Where Oh Where Did My Little Blog Go?

Saturday, May 30, 2009

With Love for Cameron...

Several years ago Cameron drew this picture. I grabbed the Camera to capture the moment. I was so excited... Cameron had drawn a picture of a woman's body. It was the first time that I had ever seen him act like a "normal boy". His apparent interest in the opposite sex made me feel relieved and hopeful that the "phase" might FINALLY be ending...

Looking back, it's quite evident that Cameron was trying to tell me something... It took me several years to "listen". Thank God for the precious, forgiving nature of children... thank God for my beautiful child.

Everything Possible
lyrics by Fred Small

We have cleared off the table,
the leftovers saved,
Washed the dishes and put them away
I have told you a story and tucked you in tight
At the end of your knockabout day

As the moon sets its sails to carry you to sleep
Over the midnight sea
I will sing you a song no one sang to me
May it keep you good company.


You can be anybody you want to be,
You can love whomever you will
You can travel any country where your heart leads
And know I will love you still
You can live by yourself, you can gather friends around,
You can choose one special one
And the only measure of your words and your deeds
Will be the love you leave behind when you're done.

There are girls who grow up strong and bold
There are boys quiet and kind
Some race on ahead, some follow behind
Some go in their own way and time

Some women love women, some men love men
Some raise children, some never do
You can dream all the day never reaching the end
Of everything possible for you.

Don't be rattled by names, by taunts, by games
But seek out spirits true
If you give your friends the best part of yourself
They will give the same back to you.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"Mom... do you think Jesus loves me?"

"Mom, do you think Jesus loves me?"

My heart ached... Despite all of the uncertainty in our lives, there is one thing I know for certain - Christ loves my child. Yet, somehow, she wonders...

Cameron's question magnified my greatest concern - the rejection she is likely to experience through the traditional religious practices of a self-proclaimed Christian society that rejects gender variant people. This is illustrated by a recent letter from family back home...

Dear Christina,
I am a pretty quiet person and I hate getting in the middle of heated discussions, but when an issue is brought to my attention that affects a child this much I have to say something. Cameron is a boy. Treat him like he is the smartest boy in school, he'll be the smartest boy in school. Treat him like he is an idiot, he'll be an idiot. Treat him like a boy, he'll be a boy. Treat him like he is gay, he'll be gay. You want him gay, let him be gay. Don't take such drastic steps at 10. Let him do it when he is ready to leave for college. He'll be more mature and think through this better. He'll understand the consequences.No matter how you dress him, treat him, talk to him he will always be a BOY! LIke Obama said, "Put lipstick on a pig and its still a pig." I don't like Obama, but he speaks the truth in this instance.There are much better ways to get a girl. The Chinesse have many to spare, they are killing the extras. Adoption would be a far better use of money and you would be saving a life of a child. You would be a hero to that child. Isn't that what you want, isn't that why you gave a kidney? Be a hero and save a child from another country.

To profess to have the answers for someone else's life is dangerous. I have spent hours on my knees asking the Lord why I have been assigned this trial in my life. The answers have not come easy, but one thing I know for certain - the Lord has heard my prayers and he is guiding my path. Rather than claim to know the will of God for everyone's life, we should turn to the Lord for personal understanding and encourage others to do likewise. That is the purpose of this blog... "to encourage others to do likewise". During the Sermon on the Mount, the Savior taught...

"By their fruits ye shall know them. Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wondeful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity."

As with intersex conditions, transgender individuals suffer developmental complications as a result of physiological abnormalities that occur during fetal development. These abnormalities manifest through variant cellular gender identity markers in the brain.

Because I have embraced what I know to be true about my child, I face the possibility of losing the support of my religious community... support that I need, especially at this time in my life. I have taught Cameron to turn to the guidance of the Savior...

"Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye, and a tooth for a tooth: But I say unto you, That ye resist not evil: but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also. And if any man will sue thee at the law, and take away thy coat, let him have thy cloke also. And whosoever shall compell thee to go a mile, go with him twain. Give to him that asketh thee, and from him that would borrow of thee turn not thou away. ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour, and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; That ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for he maketh his sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust. FOR IF YE LOVE THEM WHICH LOVE YOU, WHAT REWARD HAVE YE? AND IF YE SALUTE YOUR BRETHEREN ONLY. WHAT DO YE MORE THAN OTHERS? Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect."

When faced with adversity, I turn to the Lord, to the scriptures, and to my faith for strength and invevitably I find peace. On numerous occasions, I have spoken the words, "Look with you're eyes... 'see' with your heart." This has become a fundamental moral principle in our home... I have taught my children that the eyes are the greatest deceptors of the soul. I have been challenged to practice this principle.

In the fifteenth chapter of Matthew, before visiting the coast of Tyre, Scribes and Pharisees from Jerusalem inquired of the Savior, "Why do thy disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they wash not their hands when they eat bread." Hand washing was a customary Jewish practice of the time. The Scribes and Pharisees were offended at the observation that the apostles did not practice this custom. Christ responded by teaching a profound principle...

"Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? Ye hypocrites, well did Esaias prophesy of you, saying, This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines, the commandments of men."

Then, Christ gathers the multitude and begins to teach an extremely important moral principle.

He says, "Hear and understand; Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man."

When the Savior had finished, the apostles approached him with concern, "Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying?" The savior responded, "Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch."

Then Peter asks the Lord for clarification saying, "Declare unto us this parable."

At this point, Christ responds by saying, "Are ye also yet without understanding? Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the drought? But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man."

When faced with obstacles in life, there is one thing that has always brought me peace... turning to the Lord for guidance. I have chosen not to follow the example of the Pharisees by blindly practicing traditions for the sake of tradition. Instead, I have chosen to listen to the whispering of my child's heart and the testimony that I have gained through the tender mercy of the Savior, and the guidance of the Holy Ghost as I have studied in search for truth. I have been blessed with the knowledge to clearly see and understand my child. "Ask, and it shall be given you; seek, and ye shall find; knock, and it shall be opened unto you: For every one that asketh receiveth; and he that seeketh findeth; and to him that knocketh it shall be opened."

When I look at Cameron with my eyes... I see my son. When I look at Cameron with my heart, I see a beautiful daughter of God. Christ taught that the body is merely a "vehicle" for the spirit. Our "appearance" is insignificant in the eyes of the Savior. How many times have we heard, or recited the adage, "It's not what's on the outside that counts" - yet we seldom practice this principle in our lives. A letter from back home has guided me to the words of a loving Savior, "This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me." Our bodies are a temporary means to an eternal end. These "vehicles" demonstrate their temporary nature as they age, suffer disease and deformity, and are susceptible to illness.

The things of paramount importance in this life will accompany us to our eternal home... knowledge, experience, works, relationships, and - most importantly - our testimony of Christ. It matters little, what we "drive" through this mortal existence, what we look like, or what we wear - as taught by the Savior in the Sermon on the mount, "I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on." Our focus in life should be to cultivate, refine, and perfect the spirit. Now, let's revisit Cameron's question...

"Mom... do you think Jesus loves me?"

I embraced the opportunity to help her understand...

"Jesus performed miracles and taught eternal truths - even when it was unpopular. He was beaten, spat on, ridiculed, and rejected. Those who couldn't understand and refused to believe that he was the son of God- hammered nails through his wrists and feet, then crucified him.

You see, Cameron... nobody understands you more than the Savior. He knows what it's like to feel alone... to be misunderstood, tormented, and rejected. There is one thing that I know to be true... Jesus loves you very much."

Cameron sat for a moment and thought - then she said, "Mom... Jesus didn't lie about who he was, and he wouldn't want me to either."

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Breaking Down Barriers

Matthew 15: 21 - 28

I met with my Bishop last night, not to seek his approval for my decision to support my daughter in her desire to live a normal life, but rather to advocate for her physical and spiritual well-being. I had always been taught that Christ's gospel and it's leaders are blessed with the power of discernment and the gift of revelation. I had received personal revelation on the matter, in the form of profound answers to prayer, and approached the meeting with a cautious optimism that maybe - perhaps - there was some small chance that the same would be revealed in a joint session with my religious counsellor. The night was long... the meeting drug on for about four and a half hours, well into the night. We invited the spirit of the Lord to join us. We began by kneeling together in prayer and ended on our knees in prayer... the in-between was spent engaged in a discussion about a variety of religious concepts that Cameron's case brought into focus. There were moments where we cried together, moments where we laughed together, and I'm sure it won't come as the slightest surprise to those of you who know me... there were plenty of moments when we argued different approaches to the same topic. I received an answer to prayer this morning as I pondered some of the thoughts shared by my Bishop. One part of our discussion weighed on my mind. At one point, he used a scripture reference to illustrate that even Christ, himself, refused healing to a gentile woman who - with great faith - sought the unconditional love of the Savior and a miracle for her daughter. The implication was clear... not all children of God will be accepted into the fold. This bothered me, in large part because I couldn't recall the scripture, and moreover because - at that moment - I was that mother, seeking the Savior's perfect love on behalf of my child. I tossed and turned over it for the majority of the night. First thing this morning I began to research the scripture. I went to the church website and found nothing so I typed "Christ refuses to heal woman" into the search engine on the computer. Immediately an article popped up by Rev. Dr. Bruce Larson entitled "Breaking Down Barriers"...

MAN BITES DOG! There’s an old saying in the newspaper business: When a dog bites a man, that’s not news – it happens all the time. But when a man bites a dog, that’s news! Today’s gospel reading gives us just that kind of news – man bites dog! Things turn topsy-turvy! Let’s look at the story to see how this happens. The setting is the district of Tyre and Sidon, a district on the coast of the Mediterranean Sea, where Lebanon is today.

Tyre was an ancient Phoenician city, famous for centuries as an attractive port for ships from all over the Mediterranean. In the time of Christ, Tyre was a large, cosmopolitan city where a diverse array of peoples and cultures, religions and philosophies interacted. Tyre and Israel were bitter enemies. Many of the great Jewish prophets condemned it harshly, and with reason. Tyre participated in the slave trade and its merchants worked on the sabbath in order to make more money. So, by being in this area, Jesus went to a very difficult place – culturally dominated by gentiles, religiously diverse, and potentially hostile.

So, why would Jesus go there? Ministry among his own people was hard enough. Why go to an area full of your people’s enemies? Put simply, so he could rest. It was an ingenious plan, really. No self-respecting Jew would be caught dead in the region around Tyre. He was tired, dead tired, from the crowds and from the scribes and Pharisees who constantly hounded him. So Jesus went to an enemy area to get away for some muchneeded “r and r.”

As clever as his plan was, though, it didn’t work. No sooner had Jesus entered this region than a woman from there came out and started shouting at him about her deathly-ill daughter. Then she bows down before Jesus and begs him to heal her daughter. And what do we expect? “Gentle Jesus, meek and mild, healer and lover of all” – of course he would heal the kid. That’s what Jesus was all about, right? Wrong. He told the woman to get lost: “Let the children be fed first,” he says, "for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”

Jesus’ refusal comes like an allegory. “The children” who should be “fed first” are the Jews, to whom Jesus first ministers because they are his people and because, as he and his people believed, the Jews were God’s covenant people. Believing in the special status of the Jews, then, Jesus thinks it would be unfair to take his ministry and give it to the dogs – that is, to the gentiles. For Jews, the dog was a common and – despite all us dog-lovers here – a highly offensive metaphor for gentiles. So here, Jesus refuses to heal the woman’s daughter because he would be squandering his ministry on gentiles. The Jews have priority. So, instead of granting the woman’s request, Jesus insults her, calling her a dog.

From his human frame of reference, Jesus had every reason to refuse her. She was a woman, a second-class citizen in Jewish culture. Add to this, her child was also female. Then these females, the woman and her daughter, were gentiles – doubly second-class in Jewish eyes. And they lived in enemy territory – triply second-class. From the perspective of his time and culture, Jesus had every reason to ignore the woman’s request.

This being said, if you are still protesting that Jesus is way out of character here, you are absolutely right. In all the gospels, this is the only place where Jesus flatly refuses someone who comes to him with a request. The only place. But look what happens. This woman doesn’t just slink away. No, she takes Jesus on. And she wins! “Sir,” she replied, “even the dogs under the table eat their master’s crumbs.” This woman creatively uses Jesus’ own words to get what she needs for her daughter.

Just as Jesus’ initial response is unique in the gospels for its harshness, the response of the woman is the only place in all the gospels where Jesus is out-argued, "bested” in verbal repartee. The woman’s response puts Jesus on his heels. He gives in, and heals her daughter. This is a rare moment where we see Jesus in all his fallible humanity, a moment that most certainly would have been left out by a gospel writer who wanted only to build Jesus’ reputation as a divine savior.

So then, if the story makes Jesus look bad, why did Matthew include it? Here is the “man bites dog.” Matthew included it so that we could hear from the woman! The focus here is not on Jesus, but on the woman and what she teaches us through her unexpected response. She took all the supposedly “good” reasons Jesus could muster to refuse her and turned them on their head. In this unique gospel story, then, it’s not Jesus but the woman who plays the role of God. Imagining a woman playing the role of God can be disconcerting for us. But there’s more. Consider the woman’s challenge about who is acceptable to receive the blessing of God.

We like to believe that, as our motto says, we “welcome everyone who welcomes everyone.” This is a wonderful statement and reminder to be a welcoming community of faith. In new member orientation sessions, I always ask: “What attracted you to this church?” Many have remarked, “Somebody talked to me the first time I came.” Just think of it. A simple conversation is sometimes all it takes. May we continue to do this! But we are also fallible human beings, and so, even without intending to, we sometimes set boundaries about who is in and who is out. Our habitual practices as a congregation can function as boundary markers, serving to exclude as much as they include. We want to be welcoming, but our human tendency is to follow what’s comfortable for us, to relate only with those we know. So, to help counter this human tendency, during worship services, we pass the peace of Christ with those whom we know and with those whom we don’t. We pray for those whom we know, and for those whom we don’t. And we pray the Lord’s Prayer in a version that most reflects our heart even if it isn’t the same for all.

These and similar habitual practices are good, but we must not assume that they alone are enough. Just like habitual practices of Jesus – focusing on his own people, expecting little from women, and so on – were turned on their head by this Canaanite woman, this enemy speaking with the voice of God, so too must we look on a regular basis to our own habitual practices and ask ourselves what are we assuming? What are we doing – really doing? We need to ask ourselves these questions beyond our church, too. In our community, and in our city, and in our society as a whole, we need to ask ourselves what we are really doing. For example, what are we really doing when we spend billions to build barriers along the order with Mexico while bridges in this country are falling down? What is it that we are so afraid of?

While viewing the opening ceremony of the Olympics the other night –- weren’t they something? -- I was especially struck by one bit of symbolism. The Great Wall of China appeared in all its foreboding presence, a testimony to one nation’s attempt to keep enemies out, the symbol of our human tendency to exclude. And then, unexpectedly, the image of the Great Wall began, ever so slowly, to change. Bit by bit, it changed from stones and mortar to living things – to beautiful flowers! What a transformation! The greatest barrier ever built by human beings, built out of fear to keep people apart, changed before our eyes into an image of beauty and wonder.

In our own lives, to experience a similar transformation, to move beyond a fear that paralyzes, let us take as our model the faith of the Canaanite woman. Through her, we see a God who takes everything we believe about who is acceptable, and turns it on its head. Through her, we see a God who takes everything we believe about where God speaks to us, and turns it on its head. Through her, we see a God who takes everything we believe about our habits and customs, and turns them on their head.

So this is our challenge today. Think about the one person in your life whom you think most unlikely to be an agent of God’s grace, and look for God to speak to you through that person. Or think about that group of people, labeled by our society as misfits or outsiders or even enemies, people whom you think most unlikely to be agents of God’s grace, and look for God to speak to you through them. And how can we do this? We do this the only way we can – through faith. Through faith, we can open ourselves to God’s unexpected ways. Through faith, we can listen for God’s voice from unexpected people and learn from God through unexpected experiences. Through faith, we can respond to God in word and deed. And then – then, in “man bites dog” fashion – we will throw all we are and all we have to God, the creator, lover, and
sustainer of us all. Amen

I have no doubt that my bishop - an amazing man... a good man who, by his own admission, was unsure how to guide me with the challenges we are facing in our family at this time - was inspired to share this scripture with me. Although neither of us could foresee, or remotely comprehend, the answers the Lord would provide as I turned to faith in search of understanding. The spirit is a powerful blessing... and manifest that power as I received peace through this account in Matthew, of a day... long ago... in the city of Tyre.

This has been my greatest struggle... the division that once existed in my heart - between the mainstream, publicly accepted Christian traditions and the testimony I have received by reverently listening to - and learning from - my child. Commonly accepted Christian beliefs assert that Cameron cannot be true to herself and be free of condemnation from the Lord. As the agent assigned to her care during this temporal journey... the responsibility to guide her in truth and righteousness falls on my shoulders. The painstaking challenge to reconcile all of this in my heart has been the greatest spiritual, emotional, and psychological journey of my life... a journey to understanding.

Cameron doesn't fit into the "pink box" or the "blue box" that has been created, mandated, and maintained by men. The testimony that I have gained, through the power of the spirit, has helped me to understand that there is one "box" where she belongs... it's a box delicately crafted for all of us by a loving Father in Heaven. My greatest obstacle, the division that I have felt for so long, does not come from God. Much like the Canaanite woman, I refuse to accept that the Savior and Redeemer of the world would walk past me during my greatest challenge or dismiss my child in the midst of her darkest hour. So, I am left with a responsibility to understand what Christ was trying to teach, through his actions that day, long ago... on the coast at Tyre.

Christ was perfect... he taught through parables, through scripture, and - most importantly - through his actions. Are we to believe that the Savior and Redeemer of the world suffered a momentary lapse of perfection... that the love and tender mercy that he feels for the children of men suddenly evaded him? Did he want us to believe that he had a brief, fleeting moment of temporary insanity??? No... I testify to you that the Savior, in his perfection, knew that there was a profound lesson that needed to be taught... perhaps the Lord didn't travel to Tyre to rest... perhaps he went to Tyre to "set the stage" for this moral principle... to seek out the Canaanite woman. Through her faith, he teaches the principle of acceptance. Remember, Christ was perfect and didn't require the cleansing waters of baptism... yet he was baptised to set the example for all of us. Christ is the son of God, and inasmuch, is perfect... yet he "passed judgement" on the Canaanite woman. With a similar exemplary focus, the Savior illustrated the actions that we all should take, by demonstrating that God speaks to us through those whom we believe are most unlikely to receive his grace. It's our responsibility to follow the example of the Savior, to open our hearts, and to listen...

25. Then came she and worshipped him saying, "Lord, help me."
26. But he answered and said, "It is not meet to take the children's bread, and to cast it to dogs."
27. And she said, "Truth, Lord, yet the dogs eat of the crumbs which fall from their masters' table."
28. Then Jesus answered and said unto her, "O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt." And her daughter was made whole from that very hour.

This truly is our challenge, it falls on my shoulders... it falls on yours...

"Think about the one person in your life whom you think most unlikely to be an agent of God’s grace, and look for God to speak to you through that person. Or think about that group of people, labeled by our society as misfits or outsiders or even enemies, people whom you think most unlikely to be agents of God’s grace, and look for God to speak to you through them. And how can we do this? We do this the only way we can – through faith. Through faith, we can open ourselves to God’s unexpected ways. Through faith, we can listen for God’s voice from unexpected people and learn from God through unexpected experiences. Through faith, we can respond to God in word and deed. And then – then, in “man bites dog” fashion – we will throw all we are and all we have to God, the creator, lover, and sustainer of us all. Amen."

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The Awakening

It was on a midsummer afternoon several years ago when I set out to run some errands. Cameron, who was seven years old at the time, insisted on coming along to spend a little "alone time with mom". With four children in our home, it was sometimes difficult to find the time for one-on-one moments. We had taken care of my task list, accomplished the things that needed to be done, and were on our way home when Cameron made it clear that he had added one more major task to the agenda...

He began to break down and cry. The tears quickly turned into uncontrollable sobs and, as any mom would, I began the natural inquiry, "What's wrong Cameron? Are you okay?" Still... there was no response and the sobs continued. I proceeded with my inquisition, "What's going on, honey?" Again... there was no response and the sobs became inconsolable. I proceeded to play the medical version of hot and cold... "Are you sick?" He shook his head as if to say "no". I continued, "Is your tummy hurting?" Again, he shook his head in denial. At that moment, my inquisition shifted to pleading, "Cameron... tell me what's wrong. You know, you can always talk to me and I'll always be here for you. What's going on?"...

There's something about the moments that profoundly change our lives... we tend to remember every detail... where we are, what we're doing, and - most importantly - what we feel. Every detail of the conversation that followed is etched in my mind... Like a moment frozen in time. The conversation that ensued became a chapter in my life, forever engraved in my heart. It paved a path to greater discovery that has led to a foundation of insight and profound understanding...

Cameron had always been unusually feminine. These seeming non-conformity's to "gender appropriate" interests and behaviors became blatantly obvious in our home - an environment "charged" with testosterone. I had four sons (or... so I believed at the time). Even the dog was a male. Life in our home was completely consumed by rough and tumble play compounded by incessant wrestling, shouting, climbing, competing and fighting. Our day to day life was consumed by super heroes, action figures, video games, basketball, dirt, football, and grass stains. Needless to say, Cameron's behavior stood out as being odd from an early age. He'd seize opportunities to openly express his femininity. I struggled with Cameron's independence and felt torn between the responsibility I felt to support my child and my own selfish desperation for the "phase" to run it's course so that he could finally become the "normal" boy that I had brought into the world.

A phase will do just that... a phase will "run a course". It'll end. The more time that passed, it became evident that Cameron's course was set on a path to permanency. He'd demand a girl's toy with his happy meal at fast food restaurants, he played exclusively with girls and girl's toys, he'd sit to go to the bathroom, and he'd frequently express frustration with his brothers' behavior. In later years, he was absolutely repulsed by the fact that they found belching and farting to be fantastic sources of entertainment - which frequently resulted in pass-time competitions and laughter fests.

At age three or four, Cameron announced that he hated his penis- he said it was a mistake and that it wasn't supposed to be there. He seemed relentless in his disdain for the "unwanted appendage". In my naivete and frustration, resulting from the helplessness I felt with his persistence on the matter, I made a light-hearted sarcastic joke, "What do you expect me to do about it... snip it off?" I figured he would laugh... or at the very least, come to his senses and realize that there was nothing that could be done about the situation. Sensing my frustration with the disappointment he felt in his body... he let it go. He quit talking about his penis, but the gender variant behaviors continued. In fact, in the years that followed, they intensified and became more prevalent. I would get home from work in the evenings and discover that my closet, jewelry box, and cosmetic bag were in disarray. Cameron would wear my high heels around the house. Then, interestingly, he would wrap accessory scarves around his head and tie them behind his neck so that the ends would cascade down his back like hair. He would move his head so that the ends would sway back and forth when he walked, pull the ends over his shoulders, and flip them behind his back with his hand.

All along, I lovingly supported him in his interests and tried to make sure that he knew that I loved him. I wanted him to know - without any doubt - that my love was unconditional... that he could be himself... if only - in our home. So, you'd think the conversation that followed that afternoon wouldn't have come as a shock or even a remote surprise. Although, there were plenty of precursors, I felt completely unprepared for the moments that followed.

"Cameron... tell me what's wrong. You know you can always talk to me, and I'll always be here for you. What's going on?"

Doing the best to control his emotions, he wiped the tears from his cheeks and looked at me with a profound sadness in his eyes. I could tell he was afraid... that it was taking every ounce of courage in his body to express what was coming next... "I'm not like other boys." I tussled his hair with my hand, "It's okay, baby." He didn't stop there... he continued, "I feel like I'm supposed to be a girl." The tears turned back into sobs. He repeated, "There's something bad wrong with me."

My heart swelled with love. The pain that he was feeling was so intense, it was palpable. His heartache permeated our surroundings and engulfed his sobs. I felt overcome with peace as I pulled the car to the side of the road. I took his hand in mine and with the other hand, grabbed his chin. I turned his tear-stained face toward mine so that our eyes locked. By this time, tears were streaming down my face too. I looked steadfast into his eyes and spoke with vigilant conviction, "Cameron, there's nothing 'wrong' with you. Do you hear me? There's nothing wrong with you..." We cried together for what seemed like a good while, then together, we began our journey. I had looked at Cameron thousands of times, but in that sacred moment I began to understand... For the first time in my life, I was blessed to "see" my daughter. I told her that diversity in the world was good and it's the differences in life that make the world beautiful. I told her that, although others may never understand what she feels or who she is, she would always be loved and accepted in our home. I explained that my love was unconditional and that I wanted her to feel free to express herself naturally.

My child has more courage than anyone I know... she's not afraid to be herself... she's strong... extremely strong... strong enough to teach her parents, what should've been obvious all along. She's courageous in the face of adversity and her courage gives me strength. If she can face this challenge in her life... then I can certainly face it with her. I have become a champion for her... her biggest fan... and an advocate for her needs and interests. From that point forward I began to, not just support, but truly understand Cameron's gender needs. Buying her toys and clothes what were gender appropriate became an act of embracing her identity as opposed to "supporting her interests". From that point forward she could, not only openly express herself in our home, but our support shifted to a quest for understanding. I immediately began to search for the answers that would help me to understand her better. I began to research gender issues and immersed myself in gender-related research and study. It wasn't long before my independent inquiries led me to an Internet link about transgender children. I sat in shock... completely amazed as I read the words printed on the page. I lost myself in the information that seemed to explicitly describe my child...

1. Expressed desire to be the opposite sex (including passing oneself off as the opposite sex and calling oneself by an opposite sex name).

2. Disgust with their own genitals (Boys may pretend not to have a penis. Girls may fear growing breasts and menstruating and may refuse to sit when urinating. They also may bind their breasts to make them less noticeable.)

3. Belief that they will grow up to become the opposite sex.

4. Rejection by their peer groups.

5. Dressing and behaving in a manner typical of the opposite sex (for example, a female wearing boy's underwear).

6. Withdrawal from social interaction and activity.

7. Feelings of isolation, depression, and anxiety.

I quickly realized that I would need to seek out medical support and educate myself if I were ever going to advocate for my child's happiness. I knew that we had a long road ahead... but I also knew that if my child could find peace and happiness in life, it would be a worthwhile journey.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

In the Beginning...

Cameron's life began like most other children's lives. I'll never forget the day that he came into my world and the announcement was made, "It's a beautiful baby boy!" What joy... what gratitude I felt at that moment and in the years that followed as the blessings of this precious little spirit were realized. Cameron has been blessed with many special gifts, talents, and attributes... but along with those endowments has come some extreme challenges...

Cameron's body and spirit are not in harmony with one another. As Cameron began to develop, we noticed some excentricities in his behavior and interests. Cameron preferred to sit rather than stand when using the bathroom, and rather than developing an affinity for trucks, action heroes, sharks, dinosaurs, or other traditional boy interests - we noticed that he consistently made his way to the hot pink Barbie section of the toy store. On occasion, when I'd agree to buy he or his brothers a toy, his brothers would ask for something like a truck or action figure and Cameron would insist on a doll. I felt compelled to support him in his interests and I'd buy him a doll. After all, I thought - specifically calculating the reprucautions "If one of the boys asks for a truck and gets a truck... and Cameron asks for a doll and gets a truck, then without saying a word, I send the message that I don't accept him." Over the years, I felt angered by the strict gender roles present in our society that seemed to exclude my child. I would recite questions in my head, "Why can't he play with dolls? What's wrong with dolls? Boys become parents too. Why can't he wear pink if he wants to? Pink is just a color. Why shouldn't he sit to go to the bathroom? Is there a rulebook somewhere that states that all boys have to stand to go to the bathroom?" It seemed rediculous and I wanted for people to open their minds and their hearts, I wished that society could embrace Cameron - or at least allow him to be himself without a bunch of gender biased expectations.

These unique interests seemed to affect other areas of his life as well, from the cartoons he preferred to watch on television (most notably an obsession with the Powerpuff Girls), to the pictures he drew. While my older son was drawing pictures of sharks or combat scenes, Cameron would consistently draw pictures of hearts, butterflies, flowers, little girls, and sunshine. Probably the most curious thing about his illustrations was the fact that he always drew himself as a little girl with long hair or pigtails, and a dress. His preferred color scheme was always pastel with an affinity for various shades of pink and purple.

As he grew a little older, his physical mannerisms, which were always feminine, gradually betrayed him as they exposed his true gender identity. He talked, laughed, walked, ran, and even sat like a girl. Through it all, I consistently tried to maintain a balance and focus... to support him in his interests while trying desperately to protect him from the callous judgement of a sexually binary society. It was no easy task and I soon realized the challenges that lie ahead. Cameron didn't fit into the male or female gender stereotypes and over the years the inner conflict and turmoil started to take it's toll on his self concept, and magnified my inadequacies as a parent. I wished, more than anything, that I could change the world... I desperately wanted to make it a happier place for him... a place where people would understand and accept him... somewhere far removed from ridicule and torment.

I finally came to a conclusion... "if I can't make the world a happier place, then I will do all that I can to make Cameron a happier child." My rationale quickly shifted from dwelling on those things that I could not control, to making the most of the things that I could. I prayed about it and the answer that I received became very clear "Love him... even as I have loved you."

I decided that I was going to continue to give Cameron my unconditional love and support, and allow him to express himself naturally... at the very least in our home. As a result, our home became a Utopian environment for Cameron and a safe haven for self expression. It seemed to be enough... for a while. As Cameron's physical body began to develop more and more masculine characteristics, his psychological female gender identity became more obvious to those around him. The ridicule and torment that had once been a frequent challenge in his life, became incessant. Then, to make matters worse, he was assigned to "THE TEACHER"... the one that we all have at some point in our childhood... the one that torments your life and makes your world a living hell. She targeted Cameron, and made him the focus of classroom ridicule, which exacerbated the challenges that he faced with his peers. She moved his desk from among his classmates and placed it in the corner of the classroom, facing the wall - so that he couldn't put his hands inside it. She left him there... not for a day... not for a week... not for a month... she left my child alone in the corner for four months, until we moved to a new community and transfered him out of the school system.

At one point last year, Cameron had gone to school wearing pink fingernail polish that he had put on over the weekend. He had forgotten to remove it, and when he came home I noticed that he had been chewing on the tips of his fingers and fingernails, frantically trying to remove the polish. As soon as I walked through the door, he asked for some fingernail polish remover. There was a sense of urgency in his voice. He was clearly upset. I asked him what had happened and he said that he had been teased at school. He didn't go into detail about the events of the day. Of course his classmates had a party, criticizing and harassing him. At lunch he was too intimidated to eat because he didn't want any of the kids to see his fingernails, so he just sat at the table with his hands hidden in his lap, trying to prevent further criticism. His teacher saw him sitting there and demanded that he eat. She said, "You're the one who put the nail polish on your fingers... don't try to hide it now!" When Cameron refused to eat, she punished him by sending him to eat alone at the "silent table". Then she walked by and touted in sarcasm, "What's wrong Cameron? You don't have any friends? I'll be your friend."

I knew things were difficult for Cameron at school, but I hadn't realized the extent to which his teacher had been tormenting his life. He was afraid to cross her because he knew that he would have to return to her class. It wasn't until last week, after we had moved and Cameron felt safe, that he began to share some of the horrors of what he had experienced under her "professional" care as an "educator". It beggs the question... "What was she teaching the children???" Cameron's journal entry demonstrates his frustration....