2
April

Intersex—A Day In The Life

ls6At support group meetings and seminars, I’ve met hundreds of people who have some physical difference of sex development. Intersex, if you will. I don’t even mind the word hermaphrodite when applied to me. Whatever.

There are hundreds of things that can happen during sex differentiation and development. Some of the variations are grouped into syndromes named after the practitioner who ‘discovered’ them—Swyer, Turner, Klinefelter. Some have names a bit more descriptive—Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia, Mixed Gonadal Dysgenesis, Androgen Insensitivity.

What I’ve never seen, however, is a condition that results in someone having both sets of genitals. Why? Because the same bit of tissue that becomes a penis in a typical male becomes a clitoris in a female. Another bit of flesh becomes labia or scrotum. Want to know what intersex bits really look like? The Quigley Scale is used for describing degrees of Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. The Prader Scale is used for Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia. This site has some illustrations of degrees of hypospadias. Those are the variations you find in most cases of intersex.

The condition I have is caused by having some cells with a Y chromosome and some without. That led to confusion during fetal development. Hence the differences—not just reproductive system, mind you, but heart, kidneys, brain, metacarpals, fingernails, eyes—everything.

I went to a new dentist today. One of the technicians commented on how small my jaw was. She was concerned that I might not be able to get the digital x-ray thing into my mouth. I explained that it was a genetic thing. I’m mosaic for Turner Syndrome. The condition resulted in micrognathia—a smaller than average jaw—which gave the lower half of my face female-typical proportions.

Which do you think had a greater impact?—a feminine face or genitals that weren’t quite right? The same medical condition—Disorder of Sex Development, if you must—caused both. And much more.

If you meet someone who has a difference of sex development, don’t be surprised if they’re not a two-headed monster. Or obsessed about sex. Or gender. Most of us aren’t. Really. We’re more like you than we are different.

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#intersex

 

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10
March

40 Years on HRT

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1974—For a brief part of the Cold War I searched the ocean noise for enemy signals. I was very good at pattern recognition and minicomputers.

Armed guards watched over us during the day. The men on my team spent their nights in the barracks. The military stuck me in my own quarters, cut off from the rest of the world.

While stateside, my bike and I lived with suicidal abandon. Weaving through traffic, standing on the seat, riding sidesaddle—the only problem I had on a motorcycle was I lacked the muscles or the mass to recover from the situations my recklessness inspired.

I remember lying on my back after my last accident and wondering why I felt no pain. My bike and I had both gone airborne and tumbled down the road. Nothing was broken—other than my bike, and perhaps my pride, but I knew for a certainty that the next wreck would kill me. My Savior made it clear that I could live for him or die from my own foolishness. Time to change direction.

I’d heard of a psychiatrist in Miami who referred people to Johns Hopkins. Dr. Money and his team knew more about intersex and gender than anyone. Right? When I went to see her, though, she told me I’d need at least a year of counseling before she’d send me to Hopkins. My first step, she said, was to try having sex—as a boy—with a boy.

Rather than explain that my biology wouldn’t allow such, never mind my faith, I walked away. As I always had from physical relationships. Oh, I liked boys, alright, but sex was for people who had plumbing that functioned properly.

A few weeks after talking to the psychiatrist, I kept an appointment with an endocrinologist—maybe he’d know what to do. His main concerns were my weight—he thought I was anorexic—and my lack of hormones.

He suggested testosterone to give me a masculine puberty and anabolic steroids to help me build muscle mass. What did you expect? He was, after all, an endocrinologist.

My sexual development had gotten lost somewhere between Tanner 2 and 3. The nature of gonads in people with an XO (Turner Syndrome) cell line is that they start weak and fade away. A woman with the pure form goes through menopause before birth.

jamieAt9

I’d always been small for my age. At nine I wore my sister’s size 6x dresses. I was the smallest in my classes until fifth grade. But I kept right on growing into my early twenties. At 5’6″, I felt like a giant. I was no longer the little kid with a cute pixie face. My fear was that male hormones would ruin the rest of me. So I told him no.

But you need hormones to remain healthy. He said that estrogen would help me gain weight and fix at least the chemical reason for my depression. I wasn’t sure that I wanted to be a grown-up woman, but female hormones would let me keep my feminine characteristics.

For the first two weeks, I threw up every day. A few of the guys I worked with swore that I’d gotten myself pregnant, but otherwise work remained pretty much the same. Well, except that the twenty pounds I gained went to my hips and breasts—a bit of an embarrassment for someone who was supposed to be a boy.

After a year, I went home to see my family. My sister thought breast development was the best thing that had ever happened to me. Dad got all mad and wanted me to try sleeping with a girl before living as one. Mom liked that I seemed happier, and changed my legal status for me.

I got a job with a different company in a different city—doing the same thing. And the people who handed out security clearances didn’t care at all that my papers now said female on them.

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3
March

First Mother—Audio Book

Lisa Wiley has just released the audio book version of First Mother, a fantasy short story I wrote some time ago. Check it out on her website or listen here. The e-book versions are available here: pdf, epub & mobi.

Excerpt—

Home’s farther away now than when we set anchor—time stopped for a heartbeat and a half before I spun my head around. In front of us lay the ominous black expanse of the forbidden island. Way too close. “Robert!” I groped through the darkness for his sleeping form.

“It’s okay, love. I’m right here.” A gentle hand caressed my thigh.

Not now! “We’re drifting.”

He swore under his breath and rushed topside. I followed.

While we were absorbed in our passion the moon had disappeared beneath the horizon, leaving behind a bright dusting of diamonds across the midnight sky. Awesome in beauty, its jewels hung above the distant lights of Feohlin

Below us the cabin remained dark, the engine silent. Nothing with a battery worked. Not even the stupid flashlights.

Ahead of us the reflected stars ended in blackness and pounding surf. We were that close to disaster. The boat lurched, screamed in agony across the rocks, and stopped, aground in the receding tide. Water gurgled somewhere below deck.

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31
January

Turner Syndrome Boys

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About once a month I respond to someone online who claims that only girls can have Turner Syndrome. Some suggest that Noonan Syndrome is the male equivalent. Sadly, they often get such misinformation from a genetic counselor or physician. Although Noonan Syndrome results in some of the same medical issues as Turner Syndrome, it is caused by mutations in the PTPN11, SOS1, RAF1, KRAS, NRAS and BRAF genes rather than the loss of a sex chromosome.
>>Noonan Syndrome

The Genetics of Turner Syndrome

Turner Syndrome is caused by the loss of a sex chromosome during the first few cell divisions of a human conception. Ordinarily, each cell has 46 chromosomes–22 pairs of autosomes and two so-called sex chromosomes. Usually male is 46,XY and female 46,XX. When one of the sex chromosomes is missing in all cells, the karyotype is written as 45,X.

Cells need all 46 chromosomes to function properly. Indeed, the only chromosome that a cell can live without is the Y or the second X. It is the lack of a second sex chromosome that causes the developmental issues in Turner Syndrome. Most 45,X babies are stillborn. Some speculate that all of those who survive have at least some cells with two sex chromosomes. Current technology doesn’t allow us to determine the genetic makeup of every cell in the body. A karyotype is usually based on 25 cells from a blood sample. The rest of the cells in the body may be different.

Genetic Mosaicism

When only some cells are missing the second sex chromosome, the karyotype is written as 46,XY/45,X or 46,XX/45,X or something similar. This is called mosaicism. As I said, some speculate that all Turner Syndrome babies who survive have some mosaicism.

The degree of mosiacism varies over time because the 45,X cells don’t reproduce at the same rate as the other cells. The degree varies from person to person. What matters is where the 45,X cells are during fetal development. A woman with as little as five percent 45,X cells in her blood may be born with streak ovaries and be short statured as an adult. Or she may have no medical issues related to Turner Syndrome.

Y Chromosome Mosaicism

A woman with Turner Syndrome may be missing an X or a Y chromosome. What if she has mosaicism?–and she has a Y chromosome in some cells? Her karyotype would be written as 46,XY/45,X or perhaps 45,X/46,XY. But 46,XY usually results in male. So what determines whether the mosaicism results in a boy or a girl? Again, it’s where the 45,X cells are during fetal development.

46,XY/45,X can result in a baby with male genitals, female genitals, or somewhere in between. It can result in any of the medical issues commonly associated with Turner Syndrome.
>> The Phenotype of 45,X/46,XY Mosaicism
>> Turner’s syndrome in the male with chromosomal mosaicism
>> Turner’s syndrome in the male (Br Med J)
>> Turner’s syndrome in the male (JAMA)

I knew a boy with a 46,XY/45,X karyotype who was taking growth hormones. I know a woman with typical Turner Syndrome features who has the same 45,X percentages as the boy. On rare occasions, 46,XY/45,X identical twins have been born one male and one female.
>>Monozygotic twins discordant for sex
>>46,XY monozygotic twins with discordant sex phenotype

On A More Personal Note

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My karyotype is 46,XY,22qs+/45,X,22qs+. The 22qs+ is an exceedingly rare improperly-satellited autosome. Let’s ignore that for now. Without it, the karyotype would be 46,XY/45,X. Or XY/XO for short. Turner Syndrome mosaicism.

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My Turner Syndrome mosaicism gave me mildly malformed kidneys and heart valves. I’m hypothyroid. I have visuo-motor and spatio-temporal deficits. My joints were hyperextensive. (Check out my left leg in the photo above.) I have the pixie face common to Turners, due to my small jaw. I was cross-eyed as a child. My ears are set low. I was the smallest of my peer group until fifth grade. At nine, I wore size 6x clothes. And my puberty came out of a bottle.

The vast majority of children with a 46,XY/45,X karyotype are born with normal male external genitals. Of those, more than a quarter have gonadal anomalies. Some will require growth hormone. Some hormone replacement therapy for sex development.
>> The Phenotype of 45,X/46,XY Mosaicism

What was between my legs wasn’t typical female. I was raised as a boy. I wasn’t typical male either, though, and took estrogen for my sexual development. This is the nature of intersex conditions. I find it, at times, mildly amusing that some might think I could only have Turner Syndrome mosaicism after surgery to make my genitals more typical of a girl.

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26
November

Another Thanksgiving

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Eight months ago, my husband lost consciousness, fell, and fractured the base of his skull in back. He appeared to be all right when the paramedics came. He even drove home by himself. But his personality had changed in a way I’m not sure I can describe.

He insisted nothing hurt, but his face radiated pain and he wanted to sleep. After four hours of arguing with him about going to the emergency room, I panicked at the bruises that appeared between his eyes and his nose.

Some old and dear friends drove across town and helped me coerce my husband into going to Emory Johns Creek. With his examination incomplete, he pulled out his IV, tore off the EKG leads, and tried to walk out of the hospital. I refused to take him anywhere, and when the nurse opened her hand long enough to show me a phial, I nodded. A burly nurse held my husband down, and a second drugged him.

Later, when they tried to move him from ER to intensive care, he regained consciousness enough to fight his way upright. I walked into his room as two nurses were trying to stop him. It took nine of us to hold him down long enough to sedate him again. Yes, I helped restrain my husband even when he pleaded with me to let him leave.

Under sedation, he failed to maintain his airways, so they put him on a ventilator. By then, they were more certain of his injuries, but Johns Creek didn’t have round-the-clock neurological support. With my permission, they arranged to transfer him to Clifton Road as soon as a bed opened up.

I took the photo above in the Emory-Clifton Road Neuro Intensive Care Unit. The clown hat is a Styrofoam cup covering the intracranial pressure sensor they put through his skull. The bandage around his head protects the EEG sensors that monitored him for seizures. The patch on his left shoulder covers a subclavian IV line. The yellow line is a feeding tube. Another line is a blood pressure sensor they inserted into an artery(?).

I wore my husband’s wedding ring on my necklace. They had removed it from his finger before the swelling got too bad.

A number of the people who visited him in the hospital now say they didn’t think he’d make it. I never doubted. Not because my faith is strong. Yes, I prayed to a merciful father for my husband’s recovery. But a part of me rejected the reality of my husband’s situation. When people visited, I’d tell them about all the technological marvels—isn’t it cool they can drill a hole in someone’s head and insert a pressure sensor?

He spent two weeks in NICU. And yes, death hung over him for much of that time. He spent a week in ICC and another in inpatient rehab. After a month of outpatient therapy, he returned to work.

And I crashed.

Only now are the photos becoming real to me. Forever bless my Redeemer that he let me deal with it all in bits and pieces after the fact.

And let His name be praised for all those who prayed, for all those who offered a word of encouragement, who brought food, who cleaned the house. You know who you are.

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7
November

Shadows Of A Broken Childhood

thepastLast weekend, my best friend and I went to an early Christmas bazaar. I’m not much on decorations, but they were also selling baked goods and various knitted items.

My grandmother was one of those short and stout Scottish ladies with a pouf of white hair. She was always doing crewel work or knitting for her Methodist church ladies’ group. That’s the sort of thing I found at the sale.

Not much remains from my childhood–my baby ring, my first set of books, a set of miniature china, and a number of the things I used when helping Mom in the kitchen. Nothing remains of the ‘boy’ years. Not that I threw everything out, mind you. There was simply nothing to which I was attached.

Some of the remains of my childhood bring back pleasant memories. Like helping Mom bake for Christmas. Some only have a vague nostalgia associated with them. A scarf I found at the bazaar brought that same warmth when I first spotted it. Perhaps grandma knitted me a similar one. I don’t know. All that’s left, sometimes, are the shadows.

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24
October

The Problem With Intersex

passport

Yesterday was Intersex Awareness Day, so it seemed appropriate that I spend part of the morning with a new gynecologist.

The previous one had rammed a one-size-fits-all speculum into me that arched my back up off the table in pain. The experience convinced me to take a hiatus from pelvic exams. Why did I need a stupid Pap smear, anyway, since I don’t have a cervix? That was three, perhaps four, years ago.

I like nurse practitioners. Most seem to remember that they are patient advocates. This new one had studied my records and done her homework regarding my condition. Without her ever mentioning intersex or DSD, she examined me, and we talked about things like lifelong hormone replacement therapy, and vaginal dilation, and post-surgical clitoral sensitivity. Like those things were commonplace.

As soon as my defenses reclassified her from suspect to friendly, I snapped into long-lost-intersex-friend mode. In such situations, something deep inside prompts me to talk endlessly about intersex, as though pushing the words out will make the pain go away. She smiled…and listened…and put a hand on my shoulder…and almost…almost made me feel okay with being in a doctor’s office.

Intersex isn’t about gender. It isn’t about sex. Or body differences. It’s about being treated as so alien that the gender, and sex, and body differences become the measure of our lives. Kudos to one nurse practitioner who gets what intersex awareness means.

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5
October

Guest post on: Mercy not Sacrifice

ls4Check out a guest post I did for Pastor Morgan Guyton’s blog.
Mercy not Sacrifice

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26
August

Hating Transgender Kids

loveWhy some Christians insist on harsh rhetoric, fear mongering, and hopeless political battles is beyond me. If you hate transgender kids so much, then share the Gospel with them. It’s the only weapon you have capable of victory.

Where will your justification for hatred be when medicine can change chromosomes? Instead of looking to pop science, why not consider what Scripture has to say about the issue?

In Acts 8:26 is recorded the baptism of the Ethiopian eunuch.

And the angel of the Lord spake unto Philip, saying, Arise, and go toward the south unto the way that goeth down from Jerusalem unto Gaza, which is desert. And he arose and went: and, behold, a man of Ethiopia, an eunuch of great authority under Candace queen of the Ethiopians, who had the charge of all her treasure, and had come to Jerusalem for to worship, Was returning, and sitting in his chariot read Esaias the prophet.

Then the Spirit said unto Philip, Go near, and join thyself to this chariot. And Philip ran thither to him, and heard him read the prophet Esaias, and said, Understandest thou what thou readest? And he said, How can I, except some man should guide me? And he desired Philip that he would come up and sit with him. The place of the scripture which he read was this, He was led as a sheep to the slaughter; and like a lamb dumb before his shearer, so opened he not his mouth:

In his humiliation his judgment was taken away: and who shall declare his generation? for his life is taken from the earth. And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and preached unto him Jesus.

And as they went on their way, they came unto a certain water: and the eunuch said, See, here is water; what doth hinder me to be baptized? And Philip said, If thou believest with all thine heart, thou mayest. And he answered and said, I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. And he commanded the chariot to stand still: and they went down both into the water, both Philip and the eunuch; and he baptized him. And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing.”

No harsh rhetoric there. No Pharisaical man-made rules. No chromosomes. Philip didn’t require anything extra before baptism.

Have you considered that Philip didn’t heal the eunuch? And yet, earlier in chapter 8, it says that

Acts 8:6,7: “And the people with one accord gave heed unto those things which Philip spake, hearing and seeing the miracles which he did. For unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many that were possessed with them: and many taken with palsies, and that were lame, were healed.”

Perhaps the eunuch’s sexual difference was something that didn’t need healing? At the very least, we have God’s  promise that remaining a eunuch was for his good. (Romans 8:28)

Matthew 19:12 says “For there are some eunuchs, which were so born from their mother’s womb: and there are some eunuchs, which were made eunuchs of men: and there be eunuchs, which have made themselves eunuchs for the kingdom of heaven’s sake. He that is able to receive it, let him receive it.”

Jesus doesn’t condemn any of these people, but what the Bible does make clear is that eunuchs were not the same as males. Sexual status can be something other than male or female, and it can change.

I’m not saying that transgender kids are eunuchs. What I’m trying to point out is how the Gospel treats someone who is sexually different than your standard male or female, boy or girl. And that the Bible acknowledges that at least some sexual variations away from typical male or female are “from their mother’s womb.”

If you think that gender is entirely learned, I’d love to hear your Biblical argument for it. Might I suggest that such a view stems rather from feminism or our culture’s distorted view of the theories of Dr. John Money?

For years physicians used surgery and hormones to turn intersex babies into girls on the theory that, with the proper reinforcement from parents, the child would develop a feminine gender identity. Here’s a case typical of the sorts of failures that occurred.

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As an experiment, they even tried to raise a boy as a girl. As an infant David Reimer had lost his penis in a circumcision accident. Dr. John Money (pictured below) recommended castration and raising the child as a girl. If gender was learned, then David should be happy as Brenda.  Here’s one telling of the sad story:

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Isaiah 56:1-8 says

“Thus saith the LORD, Keep ye judgment, and do justice: for my salvation is near to come, and my righteousness to be revealed.

Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that layeth hold on it; that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and keepeth his hand from doing any evil.

Neither let the son of the stranger, that hath joined himself to the LORD, speak, saying, The LORD hath utterly separated me from his people: neither let the eunuch say, Behold, I am a dry tree.

For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;

Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.

Also the sons of the stranger, that join themselves to the LORD, to serve him, and to love the name of the LORD, to be his servants, every one that keepeth the sabbath from polluting it, and taketh hold of my covenant;

Even them will I bring to my holy mountain, and make them joyful in my house of prayer: their burnt offerings and their sacrifices shall be accepted upon mine altar; for mine house shall be called an house of prayer for all people.

The Lord GOD which gathereth the outcasts of Israel saith, Yet will I gather others to him, beside those that are gathered unto him.”

Let me repeat part of that quote, in case you missed it.

“For thus saith the LORD unto the eunuchs that keep my sabbaths, and choose the things that please me, and take hold of my covenant;

Even unto them will I give in mine house and within my walls a place and a name better than of sons and of daughters: I will give them an everlasting name, that shall not be cut off.”

God has promised “a name better than of sons and daughters” for covenant-keeping eunuchs. He could have said as good as or the same as, but He didn’t. Even in blessing, God makes a distinction between eunuch(intersex, castrata, trans?) and male or female.

God has promised to bring in some of the people you hate the most. Share the Gospel with them and let the Holy Spirit and God’s Grace take care of whatever needs to be done in their lives.

You disagree? That’s great! Rather than slamming me, why not show me from Scripture where I’m wrong? I’m open to reproof and correction. I’d love to hear from you.

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21
August

GA Allows Transgender Girl To Use—Oh My!—The Girls’ Room

Skylar (transgender)

Skylar (transgender)

Atlanta Gender Variations is a support group for the families of gender variant children. A few months ago they invited me to speak about intersex and share some of my history.

One of the issues they shared with me was that of Skylar, a twelve-year-old transgender girl, who had been denied use of the girls’ restroom at her school. Although they had instructed her to use the faculty restroom, she had, on at least one occasion, been denied its use as well.

Sometime later, I was pleasantly surprised to hear that the administration had listened to reason and reversed the school’s decision. A few days ago, Skylar returned to school and is being treated the same as the other girls in her classes.

Skylar’s mother, Kristine, agreed to talk a bit about Skylar’s history.

Kristine (Skylar's mom)

Kristine (Skylar’s mom)

Lianne: Hi, Kristine. Thanks for taking the time to meet with me. You had mentioned, I think, that you have three children?

Kristine: Yes. Spencer was our first born son (1998). All boy from the moment he could walk…tough, all about playing with balls and baseball etc. Cole was our second-born son (2000). And was the happiest baby I’ve ever seen—smiling from what seemed like the second week of life! Then our daughter Sylvie was born 18 months later (2002). Cole and Sylvie looked so much alike we called them “the twins”. They were inseparable—and still are.

Lianne: When did you first notice that Cole wasn’t your typical boy?

Kristine: Since the day Cole could walk, he would put on whatever women’s shoes were lying around. From there, the obsession with anything pretty, sparkly, or Barbie began. Both Cole’s dad and I were on board with whatever made our children happy. At no point did we say “no” to anything that was considered “girly”. We just wanted him to be happy. Over time—I’d say at about three or four years old, he knew already that other people outside of our home didn’t “get it” and started referring to how he behaved in our home as “the secret”. It breaks my heart now to even think about, but there you have it. At no point did Cole express a desire to live as a girl. Never said anything that would lead us to believe there was more at play here than just dress up.

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Lianne: When did that change?

Kristine: When Cole was ten, his father and I divorced. One day, I asked Cole, “Do you want to be a girl or just like dressing up like one?” He replied “No…just like dressing up”. All along, Spencer had put up with Cole dressing up, playing with Barbies etc, because it didn’t affect him. Cole and Sylvie were always off doing their thing, and Spencer was out playing and, for the most part, kept Cole’s secret. He would sometimes taunt Cole, and in general they didn’t like each other. Spencer had little patience for Cole’s intense nature and high energy.

In November 2011, I saw a segment on Anderson Cooper about transgender teenagers. A friend had once pointed out that she felt Cole might be dealing with that issue. I didn’t buy it, because I had asked Cole and he said no. But I recorded the show anyway to show him. I didn’t single him out when one day I told him and Sylvie about the show and suggested they watch it. Because it was interesting, and I have always been open with them about gay rights and activism etc. Off to basketball practice I went one night with Sylvie, and I received a text from Cole saying he had watched the show and felt that he might be transgender. I burst into tears….mostly for relief finally “knowing” what was going on with him. But also because I instantly knew that this was going to be a lot harder than him coming out as gay, which was what I truly believed about him.

Lianne: So you took him to a specialist?

Kristine: Yes. I went head on to get Cole to where he needed to be. I lined up a counselor (who as it turns out knew very little about transgender issues, but had good intentions) and within a month, Cole put the brakes on and said I was pushing him too fast! He wasn’t quite ready. His dad was also very supportive during this time, but I believe had a slightly more difficult time processing the idea. Like maybe he’d change his mind etc. But he listened to Cole, as I did, and did the research and was quickly on board with moving forward to help Cole.

During this time, Cole watched all of Jazz’s videos on YouTube, and we did as well. It all started making sense. And by February, he was eager to begin transitioning. However, he was struggling with confidence issues at that time and would dress out some days at home, but still present as Cole to friends, school etc. It was a tough time for us because I wanted him to go all in, and he just wasn’t “there” yet. It also made Spencer nuts—he could not wrap his head around it.

Lianne: When did Cole make the transition?

Kristine: In June, my friend who was the one whom I mentioned above and is also a hair stylist, put real hair extensions in Cole’s hair, and he officially became “Skylar”. School was out and we were going away for a month back home to New England. So off we went with Skylar, and the summer was great for her.

Lianne: Did Skylar go right back to school then?

Kristine: No. When we returned, I home schooled her to give her more time to adjust and settle in to being “Skylar”. Spencer was not happy at all during this time. How would this affect him? That’s all he cared about. And I made it clear that anyone who came into our home would be told about Skylar and would have to be okay with it. Surprisingly for Spencer, his friends not only didn’t care much, but one of his closest girl friends has a good friend who is transgender. All was well in Spencer’s world once again!

Lianne: At what point did you find a support group?

Kristine: We joined Atlanta Gender Variations immediately on the recommendation from a few trans friends I had made through a friend of mine back in Boston.

They also recommended Dr Spack who as it turns out one of our good friends had worked with “Norm” and got us an appointment in June of 2012. AGV was a great group, and Skylar developed an immediate bond and friendship that still thrives with Britt who is also a MTF twelve year old. Britt’s family, myself, Skylar, and Sylvie spend quite a bit of time together, and in the winter, we met up with Jazz and her mom Jeanette at the Coke museum for a day of fun and girls being girls. It was awesome for all of them. And they all still text, Instagram, etc.<br>

In December, I brought Skylar back to Boston, and she had her Vantis implant put in. She was thrilled.

Sylvie, Skylar, and Britt

Sylvie, Skylar, and Britt

Lianne: The implant was to delay Skylar’s puberty?

Kristine: Yes. Her blood levels were monitored (along with her physical development) and when the time was right, the implant was put in. This suppresses testosterone so that she won’t develop typically masculine features, such as facial and body hair and an adam’s apple, etc. She could finally breathe a sigh of relief!

Lianne: When did she return to public school?

Kristine: In January, Skylar returned to the middle school where she had attended as Cole. People came out of the woodwork in support of her. She has more friends now than ever before. There have been some mean-spirited people, mostly boys, but for the most part she ignores them. The school has been very supportive and adaptable.

Skylar and her cheerleading squad

Skylar and her cheerleading squad

Lianne: But they forbid Skylar to use the girls’ restroom?

Kristine: Yes. The principal said it wasn’t up to the school, but they would go along with whatever the administration decided.

I went to the area superintendent this summer and met with her and the policy administrator and pleaded our case to have her be able to use the girls’ restroom. After a few weeks of reading through the materials and doing research, they decided in our favor and now Skylar is just like any other girl at her school! There is no written policy so that is my next goal—to have them put a written policy in place.

Jazz, Skylar, & Sylvie

Jazz, Skylar, & Sylvie

Skylar, Jazz, Sylvie, & Jazz’s brothers

Skylar, Jazz, Sylvie, & Jazz’s brothers

Lianne: That went much easier than I thought it would. What’s next?

Kristine: Skylar is badgering me to find a doctor who will begin hormone treatments, but to date, none of them will. It’s frustrating for her. Dr. Spack is retiring, and it is difficult to reach him and his office lately. He used to answer my emails directly, but not so much anymore. He said he would probably start her next year but I don’t know where that stands now.

Lianne: Thanks so much for sharing. Is there anything else you’d like to say?

Krisine: In June Skylar, Sylvie and myself flew up to Philadelphia to attend the Trans-Health Conference. There we stayed in a hotel with all the other families who were attending with their children. It was an amazing experience…aside from the educational part of the conference. The kids came together in a large group of about 20ish kids and spent four days inseparable… going out to eat or just running around the hotel playing and hanging out as teens do. The bonding that happened over those few days was intense and the best experience for us all.

Skylar’s 13th birthday was August 16th. Her friends contacted me to let me know they were throwing her a surprise party. I just had to order the pizzas and drop her off. She knew they were going to have a party for her, but didn’t know when. She was so incredibly happy when we showed up at the party. About fifteen kids, mostly girls, but a few boys as well, jumped out and whisked her away to a night of celebration just for her.

Nothing like this had ever happened to Cole. His friendships were never that close or deep because Cole could never truly be himself. Now that Skylar is thriving, her friendships are what they should be for a 13 year old. I stood there, choking back tears of joy, seeing my daughter truly happy and being celebrated in a way that Cole never had been. I still well up thinking about her face and the high she was on for days after. We are so lucky, and I’m forever grateful to these amazing kids and their families.

Surprise birthday party

Surprise birthday party

Lianne: Thanks for sharing so much, Kristine. All the best on your photography business.

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