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Sunday, June 21, 2009

Anneke & Ben

Ben is a great dad and partner. He has been unconditionally accepting of Anneke since her birth. He became a father at age 40, and states often that he never imagined he'd be a father at all - and its the best thing that has ever happened to him.

Here are five fun facts about Ben (Anneke's dad)

1. He does not own a suit or tie - Anneke, however, does.
2. He sell medical marijuana for a living. Making him to many the coolest dad ever.
3. He is Dutch and deeply proud of his heritage.
4. He cries at all special occasion. Eg:this am reading his father's day card from Anneke.
5. He loves the Rolling Stones, and wears a Stone's T-shirt most days.

Ben is a great dad. Happy Father's Day.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Confessions of an aspiring soccer mom

I am happy to report, I am often told by friends and strangers alike that I am a good mom. "S/he is so lucky to have parents like you," many say. While I agree that's true, and much preferred over an intolerant, inflexible, homophobic mom I wish daily that I was a better mom.

The truth is since the day Anneke was born, I have felt like a clever impostor. When Anneke was first born I felt like a high school kid given an egg to take home and nurture like a newborn. None of my friends had kids yet, and my mom was the least maternal woman in my life ie: she was no help. Every birthday, I have breathed a deep sigh of relief that I have not yet dropped or damaged the egg. Like any impostor, however, I live in fear of being discovered for the fraud that I am.

I have a few deep flaws that have been hard to change over the years, but over the past few weeks I have made huge progress. One of them is that I am very disorganized and messy. I know it drives my kids nuts, but like all children they have adapted to the chaos that is our home/life. I joke to many that I am one mental health breakdown from being one of those hoarders/collectors you see on TV. It is closer to the truth that I like to admit.

So on my birthday in May I did two things. I hired a cleaning woman, who is amazing, new to Canada, and needs me to help her as much as I need her to help me. Second, I bought several Peter Walsh 'clear the clutter' books, and have begun to purge and organize our home. Yes, in case you are wondering, I am reading the books and have only misplaced them once.

Over the past three days I have exited 6 garbage bags of 'stuff' to either the local charity or to the garbage. Most has been going to My Sister's Closet, a store whose proceeds assist battered women's shelters.

Today is soccer day in our house. Molly had two games this morning followed by Anneke's two games. Molly is on team Tanzania, Anneke team Mexico. Our normal pre-game routine involved madly looking for their team shirts, praying that they don't smell, then scrambling to find cleats and socks. Notice Anneke (far left) in the picture above does not have soccer socks, on picture day. Long ago I established a soccer drawer, which I encouraged them to use to put store their belongings. This was a system that seemed to work in theory not practice.

Except today! Both girls went to the drawer and found all of their necessary belongings...and they were clean! Anneke, who I know, craves more order in our life, remarked. "Wow, that's great! It's all here." No searching necessary.

Today I baked organic blueberry muffins in my clean kitchen and made healthy, hot lunch and healthy (albeit late) dinner. Perhaps my days as an impostor are coming to an end.

Five facts about Anneke

1. S/he learned to walk (and run) and an obscenely young age - 9.5 months

2. S/he avidly, somewhat obsessively collects hockey cards (and plays hockey.)

3. S/he is deeply kind, empathetic and sensitive. S/he is the first one to befriend the new kid at school, or help a friend.

4. S/he has suffered from anxiety and depression - both are much improved today.

5. S/he is an amazing athlete. Hockey, soccer, volleyball....there is nothing s/he can't do!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

More about blockers

The one thing I have learned being a parent for the past 12+ years is that you never know with certainty that you are doing the right thing. From diaper cream to university, its a never ending array of choices. The choice to start your child on 'blockers' is another one in the long list, where you don't know with certainly you're right. But, as I tell parents every day, you have to trust your instincts.

The best guide you will ever have is your child. Listen to your child. They will tell you what they need, and what works for them. Even babies are able to do this if you listen carefully.

Over the past 9 months Anneke has been taking blockers, many of her friends have begun to grow breasts and start their periods. Soon her 'difference' will be obvious. We'll cross that bridge when we get there.

The following is some more info about blockers as a 'controversial' therapy for trans-gendered children.

The treatment will begin with what is known as a “hormone blocker,” a drug that will postpone the physical changes of adolescence. Some doctors are using hormone blockers to buy time for transgender youth, so they can decide whether they are certain they want to transition. If not, the doctor stops the blocker and the child matures as he or she otherwise would have. If, however, the youth wishes to transition, the doctor stops the blocker and begins “cross-sex hormone” treatments.

Debate about the medical and ethical ramifications of postponing adolescence is fervent. Opponents question how anyone under the age of consent can make a decision about their gender, and point to potential side effects of treatment. Advocates say that the treatment spares kids the pain of developing features they don’t identify with, saves much of the cost of altering those features through surgery, and reduces the risk of suicide and self-mutilation.
Recently, debate in the medical community has shifted toward a “harm prevention” model, says Dr. Norman Spack, senior endocrinologist and co-founder/co-director of gender management services at Children’s Hospital Boston. Just two years ago, Dr. Spack says, The Endocrine Society refused to host a symposium of the world’s most renowned transgender specialists. Now, the society has asked them to create recommended standards of practice for treatment, which they will publish in about a year and a half.
Further, last February, Dr. Spack and Children’s Hospital Boston, opened the first major clinic in the country to treat transgender children, and they are working closely with European physicians at the forefront of the field.
Physicians at the Amsterdam Gender Clinic, for example, had, by last February, treated about 60 patients by blocking puberty in children who “met strict requirements.” A 2007 article describes the physicians’ work and the criteria the children must meet: “Their Gender Identity Disorder had existed since an early age; they were otherwise psychologically stable; and [they] had a supportive family.” The article reports that the adolescents were “between the ages of 12 and 16 … half of whom were referred early enough to start shortly after the onset of puberty. For those who had reached the middle stages of puberty, the drug could slightly reverse and stop any further development.”
A tough decision
Whether to treat transgender children is a difficult decision to make. Not only must parents and doctors decide whether the child’s feelings are going to last and consider types of treatment and when to begin, parents must also bear the cost of treatment and the fact that they may be met with lack of family support or, at the very least, incomprehension from friends and family.
“[People] don’t understand why we as parents are doing this,” says Daniel’s mother, Stephanie Grant,* who’s written a “booklet” about her experiences titled The Agony of Nurturing the Spirit. “It’s not just because of the suicide rate. It’s one thing to have general reassignment surgery that costs $30,000 to $40,000. But testosterone is such a wicked hormone. … [Transgender] adults spend hundreds of dollars and hours getting rid of hair, muscle tissue, having one’s face removed because testosterone causes changes in jaw structure etc. To save our children from the many hours of surgery, we have an opportunity to help future adult transgenders to just need [genital] reassignment surgery, because what they go through is unbelievable. [But,] people don’t understand why we can’t wait.”

As parents Ben and I have made our share of bad decisions. Blockers for Anneke is not one of them.

Dr. Metzger and blockers

A couple years ago. Anneke became very depressed. S/he had chronic headaches, stomach aches, and missed a lot of school. Many doctor visits later we realized s/he was very depressed and anxious. Much of it had to do with the subtle changes her body was going through that indicated the onset of puberty. To her, her body was betraying her.

"I don't want boobs mom. I just don't." S/her would fervently state.

As if by miracle of fate, my student that year told me about an endocrinologist at BC Children's Hospital who helped 'gender variant' children block the hormones of puberty until they felt ready to adopt the gender that fit them best. For some that meant starting testosterone, and never developing into a female body.

When I told Anneke about his doctor and this possible therapy, s/he immediately said "When can we see him?" About a month later we were in Dr. Metzger's office. He began our visit by asking which pronoun Anneke preferred to use - he or she. S/he said she. He asks this question at every visit. He also asks if Anneke is still the name s/he prefers to be called. He really understands our child. He asked Anneke at that visit what she wanted, as he said most kids who came to him had a clear idea of what they wanted from him. In her own words she said s/he had heard he could prescribe a medication that could prevent her from 'growing boobs' and developing other female characteristics. By the end of the appointment Anneke had her first injection of Lupron a hormone 'blocker' that is now largely considered a community standard in treating trans-gendered children/adolescents.

Anneke has been taking blockers for the past 9 months and has never been happier. No more headaches, no more missed school. As a parent it is a huge decision to make on behalf of your child. While there of no dangerous long term side effects, it feels like a huge step to block puberty in your 12 year old child. Now that we see how happy s/he is, however, it feel like a no brainer. I give Anneke her monthly injection. It cost over $500 per month. A small price to pay for your child's happiness.

At New Year's our family goes around and states what the best thing about the past year has been. For Anneke it was meeting Dr. Metzger - go figure.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Conference for families

Anneke and I went to this conference last year. It's for families raising gender non-conforming children and for health professionals who support them. To say it was amazing is a huge understatement. Up until that conference, we had felt very alone and isolated in our journey as parents. I can only imagine how isolated Anneke feels at times. We also didn't have language like 'gender fluid', or tools to advocate in school and camp. It was like putting on an oxygen mask!

Anneke made friends, and met inspiring adults leading wonderful happy lives. There were gender free bathrooms!
We've registered for this year and the whole family is going. I highly recommend it.
For recordings of last years' conference workshops and for the agenda for this year check out their web-site

Great book by Stephanie Brill