22 October 2014 ~ 0 Comments

Podcast Transcripts: Kim

Author: admin

(Intro Music)

 

Amy:

In our last segment of this podcast series we hear from Kim, who is co-founder of TransParent St. Louis. Kim’s youngest child also identified with his opposite gender when he was very young. And as we’ll hear next, the journey that her family has taken hasn’t always been easy. Both with the health care system and with each other. Here’s Kim.

 

Kim:

My name is Kim and I have two sons. One who’s twenty-six and a ten year old gender independent son. I think that he will likely grow up to be a transgender adult, but I hear a lot of people say that, you know, until they actually get through puberty that you probably shouldn’t necessarily really use that label. And so, until we’re really there, uh, I think gender independent is for, you know any person who doesn’t necessarily go by our binary gender model. Of, if you have a boy body, you must be a boy and if, you have a female body you must be a girl. So there’s, there’s a lot of room in there. And I, I actually look at gender as more of a spectrum.

He was two years and eight months old and I was, I had him in the sink and I was ponytailing his hair like I had for many, many days and he looked in the mirror at my reflection standing behind him and said, “I a boy”. It was instantaneous that I knew something would be coming at us. It was the way that he said it and I realize that he was only two and a half, but it was the way that he said it. Uh, the expression on his face and having been around children my whole life and never having had another child tell me that they were the opposite gender before, it sent off every alarm in my body as a mother. And, I just remember feeling very afraid that entire day until my husband came home and he walked in the door and as soon as he was alone I said we have a problem. And I told him what our child had said and he said, course then we were using female pronouns. She has no idea what she’s saying. She’s two and she’s confused and she’s this and she’s that. And based on his reaction I knew there was, would not have been a good idea to press you know this concept that our child might not be following the typical pathway for a gender. And um, I think it would have overwhelmed my husband in that moment and, you know, I had known what it meant to be transgender for many, many years. I had seen articles in the paper about it and so, it wasn’t a new concept to me, but it was definitely shocking because you don’t anticipate that that will be your path for your child.

You know, when I found out that I was carrying a girl, you immediately as a parent, most of us, you start the, Oh, my gosh! You know. Dance lessons and cheerleading and proms and the wedding and the dress and you know, all those things. The grandbabies, you just start setting yourself up for the vision of that child’s life. So I had all of that, you know, in front of me and the idea I had already raised an older son, so the idea of having a little girl was thrilling. And so, you know, all of that immediately is put under threat. That’s not how this is going to go. I don’t think that there’s anything that you could do. I think every, probably every parent that I know has wondered, what did I do? And for me, I was an older mother, so I thought, Umm, my eggs were old and I’ve got, you know, a transgender child, or something like that, but then I started meeting, or talking to other mother’s on, you know, parent list serves and things and they were young mothers having transgender children. So, I knew that couldn’t be it. Um, and so beyond that initial thought, um, I never really blamed myself, or my husband for anything. I never felt a need to blame for this. Or, try to figure out why. I, I feel like I immediately moved towards a, just accept. This is your baby. And, I think for me, like that was just, it was never going to be an issue. I probably went through the same fears that most parents do, you know, what kind of life will my child have. How hard will that life be? Um, how can I make it easier? What, what do I need to do to help make it easier? But, it was never, that I wasn’t going to love him and accept him. You know, we were really lucky that my husband, although he wasn’t as quickly on board with the idea of this situation as I was, he seemed to run about six months behind me on every step of the process. And so, um, he never disagreed that, that our child needed to transition. And once we got through that he did fall into a massive depression. And he said what other parents have said, he, he viewed it as the death of his child, even though he had this really wonderful son sitting right in front of him. He said it felt like his child had died. And that was what brought on his depression. So, it was very severe and it lasted well over a year. But, he did come through that and I supported him every step of the way and we got through that. And I think, you know, even though there might have been a few moments where it was, oh, he’s not going to stay for this. He’s not going to be able to do this. He has and he did. And today, he would tell you we are shoulder to shoulder on this and very supportive of our son.

With insurance it’s, so far, so good. Everything’s been covered. I’ve heard though that things can start out covered in the beginning and then, insurances can make changes, so, I think we’ll be on the edge of our seat until he’s through the majority of his blockers because that’s one of the most expensive parts of their care. And I think, um, as far as health care and our experience with doctors and physicians, overall it’s been good. I think, you know, initially, I went to my pediatrician and sent my child out of the room and said to my pediatrician, “She’s telling me she’s a boy”. With all this bottled up anxiety, tried to say that as calmly as I could to him, not, not knowing what he would say back to me, and he said keep plenty of girl toys and boy toys in the house. And he sent me on my way. And that was when my child was three and I left feeling like that’s not the answer. Like that’s, that’s not going to be the answer here. And about a year later, when my child was four, I went back to the pediatrician and insisted on an ultrasound to see if my child had an ovary and uterus and to do hormone tests, blood work. I just insisted because something had to be driving him telling me, you know, that he was in fact a boy. And they did all of those tests and everything came back normal. There was really nothing that they were going to do for me, four year old, and so, we sought out a therapist in St. Louis. And at that time, I didn’t know of any that were treating four year olds, so I had to go to someone who had only worked with adults and it really was, we did not get probably the best advice for our child and were told to just wait and see and don’t give him any of the things that he was asking for.

Don’t cut his hair, don’t change his name, give him a couple of pairs of boys pants and clothes and let him wear them in his bedroom, but don’t let him wear them outside of the house. You know it would instigate bullying and teasing and… So our child was sort of living one life inside of our house, but not outside, which is a very difficult place, I think, to put a child. To try to live this dual kind of life. And he just became more and more depressed and more and more filled with anxiety. And, we did that for several years before at the age of six, we did reach out to a doctor in California, therapist in California, who finally put us in touch with a doctor in St. Louis that had experience with children, a therapist. And she said, you need to let him transition. He knows who he is. And to make him live his life as a girl would be cruel and inhumane and you to give him a boy name and boy clothing and a boy haircut. And you need to find a school that is accepting, of him. And that was actually a relief for me to get that permission. I guess as a parent, I was sort of, cause he was so young, I was waiting for somebody to tell me, you should do this. Even though, deep inside of me, I knew it’s what he needed. For some reason without that permission from an expert somewhere, I didn’t feel like I could make that decision on my own. So it’s almost liberating, I guess, to me. And one of my biggest fears was, what if he feels differently when he’s older? What do we do then? We’ve made all these changes and she said, “He’ll know that he can walk back through that door because you let him go through it once”. So in other words, it wouldn’t be a big deal, if we made all of these changes, let him live the life of a boy and then he determined later that that wasn’t exactly right. It wasn’t this big deal that I had built up in my mind. So in terms of insurance, I have heard that the experience of other people, you know, if you change the gender marker…For example, if my son goes to be a male on his birth certificate, then insurance is not going to cover hysterectomy that he will require at eighteen. There are things about it currently now, that he’s ten and that’s eight years away and eight years that might look very differently, but right now those are very real fears and concerns of a lot of parents to change a gender marker, unless you can afford to pay for the hysterectomy out of pocket and not need insurance, then you might go ahead and change the marker. And I, I’m hoping that by the time he’s fourteen, before we get his driver’s permit, that we could have those documents in order so that it could be the correct gender marker on his driver’s license and name. He is, he would die I think, if it had to reflect female. It would be a source of humiliation and embarrassment and he shouldn’t have to go through that. Right now, he’s feeling really good. He started puberty earlier this year and so he got on his hormone blockers this summer and was thrilled and happy and you know, to get that and to know that was going to stop the changes that had started happening and in fact, the breast budding the had, has been reversed and he’s thrilled. He’s just thrilled.

 

Amy:

What would you like to say to health care providers?

 

Kim:

I would say, that you have the power to make the lives of everyone of these children better, by voicing your support for these kids, by figuring out how to acknowledge these kids through paperwork and forms that are in your offices. I think, that if we’re going to through the medical community, only promote this binary gender model, that we’re asking for trouble for these kids. We’re not acknowledging that they exist. There’s more to biological gender than male and female. There’s inner sex, there’s ambiguous, none of this is talked about, or put out there for the general population to look at gender any differently than male or females. So as long as these forms don’t acknowledge kids like mine, it’s sort of setting him up to be viewed as, not normal. And to me, I just don’t think that the medical community realizes the impact that they could have for these children to make their lives easier. So all the people, you know, a handful, but the people that have rejected my son, and it almost, the kids that have rejected him, it’s coming from the parents. And if those parents took their child to the doctors and every time they had to check them in they had to look at the options for gender, they would have to reconsider, the things that they’re thinking about my child because there would be potential options there for gender identity and biological gender and I just don’t that the medical community realizes the power that that could have for these kids and ending bullying, and negative attitudes. As if the medical community doesn’t acknowledge them on their forms, all of these parents, it, it sends a message. If you don’t fit in these two boxes there is something seriously wrong with you. To me that’s, that’s a significant thing that they could do. And obviously, those two boxes are not, they don’t encompass gender. What we know about gender. And all of the variations of gender.

TransParent is a group that I co-founded. And, we did it because nothing really existed in Missouri prior to that and when I went through this experience three years ago with my son, when he transitioned at the age of seven; it was the most isolating experience of my life. I couldn’t find experienced doctors; I couldn’t find other families who were going through the same experience. And, the first family that I met, I said, “We have to start a group. We need a group”. So, she and I uh, did that. We started with, I think, four families. And, today we have almost sixty. So, we provide peer-to-peer, parent-to-parent and support. We meet once a month for a couple of hours. I think that the reason behind it was, so that no other parent had to go through it alone and try to navigate that by themselves. It’s scary and there’s some fear with that. But, I can also say, after three years into it, it’s not as scary as it was in the beginning. You reach a new normal. And life is absolutely happy and good again.

 

Amy:

This concludes our podcast. And on behalf of the Missouri Health Equity Collaborative, I thank you for tuning in. If you have questions about parenting transgender children, or just becoming a better parent and helping other kids understand what it’s like to be transgender, please visit, transparentstl.org. There are some great resources on the site for families and health care providers. A link to the site is also available at MOHEC.org.

This podcast was produced by the Center for Health Policy and the Missouri Health Equity Collaborative in partnership with the Health Communication Research Center at the University of Missouri. Funding was provided by Missouri Foundation for Health.

 

(Music)

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