Sometimes we all need someone to talk to about life issues, or just a little support in times of need. A professional counselor or therapist is a great resource for working through the many and varied problems we all face in life. Sessions with counselors and therapists are confidential, non-judgmental, and individually tailored to clients' needs.
Skagit Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault Services provides confidential assistance for victims of domestic violence, dating violence, rape, child sexual abuse, stalking, elder abuse, sexual assault and sexual harassment.
Seattle Counseling Service is a community resource that advocates, educates and serves to advance the social well-being and mental health of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender communities. We began as a small grassroots effort in response to the need for a safer community. Founded in 1969, we were the first peer counseling service of its kind in the United States to serve the gay and lesbian community. We are currently serving over 750 individuals.
For more information, you can visit us at www.seattlecounseling.org
For parents of transgender/gender variant children/adolescents/adults, this is for you:
Listening is Step Two
by MaryRose Denton
Ask me any question you need to mum, says Jace.
He steps out into the busy crosswalk. It is already flashing its warning before it turns red. 9 seconds, 8, 7, 6… My hurried steps try to catch up with his.
I do have questions. Many questions.
I reach the curb and look over at him and nod.
Ok, I say. But walk, don’t run, and I will walk with you.
A phrase from his childhood. I could have been referring to crossing the street. But then again, the deeper meaning spoke to this new way of life.
Several weeks had passed since I had seen Jace, in the flesh anyway. He was busy at school and I busied myself with work and daily life. My list of questions regarding his transition grew each day, playing in the background of my mind.
He was socially transitioning first, he explained. I understood, consciously getting used to using his name and pronouns. Would this ever get easier?
Other thoughts surfaced too such as,
- How does this work?
- How fast will this transition go?
- Where do hormones fit in?
- Will those impair his health?
The answer I would later learn was I really did not have to, not completely, for they were the same person. My child.
How did I realize this? It was not an epiphany administered by a bolt of lightning. I merely listened.
Learning to listen.Watching Jace as we visited over lunch I saw something remarkable. Happiness. Happiness exuded from my son, not in some external way for any external reason but through him, around him, and in him.
I noticed the joy appear on his face when the waitress called him by his chosen name. An air of self-assuredness came across him and I swear he sat up taller. I long awaited to see this in my child who normally shrank from attention, averted any gaze, and generally presented a surly self to the world. There were some very long years of unhappiness for my kid. And try as I might, I could not understand.
Hallelujah!! I wanted to understand more!
To put things in perspective I craved knowing answers to questions such as, How long have you felt this way?
And needed to vocalize, I wish I had known earlier.
Yes, I made a laundry list of questions. In fact, many days it was hard for me to switch off the continual loop of questions in my head. But I knew better than to rapid-fire off my list. The last thing I wanted was for Jace to feel interrogated and shut down as a result.
Instead, I took a deep breath as I laid the lunch menu down in front of me, looked over at him, and merely said,
Honey, I want to understand. How best can I do that?
Jace looked quizzically at me over his water glass, his fingers fidgeting along its base.
Just what you are doing, mum. I really appreciate you listening.
Listening breeds understanding.Listening, true listening is a learned skill. Maybe some possess it naturally but most of the time I feel people do not slow down long enough to truly absorb what the other person is saying. It is easy to hear the words someone is saying, but do they wash over us while our minds are busy with other agendas?
There are four main reasons we listen.
- We listen for enjoyment.
- We listen to learn.
- We listen to gain information.
- We listen to understand.
I held space with him as we sat across this big wooden table in the middle of a crowded, noisy restaurant. As he talked the busy atmosphere faded. It was just him and me. Every now and then I paused him to ask yet another question or to clarify a term. Back then cisgender and non-binary were unfamiliar terms to me.
It is through this process of listening which bred understanding for me. I will never know what it feels like to be transgender, to live in a body I do not identify with. My experiences can never come close. But I can offer empathy and understanding. I showed this by listening.
Listening is advocacy.Truly listening to someone's story opens so many doors for further communication and growth. And when it comes to a loved one, it can make or break their world. Listening is one of the most important skills we have as parents. It allows us to become better advocates for our kids.
It demonstrates to them you not only see them but hear them. They are valid just the way they are. What could be more affirming than that?
Raising kids is hard work. The teenage years test our own fortitude as parents but it is by keeping that conversation open, paying attention, and showing we are listening that we strengthen those bonds.
I did not want to lose my child. It was through listening to Jace I began to understand he was always with me. I was not losing my child. I had always had a son.
As for my litany of questions, well, those were answered, usually with patience and some laughter. Listening allowed me to gain information, becoming better informed on all things transgender. I answered other people's questions with knowledge, transitioning into Jace’s number one ally.
And the pronouns? That gets easier too.