Embrace the Vomit

I need only to hear the word to become entirely skeeved out. Even if from afar, I (am not proud to say) I have a physical reaction which usually looks a little like this: all the blood drains from my face, I break out in unfettered sweating and, most certainly, a veritable near-tidal-wave of panic. Just the descriptor alone can bring me to my knees. Call it whatever you like: barf, puke, gooch, yoke, upchuck, hurl, retch, spew, vomit… in any verbiage I fucking hate it.


No seriously, my vomitphobia is so problematic, that I have wasted time, explored its deeper meaning with more than one therapist.  (Usually this has been in a clinical setting, but friends who happen to have degrees have been subjected to my neuroses, as well.) A few years ago, during one such conversation, my therapist told me to “embrace the vomit”. Or maybe it was “appreciate” or “enjoy” or “admire” or even <3 it…I truthfully don’t recall. Had I not had years of successful and fulfilling interactions with her, I most likely would have walked out, announcing her quackery upon exit. In fact, I am relatively sure I looked at her and asked if she was smoking dope. But, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, I sort of, kind of, in a way, knew what she was getting at.

Enter three o’clock yesterday morning. Jess, for the first time in probably 12 years that she’s awoken me in the middle of the night for any reason suggested she might throw up. I dutifully dragged my ass from bed, accompanied her to the bathroom, assumed the position alongside her (wait, who am I?  I actually went in!) on the floor and assumed (prayed) it was nothing. All was quiet and calm…and then Linda Blair showed up.  Despite the sheer volume and ferocity, she (Jess, not Linda) was calm, impressively quiet and what could only be described as matter-of-fact. Three tremendous boots, a few follow-up spits then she turned to me, smiled and said, in her best Miranda voice “I feel better now”. Once we were as sure as we could be that (what would turn out to be) this wave was over, she stood up, put her palm on her belly, turned size ways toward the mirror and announced that she looked thinner.

We gathered ourselves up from the bathroom floor and, after I checked for errant splashed matter,  we returned to our respective beds to try to sleep.* Jess grabbed her phone which sleeps in my room every night (points for me for good parenting) and began watching something (possibly, no, probably) inappropriate on Netflix. I, on the other hand, lay back down and metaphorically pat myself on the back. I handled that like a real mom. I was right there in the thick of it and did not tentatively rub her back from the threshold of the bathroom door, eyes clenched tight, breathing stopped as I maybe might have with Harrison back in the day. Um, I think I actually embraced the vomit.

I understand and acknowledged that for my fellow vomitphobes out there this was sweat-inducing to even read it. It probably sent you running for the closest vat of Purell. You might even be trying to will away the voices in your head that keep taunting you with, “you’re next”. You can admit it. No judgment.

Three hours later: round two.  Three hours after that: round three.  And then all was quiet. My takeaway:

  • It wasn’t so bad
  • Jess is a champion shot
  • I learn from her everyday
  • I really really really really hope that I don’t get it

We are now a solid 24+ hours since the final episode.  Jess is fine.  Mom is fine.  She’s watching more (inappropriate) Netflix in her room.  I’ve showered. called Wegman’s, blaming the sushi, dumplings and sesame chicken.  They’re sorry.  They are giving me my money back.  But aside from the $35  back in my pocket, I feel way richer: I might just have conquered the vomitphobia.**

*I know many a mother who would have brought ill child into the big bed with them for comfort.  I, with only a little bit of shame, will admit to not being that mother.

**Special thanks and love to KB, HR & BS








Stayin’ Alive

I returned to my car, turned the key and jounced a little when the radio came to life with the euphonious “Stayin’ Alive”.  In and of itself, this was unremarkable.  After all, the dial was set to the classic hits station (read:  they play “oldies” which, ouch,  happen to be from the era during which I grew up) and that song is, by all accounts, a classic.  What was remarkable, however, was that it was playing after I had spontaneously (more on that in a moment) visited my father’s grave.  For the uninformed, my father freakin’ loved the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack.  In fact, he had been known to listen to it often, always loudly, proudly and while in his car.  It was not unusual for him to pull into the garage with “Night Fever” blasting so loud we could hear it in the house. He would then remain in the car until the very last note, when he would finally kill the engine and come in to join us.  It is not often that I catch The Bee Gees on the radio, but when I do it is as if my dad is right there in the car with me.


Monday will be ten years since my father died.  Every year since, I’ve viewed January 11th as a day-to-get-through knowing that eleven days later is his birthday…also known as a-day-to get-through.  But this anniversary feels somehow more permanent than have the previous nine.  Ten years is a long time.  So much has happened.  My father knew my two little boys.  Now I have one young man and one teenage daughter.  I’m fifty.  I’ve gotten divorced.  I am gray! How could he have missed all that?

I have been feeling out of sorts, not known how to commemorate it, not known what to do with myself.  So, today, while making a return to a store that happens to be about five minutes from the cemetery, I headed over.  (Of note: the store is a chain.  There are others nearer to home.  So, um, perhaps it wasn’t quite so spontaneous after all…)

I thought I knew where to find him, although I am not sure why I thought that since every.single.time. I go there I get lost in the beautiful winding roads that seems to go on forever.  I was sure I knew which section, but once I got there (and saw that he wasn’t) I knew I’d taken a wrong turn.  (Of note: there are no headstones at this pristine cemetery, rather all identifying plates are on the ground…therefore, frankly, every section looks pretty much the same.)  Finally, as I began to feel my shoulders rise, anxiety and irritation percolating, I followed the signs to the “Welcome Center” (yeah, I thought it was a rather absurd choice of words for a cemetery, too) and approached the gentleman tending the front desk of the bright, yet somehow somber office.

“Are you able to tell me where I can find someone?” I asked.  He hesitated, and I knew that I needed to be a bit clearer.  “Oh, I’m not looking for a welcome center employee (of which there seemed to be many); rather, it is a permanent resident, if you will.”  He smiled. I smiled.  But I hated that I didn’t know where to find my father.  He looked up the name, confirmed his date of death (like I needed to hear that!) and told me where I could find him.  He used a bright pink highlighter to show me the route on a map of the grounds and then proceeded to tell me exactly where to find him at Mt. Nebo, Section 28A.  I flashed a smile, cut him off and assured him that I could handle it from here…mostly because I can read.  And then I left, map in hand, feeling the weight of the welcome center follow me out the door.

Well, I can read,  but, unlike my father, I am literally incapable of following a map.  It is source of embarassment, but one I can live with given the fact that I am never far from a navigation system. As such, once in the car I managed to get lost.  Again. This time was different though: this time I knew where I was ultimately headed and that whole ability to read thing was going to work in my favor.  I drove around in just a few circles before I spotted the austere sign telling me I was in the right place.  I got out of the car, pulled my sweater more tightly around me, found a rock that felt strong, meaningful and appropriate, and headed across the lawn, taking care to not step on any of the nameplates in the ground.  There was one new one, from just last year, while the rest had been there long before my father.  I placed the rock on his stone, told him the highlights of the year (“I’m engaged”, “Harrison got his EMT license!” “Jess is holding steady and still making me laugh every day!”),told him I love him and asked him to keep on showing up when I least expect it.  I was there for less than ten minutes.  The air got colder, the sky grew darker and my heart became fuller.

I seldom go to the cemetery.  The last time I went it was a stunningly beautiful day.  I took a long walk around the grounds, trying to ignore the fact that there was a burial happening several hundred yards away.  I cried like a baby.  I may have even lain down on the ground next to him begging him to help me through the day.  And I definitely stopped for an ice cream cone on the way home.

Today felt different.  I am strong. My kids are strong.  My mother is strong. My brothers are strong.  None of us has lost our sense of humor which we were taught was more important than just about anything.  My father’s legacy is apparent – like his father before him, all seven of his grandchildren will vehemently support the assertion that they were his favorite.   I have a wonderful partner whom my father would most definitely approve of.  My brothers and I remain the best of friends…just how my dad wanted it.  But we all still miss him every single day.

Ten years.

Now turn up the volume and go: Stayin’ Alive

Let’s Hear It For The Girls

We had logged a few hours of intense outlet shopping and already consumed a reasonably healthy lunch when we popped into the nearby McDonald’s for further sustenance and caffeine. I was beginning to fade and, for no good reason (particularly after the shopping scores I had made) was feeling a little down. When we walked in there was a table of women, mostly blonde, all notably attractive, with their Diet Cokes, McWraps and cell phones in hand, oozing of a connection to one another which was, somehow, ridiculously powerful. I made note and kept walking. Barry, my gregarious, never-shy fiancé, however, commented aloud about what a great photo it would make. All seven women laughed as one…not at him, but with him.

I chimed in that I, too, had noticed the beauty of the moment and we began to banter back and forth for a few moments, my need for caffeine still firmly in place. We said a tentative goodbye and headed for the counter to order with a promise (threat?) to return. I requested an iced coffee and hot fudge sundae and Barry (strongly, unrelentingly, vigorously) encouraged me to go back and chat. I resisted. I sometimes do that. I wondered if the moment had passed, if they had actually just given us a courtesy laugh and were now chatting about the crazy couple that just intruded on their otherwise lovely lunch of Mc-things. My confidence faltered. Reluctantly I returned to the table and was greeted by lovely, warm, funny women. Women I could sense had a story….and everyone knows how much I love a story.

Ramona, with the bright smile and quick wit commented that Barry and I were such a cute couple and asked what our status was. I told her we are engaged and she, like I would have, grabbed (in the best way possible) my left hand to inspect the goods. She held my hand, in a way that did not make me feel the least bit uncomfortable and kvelled about the design of the ring. Noticing the two young women (later to be known as Paige and Brynn) as well as the early teen (Amelia), I implored them to “marry a man who cherishes you” and Ramona, with a subtle sadness said, “I did”. I knew she had a story.

They enthusiastically inquired as to the when and where of our wedding plans. We don’t have any yet, but told them of the kids’ suggestion that we do it at Water Country . “That would be awesome!” they gushed but went on to joyously encourage us to do it right then and there, on the beach at nearby Kennebunkport and they would be our witnesses, bridesmaids and flower girls. We would then, they implored, post a picture on Facebook to tell the world. And, I might note, they were only half joking.

The conversation became funnier and even more animated every moment. At this point, I was seated next to Paige, a beautiful young lady with gorgeous thick hair in a (fantastic) mess on top of her head. At the table were her mother, her grandmother, her sister, her cousin, her aunt and a dear friend who, while not a part of the blood line, was clearly one of the girls. Earlier in the day, I had (lovingly) (and repeatedly) called Barry an asshat, an expression I see all over Facebook but wasn’t entirely sure what it meant, but just saying asshat is funny, so I did. Paige, being of a certain demographic, seemed like someone who might actually know what it meant, so I asked her and she did not know, which, in a way, made me happy. We asked Siri (who did know) and she told me it is “a dumb person”. “Ohhhh” we said collectively. “Better than calling someone a ball sack”, said Ramona. A nanosecond pause and we all busted out laughing: from Grandma down to 12 year old Amelia. And it felt great.

A good half an hour passed as Barry and I melted into the family, side bar conversations between us. We learned about one another, if only a little. Ramona, who is someone I would most definitely want to call my friend, touched my heart with her quick wit, irreverence (she said ball sack in from of the kids…and her mother!) and honesty when she elaborated on having been cherished by her husband. The same husband (and father, and uncle, and son- and brother-in-law) who had, just in June, lost what I am sure was a hard fought and vicious fight with brain cancer. We instinctively and tightly hugged at her saying the words. She’s a strong, beautiful woman who is wise, lucky and blessed to be surrounded by the same.

It was fun. It felt natural. I wanted to know these women. These women I had not wanted to bother while they were “dining”. The ones that Barry forced me to go back to, coffee and sundae in hand, and integrate myself into their conclave. I used to be better at that. Before I felt broken and worried for my children. Before I felt challenged beyond what I thought I could handle. Before I began to lose confidence in my ability to connect. Barry made me do it (he makes me do a lot of things I never thought I would do…and I love him for it.)

I’ve always been all about the sisterhood. I love women who support, love, laugh and encourage one another. This table of women define how women should interact and simpy be with the women in their lives. I detest bitches that make everything a competition, who are not willing to protect, support and share and, perhaps most egregiously, who reject the strangers who approach them at McDonalds.

Brynn, Paige and Amelia: While you are most definitely blessed with strong, fabulous women in your lives, allow me to chime in: Marry a (Jewish)* man who cherishes you, who encourages you to be the best version of you and who jostles you out of your comfort zone enough that you plop yourself down at a table of strangers and walk away with a new set of friends.

*These lovelies are not Jewish, but Ramona and I agree: they make the best husbands.  I trace it back to a (healthy, not at all creepy) fear, er, adoration of their mothers.

The Fraternity Paradox

They are often, as recently as this week, in the news, and it is seldom for something good.  The houses where they reside will bring any self respecting parent or, for that matter, adult, to their knees.  Reputations for partying and acting stupid macho prevail.  But I am here to tell you that there is another side to fraternities that you probably do not, but certainly should know.

This past week, our family found ourselves, yet again, in crisis.  Everyone is safe and things are more under control than a week ago, but my hashtag for the foreseeable future: #gonnabeabumpyride remains.  Our world flipped upside down, sideways and backward…and this time it has nothing to do with a certain transgender kid living in my house.

The details are not necessary and while it is not a “secret” right now the story is complicated and raw and personal.  What is, however, available for public consumption and discussion: the behavior of a group of fraternity brothers who have, quite literally, blown me away with their concern, kindness, empathy and respect.  These are young men who, to a person, I would be proud to call my own.


Yes, these boys party.  Yes, they stay up late and often, but not always, look ugly the next day.  And yes, they talk trash, swear and fart with abandon.  Their pledge names, which morph through the years, stay with them…for life.  BUT: they study hard, are philanthropic (in this case breast cancer research and Autism Speaks) and will do anything, absolutely anything, for a brother and, I have learned, his family.

I had been told of the power of the fraternal order, but, admittedly, didn’t think it could possibly be so fierce.  The maturity, compassion and life experience of a group of 18-22 year olds was, to me, underdeveloped and ultimately incapable of acting like kind, articulate and caring men.  Wrong.  And wow.

Harrison sent his brothers a beautifully raw and honest email telling his story.  At the end he gave my number for anyone who wanted to talk  (and, I might add, he said I was “super chill”, just sayin’).  Within moments of his hitting the send button, my phone blew up with texts.  And not trite, obligatory texts, either.  These were long, thoughtful notes all of which told me how much they love (yes, they used that word) Harrison and their willingness, no, desire, to do anything possible to lend support.  As the text notifications rang out I had goosebumps on my arms and tears in my eyes.  He, and we, are blessed.

In his email, Harrison referred to his favorite quote by Ernest Howard Crosby.  I neither knew the quote or of the power that its words hold for him, but I know it now.  Amazing what one can learn from a crisis.

NO one could tell me where my Soul might be.
I searched for God, but God eluded me.
I sought my Brother out, and found all three.



My Snowman

Update: As predicted, I am being blown up (in a good way) by texts, emails and FB chat messages…you guys are the bomb.

One week ago today my family’s world was, yet again, turned on its ear.  As crises tend to do, it came on  with far less warning than I, for one, would have appreciated.  Out of respect for the players, the details are not necessary, although I anticipate an onslaught of backdoor messages once this has posted which is, actually, part of the “beauty” of this whole mess.  It has been among the most horrible times ever for us (and that’s me talking) but, like all the other “most horrible times ever”, already we’ve seen silver linings take shape.


Those who do know the details have shown undying support.  Seriously broken relationships have been rehabilitated and grossly deteriorated fences have been mended.  Burgeoning adults have stepped out of their comfort zones and have robustly demonstrated more empathy and compassion than one knowing them superficially would ever have presumed.  Full grown adults have put aside their own issues, concerns, responsibilities and adventures to make room for us and our needs.  And, while there is quite literally nothing any of them can do to make this all go away, they’ve rallied around us fiercely.

In the past, it has not been until a crisis is more comfortably in my rearview mirror that I have been so acutely aware of the astounding level of support not only for me, but for my family.  While I firmly stand behind my assertion that with every crisis there is always one person who disappoints you, I find that it, and that person, no longer matter.  The benevolent in my life so far outweigh the, um, assholes, that it is, in a silver lining kind of way, almost funny.

Let this serve as the first of many thank yous: to my family of origin, my new and wonderful family, friends of long standing, friends of shorter but no less loyal standing, colleagues dating back further than twenty years, professionals, friends who are professionals in this field who have been holding my hand and guiding me to the right people and places, a slew of kids who spent their high school years in the basement of my house and, with perhaps the greatest fervor:  a certain group of frat boys.

We will get through this.  We always do.  But not without our village…all of whom we love.

p.s. Don’t even try to figure out what the snowman has to do with this: it means something to us only. <3

The Bruise

I know all about juggling lots of moving parts. In fact, some might argue that I have taken it to an art form. “Never a dull moment” is used in reference to my life so often that it is almost, but not quite, funny. I might even thrive on the chaos, but cannot make that assertion, as I simply don’t know anything else. Sounds dire and moderately hysterical, I know, but I, by some oddity, feel somewhat, kind of, in a way, on top of things.

As tantalizing as my announcement that I am living in a shitstorm may be, I am not here to elaborate on or share anything in particular. I’ve certainly got stories to tell, but out of respect for the various players, I am keeping my big mouth shut. That being said, my mind is a-racin’. My sleep is fragmented. My mood and patience are tentative. My heart is a little bit broken, in part because in every one of these situations, I am literally powerless. I can do nothing to alter, improve, destroy or dismantle the existing conditions. Ruminating and fretting: check. Obsessing and worrying: check. Eating my feelings: check.

The other night, while distracted by two or ten things, I clipped the footboard of the bed just right, resulting in an enormous bruise on my thigh, smack in the middle between my knee and hip. It was the kind of bruise that surfaced immediately and, if I am being honest, brought tears to my eyes. Over the past few days, as its colors have morphed from black to blue to yellow to green I have noticed that there appears, if you look just right, to be the outline of a person. Do you see it?


I am aware that what I am about to say sounds like proof positive that I have officially become unhinged, but… I am actually deriving a peculiar sense of comfort from the bruise. I have not named it (although the temptation is strong) but my connection to it makes me feel as though I should. Absentmindedly touching it and with the almost tender ache one has with a bruise, I feel, as the size, shape and colors change, that I am almost caressing the pain away for those I know who are in, well, shitty states of mind.

There is an odd connection between pain and pleasure, and as I touch it and mentally document the daily changes, however small, I somehow feel better. Perhaps it is the shared pain…albeit in a different flavor from that which some people I love are struggling with. Or maybe my own personal happiness feels somehow unfair and the bruise brings me back to earth. I am not sure, actually.

My bruise should be gone in about two weeks (I know because I Googled it). I hope the bruises my peeps are living with will heal as quickly.


I have a (large) jar of M&Ms hidden away. Not just plain ones, either. Rather, I have a perfect combination of plain, peanut and pretzel. No mint. No peanut butter. No minis. No mega. Despite full knowledge of said stash, my jar has either not been discovered by the others who reside in the house or, and perhaps more likely, it has been, but all are wise enough to abstain from touching.


I am very disciplined when it comes to their consumption; never taking more than one palm full per visit, never more than one visit per day. When the jar is one quarter full I dutifully replenish. No sooner. No later.

I never make an impulse purchase of a single serving bag of M&Ms at the market/Target/Walmart/Staples checkout counter. When Halloween bags are dumped on the kitchen floor, I do not ever grab a bag, opting, instead, for the Sugar Babies, which are, I might add (with sadness), few and far between.

If someone I live with were to sneak a few, I would know from the distinct aroma they leave on the breath. No one has dared.

My jar of M&Ms, which I often go weeks (okay, days) without visiting, makes me feel safe. Like a good friend, they are there when I need them, bring me cheer (plain? peanut? pretzel?) and always buoy my mood. Yep, M&Ms have that power.

One of the joys of being an adult is having an M&M jar. It is up there with staying up late, not making the bed and declining an invitation simply because you just don’t want to attend, no excuses concocted in an effort to explain yourself. To me, it is akin to money in the bank, clean sheets on the bed and fresh milk in the fridge.

When we wake in the morning, we never know what lies ahead. The day could start strong and stay that way. It could, for that matter, morph into a shitstorm. Likewise, a rough morning is not always an indicator of twelve lousy hours. This morning I was laughing in my sleep so loudly, and, according to Barry, slightly hysterically, that I woke him. (Damn, I wish I could remember what was so funny!) I went on to have a great workout – complete with making a new friend – only to have things take a turn as the day progressed. I arrived home a bit worse for the wear and considered (but did not act) delving into my jar. I will admit, I went as far at to venture to the hiding spot to check my stash. I have not filled my palm, but the day is not over yet.

If you ask me, everyone should have his or her own M&M jar. What’s yours?


Please watch it.  I wasn’t really planning on it myself, but I set the DVR just in case I changed my mind.  About twenty minutes after it began to air, I hopped on, only partially attentive.  “I Am Cait” was simply excellent.


I feared it would be a three ring circus.  It was not.

I worried that it would be fluff.  It was not.

I assumed that the presence of the Karsdashians would destroy any authenticity.  It did not.

I thought it would focus on the “pretty” and not address the deep, dark and scary.  It did not.  And it did.

Caitlyn, her story, her family and yes, even Kylie, Kim and Kanye showed a depth of acceptance, honesty and understanding that I was quite sure they never thought they would have to…and publicly at that.

I appreciated and empathized with Esther Jenner: she screwed up pronouns, acknowledged her fears, and owned that she lacked understanding.  She was bold enough to recall and inquire if a five year old Bruce not wanting to try on clothes meant more and she missed it.  She shared genuine tears at the loss of Bruce and a truly happiness about her child’s bravery.

Caitlin knows that she has a power that is bigger than she is and takes her responsibility to the Trans community seriously.  She knows that most will not have the opportunities that she has been afforded.  She wants to help.  Genuinely.

Please watch this program.  In many ways, it has nothing at all to do with transgender.  It has everything to do with being a good person with an open heart and soul.  The soul we are born with…

Ah, Facebook

Update: I spent the past two hours chatting (okay, typing) with the woman who posted the link that started it all. It started out feisty and accusatory, but I think we will both agree that it ended with each of us having a better understanding: me of her position and she of the facts of transgender. It took two days, lots of aggravation and a fair degree of unpleasantness, but all in all wounded up with everyone a little bit wiser…

It started two nights ago and continues still.  I cannot honestly recall having gotten into it like this, particularly with mere acquaintances and, truthfully, strangers, yet there is something that keeps pulling me back in, begging for more.  Yes, I am in a verbal sparring match on Facebook.

A woman who I went to high school with, and have not seen since the early 80s, often posts humorous links of people doing ridiculous things on her Facebook page.  I have noticed and appreciated the sophisticated sense of humor and bright commentary with which they are posted.  In the past, she has been supportive of Jess’s transition and appeared to be a like-minded person to myself.  And then she posted this link:


Here comment read: Wouldn’t you want to ensure the child was mature enough to make this life-altering decision? SMH. 4 years old…

This was immediately followed by a long and steady stream of her friends commenting on what a horrible decision this is, how irresponsible the parents are to allow and how it is impossible for a child that age to have any idea what they are talking about.

My response: Ouch. These comments are harsh…and uneducated. D, I thought you were cooler than this.

Then it got real ugly real fast.  And I fed right into it.

The thread  grew quickly and somehow got off on tangents discussing Jews for Jesus and whether mental illness played a role in suicide, and who is more formally educated among us.  There was horror about transitioning because, to these people (who, I suspect are upper middle class, college and beyond educated folks) that means sex reassignment surgery…as in removing body parts.  My repeated reminder that, at this age, transition means growing/cutting hair, changing clothing and pronouns – all of which are entirely reversible – fell on deaf ears.  The tone was angry, judgmental and self-righteous.  In my efforts to defend this family’s story and choices, I was told that I was, well, angry, judgmental and self-righteous.  Hmmm.

The commentary included name calling and attacking of others (me) for typos which, in their mind, indicated my ignorance.  Here are a few examples of the arguments made: “I wanted to be a fire truck when I was 4” and “At age 4 most kids only know that they want to eat candy all the time, play and hate forced nap time.”  and  “This little boy has an older sister. Perhaps he is just identifying with his sister as many younger siblings will do. [1]  But, perhaps my all time favorite: “Why not let the kid join ISIS.” [2]

This was not really about this four-year old child who has identified as transgender anymore, now was it?  Wow.

If I have queried about it once, I have queried about it a hundred times: why on earth does anyone care?  How is it in any way, shape or form affecting you?  On what planet would a child even know to go there unless they plain and simply had to?  This is not an easy journey and, I can assure you, not one that anyone would take just for shits and giggles.

The sparring continued for hours.  A few folks who were following the thread (but were wise enough to stay out of the fray by not commenting) would occasionally “like” something I had said, but, for the most part, I was flying solo and it was one hot mess yet I could not stop myself.  It was starting to become sport and I stopped feeling defensive and began to see the absurdity of it all.  And then this:,”Julie, you may be the parent of such a child, if so, I’m terribly sorry.”

Um, what?

My response: “Not sure why you are expressing sympathy to me: for having my child feel this way or for the vitriol being spewed by folks who cannot just mind their own business?”  Again, I say hmmmm.

When he arrived home, my fiance (who has never been anything other than 100% supportive of my child)  caught up on the verbal fracas, literally laughed out loud at some of the posts and began chiming in, although he did so under my moniker.  His tone was radically different from mine, yet it seems no one (despite being more educated than I)  picked up on that and  the hostility continued well into the evening (while I was asleep) at which time I was called a nasty person, there was concern and sympathy for my child that she was saddled with such a horrible woman for a mother and abject horror over my decision to have Jess undergo sex reassignment surgery.  (Of note: What?!?!?! Apparently they know something I don’t…)

Then this morning I was greeted by this little ditty:

Julie, I truly feel sorry for the children under your care. Based on our experience in this thread with you, you are teaching them, if someone thinks or acts differently than you would like them to they do not deserve respect and are free game to be the target of your hostility. I consider any one injecting their minor child with hormone blocking drugs to be unfit for parenthood. Period.

Um…accusing me of not being accepting of people who think or act differently?!?!  Clearly we have not met.[3]  And who said anything about hormone blocking drugs?[4]  Must have been the same folks who are outraged by the sex reassignment surgery that is (not) happening anytime soon.

I admit to calling this gang of people “uneducated” which they took to mean that I thought them to be high school drop-outs.  I was chastised for my word choice and acquiesced that “uninformed” was, perhaps[5], more accurate.  So, for those uninformed, here’s a little primer on transgender:

  1. Yes: Children as young as two, three and four (and older) can know that they feel that they are the wrong gender.
  2. No: Children as young as two, three and four (and older) will not undergo sex reassignment surgery. Their transition is SOCIAL: hair, clothing, name and pronouns.
  3. No: These children are not merely emulating their older siblings of the opposite sex.
  4. Yes: Any and all social transitions are completely reversible.
  5. No: These children are not doing this at the behest of their parents who wanted a boy but got a girl.
  6. No: It is not child abuse to allow children to express their gender as they are comfortable and Yes: It is abusive to not allow the same.
  7. No: This is not easy for the child, the siblings, the parents, the grandparents, the cousins, the aunts, the uncles, the friends, the teachers or the community and Yes: That is a good indication of just how strongly these kids feel.
  8. Yes: I am, like any halfway decent parent, fiercely devoted to and protective of my child. Theirs is a complicated road and it is my job to keep them safe from those who are uninformed.
  9. No: One’s being transgender does not, in any way, affect you.
  10. Yes: Kids are often way more tolerant, understanding, accepting, decent, kind and compassionate to their transgender peers than their parents are. Thank G-d and bravo!

I can see why someone who has no personal experience would consider age four to be too young to make this pronouncement.  I can appreciate the discomfort it creates. I can even respect the lack of understanding of the entire transgender world.  I cannot, however, see why anyone would consider it within their rights to tell another person how to conduct their lives.  As parents we can only walk alongside our children.  We cannot steer their ship as we see fit.  We cannot create their happiness.  We cannot tell them who they are.  I can only speak for myself when I say that I applaud these children for having the courage of their convictions, being brave enough to be true to themselves and charting their own course.  I also extend kudos to the parents for loving their children enough to enable them to be so supportive.  I have often told my child that I don’t care if she is a boy, a girl or a Martian and I will never stop supporting, advocating and loving her, no matter what gender she identifies with.  So far, it’s working pretty damn well.

[1] I have two older brothers.  Never once did I want to be a boy. Just sayin’.

[2] And I am the ignorant one.

[3] That’s a fact.  We’ve not met.  We never have, never will.  We are total and complete strangers.

[4] Hormone blockers are a well established protocol used under the care of an endocrinologist.  It is well documented that they are safe, fully reversible and can be a live saving measure for children with gender dysphoria.  So shut up.

[5] Jury’s still out on that one…


Earlier this week, PBS’s Frontline aired  a program entitled, “Growing Up Trans”.  You can see it here:


A part of me loved it.  And, a part of me hated it.  Here’s why:

I loved the title.  The fact that in the title they used “trans” which is so casual and matter of fact reiterated a heightened national awareness and, arguably, acceptance.  To my mind, “trans” is way more cool and way less clinical than transgender.  As someone living in this world, the absence of the word gender can go a long way.

I loved the honesty of the parents.  This is not easy stuff and any parent who tells you that each day is anything other than overwhelming, scary and uncertain is a liar.  I don’t care how effeminate or butch your son or daughter may be, there is nothing, not one damn thing, that prepares a parent for this transition.  Your little boy loves dolls and dresses and mermaids?  Your daughter is only interested in trucks, contact sports and super heroes?  Big deal…who cares?  In fact, when my entirely cis-gender son was little he loved to go with me to the Chanel counter at Bloomingdale’s and paint each of his fingernails a different vibrant color.  Weekly.  Never ever once did I wonder if he would come to me one day and tell me he felt that as though he was a girl.  For that matter, I didn’t even really expect it from George who so resolutely favored dolls, wigs, dresses and mermaid costumes but also acted, in many ways, “all boy”.  Yet one day he told me just that.  And, like the parents profiled on the program, I was totally, completely and utterly knocked off my axis.  Apparently I put on a brave face and had everyone convinced that it was an easy adjustment but, newsflash, it wasn’t. Still isn’t, actually.  It is, however, a whole hell of a lot easier. I love those parents for admitting their fears, anxieties, and trepidations with no apology. Bravo.

I loved the kids, each one of them, with all their individual quirkiness, for having the courage of their convictions and for sharing with the world what this feels like.  I loved how each one of them owned their behavior: the good, the bad and the ugly.  No matter your age, environment or gender…that takes balls.

I loved the lack of discussion about bathrooms.  Seriously, loved that.

I hated a few things, too.  A friend messaged me about the program:

“…Wanted to punch a few of the Dads. I am sure their reactions are pretty typical but still…”

Now, what I hated about this is not what you might think.  My friend is right.  Some of the dads’ reactions were painful to watch.  The perfect parent in me wants to chide them for their selfish candor.  And, that said, I can fully understand wanting to punch them…I mean, really, who talks smack like that about their kids, in front of their kids and, oh, yeah, on national television?  The honest parents do.  I entirely understand how they felt/feel and applaud their putting it out there.  To be clear, these parents, despite verbalizing their misgivings and concerns, are not to be confused with the parents who kick their kids out of the house, disown, humiliate and, essentially torture their children for doing nothing other than being honest.  But I hate that the perception, from folks who have not walked in these shoes, that these parents were behaving badly.  They were being human.

I hated that it forced me to have many (many, many, many) conversations that, frankly, I didn’t really feel like having.  And I hate that I have to admit that.  The subject is rife with opinions, facts, speculations and, well, scary stuff.  Every well-intentioned and well-meaning exchange left me feeling equal parts soaring with confidence and paralyzed by insecurity.  Confession: It is way easier to coast than to make this part of the daily discussion.  While I know that I always have Jess’s back, there are differing opinions of what that means.  File under: scary crap parents have to deal with while pretty much punting.

I love that PBS produced this program.  I love that discussion and acknowledgment of the realities of the transgender community has become so, well, mainstream.  I love that I have so many people in my life who love me and feel comfortable enough with me to offer their always, always, always well-meaning, well-composed opinions.  And I hate that it has to be so complicated, so emotionally charged and so overwhelmingly overwhelming.

special shout out and lots of love to PS, BTS, and GS <3