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When Light and Joy Changes (into Light and Joy)


It began with a phone call from a second grade teacher.

Well, perhaps it began with hand-me-down boxer briefs. Or, more probably, it began at conception.

But I get ahead of myself, my part in this drama began with a phone call.

“Um, hi, Ms Foote, I need to touch base with you about what happened in class today.”

Well, this is probably not going to be good.

“Lucia asked if she could share something at morning meeting. She wanted the class to know that she is ‘gender fluid and does not want to be called Lucia but L.G.’ (her initials), also, we should be using he/him pronouns. I told her I would have to call you first. I wasn’t even sure what she meant by gender fluid. What would you like me to do?”

“I guess you’ll have to tell the class to use a new name and pronouns.” Was my ever so calm reply. At which point, I hung up the phone and proceeded to freak out.

When the child got home, I engaged him in a way that was not at all graceful but, in fact, was a lot confused and a little hysterical. I may have raised my voice. I am certain that we both cried. We concluded by decamping to our separate corners of the house.

I went to Facebook (as you do) and publicly declared my epic parenting fail. I asked for an intervention. My dear and wonderful friends began making suggestions and introductions. I now know so many more dear and wonderful folks. The community rallied. I found people who let me ask stupid, intrusive, and probably offensive questions and I received a real education. I was awesome, humbling, beautiful, difficult…

The next morning, before school, I regrouped and charged in  “So you prefer he/him?” “yep” “And no more Lucia?” “uh huhn”

“Why didn’t you say something before? (!!!!!)”  “Well, I knew it wasn’t gonna change anything at home. Right?”

Oh. Oh…   So, maybe not failing after all. Because it’s not really going to change anything at home. Right?  Kids are so wise.

School was attended. Announcements were made. Parents were overwhelmingly supportive. Second graders mostly just didn’t care. Second graders are surprisingly flexible about big things.

Weeks later a sty found us visiting our pediatrician at the school health clinic. Our wonderful school nurse got there first; so that when we checked in our pediatrician already knew what name to use and what pronouns is preferred.She asked no intrusive questions, just one verifying one “So you prefer to be called Luca now, is that right?”

And then on with the show!  An exam of the offending eye, some antibiotics, and one small child was happily off to class.

I stayed after and talked to the PCP. She referred me to some groups and told me where to go to read more. She told me to call the office if I had any questions. She told me I was doing a good job.

At some point in the following weeks our beloved Nurse Practitioner called me at home. You see, she had taken it upon herself to pull my kid’s chart, and while she was at it, she perused his older sister’s as well. The question of “when do the women in your family enter puberty?” wasn’t even on my radar. Early, the answer is early. And early means that if your transgender son is 9, you had best be thinking ahead.

Referrals were made. Luca got to meet the new members of his team on the opening day of the new University of Vermont Medical Center Trans Youth Program. They were amazing. Informative, patient, reassuring…

Names had to be sorted ( what a process that has been!) Lucia-L.G.-Luc-Luca. Wardrobes edited. Hair cut. Siblings reasoned with.

It’s not been super easy. Not everyone is supportive. There will always be mean people, cruel people. Navigating school bureaucracy has been challenging.

But it hasn’t been super hard either. We had in place, and are continuing to build, a vibrant, diverse, knowledgeable, and compassionate group of friends. Luca’s friends and their parents have been supportive and encouraging. Our church family has been embracing and loving. And our medical providers have been respectful and proactive. I feel so grateful to live in this lovely little bubble of tolerance that is Burlington, Vt.

The journey continues! I so look forward to seeing what will be. This child was all light and joy on the day that she was born, and he is still light and joy today – no hiding under bushels for us.

————————————————————————–

Some words about advocacy:

The best things that friends and community members have done for us have been simple. Ask lots of respectful questions. Try your best to new names and pronouns right but don’t freak out when you misstep (my kid can tell when you’re trying and he’s pretty forgiving). Give us real, honest feedback – friends communicate even when it’s hard. Most important, just remember that this is the same kid and we are the same family that we all were before, it’s just a gender not a personality.

Health Care Providers:

Make sure your notes are clear, you wouldn’t want to be called the wrong name by your doctor.

Think ahead, you know more about this than your patient’s parents. We need as much information as possible, we don’t know what we don’t know.

Talk to my kid with respect. Small does not mean unintelligent and 9 year olds need to understand and consent to their health care too.

Be encouraging, tell parents that they are doing a good job or where they can improve. Normalize the situation so we don’t feel so isolated and unsure.

The best tools we have in this life are each other.

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At Sea: Being More Than Mother – http://wp.me/p3IL3v-dg


You Should Date An Illiterate Girl

Thought Catalog

Date a girl who doesn’t read. Find her in the weary squalor of a Midwestern bar. Find her in the smoke, drunken sweat, and varicolored light of an upscale nightclub. Wherever you find her, find her smiling. Make sure that it lingers when the people that are talking to her look away. Engage her with unsentimental trivialities. Use pick-up lines and laugh inwardly. Take her outside when the night overstays its welcome. Ignore the palpable weight of fatigue. Kiss her in the rain under the weak glow of a streetlamp because you’ve seen it in film. Remark at its lack of significance. Take her to your apartment. Dispatch with making love. Fuck her.

Let the anxious contract you’ve unwittingly written evolve slowly and uncomfortably into a relationship. Find shared interests and common ground like sushi, and folk music. Build an impenetrable bastion upon that ground. Make it sacred. Retreat into…

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Girls With Swords

Girls With Swords

My sons opted out of Halloween this year (well, sort of). The 14 y.o. dressed as a “disaffected teenager”, the 12 and 9 y.o. dressed as their older brother. The 7 y.o. has sensory issues and doesn’t dress up.
But my girls… my girls did it up. The big one went as a “dragon fighting knight” or Joan of Arc, depending on who asked. The little one, a blood thirsty pirate. In solidarity, I went piratey too.
When we were all done up it occurred to me – all the girls have swords!
Now, I know that as a Quaker and a pacifist I should be bothered by this. I should probably never have strapped on that sword, or allowed them to.
But here’s the thing, I kinda think we rocked. Given the choice, with no input from me, my girls chose to haul out their brother’s old costumes and fantasize about being someone who kicks butt and takes names, rather than someone who looks cute and requires rescuing. They were fierce in costume as they are fierce in life.
Girls with swords… finally some tangible proof that this Mama is getting some things right.


How Not To Parent 101….or Why My Kids Are So Damn Cool (2012)

Tonight after dinner my #1 child, age 13, remained at the table to talk with us of many things. We discussed the Hapsburg Dynasty, the League of Nations, the creation of the USSR, the Kinnsey Scale, and predjudices about how people with “alternative” sexualities or gender identities “should” look. The kid was, understandably, surprised to find out his dad is pan-sexual. Once he absorbed this info he was equaly surprised that I am straight. ’cause, ya know, Bey is kinda rugged, and as I sit here typing, I am sporting a crew-cut, jeans, Docs, and a “legalize gay” t-shirt. What we came up with is people are attracted to who they are attracted to; and look how they look. And the two have no necessary correlation.

Also, he has decided to call me “Butch” and his father “Tinkerbell”, cause, well, he is our kid.


Gratitude (november 2012)

I have spent this year mindfully trying to cultivate a spirit of gratitude, and I believe I am making headway. Most mornings I walk out my front door feeling blessed; but it’s a general sort of thing.

So on this day of Giving Thanks I thought it might be a good excersize to enumerate the blessings of the passing year.

I am thankful for expensive lessons learned cheap, and for every difficulty and challenge I faced. I didn’t like them at the time, I’m still not liking them now, but they are the thing that propels you down the road to destinations unknown.

I am thankful for old friends who have hung in. God I don’t know how people have the patience to love me sometimes.

I am thankful for new friends. Some of you are already like the family I wish I had. I fully intend to grow old with a few of you.

I am grateful to the vanilla busy-body who “outed” me. No one has ever done me such a favor! I found strength I didn’t know I had, and a fully open life is such a precious gift.

I am thankful for pies in the oven, the noise and chaos of my hoarde, long distance phone calls, miraculous good health, indoor herb gardens, finding my voice, finding my vocation, losing my hair, losing my heart,  learning to enjoy solitude,  plans and promises, companionable silences (even on the phone!), uncertainty and adventure, possibilities,…


On Defending One’s Orientation (November 2012)

I live in a liberal place, Vermont was the first state to introduce civil unions, and the first state to introduce same-sex marriage by enacting a statute without being required to do so by a court decision. We have a rockin’ Pride Day, our schools celebrate Ally Week. All 6 of my kids have friends and classmates with same-sex parents. Folks working in schools and in politics are “out”, some are way out. Hell, I came out on Facebook as poly and kinky, and the parents of kids at the school where I work sent me messages of support.

So, you ask, what’s this rant going to be about? It’s about defending my staightness. You see, in the circles I run in there seems to be a great deal of both tacit and explicit straight shaming.

Let’s be clear; I find women awfully beautiful. They are softer than men, curvier, easier on the eyes. but in the same way that it would never occur to me to enter a museum and dry-hump a Rodin, it would never interest me to have sex with a woman.

And yes, I have tried! (several times) At a time when I was trying to figure out all the kinky and poly I also gave Bi a go. Principally because I felt pushed by folks who kept asking if I had tried. Friends, I love you, but this is the most disrespectful of questions. And it’s one, incedentally, that you would never ask a man. The question implies that a woman who identifies as straight does not know her own mind or understand her own desires. Bi-sexual women may be the norm in the kink community, but they are not the rule.

What is it about my hetero-sexuallity that offends you so? Do you think it’s a jugement, that it makes me homophobic? I can assure you I am not. My partner of 15 years is pan-sexual, my son may well be bi, some of my very dearest friends are of various orientations-not-straight.

Does it make negotiation impossible? Have I created an impasse in  your “we are poly but we share all our partners” style arraingement? It may be a great set-up for you guys, but it’s just not my cup of tea.

Does it fuck with your fantasy life? Do you like the idea of two women together and I just won’t play? Truely, you can find lots of girls-not-me to do that for you.

Did you think I was cute and I turned you down? Really I swear, it wasn’t you! You are probably fabulous, you just don’t come with a penis attached and I need that. Well, ok, you may have been fabulous, before you got more agressive and nasty with me than any man I ever turned down for less objective reasons. (this has happened to me several times in the last few months… what’s the deal ladies?!)

I should not have to come on-line or go out to events and be afraid of the reaction when I use the S-word. I should not have to justify my orientation. I should not be made to feel guilty just because women don’t get me hot and wet. I have no more control over who I want than you do. I assure you I am not bigotted, or repressed, or afraid; though I am starting to become a little angry.

It is demeaning and prejudicial to ask a heterosexual person if they are “sure”, if they have “tried”, if they “gave it a chance”. It is presumptive to tell us that we “just haven’t met the right girl”. It is not ok to assume that we are unaccepting of non-hetero-normative folks. It is absurd to be nasty about it.

At the end of the day, I want to fuck who I want to fuck. Just like everyone else. And I am of the opinion that as a community of outliers we should make a concerted effort to embrace everybody’s kink, even when it’s not our kink, even when it’s heterosexuality.