Two years ago, I wrote I’m not a boy, but I’m not a girl either. Because it’s National Coming Out Day. Because coming out matters. Because telling my story makes room for kids to tell their stories. For allies to hear the stories that make us human. And believing that we’re human, that we matter, is what keeps us safe. It keeps people from voting against us. It helps people stand up for us. Or at least that’s the hope I like to hold on to.
I’ve been coming out for 17 years. I thought it would get easier, but it doesn’t. For all the voices of support, there are the louder ones that echo. That I’m not enough. That I’m too complicated. That I’m a burden. That I just want attention.
And being a gender nonconforming trans person, I get a lot of attention. I get invasive body searches at airports that leave me hysterical, gasping for breath through tears. I get stared at and questioned in public. I get yelled at and followed and misgendered and embarrassed. I get so much attention.
I don’t want attention. I just want some room.
You get to grow and change and are encouraged to be yourself. You’re told you can be anything you want. You can follow your dreams. You get to think hard and talk so much about who you are and what you want to be. It’s not political. It’s life. It’s some kind of journey. What about my journey?
I’m coming out of the struggle to fit in a gender binary that didn’t have enough room for me. I’m coming out of the restrictions of language and expectations. I’m coming out of something that never worked and felt like trash and oh my god I’m finally free. I wish you could celebrate with me instead of debating the grammatical rules of the pronouns I use. I wish you would celebrate with me instead of questioning why I need to make it so difficult.
I’m coming out because this gender binary cannot work for everyone. Just like good and bad has a whole lot in the middle. And that middle place? That’s where the beauty is. It’s always in the middle. Right between right and wrong and light and dark and this and that.
I’m coming out because it’s hard to be misgendered. Because if you’re a woman and I call you a man, you’d be horrified. But you can call me whatever you want, because of convenience. Because it’s too complicated to use a different pronoun or different words for me. Even though you use singular they all the time for people you don’t even know (listen to the way to you yell at strangers in traffic for an example, “they didn’t even use a blinker!” is a good place to start). Because you’d rather argue grammar or make it my problem for complicating your vocabulary than see that this is something I need. This isn’t asking too much.
I’m coming out with some kind of gender math of this body and weekly shots of testosterone and how together it somehow equals neither this nor that and goodness it’s been exhausting running from this body. This isn’t a transition from one to another but more of a settling in to right here. Where you are is where you are.
I’m coming out because trans kids are in trouble. Suicide rates are too high. Trans kids are scared and hurting and we have a responsibility to keep them not just alive but happy and fulfilled and everything every kid deserves.
I’m coming out because the evangelicals are waging a war against trans people and we need help. Trans rights are truly human rights and shouldn’t be up for a vote or some kind of political bargain. We are human beings. It shouldn’t be this hard.
I’m coming out because kids like me need to know we’re not a burden. We’re not too complicated. We’re not in this for some kind of attention. I’m coming out because there’s nothing wrong with us. We’re okay. I’m coming out because I’m done with expectations that none of us are really any good at.
I’m coming out because my parents taught me that I could do anything and be anything. I’m choosing to be me.
Me: Riley, do you like screen time?
Roozle: Kind of. When I do have screens I like it because I get to watch my YouTube videos and I like crafts but when I don’t have screens I like it because I get to hang out with you and read my books and I get to have more time with my family.
Me: Do you think that screens make you not have time with your family?
Roozle: When you’re like working and you’re in the other room while I’m watching screens, it feels like I’m far away from you and I’m alone, but when I don’t have screens, I feel more close to you.
Me: What things do you like to do together?
Roozle: I like to go to JP Licks for ice cream, I like to play games with you, I like to go swimming, and I like to eat dinner with you.
Me: Do you know what I like to do with you?
Me: I like to listen to stories. Do you like to listen to stories?
Me: What did you think about the story we listened to last week about the man who felt a little bit squished in his house?
Roozle: I liked the story, even though I had already heard it before. I liked to listen to the story with you.
Me: I liked that too, that it was another way for us to spend some time together. I really liked the voices and the way they told the story. It was interesting even for this boring grown up. And I like that sometimes we know the stories, but that they’re told in a different way. Like with fairy tales.
Roozle: Yeah, I like that too. I love fairy tales.
Me: So right now, we’re about to listen to this week’s story which is about a dragon, I think. Are you excited?
Roozle: I am excited because I’ve never heard this story before and I want to know what happens.
Me: Do you think it’s going to be scary?
Roozle: I think Stella is a nice name so it won’t be scary and this is a story for children.
Me: Well, in case it gets scary, I’m glad we’re listening together. Is this something you want to do every week?
Roozle: YEAH! Because I like to listen to stories!
Me: Yeah, me too. And I like to have a routine during the week so we know what to expect each day. Like, on Tuesdays, we go swimming. On Wednesdays, we go to the library.
Roozle: And now on Tuesdays, we listen to stories!
SPOILER ALERT WE LISTENED TO THE STORY AND TALKED ABOUT IT. Note: the stories come with questions after to initiate conversation, but it was bedtime and we were tired so we went with “What was your favorite part?” which is also my trick question to see how much she was listening.
Me: What was your favorite part of the story?
Roozle: My favorite part was when Stella said that was so powerful and that she could lift the boulder. But she actually couldn’t so she tricked the dragon by saying that if she threw the boulder it might hit the moon and then she said that maybe all the pieces would come flying straight for them and the dragon got scared. And then the dragon told her not to throw it because he was scared.
Me: Was that a surprise that the scary dragon was the scared one?
Me: I was surprised by that too.
Me: Are you excited about next week?
Roozle: I’m excited about next week because I had never heard that story before and I’m excited to find out what the story is!
Me: Until next Tuesday, Roozle.
Roozle: Until next Tuesday, Apa!
New stories come out every Tuesday, and we’re way too excited to wait, so we’ve picked Tuesdays as our Circle Round days, but subscribing to the podcast means you can listen whenever you want. The stories are from 5-20 minutes and include all kinds of famous people my kid totally doesn’t care about, but OMG I DO. And since we’re trying to listen to them together, that matters a lot. And bonus points? THEY HAVEN’T USED ANY GENDERED PARENT LANGUAGE SO FAR! WE ARE VERY EXCITED.
This post is sponsored by WBUR’s new podcast Circle Round for kids and their grownups, where “story time happens all the time.” Opinions are mine, and Roozle’s. We have so many opinions. You’re never too old or young for a good story.
I started talking with my kid about alcohol responsibility a long time ago. She was little. It was easy. Because we started with the basics. What is alcohol? What does it do? What are the rules? And then she got older. Now, this new third grader has different questions. Now sometimes these conversations are a bit more complicated. Sometimes she pushes back and the things that were so easy feel like some kind of stand off (the kind with fancy high tops, the best kind, really).
Now she has the ability to see herself a bit beyond where she is now and wonders what kinds of decisions she will make as a teenager or a college student. And sometimes our conversations are better with a little guidance from friends who have been there done that. Just like learning how to wash cloth diapers or figure out the best lunch box to buy for tiny kindergarten fingers to open.
So I asked my friends. Do you drink in front of your kids? And no surprise here, my friends had a lot of good stuff to say.
And what about the times we get it wrong? What about talking with older kids? Do we tell them when we’ve made a mistake? Do we point out when those around us get it wrong?
Thankfully, we don’t have to get this all right on our own. We get to learn from our friends. We get to teach our kids from our own mistakes. We get to do better next time. We get to keep learning what responsibility looks like from all the different angles. And always, we get to keep talking. Talk about the easy things, talk about the hard things. Keep talking, keep listening. Talk with your friends, talk with your kids, all the talking all the time.
This post is sponsored by Responsibility.org. Thank you to all my lovely friends for your willingness to tell your stories to my phone camera.
Meal planning is hard. Even on the best weeks. And around here? We don’t have many of those. My kid eats early to get to bed early, she’s a vegetarian. My partner often works events in the evenings, she’s a vegetarian. I’ve recently started eating meat again, but gave up dairy. We’re a mess.
We’ve tried meal kits, and failed. We’ve tried fancy bullet journal meal planning, and failed. We’ve tried to not get take out too much, and failed. But we don’t want take out, we want to eat together when we can, we want to shop sales, we want to do better. We just couldn’t figure it out.
So when The Dinner Daily asked if we wanted to try it out, I said yes! With enthusiasm! Let’s add another plan to our failure list! Except, this one didn’t fail. Maybe because we tried harder? Nah, we didn’t. Maybe because our schedule was easy this week? Nope, with the first week of school, my kid off to the Cape to visit my parents, my partner away last weekend with friends, a holiday, late nights at work, and even an event, this week was literally the worst week for us to start any kind of meal plan. OMG THIS WEEK THOUGH. Without The Daily Dinner, we would’ve eaten take out way too much. This post would’ve been a sobbing Facebook post about how I blew my budget in the first week of the month. Instead, we went out once. Budget saved!
Connected to our local grocery store, we chose our menu, ordered the groceries, and Roche Bros. DELIVERED THEM TO THE HOUSE. Bonus: Roche Bros. even delivers beer, so yes, I would like to add that fancy 12 pack of fall beers to my order! For us, we decided to set our defaults on The Dinner Daily to all dairy free (because it’s easy to add dairy to half the recipe and hard to take it out), 5 vegetarian meals (it’s easy to add meat), 1 meat meal (for the nights I’m on my own), and 1 seafood meal (for nights when Riley it’s here). I told you we’re complicated. They don’t even mind!
The Dinner Daily works with what’s on sale at your chosen store and builds your menu accordingly. Because you’re buying the groceries, you’re buying the full size of what is included in the recipe allowing for leftovers and super easy modifications. Like how the fajita night turned into quesadilla and guacamole night instead without wasting food. Later in the week, we made veggie tacos with the tortillas and what was left from the fajita ingredients.
Friday night curry on the couch in front of the tv? Yes please. Note: this was supposed to have tofu in it, but the tofu they had us make for it was so good, I ate it all while waiting for the curry to cook. No regrets.
— Casey Brown (@lifewithRoozle) September 9, 2017
“If I knew what to make, I’d make it,” is my whole life. I never know what to make and never know what to buy to actually make the thing I don’t know what to make. What a life! The Dinner Daily helps that. Now I have the groceries for 7 dinners and the plans to follow if I can. And if I run out of time for the recipe, it doesn’t mean those tiny little meal kit bags rot and end up in the trash. I can just modify and continue on. SO IT ACTUALLY WORKS.
Me at every check up, “I get headaches a lot.”
My doctor, “How much is a lot?”
Me, “I don’t really know, maybe a few a month?”
My doctor, “How long do they last? How do you treat them?”
Me, “I’m not really sure. Sometimes a little while, sometimes a day. I take over the counter pain medicine and caffeine and sleep.”
It’s really no wonder that my doctor hasn’t really been able to help me with my headaches. They’re nasty and often and I never track them enough to know how much how bad how long to help her help me. I’ve tried to watch for what causes them. I’ve given up drinking beer and wine a few times, thinking maybe that was it. It wasn’t. I’ve gotten more sleep. Sometimes it helps, sometimes it doesn’t. I’ve treated my every-season allergies more consistently. That seemed to help at first, then didn’t. I tried a prescription migraine medicine, but only took it once because my pill aversion is stronger than my headaches. So I just keep getting headaches. They ruin weekends. They ruin trips. They ruin mornings and evenings. They sometimes linger. Headaches are the worst.
And yet I keep ending up at the doctor’s office with nothing to say.
Because what do I think? In those 15 minutes, I will remember all the headache details? I won’t. I never do. Ask me about my kid’s scratch on her face, though, and I can tell you a story with full detail. Ask me about her baby milestones and that 18 month appointment where they asked about her communication. Spoiler alert: Roozle had a lot to say.
I kept notes for her, though. I searched what was expected at each appointment and made lists of the milestones she was meeting and the ones she wasn’t. I wrote down my concerns and questions. And I brought it all with me. Because as a new parent, you make those 15 minutes with a pediatrician cover an hour’s worth of child health and wellness and all the things in between.
Last week, Roozle and I were at her latest wellness visit (pro tip: if you get lazy about scheduling your April child’s wellness visit, you’ll end up with yearly visits in the summer and she won’t ever have to miss school), and her beloved pediatrician told us she’s moving. OH NO. This one was Riley’s THIRD pediatrician in 8 years and goodness I don’t want to do this again.
Then I realized that my own new doctor sees kids! So I moved her. And now I have no excuse. Because when I walk in with 14 pages printed from Doctor Google for my kid’s appointments, you know that same doctor will expect me to be as prepared for my own. I’m done treating my own health as somehow less important than my kid’s.
I’m starting with these headaches. According to the neurologists Dr. Robert G. Kaniecki and Dr. Stewart J. Tepper, the most important focus of headache tracking is threefold: time, symptoms, and impact. This is where I go terribly wrong, as I spend nearly all my headache focus on triggers—trying to just prevent them—and I consistently fail. And apparently, all headaches aren’t the same. Untreated migraines last 4 to 72 hours. Migraines are accompanied by nausea and/or light/sound sensitivity. And for migraines to be considered chronic, headache symptoms of any kind need to show up 15 or more days a month. In order to know any of that, you have to keep track. And sometimes wrap your noggin in a blanket and sleep for a day. Because headaches are the worst.
Time, symptoms, and impact. That’s it. If I can keep track of that in a note in my phone, I can let my doctor do the rest.
If you suffer from horrific headaches like I do, learn how to tell your story and take this survey to be entered to win up to $1,000 in prizes because prizes make everything better.
This post is sponsored by Med-IQ and supported by an educational grant by Teva Pharmaceuticals. All opinions are mine, and Roozle’s. She has so many opinions.
Mornings are hard for grownups. Mornings are hard for kids. Mornings are the worst, really. And I need the smallest person in the house to brush her teeth and get herself dressed and omg why do I have to say these things over and over and over every morning. SOS.
“How many times do I have to tell you…”
“Ooooh Apa you hate it when people say that to youuuuu.”
Mornings with a kid were making me into the person I don’t want to be. So I started leaving her notes.
Everyone loves notes.
The notes were great. The notes worked. But then I had to write notes every morning. Because if I didn’t, the kid would be reading for an hour and not dressed and would never ever eat a single morning thing.
The notes got an upgrade to something more permanent. Because mornings are always the worst, but we don’t have to ALSO be fighting about the regular stuff in between.
I might need to make myself a fancy list. Maybe then I’d eat something more than a gallon of coffee. Maybe.
“Can you always tell when someone is queer?” She hesitated, and nearly not finishing the question. We sat at a window seat for dinner overlooking the busy street. Provincetown on Memorial Day is what queer looks like, I wanted to reply, as we were surrounded by drag queens and rainbows and poodles in tutus. It was her first time there, and she was starting to understand. And along with that understanding, she was beginning to piece together the stereotypes that go with all of it, and the problematic erasure that comes along for the ride.
I’m not going to tell my kid about the bombing, this time. And yes it’s the privilege of being unaffected enough to not have to, I know. After the Boston Marathon bombings here, I know the other side of that, too.
I know all the reasons to tell her. I’ve written some of them here before, but this time feels different. Too close to her childhood, maybe. Too close to her understanding that those were kids just like her. Too close to why is everything so terrifying.
I’m scared a lot of the time. She will be too, soon enough, I imagine. But she doesn’t need to be yet.
I don’t want to tell her. And if she finds out and asks more? This time, I’m keeping it simple. Vague even. Maybe for her. Maybe for me. This time is too many times. This time is too much. This time shouldn’t be again.
I’ve turned off the radio. I bought a subway pass for the week and left the car at home. I don’t want to hear about it. Let’s go to the playground. Let’s take the way too old dog for a way too long walk. Because being a part of something bigger sometimes starts in the neighborhood.
This time, I don’t need to know every detail. I’m not going to solve the world’s problems by scrolling through Twitter. I don’t need to process or wonder or hear any of it to know that this, again, is devastating. I don’t need to tell my kid and I don’t need anyone to tell me. Not this time. I can’t do it this time. This time is just too many times. There’s nothing left to say.