Becoming Male (Part 2)

Is 16 years old too young (for top surgery)?

This is the question I posed the other day to a group of people who are connected to the transgender community either by being the parent of a trans* son or who are actually transgender themselves.

A lively discussion ensued. Here are some of the comments:

“Mine had surgery at 15. Life just keeps getting better for him since then.”

“We’re proceeding with the surgery whether the insurance pays or not.”

“We are hoping to schedule next year. My son will be 16. For us it makes sense. I hate to see him binding, in pain and covered up in the summer on the hot days.”

“These years are so important never mind having these extra detours and they sit in their room feeling so bad.”

“We are doing surgery next month at 16 1/2. The past year the binding has been kind of bad. So we decided not to wait and just going to pay.”

“My son is 12. In the beginning I said we’re not doing anything till he’s 18 since I really struggled with these issues myself. Seeing him cry the other day in the Old Navy change room because he can’t find a simple tank top broke my heart.”

“My son is 16 and had surgery yesterday. He’s doing great and healing “abnormally fast” according to the surgeon.”

dani hunterThere were many more comments and lots of conversation. There was not one dissenting opinion. These kids are suffering. They know who they are. They know their gender identity. In most cases, transgender individuals have known from a very young age that they are different. Even the youngest kids, who didn’t have words to articulate what was going on, didn’t know the word transgender, could say, “I’m a boy or I’m a girl,” regardless of their biological sex.

A 16 year old (ftm) who has been waiting for years to become a young man is definitely ready for top surgery. Yes, it’s a big, scary step. Yes, it upsets me to think about my child in a hospital, for any reason. However, I know that Hunter needs to do this. It is one step closer to being whole. It is one step closer to having a body that matches his gender identity.

There are skilled, specialists who perform this surgery in various cities around the country. Florida, Boston, California and Ohio are some of the destinations for surgery. We will have to travel for consults and for the actual procedure. Then, you have to stay in the destination city for up to a week before you get clearance to go home.

Ideally, we would like it to be possible for Hunter to have surgery before going off to college. Next summer he will be 17 and it will be his last summer before graduating high school. He has already started a special fund to raise money on his own. He is saving a percentage of his allowance to go towards the fees which are on average about $8500 (this doesn’t include travel and local accommodations). He will also babysit and do various odd jobs to contribute. We, of course, will do what we can to help.

Before he left for camp Hunter asked if he could create a gofundme account to help with the expenses for top surgery. Then, his sister offered to write the story for him which I thought was such a beautiful show of support and love. It took her a little while but eventually she came around and now fully accepts her “little” brother as the guy he is and just wants to see him be happy. Danielle knows how painful binding his breasts has been (both emotionally and physically) and hopes that one day soon he can be one step closer to living as his authentic self.

Hunter is one brave kid. He’s shared his story publicly because he knows that others will have the courage to be themselves when they realize that they are not alone. He has found tremendous strength by reading the stories of other trans* masculine individuals and I know he’s watched hours of YouTube videos about transitioning that have been immensely helpful.

I’ve certainly never done anything like this before and am much more comfortable helping others than asking for help. But here goes.

Here is the link to the fund. http://www.gofundme.com/wnfqh.

If you are able to help in some way, not matter how small, it will make a big difference in Hunter’s life. We have been so fortunate that our son is supported. I am grateful each day for the community that has embraced our son and the journey he is on. Top surgery for Hunter will be life altering.

 

 

Changing I.D. – Federal and Local

passportChanging your federal identity documents to reflect your correct gender and name can seem challenging. In the U.S. there is no single application you can submit to change all your documents; you will need to change your documents with each individual agency, and each agency has its own procedures to follow. Minors can get updated documents too, but note that all applications for minors are subject to special parental consent requirements.

IMPORTANT:

State laws are different than Federal laws. Some states require documentation of sex reassignment surgery in order to change your gender marker on your birth certificate.

Federal law allows you to change your name and gender marker on your passport. This allows a transgender individual to get proper Federal i.d. and bypass state laws. Also, for a teen about to take driver’s ed, if you go the passport route, the teen is able to get his/her permit and license with the preferred name and gender.

You can find detailed instructions for changing your federal identity documents on the websites for these organizations:

These are the federal agencies you need to contact and a brief description of what you need to do:

Social Security Administration  

http://www.ssa.gov/

http://transequality.org/know-your-rights/social-security

You must appear in person at a Social Security Office.

NAME change: You must submit one of these:

  • Name change court order (original or certified copy)
  • Marriage, civil union, or domestic partnership certificate (original or certified copy)
  • Divorce decree (original or certified copy)
  • Certificate of citizenship or naturalization (original only)

GENDER change: You must submit one of these:

  • A U.S. passport showing the correct gender,
  • A birth certificate showing the correct gender,
  • A court order recognizing the correct gender
  • A signed letter from a provider confirming you have had appropriate clinical treatment for gender transition (see *note below)

 

United States Passport  

https://uspassportonline.com/ 

http://transequality.org/know-your-rights/passports
NAME change:

  • You must obtain a court ordered name change.
  • You are required to have valid ID and proof of U.S. citizenship.

GENDER change:

  • You must submit a passport application with a letter from a physician stating you have had “appropriate clinical treatment” for gender change. (See *note below)

 

 

Immigration Service Documents

http://www.uscis.gov/

http://transequality.org/know-your-rights/immigration-documents
NAME change:

  • It is best to start the immigration process with the correct or preferred “name.”
  • A court order or other legal name change should be obtained.

GENDER change: you will need one of these three:

  • An amended birth certificate or passport
  • A court ordered gender change
  • A letter from physician regarding “appropriate clinical treatment.” (See *note below)

 

*NOTE: The wording of the physician letter is very important and needs to include the words “appropriate clinical treatment.” You can view a sample and specific instructions here.

 

The information here is gathered from Transgender Law Center and is only a basic guide. For the most up-to-date information, and for guidance through the process, contact these great organizations:

 

If you still need assistance after checking out these resources, feel free to contact one of our Ally Moms. We are in about 2 dozen U.S. states, Canada and the United Kingdom.

____________________

This information was researched and put together by Janna, one of our Ally Moms in California.

 

Gender: As defined by Jaden

This post is for my friend, Jaden. His story is not unlike so many others, though his journey is unique. I loved his words and wanted others to be touched by the beauty of his intentions. Thank you, Jaden, for allowing me to share your poem, your words, that are so meaningful to you. I wish you a lifetime of friendship, courage and positivity. xo
jaden p

Gender

Often times I’m disregarded as a person,

or a human altogether.

Often times I’m called “it” when I clearly asked you to call me “he”

and Jaden, not Jillian.

 

But moving on from that,

what the hell does my gender have to affect you in any way

whatsoever.

You act like the fact that I have breasts on my chest,

or my voice not being as low as the other guys,

or maybe I’m only 5’1”,

or your religion may not follow it?

 

How does that make me any less of a human being?

My gender may not reflect my given sex,

my name,

or my body.

 

You see me every day on the street.

You greet me when I walk in your store,

the classroom.

You give me my transit ticket to get on the other bus.

You gender me correctly.

 

But once you find out I’m transgender,

everything changes.

It’s almost like walking in the other direction.

Soon enough your pronouns become she again.

You use my birth name,

when I clearly ask you it makes me feel

uneasy,

uncomfortable,

un-valued,

unheard of.

 

But really, there are thousands,

probably millions of me out there.

Born in the wrong body,

Fuck no,

I wasn’t born in the wrong body.

Like Miles said,

I was born into a world where the perception of my body is wrong.

 

My birth certificate is wrong.

All the legal records stating I am female is simply

referring to the sex I was assigned at birth.

My birth name,

burning on the papers of every legal document

I’ve signed in my life.

Every time you miss gender me

I die each and every time.

 

So listen up,

I’ve had enough!

My name is not what it says on paper

but is what I tell you it is.

 

I am not “lying” about my gender,

my whole body was a lie

before coming out and

starting this whole lifeline process called “transition”.

 

So go ahead and call me weird.

Call me any derogatory word you can think of.

I’ve been though worse.

Hiding for the first 15 years in this body

that isn’t me.

 

So go ahead and beat me down.

I will get up and prove to you

I am “man enough” to live in this world

where a transgender person

is just a nothing.

 

I am a something.

God damn-it, I am me.

I am more than me.

I have been me and now me is shining

that I wish I did when I realized when I wasn’t her.

But I am him,

and I love him so much.

 

My chosen name is Jaden.

I chose that name because

it reflects me as a person

and who I chose to be.

 

So no more hiding in this dark closet.

Closets are for clothes.

Not for people with values, or thoughts.

Those need to shine like a rainbow.

 

I am shining, and I will continue to shine.

Your words will not affect me anymore.

They brought me down enough when i was younger,

and didn’t understand.

 

But for now, I am just trying to live my life.

As me. 

 __________________________________________________________________
If you would like to hear Jaden recite his poem on YouTube, just click here.

Gender – Jaden Prendergast

Happy 16th Birthday, Hunter!

Hunter transition ftmIt’s been quite a year! Lots of highs and lows. Numerous stops and starts. Unexpected tears and endless laughter.

We’ve been to the pediatrician, the therapist, the pediatric endocrinologist, the pharmacy, the lab (for blood work), the courthouse and the passport office. Hunter started on testosterone, experienced his voice changing, grew a little taller and even began to have more of an appetite (some days) especially when the day started with three slices of homemade French toast dipped in real maple syrup.

Not only did we officially begin using male pronouns, but Hunter got a revised birth certificate, a new passport and a legal name change. He sailed through driver’s ed and is the proud owner of a “permit” with his legal name and male gender marker.

Hunter’s confidence swelled in direct proportion to the amount of love and acceptance he received from family, friends, the community — strangers he may never meet.

Leelah Alcorn committed suicide because she could no longer live with parents who insisted on calling her a he knowing they would never acknowledge the girl she was born to be. Ally Moms was born. Jay Ralko lost his battle with his demons. I spoke to a room full of Jay’s friends assuring them, that as a mom, I would love our transgender children, always.

We shared our journey publicly. Hunter’s story appeared on the cover of The Detroit Jewish News, The Detroit Free Press and USAToday.com. We organized an event for transgender youth and families where attendance exceeded our wildest expectations as nearly 250 spilled out into the chapel lobby. We founded a non-profit organization, Stand with Trans, to benefit and support transgender youth (and their families) so kids would have the tools to feel confident, validated and loved.

regina boone photo

photo credit: Regina Boone, The Detroit Free Press, staff photographer

What a ride this past year has been. What a surprising 16 years. From the much anticipated birth of our second child to tom-boy tantrums, academic angst and social anxiety, Hunter has become a true mensch. He has come into his own over the last few years. He doesn’t focus on the rough patches but on the fact that he has gotten past them. The transformation from an unhappy, moody, withdrawn, dysphoric adolescent to a positive, loving, open, confident 16 year old has been nothing short of remarkable.

Hunter is kind and caring. He is compassionate. He understands that his weekly time at the Friendship Circle means so much more than just an after school activity. He is tolerant and patient with those less nimble. Hunter is not your typical 16 year old in many ways and very much a teenager in others. He knows what he likes from music to television to video games. He is not influenced by his peers. He has worked really hard to be who he is at this moment in time.

Hunter 2Together, we have traversed the past year. As his mom, I showed Hunter that he was loved unconditionally. He knows that even when I am angry or disappointed (in a choice he made) I will ALWAYS love him. I will NEVER turn my back on him. I will FOREVER be his champion.

Hunter, happy 16th birthday, son. I cannot wait to see what the next year will bring. You are a beautiful soul, a piece of my heart, a force to be reckoned with.

What a Week for the Trans* Community

WOW. It has been quite a week. For the past few months there have been many emails, texts and phone calls leading up to the event that occurred Tuesday evening at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield: Transgender Youth and Families, You are Not Alone.

BACK STORY

When I was a little girl my mom always made BIG birthday parties. Every kid on the block was invited and she baked, planned games, bought party favors and served lunch…all at home. Of course there was a lot of anticipation leading up to the big day. From shopping for a new party dress to choosing the right hair accessories, birthday celebrations were a big deal. On the day of the party, I would get ready and wait. The waiting was agony. Looking out towards the front of the house from the vantage point of our entry way, I wondered if anyone would show up.

FAST FORWARD

Well, some things haven’t changed. This event was a big deal. It was so important to get the word out about the needs of the Transgender youth community. I wanted to create more awareness, educate families and provide information and resources to those who needed it.

regina boone photo

photo credit Regina Boone

I distributed flyers via Facebook, twitter and email. I handed them out from my stash in my purse to anyone who showed any interest. I wrote and distributed a press release to a pretty good list of media contacts. I made calls. I talked it up. I toss and turned. I waited. Then, the Detroit Free Press called. They wanted to tell our story. “Would you be available for an interview,” Kristen Jordan Shamus, the reporter wanted to know. “Are you kidding? Of course we will be available.”

Meanwhile, the pacing, the worrying, the waiting continued. We had two professionals who committed their time to present information to an eager audience. But, who would come? Would it be a success?

Feeling optimistic, we printed 75 flyers. I reasoned that if they were leftover I could reuse them. I intentionally didn’t put a date on the informational hand-out.

The day finally arrived. People started arriving 30 minutes ahead of time…they were actually coming! And, they kept coming. Before I knew it, the crowd was spilling out into the reception area; chairs were being added. A room designed for 200 was full. I couldn’t believe it. This was beyond anything I could’ve imagined.

By the way, USA Today had picked up the Detroit Free Press story. (O M G)

The eclectic audience was made up of families, health care professionals, therapists, post-transition adult transgender individuals, pre-transition teens with their parents, clergy, teachers…WOW.

GRATITUDE

For everyone that shared news of the upcoming event, to those who sent notes of encouragement, for anyone who cheered us on during the planning of the event, I thank you. I am so grateful for what we were able to accomplish is such a short period of time. The more we tell our story, the more awareness, and understanding is spread; it’s a wild-fire of positivity.

If you or someone you know needs help, please reach out to one of our Ally Moms. There are nearly 70 woman across the country who are available for a call or text. We all have a transgender child. We all are supportive. We all can and will provide a loving ear.

You are NOT alone.

 

 

Just One Call to Make a Difference (in a trans man’s life)

respectI got a call the other day from a young trans man. He spoke hesitantly at first and then, as if his engine needed revving, built up to a crescendo as the words came tumbling forth.

He was lonely. He was shunned. He felt alone and unloved. He needed human contact. He was stuck. Stuck in a house without love. Stuck in a room by himself connected to a virtual world and the soft purr of his nuzzling kitties. Confined to a geography he could only navigate on foot.

So strong is this trans man’s identity that it didn’t seem to matter that he isn’t yet on hormones nor that he only owns a few articles of clothing that were purchased in the men’s department. He knows that inside, where it really matters, he is male.

Now, as a mother, it is hard for me to hear that this human being does not have a single family member that he can count on; that his mother is ashamed of him; that he doesn’t have a winter coat; that he desperately craves the feel of a real hug, of arms wrapped around him silently saying “I love you.”

“How can I help you?” I asked.

I told him about my new friends who have a group called FtM Detroit. This is a support network and community run by some of the nicest young men who just happen to identify as trans* masculine. With my caller’s approval, I called one of the FtM Detroit guys and told them about the situation. Now here’s the really good part — the next FtM support group meeting was 24 hours away. This community is just amazing. They found someone who lives near my caller and was willing to pick him up and drive him to and from the meeting. So, this transgender man, who has been alone, isolated, without resources, is now connected to an amazing group of like-minded/bodied individuals.

I have withheld the name of my caller to protect his privacy. He is one of thousands out there. How brave was he to make that one call? He took a chance and reached out to an Ally Mom. He wants a future that gives him independence and freedom to live an authentic life.

One call. That’s all it took to make a difference in someone’s life.

___________________________________

To read more about our journey check out the other posts. For more about me, click here.

UPCOMING EVENT: You are NOT alone for transgender youth and families on March 10.

(Trans) Parent Support

Hunters artworkThis is for all you parents out there who are struggling to accept your child’s coming out and desire to transition. As a parent of a transgender teen (FtM), I feel that I am “qualified” to share these words and sentiments.

Do you know…

Parental Support Matters? Only 15% of trans youth without parental support described their mental health as “very good” or excellent, compared to 70% of trans youth with parental support. (source)

Transgender people are more than 25 times more likely than non-transgender people to attempt suicide some time during their life?  (41% vs. 1.6%) (source)

78% of transgender youth in K-12 had experienced harassment? (source)

Recently I asked my son how our support has affected him since he came out to us two years ago. Do you know what he told me? “I feel confident about who I am. I don’t feel ashamed to be me.”

WOW. Isn’t that what we want for our kids? How are they going to grow up to be healthy, productive adults if we don’t love, support, accept and advocate on their behalf. The more we speak out the more understanding there’ll be within our communities.

I get it. This is not what you envisioned for your baby as you gazed into that sweet face. Ask yourself this. Would you rather have an angry, sullen, beat down, bullied, suicidal child who is covering up their true gender identity or one that can walk with their head held high? Would you rather your child live with shame or with the self-confidence to live authentically? It is much less costly to pay for medical expenses related to hormone treatments than to pay for a lifetime of therapy.

Please — let your children know that it is ok to be who they are meant to be. Let your children know that you will love them no matter which gender they affirm. Let your children know that you will be there for them as they traverse this journey.

Please — don’t let  your children walk alone. I have seen with my own eyes what happens when a child is accepted and allowed to transition. The transformation goes far beyond gender.

When you choose to be there for your transgender child you are changing the course of their life. Please share this message.

xo