(If you came searching for ALO's Barbeque, click the word. It's a good song, that's why I borrowed it's lyrics.)

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sad and glad tidings for transgender children

When the going gets tough, transkids keep going. What choice do they have? A transboy we met at the Philadelphia Trans-Health Conference, we'll call him Charlie, had some sad tidings. He was invited to a friend's birthday party. Charlie's mom takes the approach to tell parents of friends of her son that he's trans, and so had a talk with the friend's mom. In this case I'm a proponent of "don't ask don't tell," or none of your damn business! Still, there's no manual and we each choose our own paths.

Monday, December 20, 2010

One minute, I'm over it...

...the next minute I feel the opposite.      Spectrum, Animal Liberation Orchestra
When I'm not over it, it's often because of the responses I get from others. These days they are few and far between, but occasionally a comment comes from left field. I understand that people don't always get it. Insofar as that is the case, we, as experienced parents have the opportunity to educate and by doing so, make the world a safer place. Sometimes I do just that. Other times I am miffed. Who are these people questioning a proscribed diagnosis? When I tell others my child is transgender (which I rarely do anymore) they think that means I'm inviting debate, or worse, opening myself up for the possibility that my child is actually not transgender. (By the way, Google speller still thinks "transgender" is not a word.)

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Glögg: The lovely wine with the unlovely name

When Grandpa Pete, then known as Rudolph Peterson, or just Pete, met the sparkling Marie on a steamer en route to Sweden, he was swept off his feet. Literally. In grappling for a ploy to attract her attention, a headstand sealed their fate. After a whirlwind romance they headed back to Illinois where Pete became an engineer and Marie held extravagant parties and acted in plays. They eventually sired two children, one of whom is my mother-in-law.

Friday, December 10, 2010

"Why I'm not afraid."

Janet has a mild form of post traumatic stress disorder. Why goes back to her early days in the social welfare institute in China and is another post. Suffice it to say we often have to escort her upstairs to, say, get a brush or a nail file, if everybody else is downstairs. We have to sit with her while she takes a bath. If she sees one TV ad of a scary movie, she's camping out in Mom and Dad's room that night. Interestingly, her fears are focused on being inside, she has no fear of walking outside at night, or being out alone anywhere outside the house.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

How we knew

As we waited for the adoption of our son, L, we were getting hints that he might be a different sort of child. So many things about him seemed so feminine, so my sister, a therapist, sent me emails from various lesbian and trans friends. One said:
Assuming that this child fits the Harry Benjamin classification of a 'primary transexual' then moving to the USA would afford her a  tremendous opportunity to start a new life in a role that is far more in conformance with who she feels she is. It would be a pity to waste that opportunity.

Chillout song

Click here to read about the evolution of the Chillout Song. It's a musical hug.

Sunday, November 14, 2010


Into the third month in middle school Janet has been asked "Did you used to be a boy? Did you have surgery?"  It made me wonder if their parents think Janet had surgery. If so, then they might think we are barbaric, sinners, or guilty of child abuse. Parents' perceptions will influence how their children treat Janet. (Note: You cannot perform "bottom surgery" on any individual under 18, nor would we ever consider it in the first place.)

Even as we hope Janet always feels safe and not discriminated against, we try to teach her to shake it off, reinforcing the idea that it's no big deal. A character in John Steinbeck's The Winter of Our Discontent says, when he is called "kid,"
If I had any real dignity, I wouldn't think about it. I nearly forgot something my father told me not long before he died. He said the threshold of insult is in direct relation to intelligence and security. He said the words 'son of a bitch' are only an insult to a man who isn't quite sure of his mother.
Last week the principal called me in. She told me that a parent had complained that her daughter was "creeped out" when Janet was in the restroom the same time she was. The mother said that in elementary school the policy had been for Janet to use the nurse's bathroom and she didn't know why the middle school hadn't continued this policy. (Actually, there never was such a policy, she just went in practice.) The parent was concerned that Janet might exit the stall just as a classmate was adjusting her bra (horrors!) or other article of clothing (as if!)

The principal, an amazing woman, told me that she was never allowed to divulge information about a student with other people. She just wanted to see what my thoughts and reactions were. We discussed how Janet's sexual preference (who she likes) appears to be boys; plenty of lesbians use the girls' room without incident; and there are, without a doubt, intersex children who use the restrooms.

At first I thought the parent needed to be educated. But really, it's none of her business--education could emphasize Janet's being "different." The principal agreed but reminded me that she still had to address the fact that a student was uncomfortable. That's when I had an "aha!" moment. I suggested she say, "I can never discuss another student with a parent, but if your child ever feels uncomfortable using the girls' room, she is welcome to use the nurse's bathroom." Hah!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I read the news today, oh boy...

In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes.---Andy Warhol
It all started with a letter. Our principal, well-intentioned--although I believe misguided--decided he had to send a letter to the third grade parents saying, "We recently became informed that one of our third-grade students is a transgender child. Transgender individuals have a biological gender that does not match their gender identity, etc.." He felt he had to let the parents know that the school would be talking to their children, and give them the opportunity to opt out. Do you think the principal would have informed the parents that a child had diabetes? In fact by law he wouldn't be allowed to. The loop hole was that he didn't name names, but it still brought unfair attention to Janet.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Halloween gender benders

When a new family joins our list-serve through TYFA, they usually start by introducing their stories. Some lurk for months reading others' postings, unsure of themselves, their situations, their children. Eventually there will be a story. Inevitably the story will involve Halloween, especially the families with trans-identified girls. Their stories will differ from those of your other children.

National Geographic, Part 3 Sex, Lies, And Gender

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Dress for success

Just around the corner in every woman's mind - is a lovely dress, a wonderful suit, or entire costume which will make an enchanting new creature of her. 
~Wilhela Cushman
As early as the fall, three years ago (we adopted midsummer), L was wearing dress-ups as often as he could (also see Mother May I). Sure, sometimes it would be a pirate or a magician, and we would take heart. More often than not, though, it was a princess or fashion model. We kept hoping he'd grow out of it, that living in the women's dorm in the orphanage had swayed him, and that living with three brother s would swing the pendulum in the other direction.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Early indications (revised)

(Note: although we fully accept our daughter is a girl, I've use the male pronoun to refer to her during the phase we all thought she was a boy.) In the first picture we saw of the boy we decided to adopt there he stood wearing a red shirt holding a pink stuffed animal. "It's a meepit!" the twin boys shouted. They were in a phase where they loved their small pink creatures that looked like guinea pigs on two legs. Wasn't it cool their soon to be brother liked them too? I knew that when I lived in China, boys didn't wear red, but maybe things had changed.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Janet's first day at school

Always provide for a distraction when your child appears in public for the first time as his or her affirmed gender. I learned this and other things on Janet’s first day of school as a girl.

World stats

I just discovered that I have had several page hits from Australia, Canada, Japan, the Netherlands, Russia, France, Austria, the UK and India. Most of my hits have come from the TransYouth Family Allies website. Thanks, TYFA! And welcome world! G'day, mate! Welkom! 歓迎  Добро пожаловать! Bienvenue! Willkommen!欢迎中国朋友们!Please send a comment and mark "private" if you need help or have questions.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On the verge

Janet and I have been waiting 19 months for the results from a bone-age study which was supposed to determine onset of puberty. We both have our reasons. Janet can't wait for puberty because she wants something up top. Plain and simple. I don't think she even knows she'll get hips, too, and some extra padding. Being a girl to her means going to Kohl's and picking out a bra and most of all, needing it. When I think of her classmates, almost all of them have started developing or at least fatty tissue masquerading their development.

Friday, October 15, 2010

What I didn't know I did

Since my bunion surgery and my banishment to the couch I have come up with a myriad list of things I didn't know I did on a regular basis. I'm no clean freak, in fact I'm kind of messy. But still...
  1. Close the windows in the morning if the heat comes on.
  2. Open up curtains and shades to let sun in. 
  3. Shut the curtains at night so the neighbors can't see everything we're doing
  4. Check guinea pig cage for dry food and water. Feed her lettuce.
  5. Unload the dishwasher if the twins haven't done their chore and reload it so the dirty dishes don't pile up.
  6. Shut closet doors and push in dining room chairs and piano benches for "neat effect."
  7. Empty clothing from dryer directly on couch while still warm so it can be folded and doesn't wrinkle.
  8. Sort it, fold it, and if necessary put away laundry, or direct children to do so (glowering).
  9. Clean kitchen and bathroom sinks after use.
  10. Clean shower stall and bath.
  11. Spread out shower curtains so they dry and rehang bunched up wet towels.
  12. Hang up wet shower mats and replace with dry.
  13. Wipe down counter tops and table. 
  14. Remove bread from freezer when other loaf starts running out. Add bread to shopping list.
  15. Put away condiments in fridge door.
  16. Add anything that's running out to shopping list.
  17. Shop.
  18. Water plants.
  19. Fold throws on couches.
  20. Cook dinner.
  21. Let cats in and out 15 times a day.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A jumble of September meanderings

Try to remember the kind of September
When life was slow and oh, so mellow.  (
Music: Harvey Schmidt, Lyrics: Tom Jones)
My dad, who loves autumn, too, 12 years ago, with the twins.
Okay, to be honest, I'm not sure how these lyrics apply to this post. I just love that song from The Fantasticks, so sweet and melancholy. I have a love hate-relationship with September. Autumn, though technically starting in October, previews in September. It is my favorite season by far. The clear blue skies, changing leaves, brisk air, mellowing sunshine. Without any expectations I could drink in all that fall has to offer.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Gotta love 'em

The dance

When Kyle and Aiden were little they gave the best "Mommy!" hugs of the whole pre-school. Really. At 11:30 each morning I'd wait outside the school.  I'd get down on one knee and they'd hurtle out the doors, running into my arms. Later, when kindergarten started I was ousted--they were trying to figure out how to be cool in school--but in first, or certainly by second, they went back to rushing me, hugging me, almost knocking me down throughout their elementary school days. Those days were gone, but I still had my sweet grinning boys. Even last fall Kyle would walk by, squeeze my shoulders and say "Love ya, Mom!" I didn't know my days were numbered.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Pride part 2

Matt showed me the video below of Iz singing "Somewhere over the rainbow." I had never heard of him and was amazed by the video. I said "usually if a video showcases the singer versus other images, it's because the singer is gorgeous. Here we have a grossly overweight man singing sweetly." Janet came over to look. After a few moments she said, "He's proud of his body." I can't remember her exact words after that, but in grown-up speak it meant "it's obvious he's proud, see the way he carries himself." Hoping she learns this attitude.

OFFICIAL Somewhere over the Rainbow - Israel "IZ" Kamakawiwoʻole

Pride and other meandering thoughts

There comes a time when you have to stand up and shout: This is me damn it! I look the way I look, think the way I think, feel the way I feel, love the way I love! I am a whole complex package....Take me or leave me. Accept me--or walk away. --Stacey Charter
Janet's not there yet, as far as pride goes, but I saw a glimpse the other day. We were traveling north with many stops along the way, long stretches of highway between stops. Sometimes she'd listen to her music, other times get talkative. With her imagination the miles flew. She had seen a video of the Anne Frank story which prompted her flow of thoughts. I would have saved Anne Frank. I would have assassinated Hitler. I would have gotten there in time. Let's just say I was a soldier. She paused. Could women be soldiers? I answered that I wasn't sure, back then, maybe not. Well, that's okay, she said smugly, I'm trans! I'd go in as a spy, as a man, and kill Hitler! Then I'd come out and be a woman, and nobody would recognize me! This was the first time I've heard say call herself "trans" in a proud, even heroic way.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

What is pink? by L

Pink is the color of a dress
Pink is the color of my eraser
Pink smells like Miss Loeb
Pink tastes like ice cream
Pink is a color in my books
Pink is the earring
like in your ear

Written 6 months after her arrival in America, pretransition

Sunday, June 13, 2010

can't win

Therapist told me my child was terrified to go to the family shore house because she had been rejected or ignored by the large group of cousins. She said I shouldn't take her unless I talked to the parents. I emailed them, and I guess I should have called. Now people are saying they hear my message but think I was criticizing them. Nobody told me this directly either, they did it through my husband. I'm sick of being the black sheep in that family.

We don't live in a war zone. We aren't impoverished. No major illnesses.


Sunday, May 16, 2010

The three wishes

Right before bed, Ted said, "I wonder what I'm going to dream about?" He'd been having some interesting ones and was looking forward to what would happen next. We talked about maybe writing them down in a dream journal. Janet overheard and said, "I have three dreams!"
  1. One, that I'm a real girl! I assured her she was, and she said, "Yeah, but a girl with the right parts!" 
  2. Two, that I have magical powers! and, 
  3. Three, that I marry my crush.
 And then we went to bed.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Gender identity video

Video of a sweet transgender girl

Here's a link to an interview of a friend and her awesome daughter. They both risk exposure in favor of education and better education of the public. This, we all hope, will create a safer environment for all of us.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

My first post on the Transyouth Family Allies list serve, 2 years ago

Hi, I'm new,

I have an almost 9 year old son named L who is questioning his gender identity. On top of that, he's adopted from China, home just 6 months. As we get less uptight (yeah, I know) he has been pushing the boundaries... nightgown at night, Disney Princess pillows, blankets, etc., pink socks at school and necklaces, now a new dress for Chinese New Year's with sparkly silver shoes to match.

In China, when he told us he wanted to change his name it was to Anika, although we were hoping he'd said "Anakin" as in Skywalker, who it turns out, he has a crush on.

So we're going to have to be figuring out the next steps. Should he be talking to somebody trying to figure this all out, or should we just let it flow where it goes?

He's already talking about wearing a dress to school, though, so we have to do something.

When asked he'll tell me he doesn't feel like a girl trapped in a boys' body, he just REALLY likes traditionally girl stuff. I can't be sure how honest this answer is yet. Being adopted, he's likely to be a little cautious about wanting to please us.  (Although, frankly, from day one, he asked for a dress.)

He doesn't seem to mind his penis. He definitely is preoccupied with images of boys who wear dresses. Did you see the superbowl commercial where the topless blond turns around and it's a male teen in a wig?

Wondering what the next step is...

Friday, May 7, 2010

Sometimes the system goes on the blink and the whole thing turns out wrong

How did I know it was going to be a bad day? Was my first inkling when I found myself in the dollar store standing in line only to realize after a minute or two that I hadn't found anything I'd wanted, that I didn't need to be in line?

Friday, April 30, 2010

Loving my life

We are blessed with four healthy children. Who could ask for more?

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

I should have recorded it...

It is so urgent to write when you feel things. Maybe it's just my limited skill as a writer, but I feel I can only write well when my emotions are strong. It's a real shame because there are events I'd like to record. Like when it finally sunk in that Janet was a girl.

Friday, April 9, 2010

What my mom told me. What my dad told me.

These memories by no means represent the wealth and depth of knowledge that my parents imparted on me. Just two snippets.

Part 1

Today in my yard I saw violets blooming. As a sometime gardener and a lackadaisical weeder, I know full well that violets, though pretty in April, take up valuable lawn space and lead to weeds later in the year. Doesn't matter. I still love my violets.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Art below, again, by Jymi Cliche. Jymi rocks.

Kind of like this house

My husband's cousin was visiting today. Frank, a sweet, well-meaning family man, who nonetheless tends to put his foot in his mouth. Which I'll get to in a minute. Let me tell you about Frank. He asks about our family, he even listens, but most of all he really likes to talk about himself and throw around jargon uniquely specific to his arcane interests as though we'd all understand. (Or maybe he really thinks we do understand?) Either way, I usually nod my head not bothering to ask the meaning of "kerf," for example. After all, it would only lead down the slippery slope of a topic which--interesting though it might be in brevity--would prove less sufferable in depth.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Mini Mad Mom

I think in my mid 40's I'm finally realizing that micromanaging doesn't work. This has hit me in the head like a hammer since I started working for an explosive (but well-meaning) boss. More on that situation later, but just realize I keep seeing myself mirrored in her worse traits. Well, I'm on the same spectrum, let's say. I'm mini-mad woman.

Monday, February 22, 2010

I'm gonna scream

Today it was 40 degrees.  My daughter who sulks when I ask her to wear an extra thin hoody over her short-sleeved tee  in 20 degree weather asked for one of those "puffy winter coats" saying they look so warm. I'm  like, "I'm gonna scream!

Clearly she is influenced by trends, but I wanted to delve more. It turns out she resisted layers in the morning because, as she said, "the rooms were like different temperatures." I'm like, "But the coat is for outside." Apparently she goes to school with whatever layers she wears outside and keeps them on inside. Um, that's why they're like, called layers? So you can add or remove them??

I do know it's what she did in China, we all did. South of the Yellow River there is no central heating in public buildings, so you wear your winter coats inside. But, like, y'know, technically she's not in China any more?  And our schools do have central heating? (And, no, I'm not a valley girl, just felt like sounding like one today.)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Nouveau Pauvre

I thought I'd coined it, but of course I hadn't. Can't be a lot of things out there that haven't been coined yet. You've heard of Urban Dictionary.com? Like Wikipedia, it is constantly being edited and updated, but usually by juveniles. Caution: you may not want to go there if you have a maturity level above the age of 12. It's a convenient place to find out what your 12 year-olds are talking about when they say "This chote came up and tried to pick a fight."(Again, caution.)

Eloquent art piece--don't miss

Please visit here if you want to comment on Aiden's page.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Mother, May I?

Meeting your adopted child for the first time isn't always love at first sight. It can be. Some families immediately fit like a glove. Other times the bonding comes in fits and starts. The funny thing about bonding with your adopted child--surprisingly, is that intentional bonding often works. Force your stiff face into a smile. She smiles back. Your heart melts just a wee bit. You both take a step towards each other. Kind of like a drawn out game of Mother, May I. One step forward, two steps back.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

No crap, pee & crap

Sorry everyone for the vulgarisms. Also, please use discretion in whom you show this to.

  1. No crap. I came home from food shopping. I love shopping! I hate unloading and putting things away, but I adore shopping! I talk to strangers, "Can you believe the raisin bran boxes are shrinking as the prices rise?" When I remarked how inexpensive the pears were, a woman asked me how to keep pears from turning brown in a fruit salad. My husband makes fruit salad swimming in orange juice and I passed on that tip. When I comment, some people answer me, some ignore me. But I have fun.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Dangling possibilities revisited

This morning as I slipped into a long-sleeved silk undershirt to ward off the frigid temperatures, I detected a waft of mildew. I have a nose for these things. The garment had either slightly mildewed after I had folded and stored it when still damp, or it had absorbed any lingering mildew from hanging in the basement to dry. In case it was the latter, I headed to the basement to retrieve any other hanging delicates in hopes of curtailing any future mildew casualties. I had purchased this ingenious hanger common in Asia, especially in Japan and Hong Kong. It looks on the top like the hook of a coat hanger but it descends down into a square upon which dangle rows of pinching clothespins. Why these aren't ubiquitous in the U.S. is a mystery to me. There hung several raggedy gray wool socks, more evidence of our meager attempts to thwart the cold. Also, dangling were silk undies of the more sensuous sort: black, leopard, magenta. In a burst of inspiration I brought the plastic hanger up to the living room by the toasty wood stove. The only place to attach it was a dangling chain from the ceiling fan/light fixture. I had just got it in place when I peered out the window. The insulation guys had arrived in their big truck. I struggled to untangle the hook from the chain as they approached the door. Dangling possibilities...

Wednesday, January 13, 2010


Am I supposed to have a theme? Will you all go away if I don't stick to it? Certainly you all will high tail it if this just becomes whining. Maybe if any of you out there can ask a question in the comments, about depression, parenting, the recession, transgender kids, you name it, I'll try to address that issue is my next post.

Meanwhile, this week we find out if Steve gets a low-paying, temporary job with no benefits. Are we sitting on the edge of our seats?

Monday, January 11, 2010

Happy Pieces

Last night I had a splitting sinus headache. Good, I thought, then I can cancel my meeting with the accountant. Which makes no sense because his job is to help me do my books, and the more trouble I'm having, the more incentive I should have to meet with him, after all, that's what I'm paying him for. Who said I was rational? My fear, if you dig down deep to reveal it's ugly mass, is that he will judge me, I guess, look at me and say, "Who do you think you are trying to run a business???"

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Adoption; or, colorful subplots

The road is long and winding, Like a good mystery unfolding, It twists and turns, In colorful subplots and sunburns, And fake out endings, And sometimes my patience in the whole process starts bending...(from ALO's Barbeque)
When I first joined the adoption community we were waiting nervously for our child. We already had doubts of our decision with three children and a stressful work situation. With equal mounts of joyful anticipation, and trepidation, We entered a whole new world.

Often the waiting families already had several grown children and then had a new set of younger adopted children. Some  seemed compulsive with five or six adopted children, often similar ages. Their stated motivation was their god's calling. I was simultaneously in awe of these people and a bit wary of them. On the one hand, what incredible devotion and sense of mission. How could one not want to parent otherwise abandoned children? On the other hand, it's hard not to read into things. Could some of these parents be suffering from an exaggerated case of empty nest syndrome? How could anyone possibly attend to the needs of that many biological children, let alone those with special needs, raised in institutions?

True, many didn't adopt children older than ages two or three, who often have easier adjustments into the American family. Some only intended to adopt one or two, but found themselves drawn to other waiting children, sometimes their new child's friend from the same orphanage (known in China as social welfare institutes or SWI's.) Other times a family is inadvertently touched by a 13 year old child about to age out of the system (in China a 14 year old is no longer adoptable.) I've seen a family go back to adopt a child with similar special needs, such as a family with an albino child that feels that, with their experience in raising such a child, they are the best family equipped to adopt another. Or maybe their child feels left out.

But do these formulas really work? Does adding an older child to a family, with two elementary aged children adopted as babies, add a blessing or something more complicated? Can a young teen learn to cuddle with, or even fully trust his new parents? Certainly sometimes, but this is not a given. Do the two special needs kids really connect just because they share a particular skin-tone? Can you really even tell until years have gone by how the family has been influenced by the new addition? Bickering youngsters might rely on each other as adult siblings. Those years, though, the years of arguing and anxiety, do they add an unfair hardship to the original set of children, or even to a reluctant parent? Or do the lessons of charity, tolerance and understanding add to the depth of the whole family's life long experience? The latter is, of course,  what we count on.

What strikes me most is how indefatigable these parents are. For us, the days, hours, weeks, months following our adoption of Janet were in strict maintenance mode, barely keeping our heads above water. Similar--yet different--from the first year of parenting twins.

Have you ever had a guest that overstayed her visit? Even a beloved family member or friend, after a certain number of days, you grow weary and your routine is thrown off. Now imagine a complete stranger, who doesn't speak your language, has completely different customs, habits, mannerisms than your own, who just won't go home. Moreover you have committed yourself to making sure she stays. Your children who have eagerly anticipated the new arrival quickly sour. Who is this intruder, they wonder. You, the parent, wonder the same thing. What were we thinking?

We couldn't have survived those early days without the mostly online community of fellow adopters who told us, time and again, that this feeling, too, shall pass. They spoke of faith, something that we lack in a religious sense. We discovered a different sort of faith, a faith in the process, that there will come a time when we won't be able to imagine life without this child. The feeling began to blossom. Until, in the sixth month home, we realized we had adopted a transgender child. So the mystery unfolds.