My Son’s First Haircut – A Rite Of Passage

A first haircut is a milestone for any parent and their child. Most parents will take their kids in for a big to-do snapping endless photos, snipping tiny locks of hair and saving them in a book or a box to remember the day forever. (Even though we all know it just sits in a bin in the basement or attic collecting dust until we move, and then the box is moved to a bigger basement/attic to collect new dust.. but, hey, we care).

Even though there will be a million more to come, and eventually the “magic” of the first or second haircut dwindles and the routine becomes mundane like any other, we celebrate this event for our kids. For my son, right now…. haircuts continue to be a big deal. Maybe bigger than they were before. His “first” haircut was years ago, and it was very uneventful. A tiny trim to conserve his perfect ringlets that seemed to get fuller and more dramatic (and devastatingly beautiful) with age.

But now, we don’t count that hair cut. For him, his very first true and memorable haircut came after he revealed me that he is trans. And it’s a day that will forever be etched in my mind as a turning point for us, for the better. After my son told me how he felt on the inside and that he felt he was living a lie: a boy trapped in a girls body, he wanted badly to change his hair to a boy style. It was a drastic change that had us all very nervous, even just talking about it before the day came caused (me) panic.

I was anxiety ridden, he was scared kids would make fun of him after, and I might have been holding on a little too tight to that tremendous head of hair he had. Honestly, at first I thought he might back out. He seemed unsure once the moment was staring him in the face and I definitely didn’t want to pressure him into anything. Before the first scissor blade almost grazed his hair he turned his head and  stopped everyone. He asked for us to be alone to have a chat. He explained to me that he desperately wanted this change. He was dreaming about it for months. He was ready. BUT  – he was petrified. He didn’t want the kids at school to “call him names for being a boy now”. A haircut meant that his appearance would match his heart and he couldn’t hide anymore if he felt uncomfortable. He would be exposed.

School was almost out, summer break was close and my son wouldn’t be going to the same school next year. So I tried to urge him to wait a couple weeks. Once summer officially started this whole thing would be a lot less stressful, for all of us. But he didn’t want to wait another day longer. This was happening and it was happening today.

The stylist first put his long, beautiful curls in a pony tail and asked one last time before she started moving her blades through the bound locks. He nodded and… snip. It was GONE. And I anticipated the tears, the instant regret he would have once he realized that this was it. There was no going back now. But instead, my child beamed.

As the stylist continued to even out the long layers my son increasingly got more and more frustrated and my heart dropped because surely this was the remorse setting in and soon he would be crying all over the floor. Yet instead, he said, “it’s not short enough, I still look like a girl.” So my friend (his stylist) kept snipping away, looking at me for reassurance as she slowly cut more and more off until he had a Bieber-esk style cut and was grinning from ear to ear. Once he found words through his smiles and giggles he looked at me and said, “mom, I really look like a boy now, isn’t it GREAT?!?!” He was so incredibly happy and all of my fear, my panic, the tension this day had built up, melted away and all I saw was a very happy little boy who had just experienced one the best days of his life.

I walked in to that appointment scared out of my mind, questioning everything I was doing and feeling so unsure about all of my most recent decisions as a parent who’s child just expressed to them that they might be transgender. This was such a huge moment for him, and for me. Once his hair was short and he was thrilled, it all made sense. I wasn’t doing anything that I couldn’t take back (after all, hair grows back) but to my son, I was “allowing” him to make the changes he needed to feel himself, to feel loved, to feel like his body and his mind finally made sense, and to know that with me, this was all ok. And in the end, that’s all that mattered.

Since then, we have had many haircuts. And every time he wants it just a little shorter than before. And afterwards he still walks around rubbing his head and smiling in disbelief. Like he went to bed a frog and woke up a prince. As if he never thought it was possible to look in the mirror and see someone staring back that matched how he felt inside. But it was possible, and I couldn’t be more grateful that I was the one that stood by and held his hand while that transformation took place. I don’t know what the future holds for us, but I will forever remember his first haircut as a defining moment for him, and for me. Maybe more so than I will remember my other kids hair cuts. Because this haircut was one of the experiences that made him who he is.   

Of course I held on to those long locks of his from this very official day. Bound together by the very same ponytail and wrapped delicately in a ziplock bag…. sitting in a box… in my attic.

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What’s In A Name?

 

There are so many facets to coming out as a trans person. As an adult or even older youth, I assume many transgender individuals are constantly thinking about all the ways their life would be and will be different before they begin revealing to people how they feel inside. When a young child presents as transgender, despite professionals advising parents in this situation to follow the child’s lead and let them pave the way to wherever the path is going, ultimately the responsibility for all major decisions lies on the shoulder’s of the parent. A parent who hasn’t spent days or weeks or years day dreaming about how differently life could be for them (unless you count what I think my life might be like as a Kardashian. But I don’t. Should I?). There are many situations that have come up that I haven’t even come close to contemplating until the instant it’s shoved in my face and I’m forced to make a BIG decision on the fly. One I’m not sure I’m ready to make on behalf of my dependent. One I’m scared to take the credit or, more likely, the blame for later.

I have joined every parenting group I can find to connect with other moms and dads with children like mine; to bounce ideas off of them, to share my fears, or hear their successes and horror stories, to prepare myself for the journey ahead of us. But sometimes, no matter how much you research, how much you prepare or plan, there is no warning for situations you are going to have to tackle.

One topic that comes up a lot is names. And more specifically, legal name changes. I’ve heard of parents petitioning for these legal name changes as young as 3. Kids that haven’t even been able to put their feelings about their gender into words (because they didn’t have words) for very long. Kids that don’t know how to articulate how they feel yet, just that they feel wrong or different. 

Until today, I couldn’t wrap my head around why someone would go through this excruciating process with a young child to officially and legally change their name. In my thoughts, there is a good possibility the child’s feelings on the name they choose may change. Many times. I can’t even confidently select a sandwich to make my child for lunch for the following day without concern that their taste buds will change overnight and they will instantly reject PB&J and only eat ham from that point on (until Friday, then it’s something else, isn’t that how all kids work?). In my experience, kids are notoriously indecisive.

I guess perhaps this is where some of my misunderstanding or my personal bias comes in. I think about how when I was younger I wanted people to call me Dorothy for many months because I had watched the Wizard of Oz and wanted to be the girl in the blue and white plaid dress with ruby slippers who could click my heels and transport to other parts of the world, whenever the hell I wanted to. I didn’t respond if you didn’t call me by my new, chosen name, and most people thought it was adorable and would play along. Fancy that, because when my trans son asks people he knows and admires to please call him by the shortened version of his name, some have flat out refused… apparently it’s not “adorable” when it’s serious and a matter of acceptance and mental well-being. {eyeROLL}. I digress. My parents would have never ran out and changed my name to Dorothy even if I had been consistent and persistent about this. And, as luck would have it, the phase ended and I was back to answering to my birth name in no time. Maybe this is a bad analogy, because, for trans kids, a name is a BIG deal.

I have read about changing a child’s name, legally, but I have not embarked on this journey yet. It’s a big step. One many parents and trans kids will consider a huge milestone and success to be celebrated. It’s a process that includes court filings, court hearings, money, and going in front of a judge pleading your case to prove this is in the best interest of your child. I don’t know what the statistics are on getting denied, but I do know it certainly happens. And I couldn’t even begin to imagine the disappointment families must feel at the mercy of the judge who just denied their child’s existence as their true self, in a way.

A trans person’s birth name associates them with someone they used to be, someone that was in pain, someone that was misunderstood and living a life that wasn’t true to themselves. Their birth name (also known in the trans world as a dead name) isn’t THEM anymore. They are now known by a new name, one with hope, with peace, and most importantly (and hopefully), acceptance. So to refer to a person who is trans by their old name is considered offensive and hurtful. It can cause emotional trauma, especially if it’s done intentionally. It can remind them of all of their terrible experiences living as someone they were not. And as a parent, no one wants to knowingly put their child in a situation where that could happen. Ever.

Getting to the point (finally)…. I met with the school this week to talk about my son and his situation. We are just starting elementary school and as if coming into kindergarten isn’t scary enough for a child, my child socially transitioned from a girl to a boy since we registered last winter and it has put us into a tailspin of explanations and preparation before school starts. I feel the need to give them some insight as to how he likes to be referred to, what staff members should be included in his circle of trust, and what situations we can try to prepare for.

It wasn’t until this meeting that it clicked. I now understand why parents of young trans kids are changing their names. The principal informed me that per state law there are certain forms, certain cards or documents that will have to be received by my child with his full (girl) name on it, because that is the name that coincides with his birth certificate. If he has to sit down and take a state exam, there will be a box he will have to obediently check that says “yes, this is me (dead name )”.

The summer camp my kids attend is one my son has been registered with for years. They had his girl name on the roster, and this is another one of those situations that had to punch me in the face for me to be like “ahhhh, shit, this isn’t good and I should have prepared for this”. We walked in the door and he noticed his name tag and got upset, hurt, and didn’t want to go inside the classroom. I quickly alerted the counselors who swiftly changed his name tag, attendance list, and cubby holes for backpacks, and that was that, problem solved. But in school, it’s not going to be so easy.

If the teacher is a sub, the lunch staff is in a hurry, or the librarian doesn’t make a conscious effort to correctly call my child out by their preferred name over the name they will see on the computer screen or card he hands over…. this might devastate him. This might “out” him to whoever is in line with him, to his classmates or peers, and it could be terrible. I instantly felt pressured with the decision of keeping his legal name and preparing him for these anticipated situations that WILL arise through the school year, or starting the process of changing his name legally and hoping that as a 5 year old he has the wisdom to pick a name he will want to carry for the rest of his life. What kind of pressure is that for a child? It’s immense. He has a name picked out, he’s been testing it out for over a month when strangers he meets ask him his name. He likes it and ironically it was one of the first names he told me we should call him on the VERY DAY he told me that in his heart and in his brain, he is a boy. Maybe he will stick with that name forever. But what if he doesn’t?

But am I? Pressured… that is. Is this a national or state-wide law or just a district policy? Is this something I’m being told is a requirement when really it’s just never happened before at this level in the school and they don’t know how to address it? Stay tuned because this is something I’m going to get to the bottom of. This is one of those times when being an advocate for your child is so important. Therapists and doctors will talk about putting your child on hormone blockers to keep them out of puberty and give them more time before making long term decisions, and this is one of those circumstances that warrants more time to decide.

So on top of getting my kids prepared for a new school year and trying to learn as much as I can about what is going on with my child, I am now going to start researching what the hell the law says and why a name has to be officially and legally changed in order to get a report without your kid’s full girl name on it. I’m scrutinizing district policy and what it will take to have the system changed so that I can give my kid (and myself) more time to think about this. More time to be sure before we go making a drastic change that is something I vowed not to do until years down the road. Something that isn’t easily reversible.

I guess we aren’t in Kansas anymore.

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When Your Child Comes Out – Family Can Be Harsh

Once my son expressed his true feeling to me about feeling like a boy trapped in a girl’s body, he was rapidly ready to make some serious external changes, and people started asking questions. My child was very open about how he felt to most people. At school he walked right in and announced himself as a boy. In the neighborhood kids asked “so, you’re a boy now?” and he would simply respond, “yep!” and continue on playing, business as usual. There was no doubt in HIS mind, but it sure as hell did make some heads turn or eyebrows raise, especially if this was the first time someone saw him since his appearance drastically changed.

It’s interesting to watch. Especially at this age, because kids {mostly} don’t care. They seem to breeze right over it move on to more fun things. It’s not the kids that scare me when it comes to my child. At least not yet. It’s the adults that seem to be confused, scared, and downright mean.

Since my son has gotten more open about his feelings, we’ve gotten support where we least expected it, found friends in strangers that have gone through similar struggles, and received a lot of backlash from the people I expected to be our biggest supporters.

My son made it very clear rather early that he wanted me to do the explaining. He didn’t want to sit and field questions as a child, he was still figuring this all out for himself and at four that’s hard to articulate to an adult anyway. On top of the language barrier between adult and young child, anyone that wanted to question him seemed to have an agenda of using whatever he said as a way of discrediting his feelings or making him prove to them that this wasn’t some child’s play. It. Was. Infuriating.

Everything he said and did started getting dissected. If he had played with a doll while I was at work (even though he was playing the dad and the doll was the son, as he often did) my family babysitter would call me after and say, “you know, {FULL GIRL NAME} was playing with dolls today, and SHE LIKED IT!” Huge effing eye roll from me.

Photo Credit: Trans Student Educational Resources

No one understands until they do the research that this is a spectrum, that one action does not make or not make you identify as a boy or a girl. And who am I to tell my child how they feel on the inside because of the toys they play with? I’ve always had toys for both sexes in my house. If my oldest (born male) son puts a headband on and prances around the house (and, he has) does that make him feel like a girl on the inside? No.

Comments like this made me quickly realize why he was overwhelmed and decided to defer the questions off to me to let me handle the explaining. Mama Bear mode came on strong in many cases.

Everyone had their theory, everyone had their opinion, and many times… it wasn’t favorable to the path we had already decided to take with my son. The path that the professionals, the parents, the doctors, and every other person I could tell my story to, begging for an answer, had advised us to take. I would spew out statistics and evidence-based research, but it didn’t matter. There are some people that no matter WHAT you tell them, will always think they have the answers. When my son started requesting male pronouns be used to refer to him, some family members flat out refused.

My family tried to tell me horror stories of other trans kids they had heard about (but didn’t personally know), how my kid was going to get bullied out of school, how other kids were afraid of my child. As if I wasn’t already afraid enough for my child. As if this was a choice. I heard all about how my child needs attention, is around too many boys, must be confused, is too young…. I should wait five years. See if this sticks before we do anything “drastic”.

My kid was told “NO” when he would ask them to address him by his new, shortened name. And then they would emphasize his “dead name” when they addressed him to show their opposition to his change. (Dead name is the name you were given at birth. The name you no longer associate with. And for many trans kids, a painful name. Don’t beat yourself up if you aren’t familiar with terms – I still am learning all of the lingo and politically correct terms relating to all of this).

I learned a lot about my family in the beginning, to say the least. And we are still working on some (most). It’s sad when you have to consider if it’s going to be safe and healthy for your child to attend something as simple as a family BBQ, or if you should just stay home altogether. It’s not fair. Hopefully, by this time next year, things will be much different. One can wish… right?

I hear from other trans kid’s parents that they sent out letters or emails, sent an announcement to their family when the situation got real for them to explain what was going on, how to address their child, and many included a number of researched referrals/articles for their family to read if they had questions. I didn’t do this. I should have. Maybe I was giving it some time to make sure, maybe I was scared. I honestly don’t know. But I think it would have helped prepare my family (and done my kid some good) if I had warned them all before we showed up at the next family function with a hair cut, boy clothes, and a new name. Lesson learned.

 

Until next time, be the mom that sticks up for your kid. Even if it’s to family and even if it brings you pain. Be in their corner. And be proud of that.

 

MomTransparenting

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In The Spirit Of Trans-parenting: Who Am I?

So… who the hell am I and why should you read my blog? I’m a pretty lame person, with a pretty average life. I’m divorced. Which just means that I’m part of the majority of the previously married adult population. And that the man who I swore my love, life, and future to years ago became my worst enemy for a whole year straight while we battled in court until the lawyers realized we were out of money, and then magically, things started happening and our divorce was finalized. Funny how that works.

I’m also (unrelated,… maybe) broke. Because of my life before divorce, the one with two incomes and no debt and even financial contributions into the family, I lived pretty comfortably. Now, considering one of those things no longer exists in our household, I believe “frivolously” might better describe my spending skills (I think they call it champagne taste on a beer budget). I have yet to figure out how to make that mature adjustment to my shopping habits and find the balance of my new income (or missing income), and when I do (hello, fellow Single Moms, share your tips please!) you’ll be the first to know!

I have 3 biological kids and 2 future step kids. Which puts me in an awkward position when trying to describe who these children are to me out in public. “So those are your….” Those are my fiance’s kids. Fiance implies that we are engaged, but because we aren’t technically married yet, they aren’t  technically my step children, and because I don’t want the side eye from you…. I’m just going to say “future step kids” and annoy the shit out of myself in the process. They live with me (us) half of the time, they fight and bicker with my kids like natural siblings do. They talk to me like any kid talks to their parent when they are pissed off, with attitude and disdain.

I get summoned into the room in the middle of the night during a bad dream, or requested to cuddle one of them when they are having a hard time going back to sleep. I make their breakfasts, lunches, and dinners when they are with us and I would like to think I treat them the same (or pretty damn close) as my own children. But, as far as the general population (in my experience) is concerned, I don’t carry the title of “Stepmom” yet, and therefore, they aren’t my “step kids”…. yet.

My ex husband and I do not speak and he’s not a part of my kid’s lives at the moment. Which I might get into more later but for now that’s all I’m going to say about that. (Let’s keep the sad/serious stuff for a rainy day).

What makes our family different isn’t the divorce part, isn’t the ex part, or the fact that we are two working parents, coming together like the freakin modern day Brady Bunch, except penniless and in desperate need of Alice to come clean our tiny house. What makes my story much different than most, is because my middle child is a kindergartner. And also, a transgender boy. All of this is VERY new to me, but my intention is to share with you along the way and maybe in the end, we will both learn something.

About 6 months ago my (then) daughter came to me with some pretty heavy stuff. She was 4, and confused with herself, and convinced that in her brain, she was a boy. She told me God had given her all of the wrong parts. She should have a penis, because, after all, she is a boy. She asked me if deep down, in my heart I know that I am a girl. Because in her heart, she feels like a boy.

Photo Credit: Trans Student Educational Resources

What do you do when your very young child brings you something so incredibly profound and ADULT? In my mind, kids weren’t supposed to know about this stuff. Kids aren’t supposed to be worrying about their identity and gender or sexual orientation. They are KIDS! They should be having fun and making fart jokes and messes they don’t intend to clean up and blaming them on their brothers and sisters proudly. This was so big. So life changing (for both of us, for all of us, really).

And because someone once told me that no one wants to read a blog post over 700 words, I’m going to wrap this up and finish up in my next post. See you soon.

(Find a quick link to the rest of this story I’m rambling on about here: Trans-parenting… The Story Continues. )

Mom Transparenting.

**There are some great resources out there for parents, kids, family, friends, and anyone that just wants to learn more about the LGBTQ+ community. Here are a handful that I have found to be helpful while I’m navigating my own path with my child:

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Mom Transparenting

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