Cait

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.

iamcait

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:

http://nation.foxnews.com/2015/07/05/california-family-supports-4-year-old-s-decision-transition-male-female

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…

Love/Hate

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

http://video.pbs.org/video/2365520005/

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

Decidedly Undecided

Transgender everything is everywhere and I am decidedly undecided about how I feel about it.

On the one hand, all the exposure, explanations and acceptance are spectacular. On the other hand, that’s a whole of exposure, explanations and (not so much) acceptance. Oh, the irony.

minion

With this latest round of chatter (thank you, Caitlyn Jenner) I have found myself again asking why anyone gives a shit. I know that sounds trite and, perhaps ridiculous, but seriously…how does one person’s gender (or any other, for that matter) expression in any way impact me, you or the mailman? I get that it is (un)comfortably outside of the norm. I get that it is not what most of us grew up with. I even get that what feels natural and real to the transgender person and their families, feels extraordinarily unnatural and unreal to folks who are on the outside looking in. I. Get. It.

What I don’t get is how polarizing the whole subject matter is. Oh, I do, but I don’t. See: decidedly undecided.
I will acknowledge that the sheer volume of media attention is indeed making it virtually impossible, particularly for those folks who are uncomfortable and unable to latch onto the concept, to avoid it. Even in the three and a half years since our transition (to be clear: it is an entire family that needs to transition) the discussion has changed dramatically…and while I applaud the newfound understanding, I worry about it being too much all at once. And, boys and girls, that just gives me one more thing to worry about.

Yes, I have seen the Vanity Fair cover. Yes, I will buy the magazine and read the article. Yes, I believe this is a good thing in terms of paving over the gravel on the road that my kid is travelling. And yes, I think about it every single day. Repeatedly.
No, I don’t think that the people who are spewing hate, anger and vitriol are playing fair. No, I don’t understand why they, as I have already said, give a shit. And no, it isn’t easy to listen to.

The media is entirely schizophrenic on this subject and has caused tremendously good and fantastically horrid banter. This, in my mind, only breeds more anxiety on both sides. I love that transgender is part of the national discussion. I hate that it is, too. I just want my kid to be whomever she is…girl, boy, somewhere in between.

Yes, I am decidedly undecided.

Caitlyn

Caitlyn Jenner. Vanity Fair.

th

Gross.

Freak.

Publicity Hound.

Crap.

And those are among the less offensive comments I have seen.

I even found myself in a Facebook tussle with a friend of a friend who posted this:

 

I’m just so sick and tired of everything in the news now being about Trannies…..and how ‘nature made a mistake’.

I wish no ill-will at all on any of these poor people with this affliction either.I am sure life cannot be easy for them nor do I feel that they ‘chose’ this path.

But – don’t lecture me and tell me I have to buy into this gender confusion crap.

If the PC Police ever allow actual science to shine a light on this – it will prove it’s a mental health issue with a potential physical disposition, ie: a brain chemical deficiency which is impacting the gender confusion for example.

 Anyone can look great during a photo shoot with pro hair and makeup……

But, he still has a penis and a size 13 foot — good luck finding shoes at the clearance rack, Caitlyn!

I want to see him put on a box of Wheaties now in the bustier….

 

 

What I wanted to say:

I can only imagine the vitriol you might spew if you did wish ill will upon any of “these poor people” who, incidentally, do not appreciate being called Trannies, are not mentally ill and do not consider living an authentic life as “gender confusion crap.” I’ve never seen you, but your ugliness strongly suggests that even with professional hair and make up your innards would seep through. Further, if anyone is guilty of “lecturing” that would you be you. Your declaration, (which, to my knowledge, is unsubstantiated) that “actual science WILL prove” anything is a bold and uneducated one. Having a fear of something you do not understand but insist on spouting off about is unbecoming, bitch.

 

What I actually said:

Wow. And yuck. Your attitude actually scares me.

 

She is (and will remain) a total stranger, free to opine from the safety of her laptop and not face to face with another human intimate with the transgender process. Interestingly, she did not respond to my comment. Others did…and they weren’t on her side.

But…then I saw this, also on Facebook. The gigantic difference being, it was posted by a friend. Someone I know in real life. Someone I’ve talked about tough stuff with. Someone I thought was better than this:

Now that I’ve seen it, I can’t erase it from my eyes…. seeing Vanity Fair cover…. gross

I read it on my phone while waiting for an appointment and let out an audible gasp. With trepidation I responded:

Gross?! Wow.

That was several hours ago.  No response.  No private message tripping over herself in a (veiled) attempt to explain herself.  Yuk.

 

Listen, I am wise enough to know that this is complicated stuff. But apparently I am not wise enough to understand why on earth anyone gives enough of a shit about what is it in someone’s nether regions that they feel compelled to malign, criticize, ridicule and torment; often loudly and proudly. Yes, it is unusual. And no, it is not the path most people take, but: Gross? Crap? Brain chemical deficiency? (Maybe, just maybe, it is actually a brain superiority…an indicator of a more evolved human. Ever think of that?)

I wonder if any of these people ever stopped to think how they would feel if Caitlyn (or Jess, or Aiden, or Cameron or Liv or any other fantastically brave trans person) were their child or parent or sibling or friend. Would it be gross? Would they be a freak? Would it be crap?

Yeah, didn’t think so.

Oh, and by the way: you should all look as good as Caitlin does.  Rock on!

Explain This

When George was two, my parents went to an afternoon movie after which they were going to come to my house to babysit. Around 6 that evening, my mother called to tell me that they were not “coming over” after all. “Um, you weren’t coming over, you were babysitting…” I said in a perhaps less charitable tone than I should have. It was then that she explained that my father had fallen asleep during the movie and she was unable to wake him. Huh? What does that even mean? Since he was a Type 2 Diabetic, she had tried, in vain, to feed him some of the Jr. Mints left over in his lap. (He must have “fallen asleep” early on…there was little that would keep my father from emptying a box of those little gems). Suddenly aware that something was quite wrong, I told her to meet me at the hospital.
When she arrived there with him he was, apparently, in such a frightening state (important visual: my father was 6’1”, my mother 5’1”…imagine her trying to “carry” him in) that they immediately bedded him and started to try to figure out what was wrong. It was a long night. By the end, we knew that he had had a stroke. That was the good news. The answer to the question following the routine chest x-ray of, “are you aware there is a large mass in your chest?” was “um, no”. That was the bad news.
At the time, I was a (mostly) happy stay at home mom. I had stopped working not too long before, in part because George was so wild and busily beating his own drum that the family day care sort of, kind of, might have thrown her hands in the air and cried uncle. So, the only help I had was for the one (okay, sometimes two) hours a day I would drop him off in the babysitting room at the JCC and (usually) work out. There was a lovely older woman named Alla there who was solidly unafraid of George. Perhaps it was the fact that she was Israeli and, as such, able to withstand more than most, but it doesn’t much matter. Not only could she handle him, she freakin’ adored him. The admiration was reciprocated and all was right, if only for one (okay, sometimes two) hours a day.
I was a no-show for several days following my father’s diagnosis. When I finally returned and told Alla what was going on she asked how she could help. She knew I had no other coverage and that the babysitting was only for when I was in the building (theoretically) working out. Without hesitation she offered to watch George at her home for as much time as I needed, for as long as I needed. At the moment, I hadn’t realized how desperate I was for help and after asking her about a hundred times if she was sure, accepted her offer.
George and Alla hung out together for the next several weeks. I would deliver George to her and know that he was safe and happy, even though it was evident that the world around me was crashing in. I still feel indebted to her and never will forget the kindness she showed me and George.
I’ve seen Alla many times over the years. I am even relatively certain that I have told her that George is now Jess. But, either I didn’t or she does not recall…because each and every time I bump into her, she asks for her “boy George”. Every. Single. Time.
Yesterday, I ran into Alla. Literally. I was coming around the corner at the market and our carts collided. We embraced. I told her, as I always do (because it is true) that she simply doesn’t age. She caught me up on her kids, two docs and one who is set to graduate next week from Harvard Law. And, as always, she asked about her “boy George”. I told her that “everyone” is great, getting older, keeping me on my toes. I mastered the ol’ sin of omission by not engaging in one single pronoun. She asked if I had any recent pictures and I, um, lied, and told her that my phone was in the car, hoping against hope that it didn’t ding, ping or ring right then and there. I was secretly relieved that Jess was not with me. Not because I am ashamed, but because it simply feels like it is too late/too exhausting/too old news/too overwhelming/too much a part of everyday life that I sometimes forget to have to explain it again.
This is not the first time I have skirted the issue of “explaining.” I have omitted the details to my elderly neighbor who moved away years ago, but with whom I still keep in touch – primarily by phone. I once skimmed over the details of the facts with two little kids who were too young and new to our family to tell. I was later accused of lying to them which stung a little, but I know I did the right thing by “explaining” only what they would understand. Things like this come up all the time. No, really: all.the.time. And, if I am being honest, I am getting tired of having to explain to every Tom, Dick and Harry that my daughter started off as my son.
Then, late yesterday afternoon, just hours after my encounter with Alla , “explanation time” came up again when I took Jess to Urgent Care for an ear infection. I checked her in, ponytail and pink-checked lounge pant-clad Jess who happens to have an insurance card that says George. I leaned in and asked the receptionist to please call her Jess and use female pronouns which, not surprisingly, caught her off guard. To her credit, she had a quick recovery, wrote it on the intake form and moments later, Jess was called. And then! Then, the doctor came back in with the prescription which was written for Jess, forcing me to tell her (kind of again) that the script had to say George. So many Ts to cross, so many Is to dot.
Jess is used to it. She heard me tell the folks at the new allergist’s office. And the blue-haired gal taking names at Super Cuts, and the on-call pediatrician, and the camp directors, and the gymnastics teacher… She’s corrected people who slip up and others who should know better than to, um, slip up. It happens.
Anyone who has ever read a word of this blog knows how I adored my father. What you might not know, however, is that I felt the same way about his father, my grandpa, who was named…yep, George. In 2001, most people were not naming little boys George. I even hesitated a little, worried that he wouldn’t be able to pull it off. But he could and did better than pull it off – he killed it. He was the man. He was Georgie, Georgieporgiepoopoo and “boy George”. On paper, she still is. Every so often, Jess will ask that we change her name legally, but never with an intense and desperate need. If and when that happens, it happens…but for now, it’s all cool.
So, I will continue to forewarn, correct, whisper, lean in and remind folks that the name George on the form is only the name on the form. I will share as necessary. I will keep my mouth shut when there is no purpose in telling our story. She is just my kid who doesn’t always need to be explained, but if she does, knows I’ve always got her back…just like my dad and Alla did.

Except When…

To the outside world, I exude confidence.  Perhaps it is because I am able to find the humor in just about any possible situation, so it therefore appears that I am in control and can (perhaps) handle all that is thrown at me.  I am outspoken, honest and (perhaps too) open with whatever is happening in my life so the natural assumption is that I am down with it, cool, unfazed, and confident.  And, to be fair to myself, sometimes I am.  Most of the time I really do believe that “I got this” and that the curveballs and bumps in the road are not enough to throw me off my axis.  Except when they are.

That is when I ignore said jolts in the hopes that they will be magically worked out through some sort of divine intervention.  You know…the whole “fall in your lap” kind of thing.  And, if I am being honest, I have been fortunate in that sometimes that has indeed happened.   Except when it hasn’t.

A mountain in Chile which took my breath away.  In part because they told me we were going to climb it.

A mountain in Chile which took my breath away. In part because they told me we were going to climb it.

Case in point: I am a pretty good writer.  I can tell a story.  I can, for example, strike up a conversation with a woman at Uniqlo (she mentioned “the sisterhood”, I was in), talk to her for an hour and then write about it.  This usually garners a supportive laugh or other form of appreciation from someone like you.  (I haven’t had a chance to write about it but it is a great story including our discussion of body image, foreign travel, divorce, transgender and, wait for it…heroin.  All while standing in the middle of the frenzy that is Uniqlo.)  I willingly go up against the hysteria of any given day in my life and relay it to you in a way that you respond to.  I actually love to do that and it isn’t, frankly, too hard for me.  Over the years, folks have told me to do something more with that skill…as in make a living from it somehow.  And that, friends, is the precise moment that I become totally, completely and utterly immobilized.  Wha??  Make a living at it?  You smokin’ dope?  Yep…there it is: the abject fear which stops me in my tracks, resulting in my total inability to do a damn thing.  Despite my propensity to be riddled with self doubt over the little stuff[1], I don’t generally think of myself as a fearful person. Except when I do.

Then there are those women who do a little something on the side (with nary a thought of it becoming a big something) only to find themselves sitting across from Matt Lauer on “The Today Show” [2]couch chatting themselves up.  Man, does that mess with my head, setting in motion a viscous internal battle between over-confidence and crippling insecurity as to any possibility of enjoying my own such trajectory of success.  Of note: most of these gals didn’t necessarily set out to do it, rather it just, well, happened.  (See divine intervention above.) Regrettably, I have this (ridiculous, dangerous and often disappointing) desire for all things[3] to happen organically, without contrivance or strategy. And, truthfully, that has happened in my favor.  More than once, even.  Except when it hasn’t.

I know what I want.  To make more money.  To have more freedom.  To create for people things that they might not be able to, because, while they rock this world with their particular brand of expertise they do not happen to be great writers.  (No judgment: I can give you a list as long as my arm of things I suck at…math comes to mind.  And science, yeah, science does, too.) I know what I am good at and where I thrive.  I am 50, after all, so I have it all figured out.  Except when I don’t.

p.s. If you know someone who wants a scribe…you know where to find me.

[1] It is always the little stuff.  Big stuff I take on fiercely.  If you don’t believe me, ask my mother. Or my brothers.  Or my kids. Or Mary.  Or Barry.  Or Marcia.  Or Janet.  Seriously: I had an easier time with cancer than I did with choosing whether or not to let my gray grow in.

[2] I’m talking to you, Jill Smokler…

[3] Not really all, but many.

Thanks, Bruce

No, I have not seen the Bruce Jenner interview.  Yes, I have every intention of watching it…just not sure when. No, I don’t have a reason for avoiding, er, not tuning in.  Yes, I realize those are two hours of television I should most definitely have watched by now.

bruce

Okay, so in the three plus years since Jess has transitioned the public awareness of transgenderism (I think I made up that word) has exploded.  Way back in 2012 it was way weirder, way less common and certainly way less publicized than it is now.  Admittedly I am more tuned in, but I am quite certain that there was not a seemingly daily story on the subject like there is now.  My kind and well intentioned friends send me links to stories on television, the radio, online, in print and overheard at the local CVS nearly every day.  Many I have seen by the time they are forwarded to me, others I have not.  Some I read, some I do not.  Each time I skip reading the story I feel a pang of guilt; I should be well-versed on and interested in everything good, bad, thrilling, infuriating, scary, despicable and ground-breaking that happens in the transgender community, right?  I should be a loud and proud voice for my child, right?  I should know the what, where, why and how of the LGBT community so I can educate, explain and improve the world view, right? Only here’s the rub: sometimes I just want to be a regular mom with a regular kid with regular issues.  Sometimes I literally cannot bear the thought of hearing one more tale of transition or acceptance or rejection or triumph or catastrophe…so I do things like avoid, er, not find the time, to watch the Bruce Jenner interview.

To be clear: I am all for educating, explaining, protecting, supporting, and normalizing the transgender experience.  I applaud Bruce Jenner and Laverne Cox and Brad & Angelina and Cameron and Aiden and Connie and Rogina and Jill Soloway and Diane Sawyer and Jazz and Mimi Lemay and every other man, woman and child who puts themselves out there.  In fact, I have been one of those people.  With each new story I already know what the comments will be…they never change:

“A child is too young to make this decision.  If they said they wanted to be a pony would you let them?”

“G-d doesn’t make mistakes.”

“These are the most wonderful parents ever!”

“These are the worst parents ever!”

“Crazy mother didn’t get the girl she wanted, so she’s doing this!  For shame!”

“I wish I had had parents like this…it would have saved me years of pain.”

This cycle is, as I am sure you can appreciate, exhausting.  What’s more: at this point in the game, I sometimes forget that Jess was George.  I see her as my very cool, very complicated, very interesting, very unusual, very artistic, very independent thinking kid.  I think of her as my kid and not as my transgender kid.  I don’t bring it up in conversation, nor do I hide it.  It is what it is.  Maybe your kid has issues with anxiety or anger or learning or obesity or is so obnoxious that it is legendary…and you don’t need or, frankly, want every article, story and debate over your given malady because you are living it.  Yep.  It is the same thing here.

I know that each and every person who has ever sent me a text about or a link to an article or story is doing so with kind, loving and supportive intentions.  I really do.  I know that the media has latched onto the transgender story and that it is doing wonderful things for the community.  I really do.

From everything I have heard, seen and read since his interview it is clear that Bruce Jenner did a wonderful thing for himself, his family and the world by sharing his story.  I am grateful for that.  I hope it throws some tar down on the newly paved road for kids like mine.  I also hope it takes a little bit of pressure off of us parents who, despite enormous support and love, often feel like we are flying solo.  By not watching, and not weighing in with an opinion, I feel a sense of relief that someone else can talk the talk and walk the walk for me, if just for a few days.

Fifty

50Today I am 50.

Yes, I was born on April Fool’s Day.  I double dog dare you to come up with one I haven’t heard.

Anyway, when I awoke this morning I received a text from a ridiculously dear friend that read: “Welcome to the “I’m good with myself and I don’t give a shit what you think” decade!”  I had two thoughts: “Amen, sista!” and “Wait, I can only feel that way for a decade?!”

I then got a call from my mother who asked how I felt on this “momentous day”.  The real question, I told her, was how did she feel?  I am, after all, the baby of the family (not to mention my father’s favorite) so it has to be weird for her that I am, by all accounts, a grown up.  Took me til 50 to feel that way, but now I am solidly in the “bring it on” phase of my life which, in my mind, gives me bragging rights on being an adult.

Anyone who has ever read anything I have ever written (ever) knows that my 40’s were a little shall we say, tumultuous?  I had cancer, deaths, divorce, gender transitions, surgeries, moves and the occasional bout of hysteria so intense that my eyes swelled shut from crying.  I was filled with fear, anxiety, a stunning lack of confidence and, thankfully, a posse of supporters holding my hand, kicking my ass and reminding me of my very own mantra; “I got this.”  Relationships, living situations and the world I had always known changed repeatedly.  The forties were tough.

And then I began the ascent to 50.  I worked hard to obtain a firm grasp on the next set of rules and regulations and, while I would never say I have it all together, I can honestly say that I am facing 50 feeling pretty damn fine.

I am good with myself and I don’t give a shit what others think.*  I am surrounded by people I love who think I am all that.  I am (working on) feeling more confident.  I crack myself up most days and even when I get annoyed, frustrated or disgusted I am not (usually) (or with anywhere near the regularity of days gone by) brought to my knees.

I’ve never been a planner (rather, I was more of a reactor…never a good thing to be) but I am starting to plan.  I’ve never been entirely comfortable in my own skin but I am starting to embrace my body, spirit and soul.  I’ve never been as confident as my parents (or brothers) (or friends) (or teachers) (or partners) thought I should be, but I am beginning to go easier on myself and am respecting others for however the crap that they have had to deal with has made them into the flawed people that we all are.

I am more about the sisterhood than ever before.  We women and moms need to stick together so that every one of us feels the way I am starting to feel now that I am 50.  We all deserve a sense of calm, happiness and joy in our lives and we can, as women, help make it happen for one another.  No need for competition, gossip or criticism.  That’s part of being 50.  You know, the “I’m good with myself and I don’t give a shit what you think” decade!

I plan on eating cake, singing loudly with the sunroof open, facing fears, making things happen, keeping my sense of humor, having compassion for every single person out there who, despite perhaps acting in a manner I deem assaholic, deserves acceptance, laughing loudly and often, loving desperately and reminding myself how far I have come.

Today I am 50.

p.s. I found this just the other day.  Miss and love my dad and so desperately wish he was here to celebrate that 78th…

notefrondad

 

* Well, if we are being totally honest, I don’t entirely give a shit what other people think.  What?  Rome wasn’t built in a day, after all.

What Was I Scared Of?

scaredof

Well…

I was walking in the night

And I saw nothing scary.

For I have never been afraid

Of anything. Not very.

Then I was deep within the woods

When, suddenly, I spied them.

I saw a pair of pale green pants

With nobody inside them!

I wasn’t scared. But, yet, I stopped

What could those pants be there for?

What could a pair of pants at night

Be standing in the air for?

And then they moved? Those empty pants!

They kind of started jumping.

And then my heart, I must admit,

It kind of started thumping.

So I got out. I got out fast

As fast as I could go, sir.

I wasn’t scared. But pants like that

I did not care for. No, sir.

After that a week went by.

Then one dark night in Grin-itch

(I had to do an errand there

And fetch some Grin-itch spinach)……

Well, I had fetched the spinach.

I was starting back through town

When those pants raced around a corner

And they almost knocked me down!

I lost my Grin-itch spinach

But I didn’t even care.

I ran for home! Believe me,

I had really had a scare!

Now, bicycles were never made

For pale green pants to ride ‘em,

Especially spooky pale green pants

With nobody inside ‘em!

And the NEXT night, I was fishing

For Doubt-trout on Roover River

When those pants came rowing toward me!

Well, I started in to shiver.

And by now I was SO frightened

That, I’ll tell you, but I hate to….

I screamed and rowed away and lost

my hook and line and bait, too!

I ran and found a Brickle bush

I hid myself away.

I got brickles in my britches

But I stayed there anyway.

I stayed all night. The next night, too

I’d be there still, no doubt,

But I had to do an errand

So, the next night, I went out.

I had to do an errand,

Had to pick a peck of Snide

In a dark and gloomy Snide-field

That was almost nine miles wide.

I said, “I do not fear those pants

With nobody inside them.”

I said, and said, and said those words.

I said them. But I lied them.

Then I reached inside a Snide bush

And the next thing that I knew,

I felt my hand touch someone!

And I’ll bet that you know who.

And there I was! Caught in the Snide!

And in that dreadful place

Those spooky, empty pants and I

were standing face to face!

I yelled for help. I screamed. I shrieked.

I howled. I yowled. I cried,

“OH, SAVE ME FROM THESE PALE

GREEN PANTS WITH NOBODY INSIDE!”

But then a strange thing happened.

Why, those pants began to cry!

Those pants began to tremble.

They were just as scared as I!

I never heard such whimpering

And I began to see

That I was just as strange to them

As they were strange to me!

So…

I put my arm around their waist

And sat right down beside them.

I calmed them down.

Poor empty pants

With nobody inside them.

And now, we meet quite often,

Those empty pants and I,

And we never shake or tremble,

We both smile and we say…”Hi!”

So goes my very favorite (and seemingly little known since anytime I quote it I am met with blank stares) Dr. Seuss story, “What Was I Scared Of”.  I used to read it to my kids when they were little, particularly enjoying the singsong verse and fantastic message that I wanted to teach them, despite my inability to necessarily abide by it.  The opening line frequently pops into my head as I, admittedly, am a person who has struggled with what I know (intellectually, anyway) are silly fears.

I have just returned from ten days in Chile – a gloriously beautiful country with breathtaking views, delicious food, incredible wine and wonderfully warm people.  But perhaps more important than the scenery, food and companionship was the number of fears that I faced and, damn!,  conquered.

Admittedly, many of said fears will seem ridiculous, silly and even slightly pathetic but, as I often remind you, I am nothing if not honest.  So, in no particular order, here goes:

  1. The plane ride. The thought of being on a plane for any amount of time, let alone nearly ten hours used to bring me to my knees and, truthfully, kept me home.  My plane would never crash…it is the knowledge that I cannot get off if I find myself in a situation in which I want/need/absolutely have to or I will die in a flame of hysteria.  While I long ago learned that taking a Xanax would ease those fears, over the past decade I have moved from taking a Xanax, to just having it in my handbag (only occasionally clutching it) to not even filling the prescription. Check.
  2. Illness or Malady. Every single time I ever go anywhere I spend an inordinate amount of time prior to departure worrying about getting sick while there.  (Of note: I hardly ever get sick when I am home, so why I would worry about it when I am away is a sign of bat-shit craziness. That being said, I did get quite a nasty upper respiratory infection last year while in Las Vegas…but I also lived to talk about it.)  Interestingly enough, during my trip to Chile not one, not two, but three of my travel companions came down with an antibiotic-requiring ailment.  I did not.  Check.
  3. Climbing a mountain. Okay, I have never had a fear of climbing a mountain, per say, but the symbolism of finding myself somewhere inconvenient to medical (or emotional) intervention should the need arise not only left me on the sidelines but made me a prime candidate for a shrink’s field day.  The “what ifs” were bigger than me: “what if I trip and break my ankle?” “what if I have to go to the bathroom?”, “what if I freak out for some ridiculous reason?”.  Nope, nope and nope. Check.chilemountain
  4. Sticking my head in a sink to cool off. While I never put any thought to the pros and cons of submerging my head in a sink, it was nothing I have ever nor thought I would ever have even contemplated, let alone done.  My hair, the origins of the water, all that wetness…yeah, no.  Well, I learned that once you are halfway to the top of the mountain and it is 90 degrees and you are offended by your own smell, dunking your head in a sink is awesome.  Obvious Freudian explanation notwithstanding: Check.sink
  5. Eating empanadas on the side of the road, a steak and avocado sandwich from the bottom of a backpack or strange looking soup with filled with stranger looking fish. I firmly believe that milk should be taken from the fridge, poured into the glass and then promptly returned to the cold, lest bacteria begin to grow and cause a violent case of vomiting, cramps and/or the trots.  Lesson learned: if you work hard and climb a mountain you become infinitely less insanely neurotic about food borne illnesses.  Metaphors abounding and: CheckIMG_0163
  6. Sharing a bathroom with your boyfriend’s parents. Well, this one did not come to fruition and the discovery of a second full bathroom in the cabin (which happened to be situated in perhaps the most beautiful spot in the world) was an emotional deal changer, but I am confident I would have lived through it had it actually happened.[1] Pre-worried (extensively) over that one for nothin’. Check.

This trip was a big deal for me.  Despite being wrapped up in a beautiful package with incredible scenery, food and companionship it challenged me.  It forced me, in a very four star environment, to step out of my comfort zone, kick some ass and allow myself to just relax…because really, what was I scared of?

boots

And a special shout out and thanks to this guy…for holding my hand literally and figuratively…

bts

[1] I love his parents, but certain things need to remain sacred.  Love to FS who, sensing my apprehension lovingly told me, “Mi bano es tu bano”…