Parenting Fail or Tacit Acceptance?

Kellie and her sonKellie’s three year old was Simba – great warrior-to-be whose call of the wild was, “I’m going to be a boy when I grow up.”

Exhausted and impatient, Kellie’s lack of insight produced this promise, “Fine. When you are 18 you can get all your girl parts taken out (that’s all he remembers) and then you won’t be a girl but you won’t be a boy either (what I remember).”

Looking back, Kellie admits that she didn’t know anything about what it meant to be transgender and it “never occurred” to her that a child would/could identify in this way.

Fast forward to present day. Kellie’s (ftm) son is a freshman in college. He expresses himself as male; he dresses as male, goes by a traditional male name and uses male pronouns. Once he came out to his friends, brother and us (mom and dad were the last to officially get the news), he felt free to transition. While the name change is not yet legal and medical proceedings have not yet begun, he is on his way.

Being able to live as a trans-masculine person is allowing Kellie’s son to be more comfortable with feminine aspects of his personality (interesting). Also, he is more confident, active and willing to be noticed.

A family divided

Kellie’s side of the family does not know anything about her son’s pending transition. Her husband’s family is accepting, willing to learn and is actively seeking out resources. So, what do you do about extended family who is unable to open up their minds to possibilities beyond the scope of their everyday concepts and precepts?

This is a difficult situation for many. Families, friends, communities who are unwilling to find a way to understand and accept – even if they don’t “get it.” Kellie’s son is positive that her side of the family will turn their backs when they hear the news. As a result, he is waiting until he absolutely can’t hide it (after beginning hormone therapy and there are visible changes) to let them know. In the meantime, he hangs onto his family, believing that each moment is precious.

As parents, “we encouraged the kids to be themselves, think for themselves, and explore anything that interested them.” This philosophy enabled their son to be an independent thinker, explore his individuality, even if that meant multi-colored hair, and open up to his parents revealing his authentic self.

Kellie is one of our Ally Moms. We have a growing group of nearly 70 women who are hear to offer a loving, non-judgemental ear.

 

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Gender: As defined by Jaden

This post is for my friend, Jaden. His story is not unlike so many others, though his journey is unique. I loved his words and wanted others to be touched by the beauty of his intentions. Thank you, Jaden, for allowing me to share your poem, your words, that are so meaningful to you. I wish you a lifetime of friendship, courage and positivity. xo
jaden p

Gender

Often times I’m disregarded as a person,

or a human altogether.

Often times I’m called “it” when I clearly asked you to call me “he”

and Jaden, not Jillian.

 

But moving on from that,

what the hell does my gender have to affect you in any way

whatsoever.

You act like the fact that I have breasts on my chest,

or my voice not being as low as the other guys,

or maybe I’m only 5’1”,

or your religion may not follow it?

 

How does that make me any less of a human being?

My gender may not reflect my given sex,

my name,

or my body.

 

You see me every day on the street.

You greet me when I walk in your store,

the classroom.

You give me my transit ticket to get on the other bus.

You gender me correctly.

 

But once you find out I’m transgender,

everything changes.

It’s almost like walking in the other direction.

Soon enough your pronouns become she again.

You use my birth name,

when I clearly ask you it makes me feel

uneasy,

uncomfortable,

un-valued,

unheard of.

 

But really, there are thousands,

probably millions of me out there.

Born in the wrong body,

Fuck no,

I wasn’t born in the wrong body.

Like Miles said,

I was born into a world where the perception of my body is wrong.

 

My birth certificate is wrong.

All the legal records stating I am female is simply

referring to the sex I was assigned at birth.

My birth name,

burning on the papers of every legal document

I’ve signed in my life.

Every time you miss gender me

I die each and every time.

 

So listen up,

I’ve had enough!

My name is not what it says on paper

but is what I tell you it is.

 

I am not “lying” about my gender,

my whole body was a lie

before coming out and

starting this whole lifeline process called “transition”.

 

So go ahead and call me weird.

Call me any derogatory word you can think of.

I’ve been though worse.

Hiding for the first 15 years in this body

that isn’t me.

 

So go ahead and beat me down.

I will get up and prove to you

I am “man enough” to live in this world

where a transgender person

is just a nothing.

 

I am a something.

God damn-it, I am me.

I am more than me.

I have been me and now me is shining

that I wish I did when I realized when I wasn’t her.

But I am him,

and I love him so much.

 

My chosen name is Jaden.

I chose that name because

it reflects me as a person

and who I chose to be.

 

So no more hiding in this dark closet.

Closets are for clothes.

Not for people with values, or thoughts.

Those need to shine like a rainbow.

 

I am shining, and I will continue to shine.

Your words will not affect me anymore.

They brought me down enough when i was younger,

and didn’t understand.

 

But for now, I am just trying to live my life.

As me. 

 __________________________________________________________________
If you would like to hear Jaden recite his poem on YouTube, just click here.

Gender – Jaden Prendergast

Happy 16th Birthday, Hunter!

Hunter transition ftmIt’s been quite a year! Lots of highs and lows. Numerous stops and starts. Unexpected tears and endless laughter.

We’ve been to the pediatrician, the therapist, the pediatric endocrinologist, the pharmacy, the lab (for blood work), the courthouse and the passport office. Hunter started on testosterone, experienced his voice changing, grew a little taller and even began to have more of an appetite (some days) especially when the day started with three slices of homemade French toast dipped in real maple syrup.

Not only did we officially begin using male pronouns, but Hunter got a revised birth certificate, a new passport and a legal name change. He sailed through driver’s ed and is the proud owner of a “permit” with his legal name and male gender marker.

Hunter’s confidence swelled in direct proportion to the amount of love and acceptance he received from family, friends, the community — strangers he may never meet.

Leelah Alcorn committed suicide because she could no longer live with parents who insisted on calling her a he knowing they would never acknowledge the girl she was born to be. Ally Moms was born. Jay Ralko lost his battle with his demons. I spoke to a room full of Jay’s friends assuring them, that as a mom, I would love our transgender children, always.

We shared our journey publicly. Hunter’s story appeared on the cover of The Detroit Jewish News, The Detroit Free Press and USAToday.com. We organized an event for transgender youth and families where attendance exceeded our wildest expectations as nearly 250 spilled out into the chapel lobby. We founded a non-profit organization, Stand with Trans, to benefit and support transgender youth (and their families) so kids would have the tools to feel confident, validated and loved.

regina boone photo

photo credit: Regina Boone, The Detroit Free Press, staff photographer

What a ride this past year has been. What a surprising 16 years. From the much anticipated birth of our second child to tom-boy tantrums, academic angst and social anxiety, Hunter has become a true mensch. He has come into his own over the last few years. He doesn’t focus on the rough patches but on the fact that he has gotten past them. The transformation from an unhappy, moody, withdrawn, dysphoric adolescent to a positive, loving, open, confident 16 year old has been nothing short of remarkable.

Hunter is kind and caring. He is compassionate. He understands that his weekly time at the Friendship Circle means so much more than just an after school activity. He is tolerant and patient with those less nimble. Hunter is not your typical 16 year old in many ways and very much a teenager in others. He knows what he likes from music to television to video games. He is not influenced by his peers. He has worked really hard to be who he is at this moment in time.

Hunter 2Together, we have traversed the past year. As his mom, I showed Hunter that he was loved unconditionally. He knows that even when I am angry or disappointed (in a choice he made) I will ALWAYS love him. I will NEVER turn my back on him. I will FOREVER be his champion.

Hunter, happy 16th birthday, son. I cannot wait to see what the next year will bring. You are a beautiful soul, a piece of my heart, a force to be reckoned with.

What a Week for the Trans* Community

WOW. It has been quite a week. For the past few months there have been many emails, texts and phone calls leading up to the event that occurred Tuesday evening at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield: Transgender Youth and Families, You are Not Alone.

BACK STORY

When I was a little girl my mom always made BIG birthday parties. Every kid on the block was invited and she baked, planned games, bought party favors and served lunch…all at home. Of course there was a lot of anticipation leading up to the big day. From shopping for a new party dress to choosing the right hair accessories, birthday celebrations were a big deal. On the day of the party, I would get ready and wait. The waiting was agony. Looking out towards the front of the house from the vantage point of our entry way, I wondered if anyone would show up.

FAST FORWARD

Well, some things haven’t changed. This event was a big deal. It was so important to get the word out about the needs of the Transgender youth community. I wanted to create more awareness, educate families and provide information and resources to those who needed it.

regina boone photo

photo credit Regina Boone

I distributed flyers via Facebook, twitter and email. I handed them out from my stash in my purse to anyone who showed any interest. I wrote and distributed a press release to a pretty good list of media contacts. I made calls. I talked it up. I toss and turned. I waited. Then, the Detroit Free Press called. They wanted to tell our story. “Would you be available for an interview,” Kristen Jordan Shamus, the reporter wanted to know. “Are you kidding? Of course we will be available.”

Meanwhile, the pacing, the worrying, the waiting continued. We had two professionals who committed their time to present information to an eager audience. But, who would come? Would it be a success?

Feeling optimistic, we printed 75 flyers. I reasoned that if they were leftover I could reuse them. I intentionally didn’t put a date on the informational hand-out.

The day finally arrived. People started arriving 30 minutes ahead of time…they were actually coming! And, they kept coming. Before I knew it, the crowd was spilling out into the reception area; chairs were being added. A room designed for 200 was full. I couldn’t believe it. This was beyond anything I could’ve imagined.

By the way, USA Today had picked up the Detroit Free Press story. (O M G)

The eclectic audience was made up of families, health care professionals, therapists, post-transition adult transgender individuals, pre-transition teens with their parents, clergy, teachers…WOW.

GRATITUDE

For everyone that shared news of the upcoming event, to those who sent notes of encouragement, for anyone who cheered us on during the planning of the event, I thank you. I am so grateful for what we were able to accomplish is such a short period of time. The more we tell our story, the more awareness, and understanding is spread; it’s a wild-fire of positivity.

If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out to one of our Ally Moms. There are nearly 70 woman across the country who are available for a call or text. We all have a transgender child. We all are supportive. We all can and will provide a loving ear.

You are NOT alone.

 

 

From Teen Lesbian to Grown (Trans) Man

After several years of “being a lesbian,” and a brief stint identifying as gender queer, Sherri’s son finally figured out he was transgender. They were lucky because Zak talked to both parents for hours on end while he was trying to come to terms with his identity.

sherri palmer and zachNow at 25, he is legally male, married to a woman, has had top surgery and is on “T.” It sounds like there was more discussion and uncertainty about his name than whether he was male or female. Vacillating between two spellings of Zak/Zach/Zachary, the third official name change seemed to stick.

“He was SUPER shy and VERY anxious his whole life and especially in HS. It started getting better in college; there was a big improvement after he started his social then physical transition. He is more anxious than the norm – but his self-esteem and sense of well-being are so much better now. He is less emotional since being on testosterone.”

As far as family acceptance, it’s been a mixed bag. Sherri’s dad, ZaK’s grandpa, gave them lip service. He apologized for insisting that his grandson was really a girl but when he came to visit, he could “barely look at my son.” Sherri’s mom hoped that Zak would “go back to being a lesbian,” but after seeing an Oprah episode about trans* people, seemed to have a greater understanding and acceptance.

The little ones in the family really didn’t bat an eye. When Sherri’s three year old granddaughter was told that “we thought we had a baby girl but realized that we really had a boy,” she accepted the information without question. It was several years later when she realized the “part about the penis.” At that point she asked if he “had girl parts down there.”

When Zak began shaving it was a big deal. Of course, there were issues in finding clothes to fit his changing body; now, he is fully masculinized and knows what fits and what doesn’t.

Living in a small town has its challenges. Either everyone knows your business or they remember when…

You get past the awkward moments with a smile and learn to share just enough with inquiring minds so they are left with either the desire to know more out of morbid curiosity or true compassion and understanding.

____________________________________________

Sherri is one of our Ally Moms. This new series profiles an Ally Mom along with her child to share a piece of their journey. In some cases, names will be changed to protect privacy.

Contact us below to find out how to be an Ally Mom.