mama bear

What's a Transiversary?

Every year on March 31st, our family celebrates International Transgender Day of Visibility. It is an annual event dedicated to celebrating transgender people and raising awareness of discrimination faced by transgender people worldwide, as well as a celebration of their contributions to society. But we also celebrate what J has lovingly coined his “transiversary” … the anniversary of the day we officially changed pronouns and stopped using his full birth name. Yes, it just so happens to be the same day we tried on he/him pronouns and never looked back! 

I will always remember J’s face that day two years ago. We were with our psychologist and well into the transition journey, but feeling like we were sitting on the edge of a cliff, not sure if we should jump yet. We were following our child’s lead, everytime J asked for something to change in his life, we supported him and made the shift. But J didn’t know that he could ask for his pronouns to change. He didn’t even know what a pronoun was! So how could he ask for us to change that. He certainly knew how it felt to be called she/her though. So instead of trying to explain what a pronoun was to a newly 6 year old, that day I said to J,

“Do you like when I say SHE IS A FAST RUNNER?” -- and he scowled and covered his face.

Then I asked

“Do you like when I say HE IS A FAST RUNNER?” -- and he peeked out of his fingers and his eyes were so bright. He smiled. I looked over at our Psychologist who gave me a knowing look and said “go with that”. And so we did. We tried it on. I explained to J that we were going to try saying he and him and using a shortened version of his birth name and if he didn’t feel like it felt good at anytime, we could change back. That never happened, and two years later, it has become a day to celebrate! 

How do we celebrate? Well this year J started using the word “transiversary” and we all love it. I think in the beginning of his transition, J just wanted to fly-low and not draw attention to the great accomplishments he was making in his own life and identity. But this year I see the pride showing. We used the day to talk about how proud we are that J was able to tell us who he is at such a young age. And how as a family, and with J’s permission, it is important to be visible to a larger community. His school community, our extended family and friends. It is important for the same reasons we are producing this podcast. Representation matters. There are other families on this same journey that can look to J and our family and see how the anxiety can drastically lessen and how life can improve. There are aunties and uncles and grandparents and co-workers and friends who are curious or don’t understand or have questions. By being visible and celebrating, we can help remove the fear and find acceptance. 

J even has plans to start a LGBTQ+ club at school!

— Lucy

Hear how Ruby celebrates Z’s transiversary here!

Finding Resilience Without Parental Support

Alec’s story is a little messy. Kind of complicated. There are many layers that make up who Alec is, and how he has come to exist in this world. It’s a beautiful, thoughtful, vulnerable story . Grab the kleenex my friends - you may even be able to hear our jaws drop a few times throughout this one! 

Hearing Alec share his story in my living room was actually kind of surreal. To be honest, the whole time he was talking all I could think was, it is nothing short of a miracle that you are here.

Alec is the definition of resilience. Look up resilience in the dictionary, and I am pretty sure you will find the handsome fellow pictured above right next to it. 

Alec tried for years to come out to his family. Every time he did, he did not receive a welcomed response. 

“Wait ‘til you’re older.” 

“If you were in your late 20s.. Maybe we could accept.” 

“Don’t tell anyone.” 

He knew something was happening, that something wasn’t quite in alignment, from the age of 5, but didn’t have the words to fully express what he was going through. One of the reasons he didn’t have the words was because he was told he shouldn’t tell anyone - told he should keep his thoughts and feelings a secret. 

This week we are exploring a side we haven’t yet seen on The Gender Diaries podcast. What does life look like as a trans youth who does not receive parental support? You’ve heard the statistics. But honestly, we don’t need a study to tell us trans youth need family support. All kids and youth need parental support. 

Trans youth are much more likely than their cisgender peers to experience depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and ideations. Alec explores his experiences with these, has words of wisdom for other trans youth planning to come out, and advice for parents who are struggling with accepting their kiddos. 

At The Gender Diaries we encourage parents to open their arms first out of love, get informed second, and then break down the gender walls that society creates. We heard Alec echo these sentiments, and he articulated it in such a vulnerable, brave, and engaged way. 

Alec has become a real life representation to our kiddos. We are SO grateful to have you in our lives Alec. You are a beautiful, kind, and thoughtful soul. Thank you for coming into MY life, and MY kiddos life right when we needed you. You’re welcome at our dinner table any night of the week. 

XO

Ruby 

Hear Season 2 Episode 3 here!

Gender Diverse Family Planning

We have had one appointment at the Endocrinologist for J. We didn’t even meet the Endocrinologist actually. We met with a Social Worker and a Nurse to talk about what to expect as we head closer to puberty. J came prepared with a sheet of paper with his questions on it. The Social Worker was so sweet with him and made sure every question was answered. 

J’s questions consisted of things like:

“How many needles do I have to have?”

“How big are the needles?”

“Does it hurt?”

“Will I have to take medicine for the rest of my life?”

Serious questions for a kiddo who was just eight years old at the time. 

But one thing that was breezed over was probably one of the BIG thoughts us parents of trans kiddos/youth grapple with during transition. How will my child have children? What will his family look like? 

The advice the children’s hospital gave was to make an appointment with a fertility clinic. Did we make that appointment? NOPE. It feels like a conversation I shouldn’t have to have right now. It feels like a decision my child should get to make when he is old enough, responsible enough, and perhaps with a partner he cares for and respects. It isn’t my decision as his Mother to decide if he can or should have children of his own one day. But alas, like many things on this journey, we do need to talk about this. And unfortunately, Alex and I will have to help J make some of these decisions. 

  • To be perfectly honest. I was totally prepared to accept and explain to J that he won’t have a biological family of his own. Because really, I already know that there are so many ways to have a family and many of them do not involve biological children. But you know what… I was wrong … and I am so glad I hid from the conversation a little longer so that I could learn more about how families are built for gender diverse parents. 
    Enter Trystan Reese … who publicly first shared his story as a trans man growing his family on The Longest Shortest Time podcast a few years ago and continues to share his story on Biff and I and through his work as a social justice professional educating others on fertility for trans youth and speaking across the USA. We are so honoured to have Trystan speak with us this week on The Gender Diaries Podcast as part of our first episode of SEASON TWO! Check it out and learn with us.

— Lucy

The Father of My Trans Kiddo

The Father of my trans kiddo is not the man I met 15 years ago. That man was young, determined, had what seemed to be impenetrable strength … and a full head of hair. I certainly felt like he was my protector back then. We didn’t always see eye to eye, but that was part of the passion between us. I remember leaving our first date feeling like nobody I had ever met had equalled my passion in conversation and debate like he did. It was pretty awesome.

But as the years have passed, the best part of marriage has been the growing together, changing together, and falling in love with each other at each stage of life. We do not stay the same person after getting married, having a child, experiencing death, etc. These life events alter us and we become someone new. I can say with certainty that I have fallen in love with my husband four times in the last 15 years. This last time being the most important and life altering jump into love.

Going through J’s social transition as a family changed us all. Alex was always supportive and on-board. It wasn’t a struggle to “make him believe” or “understand”, and I didn’t fall out of love with my partner during this process. But the person I saw come along with me on this ride, was not the person I knew before. He wasn’t always determined or impenetrable, and didn’t have all the answers. He questioned and listened and researched and read. He became malleable to the information he was receiving. He changed. He became passionate about the politics that affect our kiddo and our lives in a way that was so beautiful … and frankly, smokin’ hot! I fell in love with him again because of this.

So today, I want to wish this awesome guy an early Happy Father’s Day, and tell him how proud I am of the person he has become:

Babe, you got this Father thing down! You lead your children through life, while still following their lead to new spaces. Happy Father’s Day to one of the greats.

-- Lucy

Listen to Ruby and I “grill” our partners on Episode 12 of the podcast this week!

What will the future hold?

Our kiddos are special. We might be a bit biased. But, we think they are pretty special. Pretty awesome. But, with kiddos as special as ours are; there is a special set of future fears accompanying our journey …

  • How can I teach my son body positivity?

  • When will the first stages of puberty be evident?

  • What if puberty comes sooner than I think?

  • How can I make him strong enough to endure what the world might throw at him?

  • Will he feel lonely - there are not very many people who can relate to exactly how it feels to be trans.

  • Will he be bullied because he is different? Will I be there to soften the blow?

  • Who will out him? When will he be outed?

  • Is remaining stealth an option? Will this isolate him from his community?

  • Worried he might not be accepted for who he is, and try to change himself.

  • Worried he might not share something he is going through with us and keep it inside.

  • Worried about the future of politics and sex education in our country. Will things get worse, before they get better?

  • What if his little brother doesn’t understand?

  • Will the “boy” world harden him?

  • Sleepovers?

  • Middle school?

Like any parent, both Lucy and I have fears about our boys growing up and navigating the world. But through the podcast and starting these conversations we hope to create safer communities for trans people of all ages.

We need society to change in order for our children to grow up safe and happy. And so far we hope that The Gender Diaries podcast is highlighting the need to accept, love and affirm gender diverse people in our communities.

-- Ruby

This week’s episode referenced many groups and great people who are changing the future for transgender athletes including; hockey canada, and gymnastics canada. We also mentioned the influential work of trans care BC, and Trystan Reese.

Diversity and Relationships

“I get the sense you didn't have a lot of gender diverse people in your life before you had one in your family.” - a friend and listener of the show hypothesizes one night over messenger.

Was it that obvious? Ha.

When Lucy and I sat down to create this podcast I'm pretty sure the only trans people I knew were my son Z, her son J, Jazz Jennings and Josie Totah. Which is fine. There's nothing wrong with my population being rather limited. It just so happened that my path had not yet crossed with very many trans or gender nonconforming people in my life.

Spoiler alert. It has now crossed with many!

I'm playing catch up.

Every day my world is expanding in ways I didn’t know it needed to, and I have lots of our interviewees to thank for my own education in gender diversity and inclusion. Each trans person’s story is their own - something we announce in our intro week after week. And right now, our sons are just too young to tell their stories for themselves. We are relying on special guests to help bring the story to life, each guest lending their unique and diverse story to our listener’s ears. And if like me, your exposure to the queer community is quite limited I know you are incredibly grateful to get the privilege to see it from the inside with the help of our special guests.

This week's special pairing, Nathan and Neve, were another great addition to my personal education, and I hope you will love learning from them as much as I did. These two identify as a queer couple, but if you saw them on the street you might be quick to write them off as part of the binary; another heteronormative couple walking hand-in-hand down the street. Which as a side note, also leads me to wonder… how many trans people I do happen to pass on the street on a daily basis (remember - an estimated 1 - 2% of people identify as trans, or the same amount of people as who have red hair).

But as Neve shares in this week's episode, being queer and in a relationship without gendered expectations has its perks! She says, “I have a partner who treats me like an equal, and who values all of my complexities, and who I get to be my authentic self with.” Heart eye emojis all around, friends!

I know in talking to other parents of trans and gender diverse children and youth, there is no shortage of fears about our kiddo’s future romantic relationships. Will they find someone who loves them for all that they are? Who will love my child as I do? Will they meet someone to share a life with?

I think everyone will enjoy listening in to this week’s episode of The Gender Diaries Podcast, “Meet Neve and Nathan.” Let them show you how they have built a relationship that suits both their strengths and weaknesses as people, and as a couple. It is a diverse relationship, and one that is so special to the both of them.

I hope that you will value and honour their courage and vulnerability in sharing their story. I know I do! And I thank you so much Neve and Nathan, for continuing to educate me and allowing another story I can learn from to be a part of MY story too.

And if you are a trans listener who would like to add YOUR story to our narrative. Specifically, a trans person of colour, or a trans woman (we have none so far!), we would love to hear from you.

-- Ruby

What's in a Name?

Every parent has a story, an important story about how they chose their child’s name. It is probably the first BIG decision we make for our child in utero, and as parents-to-be we definitely feel the pressure to pick something great!

J’s birth name is super feminine, like I might argue an actual icon of feminine names. It isn’t a very popular name, but very recognizable due to a famous literary reference. My partner and I chose it well before we were pregnant. We were at a friend’s wedding the day before our one year wedding anniversary, feeling very lovey and starting to look forward to having children in the coming years. There was a small toddler who every time she was left to her own exploration would end up in front of a large speaker dancing to the jazz music playing over dinner. We were enamoured with her. Completely taken with how curious and cute she was in her party dress living in the moment. At some point we asked what her name was, and it stuck with us. This name also had a very strong connection with a special non-profit organization I worked for, and a loose theme we had at our wedding. It seemed to us the perfect name for our first child.

It is funny, because my real name (yes I use a fake name here), is actually very gender-neutral, and I have always been a big fan of names that can sit in the middle and swing both ways. But I loved J’s birth name to bits, and it took over any other names that were mentioned in conversation while I was pregnant. My partner really didn’t want a “popular” name, citing all the Mason’s and Sofia’s being born at the time. So once we found out the genitals of J, we immediately started using his name … the whole family did.

I heard a saying once that said “a name is a gift given to you when you are born, if at anytime you find that gift no longer fits, you can exchange it no problem” --- and that is essentially true in our situation. J’s name did not fit him anymore after he socially transitioned and started using new pronouns, so eventually he asked to change it.

But it took him some time to come around to the idea of changing his name. Initially, when we changed pronouns, I asked him if he wanted a more masculine sounding name. And he was VERY upset that I would even ask him. But by that time we were already using a shortened version of his birth name to make the transition a little clearer for those around us, and for J himself. He stuck with this shortened name for a few months and every so often the conversation of picking a new name would come up, but whenever I would suggest an idea for a new name, he would get upset and shut down the conversation.

Once when we were at our Psychologist appointment, she mentioned to J

“Sometimes people have secret names in their heads that they don’t want to tell anyone about, have you ever had a secret name?”

But J refused to answer.

I can look back now and see it clearly. J had an attachment to his birth name just like I did. It was hard for him to give up. It was such a part of him that he didn’t know what would fit him better than that name. I also felt a loss for the name we had carefully selected and felt so connected to. But, now that J was living truly as himself, I did feel the name … even the shortened version didn’t fit. I’m sure many parents out there can attest to this … if you push them, they will push back. SO I waited, and waited.

Then one day J told me he was ready to change his name. He had just finished his bath and was in pjs with wet hair. I jumped on the opportunity to pick a new name! I told him to get a piece of paper and write down a YES, NO and maybe column. He knew he wanted a name that started with J, just like his birth name, so I pulled up a list of J names and started reading them out loud. After a couple duds we came to J’s name … I have never seen his face light up like it did … he loved it and put it in the YES pile.

But you know what? I HATED it. I would have never chosen that name for J, and my partner probably wouldn’t have either. I continued down the list of names, but nothing made it into the YES column. He had made up his mind. At the time it felt like I had let go of a name I loved, but didn’t want for him anymore, for a name I didn’t love, but that FIT him so well. I felt very mixed.

And then I remembered all the uncomfortable years he lived with his birth name and the assumption he was a girl … I thought about the kiddos who come out as transgender as teenagers or adults and all the years they lived with a name that didn’t fit … and you know what?! He deserves to have have any name he wants! And in fact I love his name now. I couldn’t imagine him with any other.

Hear RUBY’s story in Episode 8

-- Lucy

Super Proud Mama Bear Mentor

This week we had the pleasure of welcoming Andrea to our show. Andrea is a super proud mama bear and LGBTQ+ supporter. She is one of the first moms of a transgender child that I met on this journey, and she really helped me when I was in a time of panic. Yeah.. I’m not joking. In the early days there was definitely some panic. I may sound like I have it all together now (spoiler alert - I don’t!), but my son being transgender doesn’t consume my thoughts every minute of every day. When I was beginning this journey in gender diversity I really needed to find someone who had ‘been there’, someone who could empathize with what I was going through and offer some practical advice on how to move forward and honour my child’s authentic identity.

I remember the day that I realized I was probably going to be parenting a transgender child. Like most parents in the year 2018 I went straight to the internet in hopes of finding someone who might be able to relate to my story. In a facebook parent group I was a part of I typed “transgender” into the search bar, and I found a post that Andrea had written about wanting to connect with other parents of gender diverse kids. She was my go-to. I messaged her straight away, and she was a breath of fresh air when everyone else in my life thought that I was literally crazy. I will always have a special place in my heart that goes out to her for helping me at the beginning of my journey.

Andrea is eloquently spoken, full of gold quotes, and great advice. I remember conversing with her about changing my son’s pronouns. I was really nervous about doing this as it felt like one of the more ‘permanent’ changes compared to hair cuts, and clothing choices.

She said to me, “Ruby.. we are changing some words here. We aren’t performing surgery, injecting hormones, or any of the like. We are changing some words to make someone feel more comfortable. Who would you rather feel more comfortable? Yourself.. Using the pronouns you always have for your child? Or, your child who is clearly stating that they would be more comfortable if different pronouns were used.” That was the push I needed to begin accepting my son’s requests for hes and hims and Z’s. And the beginning of my realization that my child was here to teach me, and help me become the best possible version of myself.

One of my favourite things that Andrea had to say on this podcast was about listening to our kids, and trusting that they know who they are. She said,

“Our kids are just kids. These are just kids. They’re not doing this to get attention or play make believe for years on end. Just take them at face value. When they say that they are a gender. Believe them. Respect them. They deserve it.”

Thank you for being on our show and sharing your wisdom with the world, Andrea. It takes bravery and courage to stand on the stage in that gymnasium, pride flag in one hand, trans flag in the other and say our kids are worth it. We are grateful for you.

~ Ruby

Listen to the full PODCAST!

An Ode to My Hairdresser

My mom was a hairdresser when I was little. My aunt was a hairdresser too. They used to work evenings and every Saturday at the salon. I still love the smell of hair perm solution and purple Thrills gum! It reminds me of those Saturdays when she worked and my Dad would take us to visit and for a spin in the big hair chairs.

In my family, hair is important. I thought I would never get another person other than my Mom to cut my hair until one of my sister’s best friends became a hairdresser and my mom started seeing her. And so, our hairdresser is also important. In fact, Sam, our hairdresser, was one of the first people outside my immediate family that I shared J’s gender identity with. It was partly out of necessity at the time because we had hair appointments booked and J was asking to get rid of the bob he had in Kindergarten. But really, she was the perfect person to share with because she has this wonderfully accepting heart and is not afraid to show it to anyone who needs it. She is the kind of person who takes time out of her day to send little “thinking of you” messages to her friends going through a rough week. She is beautiful inside and out.

The night before we went to Sams, I had to come out to her about the transition we were going through with J. I did it over text. I knew she would be supportive, but I wanted to make sure that when we walked in the salon, she would be excited for a super cool cut without any gender attached to it. And as expected, Sam replied with amazing words of encouragement for me, and really, a lot of excitement! It was one of those moments that really helped me move forward on this path for J.

We were so lucky to walk into that salon the next day comforted that Sam wouldn’t blink an eye at the photo of the BOY with the fade we had ready to show her. Conversation went as normal in Sam’s hair chair, until the cut was done. It is hard to even write this moment down without tearing up, in fact I am definitely crying in a coffee shop right now. I still feel that moment so clearly. I let go of a lot that day. And I saw my boy that day.

After the cut, J put his coke bottle glasses back on his face, and with his new leather jacket, and boys pants with pockets, he finally reflected who he saw inside. He was finally ready to see who he was inside. He didn’t shy away. He was ecstatic! There was dancing along the street to the car and LOTS of pictures taken. Sam gave that to him. Sam gave that to me. And she did it in such a loving and affirmative way. It showed us that people outside our family can accept him for who he is. It certainly had the feeling of his coming out, even if we didn’t change pronouns or name for another 7 months.

MORE this week on the Podcast!

-- Lucy

Language Matters Folks!

Language matters folks! Using the correct word or phrase can make someone feel supported, seen and heard for who they are. The opposite is even more relevant. Using an outdated word or phrase can make someone feel crappy. I know when someone uses my child’s birth name, even by accident, it hits me in the chest like a sledgehammer. It hurts. I don’t know if it is an accident, on purpose, or if they secretly use it behind my back and it is slipping out right now in front of me. You get the idea. The feelings swirl inside me. I can only imagine what my son feels when this happens to him.

As an ally to the LGBTQ2 community, I also feel a pressure to “get it right” when speaking on behalf of my transgender son. Sometimes I flub up, sometimes I am not brave enough to correct someone, and sometimes the message seems so huge that I cannot possibly speak to everything I want to express. In short, I am not always the best at communicating a message of pride, and there is a learning curve, BUT at the very least I think I can make sure I get the language right.

So today I thought I would point out some common used words and phrases I hear (with a little help from my friends who are transgender!), and ways to say the same thing without sending that sledgehammer flying. Most of these phrases are in reference to speaking about a transgender person in the past-tense, or pre-transition. Our memories are tricky things and they like to flip our language back to what we used to say at the time. But I am living proof people, we can evolve and learn to use the correct pronouns and name even when speaking in past-tense. So here goes:

“When you were a girl”

Instead try “a few years ago” or “when you were younger”

“When you became a man”

Instead say “during your transition”

“Wow you really do seem like a guy”

Instead try complimenting that person on some great changes you are seeing in them!

“When she was ‘birth name’” or “When she was he”

This is a double whammy! Use correct pronouns even when speaking in past-tense AND current name. There is no need to point out a time when you referred to someone with a different pronoun, but if it is necessary for the conversation, try “pre-transition she …”

“transgendered” or “transgenders”

These words are outdated and make it sound like the person you are speaking about has a condition. They do not. Use the phrase “people who are transgender” OR in referring to one person simply “transgender”, “trans man”, “trans woman” or “non-binary person”.

“Ladies and Gentlemen”

Instead use … “Welcome everyone” to include those who are non-binary

“Transexual”

This word is outdated and often very hurtful to hear, instead use ... “transgender”

Thanks for learning along with me! This week on Episode 5 of The Gender Diaries Podcast, Ruby and I talk about her experience sending out a message of acceptance on another local Podcast called Parent Talk, and how she felt that pressure to “get it right”.

-- Lucy