Cis

It has become common for non-trans people to be called cis- (cisgender/ ciswoman/ cisman/ etc).  I’ve never been a great fan of labels and, to be honest, I am struggling with this one.  I accept that it is sometimes useful (especially if I am in a group of mostly trans people), but the term “cis” has negative connotations for many people.

I was aware of the Latin origins with “cis” meaning “on this side” in contrast to “trans” meaning “on the other side” or “across”.  I was also aware of the use of the term in chemistry.

To gain some insight from the trans community, I went on a trans-friendly Facebook page recently and asked where the term cisgender came from.  I never expected the level of vitriol I received from one individual who called me called me all sorts of names and claimed that “a very large portion of trans people are extremely angry at cisgender society and the suffering it has caused” and said that I was included in that.  The whole thing left me more bemused than upset but I wasn’t going to let myself get embroiled in an argument.

Thankfully some friends jumped to my rescue and reassured me that the individual concerned was not speaking for any of them.  It is a shame that we have to rely on labels but I accept that there are many times and circumstances where they help.  I’ve been called many names in the past so I guess it’s time to accept this new one.

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Psychiatric consultation and beyond

I knew that L’s transition had to follow a number of official steps so we started with seeing the family General Practitioner (GP).  Thankfully he was very receptive and, after taking a bit of medical and family history and a brief physical examination, he was happy to refer L for psychiatric assessment.

It wasn’t long before L was invited to the local Child & Adolescent service.  L was seen alone first, then I had to go in alone, and then we went in together, with the whole thing lasting around 90 minutes.

To be honest, I think we were expecting a bit more from the appointment but, in hindsight, I realised that the psychiatrist had two goals: 1) To make sure that L had no underlying psychological issues which may make them feel unhappy about themselves, and 2) To make sure that L was not being pushed into anything by his parents.  Hence the questions about my only having one child and about my tattoos which I have written about in another blog.

At the end of the session the psychiatrist confirmed that L had “classic gender dysphoria” and agreed to refer to the Tavistock Clinic in London.

What not to say to a parent/partner/friend/other ally

I have to admit that some of the trans terminology can be a bit of a mine-field and I probably get it horribly wrong at times but at least I try.  Here are some things which people have said to me which have left me lost for words:

“So you are going to lose your son” and even “But your son will be dead” – NO, NO, NO – I will still have the same child, only their outward appearance will be different – in particular, they will happier.

“So… you only had one child… what is the reason for that?” (asked by a psychiatrist) – I’m sure they wanted to ask “did you really want a girl all along?”.  There are many reasons why I only had one child – difficult birth, two bedroomed house, relatively low income, age, there are already enough children to go around, etc, etc, etc.  To be honest, one of the first things I said to the midwife was “oo, good, no tights” – how wrong could I have been!

“You’re obviously a bit of a rebel with your tattoos” (again, the psychiatrist) – erm, what? – I had my first tattoo in my mid-40s to commemorate my mother – what on earth has that to do with my child’s gender?

 

A little bit of background

According to my medical records, I gave birth to a son in the year 2000.  Despite a stressful birth and a minor physical issue which had to be corrected surgically, his development was fairly normal.  Throughout childhood, my child played with a full range of toys, including train sets, remote-controlled cars, Lego, and comic books.  There were times riding quad bikes, climbing straw bales, and playing in the mud (and much worse) on the farm.  But also there was a fully-furnished dolls house, colouring books, and an enviable collection of Bratz dolls and accessories.

L was never into team sports (football, rugby) and played more with girls than boys.  I never thought anything of this as I am a strong believer that each child should find their own likes and dislikes and not be overly influenced by their parents.

Through the school years, L would often get called gay (especially by boys) and, to some extent, this was what myself and other adults thought.  It wasn’t until L turned 15 earlier this year that it suddenly dawned that my child was gender-dysmorphic.  I knew that L had been unhappy in a male body (especially once the changes due to puberty started kicking in) and the more we talked about things the more clear it became.

So we are starting out on the next stage of a long journey and I hope to use this blog to put a parent’s perspective on that journey.  We have already been through psychiatric assessment (more about that in another post), we have become part of the trans community in South Wales, and we are now waiting for the first visit to the Tavistock Centre in London.