It’s been 10 months since my last confession… (Good thing I’m not religious!)

I haven’t been here (to write) in quite a long time.  There are multiple reasons for that really.  Reason #1 is life.  Life is busy.  Life gets crazy.  Want to dos get pushed behind the need to dos.  Once I started teaching in August, life only got busier…and I think that is about where I last left off…

In October, Laine and I got married.  If you are local and close to us, you were likely present for our special day.  Let me insert right here that we have been negligent with our “Thank You” notes, and we know this.  We admit and own it.  The thank you cards sit in a little white box on the edge of our bedroom dresser.  Staring us in the face, screaming at us to pick up a pen and write in them.  We have failed to listen.  So, to those to whom we owe a “Thank You” card, we also owe an apology.  And we mean it when we say, we have no excuse, but we are truly sorry for our failure to mail these in a timely manner.

The wedding itself was everything we planned it to be, down to every little tiny detail.  We each wrote our own vows, we committed ourselves to one another and to our family, we danced, we laughed, we cried (happy) tears.  I could not have hoped for anything differently…except I do wish we would have included a videographer so we could relive the day whenever we wanted to.  Fortunately, our photography turned out wonderfully and we will always have that to remember the day.  We took time to travel after the wedding, spending a night in Palm Springs and then multiple days in Huntington Beach.  We watched the sunset, took late night walks on the beach, roasted s’mores, discovered the local acai bowl shop, and just enjoyed the time together with no interruptions or responsibilities.

Then we returned to reality…and that goes something like this…

One thing they don’t tell you when you start teaching, it is NOT an 8-3 job like everyone perceives it to be.  The hours of 8-3 are just the hours you have 24 little shining faces under foot.  The other work has to be done outside of that window, to prepare for those hours.  Lesson planning, materials prep, professional development, conferences, emails, etc., etc., etc.  I come home each evening exhausted.  I want to grab a glass of wine and put my feet up.  Oh wait, there isn’t quite time for that!  By the time dinner is prepared and served, the kitchen is cleaned up, the girls are bathed, read to and in bed, its 8pm. Which then begins homework time.  For me.  Yes, in order to be a teacher, I had to take on more school for myself.  My BA in psych holds me over with the state on a temp basis, as long as I am in the program to obtain my early childhood education certification.  I started this 2-year program in January 2017, at which time I converted from long term sub to fully contracted teacher.  Fortunately, my classes are online and I can do them from home in the evening, sometimes in a zombie like state after being in the classroom with 24 5/6 year olds all day.  Truth is, even with as draining as it is, and as much work as it takes on a daily basis…summer break is killing me!!!  I want to be back in the classroom.  A week or two of a break was great.  After that I started hitting a wall.  I thrive on the fast-paced environment of the Kindergarten classroom.  I enjoy the ins and outs of each and every day. I miss the morning hugs and hi fives from 24 little humans, watching their light bulbs brighten when they learn something new, talking them through a problem when life just seems too tough to handle (“Yes, I know it hurt your feelings that he broke your blue crayon.  How can we fix this situation?”) and I can’t wait for summer to be over so I can meet my next group of kiddos and start all over.  I am in love with my job, and I never thought in my life I would ever say that.  Even on the hard days, and yes there are some really hard days, I know whole heartedly that this is what I am supposed to be doing.  If you know anything about the education system in AZ, you know I am not in love with the paycheck, or sometimes even the requirements handed down from above, but that is not what drives me.  It is the kids, the ever-changing environment, the unpredictability of each and every day, the laughter and the learning that goes on.  Those kids which need the most love wrap themselves around my heart and tug at me the hardest.  My school community makes me happy.  I keep seeing a t-shirt online (which I need to purchase!!) that says “I wanted to change the world, so I became a Kindergarten teacher!”  If you know me at all, you know this quote was written for me.

Now the part that I struggle writing about.  The part that originally brought you all here in the beginning.  Transition.  I struggle because to me, there seems to be nothing TO write.  Transition no longer runs our lives.  It isn’t the center of our world.  It doesn’t dictate our scheduling.  We are no longer running our calendar around surgeries.  It has stopped defining us as a couple, we appear as a heterosexual normative couple to the naked eye. Transition now occupies about 2 minutes of our Thursday mornings, long enough to draw up and inject the weekly shot.  For Laine, it is doctor check ins every 3-6 months and blood donation every 8 weeks to avoid too many red blood cells.  He continues to visit his therapist on a routine basis as well, just to make sure things are steady.  There are still a few surprises here or there like the increasing growth of facial hair which we were beginning to think might never show up.  Or the constant redistribution of body structure; just when you think it has settled where it is going to stay, the chest and shoulders thicken just a bit more and that t-shirt is just a little bit tighter.

Laine uses his personal experience as a way to educate others.  He is heavily involved in his work place in diversity conversations.  He tells his story often.  He talks about this journey to groups large and small.  He talks face to face and on conference calls.  It never fails at the end of one of these conversation days, he arrives home and tells me about someone who shared their own story with him.  Or someone who connected to his story because they know someone, or they are someone who…all it takes is an open and honest conversation.  We all have a story.

The rest of life is just life, not transition, so I feel as if I have little to say, expect that we are no different than any other couple.  We go to work, we come home and take care of household tasks and chores, we raise our family, we travel, we shop, we dine out, we watch TV, and we do it all as husband and wife.  When we meet new people, we don’t introduce ourselves as “Melanie and my transgender husband Laine.”  This in some ways is another struggle.  How much do people need to know?  We had this discussion a few nights back about hanging out with other couples and expanding a social circle.  Ours is quite small to be honest. We have many acquaintances and many who know about us, but few which we are actually close to. If we invite people into our home, our digital photo frame which sits near the front door plays our journey in photographs.  From the beginning.  For us, we look back and “remember when” or “wow I can’t remember you then, I only see you as you now.”  But for someone who doesn’t know our story, are they going to question?  Do we have to tell them?  Obviously full disclosure is not an issue for us, if it was I wouldn’t be writing on this blog read around the world.  The real struggle isn’t about us disclosing, it is about the other people, do they want or need to know? How much do we tell?  When?  Why is it even important?  Thinking through it, it isn’t necessary.  But what happens when a photograph is displayed somewhere in our home that depicts Laine early on in transition?  Or what if something is said in a conversation about growing up and childhood, a time in which Laine identified as female?  Are we supposed to clear our lives of photographs and memories pre-transition, or even from the first two years of transition when Laine looked different than he does today?  Transition doesn’t run our lives, or define who we are, however in some sneaky way it’s always hiding in the shadows I guess…

www.cyndihardy.com

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Reflections of the First Year

One year ago we were impatient and nervous to inject that first dose of testosterone.  We knew it wouldn’t change anything over night, but we truly had no idea how much it would change our lives over the next year.  My hand shook as I pulled back on the syringe to measure out the clear liquid.  I was cautious and strategic in my actions, making sure I was doing every thing exactly as the pharmacist had explained to us.  This morning I did the same, for the 53rd time…only this time I was groggy from just waking up.  No longer nervous, the steps have become a Thursday morning routine.  A routine I have perfected, almost able to do in my sleep.  I know the 18g needle is used to draw up the liquid, and there should be no air in the syringe which would prevent an accurate measurement of .5cc.  I know to change the needle out to a 21g before I inject. I know how to check the injection site for any signs of a vein or prior bruising, wiping with alcohol as I inspect.  I know what it should feel like when I push the tip of the needle straight through his skin and into the muscle.  I know how to hold the needle steady and how to avoid making him bleed.  And I know that next week we will do it all over again.

That first dose, and the 51 others which followed over the past year have changed his life.  They have changed OUR lives.  In some way or another they may have even changed the life of everyone reading this blog.  That is why I document this journey, because everyone is impacted in some way by it.  I don’t say that from an egotistical point of view, I say that because transition affects everyone we come in contact with.  This is something I didn’t know would happen when this journey started.  From doctors and nurses, waitresses, strangers, friends and family, acquaintances and silent followers, everyone we have stopped and taken the time to interact with, to have a conversation with, or who reads this blog and returns time after time, has been affected by this journey.

I could write a page, or ten, about this past year…but you always get to hear from me.  This time I feel it is most appropriate to hear it directly from him…and he is finally ready to break his silence.  The following words are written by Laine, they are his real, raw and honest reflections of the first year of this lifelong journey.

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With my 53rd injection this morning, today marks day one of my second year of transition.  I got up this morning and I shaved my sparse facial hair.  Yes, it’s finally growing at a rate where I need to shave every few days for work.  I can’t believe it’s already been one year since I began masculinization hormone therapy.  During the first chapters of my journey, I was so impatient, time was moving slowly and I was beginning to think I would never have any facial hair or be referred to as sir by anyone, ever.

Someone recently asked me, what’s been the best part about transitioning so far.  It’s the incredible confidence I feel in being authentic and true to myself and coming out at work. Thanks to my awesome therapist, I understand and have embraced that my transition has never been, and will never be, JUST about me.  And I’m speaking only for me.  My transition has affected almost every single person I have interacted with since coming out in early 2015.   Looking back, I remember being so worried about how I was going to come out at work and struggled a bit with where to begin.  I should have known better considering the amazing company I work for and their commitment to diversity and inclusion.  While I did struggle with some of the steps for coming out at work, I understood the need for the approach and more importantly the value and am extremely proud to have worked for this company now for almost 30 years.

Then the next question was, of course, what’s been the largest challenge.  The highs and lows.  I wish I could tell you the last 12 months have been completely filled with confidence and happiness and all that is good.  I am not going to tell you that lie.  The lows were difficult and happened way too often. Prior to beginning my transition, I viewed myself as having myself together on most days.  And if I didn’t, at least I appeared I did.  I should have known with that very first, and surprisingly intense hormone crash, less than 2 weeks after my first testosterone injection, this was going to be one of the biggest, if not the largest, roller coaster rides of my life.  Even with all my change management experience and managing change risk, I wasn’t as prepared as I thought I was when it came to knowing and understanding just how testosterone was going to affect my body, my mind and my soul.  My therapist, Dianne, and nurse practitioner, Tracy, have had, and continue to have, a crucial role in helping me navigate the storm within me.  Dianne, as a very experienced and knowledgeable care provider for the transgender community, quite frankly didn’t accept any of my shit.  I am not a fan of therapy at all, but as my session draws near each month, I actually look forward to it and evaluate my experiences since the last session to identify what we need to address.  There is always something that needs to be addressed. I truly can’t imagine not having Dianne along with me on this journey.

And then there’s Tracy, my nurse practitioner who has a passion for what she does and while not highly experienced…yet… in providing transgender care, her commitment to my health and my well-being surpasses every single doctor I have had care for me…EVER.  Her willingness to listen to me and acknowledge my concerns is a dream come true when it comes to a medical health care provider.  She spends time talking to me and getting to know me. Being her first trans man client, I am honored to work with her and to know she wants only the best for me and will spend endless hours researching, reading and asking questions to ensure I am getting the best care possible.  Some may say I’m foolish, but to me, she is a gift.  Every three months I get my labs drawn and we review results.  This approach has allowed me to avoid medications to address concerns with numbers for blood pressure, red blood cells and diabetes.  It also allowed us to identify the growth of fibroids that had remained unchanged in size for years prior to starting testosterone, which then led me to a complete hysterectomy in March.  During my hysterectomy surgery experience, I found myself again working with care providers that had no experience whatsoever with trans men.   And again, they listened, they understood and hopefully they learned.  Throughout the last year and all the health providers I have chosen to interact with, I have not had a single bad experience.  And most have never had the opportunity to provide service or care to a transgender individual.  I found by choosing to be open and transparent, my experiences always yielded a positive result.

My support system has been and remains incredibly exceptional at work and at home.  I work with the most amazing people at work and I am so grateful for their support.  But I truly now need to shift my reflection and appreciation to the woman in my life who has endured it all; the good, the bad and yes, the ugly.  She has had to process the mood swings from lover to bastard so many times that I sometimes question how it’s even possible to love someone that deeply. But she does love me that deeply.  She never gives up on me even when she says she does in a moment of anger.  You all know her as Melanie, my fiancée.  To me she is my everything every day; my therapist, my care provider, my partner, my friend, my lover, my heart and my soul.  Without her, the last 365 days would have been unbearable at times.  And while I made many of those days unbearable for her, she has remained steadfast and unwavering.  Don’t’ get me wrong, she had days where she just wanted to give up on me.  Hell, I wanted to give up on me. I know there are many transgender individuals who would do just about anything to be loved by someone the way she loves me.  And to be loved like that during transition, it’s so rare and exceptional.  For that reason, when I step into behavior which is not reflective of the man I want to be, I only have to remind myself of how wonderful my life is and just how lucky I am.

To sum up my first year of transition, I’m the happiest I have ever been.  I wish I could find the words to share what it feels like to finally live my life as the real me.  Those words are elusive at this time, but the confidence is growing, the self-esteem issues are decreasing and I am working on making mirrors a place for affirmations versus self-degradation.

For now, I am looking forward to my upcoming top surgery in June and have high hopes this will help me eliminate any remaining negative talk and be the last obstacle standing in the way of Melanie and me embracing our dream to travel and educate others through the sharing of our story.

Defining Our Norm…

Next month (April 30) we will celebrate Laine’s one year “T-versary.” We are ending this first year by celebrating with a complete hysterectomy. Woo-hoo! Ok, so most of you are thinking why in the world would anyone be excited about having surgery?? But the fact is, as a transman, he doesn’t need the parts and the parts are only causing him pain (as crappy as that is, it does mean the procedure is medically necessary and therefore insurance coverage helps pay for it).  He (and I) are looking forward to this surgery because his high sex drive equals need for orgasm release. Orgasm and fibroids are not a good combination…they equal pain post sex. Hysterectomy will solve this little issue.  Hence our excitement. Next Friday March 18, we will be (not so bright eyed) at 530 in the morning as we check into the hospital to complete another step in this transition process.  My anxiety is semi high regarding this surgery, not because of the surgery itself.  I know Laine will soar through it and recover quickly.  My anxiety stems from the thought of how many times will Laine have to “come out” or explain himself during this process, something that can be frustrating on any given day, much less when undergoing or recovering from a surgery.  I had to call the hospital billing department this week to make the copayment for the procedure, no less than 4 times did I have to correct the woman on the phone…HE, HIM, HE, HIM…”DO YOU UNDERSTAND THE WORDS COMING OUT OF MY MOUTH?!?”  What is really amusing is when Laine and I are sitting together, across a desk from a medical assistant and they start explaining the process and procedures etc. and the woman is making eye contact with me, clearly addressing her spiel to me and we have to politely inform her… “I’m not Laine…he is.” (This happened.)

Over the past month we have settled nicely into our new home and our lives. It is strange really, we have lived together since December of 2014, but that first year we never really settled into life. Laine moved in with me and the kids, into a home my ex and I had purchased a few years prior. For that first year of our lives together, that location served as a house for us, but never our home. There was always something preventing us from finding a routine. Something keeping us from creating a fluid transition from the early morning waking hours to bedtime each day. Now in OUR home, we have found the fluid schedule and routine that works for all of us, adults and kids alike. Life has finally settled in and I like it. I didn’t realize how much I craved what we now have, until we found it. Chaos has always been routine. Anxiety was normal for me. Now we have established a new (non-chaotic) routine and the day flows.  We are happy, the kids are happy.  Life is comfortable, but not at all in a boring way (!!!) and therefore life is wonderful.

Our youngest baby (ok so she’s a four legged furry baby) had surgery last week.  She had a bad knee that refused to remain in socket causing her to hop around on three legs for weeks now.  (I have never seen anything run so fast on three legs in my life, nothing slows this mutt down!)  She is healing nicely now and hopefully will be back on all fours within a few weeks.  Leave it to us to rescue a puppy with patella luxation. The day of her surgery, I woke at 230 in the morning with the stomach flu.  This meant I was out of commission for the day.  Laine handled kids, his work, household chores, vet drop off and pick up, cooked dinner (NOT TAKEOUT), and diligently took care of me while I got myself back in working order.  He deserved a Super Dad medal to say the least.  As if that wasn’t enough, the 11-year-old had a Mother/Daughter tea party the next day that all three girls were looking forward to.  With Mom (me) still recovering from dehydration, (step) dad had to jump in and save the day, even if he was the only guy in the room.  They decorated hats, ate finger sandwiches and cupcakes and made bracelets.  He lived to tell about it, and based on the pictures, I think he might have even had a little bit of fun.  😉

Towards the end of February, we gathered our friends and celebrated the last 9 months of our journey with a housewarming/engagement/celebrate legal name changes/birthday (Mel turns 29 for the 6th time) party.  As if having our house full of our family and friends wasn’t enough, we were extremely lucky that Sarah Smith was passing through Phoenix at the end of her tour.  If you haven’t heard of Sarah and her music, check her out (www.sarahsmithmusic.com) …her music is flipping amazing, and she’s pretty damn cool!  She (and Ken) performed LIVE IN OUR LIVING ROOM!!!!! (I’m fairly certain I am still trying to come down from that excitement high.) We are so happy we could share this experience with all of you who joined us that evening for food, drinks, laughs and live music.  Those of you who were unable to attend with us, we missed you and hope you will join us in October for our next big step.  Our circle of family and friends are what make our journey through life memorable.

A Dose of Our Reality…

We took last week off from reality and spent a few days just being together. We labeled it our “Engagement-moon” and escaped to Palm Springs for 4 days. Our road trip consisted of antique shopping (specifically looking for certain items to be utilized within the wedding), time in the pool, eating in, dining out, a few bottles of wine, and one on one time with minimal distractions. It was nice to just get away and relax without any of life’s disruptions.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our life and I would not trade it for anything, and that includes all its disruptions, but some days it is nice to take a true vacation and escape from the schedule and the chaos. Have I ever explained the details of our chaos here? I’m fairly certain I have not so let me give you a glimpse of our daily life.

The day starts around 5:30 am. By “starts” I mean one of the six (yes you read that correctly, SIX) dogs begins barking or howling to be let outside. Once one begins, they all feel it is necessary to chime in, just in case we didn’t hear the single crier.

I typically take on the task of the first to roll out of bed to answer these demands to be let outside. Stumbling half asleep down the hallway, I attempt to avoid stubbing my toe on one of the two pet gates that divide the hall way from the living room and the living room from the kitchen. Everyone is let out into the morning air and stumble back to bed hoping to catch one more hour of sleep. Typically by this point Laine is also at least partially awake and we cuddle up for our last hour of snuggle time.

6:30 rolls around and one of the six, (usually the daschund) begins their morning bark-fest at the neighbor who works out in his backyard bright and early. The others of course join in and since we don’t want the neighborhood to hate us, Laine takes this turn at getting up and bringing the pack back inside. On a weekday, this is about the time Laine then heads to the shower to get ready for work. On Thursdays, this is shot time, which means I roll out of bed too. On a weekend, he returns to bed and hides deep under the covers.

Sometime within the next thirty minutes of the morning, 1-4 of the kids wander out of bed and down the hall to find the TV. (Unless it is a school day, but currently they are on Summer Vacation.) Their noise mixed with the TV noise, prompts the bird (an Indian Ringneck) to begin his fire alarm impersonations. I originally bought this bird under the impression that he would talk, sing and mimic sounds.   The only thing this bird has ever copied (and repeats daily) was the smoke detector the ONE time it was set off by a child dropping something into the burner pan and making the kitchen a bit smokey. My personal recommendation if you value your eardrums, skip the bird.

Laine is ready for work by this point, and depending upon his schedule for the day, we might get to share a moment for a cup of coffee before he leaves for the day. While he goes off to work, I stay home with the kids. I attempt to keep the house in some type of order and keep the laundry from overflowing (there are SIX of us in the house, that equates to two loads per day on average.) I also work on my part time job and any volunteer work I might be involved in on any particular day.

After work hours, Laine returns home and helps me with any tasks that may not have been completed during the day because a child needed a few extra moments of attention or the hours just ran short. We cook and serve dinner around 6, eating around the table as a family. On most evenings after dinner, Laine messes around in the back yard, he claims it is therapeutic. Typically myself and at least the youngest two children find our way outside to join him, which results in Laine forgetting about his goal of yard work and instead playing with the girls. There have been tricycle races, chalkboard creations on the back wall, and bug hunts. The other night he ran laps around the yard pushing the girls in their ride on car. Their laughter and his willingness to be a goof ball in order to prompt that laughter makes my entire day in those few moments.

The day wraps up with an 830 “ready for bed time.” There are teeth to be brushed, pajamas to be found and books to be read. The chaos ends around 9pm when kid lights go out and then it is “our time.” We get to spend just a few hours of quiet time together before we call it a night and lay down in one another’s arms, hoping to get some sleep before it starts all over again tomorrow.

Sticks and Stones May Break Some Bones, but Words Can Break Your Heart

Yesterday I sat on the couch, in the living room of my future Mother-In-Law, whom I call by her first name but for the sake of this blog I refer to her simply as “Mom.” This has become an every Sunday ritual since December, when Laine moved his mother out of his home and into an independent living facility. (When you read that, don’t think Nursing Home, because it is NOT. This place is like the Ritz Carlton of independent living. They cook full meals for you, clean your apartment, there are social outings, game and movie nights, special events, they chauffeur you to the store, doctor’s appointments, Starbucks, etc. If I met the age requirement I would sign up for this place, no joke!) Every Sunday we visit mom, take her to lunch and make sure she has a minor stock of groceries in the pantry. (If I told you the weekly list you wouldn’t believe it, lets just say in the case of an apocalypse, she will be able to survive quite a long time on bread and jelly.)

A lot of people reading here might know that Laine is the primary caretaker for his mom, but I am fairly certain only a small few of you fully “get it” so let me start by explaining this part of the story. When Laine’s dad passed away, he made Laine promise to always take care of mom, and Laine has upheld that promise because Dad’s wishes mean everything to Laine. Initially that meant mom lived in Laine’s home and was underfoot 24/7. This arrangement was not ideal for a multitude of reasons, but it worked for a period of time. When Laine made key changes in his life last year, the decision to move mom into her own space was one of those necessary changes. This lightened some of the load on Laine and allowed him to return to HIS life for the most part.

From my personal point of view, I can’t imagine how 9 years of cohabitating allowed for any functioning. Within weeks of being together, mom was calling Laine at 12:15 at night, at quite the inopportune moment, asking WHY his car was not in the driveway. Please keep in mind here I am talking about fall of 2014, NOT 1979…Laine was 51 at the time! Along with incidents like this, Sunday morning happens once every 7 days, like clockwork.   And like clockwork I see the effects…

The alarm goes off at 8am, and it begins…. coffee, shower, get dressed, and hope to goodness Laine picks up the phone to make the call before it rings at exactly 9:15 when mom wakes up from her morning nap (don’t ask.) The call always consists of the same (what time will you be here?) (It’s the same every week, approx. 11am) a brief grocery list (also the same every week) and her restaurant request for lunch (which varies between three options.) Then we continue to ready ourselves, and the kids, and get out the door by 10am, Laine stressing the entire process. His whole self is shut down and unrecognizable, except I have come to recognize him on these days, it’s his Sunday mood and I know and accept this now.

We arrive by 11, and if we are even a few minutes late the phone is ringing and will continue to do so until it is answered. (Where are you?) This only stresses Laine out more.

We pick mom up, head to lunch, accomplish groceries or errands and return to her apartment. Here we have time to pass, as mom gets slightly huffy if we leave early, although she typically entertains herself on her iPad while we pretend to watch whatever she has put on the TV.

Yesterday the two youngest children were with us. They were playing on the floor in front of us and Laine and I were sitting on the couch. I’m uncertain HOW the conversation started but I tuned in immediately when I heard mom using “Joyce” and “girl” while talking to the 5 year old. The child was using Laine, he and boy appropriately. Mom was arguing with the child!

Mom has been difficult on this topic since day one. As I addressed in another post, Laine has told her multiple times that he is man. Mom pushes back with “I gave birth to a girl” and refuses to address him as Laine. Even with all the children utilizing proper pronouns and name, mom won’t cave. Now here she is arguing with our 5 year old about it. REALLY??!?!?!! The kid gets it. The kid isn’t caving, and fortunately knows and understands as much as possible for a child her age.

Listening to this exchange, which we ended by signaling to the child she is correct and to let it go for now, gave me two things to think about. The first one being I cannot WAIT for the day we are in public and Laine has definitive facial hair (which is beginning to grow in areas already btw!!!) and mom introduces him as her daughter (which she likes to do.) The individual on the other end of this conversation is going to think mom is certifiably nuts!

My other thought came about as I listened to mom’s words while I sat on that couch. I watched Laine and the affects they had on him (which I bet he might try to deny, but I can read him, and I caught them.) Laine is a 52-year-old man. He is a grown adult, he has a successful career, he has a fiancé, we have kids, and we have a solid life. When mom sat there (this time and any other time in the past) and repeatedly stated, “SHE is a GIRL” “HER name is JOYCE” “You are NOT a man” “I DON’T have a son, I have a daughter” those words affected Laine. A 52 YEAR OLD ADULT, cut down at the knees by his mother, someone who should unconditionally love him…now imagine the impact of those words on a 15 year old youth, who can’t walk out of mom’s apartment and put her words aside for another week. A youth who is going through the same transition Laine is going though, the ups and downs, the emotional impact and sometimes struggle, the transition that requires support from others…and they have no choice but to repeatedly hear those words from their parent, meanwhile knowing how THEY feel and WHO they ARE! It frustrates and angers me to watch the impact these interactions have on Laine, someone I want to protect and whom I love so deeply. It breaks my heart to think about the impact an interaction similar to this must have on a youth.

This journey is emotional enough as it is. Parents, guardians, family should not be the ones making it any more difficult. I understand that they might not always understand, but they need to at least be cognizant of their words and the impact they can have. If they don’t understand, they should seek to change that, ask questions, join a support group, talk to the individual with an open mind and just for a minute put themselves aside. We are constantly telling the individual in transition “It is not always about you…” but those of us not on the journey need to remember it sure as hell is not always about us either! A mother’s words have the ability to push their child too far into that dark space. A father who refuses to recognize his daughter for who she is because she was labeled male at birth, has the ability to literally kill her with his words.

No wonder the homelessness and suicide rates are so high among the LGBTQ youth. If a woman, who relies solely on her adult child as her primary caregiver, can speak to that adult child in the way mom speaks to Laine, I can’t even imagine the interaction between an unsupportive mother and an underage youth. I can squeeze Laine’s hand and comfort him to remind him I am right there beside him and that mom’s words are unimportant and don’t change who he is. I can remind him that he doesn’t need her approval to be WHO he is because he is 52, grown, and she has NO grasp on his life. What I can’t do is make the words and the pain they cause go away.   I can only do my best to counteract them, and then we’ll start all over again next week, because he promised Dad he would.

I can’t hug every individual who has had to face the damaging words from a family member and remind them that they do matter. I can’t give them each a space to be WHO they truly are, although I wish I had that ability and capacity. For anyone who might read this and is dealing with those words of non-acceptance, please know you DO matter. YOU are perfect as whomever you are, however you identify. You are loved and you are YOU whatever that looks like. Please don’t doubt yourself. I have heard the words from the outside and I watch the impact, and if they hurt to watch from out here, I can’t even imagine what they feel like in there.