Children and Transition

This is a blog entry from my personal blog.  Lori had suggested I cross post this entry here. I am glad that she suggested that, it has been some time since I posted here. Thanks for the suggestion Lori, and the wonderful comments. 

I felt compelled to write about a topic that is rather close to my heart, children and transition. I was reading a blog on Yahoo 360 by a friend from the 360 community, Stephanie, see it here. I must admit that I had a very defensive reaction to this posting when I first read it. I hold nothing against Stephanie, I just feel the need to assert my view on this topic. In her blog, she basically questions the decision to withhold information from children during transition, stating that,”There should be no secrets in a family.” 

   Before going much further, I feel that I should give a little background on myself. I came out almost five months ago to my spouse, and I have two young children, both under the age of 6. When I came out, I knew that it was only going to lead to one place for me, and that was transition. For me there is no middle ground. I cannot live part time in one role and work in the other. I have lived my whole life knowing where I was supposed to be, and, since figuring out that transition was possible, I have known that transition was something I needed to do. Yes, I tried to avoid it, through love and other means, but those paths led me to the place I am at now. 

    Now that I am beginning my transition, I have to manage the flow of information about my transition to avoid it getting to the wrong people at the wrong time. Only a very few people know right now, and those are the people who I trust, and who I know will absolutely keep my confidence about what I am going through. There are others who I feel similarly about, but I am still working up the courage to tell them. Others, I feel, will spread the information faster the Paul Revere on a midnight horse-ride. 

     Now for children and the blog post I am referring to. Stephanie is right that children are extremely perceptive. They can sense when something isn’t right or when someone is keeping a secret. I have witnessed the power of children’s perceptions and how they can sense emotions and feelings. One of the most powerful ways I experienced this was on Sept. 11, 2001. I went to my sister-in-laws house that morning on my way to work. My niece, who had just turned one, came up to me right away, and instead of just giving me a quick hug and going about playing, she gave me a long tight hug. This was not just a happy to see you hug, this was one where I could feel that she knew I was upset, and she just held on until I thanked her and told her I felt better now. I was not crying at the time, but I was upset, and she sensed this and did the only thing she knew she could do to try and help. 

    When transitioning with children, we have the added burden of trying to determine the right time to tell our children. Depending on our family situation, their ages, spousal situations, and a myriad of other factors, the “right time” or “best time” to tell your children carry vary greatly from one person to the next. For many of us, if our personal and professional lives intertwine to some extent. Children tend to be pretty honest, and trying to get children, especially young children, to keep secrets can be extremely difficult if not utterly impossible. If information gets out to the wrong people at the wrong time, it can damage personal relationship, work environments, family relations, or other sensitive areas of transition. 

   Do I think that it is good to keep secrets in a family? No, I don’t. I love my children dearly, and I am very honest with them. However, I have not yet begun to tell them about who I really am. My clothes hang in my closet right along side my boy clothes, but they don’t question it. I have also seen no negative effects from my “hiding” the fact that I am transitioning and going out in girl mode once a week. In fact, since I came out and began my transition, my children have become more loving, more affectionate, and more confident. It seems that my being happier and more content has carried over to their own personal sense of well being. Because I am more confident with myself, they are no longer affected by my hiding my true self and the struggle that accompanied it. 

    I think that this brings me to a point that has come up a few times for me recently. That point being about what is the right way to approach any part of transition. Simply put, there is no right way. There is no right time frame, no right hormone regimen, no right surgeon, no right path to transition. There is only your path towards becoming your true self. I appreciate hearing from others about what has worked for them, why they liked a particular physician, why they chose to do things the way they did it, or their general philosophy on transition, but we must remember that we all have to do what is comfortable and right for ourselves. The journey of transition is about discovering yourself through your own personal journey. We are fortunate to have a diverse community with many stories of transition, let’s continue to share those stories, and not judge those who take a different path. I could never spend the rest of my life living as Kathryn but working as a male, yet there are those who can. I do not judge them. We have a community because we need support in a society that judges us and does not understand us, let us not judge each other and let us continue to give each other the support we all need to make what ever transition we choose to make.

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Review: “My Secret Female Body” on BBC America

Having reviewed “Transvestite Wives” earlier, I felt it was only fair to give a similar treatment to “My Secret Female Body”, another in the ‘Reveals’ series that premiered on BBC America on June 22, 2008.

This documentary focused on a twenty two year old transman, Danny. From the BBC America web site:

Born as Katie, Danny has been living as a man for four years and has had male hormone injections every two weeks for a year. Now, at 22, Danny undergoes a dramatic surgical transformation, which physically changes his body from female to male. This documentary sees Danny embark on the first stage of this irreversible procedure – a double mastectomy, followed by complicated penis surgery.

Like “Transvestite Wives”, Danny has an amazingly supportive girlfriend who loves him in his pre-op body, and is fully behind him in his decision to undergo SRS. We also get to hear from Danny’s mother (“I had a wonderful daughter, and now I have a wonderful and happier son”), sister and best friend who talk frankly about their initial misgivings and current acceptance. There’s very little discussion of social intolerance – just a couple of anecdotes about altercations “down the pub”.

Much of the focus is on the physical transformation. We see Danny’s doctor administering his testosterone shot, and discussing the bodily changes these have already brought about. We’re also there for Danny’s first consultation with the plastic surgeon who will be doing his top surgery. A note to sensitive viewers – although BBC America did blur out some visuals, probably to bring the show into line with American censorship guidelines, there’s still plenty of detail to the scenes in the operating theater and the descriptions used by the doctor made me squirm just a little.

When the surgical results are not as perfect as they could have been, the viewer is spared none of Danny’s anguish and emotional turmoil. At the end of the hour, we are left with the impression that there is no fairytale ending for Danny and his girlfriend – and yet Danny’s life is clearly a happier one even though he faces more procedures in the future. Just from watching his face as he listens to his friend discuss how his new phallus was fashioned from forearm grafts, we can tell what’s on the horizon for Danny…

This documentary is highly recommended for any FtM pre-op transsexual who is considering the next step. It doesn’t sugar-coat anything, but still manages to convery a message of hope.

For those of you with access to BBC America, this will be shown again as follows:

Wednesday, July 2, 2008 at 8:00 PM and 11:00 PM
Thursday, July 3, 2008 at 1:00 AM
Sunday, July 13, 2008 at 5:00 PM

“Transvestite Wives” will also be shown again on Sunday, July 13, 2008 at 6:00 PM, if you missed it the first time around.

Anyone and Everyone

I am sitting here in tears having just finished watching one of the most moving documentaries I have ever seen. It’s called Anyone and Everyone. It’s the story of a variety of families – Jewish, Catholic and Mormon; white, black, Hispanic and Asian – and how the parents came to understand and support their lesbian and gay daughters and sons, despite the teachings of their churches, despite all they had been told about homosexuality being a choice, despite their own bigotry and prejudice. I have to admit that I’m sucker for love stories and this is the best type of love story – one where love triumphs over all obstacles, the greatest of which are the barriers we create in our own hearts that keep us separate from each other and separate from the truth that we all are divine beings created out of love and created to share that love with others. I suppose that’s what I find hardest about those who seek to attack and shame lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people into denying themselves and returning to the closet. I simply don’t understand how people can hate when it is so very painful for me to experience being judged and rejected by others and for me to do the same to others, knowing the awful pain that it causes.

I don’t know how many people will understand any of this or really care, but it’s what I believe and why I do the things I do to spread love in this world and help other people to find peace with who they are and whatever circumstances life brings them. Tonight, I feel sad and lonely, and so I reach out to you because I need your love and want to do all I can to make sure that none of us has to go through these times – the good and the bad – alone.

Blessings,
Abby

P.S. You can watch the trailer and find out about show times in your area, how to purchase copies and the story behind the film by clicking on either of the links above.