Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Her Light Glows Brighter

There is a lovely, lovely woman who I have known for about five months. Her daughter and Kegan are in a class together. Kegan has been wearing girl clothes to this class for about a month. The only comments she has received have been oohs and aahs over the cute styles. One of the little girls in the class tells her mom every other week, "I want a shirt like Kegan's" or "Did you see Kegan's shoes, I want shoes like that!" 

Last week, I told this woman that Kegan is transgender and identifies as a girl. She was immediately accepting and kind. She said many things, all of them quite perfect. I wish I could remember all the gems of wisdom she shared, but I do remember how my heart felt comforted that she was accepting and her daughter would be allowed to continue to be friends with Kegan.

I sent a hasty email to the moms I am friends with in this class last night, along with our amazing teacher to let them know about Kegan's new name. The responses I received from each were beyond my expectations and hopes. 

Our teacher said, "Great for Kegan! I am stoked that she knows who she is and is not afraid of her beautiful self." The one mom wrote to say that her daughter was so worried she would use the wrong name by mistake and to please tell Kegan she is so sorry if she does. Another mom said, "Kids are so much less rigid than adults, my son will be completely fine with this." Deep breath: check. Tears on cheeks: check. Sense of peace: check.

Today we arrived a few minutes late for class, when we arrived the teacher shouted Kegan's new name and followed it with, "Yay! You made it!" The lovely woman, who I will call, Hope, greeted Kegan and Sean with her usual enthusiasm. I sat next to her and she looked at me, she looked at Kegan participating in class, and she said, "Kegan seems much happier now as a girl, she seems lighter." 

I immediately felt such a sense of comfort and said, "Do you really think so? Because I do too! She is much kinder to Sean now and just seems happier to me too!" I didn't know if I was reading into something that wasn't there or looking for confirmation that we made the right choice to embrace Kegan on this journey. My husband has agreed with me that she seems happier and is kinder to Sean, but it seemed easy to believe we were both seeing what we wanted to see. But this woman, completely without any prompting said this and I feel it is so true.

Kegan IS happier. Did she know she was uncomfortable? Did she always feel not quite right? I never thought of Kegan as an unhappy boy, but Hope said it well when she said, "He was intense, she is lighter." 

So to anyone who says this is the wrong parenting move to let our child be who she says she is, who she knows she is, I say, "But she is happier now. And that is all that matters." 


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

It's A Girl...With a Brand New Name

Kegan officially has a "girl name" now. Over the weekend she asked us, "Is my name a girl name?" I answered, "No, it is a boy name." I then explained that some names are only girl names like Mary, Sally, and Maria. Some names are only boy names like her name, Jeff, and Michael. But some names could be a boy name or a girl name like Jamie, Kelly, or Carey. 

We asked her if she wanted a girl name and she said she did. We explained that the three of us would have to agree on whatever name was chosen. I felt pressure to pick a name sooner rather than slowly because she is desperate to be seen as a girl and her name is (was) the only thing really preventing that. 

In the past, I had close to nine months to pick the perfect name. Picking a name in just a few days time, that not only two, but three people loved was not quite the leisurely path I have strolled down before. 

When a name was suggested (by me, yay me!) that Kegan, her dad, and I all loved we decided to select it. I was hesitant to pick a name without at least a few weeks to mull it over, test it out, make sure it was "the one." But my husband was brave and said, "Let's do it, she likes it and so do we."

So the next morning, the day after I had "tried it out" on her a few times, we told her she could be called by the special new name if she would like. She smiled and said, "Yes." And that was the big milestone moment...much like everything on this journey, very casual, very simple, and very anti-climatic. 

With a few days of her new name under my belt, I am confident in saying, "It is the perfect name." It is not the name I had chosen if she had been identified as a girl in the hospital and I am quite sure it is a name that was never on my radar as a possible name choice for either of my kids. I don't even think I ever named a doll this name. But it is perfect, beautiful and strong, has a special meaning that fits perfectly with this transition and the values we strive to teach Kegan and Sean. It flows perfectly off my lips when I look at her and say her name, it blends beautifully with Sean's name, and is a perfect match with our last name, I am unbelievably happy with this name choice.  

Even more important is Kegan's happiness with it. She seems to truly love her name. Whether she really thinks this is the most beautiful girl name ever or is simply happy to have a name that makes people only expect a girl, I can't say.  But frequently she says, "Thank you for saying my name automatically." She has thanked Sean when he remembers to use her new name or when he quickly corrects himself. She even called all her grandparents to tell them and when they immediately praised the name choice, her smile said it all. 

So here's to what I kind of consider the final step in this first chapter. This chapter feels like it should be a cliffhanger because I constantly do not know what is happening next, but instead it feels peaceful.

Sunday, April 13, 2014


"Well, don't you look adorable." 

Those were the first words out of an acquaintance's mouth last week when she saw Kegan in a skirt and tee-shirt. We have very occasional play-dates with her and her son, so have not seen them since Kegan turned in her "boy clothes" for "girl clothes." 

This mom is on my list of people I still need to talk to/inform/check for acceptance, but I guess our small community circumvented another "coming out" email or talk. I could not have been more pleased with her reaction or her kindness to my Kegan. Of course, she hammed it up with a big thank you smile.

That was just about the extent of the conversation as we ran into her as she was heading into an appointment she was already late for, so we didn't even have time to say more than "It is so nice to see you." I expected acceptance from this mom, but her grace and quick response to Kegan were so much more than I ever expected.

Later, on this same day, we finally had a play date with some neighbors who I have been avoiding while I try to figure out how to re-introduce my child to them. We live in a middle class, seemingly conservative-ish neighborhood. Although, to be honest, I am basing that on very little information, just a few casual observations. Anyway, our house is one of the favorite places for the kids in this neighborhood to hang out. I don't know quite why (other than my kids are awesome! Humble, much?) and I have been quite worried about my kids losing friends because of a lack of acceptance.

So our little friend, who is slightly older than Kegan, did a double take when she saw Kegan decked out in a denim skirt and fitted tee-shirt, but then carried on as usual with her standard questions of "Can we play blah, blah, blah?" I had been having anxiety all week because we have been coming home when all the kids are usually out playing, so each day my nerves have been completely shot as I prepped for our first encounter. (I even, quite disturbingly, have been hoping for rain rather than these glorious spring days!)

Today, I intentionally threw my dinner plans out the window so we could stay out longer in hopes of getting this "living in hiding in open sight" drama done with once and for all. And it worked, yay! Our little friend and my kids played just like they always have. I was prepared for questions and answers, I have our Be Who You Are book at the front door, ready to be given to her parents, I have been building up my strength to go talk to her parents....and I had to do nothing. 

Her mom also responded with nothing, which I am taking as a total positive. I was going to explain that Kegan is now identifying as a girl and go through the whole crash course on gender identity I have been rehearsing, but then it suddenly seemed unnecessary at this point. I decided, "Let them just think Kegan is being gender non-conforming without any gender identity aspects." My line of thought is to let them just get used to seeing Kegan dress this slowly build them up for this drastic change in the playmate down the street. I feel like with everyone else we have told we have had to go full throttle with details and a major shift in who Kegan is with no prep time. If our neighbors are comfortable with Kegan being gender fluid for now, then we can ease them into her being a girl as the spring days keep warming our faces. 

Everyone else we have told so far are people that my kids would miss, but would not overtly miss because we don't see our family much and I could readily make excuses (they are sick, we are sick, we are going to ___ instead of there, etc.) that would be accepted with minimal questions. I am not saying my kids would not miss their cousins and grandparents, they would, but we see them infrequently enough that their absence from our lives would be relatively easy to excuse. But the kids in the neighborhood, while not as important relationship wise, would be heavily missed and our daily life would be very negatively affected if our community of neighbors was suddenly unfriendly and didn't play with us. My stress went from 100 to 50 after this encounter. So much relief flooded through me due to their lack of commentary, which I am taking as a total positive and hope it is. We made casual plans for more playing while the kids are on the upcoming spring kids have their friends still! 

I hate that our society is so intolerant of differences, that my expectation is almost always rejection, despite our very positive and often quite loving responses so far to Kegan's gender identity. I hate reading so many articles about the cruelties thrust upon those in the trans* community, I am terrified by the suicide rate of trans* teens, I am often overwhelmed at how much hardship my oldest will face, simply for being true to herself. I hope the acceptance we continue to receive for her is a predictor of a better world for her as she grows. 

Friday, April 11, 2014

Boy Shoes

I overheard the following conversation this morning as the kids were getting ready to go outside:

Sean: I have boy shoes.
Kegan: Yeah, and I have girl shoes.

I stopped in my tracks and suddenly felt slightly nauseous that my kids just labelled shoes as only for boys or only for girls! Shoes! We have spent the past five plus years being gender neutral and now within the last four months we have become a very gender aware family.

I never took my kids to the "boys department" to shop, I took them shopping. Yes, we navigated to the boys section and generally bought "boys" clothes, but I never told them which section we were in. I bought legos, dolls, strollers, groceries, trains, trucks, and craft supplies with equal enthusiasm and very little disparity.  I bought Kegan a pair of pink sparkly shoes when she was two because those were the shoes she picked. I also bought her green camo (which I despise) shoes when she was three because those were the shoes she picked. I have never said "girls should...", "girls can"t...," "only girls...". I have also never said, "boys must..," "boys will be boys," or "only boys..." I have talked about people or "boys and girls," I don't tell my kids they are "good boys." (Or obviously "bad boys."

And suddenly the shoes in our house have gender labels. This is tough. I believe it is necessary to Kegan's transition that she become aware of the gender expressions that show the world "I am a girl," or "I am a boy." Her whole life, everyone has assumed she was a boy, not suddenly she has to make the world see her as how she sees herself. I can't come up with any other ways to do that than:

1. Make a sandwich board for her to wear that says, "I am a girl. Please use female pronouns."
2. Dress the part the way society sees girls.

In order for her to do that she is figuring out what makes society see a child as a girl versus a boy. She has figured out if she wears a dress, people tend to see a girl. If she grows her hair long, people see a girl, If she wears certain shoes, people see a girl. She is else do you distinguish between two kids of opposite genders in size 6?

We have dresses covered, we are getting there with leggings, more fitted shirts, the Mary Janes. But her hair is still too boyish. I have actually talked to my husband about splurging for extensions. For my five year old! I know what it is to have a bad haircut, one far too short. I remember with far too much clarity getting ten inches of hair cut off with one snip of the scissors when I was ten. I burst into tears. I was devastated...I had no idea how drastic it was going from long to so short. I had no idea the patience required to go from all those layers to long again. I think if Kegan had long hair, NOW!, she would easily be assumed to be a girl 99% of the time. But extensions? Really? Outrageous and yet...I am still trying to figure out how to justify the cost. No, actually I am not, I am okay with the cost, I am trying to figure out if it would be okay to do that to a five year old.

Pierced ears are my next thought...short hair gains a a total girl attitude when paired with cubic zirconia or pink sparkly studs. I am pretty okay, not perfect, but comfortable enough, with my five year old getting pierced ears. But not if it is my idea. I want a bosy change like that to come from her. But my kids don't know enough about how girls are defined to even know to ask for pierced ears for Kegan. She knows what earrings are, she sees people wear them ,and has even often admired them...but to think to ask for them, I just don't think she is there yet.

Nail polish was suggested to me. That is a pretty girly decoration, despite the male polish that some men wear. But if Sean wanted to wear it too, I could not allow myself to say "No." I cannot tell him it is only for girls. Sean likes his short hair, so I don't worry about him asking for extensions. I don't think he would ask for pierced ears, especially after watching Kegan scream from the pain...and honestly, I do have a problem with my two or three or even four year old having pierced ears, so that is easy. But nail polish? I specifically bought Piggy Paint in matching colors to my nail polish a few times, so I could let the kids wear nail polish if they asked, Which they never did. 

I sometimes wonder how much of this stuff is my issue versus Kegan's. Kegan is happy. In fact, I sometimes feel she is much happier as a girl than she was as a boy. The changes are subtle, I don't think of her as a pouty or melancholy boy, but she is different. She is kinder to Sean, almost as if a level of self-imposed competition has been removed. I think her being a girl, being who she is, is all she needs right now. The dresses and leggings make her a girl to the world in her eyes, and for the most part they do. Maybe it is my impatience, maybe I am the one who needs this all now. I don't like the occasional stares of "Is that a boy or a girl?" that I see directed at her...very occasionally. I am sure she doesn't even see them, but I do. I just want her to look the part she now stars in.  And yet, at the same time, I don't want either her or Sean to recognize exactly what makes the role of female versus male look legit to our society. 

Monday, April 7, 2014

Miss Kegan

Kegan and Sean received snail mail today! There is little more exciting in the day to day events of the world than getting mail addressed to yourself when you are a kid! Today's mail was extra special for Kegan though.

The envelope was addressed to Mr. Sean and Miss Kegan. I asked Kegan if she knew what that meant and she said, "No." I said, "It means that whoever sent this to you knows you are a girl." Kegan has this very special, very big smile that she only uses when she is exceptionally happy. I see it almost every time it is apparent that someone, anyone, is recognizing her female identity. 

When my husband came home I said, "Kegan got some special mail today." She then proceeded to tell, with her big smile, "I got an Easter card and on the outside it said to Miss Kegan. That means they knew I am a girl!!!" 

When people acknowledge and accept Kegan for Kegan right where she is, it is like handing us a magical, amazing, perfect gift handmade with love and hope. 


My kids are playing groceries/serving right now and Sean just said, "I be right back, sister." 

My heart just kind of skipped a beat or two. To hear Sean call Kegan his "sister" is beautiful and comforting. Sean is clearly adapting to these new pronouns and labels. He has said "she" and "her" a few times over the past few days when referring to Kegan, but is certainly on a learning curve of remembering to use these new words in reference to the person known as his "brother" until recently. 

It makes me sad that Sean will never remember having a big brother. Sean will remember for now that Kegan is "changing" from a boy to a girl, but once Kegan has long hair or at least a more feminine hairstyle, once Kegan always wears typical girl clothes, once everyone starts using the proper pronouns for her...Sean will lose the memories of being "brothers" and "the boys."  Sean is not even three...I very much doubt he will even remember anything from this year. 

His lack of memory is bittersweet to me. Sean has expressed on more than one occasion, "I just want Kegan to dress like me." This tells me he struggles with losing a brother who will wear a matching outfit, who will proclaim loudly their same gender. I am glad if he won't remember any sorrow from this year. At the same time, I am sad he won't remember the special "boy bond" they had. 

There has never been anything very "boy" ruled about their existence. They play with dolls as much as they play with trains and trucks. They come in covered in mud, as often as they sit quietly reading books to each other. I have never considered any of those activities to be very boy or very girl centric...they are just kid activities. Things all kids should be allowed to do freely regardless of their gender.  And maybe their activities aren't what defined them as "the brothers" or "the boys," in fact, I know that isn't. Those two labels were bestowed simply because of their genitalia and used because of their clothing choices, their short haircuts, their lack of feminine attributes. So really, the label doesn't matter, but it is still a little sad to lose it. "The brother and sister" just doesn't have the same affection as their former labels.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

The Girl with the Princess Sticker

Important Disclaimer! It is really hard for me to label clothes as belonging to one gender over the other. I have not done that until Kegan identified as transgender and she needed a way to show her femaleness. I honestly hate the constant clarification of which gender the clothes are or if they "belong" to girls or boys. Somehow, even though we have always tried to treat clothes, shoes, toys, stickers, and hair as belonging to all humans, when you have a girl in a boy's body it seems the only way to clarify her identity to observers is to let her pick all the "girly-girl" options very intentionally.

I love her feet!
Kegan wears a dress or typical girl clothes about 75% of the time now. I never know what reaction we will receive, fortunately we have only received acceptance or tolerance. So far. At least in person, we have family that do not approve, but we obviously don't see them anymore.

Earlier this week I had an appointment at my PCP, Kegan wore a very feminine outfit she selected and Sean ended up in classic boy attire that he selected as well. As we were leaving the office, Kegan asked, "Do they have stickers here?" One of the nurses overheard her and said, "I have stickers right here, hang on, I will bring them to you." My kids are used to peds offices where they get to select their own stickers, so when the nurse handed them each a sticker, I wasn't sure what to expect. 

Kegan smiled largely and said, "Thank you!" I asked, "What did you get?" With a grin, she said, "Princess."  I don't know if this nurse, who I have not seen before, assumed Kegan was a girl or could tell Kegan had a boy body and was comfortable with a gender creative or trans* kid. At this point, and maybe always, it doesn't matter.

Sadly, for Sean the same rule applied and he responded, "But I don't like Piderman!" We had a hushed and quick conversation about appreciating what someone gives you as we left and I asked him what he would have preferred. Sweet Sean answered, "A  kitty-cat."  I was honestly surprised that Sean wasn't sad he didn't receive a Princess as well. Sean, like most little brothers, looks up to Kegan as if Kegan not only hung the moon, but also proposed it, designed it, constructed it, and then after all that also hung it. So while my, to this point, male gender child was disappointed with his "boy sticker," my MTF transgender child was thrilled to be placed in the box with other girls, (As was I.)

On Friday, I took Kegan into our pediatrician's office for a sick call visit because I thought she had pink eye. We are fortunate to go to a practice that allows us to see the same pediatrician for each visit, unless it is a sick-call appointment and our regular doctor is unavailable. It happens, that this month our ped is off on Fridays, so we saw a female doctor we have only met one other time. Because I have spoken with our pediatrician and have been assured that the entire office staff will be welcoming to Kegan, I expected at a minimum, tolerance and no sideways glances. 

The doctor complimented Kegan on her dress, made small talk about the design (earning a few big smiles from K) and used the pronouns she/her very comfortably and naturally. It was awesome! As the kids were selecting stickers, I was able to speak with the doctor privately. I said, "Thank you for being so accepting of Kegan." She said, "Of course! Why wouldn't I be?" I replied, "I don't know why you wouldn't be, but some people just aren't. So thank you, very much." 

I keep waiting for the bullying or the nasty to come out and I don't know if we are just in a honeymoon phase or this transition will be mostly smooth-sailing in the public eye, but I am immensely thankful for the kindness of people who welcome Kegan as a girl in this world. 

Follow Up to "Acceptance"

I just realized my family isn't defined by society's normal anymore. We belong to a new community, the community of families who don't fit neatly into some 1950's stereotype. I knew our family was different, but I have mostly thought of Kegan as the one who is defying social constructs. I thought of the rest of us as just members of her family. The people who champion her, support her, love her, stand up for her and beside her, but mostly her supporting cast versus her fellow leads.

On some level, I am sure I knew our family didn't get to check the box for "same ethnicity/race/creed, heterosexual, two kids, cisgender family" anymore, but even though this transition is a transition for our whole family, it ultimately is Kegan who has to face the biggest challenges and so I hadn't really considered our family challenges.

After I posted my proud little "we are such an accepting family" post I watched some of the Honey Maid videos on the families in their "This is Wholesome" commercial. I then watched their follow up video they made in response to the negative feedback they received for such a beautiful, truthful, perfect commercial.

As I watched the "Love" video tears streamed down my cheeks. I saw words like, "Horrible. NOT wholesome." and "DO NOT APPROVE!" and "Disgusting!!" Those comments are not only about the beautiful families in this commercial, but about my family, about my kids, and I don't ever want them to know how hateful people may be to them because of who Kegan is. Kegan is perfect, she is a perfect little girl whose heart is alive and joyful. Sean is a sweet, sweet little boy who loves his sister, who will do anything to make her laugh, who will not stop breaking a rule if "But Kegan is laughing Mommy!" We are normal, we are a family, we are love.

My heart doesn't ache for the loss of our "normal" label. In fact, it doesn't ache for that at all. It aches for the rejection our kids could face because we don't get to wear that label on our shirts anymore. It aches for the rejection my child will face because she was born in a boy body, but has the brain and heart of a girl.

My tears turned from sorrow to peace as the response continued and Honey Maid said they had received ten times as much positive feedback! I saw words like, "family is family" and "makes my heart happy," and "folks like my family," and "We applaud Honey Maid." Honey Maid said the truth, "That only one thing really matters when it comes to family: Love." They nailed it.

Honey Maid while trying to sell some crackers has validated my family and so many other families. They have validated my child as a person worthy of love, a human being deserving of kindness, a member of our beautiful family equal in her worth to every other little girl who graces this earth.

Our family has left the majority of families who do fit neatly into the "normal" box and we have joined a new community. A diverse, beautiful, strong community of people who fit into our own boxes. Our boxes may not have four ninety degree angles, but they are overflowing with love. And that is really the only thing that makes a family.

Saturday, April 5, 2014


Do I even get to call it acceptance, if my kids don't even know there is any other option? Well, they know some people are bigoted against people who are different. They know some people think a man and a man should not be allowed to be married or that some people think African-Americans aren't as good as white people. What they don't know is, why that bigotry exists and I certainly can't tell them why. I do not know why people chose to be bigoted, why people chose to think there is only one right way to live, why people think people have a choice about who they are.

I know this: I can raise my kids in a home where love is always the first response. I can hope they take that with them when they leave.

Today we watched the HoneyMaid commercial and as we watched it I stopped it for each family's part. I asked my five year old, "What is happening here?" for each scene. Below are her answers for the ones that, I assume, seem to be causing all the uproar: 

What is happening here?

I hope these commercials that show a variety of families will normalize these normal families. I hope that they teach that love is what makes a family, not matching skin tones or opposite genders. I hope my kids will always see nothing more than a family when they look at photos or real people who have chosen or been blessed to be together. 

Whose Kid Is This Anyway?

I am not a girly-girl, although I would love to be one! I am likely a little too low maintenance and since having two kids my minimal requirements for upkeep have gotten even lower. I am not sure I have what it takes to teach Kegan all the ins and outs of dress up, make up, hair styling, and certainly not nail painting*.

Zulily has Jelly the Pug clothes on sale right now for crazy cheap prices. I cannot get over how totally adorable these outfits are and I am desperate to buy them for someone. Kegan loves dresses and longer shirts with leggings...Kegan!! I showed the photos to my husband and my dear friend, Sophie, hoping for the same level of enthusiasm I was displaying. (Somewhere between "Must Buy Now! Must Buy Now! and "Add To Cart! Add To Cart! And Add To Cart! Now!") My girlfriend brought the first level of disappointment: "They are too flowery for me." Then my husband closed the deal with, "Those are clothes you would have worn as a kid, they are cute, but are too busy for Kegan's taste."

Slamming my head against my keyboard (Only metaphorically, I didn't want to risk damage to the keys in case someone would tell me Kegan loved these clothes and I needed to place an emergency order!), I announced, "I will show them to her in the morning and see what she thinks!

Who wouldn't love these clothes?
The conversation that followed the viewing of such lovely clothes was as follows:
Me:  What do you think of these clothes?
Kegan: Who are they?
Me: Just models, what do you think of the clothes?
Kegan: I like them!

(Me (inner monologue): Yay! Time to shop! Time to shop!)

Me: I like them too! Dad and Aunt Sophie thought you wouldn't like them.
Kegan (in a ponderous and quite perplexed voice): I think I like other clothes.
Me: I thought you said you like them?
Kegan: I don't.
Me: Then why did you say you liked them?
Kegan (again in the perplexed voice!): I don't know, I think I lost my mind.

So much for someone in this house living up to some gender stereotypes! Maybe I did too good of a job being gender neutral and accepting? 

*Kegan's Dad can at least take care of nail painting lessons as he has to paint mine on the rare occasions I decorate my nails.

What Does Public Mean?

The other day as we were out, I mentioned, "Oh we are near the public library."

Kegan asked, "What does public mean?"

I said, "It means it is open to everyone."

She said, "So anyone can go there, no matter what color they are, if they are white or black or Asian. No matter what religion they are or what beliefs they have."

I was so proud that she understands how important it is to be aware of being fair and accepting of others despite our differences. I know, her understanding of the word "public" doesn't necessarily mean she actually does get it. But we preach that a lot and I think she is getting it. I think Kegan knows we always have more similarities with others than differences and we need to respect others.

I added, "No matter if they are a boy, girl, boy-girl, girl-boy. No matter if they have lots of education or hardly any education, No matter if they are rich with lots of money or poor with hardly any money."

I hope our kids belief that all people are worthy of love will always sway their hearts and lead them in their decisions. I hope they always have public for everyone.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Girl Compliments

I always give my kids compliments on how nice they look. (I also praise their kindness, loving choices, intelligence, etc., but I think it is important to also teach them to accept and deliver compliments on people's appearances. Yikes that comes off as shallow, but it isn't, I promise. Sometimes a passing, "Great scarf!" as a )

Today, Sean was dressed very boyish. (Oh how entrenched I have become in labels now that we have moved slightly away from gender neutral parenting and more into the world of trying to look more girly for Kegan.) Sean was wearing a graphic tee-shirt, khaki's, and rain-boots. He looked, as always, super cute. 

Kegan had planned to wear a tank type dress, but then in an unusual act of heeding the weather, decided she wanted to wear long sleeves. She wore a glittery, ruffly, long sleeve shirt and white pants. Super cute and by some amazing miracle from just yesterday, her hair is now just barely long enough to give it a little side swept bang thing, i.e., her hair is now slightly less "growing out an obvious boy haircut" and a teeny bit more "growing out a bad haircut." I think between the outfit being very feminine and her hair looking more girly, this might have been the first time I could really see the physical girl in Kegan as opposed to the emotional, intellectual one who I have known for a year or so. 

As we were getting ready to walk out the door, I said, "Kegan, you look really nice." Then my sweet, sensitive Sean said, "You look pretty Kegan." Kegan got this big, beautiful smile on her face and said, "Thank you!" I think she really wants Sean to see her as a girl, maybe even more than she wants others to see her as a girl right now. She and Sean have been "the boys," "the brothers," for so long and this division of gender is definitely tough on Sean, but I think it is a little tough on Kegan too. She is gaining her true identity, but also losing the only identity she has ever known. 

I don't know where Sean learned that girls are told they look pretty, versus nice or handsome or good. All those lovely compliments do work for both genders of course, but when was the last time a boy was called pretty without a quick correction or self-admonishment? I still do try to be gender neutral in praise, education, and toy selection, but Sean nailed it today. In doing so, he gave his sister a big dose of love.

Tonight, Sean said, "Kegan, I love you Kegan." Kegan responded, "I love you too, Sean." There are other factors in play, but I think their love is growing during this transition as they learn to know each other in a new way. Even though Kegan really is still Kegan, she is happier and more loving in some ways. Maybe she has a peace inside her now that was missing. 

"And Then I Shifted Up to Girl."

Kegan told me today, "I am a girl." Kegan wants to be referred to as "she and her" only, versus a mix of both gender pronouns as she was preferring. She wants us to call her Sean's "big sister" only, not "big sibling." She is however, still our son, not our daughter. a butterfly....takes time and steps.

I decided I needed to tell Sean that we are all going to use Kegan's preferred pronouns of she/her exclusively now. (We have been using a mix of she/he/him/her by Kegan's request.) I asked Sean, "So can you do that with us?" He said, "No." Not because Sean is anti-transgender, just because Sean is two. I said, "I know this is a big change, for a long time we have only called Kegan him and he." Kegan interrupted and said, "For like ninety years or nine years?" I said, "Well since you were born, so five and a half years." Kegan said, "Well actually five years, because then I said "I was a boy-girl" and you would call me "he/she" and "him/her," but then I shifted up to girl. So for five years you said he and him." And that is that.

This is actually a relief in terms of society if Kegan is identifying as only a girl. Society isn't that fond of differences, but at least a specific switch from one gender to another seems more "reasonable," than a constant fluidity to this world. I don't know how people who are bigender, agender, etc. survive in our "fit in boxes neatly" world. Knowing Kegan may be bigender has been much harder than knowing Kegan may be male to female transgender for me. Not because I care one way or the other, but because I want Kegan to have the easier road. Being honest, I want Kegan to have the easiest road, Sean too, of course. I know that is not a fair hope, but it is my mama hope for my children. Kegan will not have an easy road, but being one gender consistently does seem at least simpler and more likely to have greater acceptance by society. (Even if that is a different gender than the one a person was given at birth.)

I asked Kegan, "Do you think you will shift to boy-girl again?" She answered, "No." I asked, "Are you a girl inside?" She said, "Yes." (On a side note, I am so thankful Kegan is so articulate, her choice of words is often so clear, this new phrase, which may never be spoken again by her, seems quite clear; a shift in the transition or the next level. Yep...just like a caterpillar has several steps before emerging from the chrysalis.

So....if today was my twenty week ultrasound, I would proclaim, "It's a girl!" I am a boy (Sean) and a girl (Kegan) Mom now. And I feel at peace. As long as I am thinking about our own little private world with the people who love Kegan for Kegan. When I let my mind travel outside our safe zone, outside our gates...the worry is still there. Today though, it is rainy and gloomy, but my Kegan is bright with light and self-knowledge and that brings peace.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Mom Fail

Kegan and Sean came to work with me today. My total time at work was very brief, but the time I spent preparing and stressing over Kegan's outfit choice was hours.

Kegan has begun wearing dresses almost all the time. I am not particularly close to anyone at work and have not shared Kegan's transgender status with anyone there yet. The kids have maybe come to my office three times in over two years. I know the day is coming when we will be fully out, but I also feel like there are people who don't need to know yet. My colleagues fall into that category. I am not ashamed, if anything I am proud of my child for being so self-aware. I am nervous about negative reactions. I don't think I am quite ready to bring my personal life through the door at work. That is not actually accurate, I am not ready to face a loss of hours (I work on-call) if my boss reacts as I expect based on her conservative outlook.

While I didn't want Kegan wearing a dress, I also didn't want to say he/she could not wear in a dress. So I set the stage and hoped for the outcome I wanted, fortunately Kegan followed my script even without getting the lines. I simply asked, "Are you going to wear these pants today?" I know these particular pants have a special place in Kegan's heart and they definitely fall into the male gender label. Kegan selected the "boyish" outfit and I was relieved. (Guilty too, but I truly do have fears about my employer(s) decreasing my hours based on disagreement with my parenting on this issue, so my guilt was overruled by survival. And Kegan was happy with the outfit, so no harm, no foul.   I hope.)

We arrived at work and my kids were awesome. I was nervous about their behavior because I knew they would have to be calm and quiet (not always their strengths). I left feeling an overwhelming sense of pride and my heart truly felt full at how beautifully they had behaved. So I was feeling good, but I was concerned Kegan was not.

Whenever I talk with Kegan about transgender issues I try to be so cool and casual, like, "So we can talk about this, but it is so not a big deal, and if you would prefer to talk about the color of mud on a rainy day, that is equally as awesome as having this totally not important conversation." That is the image I strive to present, but what I am actually feeling is, "Holy cow, do not screw this up, play it cool, play it cool, do not make Kegan feel awkward, don't be pushy, be open-ended, do not mess up!"

In my mind, talking while we drive is a good location. Kegan is "trapped" and we can't see each other's faces well, so that means it is low key and casual. As we left the parking lot we had this conversation:

Me: So at work everyone kept saying, "Oooh, look at the brothers." How do you feel about that?

Kegan: Not good.

Me: Was it okay that I didn't say anything about it or should I have said something to them?

Kegan: You should have told them to say, "Look at the siblings."

Me: Okay, I am sorry, next time I will. Why do you think people kept saying "brothers"?

Kegan: I don't know.

Me: Do you think they just thought you were a boy?

Kegan: Maybe.

Me: What are you?

Kegan: A girl.

Me: Are you a boy-girl or a just a girl?

Kegan: A girl. Maybe next time I will wear a dress.

Me: Yeah, that might be a good idea.

So that is not verbatim because I didn't think to hit record on my phone, but I need to start doing so because then I can over analyze every word I said and every response Kegan gave even more in depth than I do already. While it may not be an exact transcript, it is pretty close.

I am not sure how much Kegan is processing with each new experiences, but it seems he gets that if he wears a dress people will see him/her as a girl, which is clearly what Kegan needs. It is interesting that Kegan said "I am a girl," versus the usual "boy-girl." My husband and I are expecting Kegan to identify as a girl versus boy-girl based on Kegan's comments and behaviors. So far Kegan has not done so, but has identified as both a boy and girl. Maybe that is a gateway to a full transition. Maybe Kegan is just very fluid now and always will be.

Either way, I better put my game face on and hope my employers are more accepting than I am giving them credit for because the next time we go there Kegan is going to make sure no one sees him/her as boy only. I am so proud of Kegan for knowing who he/she is. I hope that when the taunts inevitably begin (hopefully not for years!), Kegan can remember how safe he/she was for so long, how boldly and quietly he/she identified his/her gender and gender expression. I hope Kegan's total lack of awareness, of how different he/she is from society's expectations for a five year old born with a penis, segues nicely into strength and courage when he/she does realize he/she is different than many, but definitely not all.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

A Rose By Any Other Name

Why Kegan and Sean? As my profile shows, my kids names in real life are different than on this blog. I am constantly conflicted as to how public to be with raising a transgender child and how to protect said child's identity and safety.

I hope to be as honest and raw as possible on this blog. But this is not only my story. This is my husband's story, my transgender child's story (especially!), and our youngest son's story. Is it even fair for me to be here? Do I have a right, parental or otherwise, to be so open? But do I have an obligation to all the other members of Kegan's LGBTQ community to be bold enough to tell our story so it gets normalized?

I am so hopeful and have such a strong belief that if this community and its allies are honest, loving, and strive to educate the world, we will see more acceptance in Kegan's lifetime. I have to hope for that, because otherwise my heart is crushed when I read crime stats against transgender people. My heart hurts when I read stories about victims being blamed for the actions of their bullies. My being aches with fear and sorrow when I read what a tough road my child is on.

If I tell Kegan's story maybe it will help another family to know they are not alone. Maybe it will help a bigot to see underneath all this focus on gender we are just a regular, boring family with two kids who like to run, jump, sing songs, and be silly.  Maybe it will shine a light in the dark corners of a heart and let a child be allowed to come home to his/her parents. And if all that fails, Kegan will at least know I tried my best to make the world safer and more loving for him/her. Kegan will have a journal to show I did everything with love, even my failures were meant to be loving.

Back to the original question. Why Kegan? Kegan is a gender-neutral Irish name that means bright shining flame. This child has been light to us since the day she/he was born. Kegan is now lighting the way to be true to himself/herself. Kegan is lighting the way for other transgender kids to be true to their own identities as well. Kegan is a beacon of light and hope in our society.

Why Sean? Sean is also Irish, typically used for males and means God is gracious.  Sean is our planned-for bonus from God. We didn't know if we would be able to have another baby and Sean was given to us purely by the grace of God. So this seemed a fitting code name.

Their names don't really matter, the names are just placeholders so the story can be read. What matters is the story and I hope as we live our story it is true to Kegan's being.