A while back, I was Facebook-friended by someone with whom I’d gone to elementary school, a woman I hadn’t seen in 15 years. In that same week, I was friended by another schoolmate, a man I hadn’t seen in 25 years. I’ll call these two people, who are not Facebook friends with each other, Leia and Mork.
I was happy to be back in touch with Leia and Mork. Leia and I, and Mork and I, in separate sets of messages, chatted in the way that long-lost friends do, telling each other where we live, how many kids we have, what we do for work. We exchanged several messages. A few messages in, both Mork and Leia asked me what sort of writing I did. And so I told them, as simply as I could: I write, under a pen name, about my son, who likes to wear a dress.
And you know what? Both Leia and Mork never wrote back.
Maybe it was a coincidence. Maybe the conversations just dropped off in the way conversations eventually do, and it just happened to be after I dropped the pink-bomb on each of them. Maybe they both got busy, sick, or their computers went on the fritz.
Or maybe they got freaked out.
Because people sometimes do.
I notice that the tomboy in Sam’s grade who plays on the boys’ soccer team is cool and socially in demand, while Sam doesn’t get invited to many birthday parties. Sometimes people look at us strangely when we disclose that Sam, the long-haired kid they’ve taken for a girl, is a boy. Sam’s school administration can talk eloquently about diversity and acceptance up and down, except when it comes to gender, when they get all panicky and quiet.
I make it my business to talk to as many people as I can about Sam (while being careful of his privacy and his safety), to make gender nonconformity something that gets talked about, not something swept under the rug. Because when we hide something, we make it shameful. So I open my mouth, maybe even more than I should, and occasionally I lose an audience member or two, like Leia and Mork.
But maybe the next time they hear about someone’s son who wears a dress, they’ll remember that the woman they kind of liked back in elementary school mentioned something about her son wearing a dress, and maybe that will make it a little bit more OK.
Where my family lives, there are very few people who know what transgender means, even though we are a sizeable city. Not even the doctors here knew what transgender meant until we explained.
Imagine having two transgender children in a community that is extremely conservative and evangelical. The schools are unwelcoming. The churches are unwelcoming. Most people reject the local LGBT individuals. The state legislature is actively pursuing bills that legalize discrimination against people like my children.
Given that the trans population is less than half a percent of my state’s population, the lack of awareness of trangender people is unsurprising.
Visibility of transgender people in the media is increasing, but not at a rate fast enough to make a dent in the general population. Here, where we live, at least, visibility occurs as the few LGBT people come out of the closet to their families, friends, coworkers, and ultimately to the community as a whole.
Being out in a conservative, Republican city and state is often dangerous. Add in any other minority characteristics and the danger to the individual increases exponentially.
My two wonderful teenage transgender sons have to navigate this world. It is terrifying to think of them in the school setting (so they are homeschooled), unbelievably frightening to think of them out there alone and out as they medically transition in the future.
Transgender visibility and awareness is vitally important. My kids were born into the wrong bodies. In the second trimester of my pregnancies, each of them were exposed to increased testosrerone, changing their brain structures to resemble male brains (https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2018/05/180524112351.htm).
Like sexual preferences, being transgender is not a choice. My sons, despite the identification at birth being female, are male. Because they are trans males, they are the lucky ones. They are less likely to be abused, less likely to be killed than trans females. They will, with testosterone, grow facial hair, increase their muscle mass and deepen their voices. They will enter into society with the stereotypical male look with ID cards that match their genders.
Most transgender people are not fortunate enough to have accepting families and doctors. Most struggle and suffer because of the extreme prejudices they face.
As allies to the LGBT community we can help change these struggles. We can make sure that all people are accepted and treated equally. Trans visibility is key, but without our speaking up for the community, for our friends and family members, change will be slow. We must make this a seismic change.
I love my dogs. It’s not unusual, nor is it something not to be proud of.
I’m unable to have children, but dammit, I’m one hell of a doggie mom. I’m not all weird about it or anything – I don’t have little puppy clothing or diamond collars. I don’t buy my dogs exotic food more expensive than my own.
I do let the little dog, Bettie, sleep on the bed with me, and I totally use a weird voice when talking to her. I even call her “Pretty Girl.”
Ugh. I’m sickening.
I let the big dog, Fritz, sleep on the bed when the husband isn’t in it. He’s too large to sleep on the bed if that pesky man is there, otherwise you bet your sweet ass he’d be cuddled up next to me and Bettie.
I play fetch with Fritz – who also goes by “Mr. Foo” and “Handsome Puppy Face” – with his squeaky hedgehog toy. He’s nine and has arthritis in his hip, but he’ll run around like a puppy when you throw something for him to fetch. I swear he thinks he’s a year-old pup.
He can “sing” on command, and I’ve learned recently that he digs Motown and ’80’s music. He sits, shakes, and stands up either by hand signal or vocal commands. He even smiles! I promise. I have pictures to prove it! He’s the sweetest boy you’ll ever meet.
Bettie isn’t quite as talented in the ol’ trick department, but she makes up for it in cuteness. She’s small and shaggy and sweet. She follows me around the house wherever I go – like we’re on some sort of adventure when I’m walking to the refrigerator to grab a soda. She has some bizarre quirks like growling when a cell phone, soda can, or the like come near her tiny, little face. We’re teaching her to do some of the tricks that her “brother” does, but so far all she’s learned is how to sit and sing… sort of. Nothing cracks me up more than her high pitched squeal that is indescribable and oh-so endearing.
She’s a Mama’s Girl, even if the husband does call her “Daddy’s Little Princess” when no one is around.
For my Dose of Happy, I thought about writing about the husband (I still may), but I decided that people like me, who are/were unable to have any children, would appreciate a little levity about being a pet parent.
I love my dogs, and even though I was not able to conceive, I still have my sense of humor. I also have two furry creatures who need me.
They’ve been there with their unconditional love every time I’ve needed it. They’ve helped me when I was so sad I couldn’t breathe. They’ve listened to me sobbing and screaming. The only thing they have ever needed in return was my love. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.
Can I do it alone?
I have a son. He’ll be four in a few weeks – a sweet, smart, active little boy with a big heart. However, his father and I split up over a year ago, largely because I wanted more kids. While we had agreed upon it previously, he later decided that one was enough. He loves our son, of that I have no doubt, but he refused to have another child.
I’d had enough.
The breakup was nasty but I agreed to shared custody. Leaving was the hardest thing I have ever done – not leaving him, but sleeping under a different roof than my son. However, our custody arrangement is such that I see my son pretty much every day, and most nights. At least it’s bearable.
My son keeps asking me to bring home a baby for him (which is just so darn cute), but I wish it were that simple. I want another child. My biological clock is ticking louder every day. In a few months I turn 40. Somehow that number has always seemed the age I should be finished having kids.
For the past nine months (irony, anyone?), I’ve been actively searching for Mr. Right. Someone intelligent, attractive, single, honest, interesting, gentle, kind and creative, who likes kids and wants to settle down – and who hasn’t had a vasectomy. There isn’t anyone like that in my regular life so I’ve tried four different internet dating sites. So far I’ve met 18 local men and, well, short version: no luck.
So I have a choice.
I can take the risk and wait, or I can cut out the middleman (pun intended) and just do it myself with the help of a local fertility clinic.
I can afford the procedures and they’ve accepted me as a client. I’m lucky to have a job that will pay me almost my full salary for a full year of maternity leave, and a great health plan that covers most costs. I make enough money to be able to support another child. What more do I need, right? Case closed! Decision made! Sign me up and show me the stirrups!
Then the doubts set in.
If I get pregnant this fall, my son would be five by the time the baby was born. Is it fair to him? Will I have the energy to do all the things he needs me to do for him? Will I be able to get him to school on time – help him with his homework? Will he resent sharing his bedroom? Will he resent sharing me? Will his father think that he can steal our son away from me because I have another child? I wouldn’t put it past him.
Is it fair to deprive a child from knowing his father? Will the baby wonder? Will this baby resent that my firstborn son gets to spend time with his father but he or she can’t?
I remember those first months (and first years) of having a baby. It’s exhausting. Not enough sleep, constantly on call, never a moment of privacy – and that’s what it was like when the father was there to help out.
What happens if I’m on my own? No one is going to make me a sandwich. No one is going to vacuum for me or unload the dishwasher. No one will change a diaper once in a while to give me a break. No will bounce a teething infant for an hour or two in the middle of the night so I can sleep. No one will pick up groceries from time to time.
I will have no one to rely on but myself.
I don’t have family around, and all of my friends are leaving town one by one – it’s their careers, I always knew they’d be going sometime. Could I hire a doula for the first few months? A nanny? How much would that cost? Can I afford it? How do I find one? Would she expect to live here in my tiny house? Where would I put her?
What would it really mean to have a child on my own? Can I do it alone? The only single moms I know had a hell of a time, and they had friends and family around to help. What if I have twins? How the hell would I handle that on my own? My mother was a twin.
Am I strong enough to handle it?
It’s the right thing to do.
Right? Tell me I’m right.
My therapist has asked me to write down a list.
A list of all the traumatic experiences that have happened to me in my life, that have contributed to my Bipolar Disorder and PTSD.
Right now, my therapist doesn’t feel as though I’m ready for the therapy called Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR). As far as I understand, I have to relive my traumatic experiences, have the proper emotional response, get over it, then have Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) so I can develop some sort of coping mechanism for the future. But until my medications are adjusted and I’m in a better place, I have to wait.
So, here is my list:
Sexual abuse around age 3 by a family member. I repressed this memory until it slapped me in the face at age 12, causing an intense anxiety attack.
Constant arguing between my parents, thanks to my father’s alcoholism, gambling, and pain issues due to needing a hip replacement. The pain issue turned into an anger issue; turned into a power tool being thrown at my mother, missing, and going through the window and landing at my feet; followed by an argument on a holiday with my father resulting in me taking a heavy duty power torch to the head.
As a “gifted child,” I was bullied a lot in primary school and high school. I still carry some of those emotional scars with me.
Funnily enough, my brain is currently trying to stop me from accessing more memories. Suck it, brain; stop being a whiny bitch and let me write this shit out.
When I was 16, my mother – being severely depressed – attempted suicide several times. The last time she tried, she had an argument with my father (now a better man, nothing like his days in my earlier life), and downed a ton of pills. I found her and her suicide note. I actively suppress the things written on that note, but if I actively access that memory, the note started with “I no longer fear death. In fact, I embrace it.” That sentence haunts me in my dreams. She is fine now, thankfully, but I refused to talk about it with anyone and pretended it never happened.
I was diagnosed with severe anxiety disorder when I had a panic attack at high school so bad my heart rate was 180, and I had to be rushed to hospital for fear of doing damage to my heart. Since that day, I regularly have palpitations.
I had a psychotic episode at 17, when voices told me to stab my mother. I became paralyzed in my own bed while lights shone down from the ceiling, and I was convinced aliens were coming for me, despite my logical brain telling me I was being stupid.
I was diagnosed with endometriosis and told I should probably have children before 25. I’m currently a week away from my 24th birthday.
I moved out of my family home to the capital of my state to attend university. I was diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder at this stage, and promiscuity, sleepless nights, shopping sprees, and severe irritability kicked in.
I dated a Muslim man for eight months. Toward the end of the relationship, I was emotionally abused, when he called me a dog. I went running into the arms of a male friend.
I decided I was the worst person in the world and went off screwing any guy who looked my way, drinking myself into oblivion, and eating pills like candy, just to numb the pain. I wanted to be used. I asked my male friend – now my fuck buddy – if he was using me for sex. He replied yes. I cried and said, “good.” Turned out he wasn’t using me: he was in love with me; as a result of my promiscuity, and his inability to tell me how he felt, he quit university, broken-hearted.
I started dating my current partner, whom I have been with for five years now. We lived with his sister, her fiancé, and their daughter. His sister is a lazy bully who cannot look after herself, let alone children (currently a total of three). Her fiancé is a violent, alcoholic gambler. After being made a prisoner in my own bedroom, we got our own place.
My diagnosis of fibromyalgia explained my constant pain and tiredness. Yay for inheriting every single shitty illness my parents have.
Recently, I have started to have feelings for a close friend, who also has a partner. While drunk, we have made out twice. I have feelings for him, but he is just attracted to me. I have immense guilt over betraying my partner, who is emotionally stunted. I think I’m just attracted to my friend because he has the social and emotional skills my partner lacks.
I was severely bullied at my last job until I began having daily panic attacks and getting into a screaming matches with a higher-up and former friend.
I decided to self-harm and contemplated suicide when the medication I was taking for five years stopped working. Unfortunately, while the medication stopped working, my now non-existent libido did not return.
Have also suffered Dermatillomania (chronic skin-picking) for most of my life, particularly my feet. It is disgusting.
Currently, I am plagued by insomnia, headaches, anxiety, shame, severe depression, guilt, and every other horrible feeling imaginable. According to my therapist, I have feelings of low self-worth. According to my friends, I have a much lower opinion of myself than everyone else does of me.
I am both numb and emotionally unstable. I can’t cry, even though I really want to let it out. I think of myself as selfish and horrible, a terrible person who doesn’t deserve what I have. I theorize that I have some subconscious need to sabotage myself. Every time something is going well, just to add some drama in my life. Why I do this, I don’t know. And as I have written this list in such a cold, emotionless manner, I find it odd that I can be so numb and feel so many negative emotions at the same time. I feel like a robot.
I don’t want sympathy. At least, I don’t think I do. I am just tired. Tired of struggling through every day with these issues. I want the problems to just magically disappear because I’m tired of fighting.
I know it’s a long road ahead to my recovery. And as much as I don’t want to relive the aforementioned memories, I am also excited for the first time in ages because maybe, finally, with proper therapy…
…maybe I’ll finally get some peace and closure.
Shit. It would take too long to tell you everything that I love.
I could go on and on about my Mr. Sunshine, my puppy, the shoes, the clothes, my smartphone; but I don’t think that’s the point of this “exercise.” Not for me, anyway.
For me, the point of these “exercises” is to look beyond all that. The point is to find the beauty within me. The point is to find the beauty in life. The point is to find the beauty in this moment.
We just came home from the neighbor’s house where we sat around the fire and ate hot dogs and marshmallows. Sunshine is on the phone with one of the men he sponsors. My puppy is asleep in the floor. I am writing my Dose of Happy post for The Band.
This moment is perfect. In spite of the ugly sofa and carpet in the magic bus, in spite of the fact that it is HOT, in spite of the fact that the house needs cleaning.
This moment is perfect because I’ve learned a few things over the last few years.
Thanks to Narcotics Anonymous, I learned that I am worth saving. Thanks to The Band, I have learned that stigmas are bullshit. Through my family, I learned that if I do not want to become discontent with my own life, I need not look at what others have. Thanks to friends from all of these parts of my world, I have learned that life is beautiful, I am beautiful, you are beautiful.
So in the end, for me, the point of this Dose of Happy stuffz is to remember. To remember that I am beautiful, life is beautiful, you are beautiful. Which leads me back to the original question. What do I love?
I love that I don’t look at what others have. I look at what I have. I look at how rich my life is. And it is rich.
I have my recovery. I have my friends. I have The Band. I have my family.
I love my life.
I love myself.
And I love you.