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Labels

Right or wrong and whether we want them to or not, labels exist and they are everywhere. Early on we are trained to label things. The whole world around us is labeled in one way or another. As toddlers and preschoolers we are taught to group items by size, labeling and categorizing them into big or little for example. When cleaning and organizing the playroom that my kids have, things are grouped into “cars,” “blocks,” “food” and so on. Bins are labelled with words and pictures so that the kids can find where it is that they belong and they learn to put things back into the “correct” place. Some try to organize everything in their lives so that everything fits into its designated area or spot and so that nothing is ever out of place. And this labeling carries over into people.

In school kids are divided into groups of those that need help and those that are on track and those that are ahead. Sometimes these groups are mixed together so that they learn from each other but often times the ones that need help are sent into another room to receive what is deemed as “remedial” help. The ones that are ahead are sometimes used to help the ones that are just on track or they sometimes get to jump ahead. That’s just the way our world seems to work.

In a larger scale we have the poor, the almost extinct middle class, the rich and the millionaires and beyond. Everyone, everywhere always labeled and fit into a category. And this, this insane amount of labeling in a sense blinds us to seeing what else is out there. At times it even says, “Hey! That person does not fit into one of the categories so there must be something wrong with them.” That’s when we shun people or make them into an outcast.

Growing up in a very religious household it was instilled in me that if you drink, smoke, get a tattoo or are gay, you will go straight to hell. No ifs ands or buts. I know firsthand what a burden that is to carry on your shoulders when you are a child. Don’t get me wrong, my parents are the best parents in the world, they love me more then life itself and I feel the same about them. But, that doesn’t mean that there was no room for some improvement there. Being a lesbian woman, and yes I do label myself as a lesbian, I know that it was difficult to grow up in that kind of household. And I know that I don’t want that for Peyton. Yet I find myself trying to figure him out and trying to neatly fit him into a category, labeling him in whatever label I find suits him best. And no, that is not the best way to raise a child and I know that. And I fight with myself when I realize that I am doing this. And I remind myself that he is only four and is trying to figure it all out himself, trying to explore and determine who he is. And I have to let go. For Peyton’s sake I have to let go and let him figure it out even though he is only four.

So where do I as a parent go from here? I read and I research and I try to educate myself and educate others. I learn to accept and I learn to go with the flow. And I follow Peyton’s lead…

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Muddy Waters

This journey that Peyton is on is kind of puzzling at times. I’ve never been on this journey as an individual or as a parent so I have no idea what to expect or what comes next. Every time something comes up, I have to figure out a way to deal with it, pretty much on my own.

Since Peyton became Peyton, he has solely wanted to be a boy. He didn’t want anything to do with what he deemed “girly” anything. He would purposely steer away from any feminine items. But in the last few weeks Peyton has decided to branch out a bit. He asks me to put “pretties” (what we call hair ties and decorated bobby pins in our house) in his hair. We have a lot of princess dress up clothing and he asks me to help put some of them on him. I’ve asked him several times if he wants to be a boy or a girl and every time he says he wants to be a boy. I’m not sure if he is experimenting with things to see what he likes better or if he is just playing like his sister does and pretending to be different characters. One of the little boys that comes over to play in our house often puts little dress up dresses on and that is fine with everyone. And I guess Peyton putting on the dresses is okay with me but it really does throw my brain for a loop. When he does this I wonder if he misses being a girl or if he wants to be a girl again. I fight with myself because children should be able to explore the world around them so that they can learn.
And Peyton is still Peyton when he is not pretending with his sister and friends. He only wants to wear boy clothing and shoes and goes to the boys bathroom… But I wonder if there will come a day when he will want to dress as a girl again just to see what that is like. I don’t so much worry about him exploring but about what others will say to him if he does choose to explore… It’s not a very nice world that we live in and I don’t want him to get hurt in any way shape or form.

I guess for now, all that we can do is continue to navigate these muddy waters and maybe someday they will clear up a bit and this journey will be a bit easier to understand.

Strange to Hear…

It’s no secret that we participate in many, many extra curricular activities as a family. Peyton is now fully a boy and this is not the case only in my eyes but, others see it as well.

During the winter we take part in an “open gym” setting type of event for kids ages 3-5. They get to run and play and be wild and stay dry and warm while doing this because it is indoors. During these open gym times it is so strange to me to hear other parents and kids referring to Peyton as a boy. And I know how strange this is since all that Peyton and I want is for him to be accepted as a boy by everyone. Hearing, “Honey go play with that boy over there” just sounds so very strange to me. I’m not sure that Peyton ever hears any of this since he is typically running wild like the other kids but, I hear it. And it sounds strange. Again, I think this is one of those things that my brain is so conditioned to hearing “that little girl” but instead I hear “that little boy” and it makes my brain argue with itself. For three and a half years I heard “that little girl” and now I hear “that little boy.” Just something else to get used to. It’s what I want and what Peyton wants, but it will take a little getting used to.

Misconceptions-1

I find that being human is a very difficult task. It means that we care. Not just about others but about what others feel and what they think.

One of the phrases that I often hear is, “What are you doing? Why don’t you stop her from trying to be a boy?” I used the pronoun “her” there on purpose because some still refer to Peyton as a female. We are soon approaching the date that Peyton decided to tell me that he wanted to be a boy and people still refer to him as a female. It seems crazy to me since he is clearly not a girl.

A common misconception of those with an outsiders view of my life is that I have chosen not to prevent Peyton from being a boy.  Their opinions are that when he wants to wear a boys’ outfit, I should put him in a dress. That if he wants to be a boy, I should tell him that he is a girl. I try not to let things bother me but, I am human. I can’t help but wonder about these things that others say to me. Peyton is four, how does he know what he wants or who he is? Maybe he is a confused kid. Maybe he is just bored and wants to try something new. Maybe he wants to be like all the boys around him that he admires so much. Maybe he is emulating me because I sometimes dress like a man.

I spent most of my college career studying anthropology. The fact that I obtained a degree in this area means that my brain has been conditioned to look at people in a different way then most do. I don’t believe in conforming to the way that society wants us to be. I don’t believe in living according to a basic set of standards that others believe that we must all adhere to. I believe that everyone can be whomever they want to be. Yeah my brain wanders and is often all over the place but, I don’t believe that anyone should be prevented from living the life that they see fits them as long as they do not hurt themselves or others.

Peyton is four. But this child who has been born with so many challenges knows exactly who he is. So when people ask me what I am doing, my response is, I’m being a parent. I’m being the best parent that I can be to Peyton. I’m allowing him to explore and learn and be free to be who he feels that he is. There are so many books out there on how to be a good or great parent but there isn’t a parenting manual. There is no classic textbook child. There is no mold that Peyton fits into, just like so many kids out there don’t fit into a mold. The world would be one hell of a boring place if we all fit perfectly into molds. And I truly believe that not only am I being a good parent to Peyton, but I’m also being a good parent to the rest of my kids. I’m raising them to be who they want to be and whatever way makes them happy. I’m raising my kids to be open to the differences among all of us. Are you raising your kids to be this way?

Vagina=Boy

For a while now I’ve been grappling with Peyton being a boy while I bathe him or change his diaper. At four, he doesn’t quite have the full ability of bathing himself, and he is not fully potty trained. If there is ever a time when my brain is utterly confused by Peyton being a boy, it is during diapering and bathing. It has nothing to do with my acceptance of him but with my brain. We are so conditioned to thinking that a vagina=girl and a penis=boy. This we learn from so very early on. And it stays with us for our entire lives, well, for the most part it does.

It is during these times that I have to consciously think about who Peyton is. He is not that little girl that he once was, instead he is a boy. And while washing him up my brain can’t match his vagina to what he looks like and who he is. He is essentially a boy in the wrong body. This is no longer the case just for him, but also for me. I’m not sure when that changed and I fully realized that he is in the wrong physical body but I have realized it. I wonder if this is how it was for him? I wonder if he suddenly woke up one day and realized how very wrong things were and that he had to fix them… That is an odd realization to make and not one that I knew I had made until writing this. It’s kind of enlightening in a sense. Does that mean that I now fully accept him as a boy and before I only thought I did? Wow, so many questions… I don’t even think that there are any answers here. And now that I’ve realized that he is a boy, do I run off and change his name? Does it mean that I will be so much more open to him taking medication to suppress his body from changing into that of a little girl? Does it mean that in the future I will be more supportive of him when and if he decides to change his physical body? This is kind of crazy. I’m pretty sure my brain has literally flipped a switch from before to now. Maybe he helped that to happen because of the way he talks about himself when he was a girl. It’s like that was a past life and now he is leading a different one…

My Name is NOT Peter

Peyton had been pushing for a name change from very early on. I think the name was something that he wanted changed even before he asked about boy clothing. In the beginning I didn’t notice that this was what he was asking for. He subtly hinted at it by repeating the name over and over for no particular reason. I thought it was because he simply liked a boy at school that has that name. Everything was Peyton this and Peyton that. And I don’t know, maybe he wasn’t really trying to hint at wanting the name change, but not a day went by that the name was not said at least twenty times. Since he has transitioned to a boy, the only time the name Peyton comes out of his mouth is if someone calls him by the wrong name.

He is not called the wrong name very often but it does happen. When this happens he gets sort of angry and corrects the person. His feelings are typically hurt for the rest of the day and he can’t get over having been called something other then his name. This often leads to a discussion between him and I. He is so young that he doesn’t understand that sometimes people make mistakes and get confused with names. His siblings are sassy and call him by his old name once in a while which of course is not okay and we talk about that. In these instances the other kids are reprimanded because what they are doing is wrong.

Peyton is bussed to and from school every day because that is how things work in our town and it makes things easier for me. The kids on the bus are all four year olds and for safety reasons, there is an aide on the bus. Sometimes this aide calls Peyton the wrong name. Instead of calling him Peyton, she calls him Peter. I get it. There are a lot of kids to have to remember their names. I do not at all fault teachers or aides when this happens. I know that there are a lot of kids that they are in charge off. And this woman does not call him Peter on purpose. I can see that it is genuinely a mistake. I’m a parent of multiple kids so my brain often scrolls through all the names before I get to the correct one of the kid that I am addressing. This even happens out loud and the kids know that I do it. It happens and it’s not done purposely or maliciously. Peyton however finds this so very offensive when it happens on the bus. The very first thing he says when he comes off the bus is, “She called me Peter again.” I find it amusing. I know I shouldn’t. I could see how it would be offensive if he was being called by his old female name but being called a different boys name, I don’t get why he gets mad. So we talk about how people sometimes make mistakes and it is not done intentionally to hurt him in any way. How it is not done to be mean. I can see in Peyton’s face that he has no idea what I am talking about. In his eyes the lines are all very pronounced. He is a boy and his name is Peyton and nothing else so everyone should call him Peyton. Comments like this reinforce to me that this is who he is. He sees meaning in the smallest of things (at least to me they are small). So I know, I know that he is a boy and this is not going to change. Not that I want it to but so many people think that this is just a phase…

I’m kind of glad that this happens because it will eventually help Peyton to understand the difference between people discriminating or just being human . I hope he learns that he can let go of the things that mean nothing so that he doesn’t feel so hurt by others all the time. It’s an important lesson for him to learn now. For me as a mom, I just keep thinking of that suicide rate, that 58%… I hope that the lessons he learns now, he can carry throughout life so that he can handle things appropriately.

I Want to Be Born A Boy

This is another phrase that Peyton quite often utters. Sometimes I wonder if life would be much easier if we could turn back the clock and be born into the life that we wished we were in. Though Peyton is four, I think in some level, he feels this way himself. Not because he sees his life being much better if he were born a boy, but because his desire to be a boy is so great, that this is what he wishes for.

A four year old has no concept of sex, at least not in my household. They don’t know how they are “created” and how they come to be a young child. What they see is how things are. Peyton knows that he was born a girl and that his physical body is that of a girl. But he so desperately wants to be a boy that he wishes that he were born into the correct sex.

Someone somewhere along the lines of my having kids said that parents who adopt often appreciate their children much more then parents who are able to birth kids themselves. I’m not at all denying that most of you love your kids more then life itself. I think the context that this was said to me in was parents who have children and whose children are removed and placed in foster care or are put up for adoption. A foster/adoptive parent has to go through so many hoops just to get a placement sometimes, and then the kids come and it is an entirely different battle. At any rate, I think Peyton feels this way as well. He has to work so hard at being a boy and being accepted as a boy that he just wishes that he were born a girl. When he tells me that he wishes that he was born a boy I just think of all the things that we still have to go through that he has no clue about. While I don’t know the correct terminology yet, I know that female to male transgender kids wrap their breasts so that others don’t see them… Hiding their physical appearance to fit in more… Being picky about the hair cuts… Acting a certain way… Bathroom issues while in school… And this is nothing. There’s so much I have yet to learn that Peyton can’t even begin to imagine.

But he knows, at four years old he knows how much easier things would be if he had the body of a boy instead of a girl. He knows that he is a boy and there is something there within himself that just does not make sense. His appearance doesn’t match what he feels like on the inside and I think that this eats away at him every day. I’ve said it before, I can not, can not imagine what it would be like to have a child transition during the teenage years. Having Peyton transition now gives him and I so much more time to learn. So much more time to acclimate to his changing and so much more time to reassure him that it’s ok to be him even if his body looks different on the outside.

Peyton and I talk a lot about him being born a girl instead of a boy. I don’t have the right answers in this area. We are not very religious so I can’t say, “this is how god made you.” All I can say is, “this is how you were born.” It doesn’t explain much of anything at all. We do talk about why it is okay to be a boy in a girl’s body but nothing is clear yet. Thankfully his four year old brain can only focus for a few minutes before he moves on to something else.

Things You Should NEVER Say to the Parent of a Transgender Child, or to a Transgender Child-1

There are so, so many things that should never be spoken out loud. Even if you think them, they should never, ever be said. Especially to the parent of a transgender person or to the transgender person her/himself. I’ll be making several posts about these. I think that each one deserves it’s own post. I know that I haven’t heard the last of these since we are at the very beginning of this journey… They will be in no particular order of importance at this point.

Early on Peyton and I had several people say, “why? why would you want to be a boy when you are so cute as girl?” The tone of voices in which these words were uttered was one of sympathy and disdain. I was very annoyed and kind of angry. Absolutely no one has the right to tell someone else who to be, especially if that someone is not the parent or lives with the transitioning child on a daily basis. At any age that the decision is made to transition, it is a tremendous decision that is not taken lightly. Not by the person transitioning or the parent of the person transitioning. Some people seem to think that this transitioning is something that comes as a whim, and out of boredom you just go with it. That might sound ridiculous, but as the parent of a transgender child, this is how I feel when people ask me or Peyton why he wants to be a boy. Why not stay as the pretty, beautiful girl that he is? they ask. The reality is that he doesn’t want to be a pretty and beautiful little girl, because on the inside he feels like a cute and handsome boy. Peyton is not a girl, he was born in a girl’s body and at one point looked like a girl but he was not and is not a girl. Questioning why he “wants” to be a boy is completely disrespectful. It would be as if I went up to a straight person and said, “awe, you would be so much better of as gay even though you are straight.” Do you want to make that change? If you are a straight person, do you just want to be gay just for shits and giggles? I’m pretty sure the answer is no. And why would the answer be no? Would it be simple to flip a switch from one day to the next and change what you have known for your lifetime and now become something else. If you are a straight woman, could you suddenly start dating women. Would your family accept you as a gay or lesbian person now? Then there is the confusion factor. Kids are involved, do you want to make them think that one day you can be a girl and the next you can be a boy and repeat this change on a daily basis as if you were changing your underwear.

For me as a parent, it was very, very difficult to make this change. It wasn’t my place to say “hey this is not happening” but I did have to make a mental change and a physical change in the way that my household looked. I knew from the start what I was getting into. I knew the hurt that I would hear in my parents voice (this stems from their religious beliefs). I knew the contempt that I would hear from others (those unwilling to accept people for who they are). And I knew the judging that would come from this because as much as people say “oh that’s who he is”, so many people judge you solely on the decisions that you make. Damn if you do and damn if you don’t.

Yes, Peyton is four years old. He doesn’t fully understand the impact that this change makes in the lives of those around him (something that is completely stupid by the way because he is not hurting anyone at all by being who he is). And by impact I mean that some changes have to take place that take time and not everyone will accept, this includes getting used to a different name. He is simply Peyton. A little boy who wants to be himself and have fun. So don’t ask him why he doesn’t want to be a beautiful little girl, just see him as the handsome little boy that he is.

Nope, it’s not all butterflies and rainbows even though that is how I want our lives to be.

Who Cares?: Siblings and friends take on the transgender child

Peyton transitioned from a girl into a boy fairly quickly. I cut his hair from down to his butt to shoulder length and he began wearing boy clothes. About a month later I cut his hair into what he considered a boy haircut. This did not impact anyone in the household in any way. In case you have not read my previous blogs, Peyton is four, his younger sister Maggie is two, his older brother is eight, and he has a nineteen year old sister who is severely autistic. These are the siblings that he lives with full time. Peyton also has a three year old friend that is a boy and is very close to us all, and there are other friends, one is nine and the other is twelve and they visit regularly. Another close friend (from a different family) is a girl and she is three. There is a constant chaos of children in my household as all three families do several things together multiple times a week if not on a daily basis.

These kids are all so amazing. They completely and totally accepted Peyton’s change without any issue whatsoever. It was as if Peyton had been a boy all along. They had such an easy time changing from Peyton’s female name to his male name. I’m pretty sure they taught the adults around them that we should just accept Peyton for who he is. Sure there was some difficulty with consistency as far as using the name but that’s pretty much expected. It took a few weeks for the name Peyton to stick (because we were not used to it), but once it did, his female name was out of the picture. The kids still use it to tease Peyton., they are kids after all. So when they want to bother Peyton because they are feeling sassy, they call him by his old female name. This doesn’t happen often but it does happen. Whenever this happens I use it as an opportunity to reassure Peyton that he in fact is a boy. The other kids are reminded that Peyton is a boy and his name is Peyton and that they are not allowed to call him anything else because doing so is very disrespectful. Most instances in my household are used as teaching moments. With Peyton being Peyton, we have A LOT of teaching moments. Everything with the teasing quickly passes and typically leaves Peyton feeling better about himself because he then knows that I am on his side supporting him as a boy. This may seem a little strange but the little things are so important. My defending Peyton goes such a long way with him. You can just see him beaming with pride.

The pronouns took a little bit to teach the kids. I think this was my fault. In the beginning I wasn’t sure what pronoun to use. It was all very confusing to me. Once I sorted it all out in my head and realized that I should be referring to him as a boy, I started enforcing it and making sure everyone addressed Peyton correctly. This was something else that went a long way with him. As parents I think we don’t realize the huge impact that we have on our kids and those around us. Kids will learn what we indirectly teach them and that is what they apply to their every day lives. Treating Peyton with love and respect is teaching the kids around him that this is what they should be doing. Funny how we all impact each other in such huge ways without even knowing it. The kids taught the grown ups to quickly accept and the grown up taught the kids to just love without question.

There’s a video online at Buzz Feed LGBT. It’s short and so true. It is so important to do these little things for our transgender children.

 

My eight year old was the one with the most questions about Peyton. It wasn’t so much as questions as his inability to understand why Peyton wanted to be a boy. He is at an age where he understand the body and what identifies you as female and male. Knowing that Peyton has a vagina means that he is a girl (at least in an eight year old’s brain). We have had several conversations about why Peyton is really a boy and what makes Peyton a boy even though he has a vagina. The simplest way I found for him to understand was to tell him to pretend that he is a girl. At first this was difficult for him because he repeatedly said, “no, I am a boy.” I told him to just pretend that he had the body of a girl but still wanted to be a boy. After about 10 minutes he was able to pretend that he had the body of a girl. He again said how he wanted to be a boy. This statement allowed me to help him to see how Peyton feels and felt. Peyton has the body of a girl but in reality is a boy. No one can really change how Peyton looks right now and we can’t change the way he feels on the inside. All we can do is let Peyton know that we support him and believe that he is indeed a boy. If Peyton says that he is a boy then a boy he is to all of us.

We are all raised in certain ways that influences the way we see the world around us. This is what in a sense defines us. The older we get, the more we are used to these beliefs. An eight year old will see things differently then a toddler or preschooler. But, kids will always be the first to accept each other no matter what. At least this is the case with younger children.

 

When I Was A Girl.

Peyton makes this statement quite often. It’s interesting to me that he views his life almost as if he has lived two different lives.

I was a foster parent for about six years. In fact, that is how Peyton came into my life. Kids in foster care often separate the lives they lead with biological parents/family and the lives they lead with the foster/adoptive parents/family. I don’t know if this is the case with all foster kids, but it is for sure what my kids have experienced.

Peyton came into my life when he was a mere seventeen days old. I picked him up directly from the hospital and brought him home. Unlike other kids he didn’t see life as a before he was with me and an after. It is interesting to see that we still experience a before and an after because he sees things as “when I was a girl,” and the now that he is a boy.

Many families have pictures of their kids and family members on their walls or in photo albums (do those even still exist?!). We have school pictures and other pictures on the walls and Peyton looks at these pictures and says, “When I was a girl I was feeding Maggie (younger sister), ice cream. He doesn’t just say “I was feeding Maggie ice cream there.” This fascinates me because to him it is like he had a different life as a girl. Almost like he was a different person and not who he is today. He completely dissociates from that little girl that he once was. I’m not sure if he does this to assert his masculinity, verbally stating that he in fact is a boy, or what the deal is. But I do know that to some extent he wants everyone to know that he is not the little girl in the picture anymore.

I could potentially  fix this by changing the photos on the wall to current photos of Peyton looking more as a boy. This might provide him with the more of himself that he wants to see but, as a parent this is a difficult task. For one thing  I like the events that we attended or the looks on my kids faces during the events when I took the pictures. Each picture has a meaning or sentiment to me just like it does for all those in the pictures. There’s also the fact that I don’t have that many pictures of Peyton as a boy because we haven’t been here at the full boy stage for that long. And then there’s the time factor, and the sense of loss. It took me a long time to change all of Peyton’s clothing from his girl clothes to his boy clothes. Life has a way of getting in the way sometimes and there’s only so much you can do in a day. Then there is the emotion that comes into play. No matter how much you accept your child and the changes they are going through, there is a certain amount of pain that you feel because you have lost part of that child. Now don’t get me wrong, there are wonderful and amazing things that your child brings to the table no matter what, no matter who he or she is. But there was once that little girl that you will sometimes miss a little bit. I’m sure that time will change my feelings on this the more time I spend with Peyton. And I know that things will get easier with time, they already do with each day that passes. But the same way that Peyton yearns to be just Peyton, I sometimes yearn to see that little girl.