t nearly enough time.   
 
So, onto the questions Lesa outlined: 
 
1.    How do you know it’s not a phase? 
            Even though I tried to give some general examples above, it’s very difficult to put into 
words all of the ways it is abundantly clear that my daughter’s gender is innate, versus a 
phase or a result of “nurture versus nature.”  I would like to pose the question to you as the 
reader:  When did you know you were a male or female?  For me, I always knew.  It takes no 
thought, I just know.  I am not overly “girly”, like my daughter.  I don’t wear dresses often or 
much makeup, but I know innately that I’m female.  My daughter would tell you that she’s 
known she is female since birth.  This never changes.  Even the most subtle of details are 
consistent.  She naturally gravitates toward other girls for play.  She always chooses the 
female avatar when playing games.  She is happy and thriving being able to live as her true 
self, and she’s not hurting anyone by doing so.  I’ve talked to families who tried to force their 
child to live in denial of their gender.  These children usually faced issues like depression, 
anxiety, self-injurious behavior, addiction and suicide.  Even though allowing people who are 
transgender to embrace who they are challenges us to be accepting of things we don’t 
understand, there is so much evidence that in doing so, these people thrive and become 
productive members of society.  I have attached a link to a recent research study, in which my
daughter is a participant, that shows the benefits of allowing these children to live as their 
identified gender versus natal sex.  Also, I have learned that it is very common for 
transgender people to begin expressing their gender identity as early as they can start talking, 
so this is not uncommon.  The overwhelming majority of people, including myself, were taught 
very young that gender and natal sex are one and the same.  Many people would swear this 
to be as true as the earth is round.  I now know that this is not true.  Gender and natal sex are 
two different things.  Usually they match, but in relatively rare instances they don’t.   
 
2.    Aren’t you hurting your child by giving them hormones?  Shouldn’t you wait until they’re 
older? 
             I am going to defer to my other friends with older children for this question.  I am 
learning to take things one step at a time with this process, so we still have multiple years 
until we address this.  I can say that we plan to see a renowned endocrinologist when my 
daughter turns seven.  Not to start any type of medication, but because we want to establish 
a relationship with this doctor, and be as open and transparent as possible as we plan for the 
possibility of hormone blockers and hormones in the future.  This way the endocrinologist can 
get to know my daughter, give us any feedback she has, and make recommendations as 
appropriate.  I can also tell you that I know that the pain of living in a body you don’t feel 
matches your identity is tremendously more painful than anything else.  My daughter already 
asks when she will be able to have a baby, when she can “not have a penis anymore”, and 
generally expresses anxiety about having to develop in any way masculine.  She says these 
things and it still shocks me.  These aren’t thoughts I ever would have had as a child, yet 
what she says is textbook for transgender people. 
 
3.   What’s the big deal about the bathroom? 
            So, if you would again take a second to think about this for yourself:  If you’re a parent, 
and someone told you that your daughter had to use the boy’s bathroom, how would you 
feel?  For my daughter, the thought is so distressing that at times she would cry or refuse to 
go to the bathroom at all versus having to go with males. Transgender people have been 
painted in the media as men that dress up as women to get into the women’s bathroom.  This 
is just untrue.  I could go on and on with statistics about this issue, but I won’t bore you.  I will 
simply say that children are in more risk at school, church, and with family than they are 
sharing a bathroom with a transgender person.  This is a huge issue, and one that keeps me 
up at night.  My daughter looks, acts, and carries herself as the female that she is.  You 
wouldn’t even notice if you were in the girls bathroom with her.  If she had to go into a male 
bathroom, she would be mortified, likely mistreated, and cause more trouble than being 
allowed to simply use the bathroom that coincides with her gender.  Side note:  you likely 
have known transgender people in your life without actually realizing it.  They are so scared of 
being judged they often work very hard to fly under the radar, especially in the bathroom. 
 
4.  Aren’t you saying that God made a mistake? 
     This is the most difficult question for me to answer.  Short answer after a long, 
frustrated sigh: no. Long answer: I don’t believe there are mistakes in life.  As a person 
who is agnostic, I am very open to all possibilities, religious views, and am deeply 
spiritual.  What I am not open to is any person or doctrine who ascribes to judgment or 
mean, exclusionary behavior in the name of God.  I don’t think God makes mistakes, 
and I believe in life there are only lessons. Would you ask a person who had an autistic 
child if they were a mistake from God?  What about someone with birth defects or 
hermaphrodites?  Or cancer?  Are these mistakes from God?  There are certainly 
endless examples of things in this universe that we don’t fully understand, but denying 
their existence when you haven’t taken the time to learn, or because they aren’t like 
you, or because something is rare is unacceptable.  It saddens me that the people who 
scare me the most in this world, in regards to my transgender daughter, are those who 
are the most religious.  Isn’t that sad?  God is love, and I would hope to find shelter in 
people who follow God, but it’s often where I find the most heartache and judgment.  
Sometimes, when I need to make myself feel better about the turn our life has taken, I 
tell myself that my child is even closer to the likeness of God than most of us.  I’ve read 
that some cultures (like certain Native American cultures) celebrate and honor people 
who are gender variant.  I know our culture will likely not celebrate this anytime soon, 
but I wish it was more accepting of our differences.  I don’t doubt that God is divinely 
accepting.  My six year old recently asked me why God put her in “the wrong body.”  
I’m still figuring out the answer to that, still learning the lesson.  For now, I just 
reassured her that she is healthy, happy and that down the road there are ways we 
can correct the parts of her body that feel “wrong” right now.  She was content with that 
response and skipped away.   
Lesa here…thank you for taking the time to read this special post.  I have the utmost respect for this mom and all the moms I know that have LGBTQ children.  The road we travel is a hard one.  I love them all and I feel like their kids are my kids.  I would do anything for any one of them…and I love them all dearly.
Because love matters…

The Voice of a Mom…Part I

I love nature.  There is such a peace I feel when I’m out in the woods, on the beach, or just sitting on my deck surrounded by the tall trees that are behind my house.  If there is water involved, like a babbling brook or ocean waves that is an extra bonus (smile).

10177861_10203423196682319_2655426038570311619_nThis tree is in my back yard.  I know it is hard to tell by the picture, but it is indeed one tree.  And yes that is both white and pink flowers that you see gracing it’s branches.  I LOVE this tree.  It is so unique. It was here when we moved into our house 18 years ago so I’m not sure how it came into existence, but I am so happy that it ended up in my backyard.  In many ways, this tree reminds me of the journey I’ve been on the past several years.

On the one hand, it reminds me of my faith.  The branches on the tree that have the white flowers grow up towards the sky.  The branches that have the pink flowers grow outward and spread out as if they are reaching for something.  The white version of the tree is my connection to God while the pink version is my desire to reach out to others to share His love.  To me it’s also a symbol of my once rigid belief system entangled with my quest to let God out of the box.

When I look at this tree, I also see the struggle of my son.  He tried to stay on a path that he thought was required of him. In doing so, he had to deny who he really was inside.  He tried desperately to stay on that path while on the inside he felt his true self reaching out trying to break off of the path that was never meant for him.  I see the part of the tree that grows upward and has the white flowers as the path, while the pink side is him reaching out to be himself.

I also can’t help but think of the transgender people I’ve met when I look at my tree.  Born as one gender while truly another. My tree is two trees intertwined into one.

If you’ve read some of my other posts, you know that things have gotten very heated towards transgender individuals.  The bill that was passed in NC and the whole Target bathroom announcement has caused some pretty ugly banter on social media.  What really surprises me is that some of these people who have the loudest voices don’t even know a transgender person.  Sadly this recent activity has caused suicide hotline calls to increase with the incidence of calls from transgender individuals doubling.

As I’ve shared my personal journey, I’ve tried to share the journey of others that I have met along the way.  I try to speak on their behalf and not speak for them, but that is really difficult.  As I’ve tried to relay what I’ve learned, it’s been in my voice.  It is so much better to hear it from the person who has experienced it themselves.  So I think this is the perfect time to hear from some other voices.  Voices that know first hand what it’s like to have a transgender child.  I have three amazing moms who have agreed to be a guest on my blog and share a part of their journey.  I know all of these moms personally.  I have witnessed some of their struggles first hand.  I’ve seen the pain of their children through their eyes.

I will be posting one story a week beginning next week and I will use the picture of my tree as the series picture since it is my symbol of this journey.  I’m excited for you to meet these moms through their written words.  It gives you a chance to step into their shoes.  To me, being willing to learn about another person’s story is an act of love.

And love matters…

 

Sticks and stones…

Did you have a nickname when you were growing up?  Maybe you still have it to this day.  I had several…the first of which I gave to myself…unbeknownst to me.  My name is Lesa Page (yes my parents spelled both my first name AND my middle name incorrectly).  When I was little, I couldn’t quite pronounce the two words and they came out as Esa Peach.  So, Esa Peach was my very first nickname and some family members to this day will sometimes call me by that name.  When I hit my teenage years, my nicknames became more related to the fact that I am vertically challenged.  A few of those names were:

Little
Little L
Stump – I of course didn’t care for this one too much
L – my dad calls me this today – I think he’s just lazy (smile)
Lesa Page – as a teenager there were so many Lisa’s that my friends called me by my first and middle name.  Kind of wish I would have stuck with that as an adult…I kind of like it.

When my son was a baby and toddler, his nickname was Booper.  My mom was so afraid that was going to stick.  I’m not even sure how Mike and I started calling him that, but it just seemed to fit him.  He was a pudgy little guy and Booper just seemed to work.  I’m sure he is happy that it was short-lived.  His nickname now is Kai (his name is Kyle).

It seems like yesterday that he was that little baby.  I remember holding for the first time.  To be honest, he looked like a little old man…kind of wrinkly and very little hair.  He quickly grew and like I said was a little pudge.  He unfortunately had colic as a baby.  And not the kind where the baby would cry during a certain time of day…it seemed to bother him all the time.  It made me feel so bad for him.  As I held him, his little legs would bunch up and he would throw his little head back with the most heart wrenching cry.  There were many days that I would cry right along with him as I bounced and paced the floors with him.  Man did I do a lot of pacing.

He eventually grew out of that and became a happy little guy.  I can still see his little face when I would walk into his room in the mornings to retrieve him from his crib.  He would say my name with his pacifier pushed to one side of his mouth and would give me the biggest smile.  It was as if his whole world just walked through the door.  I remember his first steps…arms stretched out like Frankenstein, teetering from one foot to the other with the biggest grin on his face.  He was so proud of himself.  He was a stubborn little bugger too.  The terrible twos are an understatement.  He was so smart which I swear made it worse.  Once he got something in his mind, boy was it tough to re-route him.  And the older he got, the harder it got.  Once he hit the elementary school age, it took a lot of creative thinking to stay one step ahead of him.  And when we really got stuck in a battle of the wills, it seemed like humor was the ONLY thing that would snap him out of it.  Good thing I’m a goof ball (smile).  It just took a little humor to break things up and then you could have a conversation with him.

He was always well liked in school by his teachers and classmates…especially the girls.  He was a straight A student all the way through high school.  I think he got a B or two in college, but seemed to always make the deans list even though he struggled terribly with anxiety and depression.  I’m really not sure how he did it.

As I’ve mentioned in other posts, we noticed a change in him around the age of 14 and things came to a head when he was 15 and we found out he was gay.  My friendly, preppy, kind boy turned into an angry, depressed, anxiety ridden boy.  The music he listened to changed, the clothes he wore changed, the kind of friends he had changed.  It was as if the internal struggle that he had been going through for years that we were unaware of came out to the surface in every way.  It was terrifying.  It was as if aliens had come in the middle of the night and replaced our child with someone who we didn’t recognize.  All of the hurt that he had hidden for so long was now out in the open.

I wish SO BADLY that I had the resources back then that I have now.  I would have done things SO differently.  I know I hurt him…before I knew he was gay…and after I found out.  You see, I lived in the place where I thought being gay was something that needed to be fixed.  I felt that way because that is what I had learned from the resources I had at the time.  I was given a lot of hope from those resources…unfortunately it was false hope.  Stories of change that were told later turned out to be lies. And I transferred that hope to him.  It gave him hope and when things didn’t change it only added to his frustration, hurt, and depression.

Society gives gay people a lot of grief about being gay.  Names are hurled at them like butch, fag, dyke, fairy…not exactly endearing nicknames.  And despite the little saying of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but names will never hurt me,” they do indeed hurt.  The hard part though is when a gay person’s family is the cause of the hurt…not by name calling necessarily…although that does happen, but by attitudes and statements that are made.  Something I’ve heard more than once from a young gay person before coming out in regards to their family is this….

“They don’t like me….but they don’t know that they don’t like me.”

What we need to understand is that they are absorbing every remark, comment, facial expression, body language, etc. when it comes to our attitudes about gay people.  The first time I heard that from someone…my spirit was crushed because I know that my son felt that way before he came out.  Looking back…it explains a lot.  I’ve never said anything bad about gay people. I’ve worked with them, have a gay family member in my extended family, etc. and I’ve never felt anything but love for them.  But when you come from a place where you think they are broken and can be fixed, it is hurtful.  And I know my son overheard comments from me regarding this.

I don’t write this to make you feel guilty if you have a gay child and have gone about things differently then you would have like to or feel like you have messed up.  I can tell you that I messed up.  You can move past it.  You can ask for the person to forgive you…and then do what is hard and forgive yourself.  I still struggle with that part.  This post is more for everyone else who may or may not have a gay child, family member, or friend.  Be careful what you say and how you say it.  You never know who is listening…and if they are struggling they will be hyper sensitive to your speech and demeanor.  Let’s not have another child think…they don’t like me…but they don’t know that they don’t like me.

Today my son is a young adult.  The other day we were leaving for work at the same time (he is living at home to save money to one day move out).  I was sitting in my car as he walked down to his car that was parked in the cul-de-sac.  As I watched him in my side mirror with his slouchy hat (to control his curls), skinny jeans, and messenger bag slung across his shoulder, I was overwhelmed with thankfulness for his forgiving spirit for a mom who didn’t have a clue when he first came out.  I’m so thankful that his spark is back and I once again have my funny, happy boy.  He knows without a doubt that I love him.  But he can also say…

She likes me…and I know she likes me because she shows it in her words and actions.

Love each other…because it matters.