Hogaboom Kids Vs. Huge Salmon

a thousand fumbly moments

Hogaboom Kids Vs. Huge Salmon

Just one teensy tiny anecdote about what it’s like supporting a trans child.

I’m at a medical appointment with my oldest.

Practitioner: chit-chat chit-chat [misgenders my child] chit-chat. Then she says right away, “I really like the name Phoenix!”

Me: “Thank you! You know, he picked that name out himself. When he was eight! So I can’t take the credit!”

Practitioner seems taken aback, because of the pronoun correction probably but also, in my experience, people often don’t understand how a child could “pick out” their own name.

“What… what was their name before?”

Me, smiling and relaxed and making eye contact and really hearing that question and answering a bit slowly: “You know, I don’t usually share that! Because… he’d prefer I don’t.”

Practitioner says something polite, seems a little uncertain (and may have been worried she shouldn’t have asked that) but the room still feels pretty relaxed.

Me [laughing]: “You know it’s amazing when your child wants to change their name, it’s like – dang my feelings are hurt a little! I’m so used to it now – it’s been years.”

Practitioner nods and laughs, then:

Phoenix: “I think of it as a gift. It’s a gift my mom gave me,” – he places his hands forward in a little open prayer shape – “and I appreciated it, and I decided to pass it on.”

***

These interactions happen pretty regularly. I am not complaining about this practitioner at all. She was kind throughout, I’ll add.

I will say if you are not trans, you have no idea what it’s like to be stared at, to be subject to gender policing, constant misgendering, hostile glares, invasive questions, physical threats – all of the above due to your perceived gender identity.

I don’t know what that’s like either, as I am cisgender. But it’s fatiguing, I can tell you that much.

By way of one tiny example, my entire life I have been able to stroll into a bathroom and know no one will question why I’m in there or hate crime my ass because of how they perceive my gender and whether it belongs to me. So, I didn’t think much about public bathrooms for much of my life. But I have a teeny tiny window into the difficulty now, due to how much time I’m with my child and/or supporting my child. Life is much harder, when one can’t relax about public bathrooms! Single use and genderless restrooms are literally a public health issue, but many cisgender people don’t see that nor advocate for these bathrooms as passionately as they should.

I remember the first time my oldest child used the men’s changing room at a department store. I will never forget the employee (Aberdeen Marshalls) who said, “OK sir – right this way!” and escorted my child with a relaxed wave of her arm. Bless that fucking woman. I sat there with tears welling up in my eyes and tried to act casual. I’d been prepared for something else.

It’s not that people who are inclusive or who do the right thing deserve special acclaim, or a medal. It’s that I can be so apprehensive that I get this flood of relief when people are kind or bare-minimum decent.

So if you’re cisgender, when you think or say, “Why don’t ‘they’ – ” I want to encourage you to shut up one hundred percent and stop talking. You’re just wrong, you’re embarrassing yourself, and you can do better. And while there are people who might be willing to take you under their wing and explain things to you – sometimes I’m that person! – at the end of the day, if you keep doggedly grasping old ideas and crummy ones you might find people aren’t too patient with you nor interested in you.

Phoenix and I discussed this conversation when we got in the car. We giggled about it a bit. “I think [the practitioner] was just ignorant,” Phoenix said – meaning, did not pick up on clues that Phoenix was trans, and in general is undereducated on trans issues. I think that is an accurate assessment.

I can’t speak for Phoenix, but I can say ignorance is interesting to me. We are all ignorant in some way or another. But how we handle things when our ignorance is exposed – that is the mark of our character. 

Phoenix

apologies: you can do better than how you were done by

Apologies have not come easy to me because growing up, the adults in my life did not apologize to me (or, as far as I could tell, to anyone else). They sometimes behaved remorsefully, but that is not the same at all. In fact, the remorseful parental behavior is rather damaging: because as a child, your parents’ distress and weakness (feeling sorry for themselves or embarrassed when they erred) will often precipitate a strong sense of your own culpability, and that is hard to recover from. If you are someone who had a childhood like this, my heart is with you. It’s a very difficult experience and it is hard to overcome.

Night Drive

believe

Night Drive

We are in for several  months of absolutely stunning, perfect weather. We’ve had nothing but sunshine and warmth, and delicious soft rains. The daylight lasts well past nine PM and I’m taken back to my childhood and how much I loved those late twilights. During the blue and white, perfect daylight the life springs from the soil and everywhere the scent of green grass and blooms; the peonies we brought in to fill a vase are startlingly redolent with a heady scent. Everything is in bloom and the hot earth is panting and giving forth greenery. It’s beautiful here; I live by the mountains and by the sea. I may travel but I would have such a difficult time living anywhere else.

My youngest son has become irascible and peevish in this last half a year. I’ve parented long enough to not worry too much, But I don’t ignore those kinds of things either: children need interventions when things aren’t going well, when they are struggling. Tonight I made an offhand comment and he took offense; this is happening with relative frequency of late. He comes in the bedroom and lays down next to me I do not say all the things the adults in my life used to say to me. I don’t tell him he has a bad attitude or he’s snotty or selfish. I do not make condescending remarks about puberty or “teen attitude”. It’s a little damned depressing these thoughts even come to mind but, that’s how I was raised. Still, It is ending with me, I won’t parent that way. I won’t treat mine the way I myself was treated. My son holds me and I put my head on his chest. Both kids’ voices are deepening, and they are getting broader through the shoulders and they are taller than I and although we laugh about it, it puts me off track a bit. Impending old age and death, a ways off perhaps but sometimes it doesn’t seem so.

The older child soon creeps in and I hold him a while too. The two children seek me out several times a day. This is why, exciting as my career is, I can’t and won’t work fulltime as long as there are kids that need this. All kids need this. To think when I was pregnant with my first, I worried I wouldn’t have enough love, wouldn’t have what it takes. Well. I have what it takes. Turns out. What surprises me is that every day I can return to that intention, that not one day goes by I’m on autopilot all day. Sometimes I think parenting taught me mindfulness more than any other practice, or tradition, or lecture, or book.

The windows are open and I can feel the sea air and I can hear the trainyard; a sole candle burns on the dresser. The house is quieting although the younglings stay up late; they too are comforted by the long summer evenings, I think. Children of their mother.

 

“and the stars through his soul”

We’re at the checkout lane closest to the north door at the supermarket and I turn and ask my oldest child, “Is it time we look into top surgery?” “Yes,” he tells me simply.

Parenting a trans child is amazing. It’s nothing like what I thought it would be. But back in the day I didn’t think anything particularly well-informed or progressive and I didn’t think about it much at all, damn my eyes. Like so many, I was pretty ignorant and (I’m not proud to say) I didn’t see much relevancy in learning more. Since Beeps came out I’ve made up for lost time, sure.

I’m glad I did.

It’s like a gift because, even while we were raising this child as a girl, he still came to know the rules and routines of boyhood and manhood well. You’ve gotta learn that landscape or you risk great peril. It’s a man’s world, damn it all. So Beeps – just like I! – we know well and so much of a man’s way of things. We know their rules and their mores; we know their expectations and agreed-upon codes. We know how to do their laundry and find their haircuts and make their appointments and we know a lot of their body language and their often hostile landscape because unlike men, we couldn’t afford to be ignorant.

But now my child steps away from me, out of the aisle we walked side by side together. They are no longer watching men and caretaking men and protecting themselves – as I do! – they are a young man themselves and they get a little more freedom soon. To see my child reach out and claim this masculine world as their own, it’s indescribable. From those “little” things like his first binder and his shift to different underwear (“These are the best,” he tells me with those tiger eyes and that sedate smile as he pushes the legs of his boxer shorts – fruit prints, cheerful pineapples and lemons – deep into his jeans while dressing. Bent at the waist and efficiently adjusting himself in the same movements I’ve seen his father make and I look away and my eyes sting with tears), to the bigger things like shaving his head; like responding in public when I say, “boys” aloud to the two of my children.

I see those little pains too. He cannot yet enter a men’s restroom due to a (reasonable) fear of violence. We have to make different plans there, when out in public. The T will change that, is changing that – but it’s a process. He is not yet fully in the world or rather the world won’t give him a comfortable place although the world, too, is changing.

So there are some clouds that flit across the sky now and then but most days are absolute joy, it is like a playfield, and the world is very fresh and very special. This afternoon we’re standing in the aisle and examining the men’s deodorants. Names like “Wolfthorn” and “Power Fresh” and “Pure Sport” and “Iced Musk & Ginger”. Beeps is not at all embarrassed about second puberty – quite the opposite, he is frank and forthcoming and impressively educated. But he is and has always been so composed that he might ask for something special and you might miss it, might miss how important it is. And I have to pay a great deal of particular attention.

It’s so strange because when I think about this experience, and what’s ahead of us, I just feel so fortunate and at the same times it feels almost unreal. I guess I’m a slow learner. Or maybe the phrase is: slow to assimilate.

It’s a bigger change than I realized.

absolutely a precious thing

Ralph and I are home late but we are putting together a dinner with several parts: chick’n strips, steamed cauliflower and broccoli, roasted carrots, gravy from scratch, homemade fluffy biscuits. The preparations take a while and the dining room table waits, the children having set each plate with a folded napkin. Four small juice glasses.

Sometimes I think of preparing an elaborate dinner and setting it in the warmer to wait until the kids come upstairs from their gaming. They work work work (gaming or drawing) until they are famished. They come upstairs crying out for food. Besides little bouts of inspiration here and there, they are uninterested in learning how to cook for themselves, let alone the family. I don’t worry at all because I know they are growing. They are being raised in a home with a love of food and with good homemade fare on the table several times a day; they will very likely grow into this aptitude themselves when they are ready. (And if they don’t – what of it?)

My youngest child’s locks are long; tonight he asks me to dye the blond tips a cool blue. I put on gloves and mix up a concoction and paint his hair, his beautiful honey-colored length. I knot his hair up on top of his head and instruct him on how to cowash it to keep the color. He tells me, “I have hair under my arms now!” and shows me – proud. His shoulders are getting broad and yesterday after he asked me to snuggle him, as I slid behind him on the bed to put my arms around him saw stretch marks on the smooth skin of his back; he is growing so fast. He tells me he stayed up all night and waited until Ralph got up to get ready for work, so he could crawl into bed with me: “The way things should be,” he says, his eyebrows beetling and his lips set firm. 

Both kids want me to work less. When I took the day off yesterday and had us do housework they were happy and they sang and played and enjoyed our time together as much as if I’d taken them to the beach. There is absolutely no mistaking the fact that as long as we prioritize parenting, one of us adults won’t get to develop their career as far as it might have gone – that’s looking to be me, set back about twenty years. I have searched every brain crevice and I know it’s what I want (and it’s what Ralph wants), but sometimes I get salty as fuck about how little we want to spend on our kids, how few resources we throw them. My kids get to be raised differently and I wouldn’t have thought it would be one of my legacies but it is. Today in any case I did get to stitch some darts in a burnout velvet, and I got to do a few more this and that, but to be honest much of the day was spent caring for children, and the home, and putting time into a few other people besides.

you wanna be in the show / c’mon let it go!

That’s right! It’s Friday (the 13th; & also Stevie Wonder’s birthday), and I have a fresh steamed batch of link awesomeness. Pour your favorite beverage and let’s get going!

Ethics and health: Factory farms the only way to ‘feed the world’? Not so, argues Science paper by Tom Philpot

Teen Moms Look for Support, But Find Only Shame by the wonderful Miriam Zoila Pérez at Colorlines:

“Advocates like Bayetti Flores think that focusing narrowly on [teen] preventing pregnancy doesn’t address the root cause of these disparities, many of which exist among communities of similar socioeconomic status regardless of age of parenting. Instead, she argues, it turns a societal issue into an individual problem, where the blame for negative outcomes gets transferred onto the individual girls themselves—most frequently girls of color. Despite the fact that there are more white teen parents than teen parents of color overall, Latinas and African Americans are often the target of prevention programs because of the higher incidence of teen pregnancy and parenting within the communities.”

“That data can be picked apart pretty easily,” says [Verónica Bayetti Flores of the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health]. “If you look at those negative outcomes in terms of socioeconomic indicators, I think you’d see similar trends. It’s trying to place the blame on something that is more a symptom than a cause.”

And from a year ago: author Hilary Mantel ruffles feathers regarding the same subject (thanks, reader Amy for sending this link on).

And listen: I’m a fair-minded and judicious moderator, methinks. But I was a pregnant teen, and I’ve been thinking about this a lot, and going over bone-deep hurts, and I’d encourage people to read the articles and really consider what kind of statement they want to make – if they make one at all (it’s really okay not to, you know).

Why do Girls Feel More Depressed after First Time Sex? from Rachel Rabbit White. Well one reason is, we usually have some pretty inept lovers and have been entirely too pressured about the whole business. This is a great, thoughtful piece, and I encourage anyone to read it if you plan on further interacting with the human race.

In both the No-Shit-Really? and also the I-Want-To-Cry-Because-The-Status-Quo-Sucks category (in other words, people are now shying away from “dieting” and calling the same behaviors, “lifestyle choices” etc.), we have: Dieting Linked To Eating Disorders at Medical Health News. Thanks reader Jeanne for sharing this through Google Reader.

“Constant dieting in a bid to improve appearance and reach what is perceived as a ‘socially acceptable’ low weight can cause an obsession with weight and an increased likelihood of developing an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia. “

*ahem*

Film: How to Die in Oregon. I will definitely be seeing this. Even watching the brief promo vid brought up a lot of emotions regarding the hospice and dying care of my father, which I was so intimately involved with.

Lovable Local Cop Tells Other Cops How to Be More Lovable at The Stranger (also shared by Jeanne). “It doesn’t matter which population we’re dealing with, it takes multiple contacts to build trust,” Gracy explains. “But every positive encounter helps build our good reputation.”

“Women bare real pregnant and post-pregnancy bellies to show hypocrisy of glossy media images”. No photoshop, surgery, smoke and mirrors, “flattering” lighting, etc. I seriously want to give each of these women a high-five, or a fist-bump, or buy ’em a coffee or tea or margarita. Great project (related: thisisawoman.com).

Local: Child Luring Incident Reported in Aberdeen. Sounds like those two girls handled things well.

Malls Across America; a great slideshow from 1989. Be sure to read the artist’s commentary, too!

Crafters: you can knit “The Dude”, inspired by a new-classic film I can’t get enough of! (and not just because of how many “fuck” words are in it).

Make: I was complimented on my rhubarb pie this week (and ’tis the season!). I followed this recipe.

And finally – this? Is so, incredibly, simply, beautiful.