soffa

huffingtonpost.com
A Dad Testifies for His Transgender Teen Daughter

My name is Wayne Maines, I live in Old Town. I have a 13-year-old transgender daughter. In the beginning, I was not onboard with this reality. Like many of you I doubted transgender children could exist, I doubted my wife and I doubted our counselors and doctors. However I never doubted my love for my child. It was only through observing her pain and her suffering and examining my lack of knowledge about these issues did I begin to question my behavior and my conservative values. I learned that the medical standard of care requires parents seek assistance from a panel of experts. We did this and our team of doctors recommended my daughter to live fully as a girl. We cannot turn back now.

When my daughter lost her privileges at school and both children and adults targeted her, I knew I had to change and I have never looked back.


When we moved to Maine, it was clear my daughter was transitioning from male to female with us or without us. She used the girl’s bathroom with no fanfare; she was confident and very social. Her strong personality helped the entire school transition right along side of her. She was proud and secure with herself and when people asked at the young age of six she openly stated that she was a girl trapped in a boy’s body. 

The transformation was amazing, but her happiness would not last. Unfortunately the fears of others would destroy everything that our team of doctors, teachers, school counselors, friends and classmates had work so hard to establish. 

I know that it is difficult for some of you to understand the needs of transgender children. You only need to spend some time with these kids to see that they are struggling and suffering beyond your imagination only because they are singled out and misunderstood. They are just like your children and grandchildren; they have the same hopes and the same dreams. 

In the fifth grade because of significant negative exposure we had to take drastic measures to protect her from harm, including splitting our family up to go in hiding and we are not the only family that has had to do so. When she was told she could no longer use the appropriate bathroom her confidence and self-esteem took a major hit. Prior to this my daughter often said, “Dad being transgender is no big deal, my friends and I have it under control.” I was very proud of her. It was only when adults became involved with their unfounded fears that her world would be turned upside down. “She came to me crying and asked, "Daddy what did I do wrong? Daddy please fix this?” That is what dads do – we fix things. I had to break her heart and say, “You have not done anything wrong sweetie, but Mommy and I do not know how to fix this, but we will try.”

Continuing to single these kids out is not necessary. Having the opportunity to use the bathrooms of their true gender is essential for these kids’ well being. This bill places transgender children in a position of doom and hopelessness. This bill tells my daughter that she does not have the same rights as her classmates and reinforces her opinion that she has no future. Help me give her the future she deserves. Do not pass this bill.

- Wayne Maines, in a testimony against Maine’s proposed bill which would allow the operator of a restroom or shower facility to decide who can use which gender’s restroom based upon “biological sex.”

Originally posted by Joanne Herman at Huffington Post (follow link to read her commentary on this amazing testimony)

General Transition Information and Resources

Articles I have written on general information and resources regarding transition.

SOFFAs (Significant Others, Friends, Family, Allies)
Testosterone
Top Surgery
Hysterectomy
Gave birth to a girl. Raised a man.

My son is transgender, or maybe it would be “transsexual”. Whatever…he is a man. (note: I refer to him with male pronouns in the past as well as present because it feels right to me). A son who is FAAB: female assigned at birth. He spent the first 19 years as female identified. Naturally we have a lot of accumulated mementos from those 19 years. He agrees that it is all a part of his past and who he was and therefore those things don’t bother him; I don’t have to hide them or anything. Out of respect for him, though, we don’t display the more obvious female things.

It is more than that really. I gave birth to him, and we raised him in the gender that fit his birth anatomy. Picked out a female name. We did a good job of raising him in an androgynous manner, trying to keep him free from gender-typing, but you can only do so much. He was given frilly dresses and forced to have his picture taken in them for the family. He was given fancy dresses and uncomfortable shoes to wear to weddings. Was told he had to do something with his hair and no, he could NOT get a haircut like Anakin Skywalker! We bought him knights instead of princesses and he got to be Harry Potter rather than Hermione for Halloween, but the world kept waiting for him to, basically, grow up and embrace femininity.

Then at age 14 he came out as a lesbian. Oh, okay, THAT’S why he never “grew into” a feminine person, he was a lesbian! NOW he could get a short haircut and wear male clothes because he was a “butch” lesbian. Except- my son is a lot of things but “butch” was never one of them. It didn’t fit- but we were so blind to the possibility of trans* that it never crossed our minds. Not even after he, as a kid, wrote a book where the main character was FTM. HUH? Well one day I did ask him if he felt trans. Did he feel that he should have been a boy. He said no, he was fine with the way he was. I recall my answer: “I’m SO glad because it would make me so sad if you were unhappy with your body and gender.”

Fast –forward.

It was over a year ago that he told us he was transgender. Over the first several months or so he bounced around from genderqueer to trans, to NOT female… but when he had time to let things settle in his mind, he knew. He was a man. And it made sense. Even his therapist, who we also see as a family,said that there was always something that didn’t feel right about him being a lesbian— but trans fits. I agree, it fits.

People ask me how I “got over it”. How horrible it must have been for me. Am I devastated, like I lost my daughter? Did I cry? When I replied that I was fine and only concerned about him getting the right care and wanting to help him though his transition – people accused me of being dishonest with either them or myself. I was in denial, they said. A year has gone by and I still feel the same way. I didn’t lose anything at all. I have my son right here.

But there is something that does make me sad. This brings me back to where I started- the packed away mementos of his childhood. When I look at them I feel pangs of guilt. I feel like I cheated my son out of a boyhood. Why didn’t I know my own child? Why didn’t I let him get his hair cut like Anakin? He was telling me he was a boy, long before he even had the words in his head for it himself, and I didn’t hear him.

I will always keep and treasure the things from his childhood but I don’t like to spend much time looking at them because some of them seem strange and other-worldly (I still love to look at his pictures though). But that name we gave him, plastered on everything. He didn’t want that name; the name was forced on him. He talks about the positive aspects of being a man raised as a female. He knows what females are like, sort of knows their language, and that it makes him a better man. I believe him and agree.

That’s my story. That is honestly the only negative emotion that I have attached to his transition: guilt. I could have made his life easier and I didn’t.

How to love and support your FtM partner or your soffa as an FtM

How to love and support your FtM partner (I will use the term “ftm,” “boyfriend” and male pronouns, although you may be married to your partner or he may have a non-binary identity or you may still see him as your “girlfriend”): 

-Affirm his gender identity, sympathize with him and comfort him when others disrespect his identity. 

-Research trans issues as much as you can, educate yourself so you can educate others. Know what is generally considered offensive so you don’t accidentally say offensive things, don’t depend on your boyfriend to educate you or to know what is okay or not okay to say in the community (for example, he might not have a problem with the word “tranny” but many other people in the community do and you should probably avoid it). 

-Seek out support if you struggle with your boyfriend’s transition. Find other significant others who are going through similar situations and talk to them. It may be difficult for you because you are emotionally invested in your boyfriend’s body and, possibly, his assigned gender. Acknowledge these feelings and allow yourself to fully feel them. 

-Ask your boyfriend what words he prefers you use when talking about his body and try to honor those preferences. Remember that you have a say too, if you are uncomfortable with using certain words you shouldn’t have to. Also try your best to use the pronouns and name he prefers. If you screw up, correct yourself and move on. 

-Don’t out your boyfriend without his consent. Although his transition certainly directly affects you and is in many ways a large part of your life story and identity too, you must respect his privacy. You should always ask before disclosing his trans status to someone, even if it is one of your close personal friends. Remember that he may view his trans status as something intensely private and the fact that he has shared this information with you means he deeply trusts you. It totally depends on the guy so you must be sensitive about this. 

How to love and support your partner as an FtM: 

-Understand that your partner may struggle with your transition and that he or she is undergoing a lot of changes as well (in regards to their sexuality/sexual identity, the way they are seen in society, etc). Even if you consider yourself “fully transitioned” or don’t think about your trans status on a day-to-day basis, to your partner it may be completely new. 

-Don’t try to force a sexual identity/sexual orientation on your partner in order to affirm your own gender identity. If your partner considered themselves primarily attracted to women before you started transitioning, you can’t expect them to give up that identity over night. Similarly, if you are dating a queer, bisexual, or pansexual person it is wrong to insist that they are straight/gay and erase their sexual identity. Although it can be unnerving to be a man dating a straight man or lesbian woman, your partner’s identity is their business and something that transcends their relationship with you. The only right you have is to demand they see you and relate to you as a man, not that they change their sexual orientation for you. 

-Keep your partner informed on your thoughts and feelings on your gender identity and transition as they evolve. Don’t leave them in the dark in regard to your transition. You should let your partner know if you’re suddenly considering bottom surgery, thinking about going off of testosterone, or wanting them to treat your body differently than they already do. Communication is key, and keeping them on the same page as you is important in a relationship.

-Do not use your gender identity as an excuse to force your partner to do anything they may be uncomfortable with. Although strap-on sex (just as an example) may be very affirming to your identity, if it makes your partner uncomfortable you should back off of the idea. 

-Also, don’t use your gender identity as an excuse for sexism/misogyny/general assholeness. This is a general rule, but it especially applies to those in relationships with women. Just because you identify as male doesn’t mean it’s okay for you to expect your girlfriend to suddenly play a traditional female role in your relationship. It especially doesn’t mean you are allowed to tell her to do your laundry, make you dinner, or fix your clothes. Although clear gender roles in your relationship might make you feel more masculine, they can be unfair to your girlfriend (although, if she’s comfortable with whatever, than by all means do what you wish). 

In conjunction with the LGBT Consortium, Gendered Intelligence has produced a ‘A guide for parents and family members of trans people in the UK’. We hope that this might offer parents and family members some information about what it means to be trans, how it might feel as a parent or family member of a young trans person, and perhaps most importantly, a bit of advice on how to move forward after a young person has shared their trans identity with their family.

This booklet was compiled through a series of focus groups with parents and family members of young trans people. 

It is available online here, or you can order hard copies on our website.

Gendered Intelligence also runs 'SOFFA’ youth group sessions every quarter, which are for significant others, family, friends and allies to come along with trans young people, meet other families of trans people and gain support. More details of our next SOFFA session will be posted soon on our tumblr.

everydayfeminism.com
7 Ways to Lovingly Support Your Gender Non-Binary Partner

#1 is especially powerful

Remember: This is your partner’s lived experience. And living as non-binary and coming out are often difficult experiences.

So telling your partner that their gender isn’t real, that it sounds absurd, or that you don’t believe what they’re saying are all offensive and awful responses. Your partner’s gender identity is for them to declare – and not for you to interrogate.

If your partner is coming out, believe them. If they are sharing something they have lived through, believe them.

“’Is this the ‘New Normal?’ Suggestions for Coping with the Tough Parts of Your Partner’s Transition"

“’Is this the ‘New Normal?’ Suggestions for Coping with the Tough Parts of Your Partner’s Transition"

I’ve entitled this short piece ‘Is the New Normal,” because shit happens during transitions, and non-transitioning partners are often are wracked with anxiety and fear (in addition to the transguy, of course). Most of us, from what I’ve learned, want to do all we can to support the transition—even those who eventually break up. When scary and painful stuff happens, partners are often afraid that this is how things will be post-transition: ‘is this the ‘new normal’? Because if so, I can’t handle it.” Transitions are unmapped terrain for everybody. Normally, in a healthy relationship, when scary things happen, the partners can turn to each other for clarity and reassurance. But in a transition, the transguy often can’t meet those partner’s legitimate needs in this area: he’s often doesn’t know the answers to questions either, and is often overwhelmed himself, as he transitions into his new embodied self. He can shut down or act out, further freaking out the confused and anxious partner.

So this is a note to partners who connected with their transguy before his transition, who want to make it through, together, and who are in the first 1.5 years of the ‘transition,’ however you define it. Here is a list of five suggestions on how to deal with the difficult patches, drawn from 28 interviews thus far with partners of transguys.

1. Be patient. Whatever is painful and unacceptable probably won’t last past the initial 9-12 months. Mark your calendar if you have to, but don’t try to make any big decisions in the midst of the first year; in the vast majority of cases, whatever it is you’re experiencing is not usually the new normal, but it is just a phase as the transguy gets used to his new being. Some of the most difficult relationship developments that the partners have noted include: a breakdown in communication, as the transguy withdraws, intentionally or not, as a way to cope; emotional hardship, including depression, anger, anxiety, fear, frustration, arrogance, narcissism; sexual withdrawal, as in some cases the transguy’s libido seems to evaporate for a time, despite T; the emergence of the transguy’s interest in having sex with additional people, usually men; a pressing need to hang with other men, trans or otherwise, which may mark new patterns of socializing.

 2. Don’t take it personally. It’s not usually about you, even though it might seem like it is at the time. See 1, above.

3. Pick a confidant, someone (besides your partner) to talk with regularly about the tough stuff, someone who has your back without judgment about what you and your partner are going though. If you’re lucky, maybe you live somewhere where this is a partners’ group, as we have in Toronto. Don’t expect your partner to meet many of your emotional, psychological, and (sometimes) sexual needs during this period, as most simply can’t, as much as they wish they could. Partners usually report isolation, as they often feel they don’t fit any of their former communities, and unfortunately the ‘trans community’ is often not welcoming of partners, and continues to define ‘trans’ narrowly, as specific only to the trans-identified person. So partners have to build their own support network, without violating the confidentiality needs of the transitioning partner.

4. De-center the transition. Be present for your partner in his needs around the transition, but try not to have it be the only things going on in your lives together. Make time for other things; talk about other topics; don’t bring up the transition unless he does; avoid interrogating him about every little nuance.

5. Take care of yourself, most important of all. If you are in one of the many situations I’ve come across, where you’re doing a lot of the care-taking work (emotional, financial, medical), ask for help from friends; don’t be a martyr and do it all yourself. You may later resent your partner for it later, especially if due to his own crisis he can’t see or appreciate your work in this area. Make sure you keep up your own interests outside of the relationship, including connecting with friends and family, exercising, eating well. This is especially important if your partner has had a major surgery, if he’s on medical disability, or is dealing with newly diagnosed depression or anxiety. You won’t be doing either one of you any favors if you get overwhelmed and consumed: avoid your own nervous collapsed in year 2 when your partner is out of the transition woods, so to speak, by taking care of yourself, too, in year 1.

Basic Respect for Transsexuals
  • Please use language that corresponds to my gender identity, even if my body does not seem to match, and even when talking about my past.
  • If you are still adjusting to my transition, it is normal to make mistakes with pronouns. Don’t draw attention to it. Just correct yourself and carry on.
  • A transsexual woman is a male-to-female. A transsexual man is a female-to-male. It is never the other way around. Though sometimes it is referred to as male-to-male, or female-to-female because individuals may not have ever identified as the opposite gender and don’t see it as a transition from one to the other, rather an alignment of body and mind.
  • Don’t assume my gender identity defines my sexual orientation. Who I am attracted to is totally separate from my gender. If I am a transsexual man who likes men, treat me no differently than any other gay man. 
  • Don’t expect me to conform to stereotypes of my gender. I wear clothes I like and I have a variety of interests, just like everyone else. There is no need to point out which of my behaviors are “boy actions” and “girl actions”.
  • Please don’t use my old name or ask what it was. Instead of saying “back when you were _____” or “when you were a girl” say “before you came out as a man” or “prior to your transition”. 
  • Don’t use my name in the 3rd person as if I was someone else, i.e. “Are you dressing as Jack now?”
  • If you use the word transsexual (or trans), it’s better to use it as an adjective to describe a person, not as a noun, i.e. trans people, trans man, trans woman. 
  • Don’t assume that I have chosen to be a transsexual person. The only choice I have made is whether or not to accept my situation and fix it to live a healthier life as I see fit. 
A Piece for Parents of Trans People

Some of our followers are parents of trans kids that are wanting more information, others are trans* people that would like a good way to explain their gender identity to their parents or something to give to their parents as they come out. We thought we’d throw together a little something for both sets of people, just a little bit of information that we think would be useful to parents whose children just came out to them. Here it is: 

So….Your Kid Just Came Out as Transgender 

Your child has just told you that they don’t identify with the gender they were assigned at birth to some degree. Maybe they told you that they are questioning their gender, or that they see themselves as neither completely male or completely female. Or perhaps they told you that they  identify as male or female and hope to go on hormones or have surgery as part of their transition. Regardless of what your child just told you, you might be have some questions. Here are some common questions that you might be wondering to yourself as well as some answers provided by a transgender person himself in consultation with his mother:

Is this something I did? Is it because X happened in my kid’s childhood? 

Wedon’t know for sure what causes some people to identify as the gender they are assigned at birth and others to identify differently. However, it is incredibly unlikely that your child is transgender because of anything that you did. There are transgender people that are raised in strict religious homes and those raised in homes with no religion at all, those raised in households with married parents and those in households with divorced parents, those raised in perfectly happy families and those raised in abusive families. There really doesn’t seem to be any common thread in the childhoods of transgender people, other than the fact that many (though not all) displayed signs of not identifying with the gender they were assigned from a young age. It is also unlikely that it is due to any one event in your kid’s childhood. 

Isn’t my chid too young to know that they are transgender? 

Think back to when you realized that you were male or female. Is your child older than that? If so, your child is probably old enough to know. Many people realize that they are transgender when they are very young, it is not uncommon to hear of small children expressing feelings that they are being raised as the “wrong gender.” The preteen and teenage years are also common times for children to come out to their parents as transgender or begin to express their gender identity because those are times in which people in general really begin to figure out who they are and explore their identity. 

My child is in their 20s or 30s (or even older), aren’t they too old to just now be realizing this? 

While many transgender people realize that they are transgender when they are very young, some people don’t realize until they are older or don’t say anything to anyone about it until they are older. Keep in mind that your adult child may have known for a long time but only now have allowed themselves to explore their identity or tell anyone. It also might be the case that your adult child has only just recently found words to put to their feelings. Just as there are people that are late bloomers in other aspects of their lives, there are people that take a little bit longer to figure everything out about their gender. 

How do I know if this is a phase? 

It may be that your child has gone through a lot of phases, just as you probably did growing up. Gender identity, however, is bigger and more important than musical taste or personal fashion. It is entirely possible that this is a phase for your child, but for many people it is not at all a phase and to treat it as such can be damaging to your child. If possible, allow your child to explore their gender identity in non-permanent ways (for instance, allowing them to choose their hairstyle and dress differently) if you are concerned that this is a phase. Therapy can also be very beneficial for your child and, if in many cases, you and other members of your family as well. 

My child wants to take hormones and have surgery, aren’t these things dangerous and bad for their health? 

There are risks to taking hormones and having surgery just as there are risks to taking any prescription medications and having any surgery. The best way to fully understand these risks is to discuss them with a trained medical professional that has experience prescribing these medications or carrying out these surgeries. Many transgender people would point out that for them the risk of not taking hormones or having surgery is greater than the health risks of doing so due to emotional stress. It might also be helpful for you or your child to talk to older transgender people that have been on hormones for 20 or more years about their experiences and health. 

What are some resources out there for parents like me? 

Many parents find it extremely helpful to talk to other that have been in their situation, in which case Trans Youth Family Allies is an excellent resource. They have blogs written by other parents, listings of support groups for parents in different cities, and private online forums for parents of transgender kids ages 3-18 (that forum can be found here). TransKidsFamily also has a private yahoo group for parents with children of all age groups that can be found herePFLAG may stand for Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays but it also provides information and support for family and friends of transgender people. 

My grandma took my stocking (she made it when I was born) and modified it with my new name!!

It was just hanging up when I arrived at my parents’ home yesterday. A really nice surprise!

Post-Op Recovery - A Guide for Those in The Waiting Room

Supporting recovery, any kind of recovery, is a skill that all people should try to develop. As a transperson who’s opting for surgery, we often see these skills played out by others in our lives, benefiting from them, being nurtured by them. We all have our preferences for receiving support, but how often do we consider how we support others? The likelihood that we will find our own feet firmly planted in the waiting room, rather than on the operating table is quite large. How do we then provide the best support structures for our loved ones?

Adrian has spent time at the home of a friend in Florida, attempting to support him through his top-surgery recovery with Dr. Garramone. This experience has highlighted the fact that Adrian has really only considered support after surgery as a tangible good that he received and continues to receive after his multiple surgeries, never framing it as something that he should also give.

Oftentimes as transfolk, our own personal transitions take stage front and center, but there may be a time when we have to put our transitional histories and future trajectories on the back burner to provide space for the necessary support that other transfolks around us need. This is that guide.

How to Support Recovery as a Friend/Family Member/Partner:

1) Be adaptable - be able to cater to specific needs that are often unpredictable and in a state of flux.

2) Be honest about expectations - sometimes it is difficult or awkward to suddenly become a caregiver when you had previously only been a friend. Talk to the person who needs support about what they expect from you, and what both of your boundaries are.

3) Be present - oftentimes gender-confirming surgery recoveries beg for a lot of attention, affirmation, and reassurance. Be available, ready, and willing to offer this up. 

4) Do Not Make It About You - be cognizant of how much attention you are using up, don’t steal the show. If you’ve had the particular surgery your friend is currently having, don’t dominate discussion about your experience unless it is absolutely relevant or you are specifically asked about it. If you are planning to have the surgery your friend is currently having, don’t gush with jealousy or somehow make your friend feel bad or guilty about having the surgery before you. Let your friend have this moment, it is their moment.

5) Be ready to participate in touchy-feely moments - You may be needed to scratch and itch that’s hard to reach, you may be needed to wash their hair or scrub other parts that you previously had never touched. These oftentimes intimate moments can be awkward, try to make them less-so. 

6) Be ready to cook and clean up for your post-op transperson. Cook them things that they want, not what you want. Food and nourishment are a huge part of recovery, sometimes you’ll have to forfeit what you’re really craving in order to satisfy the needs of the person you’re taking care of.

7) Be the nurse in the room - keep track of their medication schedule. Most often these kinds of surgeries come with an intense medication regiment, which probably includes a pain-killer making your post-op person drowsy and forgetful. Map out their schedule, providing food at the opportune times, and keep them on it! 

8) Be willing to listen to complaints. Post-op depression is a real thing that does not get talked about much. Be prepared for your post-op person to be critical of their surgical results, or be grumpy about the state of their bandages (too tight, dirty, smelly), or be irritable about their overall condition. This is normal, let them vent to you.

9) Leave when asked - sometimes all of this one-on-one time and the dependency that comes with being immediately post-op can be a real drain on relationships. If your post-op person needs a break from you, don’t take it personally, and kindly leave them alone. Sometimes breaks are good for all involved. 

10) Know your limits - not everyone is cut out for this job. If someone in your life asks you to support them after surgery, know your boundaries and be thoughtful to your own needs. If you don’t think you can provide adequate support, tell them.