Tag Archives: journey

My MTF daughter: An ordinary life with an extraordinary girl

For some reason or another, my blog has become less personal over the last few years. I’ve shared stories, news, videos and pictures, but nothing that is really personal—from the uberscribbling heart—so to speak.  That’s about to change. The uberscribbler is more than just an author, public speaker and social media junkie.  There are more stories to share, things that need to be said, and thoughts that I need to send out to the universe via the world-wide web. And so with a deep breath…

On Feb 9, 1998 I was in a delivery room at McMaster hospital in Hamilton.  I was 26 weeks into pregnancy and wildly distraught that I was losing my baby.  After a blur of white-coat activity, my second child came in to this world weighing 1121 grams. The celebration of life was announced to the room with three simple words. It’s a boy.

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15 years later, I find myself reflecting on that moment quite often. Announcing the biological anatomy of a baby at birth seems like a misnomer.  It has become a delivery room habit—almost a rite of passage for new parents. The sex of that child can mean different things, to different walks of life all over the world. For some parents, that determination can be crucial to their lives and that of the child.  In delivery rooms around the world, the air is thick with anticipation, until the obligatory sex declaration has been uttered.  It is then that life for that child begins—in an assigned role.

Sometimes nature gets it right and we don’t think it has—so we fix what we think it broke.  In this day and age, it is estimated that still more than 30% of the world’s male population (aged 15 and over) are circumcised.  From infancy.  Not from infection, or medical conditions, but just because—and without their consent.

Sometimes nature gets it wrong.  And I don’t blame her.  With all that we’ve done to her planet and the environment, it surprises me that we don’t see more birth anomalies as she digs in to protect herself—letting us know the only way she knows how.

It was 15 years ago my child was born with just such an anomaly. It wasn’t club feet, cleft palette, fused limbs, missing digits, dwarfism, intersex (hermaphrodite), down-syndrome or anything else that you could identify through sight alone.  According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, 1 in every 33 babies is born with a birth anomaly (defect).  For as technologically and intellectually advanced as we believe ourselves to be, we still only count what we can see with our own eyes and observe through biology.  Anything that doesn’t match the majority is considered defective, like we’re some sort of assembly line where all end product must look and act the exact same way or it’s scrapped as faulty goods. We’ve instituted our own quality control on what it means to be human.

But what about the anomalies that you can’t see right away? The ones that require the collection of your other senses and the ability of the child to communicate?

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“Mommy, when I grow up… I want to be beautiful.” – Mackenzie, aged 3

I knew from a very early age that my child didn’t fit the mold.  I suspected that my son was not my son at all.  But this made me afraid. I angrily blamed society and its narrow acceptance of gender roles and made excuses to others who bullied and pointed fingers at my “sissy” feminine son.  Why is it OK for young girls to be a tomboy but not the other way around? I wrote letters to the President, the Premier, the UN, McDonald’s Corporation, and Mattel Toys asking them to use their positions of corporate power to stop perpetuating gender stereotypes. All the while, I ignored the pleas for help from my child and made assumptions that inevitably cost my child 14 years of true comfortable happiness. I violated my oath as a parent, which was to love unconditionally and do no harm.  Sometimes… doing nothing IS the harm.

It did not matter to my child if the world accepted them—only that I did. I adopted a new oath, “Love your child unconditionally, do no harm, and let them lead the way.

It was then that I learned the word transgender.

I’m not the kind of person that subscribes to labels.  I’m not racist or prejudice and I don’t put people in boxes.  I don’t like segregation.  People are just people—although I know as a society, we have a long history of unnecessary evil against each other.  I also don’t like the term “trans” (Latin for ‘beyond’) assigned to people.  There is nothing good, decent, or “right” about treating or referring to someone as beyond gender.  Giving them labels, and segregating them to their own groups does just that.  It points a finger at their different and unique individuality and infers that they are sub-human.  Not cool.  We don’t use the term transgender in our family, it is irrelevant.  Just as I don’t walk around the house referring to each other as Caucasian. We are what we are—and that is refreshingly unique.

It turns out that my son is actually my daughter, with a biological anomaly.  She was born with a hormone problem—too much testosterone in utero—which consequently led to the growth of testes and a penis. Her brain, personality and personal identity are all female, and always have been.  How did this happen? I don’t know, how do any birth anomalies happen?  All I can say is that we judged a book by its cover.

My daughter is so much more than just the sum of her biological parts. And I don’t want the cover to be her story. It’s time to move forward. As a parent, I have had to make some difficult decisions for the benefit of my child. I medically halted her puberty at 14 years of age, and I introduced her young body to estrogen.  When she is old enough, she will undergo surgery to correct this birth anomaly. (Currently covered under healthcare in some parts of Canada.)  I have received a lot of criticism over this, but I understand that people fear what they don’t know.  Fear and ignorance is the stuff that bullies are made of. I realized early on that any trouble I had with what my child was telling me, was more about me then it was her. I can never let my selfishness stand in the way of the absolute love and acceptance that my children deserve from me as their mother.  This was not a choice—for either of us.

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We are almost one year in now from her diagnosis. She is 15 years old, a junior in highschool, and she is a happy, confident, and self-aware teenage girl. She continues to teach me the value of courage, and I hold that lesson very sacred.  She is willing to lose everything to be true to herself and to help teach understanding for the acceptance of others like her. What could be more selfless than that?  It is with her encouragement, that I begin to tell you our story.

**Update – The video that used to be here is no longer available. As with any post that is 5 years old, things change. My daughter is living an extraordinary life… her life, and I support her decisions for a relatively anonymous life. Who doesn’t want that? Well, except maybe the Kardashians. 

You can read more of our story, or find tools for acceptance in my ebooklet, an unwanted penis. Available on Amazon Kindle, iTunes, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, and other e-retailers near you. Spread the word and help more of our youth gain acceptance from their parents. #anunwantedpenis

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Long overdue thanks.

I have a considerable number of thank you letters to write.  I have always been a procrastinator when it comes to these kinds of tasks, and I’m not certain why I can’t match my good intentions with the will to actually perform the deed. However, I have always had faith in myself that at some point in my life I would make restitution to all that have touched me.  That faith gives me the courage to continue to face the folks closest to me, time and time again.  At this point in my life it seems almost too monumental – and absurdly unfair – to let it go any further. Besides, I’ve learned some things.

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Last summer I was diagnosed with cancer.  In the months since then, I have been overwhelmed by everyday acts of kindness. They zoom in on me from all directions.   A kindness that I have never known and that has, at times, overshadowed the ugliness of this disease.  The word “kindness” doesn’t quite seem strong enough.  It’s an almost incompetent and somewhat inadequate description.  There is no word applicable or one that has my need for strength of conveyance.  With the exception of perhaps the word truth.  I have seen the inner truth of a lot of people lately, and I’m humbled and awed by the beauty of it.

The truth I have felt most significantly has been that of my parents.  As an adult, I have wrapped myself in the glory of my own family and have forgotten the once upon a time of my youth.  The way in which you love your own children is the way that you are loved.  Denying it or not feeling your parents love does not constitute or guarantee its absence.  I may have grown up and become an adult and a parent, but I did not leave my youth behind as I might have thought.  It has been here, in me and around me, the entire time.  This disease has given me new eyes to watch with, and a new heart to understand with.  The absolute truth of what I know is that your life is not a linear succession of milestones, but a vast circumference of love and memories.  I did not leave home and embark on my own life, home came with me.  Always and undeniably, I am but a child of my parents.  And through the truth of their everlasting strength and indomitable will, I have returned to their clutches for protection from death‘s threat.  Their arms did not open to embrace me, but had been open all along.  I had only to notice it.  There is no reservoir of gratitude deep enough nor wide enough for me to indulge, so however humbly, these are their letters.  I write these knowing that I haven’t the courage to stand before them and acknowledge what they have done for me, or continue to do.

Dear Mom,

Thank you for life.  Thank you for antiseptic on a scraped knee, years of clean clothes, sweet affection and your on-going, endless love.  Thank you for picking me up from school in that rusty-old-barely-red heap of a Toyota that at one time I thought I might die of embarrassment to be seen in.  For I know now that you came for me, it matters not how.  Thank you for the sleepless nights at your sewing machine, so that I might have new clothes for school.  Thank you for using a shampoo that smells of coconuts. When I’m engulfed in your arms, I’m reminded of good times with sunny days on the beach.  Thank you for tirelessly coming to my appointments, for holding my hand through bad news, and for your brave face through my diagnosis.  You have remained positive and courageous in the face of all that is evil to me.

Thank you for loving my children with such reckless abandon.  I have peace that your love will find them regardless of my circumstance.  Thank you for the times that you did not stand up for me.  Your weakness in those moments gave me the courage to stand up for us both, and showed me that in your moments of great courage, I, too, may show weakness.

As a mother myself, I do understand the all-encompassing scope of your feelings for me.  We have a link and a bond untouchable by any two other people in the universe.  You carried me, you loved me shamelessly through my teenage quirks and forced a smile through my most challenging of temperaments.  And through my grief of this disease, you carry me still.

I am so sorry for the tears that have touched your cheeks and the sobs that have kept you awake at night.  It seems a cruel punishment of nature that a mother should ever know the heartbreak that she may have to watch her child die, that you are helpless in preventing it and can only hold me and hope.  For you my greatest tears have been shed, and my greatest grief has been known to me.  I feel your sorrow as I felt with my own child years ago, mixed with the grief I feel in the possibility of a future separated from my children, by my own death.

Your suffering is unbearable to my heart. It consumes and overwhelms me at levels incomprehensible.  I pray silently in your presence for the courage of your strength.  Thank you for never believing that I have become too big to sit in your lap, and for stroking my hair while I cried for myself in your arms.  Thank you for allowing me to be 5 years old with you, everyday of my life.  I love you desperately and I need you more than I tell you.

Your loving daughter.

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Dear Dad,

You have been more to me than my daddy.  You have been my teacher, mentor and friend.  I’m not sure what it is about little girls and their daddy’s, but I would believe anything you told me.  If you told me that I could grab a star from the night sky with my own fingers, I would believe every word, without question.  Because daddy said so, and I am your little kitten.

You have been the strong and vigil pillar of my life, never wavering.  You have plucked me out of danger and protected me from the boogeyman, real or imaginary.  You have been my hero and I have silently worshipped you.  You, the gentleman cowboy, with your mysteriousness and strength, you terrified me and mystified me… both at the same time.

Thank you for my shiny red toboggan, and for pushing my frozen and happy face down snowy hills for hours after your body told you to stop.  Thank you for giving me the room to make my own mistakes, for not handing me the solutions to my problems but turning me out to find them myself.  This has been an invaluable lesson in accountability, one which will find itself on the doorsteps of my children.

Thank you for always being approachable and giving me your undivided attention whether my rants be purposeful or not.  You have shown me great respect and I hope to be as dedicated to the feelings of others, as you have been to mine.  Thank you for never giving in to me, for never doting on me as daddy’s little girl, and for teaching me to face what life gives me with my shoulders up and integrity in my eye.  Thank you for teaching me the value of a soul, and for the kind nature that has been passed down through your genes.

It has never been easy for me to watch you cry, it feels as though the world is coming apart and all that was once secure is now shaken.  I have been selfish.  I have looked to you through a child’s eye for longer than my childhood.  My daddy is just a man.  A good man who weeps in the presence of a broken heart.  Forgive me for not recognizing the truly remarkable man you are, and have always been.

This disease has burdened your heart with such profound sadness and grief, and I am so sorry for it.  What is a daddy to do when he can no longer protect his little girl from the boogeyman?  Especially when that boogeyman creeps in silently in the night and wraps it’s fingers around her throat.  You admitted to me that you had asked that boogeyman to spare your child, and take you in return.  What depth of love you feel for me that you would beg God to die, so that I might live?  A sacrifice of such monumental proportions that my own soul aches confronted with such purity.  I’m ashamed and burdened with my own guilt that at one time I had offered you, for the life of my son.  My utter selfishness condemns my heart. Forgive me, once again.

For all the greatness you have shown me, thank you for the little things as well.  For shaving your head every time I had a round of chemotherapy.  Not because you would be hairless as I have been, but because you would understand that people look at you differently, and that you, like I, would spend time explaining ourselves to the ignorance of strangers.

The universe holds no boundaries for those that love with conviction, and I shall take you with me wherever my journey leads me and I will remain your little kitten, forever.  I love you desperately and need you more than I tell you.

Your loving daughter.

In writing these letters, I have determined that the vehicle of communication was not as important as the message.  So my regret in my lack of courage is superseded by my need to be heard.   Am I too hard on myself considering all the atrocities that we bestow upon ourselves and each other as human beings everyday?  I am no different, striving to find that perfect peace.  As a race we are a work in progress,  and I find it is a very interesting time to be alive.  Would I really want to live in a perfect world?  What revelations and growth would I achieve from eternal peace and harmony? Where would be the adventure and life altering epiphanies?  We struggle so hard, so that we might live.  Actually live.  We face extreme hardship and adversity so that we might experience unprecedented levels of joy and exultation.  The deeper our hurts, the stronger our love.

In facing cancer, my egotistical mind keeps asking why me?  But really, why not me?  This could be my opportunity, maybe it‘s my time to learn, or perhaps it’s my time to teach.  This lesson may not be for me, but for those who love me and are connected to me.

What greater cause of adversity could there be for me,  than to be able to allow those I love to stand beside me in battle with sorrow, so that they might truly appreciate their ability to live and to love.  What greater service could there be?  In the face of what they could lose, they might find again what was once lost to them, and feel the truth of each other.  And in sharing their truths with each other, there may be an awakening in them.  Something that moves beyond them and reaches out in kindness to strangers, this time for no reason other than that their truth must be told.  Hopefully, one day, it will not take death to loom near to teach us to live.  It is a day that I hope to see.  This cancer, my cancer, I’ve come to accept and appreciate.  It is the tool that teaches humility, even if I am the only student today.

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