MJ is a brilliant young adult who has been struggling since graduating high school to find her way in the world. The combination of Asperger’s Syndrome and Gender Dysphoria have made it difficult for her to follow a typical path to a happy, fulfilling life. Follow our adventures as we guide her to a place where her creative juices flow freely and we can watch her flourish and grow into the person God has created her to be.
Lately there have been some odd confluences such as Easter and April Fools day and snow falling on the first day of spring. And last Saturday was the Trans Day of Visibility and Monday was Autism Awareness Day and so I’ve been deeply considering that it may be time to finally come out on Facebook and let everyone know that my child is a double rainbow kid. She is someone who lives on both the gender spectrum and the autism spectrum. But then another coinciding event – my former church announced that they will be discussing (again) what they think the Bible says about homosexuality and transgender. And I thought, oh no, maybe this is not a good time, because I’m pretty sure they haven’t changed their minds since the last time I heard a sermon about it there. And a large percentage of my Facebook friends are people I met at that church.
But then again, if these days are set aside to give visibility to transgender people and autistic people in order to increase understanding and acceptance, then maybe its the perfect time to let everyone know that not only does my child exist, but she is a wonderful human, created in God’s image. She lives and breathes among you and she is not someone you should fear or shun. If you meet her, you’ll be impressed by her.
MJ has become a skilled photographer and outspoken activist. She designed and 3-d printed a sculpture reminiscent of the Bernie Boston’s Flower Power image from the Vietnam War protests in 1967. She produced quite a few of them that were carried by activists and photographed during the March for Our Lives event on March 24.
As a person with Asperger’s Syndrome, she knows a great deal and can speak articulately about the things she’s passionate about. She’s currently developing a speech regarding internet privacy issues, Facebook, and net neutrality which she will deliver to groups of college students next week. She has an in-depth knowledge and detailed grasp of the issues and is working hard to explain them in a way that will convince people to protect themselves and to get out and vote intelligently. I’m so happy that she’s found a productive outlet for her some of her frustrations. She is a beautiful person inside and out.
While MJ has been out for a long time now, I’ve been carefully choosing who to come out to. As a protective mother, I have been surprised by and incredibly grateful for all of the love and understanding of family and friends that I’ve shared with. One of the reasons I thought to come out on Facebook now is because I want to share freely about all of the cool stuff MJ has been doing and not have to debate about which pronouns and which name to use.
I think its important for people to understand there’s always another side to the story, other perspectives and other interpretations to consider. I don’t have any illusions of me changing everyone’s mind. But I wish that my Facebook friends would be humble enough to consider that they might be wrong about their beliefs and to remember that its more important to love than to be right. Consider the questions posed by Noel Koenke in her article published in the National Catholic Reporter:
Could we be born inherently good instead of with “original sin”? What kind of person do you think a child could grow to be if from birth they were told they are inherently good and worthy of love? Less anger, less sadness, less depression and more authentically living the life God intended?
Could we pursue happiness in this life instead of “carrying our cross” and waiting for a reward in the next? What does venerating sacrifice do to the self-worth of the individual? How does a life in pursuit of joy exist in any contradiction to the love of God?
Could we simply be human and treat others with kindness, actively making time to connect with the universe and all that is in it, rather than having the “commandment” to love our enemies? Isn’t love only love if freely given? Is commanding it of others with the threat of punishment a free choice?
Could we radically accept all people, celebrating the diversity of difference rather than shaming their uniqueness? I speak directly in favor of LGBT persons who are marginalized and chastened for their honest expression of God’s love. Where is Jesus in all this? What does the church lose, other than a monopoly of control, in loving and accepting and smiling upon all God’s people?
MJ has stated many times that she doesn’t want me to make a big deal about her gender identity and I don’t want to make a big deal about it either. But I’m tired of hiding and feel its important that people know my story. I want to be able to share MJ’s accomplishments freely. Maybe I just start posting about the things she is doing, using her preferred name and pronouns. If people ask, then I’ll be happy to answer their questions. But I don’t know if I want to deal with any negativity and unsolicited advice. Given all of the criticism of Facebook, and the convincing arguments that MJ has made to completely get off of it, I’m so conflicted! April is Autism Awareness Month so if I don’t do it soon, I guess I’ll wait until next year. Or, maybe I post and then close my Facebook account. Ugh!
What do you think? Should I go for it? Light it up blue …and pink and white? Will it make a difference or would it just be asking for trouble?
There are plenty of kids with Asperger’s who make their way through college. We thought for sure that MJ would be one of them. But we gave up on the college dream when MJ’s level of success in her classes proved to be difficult and inconsistent. We couldn’t endure the struggles anymore and we both decided that it was time to stop fighting over it and try another path to employment. That was about 2 and a half years ago. So, it is with great excitement I report that with only 3 more classes to go MJ can graduate from community college!
It can be hard to explain to people who know MJ why she can’t get through a typical college experience. She certainly seems capable when you speak with her. She’s so obviously intelligent and her knowledge about space is impressive. They ask me, “Why doesn’t she become an engineer?” Believe me, we’ve tried our best. I’ll attempt to recap our efforts here. But before I go there I want to tell you how she ended up back in school.
Last month was the hottest April on record. These next few days have been cooler, more like average temps should be. But you can feel the promise of summer and the excitement of the changes to come as the end of the school year and graduation for many draws near. The incremental changes that MJ is experiencing are full of possibility as well. She’s starting to feel minor changes in her body from the hormones and she’s decided to make a few tweaks to her job search, changes that we hope will lead her to a career that will be a better match for someone with the unique set of challenges of a person with Asperger’s Syndrome.
MJ is a talented graphic artist and up until a couple of years ago, she was pursuing an associates degree in Communication Design. After the last two internships and ongoing freelance work as a designer, its clear to her that to find success in graphic design requires a level of communication and social skill difficult to reach for an aspie. But MJ is an inter-disciplined creative problem solver. I’ve maintained that the perfect job for her will combine her skills in design and technology. On the journey to the perfect job, we are thinking that at this point, she might find more success and fulfillment by pursuing a technical job. So after meeting with the Pathways team to discuss the possibilities, they’ve agreed to focus their search on jobs like fixing or building computers, software testing, or something else where she might gain experience in IT.
Sometimes I don’t write because it seems there’s nothing new happening. And then suddenly it seems as if too much is happening and I just can’t find the time to reflect and write. MJ hasn’t been so busy since her last internship ended. But the past couple of weeks were busy with appointments for both of us. MJ had appointments with Pathways, Whitman Walker, and her psychologist.
The Pathways team, MJ’s psychologist, and I have been stressing to her, the importance of getting on a more regular schedule. We want her to wake up at a reasonable hour and work at her desk for the better part of each day, whether she works on paying work or not. She’s agreed to do it, but so far she’s been struggling with insomnia at night and ends up sleeping much of the day. We’ve set up call to let her freelance employer know that she is recommitting to getting up and being available for more projects and projects that may require quicker turnaround times. Pathways is also still searching for a permanent job. I’ll have to let you know how all of that goes.
In high school she had a hard time getting to school on time but she never had this much trouble waking up before. Alarm clocks and all the tricks we’ve tried just don’t work. I’m tired from trying to get her up each day. It seems to me that as gender dysphoria has gripped her tighter, the less she wants to be up and out in the world. It’s been debilitating. She is reclusive and I think she would rather sleep all day than have to show up as a person she isn’t comfortable with.
MJ came out to me about 7 years ago. It’s taken me this long to understand and accept that she’s transgender. When she first told me, I thought it was possible that it was another obsession of hers. She’s had many obsessions, typical for people with Asperger’s Syndrome. But gender dysphoria isn’t going away. It’s hold on her is getting worse.
Last weekend I was privileged to attend the Gay Christian Network Conference. I was invited to go with my dear friend, a fellow “Mama Bear” as the mom’s of LGBTQ kids are called. When I got home, MJ said, “I can’t believe you went to that.” I told her that I went because my journey is different than her journey. See, as a Mama Bear, I will protect my child fiercely and do everything I can to give her the opportunity to grow into the person she was created to be, to set her on the path that God has chosen for her. I want to know that she will be granted salvation and we will see each other in eternity.
I went to the conference with not a lot of expectation but I knew that I would come away with, at the very least, some language. And, I learned far more than I thought I ever could. I’m still processing it all but I can tell you that God has definitely broken my heart for what breaks his. The LGBTQ community yearns to be known, to be affirmed. The world tells them they are not worthy, but God loves each of them.
I hope you all had a Merry Christmas! We definitely did. And now I’m reflecting on the year and looking forward to starting a new one. It was a rough year, but I’m grateful for the struggle.
MJ’s last internship ended just before Thanksgiving. It provided opportunities for growth in a lot of areas. In my opinion, the biggest accomplishment was getting her driving consistently to and from work. But the job gave her a more regimented schedule and clearly defined tasks and deliverables. And with minor exceptions, she delivered beautifully. On a few occasions, she had to demonstrate humility and give the the client what they asked for even when she disagreed. She learned that it was important to give the client what they want and then to go above and beyond to give them a better solution. This is a very important skill for a designer to learn and one that comes with experience.
MJ drove the half hour to and from her internship by herself for the first time this week! Woo-hoo! I’m doing the happy dance! I am so proud of her.
In the last 4 weeks since the present internship began, I had been riding with her, sometimes driving her there and letting her drive home. A few times she drove both ways but still wanted me in the car. She’s had her license for a long time but until now wasn’t comfortable driving anywhere alone.
Work’s been keeping me from writing and that’s a good thing, but now I have a lot to tell you. First off, MJ will be starting another internship next week and Pathways helped her line up some possible freelance graphic design work. In the meantime, she made her way to New York City for a concert. She also emailed Whitman Walker to make an appointment… AND we celebrated her birthday. As she’s getting older, I’m noticing more maturity and am encouraged by the growth she’s had this summer.
The Pathways team set up this second internship with a publishing company and I think they’ve found a good match. MJ felt comfortable with the employees she was introduced to at the meet and greet. She’ll mostly be putting magazine ads together, but I believe there will be opportunity to do some photography too. Unfortunately it will be more layout and less design but a good environment to practice discipline and develop healthy work habits. There will be a lot more structure and more clearly defined tasks and deliverables than in her previous internship. It also seems that this time there may be an opportunity for employment after 10 weeks. The main concern MJ has is that they work on Macs and she prefers PCs. It will be an adjustment and I just pray she isn’t going to be to obstinate about it.
Recently, as is often the case in summer, a quickly moving thunderstorm passed over us at the beach. My husband and I decided to wait it out and as the sky cleared, a rainbow appeared on the horizon. That’s kinda the way life is for us, isn’t it?
Whenever the rainbow appears in the clouds, I will see it and remember the everlasting covenant between God and all living creatures of every kind on the earth.
– Genesis 9:16
While the news has been filled with reports of occurrences demonstrating unrest around the world, I think there’s a widespread concern that we are on the brink of certain disaster. And here in the U.S., no matter what side you fall on, the political climate and upcoming election has us on edge. Yet most of us also have more personally pressing concerns to deal with in our families and everyday lives. We are waiting out the storms, praying for change, and anxiously waiting for better days to come.
Like most of us, I had just started to wrap my head around what happened as I checked my emails and social media the other day. And then I received an email message from a dear friend, addressed to a pretty large group of her friends and family, that really disturbed me. She had crossed a line and I had to respond before all of the people on her list started to think she might be right. She is a wonderful, loving person who means well, but she
is not a believer does not believe the Bible to be true. I think that will be pretty clear. Below is the string.
“The Islamic extremist in Orlando, Florida who killed so many people on Saturday thought he was following God’s will. It is so sad. Hitler was so devout that he had bible verses inscribed on the belt buckles of every soldier. The point is that it is a person’s belief of ‘doing God’s will’ that gives religious extremists permission. They actually believe they are doing ‘right’. They believe they are following God’s instruction. For example they will take a concept/section from a holy book where it describes how God condemns homosexuality or God promotes slavery or God promotes sexism and they try to promote the concept because this is what God instructed in the book. They believe they are being good because they are the ones following God’s instruction. They believe they are just following orders. And this is why teaching religion using these books is so detrimental. Because these extremists are just reading and following the instructions which other humans have taught them, usually from a young age, are the instructions directly from God. So they believe if they follow the instructions ‘they are good’ and if they do not follow the instructions ‘they are bad’. It is the continual teaching that these books are actually God’s words/God’s will/instructions that causes the problem combined with a person who really wants to do what is ‘right’ by following God’s orders exactly that leads to all this inhumanity. We have to stop teaching people that these books are God’s words. Otherwise there will be people who will want to follow the instructions to the extreme thinking they are doing good.”
Wait…What??? Are you kidding me?? Unfortunately, I can see that a lot of people think this way… that “religion” is the cause of war, “religion” is what is wrong with the world.
Here was my carefully worded response.
I follow your train of thought but I have so many issues with this message. And this is not a conversation to be had in a short email (with no paragraph breaks). With all due love and respect, I have to respond.