In a different place

Hunter

When I take the time to think back, I am startled into the realization that a mere eighteen months ago I was in a very different place. Our family was in a different place.

Somehow I’ve managed to brush aside the memories of that overwhelming urge to google every iteration of gender identity disorder that I could come up with. Simultaneous to this desperate search for knowledge, my husband wrestled with the possibility that this was a phase; many adolescents go through an exploration stage, he insisted.

Deep down, I knew he was wrong. I knew this was not a phase. I knew that our child was clear headed in his convictions. This was about much more than shopping in the boys’ department. CONFESSION. Though I was avoiding the inevitable–what I knew down to the core of every fiber of my being, I was seeking out a therapist — not just any therapist. We (Richard and me) wanted someone that would act as “Switzerland.”  FEAR. We were desperately afraid that the wrong therapist would polarize the situation rather that remain neutral. We were terrified, really, that if we chose poorly, the outcome would be devastating.

At this point we are “pre” everything; pre-male pronouns, pre-name change, pre-purging of all things girlie, pre-public awareness, pre-full understanding. When Olivia* initially asked to buy a chest binder I put her off. When I found the remnants of clothing layers shed before bedtime the previous night, my heart began to break. Sports bras, t-shirts and a home-made device looking something like a prototype of a strapless chest binder, heaped onto the floor taunting me to LOOK at what my child was going through. Then, upon discovering that Olivia took it upon herself to order a binder and have it shipped to a friend’s house, a strange mix of tangled emotions reared up at me.

It’s one thing to say, “OK. We accept you. We are with you. We support you.” It’s another to actually feel comfortable with a shift in mindset. I completely understood that my child, my DAUGHTER, wanted to look male. I understood that in order to look male, breasts needed to be camouflaged. What I couldn’t wrap my head around was the use of a binder. I read all the articles that said compressing breast tissue was “harmful, could cause cancer, might cause shortness of breath, and so on.”

It was strange to log on to my computer and see google and amazon searches for chest binders available in a variety of colors, styles and sizes sold by Chinese companies that guaranteed discreet delivery. Hunter was hopefully searching for solutions that would aid his transition and help him “pass” as male when out in public. This garment became a lifeline.

I’ve gotten pretty comfortable with the place we are in. We’ve come a long way over the last year and a half. That’s the good news. The downside is that this is just a temporary stop along the way.  Every so often, I need to remind myself that over the next eighteen months we will be in a very different place than we are in right now. I am not really ready nor prepared for moving on in our journey. I know that moving on means letting go of what has become familiar and comfortable. I am not really ready for the unknown.

 

*Olivia is “pre” name transition

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Raising A Son

Hunter FTMFor the most part, I have always been the mother of girls. When my oldest daughter was born more than 18 years ago, I actually felt unprepared to mother a daughter. Then, as the years passed, I couldn’t imagine not having girls in the house. HA. Parenting a son was a foreign concept.

I instinctively taught my girls about being female. You know, not sitting “criss-cross applesauce” when wearing a dress in circle time, what to expect as they approached puberty, how to use a tampon, and the best hairbrush for smoothing their tresses when blow drying and styling, among other things.

While I wasn’t looking, my daughters (well, at least one of them) secretly observed how to apply lip gloss, figured out which shoe to wear with a casual outfit and noticed when I polished my nails or got a pedicure.

My younger child was too busy building Lego fortresses and imagining life on a Bob the Builder construction site. She preferred super-hero sneakers to glittery sandals and monster Halloween costumes over the latest Disney princess attire. As the older sister was shopping for just the right gown to be Miss America, the little one was figuring out if she would be able to see out of her “headless horseman” costume while trick or treating.

Let me just say that parenting is certainly meant to be shared and dads certainly have a role in teaching their daughters…girls learn how to be treated by watching the way daddy treats mom. They learn about relationships and self-respect from their dads (or other significant, important male figure in their lives).

Recently it dawned on me that we needed to teach our son how to be a man…not just what it means to feel male but what is expected of men in society.

Now, I look to my husband. He needs to be in the driver’s seat here. The spotlight is now on him to teach our son what it means to be a man, what the responsibilities are. I believe that a man should hold open the door, let a woman go first, have a firm handshake, stand up and greet someone by looking them in the eye and so much more. One could argue that much of this should be expected of woman as well. Humor me for now.

For a trans boy, being a man takes on a whole different meaning. There are behaviors that belong to guys such as the way they walk, the way legs are crossed, the way hands are shoved deep into their pockets, etc. Boys don’t squeal with delight the way girls do when excited about something. The male stance is different. Their body language is different. Their voice is different. These are things that a trans male learns by observing and studying other men.

For Hunter, a FTM trans male teen, there is a lot to learn. He watches YouTube videos and tries to deepen his voice so as to sound more like a GUY. He walks with a swagger that can only belong to a GUY. He dresses like his GUY friends. For the first time ever, he loves to shop. This was my child that hated to go into a store…refused to try anything on…carried on like he was being tortured.

I am learning what it means to have a son, to parent a boy. It’s not so bad – most of the time.