Chronically Ambiguous

Recently I was asked (it is probably germane to the conversation to tell you that the questioner was a shrink) if I am able to “tolerate the ambiguity” inherent in trying to parent a gender variant child (which is what they are calling her now).  My initial, internal response was, ”hell, no” followed by an only slightly more appropriate “well, what if I am not?!”  While I am wise enough to know that such a retort is not an option, I sincerely wish it were.

As if the literal pain in my neck (not to mention the figurative one) weren’t enough of a nuisance and liability in my seemingly fruitless quest toward sanity, this conversation certainly was.  There were about one hundred thoughts, concepts and suggestions bandied about during the other 49 minutes of the meeting, yet this is the only moment that has become indelibly etched in my brain.  Is there an erase button nearby…because if there is, now would be a good time for someone to hand it over.

No, I cannot tolerate the ambiguity.  Further, I don’t particularly want to.  And, perhaps most troublesome:  I may just lose my mind in the sheer process of attempting to not only tolerate the ambiguity, but pretend that I am doing so successfully.

In a different conversation, with a different therapist earlier in the day (full disclosure: this was a conversation with a dear friend who, when she isn’t talking me off the ledge, makes a living as a social worker.  Our chat was off the clock…) I realized that so much of what is proving intolerable is the fact that I am surrounded by so many issues that are chronic and painful – some physically, some emotionally and some, you guessed it, both – that it seems completely improbable that between my back, my neck, my foot (I’ve spared you all the details of that one) and my gender variant child, there is any possibility of resolution of much of anything in the foreseeable future.   Add the reminder from the expert that there is a long road of ambiguity ahead and I find myself continuing my quest for that elusive erase button which, to the best of my knowledge, exists only in that happy place in the back of my head where nobody can reach it.

Chronic is perhaps even more difficult than ambiguous.  At least with ambiguous there is the suggestion (however inaccurate it may be) that sometime, somewhere, a conclusion will be met.  Chronic includes words like “habitual”, “constant” and “inveterate” in its very definition which, in turn, does not bode well for resolution, now does it?   I guess if I want to be little Miss Optimist, I will revel in the fact that the question posed to me was if I could tolerate the “ambiguity” as opposed to whether I am able to tolerate the “chronic” but, alas, I am not wearing my “I Am Optimistic” panties today.  In fact, I think they got lost in the wash along with a good portion of my sanity.

Here’s the bottom line as I see it: nobody can tell me what is going to happen an hour from now, let alone a week, a month, a year or even several years down the road.  It has very little to do with our particular brand of issue (gender variance) and everything to do with life as we all know it.  Sure, my “daughter with a penis” is an extreme situation, but is it really all that different from one’s effeminate son?  Their troubled marriage?  Their financial struggles?  Wouldn’t we all like to see all things ambiguous and chronic erased from our daily lives?  Well, maybe you wouldn’t, but at this point, I know that I would.


20 thoughts on “Chronically Ambiguous

  1. Gosh, that was quite a post today! As another “shrink”—very much off the clock now and retired from practice–my impression is that there seems to be very little ambiguity re your new daughter’s gender identity (at least from what you have said so far.) So perhaps there is a bit less ambiguity in your life than you thought.

  2. I have been reading, and commenting, and then they tell me I am not logged in, and then I forgot my password. So, I finally had time to find my password and get a comment published, if only I remember what I want to say.
    Hmm…sorry, sorry about your chronic and ambiguity. I feel it. I feel yours and I feel mine, and girlfriend, IT SUCKS. And, hearing it from you is more painful, because your Optimist panties (are they a thong?) are usually LOUD AND IN CHARGE, I suffer from Pessimist Granny Pants, but you, you are the positive panties, so when you are blue, it is a blue day.
    I hope you find them in the dryer, pull them out and take them for a ride. Or not, because there is nothing worse than a “should” or being told what to do. If you feel a need to wallow, have at it, I would lend you my big ass Pessimist Granny Pants, but I don’t think your little ass would fit.
    Hang in there, the tides shall change, eventually.

    • The only reason it might be a thong is because it is, indeed, a pain in my ass. Always love to hear from you…

  3. Hello again! Just to say you make a very good (and very valid) point; ambiguity in life is something we all can understand in one way or another. The hard part is dealing with it when it seems never-ending. Hugs for that one.

    With regards to your specific situation, though – as a transgender person with parents as supportive as one might hope for – while I’m only 19 (so am probably not best placed to give anyone else life advice!), I’d like to say that it does get better. It won’t feel like it sometimes, but Life Stuff in general will improve with time, for Jessie and for all of you supporting her as best you can.

    As for the rest of life’s little peskiness, you have my sympathies, and time is all I can advise. The “chronic” part tends to feel more like a Painfully Impassable Obstacle when nothing seems to be happening to work it out; when it starts to feel like progress is being made (with whatever the problem might be at the time), then life will feel manageable again.

    I hope that your sanity returns to you soon. Rest is always good if you can steal some though – away from the constant drone of the everyday!

    • Your being 19 is of no consequence — your being transgender and telling me it will get better is HUGE. Many thanks to you for that!

  4. Ambiguity is not just out there — in life — it is inside all of us. I don’t mean to be New Age-y or simplistic, but if we can accept or at least tolerate our own ambiguity, it can lead to more acceptance of the ambiguity that’s out there. (This does not mean we have to accept unresolved physical pain; I mean this more in the sense of the personal or spiritual.) A friend once said something like, “People are so interesting in their contraries.”

    And ambiguity is central to all great art. (The end of Lost in Translation, the movie, is a good example. The best novels end ambiguously.) So, it has a function — it can drive us nuts, or it can drive us to create something meaningful.

    This doesn’t mean it’s easy (it’s not, as you convey), just that there are different ways to examine it and try to put it in its place.

  5. I’m with you about how demoralizing “chronic” can be: chronic pain, chronic depression, chronic strife. Nobody ever says “I am experiencing chronic happiness” or “there is the chance for chronic peace”. I guess it’s still better than “perpetual care” which is what we pay to maintain a grave.

    Happy Passover!

  6. Julie,

    You’re absolutely on target and have a good way of putting ambiguity into perspective. Had you said, to either shrink, that yeah, sure, you feel you can do this daily, they wouldn’t have believed you. And if you managed to convince yourself of that, it really would have been a mess.

    By the way, I like the term “gender variant”; it seems to leave more room for the mix of Jessie’s traits.


    • I am quite sure that I would be physically unable to say I could do it out loud…at least I know I couldn’t do it with a straight face!

  7. Julie,

    The term, “gender variant”, is about as ambiguous as it gets. And, “chronic” is still preferable to “terminal”.

    My mother passed away exactly four years ago (04/03/08). She had known that I was “gender variant” (gender deviant would probably better fit with her way of thinking) for 45 years. We never discussed my gender identity, which I have regretted terribly. Anyway, talk about chronic ambiguity! I was afforded the opportunity to meet with a grievance counselor shortly after her passing. I was most interested in dealing with our 45 years of silence than anything else. After a two + hour session with this therapist, he finally gave me the best advise I’ve ever received. It did not come from his years of studies, but from his years of growing up in Brooklyn. He said, simply, “Fuck ’em if they can’t take a joke.”

    I live by those words now, as well as this short verse that I wrote a few years ago:

    If men are from Mars,
    And women from Venus,
    From where, but a star
    Is this girl with a penis

    Have a good Passover,

  8. Jessie is doing what she feels inside and that is most important for her.The timing is right to be accepted as different.I can imagine thatthere will be some issues popping up in a couple of years that you will have to work out perhaps with hormone adjustment for her.She will know by then if that is what she wants in order to stay on her path for happiness. As far as your suffering from health issues,that sure throughs an extra burden on your back and so your feelings about that are so real . Hope our feedback helps a bit. Hugs,Rogina

  9. I find it appalling that a trained professional should choose such words that keep their own biases unrestrained. As in, from my developmental psychology course, it only takes a few androgens, more or less, to determine our mix of gender. And that’s exactly it, according to the Kinsey scale, we are a mix of everything. Label it whatever they want to, but we all encompass both genders. The key lies in which one we identify with, and if society, starting with our parents, are willing to support us in the decisions we make. This is not a question of gender identity, this is a testament to your amazing parenting skills to support your daughter with what she contents as being true to herself. I mean, isn’t that what we all want from our parents? For them to accept us, and love us, just the way we are?

    Personally, I don’t find this any different from a child choosing vegetarianism. Meat is over-rated. And so is this idea that we only belong to one type. How limiting is it. Very. Kudos to you for being a phenomenal parent. Imprint that to erase the rest. 😀


      • HAHAHA.. you’re hilarious… 😀 All I can say is, from my experience on the distress centre lines is that callers who have supportive parents have an advantage over those who don’t. Your support means the WORLD to her, and I hope that all of us can learn how to become better through your example of strength and courage. 😀


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