I did love blogging. I liked the way it concentrated my thoughts, how I would plan and quietly pursue a small topic, write, pause, re-read, edit, pause, think, write and wordpress it out into the world. I was pleased with the writing when I was done, though now I find typos and plenty of room for more editing. But I threw out my words, tossed them into the world of electrical impulses, the internet. I had my faithful readers, especially an old pal and her Mother. Also, some strangers, some writers. It was a message in a bottle. I was singing out into the chasm.
And in my last sporadic words I think my message was: I am going to try to write more seriously. And I have been. But much more. So much has happened. I stressed about debt, I became sick with stress. Both my other older children left home for the bigger world. I completely stopped menstruating and began to transition to an older woman free of the life driving fear and acceptance of pregnancy. I got a demanding new job. I thought I had recovered from the loss of my parents, god mother and step mother but I did not know that I was to also lose the emotional support of siblings. I walked alongside my son who was in the early stages of transitioning.
The best thing about life is that it is unpredictable. I like that about it. Who knows what will happen next? Presently I have gained a son and regained my health. We both look fabulous. He is a preternaturally mature 15 year old with startling blue eyes, curly red hair and a lovely low voice. A musician, artist, environmental activist and the kind of gay son who says he will fix my hair and take photos of me even when I am extremely old. Due to my incredibly strict diet to recover the health of my gut, I look fantastic and have been well trained on how to pose for photos. I do yoga every day and I have begun to meditate. All good, classic, mid life woman shit. Right here, right now. I wrote a play. Poems. Novel. Bliss has already had one art show and has another one set for next month. He is learning how to play the trumpet and drum, while keeping up with his clarinet.
I have been writing a lot and that’s great, but there is one topic that I have left buried. I have not yet written about my son’s transition. I have been hesitant; sometimes I believe that I am too close to the process to be able to have perspective. Other times I believe that I am hesitant to write about what I do not know, which is his feelings. I made that mistake once before when I wrote about a sexual assault that was not my own experience. It felt like my experience because I am so close to my children. It ravaged my mind and body as if it had been me assaulted, but it was not my story or my body.
At the time my blogging was my outlet. I wrote about everything close to me, my heart breaking when my Dad died, my life with my Mom with Parkinson’s, and then the assaults and how they affected my baby child and my family. But afterwards, as time passed, I was shocked that I wrote publicly about the assaults and I hoped that it would not cause pain in the future.
I also avoided writing about the transitioning because I feared that I would confuse the beauty and liberation of the transitioning with the pain of the assaults. I needed time to untangle the threads in my mind. As a mother guarding over the development of her child, I was hyper vigilant about the unknown effects of the early assault on later teen development. As I was feeding, driving, helping with homework and planning birthday parties and music lessons, I was watching for repercussions.
At 13 years old my child did begin to suffer from anxiety, nightmares and depression. ‘Her’ close friends were all troubled, some cutting, some depressed, some suicidal. I kept a close watch and had big sleep overs with lots of chips and they would do odd things like bind each other in tape. One of the children would occasionally fall onto the floor in a foetal position. I took my troubled kids to Tim Hortons in the morning and they called me Mama Meg. I still feel protective of all of them.
My kid was always a good student and at the time, a very pretty girl with a womanly figure. ‘She’ got attention from much older men and boys and I kept an eye out. But Bliss has always been smart and self reliant so he did not appear to be struggling. What the outside world did comment on was how close he was to me. How close he needed to be to me. We spent a lot of time together, making art, learning to skate, going out for lattes. We had a lot of fun, laughed a lot, but at the same time I was aware that he was not thriving. Often fearful, jumpy, he seemed scared to be in his own body. He had nightmares about scary men on the attack and would not go upstairs in the house on his own.
So I did not identify the classic signs of discomfort that can give a clue to the beginning of transitioning: sudden hair cuts, dyeing the hair, trying out many different styles, friends, moods. The person is trying to find a way to become comfortable in his body. And then he began to talk about it; we talked about a friend of his who wanted to be a ‘boy’. We talked in the car, when we weren’t singing. I put forth every radical feminist argument for being comfortable in your own body. Bliss was quietly disappointed but kept at it. I got a video out from the Amherst Library and it explained that transitioning is much deeper and has a more scientific explanation. It is not mental or psychological or intellectual, it is physical.
I began to understand. I had to open my mind, it was, as a matter of fact, ‘mind blowing’. The term ‘mind blowing’ worked for me. It seemed precise and exact regarding my thoughts about gender. It felt precise and true and so that is how I described how I felt to those who asked. I had to think about gender, and my loose but still entrenched ideas about men and women. The transition forced me to reexamine how I defined male and female. What makes a man feel like a man? What is a man? Who gets to define what a man is? I was brought up by a divorcee in an angry era of feminism so I still had baggage. Finally, I understood, gender is important, and fluid and also, personal.
As the transition continued, Bliss and I cared for each other. He knew when I was worn out, when I needed to eat, when I was sick and weak. Due to stresses that had nothing to do with my teen, I lost a lot of weight and Bliss was nurturing and caring. I kept parenting, driving, working, shopping, cleaning, talking, listening, reading, and thinking. I did not quite understand transitioning. Then one day I realized that I was the one in the family that made things happen. I was the one who researched subjects and made doctor appointments. I knew it was up to me to move forward. And I knew that Bliss needed action. I found a doctor and we began along the path of transitioning. I learned how to give a needle. I bought binders. I kept reading and talking and listening but I didn’t write anything at all.
I changed his birth certificate, I changed his health card, I changed his passport. I kept going forward. I didn’t even notice when people stared at my child. Bliss would tell me later that people were staring and I was sorry that I did not have a chance to stare right back at them. But I did not see anything to stare at, I didn’t see it. It was just Maude/ Bliss. My brilliant child, so good at school, so insightful and kind, such a good team player in sports, such a good artist, so capable and competent. Well loved by teachers and respected in school even by the bullies and conformists.
So much has happened in the last year and a half that I have trouble putting it down chronologically but I can tell you now that when I see the name of Maude, I don’t think of Bliss. I see it as a child that I used to know. As time goes on, when I remember his child self I see more clearly that he was struggling, even as he bravely and cheerfully charged forward. I am amazed at how strong he was, to carry on so good temperedly while feeling so trapped and fearful.
All our family can remember a time when he would complain that he could not yawn, and he would struggle to breathe. Now when we look back we know that this was happening as his body was hit with early hormonal change. He grew into a woman at about ten years old and that must have been horrifying to a child who was hoping to become more like a man as he grew. He hated his voice, his name. In Grade three he wrote a letter to his sister that said, “Guess what, I am a boy. Just kidding” and we did not notice that letter til this year.
When I look back now I see more and more clearly that we were just going ahead with the notion that he was a girl. And even though we are progressive people, we still had our own expectations. We have plenty of preconceptions about gender, everyone does. That’s why it is important to drop them, just in case the next kid you meet, the next baby you are introduced to, is not the gender that everyone says it is. Give the kid a chance to choose, to breathe. We have learnt that now.
During the last years we have worked through our personal growth and recovery, our discovery of ourselves, through art and music. During Grade 8, Bliss home schooled and created amazing art. When he returned to school he slayed Grade 9, even with his top surgery in the middle of the year. High Honours, new friends, music awards, more art and he founded the Queer Room and hosts it once a week for LGBTQ youth. He became a vegetarian and began to organize Climate Strikes in Sackville where he bravely read his own speech/poetry.
A butterfly bursting forth: my gorgeous gay son.And when I refer to my child in my mind, I now say ‘he’. ‘He will wait for me’, ‘he would like this art’, ‘he is my child’. He was always a boy and we did not know it.
Bliss and I helped each other through the transition with the help of music and art and good snacks. On our journey we both got older, we both went through major change. It was a metamorphosis! We even went through menopause together, both leaving behind menstruation and both growing chin hairs, his celebrated more than mine.
Bliss is proud of my progress in understanding transitioning. At first, I really did not know anything about the subject and had some of the worst immediate reactions. Pity, for example. That is a useless emotion. How about celebration of an authentic person? How many adults do you know that go through life unhappy, struggling to accept themselves? People who have transitioned are the bravest and most honest and true people that you will ever meet. I am grateful to know, to learn and to understand.
Bliss has given me a chance to grow, for my mind to expand. He is a blessing, to our family, and wherever he goes.