Category Archives: Kids Connect

So, That Happened. Advice for a Post-Election Thanksgiving

pine-cone-turkey

For this entry I decided to take submissions from members of the community for advice and tips before going to Thanksgiving celebrations after this particularly divisive election. Most of this is humor, which I have always found to be the best coping mechanism. However, there is some solid advice mixed in! Enjoy your holiday, and please at any time feel free to reach out to us for advice, help, support or anything on Facebook, here on our contact form or even Twitter!

1:  Don’t go. If you don’t have the excuse of living far enough away to use a lack of funds as a reason you can’t travel, claim you have to work! Say you’re sick. *Anything* to get out of the debate and argument you flat out know is coming.  Especially in a big family!

2: Make your clothing a statement. Object in style! (Or not.) Go (unwillingly?) to church in pajamas, pick a rebel to emulate every day with your make up skills, or dress in awful colors for all the family pictures.

3. Headphones.

4: Bring your phone. Live tweet/post *The Entire Thing.* Your tribe out here awaits the humor for their own sanity.  The commiseration will soothe your temper, but  only slightly.

5: Refresh all of your talking points. Be prepared for battle. Every thing your objectionable family posted over the course of the election cycle? Remember them and be prepared to specifically pick them apart with logic and reason. No one really knows how to handle dispassionate take downs with rational truth and facts. You konw what’s really satisfying? When it really makes them look like an overbearing bully when they lose their temper.

6: Kill ’em with kindness. Be so painfully polite the entire meal that your face aches from the false smile and you look like a moron. Spend the whole time looking vacant, assure everyone who looks inquisitive; “Oh, yes. I’m just peachy.” The secret here is to have ear plugs in.  Be honest, you know they voted for Trump and if you hear or see one more gloat there’s no telling what will happen.

7: Spend your time at the kids’ table, and have a blast. What’s a better cure for what’s ailing you than goofing off with the nieces, nephews, sons/daughters and all of the various kiddos in the family gathering? Don’t forget that our children are looking for some reassurance in a Trump-as-President nation. Especially with all of the adults in their life mourning, being shaken or fighting over these results.

8: Being around family you haven’t seen in a while is already emotionally draining enough.  Now you have to consciously stop yourself from talking about your son’s adorable new dress just so Uncle Carl doesn’t insert a long-winded section about ‘raising kids with good values’ into the blessing. Remember to breathe.

9: Create your very own Thanksgiving! This is a choice most (including our group of friends) folks who just cannot face their family are doing. Having  friends, the family you have chosen and have chosen you, come over for an amiable meal full of (hopefully) delicious food. The ideal behind the food is the soothing balm of surrounding yourself and your family with this day of  love and support.

Studio shot of turkey leg with potatoes
Studio shot of turkey leg with potatoes

Princess girl or Action guy?

Well, why do we have to choose either or? Why not both, or neither? What is so hard about dressing up in a costume that yet again we have to make that choice of sticking to yet another gender expectation… of our children?  What has happened in the 30 years since I was a child to smother all of that imagination and freedom to make it unimaginable that a boy would want to be a female character or vice versa?

As a parent of a “non-conforming” child Halloween is always a toss-up. What’s he going to choose? What will I be making or chasing down this year? In the past 8 years it has been anything from Super Rainbow, a Frog, Totoro, Jamie Hyneman, mad scientist, and a duck. This year? Well, what he really wanted to be was Princess Rosalina (from Mario brothers, the not-pink princess.). My problem? I didn’t have the time to sew the costume and everything I can find for the costume itself online is over $100 from professional cosplayers.  It really never occurs to us to object to anything based on the gender society assigns to clothing, costumes, or toys until after we’re out somewhere or he’s at school and the questions start.

You know the questions. “Are you a boy or a girl? Well why are you wearing girls’ clothes then? You can’t do that! That’s not for you!”  On and on these discussions swirl, only slightly less aggressive at Halloween than any other day when you’re outside the usual bubble of home. What would you do?

This year, we did what we had to. We found his 2nd place costume because we couldn’t afford Rosalina. But she WILL be going on the list of costumes I will make, and he will wear it anytime he wants. Because none of these questions matter, really. What is important is his happiness, his independence and his solid confidence in who he is. The very best answer is our support and love, always.

Growing Up Coy and Kids Connect

This Friday and Saturday Tallgrass Film Festival is screening Growing Up Coy! Kids Connect’s own leader Morgan be will at both screenings, happy to meet you all and answer any questions about the story and how it relates to our children here in Kansas.

Growing Up Coy is a feature-length documentary about a young Colorado family who engages in a highly publicized legal battle and landmark civil rights case, as they fight for their 6-year-old transgender daughter’s right to use the girls’ bathroom at her elementary school. The film asks a universal question that any parent could face: “How far would you go to fight for your child’s equal rights?”  Director Eric Juhola is scheduled to attend.

Here are links to Tallgrass’ screening information and ticketing, and to Growing Up Coy’s website for the trailer and more information.

http://growingupcoy.com/

http://prod5.agileticketing.net/WebSales/pages/info.aspx?evtinfo=56117~e24d5882-3c39-4d57-abe2-8c30889a0e4b&epguid=d07750e5-7707-406d-96c0-dfb24ecefdf0&

 

Non-Conforming: A Back to School Story

The first day of school is coming and now’s the time to make a budget and start gathering your resources for clothes, tuition, books and supplies. The race to summers end brings that other thing — the bit of creeping dread. Who will the teacher be? Will he or she be open-minded, understanding? What sort of questions will they ask? Will we get the right mix of classmates and parents? What issues will they bring up about going to the bathroom this time?

You see, I have a gender non-conforming second-grader, with luxurious long hair and a penchant to wear whatever the heck he wants. Some days, he’s in basketball shorts, a dinosaur tee and sparkly sandals. Other days, it’s a tutu, bright shirt and rainbow sneakers.

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There is no gender-identity confusion. He’ll tell anyone who asks or calls him a girl, “No, I’m a boy.” He’s solidly grounded in his identity.  He simply sees no reason for any clothing or accessory on any rack to belong to any gender. They’re bright, colorful and, to be true to his words, “They’re mine.”

The school year always begins with butterflies for us. We meet the new teacher, hope and pray we get at least some of the classmates from the previous year that already know the “clothing that is normal” around my kiddo. We begin preparing for what sort of education we need to have ready for the people now involved in his daily life.

Every new school year brings changes and challenges — new teachers, a new counselor, a new nurse, a new janitor. There’s always at least one incident of a kid or adult trying to point him to the girls’ restroom or reporting a girl in the boys’ restroom.  There’s always playground incidents and kids who don’t understand.

He usually handles these with aplomb. He gets that other kids don’t understand and tries really hard to just tell them, “No, these aren’t girls’ clothes. They’re my clothes. There’s no such thing as girl clothes. I just like them. They’re bright or sparkly or fun and comfortable. Why does it matter?”

They do get to him, and the anxiety returns, and the sadness takes away his shine. His … light. He is one of those people who lights up a room, just by being in it. He is everyone’s friend and charms his way into everyone’s good graces. (Even when he’s done something he knows he’s not supposed to.)

When these kids who don’t know, whose parents have taught them rigid gender roles,  while the parents themselves don’t understand how simply wrong they are, make fun of my son and refuse to play with him, he gets dimmer, anxious and sad.

These things started as early as pre-K. He had purple Chucks he wore almost every day and a Mohawk (that was almost never spiked at school) —  but had faded from a bright red to a lovely pink. He’d get bullied for liking girls’ things, but his teacher was amazing, and there were only nine students so she could step in immediately.

In kindergarten, we had 23 students in class and the bullying went unnoticed for much longer. It wasn’t until he was trying to get me to pick him up from school with obviously false illnesses that I could get him to tell me what was wrong. Once I did, we involved the teacher, the school counselor, the paras that work with them at recess and lunch. Within 2 weeks he was back to his bright smiles, happy face and running out the door to the bus.

We got to first grade and had a new teacher who just never… clicked. His classmates are almost all the friends from the previous year, so they were inclusive and understanding. There were inevitable problems with new staff, new kids on the bus and new kids on the playground. Plus, he was even more separate from his peers because he was doing advanced learning with other groups twice a day.

Now, we face second grade. It’s the first year he’ll be alone on the bus in the morning and in the school because Protective Big Sister has moved into middle school. It’s also the first year he’ll be fully in the gifted program with a new coordinator and a new teacher. We have no idea who his classmates will be, and we’re desperately hoping he is not assigned to a particular teacher. This teacher is known to be, um, close-minded, and the request has been put in ahead of time to avoid this teacher. I know it was heard and well received, but I do not know for sure if it was written down and remembered.

How do we cope? We do a lot of talking, a lot of prep. As a family, we talk over our nerves and plan out first-day outfits. We want both kids to be very happy and excited about the first day of school. I fight and champion to keep my children’s love of learning as alive as I possibly can. (Especially when you consider the state of Kansas schools.) If that means talking down the anxiety and talking up the pink kitten leggings, or Facebook stalking last year’s second-grade parents and quizzing them about the assigned teacher, I am more than happy to do so.

We found The Center this spring as a family and got involved with Kids Connect. I can say that meeting other children who are just as individual and confident as he is gave him a definite boost in confidence at school when dealing with the (sometimes accidental) bullies. It has given Protective Big Sister a broader view of the world and other siblings to connect with who are advocates for their sibling. It’s also given my husband and I other parents to talk to, who understand instantly what we’re talking about when we bring up a subject and who are another resource when we need it.

My job as a parent is to advocate for my child, putting his happiness, ability to learn and his right to feel safe and confident in his individuality first. He will not be defeated by these dread-filled butterflies.

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We will catch them together and feed them glitter.

Kids Connect Meet and Greet at the Park

Tomorrow, Saturday June 18th Kids Connect will have a meet and greet event at Osage Park from 1PM to 4PM, (unless we’re having way too much fun, in which case we will stay later!) Osage Park is located at 2121 W. 31st Street South, and has plenty of parking

We’ll have some drinks and watermelon. We will also have a Face Painter who is donating her time to the event!  Osage Park has a water park, a regular playground and plenty of picnic tables for resting. Please bring sunscreen and towels!!!

This event is open to everyone! We want to meet the community and have you meet us. Have questions? Come ask us! Have a family member you think would benefit from our support group? We definitely want to meet them, and answer any questions or maybe even settle any anxiety they have about coming out. I’ll have flyers and business cards on hand you can take home to your friends and family,

Community leader? Teacher? Counselor? We want to meet you, too. We’re happy to answer your questions, give you flyers and business cards to take with you and share our snacks!

You can find the Facebook event here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/1991619791063666/

As it says in the event:

Come and meet us, get information on Kids Connect, what we do, how we support our kids and each other, & how you can get involved!

Absolutely Emma

This week for the Kids Connect blog, I thought it would be nice to share my family’s experience with our amazing transgender daughter. When my husband and I were searching for answers as to what was going on with, we found comfort and strength in other people’s stories. It was encouraging to see how other children’s behaviors and mannerisms mirrored what we saw in our daughter.

On Sept. 14, 2010, our twin boys were born into our beautiful, blended family. Together we had 4 children already:  They were ages 2-10. Including the twins, we had a house of 5 boys and 1 girl. Our twins are identical, and being identical one would think that meant that they would do everything the same. From the womb these two children were complete opposites. Baby A, Ka, was always curled in a little ball and never moved much or caused mommy too much pain. Baby B, Ko, however, was a wild child. He was always stretched across my belly, always kicking and rolling. When they were born they had twin to twin transfusion, which caused Ka to be smaller than Ko. From the time they were babies, Ko’s emotions were always strong. His facial expression were so animated. None of my other boys were ever like this. They were all really good, pretty quiet babies.

When the twins were around 2, we started to notice Ko enjoyed playing differently than Ka. Ka was all boy. He loved to wrestle and be wild. He played with typical “boy” things. Ko, however, was obsessed with hair brushes and would sit for hours and just brush my hair, his aunt’s hair, his cousins hair..he didn’t care. I also noticed he loved my shoes, my purses, and my bras. He would run around the house wearing one or all of these. We never really thought much about Ko’s choice in play. None of my other boys had ever showed interest in the things that Ko did, but he was so young and not every child is the same. He still occasionally played with traditional “boy” toys. Around 2 1/2, Ko started wearing his “hair.” His hair was one of my ratty t-shirts I would wear to bed, wither plain white or gray. He liked the gray the most, though. He would wear it everywhere. He would sleep with it during naps. If he didn’t have it, he would ask for his “hair.” People would see him out and ask if it was his cape. He would just say, “No. It’s my hair..” When you have twins it can be hard not to compare them, whether it is developmental milestones, personality, size..it just happens. He wore his hair to his yearly check up with our PCP and I asked the doctor whether this was normal or not. The doctor asked if it was a cape. I told him that he says it is his hair and that he wears it EVERYWHERE and freaks out if he doesn’t have it. The doctor chalked it up to a healthy imagination and a comfort blanket of sorts.

Everything our son was doing was just innocent exploration. We didn’t want to persuade him one way or another, or force him to be like his brother because he was a boy. He was always a mama’s boy. He like being around me. He liked to watch me get dressed, put on makeup, cook, clean. He was always the first to ask if he could help me clean, even from an early age. When we would go shopping he started to show interest in pink stuff. Everything had to be pink. He had pink flip flops and pink sunglasses. The first time we bought him “girl toys” was for his 3rd birthday. We got him one of those giant doll heads with the curling iron and brush. He was sooooo excited. I remember calling my husband while I was at the store, kind of freaking out. As ok as I thought I was with him wanting more and more girl things, it felt weird taking this step. Around this same time I started doing a little research online. I looked up things like, “My son wears a shirt and calls it hair,” or “My son likes to play with girl toys.” That is when I first came across the term “transgender.”

My husband and I agreed that some of the things were the same, but some weren’t. He had started calling himself a girl around that same time. He did not seem upset, withdrawn, or seem to have any emotional response to show that he was in distress about us calling him a boy. He hadn’t said anything about his genitals being wrong, or asking questions about it. In January of 2014, when Ko was 3 1/2 I had a baby girl. This is when things started getting interesting. Ko knew his sister was a girl. He would watch me change her diaper and ask why she had a different pee pee. He would start asking me, my niece, his older sister what pee pee they had. He found one of his older sister’s dresses that would fit him and would wear it in the house everyday. Eventually he started wearing it out of the house. One night I was in my room sitting on my bed with a direct view to the toilet in the bathroom. Ko was sitting on the toilet looking down.  He said, “Mom, I hate my pee pee. I want a different one.”  That stunned me.  I didn’t know what to say, so I asked what he meant.  He said, “I want a girl pee pee..”

After that my husband and I decided that we probably should take his behavior a little more to heart and start listening and paying attention.  We had already read all the statistics.  Our child was not, IS NOT, going to be another statistic.  Our primary care doctor referred us to a therapist, upon my request, in November 2014.  We weren’t looking to fix our child.  We were looking for support and tools so we could make the best decisions and be the best support system for our kids.  All of them. By the time we started seeing the therapist, Ko had already asked that we start calling him my nieces name.

After our first appointment with the therapist, we gave in to our child’s wishes and started using the correct pronouns.  She started dressing as a girl, thanks mostly to donations from friends, family, and a neighbor.  She got her ears pierced.  Once we let her know that who she was, was ok with us, her personality just started coming through.  We met with our therapist every other week.  Our other kids were on board right from the start.  Her twin brother was the first one to start calling her, her.  Eventually we got her to settle on the name Emma.  She will tell us her name used to be Ko and she used to be a boy.  She is open about it.  I don’t want her to be embarrassed or feel ashamed for who she is.  She has made our family closer, given us courage.  It is amazing now watching our youngest daughter, who is now 2, do the same exact things Emma did at her age.  It all makes sense.  I didn’t see that my daughter was my daughter back then because I really didn’t have anything to compare her behavior to.  I hadn’t raised a girl before.  Emma loves being a big sister and she loves being a little sister.  Her sisters are her best friends.  I had a family member ask why God would make her in a boy’s body, why would he make a mistake like that.  My answer to that is:

“God doesn’t make mistakes.  Nothing about her is a mistake.  She was made perfectly just the way she is.”

 

—-This blog post has been edited to remove or change all names of  family members to protect the children’s privacy.

—-Gender pronouns used in this blog entry are used for the purpose of story telling,  to show the journey of the family as they transitioned with their daughter, and are not used with any ill intent.

Kids Connect Beginnings

Alright! Blogging! Here is where you will find updates about events, anecdotes from meetings and get-togethers and anything else that happens to fit the bill of “things that should go here.”

Our first official meeting was on the 9th of March and next is this coming Wednesday, the 23rd of March. We had a fun time & the kids had a blast meeting each other and making new friends. The beginning of a new community, that we are hoping to grow every meeting to build a bigger web out of these insulated “bubbles” of small support that we’re discovering.

We adults spoke about what sort of issues we fear arising for our kids, who we’d like to include in our support group (family and family allies,) creating the text for a flyer to have information to distribute at events, future fundraising ideas, working with the Get Connected kids [the teen group at The Center,] and creating our social media/internet presence to reach a larger community.

In our very first bimonthly meeting we had an interesting interaction between two of the children. We’ve got one non-conforming child who really confused some of the siblings there.  One child’s confusion over how to treat this kiddo led to some misgendering and they did not understand that it was hurtful behavior. It became a learning and teaching opportunity for the kids  and parents alike. Because even though we have acceptance and support within our families for our situations, the kids are still not 100% prepared for stepping outside of that. We had a chance to teach these kids that yes, they are all wonderful supporters of their siblings but not all of us fit the same mold and we have to accept and respect everyone.