6.20.2015

The Biggest Changes Come in the Smallest Packages


I know my posts have been lacking for the past year but I have done a lot of soul-searching and cleanup around my home and in my life to prepare myself to become a good father to a child. I can't promise that I'll be writing lots over the next little while, I anticipate life is going to get very very busy quickly and I want this blog to remain a subject of my experiences as a trans person. Any posts that I write in the future will be still be related to how being trans affects my life. I may start a second blog about being a single trans parent but we'll see just how much time I actually have!

Again, I have to say how blessed and fortunate I am to live where I do. Canada is a really great country and in spite of some negative experiences I can't imagine living anywhere else. I really felt that throughout the adoption process. My adoption worker was so excited for me and didn't ask me any inappropriate questions.

I wondered about whether or not transgender people would be "allowed" to adopt a child so I called the department before even bothering to fill out the application forms. Absolutely YES was the answer I received. Thank goodness the priority is on finding children suitable homes and not on what types of genitals a person has.

I've spent a lot of time trying to figure out what it means to be a man, deciding what kind of man I want to be, and then trying to make sure that my actions and behaviour are aligned towards that goal. Is my behaviour reflective of the kind of man I want to be? When I do something or say something I often spend a lot of time worrying that I was insensitive and think about ways I can interact with the world that are sensitive to the needs and feelings of others without neglecting my own. It's a harder balance than you might imagine at first. The thing is, I am now putting myself through another ongoing evaluation about being a parent.

I've always imagined myself adopting a child. Even 20 years ago I was thinking adoption. I never wanted to reproduce biologically. To me it seemed like such a shame to have children when there were so many children already in need of a family. After transitioning, and as a single man, it is my only option – another reason I am so grateful that there was no issues with the process.

When I was finally settled, with a good job, no debt, and happy in my transition, it was finally time to start seriously considering adoption. I had to be really focused and realistic about why I wanted to do this and consider how this would change my life and how having a transgender parent would affect my child. And here's the thing about that. I bet any child won't care as long as they have a happy loving, supportive family and a home. If you had the choice to remain an orphan or have a queer family who will love you and support you forever, which would you choose?

The application process, self-assessment and home study are more than just screening criteria. They are also valuable tools for prospective parents to understand and get at the reasons they want to be parents, the expectations, they have about what parenting will be like, and sometimes a basic reality-check.

So there you have it. Sometime in the next few weeks I'll become a single trans Dad to one special little boy. After all the paperwork, interviews and consideration I have put into the application and the amount of time and preparation I have put into thinking about what sorts of issues I'll have to prepare for, I am both excited and terrified – just like every parent.

6.04.2015

Ohana Means Family

Not everyone has been supportive of my decision to adopt. This really really sucks. Imagine you are 40 years old and finally having/adopting a child and some of your friends and family members tell you they think its a bad idea. They think you are too irresponsible, too weak, too selfish, too queer, too unstable to raise a child. They are afraid of how your decision will affect their lives yet won't even talk to you about the reasons you decided to adopt in the first place.



I can't even begin to tell you how much that hurts. The part that bothers me the most is I don't know if the reason these people aren't supportive is because I am transgender or because they really think I will be a horrible father.

Some of my friends are getting cold feet as well. When it was just talk, everything seemed fine, everyone was excited about all the things we could do together. Now with just weeks before a child is actually placed in my home, I feel like some of my friends are stepping back. As if they expect that once I have a child our friendship will be over.

Of course things will change but that's life. People get married, have kids, get divorced, get remarried, change jobs, retire, and die. Life is always changing. Our interests change, our jobs, change, we move. Things don't ever stay the same. But if we know this why are we so afraid of it? I'd like to think that if any of my friends started dating, got married or had kids that I would be supportive of them and their choices and do whatever I could to help them be happy and successful.

I am so very grateful for the handful of people who have been truly supportive of me. They understand that my life is going to change, that it will be difficult at times, that I will struggle. But instead of doubting me, criticizing me and suggesting that my choices are somehow an act perpetuated against them they are supporting me. When I am going through a tough time and need someone to talk to, this small group of people will be there. If I need advice or seek constructive suggestions, I know who I can ask without getting "I told you so" or "don't ask me I don't want to get involved".

It is this handful of people that are going to help me raise a strong, empathetic, kind young man. These people will be the ones to reach out a helping hand so that I can be the best father I can be. I am not asking them to parent my child for me but I am not so foolish to think that I can accomplish this feat alone. And that's how I feel right now – alone.

The irony of all of this is one of the reasons I want to have a family, one of the reasons I chose to adopt a child is so that I am not alone. And neither is my child.

5.27.2015

Why I Won't Change the Gender Marker on my Birth Certificate

One of the reasons I filed a human rights complaint was because government agencies kept insisting that I change my birth certificate in order to prove my identity and validate my gender. One of the most ridiculous examples is from Passport Canada who can't decide what exactly a passport document is for: confirming and validating citizenship or validating identity. 

The thought of having to change my birth record makes me both angry and uncomfortable. I don't think messing around with history is a good idea because the outcome is never good. I haven't found a reason to change my birth certificate that makes sense for me and I've listed some of the reasons I chose NOT to change the gender marker on my birth certificate below:

  1. My mother gave birth to a biologically female baby. This is a fact. It is historically accurate. At the time and to the best of everyone's knowledge, this was the truth. Changing the marker on my birth certificate now will not ever change the events that occured on the day of my birth.

  2. I feel like I would be insulting my mother if I changed my birth record. I can't articulate exactly why I feel like this but I feel like changing my birth certificate invalidates her in some way, that it ignores and disrespects her experience of the day she gave birth. I do not want to alter her memory of the past or attempt to rewrite the truth of #1.

  3. Rewriting my birth record makes me invisible. Changing my birth certificate to say that I was born male, eliminates the "official" record that I was ever female. Rewriting the paper trail to be consistent (and to make the government more comfortable) feels like another way to make trans people "disappear".

  4. Changing my birth certificate won't change history. Even if my birth record was changed to say male, it wouldn't change my story. A new birth certificate wouldn't suddenly make me a boy in all my childhood photos, it won't eliminate or erase all the struggles and problems I endured. Changing my birth certificate erases the truth: I was born a girl. Asking me to change my birth certificate because I'm transexual is as ridiculous as asking a Chinese person to change their ethnicity once they become a Canadian citizen.

  5. Identification should reflect the truth about a person in its entirety and that should be respected. So my birth certificate doesn't match my driver's licence. Big deal. Ask me why. I'll tell you it's because I'm trans. Being afraid that I have somehow manipulated the system to perpetuate identity fraud is ridiculous because I just told you the reason the gender markers don't match is because I'm trans. Trust that I am telling you the truth just like that new bride in the next booth who is trying to explain why the name on her birth certificate and the name on her driver's license don't match....

  6. No one ever really expects to see your birth certificate. You don't whip it out at parties, cops don't ask to see it if you are pulled over at a check stop. The only time you REALLY need a birth certificate for anything is to prove where you were born and when. The gender you are assigned at birth really doesn'e matter when you think about it. Seriously, how different would our lives be if birth certificates just didn't have a gender marker?
Not everyone wants to keep their birth record unchanged. I wonder though, how many people would still change it if it wasn't required? Would you?



5.14.2015

Aftermath

It's has been over a year since my last post and there has been a lot going on to say the least! I will be posting more about things that have been ongoing and give you an update on my moustache because I know that's really why you keep hanging around ;)

After the disaster with my passport and the other disaster with my health care card I finally got sick of being treated badly by governments and their agencies. I filed human rights complaints with both the NWT Human Rights Commission and with the Canadian Human Rights Commission in the hopes of changing policies that would allow trans people to self identify and not be required to change their birth certificate or provide proof that they modified their body with surgery to conform to an established gender binary.

Even though I have a new health card and my gender marker has been changed on my permanent health record I am still afraid when I go to the clinic or hospital that I will be outed and treated like and HIV patient in 1991. I Still have anxiety about getting my blood taken and have avoided going to the hospital, particularly the emergency room for fear that my bad experiences will be repeated.

Thank goodness there have been pioneers who have broken ground and created case law that inform and help us make cases for ourselves. I have some really good friends and the ability to do research both of which were important in being able to settle the complaints through mediation.

Oftentimes to get to this point you have to be brave enough to file the complaint. Sometimes governments won't or can't change anything without a court order, or a process that allows them to create change, such as a human rights complaint. It can be scary to take that first step. You will feel vulnerable, but hopefully at the end of the process you will have some sort of reconciliation.

I am glad that my case did not go to to a hearing. Sadly a lot of processes are adversarial, often due to (but not always) due to lawyers who are trained that way. I did not have to prepare to navigate a legal system unrepresented nor did I have to worry about my identity, my story or my case being aired in public as some titillating piece of small town gossip. I am thankful that the parties on both sides of my case worked together to solve the problems, and did not feel the need to lay blame or make excuses. This approach allowed everyone to tackle the problem instead of each other. Win-Win.


I was extremely lucky that the respondents in my cases were willing to mediate and my experience was very positive. I know that isn't the case for everyone but I am happy to have been able to make a positive change in a positive, thoughtful and conscientious manner. I actually have an ongoing relationship with some of the parties and am a valued resource when it comes to gathering "user-experience". I cannot describe how grateful I am that things went well and that real positive changes are being made to the system which will improve it for everyone.

Here's hoping the small changes will lead to improved services and experiences for trans people!

4.17.2014

Here's a Little Something No One Told You

Milestones are things to be celebrated. In our culture we have only a few of them high school graduation, marriage, parenthood, (divorce), and death. Other cultures have a transition milestone where one leaves childhood behind and walks forward into adulthood. Expectations change. Responsibilities change. Relationships change. In western culture we have sort of lost that moment where we separate childhood from adulthood.

For many queers and debutantes it is coming out that serves that purpose. With the exception of the Jewish Faith, I can not think of a single other group in the west that pinpoints the moment of transition quite so specifically. We've all celebrated a milestone birthday and awoke feeling exactly the same as we did the day before. The expectation that one will wake up and be a totally new person or feel completely different after a single day or event has passed usually doesn't happen. Brides don't wake up feeling like a whole different person. I didn't suddenly feel like a man the day after I started testosterone therapy, nor after my top surgery (though that was very liberating) and I didn't wake up feeling any more or less like myself after my hysterectomy.

So how do we become adults, husbands, or parents? How do we pinpoint the time/day/moments when we cross over those lines and leave something behind to step into the role of being someone new or different. How does a transexual finally realize their true identity as a man or a woman?

After my hysterectomy in February, reality hit me hard. It was sort of one of those moments that draws a definitive line between the before and the after. There is no going back, no changing my mind, no second guessing or correcting a hysterectomy. For better or worse, for right or wrong the deed is done and I have to live with the consequences of my decisions. Honestly, I don't make that many life-altering decisions, I am a creature of routine.
I thrive on knowing for the most part how my day/week/month is going to play out. I get frustrated when I feel like I have no control over what is going on in my life whether or not it something I can control. And I have to work on that because when I feel like I don't have control I get bitchy.

After my hysterectomy I lived on my couch for about 2 days and spent a lot of it swinging between feeling terrific before panicking and crying my eyes out. Some of it was likely hormones sorting themselves out once again, as well as the stress relief of having the surgery over with but I think it was more the idea that I had drawn a line across my life that would forever seem to separate it into two halves: the before and the after. The girl/woman I was and the boy/man I am becoming.