Monday, December 9, 2013

A new blog, a new name

I've decided to rename and replace Tales of A Southern Yankee with a more descriptive title for our tales....Pink is the New Blue.

All my posts can be found at my new site:

Monday, November 25, 2013

Swimming and Celebrating

I’ve received a bunch of messages and have to apologize for inadvertently keeping everyone who reads my blog in suspense…I think I sometimes forget that there are people following our family’s story! I guess everyone has been wondering how the “bathing suit” party went a couple of weeks ago.

Well, I’m happy to report that it went….uh, swimmingly. (I know, I know…I just couldn’t resist.)

Here’s how it went down:

About a week before the party, I had myself a small pity party. I’ll admit, sometimes I  just wish we could have regular experiences without feeling compelled to anticipate questions, to explain circumstances, to offer answers...sometimes I just want Eli to be able to show up at the party…and sometimes the idea that this isn’t always going to be possible gets me down, makes me feel tired, brings me to tears and fits and sobs.  So I had my pity party. And when it was over, I pulled myself together and sent an email to the mom of the little girl who sweetly included Eli in her birthday. I offered a simple explanation of how we have chosen to raise Eli, advised her that he would be in a bathing suit with a skirt appropriately covering all that should be covered and that he was so excited to celebrate. And then I hit “send”.

And what I received back soothed my soul. I offered a simple explanation and received a simple (and beautiful) response. And off we went to the party. Eli drew no attention. As soon as we walked in, a bunch of kids splashed over to say hello. He jumped in the pool, swam with his friends and had himself a grand old time.  He was just Eli. Just a regular kid who showed up at the party.

One wonderful mom even said to me, “I love Eli’s bathing suit. It’s just so Eli.” Music to my ears. Yes, yes, it is so Eli.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

There is always humor

I use this blog to share some serious topics and heavy emotions. But my family's life isn't always serious and heavy. Mostly, our life is sweet. Sometimes, it's laugh out loud funny.

Last week, I brought Ethan to the doctor. Eli insisted in tagging along, dressed in his typical finery of ruffles, sparkles and bright pinks. We were alone in the waiting room except for a lone middle-aged man filling out his paper work.

As we sat waiting our turn, Eli had his hands down his pants messing around in there. I told him to stop, that it wasn't appropriate to do that in public and he stopped for a few minutes. And then he was at it again. I asked him to stop a second time. And he did. For a minute. I finally asked him, "Are you okay?".

Eli, with his headband, kitty cat shirt and pink jeans, stuck his hand down deeper and said in a loud voice, "MY PENIS IS STICKING TO ME!".

The man that was sharing the waiting room with us came into view. He stopped writing, his head shot up and he couldn't hide his confusion. He looked back between me and Eli...he may even have been scratching his head. I don't think he was, but that's how I remember it.

I tried to hide my smile...and snickered. It was just a funny, silly, Modern Family-esque moment.

One thing is certain: there is never one dull minute in our life. Not one!

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

The Trouble With Swimsuits

I spend many of my days doing research on raising transgender and gender variant children. Most days, I think "We can do this. Everything is going to be completely fine. Though he faces struggles, Eli is going to go on to live a happy and fulfilling life." Then there are days that I start thinking ahead at all the what ifs and I wonder, "How is this ever going to be okay?".

Truly, we can't plan anything in our lives, though we can certainly try. We have NO idea what is coming around the next corner. I think that knowing those things have given me some peace. I feel a certain freedom in taking one day at time, especially where Eli's development of his identity is concerned. I just never know when he is going to change his mind about something or when he wants to take a new step in expressing who he is.

It is vital for me to reserve my emotional energy, so I can't expend it trying to predict and preeminently react to what might happen next week, next month, next year. But at the same time, I need to always make sure that both of my children (and me) are always emotionally prepared to be ready to deal with whatever might crop up.

For example, the last few weeks have been smooth sailing. Everyone in my sweet family of four has been content, confident and happily cruising through all the obstacles we meet by virtue of the fact that we are taking an unusual journey.

And then yesterday I checked the mail. And there was a birthday invitation for Eli. "Great!", I thought, "Eli is making friends in his class!" But then, I opened it and my heart sank when I realized it was a swimming party. Which means a bathing suit.

Bathing suits have been evolving with Eli over the past year. Over the summer, he was content to wear "feminine-ish" bathing trunks with swim shirts in feminine colors. For instance, a striped pair of trunks that might have a purple stripe matched with a turquoise swim shirt. Throughout the summer, he requested "girl" swim shirts so I found some that were pink and decorated with hearts and flowers. This seemed to do. Until it didn't. And then he began wearing his regular girls' clothes in the pool (a cotton flowered shirt and his favorite purple skirt). He complained that they were heavy in the water but still refused to wear his boy trunks, no matter how much I tried to highlight the Hawaiian flowers and purple stripe.

I decided the time had come to transition to girl bathing suits, but I wanted them to appear appropriate and not show off certain areas...I wouldn't let Ethan wear a Speedo, so why would I let Eli wear something that is essentially like a Speedo?

With a bit of hunting (it was post bathing suit season after all), I was able to find several suits that featured a skirt. The day they arrived in the mail, Eli wore one of his new suits around the house, completely over the moon with his new swimwear.

So, the problem for this birthday party isn't that he doesn't have a bathing suit. Our school community has been so accepting of Eli. They have seen him wearing girls' clothes every day since August. Those that don't approve have been respectful enough not to share their opinions with me and those that do support Eli and our family have been kind enough to uplift us with their amazing words of encouragement. But seeing a boy in purple jeans and a shirt with a heart on it is an entirely different experience than seeing a boy sporting a sparkly pink girls' bathing suit with a ruffled skirt. While I don't feel that I've had to "adjust" to seeing Eli dressed as a girl (after all, I've watched this very organic process unfold step by step, moment by moment), I DO understand that it is still "new" to some people and that new things take some adjusting to. While this is normal life for our family, this isn't exactly mainstream.

It's days like this, days where the most normal, routine experience can send me reeling into an Oh-my-goodness-how-do-we-handle-this paralysis. Most people turn to me when they needs answers about Eli.  But the truth is, I don't always have the answers.

Monday, September 16, 2013

What Would I Do Differently?

When confronted with Eli's presentation, someone asked my husband what we would've done differently in order to avoid having a boy who dresses like a girl.

How do I even begin to answer that question?  I have the sense and the clarity to understand that the question has nothing to do with Eli and everything to do with us as Eli's parents. I suppose, really, the thing to do is to recognize that it isn't even a question. It's an accusation. An accusation that Adam and I must've made some sort of horrific mistake in our parenting approach. That there is some fatal flaw that caused our child to be this way. That we broke him when we could've fixed him.

I wasn't there when that question was asked, but if I had been, this is what my response would have been:

What would I do differently? Not a damn thing. Not. One. Damn. Thing.

Eli is absolutely and completely perfect being exactly the way he is. Exactly the way he has always been. I do not wish to change him. I do not think there is something that I did to make him the way he is. I do not think he is broken. 

But...if there was an influence that came from me to give Eli the ability to be who he is without worrying about what other people think then I have done my job. I have done my job damn well and I am damn proud. 

There is also a caveat to my response because in all honesty, there are *some* things I would do differently...

When Eli threw tantrums to express his frustration with the world, I would have hugged him a little bit tighter, held him a little bit longer.

I would have taken him shopping for girls' clothes much sooner.

I would redo all those moments where I steered him in the direction of making a clothing choice that was the least embarrassing choice for ME.

If I could do it over, I wouldn't snicker at somebody when they had a strange outfit on. I wouldn't raise my eyebrows when I saw somebody with purple hair. I wouldn't nudge a companion and point out someone's ugly coat.

I wouldn't use the words "gay" or "retarded" in place of the words "ridiculous" or "stupid". EVER.

I wouldn't make judgments about people based on the way that they look. I would take the time to get to know somebody before I created my opinion about them. I would have taken the time to get to know them the exact same way that I am asking everybody else to take the time to get to know Eli before they judge him.

I would see the person before I saw their clothes.

Yes. I guess there *are* things I would've done differently. And the first would be to filter out people who ask stupid questions.

Now, look at those smiles...does it look like we should be doing something different to you?

Monday, September 9, 2013

My Son Wears a Tutu

Eli loves to dance. Like, really loves to dance. We refer to him as "Island Time" because he is always lagging about 20 feet behind us twirling and swirling and shasaying to make his way to wherever it is that we are going. It seemed only natural to enroll him in dance lessons.

On registration day, I noticed that there were some boys only classes, but knew that Eli wanted to be with "the girls" (because he'd told me). When we walked up to the desk to choose his class, Eli was dressed in head-to-toe pink, complete with one of his "wigs". The director smiled at Eli and we chose a class that would work with our schedule. As we were ready to walk out the door, I realized I needed to let her know about our unique situation. She handled it well, not reacting positively or negatively - although I did notice a look of surprise flash in her eyes for a brief moment - and promised to explain everything to Eli's teacher.

Easy enough, right?

The day arrived when we were to go back to Eli's dance school and buy the shoes he would need for his classes (tap, ballet and jazz). Normally, I have a plan, a somewhat rehearsed approach to make our situation understood in 10 seconds or less with minimal embarrassment to either Eli or Ethan or to the person we are talking to, along with my fierce emotions removed from the conversation. But on this day, I didn't have anything rehearsed. Or planned. Because I hadn't been able to decide how to handle it. Would Eli wear the "boys" outfit which consisted of black ballet slippers and plain old athletic shorts and a tee shirt? Should I buy the pink ballet shoes (since he was dressed as a girl on this day) and return them later for black?

It's days like this that I sometimes feel sorry for myself and wish that Eli and I could experience these seemingly normal, everyday experiences without the need for rehearsal, without the fear of drama, without drawing attention to ourselves.

When we walked into the crowded room, we were approached by a sweet teenage girl that offered to help us find the right size shoes. A quick scan of the room told me they only had pink shoes available.

" boys wear different shoes?", I asked.

As she began fitting Eli, she said that boys wear black ballet shoes but they would have to have them sent to us since they didn't bring any with them that day.


After finding the right size, she handed Eli a box of pink ballet shoes and asked if we needed tights.


" don't think...we...will...need tights..."

She grabbed a pair anyway and thrust them into my hand explaining that they were being offered here for much less than you could normally buy them and we should just buy one pair anyway. And with that she led us over to where the leotards were hanging and proceeded to tell us we needed to buy baby blue and showed us several in Eli's size.

Feeling sheepish, I pulled two leotards off the rack, found matching skirts and asked Eli what he thought of them. Of course, he was smitten.

After paying for everything, including a garish bright pink dance bag that Eli begged me for, the director approached us and asked if we found everything we needed. I opened the bag full of tights, leotards and ballet skirts and smiled wide and said "Eli's coming as a girl. And I bought skirts to hide, you know...." and gestured to a place below my belt buckle. I held my breath for her response.

The director smiled back at me. "We'll see you Tuesday."

That was it!? As we walked to the car, I kept looking over my shoulder to see if anyone was following me, to pull me aside and tell me that Eli actually wasn't welcome in class and that maybe we should find another dance school that was willing and able to meet our needs. But there was no one there. I kept blinking, wondering if I'd imagined how simple that had been.

I've navigated these situations enough times that I didn't toss and turn that night, wondering if I'd made the right choice for Eli. Because I already knew the answer. And if I didn't know that I'd done right by Eli, his giant smiles would've shown me that I did:

Friday, August 16, 2013

Endings and Beginnings

Our suitcases have been unpacked, the last bit of sand has been shaken out of our bathing suits and the kids are back at school. Summer is officially over.

The end of summer was sad for me (for more reasons than no longer being able to sleep in and eat my weight in ice cream). Eli had the freedom to be who he was this summer. He wore girls' clothes every day. No one, not even any of our beach house neighborhood kids, gave him a second look. In fact, they seemed to always be clustered around him, jumping in the waves by day, playing Manhunt in the connecting yards by night, the kids always calling his name to come and play.

I loved this freedom of his, loved this easy, effortless acceptance, loved the mornings spent without struggling over what to wear, free of the burden of wanting to do one thing but feeling pressured to do another. I worried that with the start of the school year, this bliss would come to end and that Eli's inner battles would return.

Imagine my relief when Eli confidently marched into school on the first day dressed in a girl's version of the first day of school uniform. He was so sure of himself, that I forgot to be nervous for him. His teacher welcomed him with a warm hug and he sent me out of the classroom with a half-hearted squeeze around my legs. I've never been so happy to be passively dismissed.

As the subsequent days have unfolded, Eli's confidence in meandering his path has been building.  I expected tantrums and tears, fears and frustrations, but I've actually noticed a calmer Eli who seems to be more in control of his emotions. I am content to let him take the lead on how he manages his social interactions and becomes more comfortable with "being out of the closet", but he knows that on his journey, I am never far behind him.

Friday, June 28, 2013

Raising a Red Head in a Red State

I've lived in Georgia since 1999 after spending my childhood in Massachusetts. Though I moved to Atlanta as an adult, I feel like the South is where I really grew up. Although extremely friendly, Georgia is also extremely conservative. I didn't give much thought to what it means to live in a red state, until spending the last week and a half in the vicinity of Massachusetts, straddling the border of Massachusetts and New Hampshire.

Eli wears his "hair" everywhere we go. For those who don't know, his "hair" is a colored head band with hair extensions that I now buy by the case at Dollar Tree. 

As one can imagine, Eli gets a lot of attention with his brightly colored hair extensions (although his naturally red hair can draw enough attention on its own as can be seen in this piece I wrote a few years ago). When we are home in our northwestern Atlanta suburb, most people will make comments such as, "Wow! Look at that hair!", or "What have you got on your head?". When we are out as a family, the four of us are used to smiling politely and making some sort of quiet and awkward response so that we can just continue on our way and enjoy our anonymity once again.

But in the last week and a half, I've noticed a huge shift. When Eli has worn his hair out, we have been approached just as many times as when we are at home. But the responses to Eli and his lovely locks are entirely different here than they are at home. Almost unilaterally, the comment is, "Wow! What beautiful hair!". The only other comment we have heard was just a couple of nights ago, when were out in Newburyport. Instead of saying "What beautiful hair," two gentlemen sitting on a stoop and smoking cigarettes said, "You have a really cool kid!" with big, appreciative smiles.

I smiled back and said, "Yes, I really do."

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Wednesday in Pictures

Our first beach day of the season:

My most favorite city in the world:

Ethan at his summer art class:

Eli and I wasting time together