For Now

When I first began writing about Jessie and her having identified as transgender my audience was intimate and safe.  I had an email list consisting of my mother and mother in-law, our siblings, their partners and our closest friends.  Because her change proceeded at warp speed, each email served as an update as to where things were and what to expect.  Many of the updates were stream of consciousness and touched only on the practical and pretty much ignored the psychological aspects of the transition.  It was a whirlwind period during which we just scrambled to try (in vain) to stay ahead of things while supporting our child as best we could.  Not surprisingly, much of that period is a blur.  I do recall, however, sending this email to my mother-in-law  the morning that Rich and Jessie were headed to the airport to visit her in Florida: subject: this is what is going to get off the plane tomorrow:

Once it became clear that the “secret” (which was how George referred to it) was only sort of a secret anymore we knew that we needed to go wide (in part to control the message and in part to save ourselves from having to tell everyone we knew individually).  With her consent and encouragement, we embraced the world of social media and let everyone know that George was now Jessie, accompanied by this picture:

At the bottom of the shot I commented that I had been writing about our experiences and if anyone wanted to be included on the email list they should let me know.  Within hours, I had over 200 people (initially people I knew, but ultimately many were friends of friends) request to be included.  It struck me as curious and I wondered: why?  I assumed there was some voyeuristic element to it – I realize that the topic lends itself to salacious chatter – but I got an even stronger sense that there was more to it than that.  Of course I knew (and hoped) that my friends would be interested so as to be supportive and not just “nosy”, but I also knew, somewhere in the recesses of my mind, that I had struck a chord.

As the email list continued to grow (and Hotmail, thinking I was a spammer, shut me down) I moved the updates over to this blog. That was when I started to attempt  getting in touch with what was happening, what was yet to happen and how would I happen to live through it.  Needless to say, it was a head-spinning proposition.  Starting with the very first post, I received deeply heartfelt and personal responses from both friends and strangers.  Some told me of their own children who had been struggling with any number of issues.  Others shared their admiration for us being so honest with the story.  And still others only wanted to let me know that they supported me, Rich and the kids.   Suddenly  it became clear to me that while the transgender piece of this is certainly unusual, it actually speaks to everyone’s feeling, at some point or another, that they, or perhaps more importantly, their children, are, in their own unique way, just round pegs trying to fit into square holes.

Likely a result of the combination of the article in “The Boston Phoenix”, my literary agent’s (http://www.leshneagency.com/) announcement of our relationship and WordPress putting me on their “Freshly Pressed” page, yesterday this blog exploded.  I started getting hit after hit after hit followed shortly thereafter by well over one hundred comments and countless subscribers.   (I am not above telling you that it was very exciting)  What was perhaps most remarkable, though, was that 99% of the comments (100% of which were positive) contained nary a mention of the transgender issue.  It was not even secondary…it almost didn’t matter.  People remarked, with great candor, about their own personal struggles, their kids’ struggles and how life can be a real bitch sometimes, but the particulars seem of little to no importance.  I could swap out “transgender” with “cancer” or “dyslexia” (which, incidentally, Jessie has) or “OCD”or “anxiety” or “being bullied” or “is a bully”…or anything else you can think of.  What they did seem to care about was the process by which she got from point A. to point B. (remember, we have to get all the way to Z. somehow) and how Rich, Harrison, Jessie and I have maneuvered things in such a way that it is working…for now.  I only speak in terms of the here and now since my family’s world (all of our worlds actually) are way more fluid that we think.   We’ve managed to establish a good rhythm…for now.   Freak outs around here are over normal, everyday stuff: like a certain ten-year old who thinks it is acceptable to take a 32 minute shower.  (And, one should note, her predecessor, George, did the same thing!)  Today, for now, it’s all good.

We all face challenges, some bigger and scarier than others, but as much as you might be thinking to yourself along the lines of, “thank G-d it isn’t my kid who is transgender”, I have plenty of “thank G-d it isn’t my kid who is _____________” thoughts, too.   Really.

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32 thoughts on “For Now

  1. Don’t worry about what other people think of your child. I understand what you mean but from a different point of view. Imagine having a child who is disabled and having someone tell you they are glad their child is “healthy”. Irritating, I know. Jessie is happy in her skin and identity and you love her no matter what. That’s what counts.

    • I have long since stopped worrying about what other people think of my kids…they should hear what I think about theirs! LOL

  2. It’s so funny that you mentioned the “Freshly Pressed” page because just the other day I was reading one of your posts thinking “this is the stuff that gets on that page”.
    Glad to know they agree w/ my review.
    Favor, could you post the pictures a little bigger? It’s hard to see your beautiful Jessie on that little image.

    • I tried like hell to make them bigger. I was having trouble with the photo uploader…it wouldn’t let me make the pictures any bigger. In fact, the options were blacked out which leads me to believe that perhaps the quality of the pics wasn’t of a high enough resolution?
      And, yeah, the Freshly Pressed shout out was cool – my kids (and me!) loved seeing it in the first slot. Okay, I admit it, I saved a screen shot!

      • Julie, if you have photoshop or illustrator ( adobe acrobat) you can adjust size and everything else depending on pixel image. I have it, but due to all stressors going on here, I simply don’t have the time. I may have more time in the summer when this nightmare school issue is over. Rich has my number. If you know any other friends who are graphic arts majors or in the digital art field they are sure to have adobe acrobat CS-5 or similar versions. xo

      • Thanks, Heidi. Seems to be an issue with these particular pics as I have edited others without incident.

  3. Julie,
    I am one of the friends of friends on your blog. Your first blog article popped up on my Face Book page when my dear friend Robin Cohen commented. I became intrigued by your story and your writing. Today’s post so accurately describes all the reasons I believe myself, and so many other strangers, are drawn to your story- because you could be any of us. I am your age, happily married to an amazing man (like you) with 2 sons, one in college and one in 9th grade. I share your angst and self doubt, and pride in my family, We have issues in our family that I lose sleep over too. And you are exactly right when you express that your story is interesting, but the real appeal of your blog posts is not necessarily the topic, it is learning how another
    family gets themselves from A to Z, and there is so much to learn from seeing how you and your family and community are navigating these waters. Thank you so much for being so open and sharing.

    youa dn your family and community are navigating these waters. family

    for many of us reading is that we could all swap out the topic, and the real issue

    story is how you are getting from A to Z as a mother and a family, and a community.

    • OMG
      major typos in my last post, towards the end, sorry!! I was trying to find some lines to edit and they got lost, apparently they showed up at the bottom. anyay, thank you again for sharing!!

      • (Happens to the best of us…typos that is!) I know we are all struggling with something, I just happen to have a fairly juicy issue. Being surrounded by people who love and support you is all you can ask for. Thanks for the note!

  4. Julie, I’m one those who discovered your blog from Freshly Pressed and I am so pleased I did. Jessie’s journey is very touching and having a wonderful family to support her will show other transgender people that there is nothing to be scared of. It’s very heart warming to read your blog and I will continue to do so even if it’s just to be reminded again how much my family means to me. You are a fantastic mother!

  5. Julie, I too found you through Freshly Pressed and I must say that I am so absolutely in awe of how you have created an environment that allows your children the ability to realize and vocalize what they are experiencing. As a parent, I pray that I am creating an environment that allows my child to realize what their true happiness is (no matter what anyone thinks or how hard it may be), and not live by what they think I want their happiness to be. In my opinion, even though every day will be a struggle, what matters is that Jessie knows that her mom and family will be there, supporting her every step of the way.
    Oh, and one last thing… when I read your blog yesterday, my first thought was, “Thank God her transgendered daughter knows she is supported by her family. I hope my kids feel that way about me and trust me with their true happiness.”
    Kudos and best wishes to you all.

    • I feel pretty confident to say that she knows she is loved and supported. From the sound of your attitude, your kids feel the same way…

  6. I too similarly read this and thought, G-d how lucky these kids are to have her for their mother, as I’m sure you feel luck to be their mother! Good luck to all of you as you work your way toward Z, and thank you to Freshly Pressed for allowing me the opportunity to follow you there!

  7. Julie,

    For Jessie to have felt free to make that declaration means that you really had already begun the process of moving from “A” ten years earlier. Believe me, I know what it’s like to be 10 years old and to feel as Jessie does. That was 50 years ago, and for me to have made such a declaration , as much as I wanted to do so, was unthinkable. Not that I didn’t have it on my mind every day, but such things were just not said out loud in my family. Nor was my behavior to be seen. I remained quiet and hidden for many years, and my mother remained in denial. I don’t blame her; little was known about gender identity then, and the times were much different. Still, the wedge that was created between my mother and myself was there till the day she died four years ago.

    I received an email with a link to the newspaper article this morning, which led me to your blogs. Oh, if only I had not already put on my mascara before reading them ;-). There were some “if only” tears for myself, but the kleenex box was emptied for the tears of joy for Jessie. OMG, ten years old, and to come to the realization that her gender comes from her soul is just beautiful. There is no scientific understanding, currently, with which to explain gender variance, but looking into ones soul is really the only explanation necessary. You have a very special little girl. I have to say that she has a very special mom, dad, and brother, as well. Bless all of you.

    Connie

    • Connie – this is so beautifully articulated. I am touched by your honesty. My heart breaks for the suffering I am sure you endured. Most importantly, I thank you for sharing…

  8. If I were to be Zeus, I would gift the box with only HOPE in it. Neither I am Zeus nor I have the box. Well, the box is Pandora’s box.

    I am praying for abundant love to be showered on all of you. To begin with, I love you – all! 🙂

    Kam

  9. When our first grandson was born with Downs, I had the same sort of epiphany. As a teacher, I always let those students that are immature and insensitive that you just never know what is going to happen, and that everyone has to deal with what appear to be difficult situations at times in their lives. The idea is to keep the family intact with respect for all and lots of love to go around. Others need it. They have not had the privilege of the gifts we have been given.

  10. Julie

    I was 12 when taken to Children’s by my mother. My mother was pointed to the correct doctor when she told the attending Doctor that her son believed he was a girl. It is never easy for a family to deal with a transsexual child or for that matter a trans child or gender variant child. All a good parent can do is cope and love..

    Children are so precious and the greatest gift parents can give to their child is love and understanding. Like you my mother never thought of her child as a freak or something evil but being a Radcliffe Women she looked at it as a problem that needed solving.

    I was terrified to be honest because until just short of my 14th birthday I thought I was the only kid or person like me. That changed in late December of my 14th year and it saved my life. I had seen many Psychiatrists before that day with no help.

    You and Jessie will face a lot of ups and downs in the future. There is no set formula for how to raise a child born transsexual and there are difficult decisions ahead but you will take the right path based on your love for Jessie.

    My mother wrote extensively about me but they took the form of the written word in letter between her and my soon to be Doctor in NYC. That was 54 years ago in a City not far from you.

    It took an amazing amount of courage for Jessie to tell you how she felt. I am not sire most people understand how much courage she had, has, and will need going forward. You and your extended family will need the same courage your beautiful daughter has going forward.

    In my family it was very difficult on my two brothers. I would tell you to give Harrison a lot of love but I am guessing love is not something missing from your family.

    I pray Jessie gets to be the person she wants to be.

    Liz

    • We are very well aware that not only is Jessie brave, but lucky to have been born in the generation that she was. I hope you have gone on to enjoy all wonderful things and have found the happiness we all deserve. Thank you for the beautiful note.

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