"Just who do you think you are?" The Dance of Shame



I’m having a really bad day today.

Not a my-wife-left-me, dog-died, lost-my-house and wrecked-my-pickup kind of day. Those are legitimate reasons for wanting to cry into your beer and/or write a country song.

Rather, I am dealing with a more insidious reason: shame. Shame from a long, long time ago, re-emerging through a series of events over the last 24 hours.

I feel so ashamed that I don’t even want to write about it. “That’s stupid, Amanda,” I can already hear someone say. “Get over yourself. Just who do you think you are?”

Good question.

But I’m going to talk about it anyway because I believe that, when we give voice to shame, we weaken it. We can even silence it altogether – at least, for a time. And just as importantly, there’s always a chance someone will say, “Hey, me too,” which is a big part of why I write these posts in the first place.

And so, with that, here’s how and why my day got very dark very quickly.

It started last night, when I did something kind of, well, kick ass.

I was at my 9-year-old’s school’s parent council meeting (not as a council member, but as an interested parent), looking pretty fabulous and with just enough caffeine in me to make me say things before I think them all the way through.

Towards the end of the meeting, someone asked how we could get better volunteer attendance; it’s always the same core council members with a few extra parents. In a school of nearly 700 students, we could do better.

Some good ideas were thrown around, but mostly folks agreed they had “tried pretty much everything” with little change.

Well, my brain hamster was pretty high on coffee, so I shot my hand up and said, “I think we need to be more inclusive and let people know they’re welcome.”

Yep. Just like that. You can dress the activist up, but you can’t take her anywhere.

I told them I have a wife. I told them I’ve heard from other same-sex parents who are worried about not being welcomed within school communities. Oh, and then I went on to point out that everyone in the room was white, and that we should recognize that and ask ourselves why, in a school with such a diverse population, we don’t see that reflected at council meetings.

So, basically, I outed myself to a room full of people, brought up queerness and race, and said we all need to do better. I did so in a room full of parents, the principal, the vice principal and some teachers.

Oh, and I’m now on parent council.

I know I talk a lot about my life online, in the media and to rooms full of people who know what to expect. But there’s something about making yourself vulnerable on the fly that makes your now panicked brain hamster freak fall right off the wheel.

So, by this morning, I had what researcher and incredible human being Brené Brown calls a “vulnerability hangover.” It’s when you put yourself out there, and then you find yourself mortified by that fact for a little while after. That “OMG. What did I just do?” kind of feeling.

When I start my day with a vulnerability hangover (which has happened more times than I can count, given the work I do), I’m going to internalize the day’s events in ways that are far more negative than usual.

Obviously, today was no exception.

I went to a launch for a large local fundraising campaign. I was asked to go by the organizers specifically because my family has been part of their fundraising efforts, and therefore, media might want to speak to me.

News flash (I use this term ironically): No media wanted to speak to me.

Apparently, the reason is because they’ve all recently interviewed me. Between Zoe coming out and our efforts to help our friends from Finland, we’ve been in close contact with a lot of news agencies this year. It’s not at all surprising they wanted to interview other people instead.

But, of course, that’s not how Hangover Amanda interpreted it. Not even close.

“Who do you think you are?” the critic in me said. “See? You shouldn’t have come. Everyone is tired of hearing you talk. Hope you had fun, because they’ll never invite you back.”

But don’t worry, shame wasn’t done with me just yet. I also spilled Diet Pepsi all over the table I was at because I was too busy talking with my hands. And then I had nothing to clean it up with, so I pulled some used tissues from my purse to mop it up with. All class, all the time.

As the closing act to Shame-a-palooza 2016, my credit card was denied in the parking garage while 10 people were in line behind me, and then said machine ate my ticket. So I had to call for help and yell into the crackly speaker while occasionally turning around and mouthing, “sorry! I’m so sorry!” behind me.

I left with heart palpitations in my chest and a lump in my throat. Shame is balls.

Over the last couple of years, I have consciously learned to love myself. I did it to be an authentic role model for my daughter, and also because I started to realize I could not let anyone else love me if I didn’t think I was worthy of that love in the first place. And I do a great job most days. Hell, I just delivered a TedX talk on this very topic, which will be available online soon.

And yet, here I was, hating on myself today - hard. Belittling myself. Asking myself just who I think I am. So not only am I feeling ashamed by this point, but I’m feeling ashamed of feeling ashamed. Emotional inception.

I came home, and Juliet – the trans woman from Finland who’s been staying with us while she attempts to seek refuge in Canada – asked me how my day was.

“Do you really want to know?” I asked, holding back tears.

I didn’t want to tell her. She tells me all the time that I’m her hero. Despite my constant disagreement on the issue, she has this idea of me that is far more impressive than reality. I was ashamed to admit how I was feeling to this person who expects me to be strong.

But I did, because humans need help from other humans sometimes, and my brain hamster was tired of running all those thoughts around on the wheel.




And then she said something really insightful. She told me those negative thoughts are like a tree that has grown over time. The branches can grow and throw us some shade.

“You’ll never be able to get rid of the tree,” she said. “It’s a part of you. But you can trim the branches back enough to see the sun again. That’s what you have to do on days like today.”

Finnish people. They’re pretty smart.

And that’s why I’m writing this. I’m trimming the tree back. Because she’s right: I’ll never be able to kill it. That tree was planted when I was a child – back when things and other people were the ones saying terrible things to me – and it will always be in my yard. But I can control how it grows. Shame might exist in my world, but it doesn’t have to take over.



Funny enough, today is also the day I got a nice, short tweet from Brené Brown herself – someone I deeply admire. On a day filled with shame, this was a nice reminder that I can be pretty brave, too.


So, just who do I think I am? The girl with the pruning shears staring up at the branches, that’s who

"Some Families Have Two Moms" and Other Things I've Explained Since My Spouse Transitioned

Photo credit: Pexels.com


“No! You’re lying!”

My friend’s child – all of six years old – stomped downstairs, yelling this behind him.

“No, I’m not,” our nine-year-old replied, as patiently as he could, as he followed the littler one down the stairs.

The kid stood in front of us with a determined look. “Jackson said he doesn’t have a dad. But everyone has a dad or you can’t be born!”

Oh! Hello, Knox family. Have you just arrived? Pull up a chair and get comfortable. Welcome to queer family life.

Honestly, I never much thought of my hetero privilege until I lost it. For many years, I had what I thought was a husband. And now that same person is my wife.

But before she lived as she, I just floated through life, completely oblivious, on this lovely little cloud of privilege.

Why? Because it was easy to do so. Our entire society is set up for families to have one mom and one dad.

It’s the automatic. The default. The assumption.

Don’t believe me? The next time you’re out, drive by a new housing development – or a new medical office, or a car dealership – geared towards families, and look at the sign, If it has a family on it, it will likely contain one mom, one dad, and one or two kids. (And usually everyone is white – but that’s a whole other kettle of fish.)

Automatic.

Filling out forms for your kids at the dentist or the new dance school? How many of those forms still ask for “father’s name” and “mother’s name”? My guess is at least 75%, despite queer families having existed for, like, ever.

Default.

“What does your husband do?” the hair stylist would ask, even if I never offered up my spouse’s gender in a conversation.

“He works in high tech,” I would reply. And on our conversation would go while she made my roots not grey anymore.

Assumption.

I never looked too hard at this stuff because I didn’t have to. Nothing about my family was questioned, so why would I question it? We were nuclear and middle class and owned a home in a safe neighbourhood just beyond the city’s greenbelt. Two sedans. A garden of perennials. A couple of dogs. We were Pleasantville.

And now, with one change to one spouse’s gender identity, I am keenly aware that we’re not so Pleasantville anymore.

How many times have I crossed out “father’s contact information” and wrote “mother” in its place over the last few months? Answer: A few times now, with a gentle conversation ensuing with the form-giver on the importance of inclusion.

And, while there are thousands of same-sex families living in Canada, finding any advertising geared towards us outside of Pride week is like finding Willy Wonka’s golden ticket.

But, as an unapologetically social person, the most noticeable difference comes from the once-easy conversations with strangers.

“What does your husband do?” the woman doing my nails will ask.

“My wife, actually,” I’ll reply, as casually as I can. (That moment of vulnerability still makes me a little nervous.) “She’s in high tech.”

Pause in conversation. Subtle face change.

“Oh.”

What happens after that “Oh,” is anyone’s guess. Sometimes, things go on as usual. Other times, I know we’re not going to be chatting quite as openly as we were a few seconds before. The chatter cools. People become more professional. Not rude, but definitely not friendly anymore.

And that hurts a little, by the way. Every. Single. Time.

The automatic. The default. The assumption.

And maybe I wouldn’t notice this quite as much if I had not enjoyed that glorious privilege for so long. Going from easy to not-quite-so-easy is a learning experience for me.

We’ve stopped holding hands in public. When my beautiful wife leans in for a kiss in the driveway before heading off to work, I automatically glance around first to see who’s watching. It’s a safety thing, and not something I had to do before.

Pride 2016: we marched in the parade and held hands the entire time.
I miss being able to do this the other 364 days each year.

We’ve come a long way as a society, but I’m now learning firsthand how far we still have to go.

So, how do we get there?

Well, when a little kid comes downstairs declaring how impossible it is for a child not to have a dad, we can do some educating.

In this case, I told him lots of people don’t have a dad or don’t have a mom. That some people have two dads or two moms, and that’s perfectly normal. (His own mom, one of my good friends and a wonderful ally, happily let me explain what had simply never come up with him in conversation before.)

I showed him pictures of our family and said, “See? Two moms and three kids. No dad.” And then I showed him more pictures of more families I know. Two dads and an adopted son with a different skin colour. Two other dads with four smiling children. Two moms with two beautiful girls.

“Oh. Okay, then,” he said happily, and ran back upstairs to play. Jackson shrugged and followed him.

And that’s how we’re going to get there. Because now, when this kid is older and maybe helping create forms at his first job, he’s going to make sure those forms don’t say “mother” and “father.” Because now he’ll know that isn’t everyone’s normal, even if it is his.

And long before then, he’ll be the kid correcting other kids’ assumptions. “Yeah? Well I know a family with two moms and they don’t even need a dad to be born!”

Meanwhile, I’ll keep going back to the same nail salon, despite the awkward I-don’t-know-what-to-say silence. I’m determined to become a part of their normal, so the next woman married to another woman doesn’t get met with the same.

Let’s change the automatic. Question the default. Obliterate the assumptions. (And have cute nails.) 

40 Life Lessons I Learned Before Turning 40



I turn 40 on September 1st, and I can't even

How do you sum up four decades of life? I'll soon find out, as I recently quit my job to write an autobiography. 

Yes, that was probably a dumb idea. 

Yes, I'm properly terrified. 

But I also know that I have to do it. Life has taught me that if we keep waiting for opportunities, those opportunities don't always come. And in that way, it's probably the best thing I've ever done. 

This, and 39 other lessons I've learned through a life filled with challenges and education, are listed below. I wish I had learned some of these sooner, so I'm passing them on to someone else in the hopes they will have more clue than younger me did. 

1. Life is change. So don’t get too comfortable. I experienced big change in the last couple of years, both as a mother and as a spouse, and I did not see either of those changes coming. It was like the ultimate surprise party. With subsequent therapy sessions.

2. Change is not your enemy. It’s not out to kick you in the ovaries, even if it feels that way sometimes. Life is like an occasionally irrational roommate, who is totally fine most of the time and then trashes the house when he can’t find his Blink 182 CD. Then you come home from work and you’re all, “What happened?” Life, your irrational roommate, happened. He still pays rent and cooks a mean stir fry though, so he’s not all bad.

3. When you can help someone, do it. Life works best when we are there for those who fall down. And believe me, we all fall down, eventually. So when you can be that person for someone else, be that person. Do one small thing, or one big thing. But do a thing. It comes back to you, I promise.

4. Seriously, dudes: Today is all we have. I know that’s written on about eleventy-five-thousand inspirational memes, but that’s because it’s true. We only have today. Any of us could die in a freak poutine-eating accident tomorrow (especially me, as I fully plan to go out in a blaze of cheese curds and extra gravy.) So enjoy today, okay? It’s not so bad.

Photo credit: Yuri Long via Flickr.


5. Don’t give up the foods you love. (#poutine.) If you’ve been following the health side of my journey, you know I’ve gotten smaller and buffer in the last 18 months. I did that without completely giving up chocolate or coffee with cream or anything else that makes me happy in the mouth; I just eat less of it now. Life is too damn short.

6. Balance is unattainable (but try anyway). The term “perfect balance” is used for two reasons: in embarrassingly challenging yoga moves, and to sell magazines. The latter concept is a myth. We can get close, but our lives are too messy and too imperfect to achieve perfection in any way, including balance. So just do the best you can and awkwardly high-five yourself for it like I do in meetings sometimes when I say something witty.

7. You can love your kids AND your career. Why are parents (and mothers in particular) always expected to choose one over the other? I love both of mine for different reasons. I love my kids because they’re awesome and love me back, and I love my career because it’s fulfilling and doesn’t eat all my Doritos.

8. Love is good. And sometimes hard. And yet, still good. I’m more in love with my wife today than I’ve ever been. But as I’ve mentioned before, we’ve had to put a whole lot of work in to getting here. Thankfully, a deep connection happens when two people face the storm together. We’ve faced a few, and I think we appreciate our togetherness in a more meaningful way because of it.

Zoe and me, Pride Ottawa 2016


9. Don’t work out to get thin. If that was my goal, I would have quit a long time ago. Look, some of us get thin through lifestyle changes and exercise. Some of us, like yours truly, do not. In my case, it may have something to do with genetics and also poutine. But I work out because it makes me feel like a powerhouse of amazingness – at any size. And that’s way more motivation than trying to fit into a pair of jeans.

10. You can be a strong person and still need help. I got depressed last year. My life got dark. I went to the doctor and the therapist and I got the help I needed. In no way does that make me weak, and if you’ve ever had to do the same, it doesn’t make you weak, either. In fact, I’d argue that level of awareness is a strength in itself.

11. Comparison is for suckers. My neighbours have a yard that screams, “I love gardening!” I have a yard that screams, “I love apathy!” But so what? That’s where they put their time and energy. I put mine into other things. Both time and energy are in limited supply, so use them where you think it’s worthwhile and don’t worry about what other people do. Heck, if my neighbours don’t like my yard, they can come over and landscape it for me.

12. Some of us bloom a little later. My school years were brutal for me. I had few friends, lots of bullies, and was even set on fire in front of my middle school. But today I have a voice and a fierceness and a lot of resilience thanks to the things that happened to me when I was younger. If you haven’t bloomed yet, don’t worry; you’re just a late summer flower like me. You’ll get there.

13. Authenticity is the key to happiness. Both my daughter and wife are proof of this. They’re happier than ever now that they’re living their authentic lives. So just be you and you’ll be so happy!

14. No, wait. Connecting with others is the key to happiness. Yeah, that’s what I’ve read. Love your people and let them love you back. It makes your whole life better!

15. Sorry, sorry. I’m wrong again. Acceptance is the key to happiness. Yes. This is really it. I’ve accepted all the changes in my life and I’m pretty happy. That must be the thing that does the good stuff to all the other things.

16. Sigh. There is no key to happiness. I think I need to stop reading magazines. Honestly, happiness is a culmination of a whole bunch of good and wise stuff, while also coming to terms with the idea that life won’t ever be perfect.

17. You will regret not travelling, so travel. I’m one of those suckers who wishes she travelled more, which is why I put this here. Up until now, my main idea of travel has been a bowl of popcorn and a documentary on European cathedrals. Here’s hoping that changes in the future.

18. We need less than we think we do. When our family moved to this part of the city, we had to downsize so we could still have poutine money (#priorties). It was one of the best things we ever did. Smaller home and yard = fewer expenses and less upkeep. We also paired down what we own, reducing the clutter and making our lives simpler. I’ve realized things don’t make us happy long-term. In this way – and only in this way – I am living a home & lifestyle magazine life.

19. There are many ways to be rich. You probably won’t achieve all of them, so focus on the most important types: rich in love, rich in friends and family, rich in donuts. (But if you do happen to win the lottery, I know a certain writer who really wants to go to Europe.)

Aerik and his moms, Pride 2016.


20. The power of love will surprise you. Like you can’t even. Love has made me do some scary shit, man. I’ve stood up to bigots, gone on live radio, spoken in front of large audiences, gone on camera more times than I can count… What else could make me do that? Nothing, that’s what. Love is the most powerful force in the universe. Except maybe black holes. (Did I mention my little documentary problem? I need a life.)

21. It’s perfectly okay to take a good selfie. You know what? Screw everyone who thinks it’s vain/narcissistic/some kind of mental health issue to want to look your best in a picture. If you take a pic of yourself that you love, feel free to show it off to me. We will celebrate your gorgeousness together and how good you feel about it.



22. Some people will leave, and that’s okay. Not everyone is meant to stay in our lives forever. My biological father walked away when I was a baby. Some of my friends walked out when my daughter came out as transgender. I thank my father for his half of my selfie-friendly genetics, and I thank my former friends for the friendship we shared when we did. Holding on to resentment only hurts me.

23. You will leave some people, and that’s okay. Sometimes, you’ll be the one to walk out. If it was a good decision, awkwardly high-five yourself again. If it wasn’t, forgive yourself and move on. We are imperfect beings. But as old relationships flow out, it leaves the door open for new relationships to flow in that are perhaps better suited to the people we are today. My life is full of great people these days. I’m glad I left the door open.

24. Stand up for someone. We all have a voice, but some of us are in a better position to use ours. If you know someone who could use an advocate, put your advocacy pants on and get busy. They’re a little tight at first, but they get really comfortable in time.

25. Be passionate about something. I don’t care if it’s Icelandic summer sports. If that’s your thing, go full tilt and enjoy the hell out of it. Passion is one of the greatest human emotions. I experience it whenever I paint, speak to a room full of people, or when I buy the giant bag of Peanut M&Ms.

26. Just do it. It’s never going to be “the right time.” I just quit my job so I could focus full-time on LGBT advocacy and writing a memoir (I’m calling it my midlife crisis.) We could use the money from that job right now, since we have another family living with us and three more mouths to feed. But I’ve spent years waiting for “the right time.” I’d rather eat macaroni and grass clippings than waste another year waiting for the right moment. Sometimes, we have to make the moment right.

27. Not everyone will like you, so stop caring so much. Fact: Some people legitimately don’t like me. (I know, right?!) They just have poor taste in humans. If some people don’t like you, it’s surely for the same reason. We can’t control what other people think of us, and we shouldn’t change because we’re not someone else’s double-double. It’s an unsolvable quandary. So let’s not worry about it and just like each other, instead.

28. You don’t have to be mean back. Never, ever. Being mean to someone is a choice. I get trolled online all the time and try (key word: try) to take the high road. Either I ignore it, or I come back with education and kindness. (Funny enough, this seems to upset trolls even more.) When I realized other people’s meanness has everything to do with them and nothing to do with me, it made this whole “not being mean back” business much easier.


29. Fear-based decisions are often wrong. I’m not talking about deciding not to walk down a dark alleyway, obviously. I’m talking about choosing not to take risks in life because we’re afraid; afraid of rocking the boat, upsetting the status quo, making the wrong move. But if we stay in stasis, we never grow. Sometimes you have to quit your job so you can write a book, as terrifying as that is, because you don’t want to end up on your death bed wondering why you never did anything great. So be great. Go big. Fear be damned.

30. Self-care is paramount. I couldn’t do the work I do if I didn’t put myself first. Take care of yourself. Self needs you to. Self can’t care for others if self is too unwell. Take self for a walk, or for a pedicure, or out for a glass of wine with friends. You are the only self you have, after all, and you’re important, too.

31. Adulting doesn’t have to be boring. I have a small collection of Converse shoes. According to style experts, they are all too young for me. I do not care. Style experts can go tell some other professional woman how to dress. This one wore glitter skull shoes on stage during a keynote presentation and will do it again if she gets a chance.

32. No matter how busy you are, take a downtime day. We can’t be on all the time. We get tired and we need rest. Take it from me: Do not burn out. I’ve done it and it’s not pretty. Hell, even my selfie game took a dive. Sometimes you just have to sit on the couch with the giant bag of Peanut M&Ms and binge watch The Good Wife. (This is essentially a perfect day for me, by the way.)

33. Hang out with kids more often. Some of us have no choice but to do so because we made kids come out of our bodies (or lawfully attached ourselves to ones that came out of someone else’s body). But even if you have no children of your own, make sure to spend time with some. Yes, even if you “don’t like kids.” Why? Because kids are better teachers than grownups. They remind us to be authentic, look at the world in new ways, and be just self-centered enough not to burn out. All the fundamentals.

Juliet and I met after she read one of my pieces on Zoe's transition.
Use your voice. You never know who's listening.

 34. You can’t help everybody, but you can help somebody. And that’s enough. I know the world can seem overwhelming. So many people in need of assistance, not enough time or resources for one person to help them all. But you don’t have to help them all. Just help one. If we all helped one person, the world would begin to heal. (Want to help someone today? Click to support Juliet and Emmi's fundraiser to stay in Canada.)

35. Say “yes” to things more often. Yes, I will try that new class at the gym. Yes, I will go out with new people. Yes, I will buy Amanda a latte.

36. Say “no” more often, too. Wait. What? How does that work? Allow me to explain: Say no to anything you would normally say yes to just to make other people happy. Pleasing people is exhausting. Don’t do it. Unless it’s buying me a latte, in which case, pleasing people in important.

37. Everything will kill you, so stop obsessing about it. Newsflash: No matter how much organic kale you eat, you will eventually die. That’s the problem with being mortal; the prognosis is fatal. I love being healthy, but obsessing about it is stressful and useless. It also takes away from eating chips of the non-kale variety (AKA the good chips.)

38. Raise a little hell. We all have an activist inside us. Don’t be afraid to let her out when you need to. It’s one of the best things I’ve ever done.

39. Never make lists as long as your age beyond the age of 15. Trust me. My hands are weeping and I’m pretty sure the kids have formed a search party by now.

40. Just. Be. You. You are enough. I am enough. Just as we are. I wish I hadn’t spent years thinking I wasn’t enough. What a waste that was. This world needs more of me and it needs more of you. It takes every star in the sky to make that sky magnificent. So shine brightly, little star. You make life better. 

Happy birthday, Old Lady Amanda. It's been a great first half of your life. 

It is Not a Sacrifice to Love You



I saw an old picture of you today, and I hardly recognized you.

There you were, building a deck with two of our kids. Smiling, but not really smiling. Trying to play a role that wasn’t meant for you.

I surprised myself with how little I connected with the memory of that person. The picture didn’t stir up any nostalgia. It didn’t make me sad. It didn’t make me wish we could go back in time, before you told me, before I knew.

If anything, it hurt to think it had to be like that for so long, and reminded me that this life – the life where both of us are living authentically – is so much easier.

“Do you miss having a husband?” one of my friends asked me not too long ago.

“I never had a husband,” I replied matter-of-factly. Because you were always a woman, even when I didn’t know you were.

“You know what I mean,” she said.

I do. She meant the simplicity of before.

Life is easier for heterosexual couples. It’s easier for cisgender (non-trans) folk, too. The world is built for people who fit into neat little normative boxes. People not like us. You can move into any neighbourhood and visit any restaurant. You can get a job without worrying about someone’s bias. Your kids are just like every other kid on the street and accepted as such. Your family can travel anywhere in the world and not worry about laws prohibiting its very existence.

Not too long ago, that was what I thought we were. And yes, in those ways, I guess life before was easier.

But it wasn’t really easier. It was emotionally taxing. And no, I don’t miss it.

You were unhappy, and that unhappiness spilled into our everyday lives. It saturated everything we did, all our relationships, how we interacted as a couple and how we parented.

So I don’t care if we need to think twice before moving or check a country’s LGBT laws when planning a trip. I wouldn’t go back to the before, not even for a second.

I don’t miss who you used to be. It took some time to let the idea of “him” go, but I have. Completely. Because the woman who emerged from the ashes is my perfect fit. She was worth waiting for. My wife rocks.

Society likes to talk a lot about what a “sacrifice” it is for people to stay with a partner who’s transitioning. If we’re not immediately judged by those who would “never stay”, we’re lauded and applauded for going above and beyond in the name of love and family.

But the thing is, my love, it’s not a sacrifice for me to love you. Not even a little bit.

Do we have hard days? Of course. Welcome to marriage. Long-term love is not an easy thing for anyone. It requires work.

In some relationships, one partner supports another through a chronic illness or affliction. That’s their story. In ours, I support you through some days when you’re deep in the trenches of gender dysphoria, that intense discomfort that happens to many trans people. I hold you and remind you how lovely you are and hope it helps.

And some days you support me through a major bout of anxiety, or those moments when I feel like I haven’t achieved enough, or that I suck as a mom. You hold me and tell me I’m enough, just as I am. You do it with a depth you were never able to reach in the before. If you dug too deep back then, you would uncover what you were trying to keep buried. But now? Now you can meet me where I’m at.

I am your rock. You are mine. And being with you is not a sacrifice.

When you wrap your arms around me I feel safe and whole. My heart skips a beat when you wear a beautiful dress. My eyes take in your smile; my ears take in your laughter. My fingers still wrap around yours effortlessly.

If I had known that, beyond the initial minefields of fear and worry, I would arrive at this place of deep love and connection, I would have shed far fewer tears and eaten far less coping chocolate.

You are the before, but better. So much better. It’s an honour and a privilege to love you and be loved by you. Oh, if everyone could be this lucky.

And it is anything but a sacrifice.

We're Hosting a Trans Woman and Her Family In Our Home. Here's Why.



World, meet Juliet.

She’s from Finland, which is cold like Canada so I don’t resent her nearly as much as I resent people from, say, Australia. (Australians need to calm it down with their chronic beach swimming.)

Juliet is also a newly-out trans woman, and making some pretty brave moves to keep her family intact and safe while becoming her smart, sassy and seriously gorgeous true self.

This incredible lady and I only met in person less than two weeks ago and she’s already become one of the most special people in my life. Legit. And, just like with my daughter, it all started with a heartfelt email.

I get a lot of email. I don’t say that in a show-off-y way, I swear, but more in an OMG-I-need-three-brains-and-six-hands kind of way.

I read every single one of them. But I’m not always able to reply. I hate that because I want to get back to every person who takes that time to reach out. I know it’s hard to write to a total stranger (especially one who is unabashedly weird). But, apparently, my kids think they need “attention” and “meals” and they get a little pissy if I lock myself in the office with a sign that says “Bread and peanut butter on counter. Mommy loves you.”

On May 3rd of this year, I received my first message from Juliet. She wasn’t going by that name yet, but by her former one. She had read my World, Meet My Wife piece, which, unbeknownst to me, had been syndicated in a Finnish newspaper. It hit her hard in the feels.

This is something about us in Finnish. I hope it's good.


Like Zoe, she had been keeping a secret from her partner and was terrified to tell her. Like Zoe, she knew she couldn’t keep living as a man, acting like a husband and father when she is neither of those things. She was scared to tell her wife, scared for their future.

When Juliet read my piece (in Finnish! Seriously, how cool is that?!) she felt hope for the first time. It apparently pulled her out of a really dark place and became her catalyst for change, so she wanted to let me know how deeply it had impacted her.

Emmi and Juliet. One of the sweetest couples I've ever met. Truth.


Every day or so, she would write and tell me how things were going: how she told her wife, how her wife had chosen to stay by her side, how much they love each other, how their young daughter had so easily taken to the external change. She talked about how happy she felt when she could be herself, and how unhappy she was when she had to hide it.

I would reply whenever I possibly could, and let her know I was still reading, still here, and sending her as much hope and love as I could from the other side of the world. I looked forward to each email, each milestone, and often read them to Zoe.

I saw our family in hers, so far away; man-made borders are meaningless when you share this kind of human experience. We formed an amazing bond, and they started to feel like a part of the family we had never met.

But they felt stuck. They were living in a small village in Finland where no one was out. What about moving to somewhere more metropolitan? Unfortunately, even in Helsinki, the largest city, there were few resources and little understanding for trans folk.

Worse still, Finland lags far behind in trans rights compared to many countries deemed “progressive”. While anti-discrimination laws are on the books, discrimination is still a huge problem in everyday life. Finding housing, work and community are big challenges. And if Juliet wants to come out in her home country and change her name and gender marker, she must first be sterilized.

Yes, forced sterilization is mandatory in Finland for trans people. That’s not only a human rights violation, but a serious problem when you want to grow your family, as this couple does. You must also convert your marriage to a civil union, thus losing many of the legal benefits of married couples.

And just in case that isn’t enough to turn your stomach, Juliet would lose her rights as a parent to one-year-old Helmi. As far as we can tell in the research we’ve been doing, she would have to adopt her.

Yes. Adopt her biological child. And not as a second mom, but as a “caregiver.” No defined parental role because Helmi can’t have two moms on the books. How is that even okay in 2016?

And so, this is how Juliet and Emmi made the brave decision to sell everything they own, pack up, and move to Canada. They were originally going to make Toronto their home, but decided to try Ottawa. It’s cozier, more affordable, and, well, we’re here. We have a great community to welcome and support them.

Helmi exploring our kitchen.

 I picked them up in Toronto one week ago, and they’ve been staying with us ever since. We want them to spend their money on legal fees to immigrate here and on transition essentials that aren’t covered unless you’re a Canadian citizen or refugee. Once they know they can remain in Canada, we can help them find their own place to begin their fresh start in this great country.

It took a long talk to convince them to take the help, mind you. They don’t like handouts. They’re fiercely independent people, so this is hard for them.

But I told them it’s not a handout, it’s a hand up. And once they’re up, they can help someone else. Paying it forward is something we believe in. When you have, give. Full stop. We have a home. We have food. We have security and resources and, frankly, a fair amount of privilege for a same-sex family with two trans people in it. 

Why wouldn’t we want to share that with people who need it? I can't imagine a good reason.

It’s going to be an uphill battle to convince the Canadian government that Juliet, Emmi and Helmi need to be here. But I’m doing everything I can to make this happen for them. I’ve promised them we’re all going to fight – hard. I know they can’t return to Finland. It's not a safe place for them.  Nobody should have to give up their fertility, marriage and parental rights in order to transition.

And so right now, we are currently a family of 8. We share meals, we share shopping, we drink a lot of coffee together. We watch Netflix and we go to the park. We also do a lot of research into how to make Canada their forever home. We laugh and we cry and we cling to the hope they get accepted into the country on a permanent basis.

Alexis, Helmi and Shadow.

In the meantime, I should have you know the kids are smitten with little Helmi. She's breathed new and adorable life into the house. Nobody brings a smile to their faces more than she does. The dogs are somewhat wearier, as she likes to poke them in the eye. But she also drops a ton of food when she eats and that seems to be worth any temporary blindness. I respect those priorities.

For the record, I stopped this blog post halfway, went downstairs, and hugged each one of them. For some reason, writing this made me realize the reality of the situation: they’re here. Safe. This email friendship has become a real one, and this fight for life and dignity has made its way into our home. That's a good thing, because I can’t imagine them anywhere else right now.

We might be helping them a little, but they’ve helped us in a big way. Their willingness to share their journey with us has made it really hit home for my family just how fortunate we are to live where we do, and just how important it is that we keep using our voices to speak out against transphobia.

Juliet, Emmi and sweet little Helmi, you’re my heroes, through and through. Together, we're going to make this right for you. 

Oh, my. I think it’s a little dusty in here. That, or the Finnish toddler just poked me in the eye.

If she drops a cracker in my mouth I’ll totally overlook it, though.

Taming the Lion - Anxiety, My Daughter and Me



It took nearly two hours to get my daughter out of bed this morning.

Anxiety had dug its claws in, holding her beneath the covers and making it nearly impossible to move.

“I can’t,” she cried. “I can’t do it, mom.”

“You can,” I replied.

“No, mom. I can’t. Please don’t make me.”

“I know you can,” I said, sitting on the edge of her bed.

And I do know. I know because I have an anxiety disorder, too.

Late last year, I wrote about how depression had taken over my life. I talked about the things I was doing to take care of me, including medication. Well, that medication worked wonders when I was on it, tackling both the depression and my lifelong struggle with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

(Rolling your eyes right now? If you are, it’s probably because you don’t have an anxiety disorder, and so you think people who have them are just frail folks who haven’t learned how to handle life like you have. But you would be wrong, so you can stop rolling those eyes. Judgment Face doesn’t look good on you anyway.

Anxiety disorders are real things in the real brains of real people. They are a highly amplified version of the anxiety you deal with. The stress volume is cranked right up, and it can wreak havoc on the sufferer’s life. Here, you can check out this handy article about it and then come back and read the rest of my post without your Judgment Face on.)

Just this morning, before waking Alexis up, I was standing in the kitchen in tears about how overwhelmed I’ve been feeling. My wife, my confidante, my best friend in the world put her cereal on the counter and had her arms around me faster than you can say, “Amanda totally married the right person.”

“It’s going to be okay,” she said to me. “You’re going to be okay.”

And so here I was, an hour later, sitting on my daughter’s bed and telling her the same thing, trying not to lose my patience after so many mornings like this, trying not to let my own anxiety make me snippy, trying to operate with compassion and empathy. Parenting a kid in crisis is hard work when you’re feeling in crisis, too.

It took another hour before she could come downstairs. By then, I had emailed the school’s absences address – this year’s most-used address in my email list – and told them Alexis would be late again. “It’s a high anxiety day,” I wrote. They know exactly what that means.

It took everything I had to convince her to leave the house. But she did, and I know the amount of inner strength it takes to do that on days when your anxiety is a solid 9. She amazes me.

We have about 5 minutes in the car between our driveway and the school parking lot; 5 minutes for me to give my adrenaline-depleted daughter a pep talk before she heads into a building filled with expectations; 5 minutes to try and impart some wisdom.

“Why didn’t you just let me stay home?” she asked.

“Honestly? Because I have only a few more years to teach you something really important: You are stronger than your anxiety. And I need you to believe that.”

“I don’t feel stronger today,” she said quietly.

“I know. You woke up with the lion in your face.”

“What?”

Anxiety is like a lion,” I said. “That’s how I see mine, anyway. Some days it’s far away and I can only see a faint outline of it. I don’t have to worry about it those days. But sometimes I wake up and it’s staring me right in the face.”

“Like me today,” she said.

“And like me today,” I replied. “But I’ve realized I only have two options. Option 1: I cower in the corner, afraid to move, and not getting to live my life that day, week, or month. Or option 2: I learn to tame the lion.”

“How do you do that?” she asked in that teenager way teenagers ask things when they don’t want to sound interested but kind of are.

“You find tools that work for you. I’ve had therapy and I’ve taken medication when necessary. Today I had a good cry and a hug from momma. And after I drop you off, I’ll go workout. Believe me, I don’t want to be in a room full of people today and I don’t feel like exercising. But I know I’ll feel better afterward; it’s my medicine.”

“And then?”

“And then I’m going to go on with the rest of my day as best I can.”

“What if you can’t? What if I can’t?”

“If I can’t, I’ll at least know I did the best I can. I’ve realized I can tame the lion about 90% of the time it tries to back me into a corner. The rest of the time, I eat Peanut M&Ms in bed and watch The Good Wife. And if you can’t today, text me this afternoon and I’ll pick you up early.”

She gave me a long, long hug before getting out the car.

I went to my workout and ended up picking her up from school an hour early. I’d say we both did the best we could.

Tomorrow is a new day. For now, the lions, while still close by, are snoozing in the afternoon heat.

Being a parent is harder than I ever imagined, particularly on days when I have my own beast to tame. But she’s worth it.

May I never let her down.


How My Suburban Neighbourhood Saw Bigotry and Shut. It. Down.

By Ludovic Bertron from New York City, USA


I'll admit it: I was really nervous about coming out to our suburban community - twice.

The first time, we told them about our transgender daughter. The second time, about two years later, we told them about my transgender wife and, by proxy, the fact that she and I are now in a same-sex marriage. 

We're officially, you know, that lesbian couple

The suburbs are often seen as intolerant bastions of conservative beliefs. "They're really nice to you until you're different," had been my motto about communities outside the city core for a long time. I was really hesitant to move here, thinking my beliefs would be vastly different from everyone else's. 

But we did it anyway. Because when we bought this house, I had no idea we were about to become the queerest queers who ever queered. The mortgage price was right and it was close to Zoe's work, so we figured it was a safe move. 

Then life changed, and I held my breath, awaiting harsh judgment.

But I was wrong. The neighbours who know us have been great at rolling with all the changes in our family. Some of them even came to Zoe's coming out party a few months ago.

But what about the rest of them? 

The best place to take a community's tolerance pulse is, of course, online. People are far braver behind a keyboard. And what better place to see what people are really thinking than on the neighbourhood community Facebook page? 

We have two of them actually. There's the original community page, then a second one that was started when a neighbour named Ian felt he was being "bullied" by the members of the original one and left.



Awww! That's nice, right? A "friendly forum" where people are encouraged to express their opinions with the goal of making the community a "great place". What's not to love? 

So I joined both groups a while back. Hey, I'm no hater. Also, I like to get to know my neighbours. That's how you get jam and pies and free shit after the garage sales are over, you know. 

But last week, things took a turn for the worse. Ian posted this share, which he seemed to agree with.



Oh, dear. This just got awkward. 

I lost count of how many different types of people were discriminated against in this one paragraph. 

Let's try again: Women who want to be fairly represented by having a single word changed in the Canadian national anthem, people with disabilities, the entire LGBTQ community, kids with allergies, and pretty much anyone who isn't a white dude. Impressive.

Unfortunately, Bob and Ian both suffer from bad timing. Bob's original rant was posted the day of the Orlando massacre. And Ian chose to share it the day after those 49 innocent people were murdered in cold blood for daring to live and love as their true selves. Nice job, guys.

I didn't see the post until Friday, five days after it was shared. That's probably good for Ian. Raw Emotions Amanda is not a good communicator. But when I did eventually see it, the hurt and anger I felt reading it was followed immediately by gratitude. Lots and lots of gratitude.

These are some of the responses of my community members.



I don't know Kim. But I like Kim. I like her even more after she replies to this dude Gord's comment.




Kim. Whoa. Way to slay it with education. My little queer activist heart is all aflutter. 




"We're here! We're... straight." Nope. Doesn't work. No parades for you, straight folks. Dana knows what's up.




I don't know Dana, but she's officially made my Gay Christmas card list. (It's like a normal Christmas card list, but with more SPARKLES.)



BAM. Kelena is the Anderson Cooper of the neighbourhood, asking the hard-hitting questions.

And not satisfied with the lack of response to her questions, she tags Ian to ask for clarification:



Word to Big Bird. What they said.

And then Andrea comes out of nowhere and just tells it like it is:



YOU GUYS. Someone mentioned white male privilege. In the suburbs. This is the best day of my life. 

Also, Andrea is the person I'm going to ask anytime I need an honest opinion about how I look in a dress. 

Anyway, Ian had decided enough was enough, and insisted no one else comment. But I still felt I needed to say something. So I did. I'm a rule breaker.



AND IT WAS REMOVED. Within minutes, even. Gone. I had been silenced.

What's a girl to do? I lamented the problem on my own Facebook page with some of my friends. 



But you know, if I did have a blog, I'd make sure Ian (and Bob) saw what was going to be my follow-up comment. It was pretty smart. I used lots of facts:



And I would make sure to send them both a link to the blog post, because that's the neighbourly thing to do, right? Share jam, free shit and blog posts? I think that's in the actual bylaws. 

Alas, I have left the "friendly" community group I once belonged to. I'm sticking to the other one, where the administrators won't allow discriminatory posts to be shared.

Not long after my comment was deleted in the group I left, I was tagged in a post in the group I still belong to, where a bunch of people wanted to show support. The administrator made sure to tell me, "You know your family is loved and you need to feel safe. We've got ya!" 

I did NOT start crying in the Extreme Pita when I read that. Nope. NOPE.

I really want to thank my neighbours, wholeheartedly, for sticking up for the LGBT community at a time when we were already deeply wounded. You did something important, and my family won't forget it. 

I hope your act of advocacy will inspire folks in other neighbourhoods, where people are often afraid to say something. But as we know, using our voices to help those who are being discriminated against is an important part of being human. And it's an important part of helping families just like mine feel safe in the place they live. You can't put a price on that. Thank you. 

I'm a proud suburban resident today.

Off to get a latte. In my yoga pants.


Dear Internet: Please Stop Telling Me How To Lesbian

Once upon a time, I happily lived a straight life of straightness.

You know, just a hetero wife in a hetero life. (That should totally be a bumper sticker.)

The funny thing is, I've never actually been a straight up hetero. I've never hidden that fact, but it wasn't immediately obvious or even of interest to most people because my life looked a lot like this:


By Eric Ward [CC BY-SA 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
And when your life looks a lot like that - a husband, a wife and some kids - people don't ask questions. They look at you and think, I am familiar with this life situation. I will place her in the "straight people" box.

I fell in love with someone I thought was a man, had some children, moved to the suburbs. But then, one day, my partner said, "Hey, guess what? I'm a lady person!" (I might be paraphrasing a little.) 

Well, that's a bit of a shocker. But great news: I like ladies too! So I can totally get behind that. I can be a lady person in love with a lady person! (Especially a hot lady person, which she most certainly is.) 

A little while later, she came out to the world and, by extension, we came out, too; two lady people, doing our lady love thing. When it came to the inevitable questions about our relationship, we said, "It's all good, folks! We're basically the same family we were before, except we're two chicks at the helm, okay?"

People's reactions ranged from, "Wow! Cool! Okay!" to "Uh.. Okay, I guess." But pretty much everyone said "okay" in some regard and that was swell of them.

I was now behind the wheel of the identical life I had before, except with some sweet after-market same-sex options installed. I had the same house, same kids, same dogs and same cat (although she gives us these looks sometimes when we cuddle on the couch that lead me to think she might be a furry little bigot.) I'm the same person with all the same thoughts and feelings, but my partner is outwardly living as female. That's it.

Oh, if only. 

One day, the questions started coming in: "Amanda," the internet gently asked, "if you're married to a woman, why are you posting on social media about how hot Chris Hemsworth is?"

Chris Hemsworth | by Eva Rinaldi Celebrity and Live Music Photographer
Uh, because he's the sexy maple syrup on my lust waffles, that's why. Duh.

Also, please stop judging my taste in men. I don't just post about actors, okay? I'll have you know I'm also into politics:

2008 Trudeau promotional photo by Jean-Marc Carisse

So what? Some men are terribly good-looking and I point that out sometimes. What's your point?

"My point is," the internet says, "how can you say you're in love with a woman if you're posting about men? Are you not that attracted to your wife?"

Of course I am. Have you seen my wife? Forget waffles; She's the whole sexy brunch buffet.

"Gee, I don't know," doubts the internet. "You might just be settling because it's easier than getting divorced."

Shit. Sorry. Forgive me, internet. I'm new to this, and apparently I'm not same-sexing well enough for your liking. I'm married to a woman, so I guess I should embrace the lesbian thing a little more, eh? Otherwise, what box are you going to fit me in?! 

Alright, then. Time to knock this bad boy - uh, girl - out of the park.

First of all, one of my favourite shirts is plaid, which I've come to understand is a staple in many a lesbian's closet:

I would give myself a solid 7 out of 10 in plaid delivery.

Know what else I've heard is kind of a thing? Power tools!

Well, good news. I have some of those, too!



And I'm learning how to use them. In fact, I did this awesome thing to our front step last weekend ALL BY MYSELF WITH MY OWN LADY HANDS:





I even put cute little lesbian chairs outside so we can be the old biddy ladies drinking our coffee on the front porch.

"Sorry," interrupts the internet. "What did you just say?"

I said I put cute little lesbian cha--

"That's what I thought. Sigh."

What's wrong? I use the term "lesbian" sometimes. My wife is a lesbian and I'm her wife, so I figure it's a good descriptor. Look, we even got our first lesbian cheques in the mail recently. Aren't they the cutest?



"Unbelievable."

It shouldn't be. People do still use cheques sometimes, you know.

"Not that, Amanda. Here, I'll let this straight person you know explain why you're so offensive."


Oh, dear. This is bad. 

Friends are cringing. 

And apparently I'm insecure. And have an ego. And I'm not a true lesbian. Dammit. Why can't I get this right?

So let me see if I get this straight (can I even say straight? Shit. I don't even know now):

Be lesbian, but not too lesbian.

And don't make jokes about lesbian things, even if you usually use humour to connect with people and make situations in your life more relatable to others.

And if you still think men are good looking, you can't possibly be happy with a woman. So don't talk about guys. It will confuse people. 

And don't say the word "lesbian" too much. It will make people cringe. Especially other people's friends, apparently.

Internet, this is exhausting. I have a better idea: How about we stop policing other people's sexual orientations? I never got this kind of criticism or commentary when I was living my hetero-normative existence. I could say a woman was gorgeous without people questioning how happy I am in my marriage. I could post about my husband without people telling me off for it. But now that I'm in a same-sex partnership, the rules have changed. That's not entirely surprising; the minute you step out of the privileged majority, the rules always change. We need to think about why, and we need to do better. 

So how about, instead of trying to get everyone to conform to our idea of how a person should express their sexual orientation in order to make us more comfortable, we learn to get comfortable with however people choose to express themselves?

It's a tall order, I know. But this Hemsworth-loving, plaid-adorning, power-tool-wielding lesbian-but-not-too-lesbian would appreciate it. 

I am who I am. You are who you are. Neither of us should have to compromise that to fit into a box.*


* Insert great lesbian joke here.




What it's Like To Fall In Love Again With the Same Person. (Sort of.)



It’s been nearly one year since my spouse told me she's a woman.

Nearly a full rotation around the sun since that heartbreaking conversation in the car.

Nearly 365 days since we both sat in silence, the rain hitting the windshield, both of us worried this latest revelation would be the final etching on our relationship’s gravestone.

But today, 11 months later, I reached over and grabbed my wife’s hand. I felt its smoothness – estrogen does wonderful things to the skin – and interlaced my fingers in hers. I noticed with amusement how we inadvertently chose nearly the same shade of nail polish this week. I looked up and our eyes met. We both smiled contentedly.

This is me, falling in love all over again.

I recall waking up in bed the day after she told me. For a brief second, I felt okay; I was too groggy to remember the night before. But then anxiety took hold, gripping me by the shoulders and pulling me out of the bomb shelter my brain had constructed to shield me from the blast. Now I could survey the wreckage of our life.

22 years together, a lifetime of love and memories, lying in a pile of rubble at my feet.

But what I didn’t know at the time is that, while Zoe and I were great at building a life together, we’re even better at restoration. That rubble didn’t stand a chance. No, sir. It was about to become something truly beautiful.

Because, if I’m completely honest with myself these many months later, I love her more than I ever loved “him.” That’s because she is genuine, while he never existed. He was a façade, created out of necessity and fear. He was an angry, sorrowful mask, while she is the beautiful face behind it.

“Mama laughs so much more now that she’s mama. Have you noticed that?” Jackson recently remarked.

Oh, I’ve noticed. And that’s why I no longer grieve the person who was. I don’t miss my old life – not even a little bit. We merely existed back then – our entire family – and now we’re really living.

How do you enjoy life when you’re married to someone who can’t enjoy their own? Spoiler alert: You actually can’t. You can try. Ever-positive me did just that for years. But that chronic misery was wearing me down in a way I never realized until it was no longer there. A huge weight is off my shoulders. I feel like I can breathe now.

What I thought was a catastrophe was, in fact, an opportunity. She’s my second chance at love. The person I can say I truly want to spend the rest of my life with; not out of responsibility, but because I can’t imagine spending it with anyone else. No one gets me like she does. No one makes me laugh like her. When someone’s kiss can still give you butterflies after two decades and three kids together, never ever let that person go.

I wish I could go back to 11 months ago and hug shell-shocked me. I wish I tell her the wreckage she’s seeing right now is actually the best thing that’s ever happened to her. That she will love her life – and her wife – in a way she never has.

I wish I could go back and hug terrified Zoe, too. To let her know she’s going to be so happy and totally beautiful. To tell her she’ll be glad she said what she had been holding in for all those years. That her life isn’t over – it’s just beginning. That her wife is going to stay by her side, heal with her, and fall deeply and madly in love with her in a way neither of them ever thought possible.

But I can’t do any of those things, and maybe that’s for the best. Because if there’s anything I’ve learned in my life so far, it’s that, while journeys through big change are painful, they’re necessary for growth. We don’t grow in the happy times, we grow in times of struggle. And if neither of us had grown through that pain, we might not be sitting side-by-side, holding hands and admiring each other’s great taste in nail polish.

Yep. Falling in love all over again. That’s what I’m doing right now.

I hope to circle the sun many, many more times with you, my sweet Zoe.  


On Being an Imperfect Woman - And Learning to Live With That

Confession: I had a big ugly cry in the car an hour ago. The type where, if I had been pulled over for speeding, a nice cop would have probably sent me away with a pity warning.

It was over the stupidest thing, you guys. I’m almost embarrassed to write about it. But I’m going to because I think it touches on a subject a lot of us can relate to: unattainable perfection.

This is me. Both sides of the picture.



The hottie on the left was rocking her little sister’s wedding about 18 months ago. The hottie on the right spent 2015 working her buns off – literally. She lost 55 pounds, discovered fitness, these weird things called “food portions” (huh?) and, most importantly, her health. Normal blood tests. Athletic heart rate. No more heartburn or gallbladder attacks. Happy blood sugars. Even happier joints.

I spent one year working with professionals: a bariatric doctor, a nutritionist, two mental health professionals and a fitness trainer. I worked hard, but realistically. It was all healthy lifestyle changes; nothing drastic, only things I can implement and keep up in my daily life. Exercise I enjoy. Foods I love. That kind of stuff.

Today was my last appointment with my fitness trainer, and I was hoping to go out with a bang – to exit the program at my fittest and, yes, trimmest.

Except it didn’t quite go that way.

In fact, I gained inches. Not a ton. Half an inch here, three-quarters of one there. All in all, I put on about 5 inches around my body from the last time she took those measurements.

What the fresh hell? I was gutted. And instantaneously furious with myself.

All I could think about were the chips I had eaten the night before. That day I didn’t go to the gym when I probably could have. The time I said “yes” to a lunch out with a friend when maybe I should have said “no.”

And never mind that, at almost 40, I’m currently in the best shape of my adult life. Never mind that my cardio fitness is better than the last time she checked. Never mind that I did a wall sit for eight minutes – “eight minutes, Amanda! Who does that?!” – and then immediately pushed through a 45-minute strength training class with my jellyfish legs.

Never mind that I journal my food, weigh almost everything I eat out on a kitchen scale, and eat mindfully, checking for fullness levels. Never mind that I have no “good” or “bad” foods, but instead focus on protein and fiber, along with allowing room for indulging and celebrating with food.

No. Despite all of that, I got into my car, stopped for some guilt salad and smoked trout at the grocery store because heaven forbid I eat anything that couldn’t be on the front of a low-fat cookbook today – and had myself the big ugly cry.

And now? Well, now I’m mad myself for different reasons.

I’m mad because I let myself use a number to measure my self-worth and my dedication to my health. There are far better ways to measure that type of success, and I know it.

I let a number negate all the hard work I’ve done, and erase the pride I should have felt at my impressive fitness accomplishments. Because, come on now, that wall-sit time was TOTALLY BOSS. But I couldn’t feel it because I was too busy feeling like a failure.

I let a number tell me how to feel about myself as a woman. Because that’s what society teaches to do as women, doesn’t it? To accept nothing less than perfection on all levels?

Aren’t we supposed to be perfect females with perfect bodies and perfect workout routines and always be able to find time to take care of ourselves despite also being excellent mothers and amazing lovers and thoughtful partners and friends and daughters?

And if one thing doesn’t fit that – just one – well, we‘re basically failures who need to read magazines and online articles and inspirational memes to get us back on track, right? It’s a flaw in ourselves, after all. We just need to work harder. We’re inadequate. We’re never going to be happy this way. And worse still, we’re letting everyone down, including ourselves.

That’s where my mind was today as I drove my hybrid down that long stretch of road, through tears.

But now that I’ve sufficiently collected my thoughts, screw that. Screw it all the way to Screwtown. (Which actually sounds like a pretty fun place.)

It’s high time for me to have a serious talk with myself (on my blog, apparently).

First of all, self, this is you:



Don’t spend tons of time looking for a double chin. It’s there; you’re just great with angles and extra fat keeps you warm in Canadian January.

Don’t look for wrinkles, either. They’re there too, but they just mean you’ve circled the sun enough times to know a thing or two, even if you have to teach it to yourself again today.

I’m going to say this, and you’re going to not roll your eyes and brush it off like you always do: You have had a really hard year. Who you thought was your husband became your wife. You didn’t know if your marriage was going to make it. You were falling apart on a whole new level. You got clinically depressed. Your anxiety hit an all-time high. You spent lots of time in a therapist’s office.

And through all this, you had to hold onto your children and be a mother to them. Pack their lunches, attend their school functions, bandage knees, attend appointments, hug them, kiss them, and tell them everything was going to be okay.  Oh, and help one of them through her own transition. Let’s not forget that.

And you had to hold down a job. And deal with clients. And do interviews. And write articles. And go to conferences. And for months, while putting yourself out there in the hopes of doing some good for others, you had to hide a big part of what was going on with your life because it wasn’t time to talk about it yet. So be public. But not too public. Champion trans rights. But don’t let it slip that two people are now transitioning in your household.

And you had to get to know your wife. Fall in love all over again. Find your place in society as a woman who is now in a same-sex marriage. Come out to the world. Advocate like hell. Deal with the press on a level you never have before. Repair your family. Discover and embrace your new normal.

It would not be an overstatement to say this was a challenging year.

But you know what? You, Amanda, still managed to put yourself first, didn’t you? There is nothing to be disappointed about here. Life is unpredictable, progress is imperfect, balance is a myth, and you just need to pat yourself on the damn back.

So yeah. Screw the numbers all the way to Screwtown (which has now officially made my bucket list for places I want to visit.) I did a damn good thing for myself this year. I’m proud of me, no matter what the inches or pounds say. Life is up and down, and so are numbers sometimes, ok? 

So while I’ll never be the poster child for a women’s magazine unless it’s called “Chubby and Imbalanced,” I could probably read one of their articles while wall-sitting LIKE A BOSS LADY.

I’ll take it.

The Government Supports Our Queer Family - and that Means Everything


If you follow me on social media at all, you probably already know we met this guy.



No, not the Benedict Cumberbatch-ish lookalike on the left – that’s our handsome our son, Aerik. We’ve met him plenty of times. He eats our food.

I’m talking about the dashing gentleman on the right; The leader of our great northern country, land of the strong and free and more poutine than you can shake a fork at, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Just look at us, all put together in this photo like it’s no big thang. You know, just hangin’ with the PM in our fancy people clothes and whatever.

What you may not know is we had no idea we were going to meet Mr. Trudeau until about 90 seconds before it happened. With that in mind, can I just say I’m really proud of myself for not being passed out in a puddle of OMG at his feet in this picture?

There’s a wonderful story to this meeting that I want to tell. It’s a story of community coming together and making something unexpectedly great happen for a family that is still glowing from all that unexpected greatness. And it’s a story of a government supporting its people – all its people.

But first, let’s talk about the most important thing: The Canadian government has introduced a new trans rights bill. Yessssss. When I first heard the news, I burst into happy tears. Mascara = gone. Eyes = red from crying. I was elated.

I’ve personally been fighting for a bill like this for over two years, since Alexis first came out to us. I’ve contacted politicians, engaged with media, and stood on Parliament Hill with other protesters when it looked like the last bill would stall and die in the senate (and it did.) When Trudeau was first elected, I even wrote him an open letter, urging him to keep his promise of supporting the trans community. And yet, if I look at the bigger picture, my contributions are virtually non-existent compared to the efforts of trans activists who have been fighting for a lifetime. They deserve serious recognition for the work they’ve done.

If passed, this bill will ensure people like my wife and daughter are protected from discrimination when it comes to big things like employment, housing and hate crimes. This is the country’s seventh attempt to get a bill like this passed through the appropriate channels in order to make it law. Seventh. It has fallen apart each time; proof we’re no strangers to transphobia in Canada, no matter what some might think.

So what’s different this time? The biggest difference is it’s the first time such a bill has been introduced by a sitting government, meaning it stands a good very chance of passing. I’m cautiously booking the confetti cannon rental.

To celebrate this historic day, various members of the government invited various members of the trans community and their supporters to the House of Commons in Ottawa on May 17th – the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia. Gold star for symbolism, you guys.

We were invited as guests of Anita Vanderbeld, the Liberal Member of Parliament for Ottawa West-Nepean. We don’t live in the area she represents, but one of our school board’s trustees does. Donna Blackburn reached out to Anita, who was more than happy to have us to Parliament as her guests. I think I said something like, “OMGTHATSGREATWHATAMIGOINGTOWEAR” when I found out we were going.

We got up ridiculously early last Tuesday, a chilly but sunny spring day, dressed everyone in fancy folk clothes, and made our way to the Hill. My shoes hurt like a bitch. There wasn’t enough coffee in the world to deal with my level of tired. I wasn’t sure my hair was going to cooperate with the new product I bought the day before after finding out my usual product has been discontinued. It was all very difficult. You can’t even understand.

The bill was introduced and tabled (standard procedure).  There was a kick ass press conference to celebrate. Lots of cheers and tears and all that good stuff.

A few minutes later, as we were sitting in our seats in the House of Commons, Anita came in and whispered, “Come with me right now. You’re going to meet the prime minister.”

Confession time: I have a small crush on this man. Just a little one. Nothing pervy, I promise. I’m not out to break up anyone’s marriage; I just want him to sit down in front of a roaring fire with me and discuss the importance of feminism. After we go skating on the Rideau Canal, of course. And take selfies. And maybe Periscope a bit about how great Canada is. No big deal, ok?

So I’m pretty sure I literally jumped out of my seat – completely ladylike, of course – and calmly-not-so-calmly made my way down the hallway with the rest of my stunned family members, Donna the trustee, and two of our close friends (another trans kiddo and his mom.) We stood in the hallway at the top of a staircase for a few seconds before Justin Trudeau – the Justin Trudeau, handsome feminist leader with great hair – made his way up to meet us IN THE ACTUAL FACE.

He introduced himself to all of us, beginning with the kids, and even getting down to Jackson’s 9-year-old level to say hello in what I can only describe as the sweetest thing ever. He shook my hand and I didn’t melt on the spot, which I think earns me a damn medal.

And in case you were wondering, he was as kind, as sincere and as compassionate as my schoolgirl brain had imagined he’d be. There was no air of arrogance or inequality. I’m sure he was rushed, but he never let on.

We chatted for a few short but meaningful minutes. When I tried to thank him and his government for the great work they’re doing, he brushed it off, saying he was happy to do a small part to help a much larger movement.

And then, with no cameras on him and nothing to prove to anyone, he thanked us. Us!

He thanked our family for living so openly and bravely, saying something about how change is made through example.  I can’t remember everything that was said on account of trying to keep from reaching over and hugging him hard around the nice men with the weapons. But it was heartfelt. I’ll always remember that.

And then he said, “Let’s take a picture!” And we did. You guys, he had his arm around me for the greatest few seconds of my life and his suit felt wonderful. Then he asked Zoe to come over and I felt my heart sink a little but then I got over it and I don’t even hate her, because it was still awesome.

And then we said our goodbyes, and he was off. I’m sad to report he did not ride off on a shiny unicorn like I had always speculated he would, but his exit was still majestic.

A few minutes later, we were pulled out of our seats again to meet with Justice Minister Jodi Wilson-Raybould, and we were able to thank her for everything she’s done, too. Another great meeting with another politician I couldn’t possibly dislike if I tried. Canadian justice should be proud to have such a strong and dedicated woman at the helm.




Finally, worn out from all these surprise meetings, gushing all over people (including many trans advocates we had never met in person before) and bouncing between several media interviews, we were treated to a delicious lunch in the Parliamentary Restaurant by our local MP, Karen McCrimmon. I’m so proud to have given her my vote, because she is everything I had hoped and more.

On our best behaviour with our MP, Karen McCrimmon


This might be the last time they invite us to fancy places.



It was an incredible day on all fronts. But here’s the underlying message I left with: Our government supports trans people.

When my kids look at the picture of us with the Prime Minister – which I framed and put in the living room and maturely resisted putting heart stickers all over – I hope they see what I see: That our government has our back. That they want to protect our family. That the leader of our country and his party aren’t shying away from the trans community like governments past, but embracing them. Engaging with them. Taking photos with them. Allying themselves with them. It’s beautiful, it’s historic, and it will remain a major highlight of my work in advocacy.

We still have so much work to do. Laws are crucial, but so is changing hearts and minds on a broader scale. Society has a long way to go before it fully accepts the trans community, stops being afraid of them, stops discriminating against and harming them.


But I have more faith than ever we’ll get there.  Hopefully on unicorns.


"Irresponsible"? Hardly. Medical Interventions are Saving Our Trans Daughter's Life

Alexis and Me in Montreal, Spring 2016


This was my Facebook memory today:



If you don’t know what this means, it’s simple: For the last two years, Alexis, our transgender daughter, has been receiving a hormone blocker to suppress male puberty.

She’s been getting an injection every three months since coming out at the age of 11, when she was found to be in active puberty. The drug blocks testosterone in a sciencey-wibbly-wobbly-timey-wimey kind of way, ensuring her body doesn’t keep going in a direction she doesn’t want it to go in. (Yes, I actually do know exactly how it works, but figured it would bore the pants off of you. And maybe you like pants. I hate them, for the record.)

You would not believe what a ruckus this causes online. Or maybe you would, depending on your view of medical interventions like this one.

Lots of people are not okay with it. In fact, if there’s one well-meaning comment I see more than any other, it’s along these lines:

“I’m fine with parents supporting their trans children, but I draw the line at giving them hormone treatments this young. They’re doing permanent things to a child’s body. It seems dangerous and irresponsible. They’re kids; what if they change their mind?”  

Every time I see this comment directed towards my family or another in a similar situation, I want to address it. Not because I’m feeling defensive (I’m not), but because it’s a well-meaning concern steeped in misinformation. And, as we know from the whole trans-bathroom-laws-will-stop-pedophiles argument, misinformation can be downright dangerous.

The problem is, I simply don’t have the time or energy to explain the same thing over and over to people who don’t understand why kids like Alexis sometimes need these medical interventions.

Instead, I’ve decided to write a post that I – and maybe others – can direct people to whenever they see this concern in their own circles. I know. Super smart, right? It should be noted that I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL. If you have serious questions about this stuff, please speak to an endocrinologist who specialises in gender.

First, let’s discuss some unfortunate facts:

Trans kids have one of the highest suicide rates of any marginalized group in the world. The stats vary depending on where you live, but it’s estimated that in my home province of Ontario, Canada about 50% of trans youth seriously consider suicide, with roughly 20% attempting it. Put another way, one out of two seriously think about ending it, and one in five actually try. Yikes. This rate is much higher than the cisgender (non-trans) population.

Trans people face many obstacles that can contribute to thoughts of self-harm and suicide. One of the major issues is gender dysphoria, which is a deep discomfort over the belief your psychological and emotional self does not match your physical self. Another major factor is social stigma and lack of support from family, friends, society, and the medical community.

So with those things in mind, let’s break down that comment I see pop up over and over on the internet. Here it is again:

“I’m fine with parents supporting their trans children, but I draw the line at giving them hormone treatments this young. They’re doing permanent things to a child’s body. It seems dangerous and irresponsible. They’re kids; what if they change their mind?”  

*rolls up sleeves*

*sits down with fresh cup of coffee*

“I’m fine with parents supporting their trans children…”

That’s great, because it’s been shown those kids do incredibly well. In fact, more and more studies are showing youth whose transitions are supported by their families are not only just as happy as the general population, but sometimes even happier. So they go from the bottom of the despair pit to the top of the rainbow, all thanks to supportive parents. Amazing.

On the other hand, those who are not supported are far more likely to face those abysmally high rates of depression and suicide. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see why it’s imperative to support transgender youth. (Which is good, because I’m definitely not a rocket scientist.)


“… but I draw the line at giving them hormone treatments this young.”

Hold the phone, my well-meaning friend. I hear you, but you’re looking at this the wrong way. For trans kids who want and need medical intervention, helping them access it is part of the parental support package.

Puberty often throws a transgender tween or teen into a direction that feels completely wrong. Things happen to their body that can be very hard – or even impossible – to reverse later in life.

For a trans boy (assigned female at birth but feels male) growing breasts, menstruating, and developing that hourglass figure can be a traumatic experience. It takes them further away from how they see themselves.

For a trans girl like mine (assigned male at birth but feels female), developing facial hair, an Adam’s apple, a deep voice and a tall stature can be emotionally scarring in a way those of us who are cisgender can’t possibly comprehend. Some of those things are irreversible, like big hands and feet, height and broad shoulders.

All of this can be avoided if hormone blockers are used at the onset of puberty. If I support my child, if they don’t want to move into that direction because it is not who they are, and especially if doing so could cause them a lifetime of pain and lead them towards poor mental health, I have a duty as a parent to stop that from happening, if at all possible.

This treatment is not being done “too young.” It’s being done exactly when it needs to be done.


“They’re doing permanent things to a child’s body.”

Puberty is irreversible, puberty blockers are not.

Most people don’t know this, but it’s true. All the blocker does is hit the pause button so puberty doesn’t take hold more than it already has. Should the youth decide they don’t want to continue on them (a very rare thing, but let’s go with that idea for a minute), the blockers are stopped, puberty revs up again, and off they go to stinky teen town. No harm, no foul.

Blockers are often confused with hormone replacement therapy. They’re often used simultaneously in trans adults, particularly if said adult has not had any surgery to remove the bits and pieces that produce the hormones they don’t want. So you block the hormones you have, then add in the hormones you really need. Some of the changes from the new hormones can be irreversible, so starting them is a big decision.

My daughter will follow a similar path, but it’s slower for her because of her age. She’s been on blockers for two years. Once she’s at the age where her doctors feel she can make an informed consent, she’ll start taking estrogen.

And you know what? We’ll celebrate that day just like we would have celebrated the day a cisgender daughter got her period for the first time. It will be her entry point into womanhood, and that’s something she’s been excited about for a very long time.

Alexis and her moms.


“It seems dangerous and irresponsible.”

Let’s go back to the suicide statistics for a minute: One in two think about it. One in five attempt it. Many of those who do make the attempt don’t survive.

The stats drop to far lower levels when we support trans kids in their transitions, including providing them good medical support.

When you’re in middle school or high school and all your friends are developing typically while you’re either developing in the wrong direction because your parents won’t consent to blockers, or you’re not developing at all because you can’t take hormones, your mental health can be impacted in a huge way.

At this point, the risks associated with not starting hormones are greater than the risks associated with taking them.

Yes, hormone therapy carries risks. Virtually all medical interventions do, and trans kids aren’t the only ones who need medical support. Why point a finger at them and not, say, a kid on insulin, or one who needs chemo?

Because of stigma, that’s why. We stigmatize trans issues. We see transition as a choice. We see it as a mental illness or a perversion. It’s none of those things, and the sooner we can get our collective heads around that, the better off we’ll all be.


“They’re kids; what if they change their mind?”  

The likelihood of a child who meets the requirements for a diagnosis of gender dysphoria ever “changing their minds” or “de-transitioning” is virtually zero.

Someone doesn’t become trans, so they can’t un-become it. It’s not a choice. It’s not something you decide to do one day.  “Oh, I think I’ll dye my hair blonde.” “Oh! I think I’ll be a dude now!” 

Nope.

Trans is something you just are. Some people realize it sooner than others. Alexis was eleven when she realized she’s a girl. My wife, Zoe, was 42 when she came out, but had known since she was 6 or 7. Some people figure it out when they’re 60. Some are 3.

So we’ve done what any parents should do: we met our child where she was at, and did what we needed to do to save her life. Like most trans people, her emotional state has already improved so much because she's able to be her true self.

Could she change her mind and decide she’s a boy? Sure, anything’s possible. I could win the Powerball. You could adopt a talking monkey. But the likelihood is negligible, unlike the 20% chance we could lose her if we chose not to help her in every way possible.


So there we go, well-meaning internet naysayers. I hope this helps you better understand where parents of trans kids are coming from when we consent to medical interventions.


But no matter what you might think, I know, beyond a doubt, that we’re making the right decision with Alexis. And seeing her thrive is the only thing that matters to me. 

In Which I Respond to 5 Comments on My LGBT Family



I get a lot of email, comments and tweets about my family that flat out surprise me. I’m pretty public with the fact that I have a trans wife and a trans daughter, so they probably shouldn’t. People feel like they need to weigh in on this new idea of family. I get it.

While I don’t always have the time to respond the way I’d like to when I receive these comments or questions, I’m happy to do so in my blog whenever I can.

Here are five of my faves this month. Grab a coffee and come peruse my inbox with me:


1. “I don’t understand your family.”

And I don’t understand why you felt the need to share that with me, so I guess we’re both total mysteries.

The thing is, I’m not asking you to understand us. Hell, there’s a lot of things I don’t understand. That doesn’t mean I have to hate on them, though. I hope you know this, too. I’m just asking you to respect us as much as you respect everyone else.

Although, maybe you’re this forthright with everyone you don’t know. In which case, carry on.


2. “Your husband is just a pervert!”

Oh, dear. This is awkward.

I don’t know how to tell you this, but I don’t have a husband. You seemed to have confused me with someone else.

See, I have a wife. She’s female. It says so on her birth certificate and her license and every other piece of I.D. she has. But even without all the legalities, she told me she’s a woman and, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s all that matters. So I have a wife. Period.

Sorry you made that mistake, though. That must be weird for you.


3. “What’s the best thing about your wife transitioning?”

Boobs. Next question.



4. “NO BUT WHAT IS YOUR SEXUAL ORIENTATION? I MUST KNOW RIGHT NOW”

Everyone’s favourite burning question. It keeps coming up again and again.

I think Zoe is hot. I also think Justin Trudeau is hot. I also think Pink is hot. I also think Chris Hemsworth is hot…

Hey, maybe I’m the pervert.

I dig hearts, not parts, ok? I’ve said that over and over. Sexual orientation, like gender, is a spectrum. I guess I fall somewhere in the middle of it. If you want to call that bisexual, go for it. If you want to say I’m pansexual, great. If you want to say I’m a lesbian, cool. Whatever gets me a toaster oven.

I actually had someone try to argue with me that I’m straight because I married my spouse when she presented as a he. Let me tell you what I would never do: argue with someone over their sexual orientation. But hey, I guess everyone needs a hobby.

This person was convinced I don’t like women because, if I did, I would have married one who presented that way from the start. Or, I was always a closeted lesbian who married a man and it just worked out for me in the end (uhh…).

This point was very important to her. It seemed like she needed to fit me into a tidy little orientation box for her personal wellbeing. Poor thing.

Here’s the thing: My job is not to make everyone comfortable. My job is to live my life in the best way I know how, to love my people as fiercely as I can, and to hopefully make a positive impact in the world by doing so.

Sometimes we have to sit with uncomfortableness until that, too, becomes comfortable for us. That’s how we get used to new ideas.

Maybe my family is a new idea that people have to get used to.


5. “You haven’t explained to me how I’m supposed to support your family as a Christian.”

Ok, well, first of all, I’m not God or Jesus or a priest, pastor, minister, or anyone else who can offer someone spiritual guidance. I’m just a woman from Canada. I can explain poutine to you, but not biblical passages.

But I did grow up Catholic, even though I don’t identify as one today. I went to mass. I’ve read the bible. I’m familiar with the handful of “evidence” people use to hate on trans people.

But that “evidence” is bullshit. It’s a copout. Frankly, if you’re hating on trans people because you read a couple of lines in the Old Testament about girls not wearing guys’ clothes or vice versa, you’re ignoring the much bigger picture in the teachings: love. Maybe you get an A on this one test, but you’re still failing the course.

The New Testament – based on the teachings of God’s son (you know, the one sent by Him to better the world?) – is all about loving one another. Let he without sin cast the first stone. Hanging with prostitutes. All that good stuff. And remember, Christian begins with “Christ”. He’s a pretty important part of the religion.

To the droves of Christians who come at me on social media to tell me how sinful my family is: It’s not up to anyone to judge others. That’s not your call. It’s not your place. Even I know this. What you’re practicing is hate, the opposite of the Christian teachings. You’re hiding behind religion to be a bigot, and that’s a flimsy shield, my friend. It doesn’t hold up.

What would Jesus do? Probably tell you to chill out and love your fellow human beings, that’s what. If you believe in an afterlife, the Almighty will sort it all out for you.


In the meantime, I know where to get a great poutine. Look us up when you’re in town, eh?


My Harrowing Story of Sharing a Bathroom with Transgender People

"Scream" - Edvard Munchs via Flickr.
   

I first noticed my lip stain was missing when I reached into the makeup bag five minutes before leaving for a speaking engagement. You know, the pretty pink one I spent $18 on at Sephora that makes me look less like a corpse in pictures.

I pulled open drawers and frantically rummaged around, to no avail. I threw open the medicine cabinet, my eyes scanning the spaces between cotton swabs and bottles of astringent. Nothing.

My heart raced. I didn’t have time to reapply my eyeshadow to match another lip colour. This type of thing is a precise art, y’all.

Then, suddenly, I knew what had happened. It was one of them.

You know: them. The ones who also wear makeup. The ones who also have lips that need tinting. The trans women I live with. There are two of them in our little house: my wife and my daughter.

“Zoe!” I called downstairs to my spouse.

“Yeah?” she answered sweetly.

“Do you have my nice lip stain?”

“Oh, you mean the one we bought at Sephora?” she asked as she came upstairs looking all gorgeous like it’s no big thang. “It’s in my purse. Do you want it?”

In her purse? What a monster.

My first thought was to call my local government and see about getting a bathroom bill put in place to ban her from using my shit. But apparently trans people in Ontario, Canada are “protected by law” against “discrimination” and “can use the bathroom of their choice.” Whatever.

 Look at all the problems allowing people to be themselves is causing! What about my rights? How is a cisgender (AKA not trans) woman supposed to tint her lips without worry? I live in fear every day.

I’m clearly traumatized by experiences like this one. And who could blame me? One time, I went to use my conditioner – the one I bought at the salon that makes my curls really nice – only to realize my daughter had used the last of it. On her straight hair.

“Why are you using my nice conditioner?!” I asked her.

“Because it smells nice and makes my hair soft,” she replied.

Oh. My. God.

They should just have their own bathroom. Because here I am, living as a woman for 39 years without a care in the world, and then BAM! My whole life is disrupted in the last couple of years by these ladies appropriating my things? That’s not cool.

So many people are afraid of trans women using the bathrooms they feel comfortable with. But theirs is a theoretical fear. An imaginary panic. It’s not about child molesters or rapists. That’s purely fabricated nonsense created by folks who know nothing about actual trans people. They’re just using laws to discriminate against a population they fear.

But I know what I’m talking about. I’m on the frontlines every day. I’m a survivor.

Women in public bathrooms, you have nothing to fear; trust me on this one. This girl has done her research to find real reasons to fear trans people. Because if there was any way to get someone to stay the hell out of my side of the makeup case, you better believe I’m going to find it.

Sadly, it seems trans people are just like the rest of us: they want to pee, wash their hands, maybe touch up their lips with expensive tint blatantly stolen from their wives, and go about the rest of their day.

No, public bathrooms aren't a problem. The real issue is bathrooms in homes like mine all over the world. That’s where the terrible things happen

Thankfully, that’s really nothing for you to worry about, unless you care how my hair looks. And because I shared my perilous real life experience with you, you can now rest easy, free of worry over the trans woman in the stall next to you. You're welcome.



How Honouring My Feelings Saved My Marriage (and My Family)



Holy hot dog on a bun. 

We’ve had worldwide media attention since my blog post about Zoe’s coworkers throwing her a coming out party went live. I gave at least one media interview every single day for over a week – sometimes with Zoe, and sometimes by myself.

And then I slept like a frat guy on a Sunday this past weekend. I’m still recovering.

I had no idea this story was going to get as big as it has, but I’m pleased the world seems ready for more positive news about the trans community. I’ve heard from people on five different continents. (Fun fact: I’ve only ever been on one continent – the one with Canada on it. And given how little advocacy work pays, this might get as close to world travel as I’ll get. So, thank you!)

My inbox is full of incredible messages that I am slowly wading through and replying to. I feel bad I can’t answer as quickly as I’d like. Maybe I need to create some shitty hold music playlist for people to listen to while they wait.

A few years ago, a story like this would likely have filled my inbox with ignorant, awful, shittier-than-the-hold-music-I-would-make-into-a-playlist kind of hate mail. Today it’s getting nearly all love – providing I don’t read the comment sections of any site we’re featured on, obviously. I’ve concluded all trolls have bad hair, and they take out their rage about it in comments. It’s the best working theory I have.

Anyway, one of the things people have said to me, over and over, is how well I’m “handling things.” How positive I am. How supportive I am of my wife and daughter. How the world needs more people like me. And each time somebody says that, I want to be all, “Whoa, Nelly (or whatever your name is). Hold your horses (or lattes, or whatever.) You have no idea how much it took for me to get to this place.”

See, I don’t want to paint this rosy picture where Alexis came out to us and I was all, “Oh, this is wonderful news! Let’s go buy some matching mother-daughter lockets!” And then Zoe came out to me and I was all, “Hurray! We’re lesbians now! Let’s go buy a Subaru and drive off into the sunset!”

When Alexis came out to us, I held her and her talked to her, told her I loved and supported her, and then left her room and broke down out of fear and shock. While I was supportive of whoever she was, I held on to the hope that it was just a phase for some time. That she was simply “confused.” That it would pass and I would get my son back. Having a trans child terrified me.

And as I’ve said before, when Zoe came out to me 18 months later, the first words out of my mouth were an eloquent, “Oh, you have got to fucking kidding me!” Lightning had just struck twice, and I hadn’t even fully recovered from the first bolt yet. The wound that had begun to heal ripped open anew, and I was flooded with the same fear, disbelief, and terror.

The only difference was that I had a better understanding of trans issues, and I knew that if she was telling me she was a woman, this wasn’t going to change. I instantly recognized this was our new reality. But I didn’t instantly like it.

Why am I telling you this? Because these imperfect reactions need to be part of the larger narrative. I don’t want other parents or partners who are struggling with their own feelings about a loved one coming out to read our story and think, “She’s so supportive. I guess it’s just me who’s having a hard time. What’s wrong with me?” 

Nothing. It’s not just you. I did not get here overnight.

Just because I consider myself an ally does not mean I’m doing a perfect job at supporting the trans people in my life. Just because I’m supportive does not mean I don’t struggle with my own emotions.

When someone in a family unit comes out, everyone is affected. That one person’s transition becomes a family’s transition. This has become my journey, too. And this journey has involved me feeling all the feels in Feeltown.

My kids through they had a mom and a dad for their entire lives; they found out they have two moms.

I thought I was a mother to all boys; I found out 11 years later that I have a daughter.  

I thought I was married to a man; I found out 22 years later that I’m married to a woman.

Who wouldn’t need time to process that change? I had to deal with a sense of grief because I was mourning the life I thought I had. I had to work through a sense of betrayal because I felt my marriage had been based on a lie. I had to work through helplessness because change was happening around me that I couldn’t control. And I had to work through the depression that followed when all these feelings and changes became too overwhelming.

All of that has been part of what it took to get me to the positive place I’m at today. I worked on it quietly, drawing support from my circle of close family and friends (and from one hell of a great therapist), waiting until I was in a better place to begin sharing it all with the world.

I love my daughter. I love my wife. I love our whole family and the life we share together. I wouldn’t trade any of it for the world. I love them for who they are, admire their courage, and celebrate their authenticity.

Things are good today, but only because I allowed myself the time and space to work through my own feelings.

And hats off to my wife. Because while I was supporting her through those early days, she was also supporting me. She held me when I cried, she let me get angry, she let me get sad, she loved me the whole way through, wherever I was at.

We held each other through the storm, and that’s how we came out the other side.

See, I am not the poster child for supportive family members. I’m just a wife and mom, doing her best to love the people in her life.

And, thankfully, despite my imperfections and shitty taste in hold music, they love me back.

How to Reach Me




I can be reached in a variety of ways. Please feel free to get in touch with me at any time. I love hearing from people, and always do my best to reply in a timely fashion. 

Don't know if you should reach out? Here are some helpful do's and don't's

Things I like to receive:
- Emails from readers
- Media inquiries
- Messages from potential writing clients
- Free coffee
- Chocolate is also fine

Things I don't like to receive:
- Hate mail (I never read it, so don't bother)
- Messages from people trying to wash me of my sin (thanks, but no thanks)
- Smelly things
- Your kid's stomach flu
- Fruitcake 

Now that we have the rules down, here's my contact information:


Email: mavenmayhem@gmail.com


Twitter: @MavenOfMayhem

Instagram: @maven_of_mayhem

Thanks!
Amanda

All About The Maven


Need to get in touch? My contact information is right here.


Amanda Jetté Knox is an award-winning writer, human rights advocate and public speaker. She also loves coffee. If coffee were a person, they would braid each others' hair.
In early 2014, her middle child came out to the family as a transgender girl, shifting the focus of her mom’s writing career towards LGBT rights and education. Alexis' journey changed everything, and taught Amanda a great deal about courage, compassion and authenticity. It made her a better person. Full stop.



A few months later, inspired by Alexis' courage, Amanda’s spouse, Zoe, came out as a transgender woman. It’s been two years of very big changes for this family! Amanda is now married to a woman, her kids have two moms, and there is a permanent rainbow over the house that unicorns like to prance around on. It's all very gay.



Amanda is the recipient of the 2014 Joan Gullen Journalism Award for Media Excellence in small print. Her work - and her family's journey so far - has been featured on CBC, The Globe and Mail, Upworthy, BuzzfeedUs Weekly, Uproxx, Ottawa Family Living, The Today Show, and various other national and international publications, podcasts and media outlets.

In 2016, Microsoft Canada featured Amanda and Alexis as two of six Canadian change makers who they believe are making a big impact through the use of technology. 
The pair has recently worked with the American Counseling Association and the Human Rights Council to bring international awareness of issues affecting transgender youth. They speak as often as they can to whoever will listen, giving talks to hospital staff, youth organizations, mental health professionals and school boards.

Today, Amanda lives in Ottawa, Canada, with her wife, daughter, two sons, and a coffee maker that never quits. The names and pronouns have changed, but the love hasn't. 
And in the end, isn't it all about love? And braiding coffee's hair if coffee were an actual person?
You know it.

My Wife Came Out at Work, and Her Co-Workers Threw Her a Party

Society, pay attention. This is important.

If you haven't been following our story, my wife Zoe is transgender. She came out to us - the kids and me - last summer, and then slowly spread her beautiful feminine wings with extended family, friends and neighbours.

A little coming out here, a little coming out there - you know how it is.

It's been a slow, often challenging process of telling people something so personal and scary, but pretty much everyone has been amazing.

However, she dreaded coming out at the office. She works at a large technology company, managing a team of software developers in a predominantly male office environment. She's known many of her co-workers and employees for 15 or so years. They have called her "he" and "him" and "Mr." for a very long time. How would they handle the change?

While we have laws in place in Ontario, Canada, to protect the rights of transgender employees, it does not shield them from awkwardness, quiet judgment, or loss of workplace friendships. Your workplace may not become outright hostile, but it can sometimes become a difficult place to go to every day because people only tolerate you, rather than fully accept you.

But this transition needed to happen, and so Zoe carefully crafted a coming out email and sent it to everyone she works with.

The support was immediately apparent; she received about 75 incredibly kind responses from co-workers, both local and international.

She then took one week off, followed by a week where she worked solely from home. It was only last Monday when she finally went back to the office.

First day back at work!
I asked if I could take a "first day of school" type picture with her lunch box.
She said no. Spoilsport.
Despite knowing how nice her colleagues are and having read so many positive responses to her email, she was understandably still nervous. Hell, I was nervous. I made her promise to text me eighty-billion times with updates, and was more than prepared to go down there with my advocacy pants on if I needed to (I might be a tad overprotective.)

And that's when her office pals decided to show the rest of us how to do it right.

She got in and found that a couple of them had decorated her cubicle to surprise her:

Butterflies! Streamers! Rainbows! OMG!

And made sure her new name was prominently displayed in a few locations:



They got her a beautiful lily with a "Welcome, Zoe!" card:



And this tear-jerker quote was waiting for her on her desk:




To top it all off, that 10 a.m. "meeting" she was scheduled to attend was actually a coming out party to welcome her back to work as her true self - complete with coffee and cupcakes and handshakes and hugs.

NO I'M NOT CRYING YOU'RE CRYING

(I stole one and it was delicious.)


I did go into my wife's office that day. But instead of having my advocacy pants on, I had my hugging arms ready and some mascara in my purse in case I cried it off while thanking everyone.

I wish we lived in a world where it was no big deal to come out. Sadly, that is not the case for many LGBTQ people. We live in a world of bathroom bills and "religious freedom" laws that directly target the members of our community. We live in a world where my family gets threats for daring to speak out for trans rights. We live in a world where we can't travel to certain locations for fear of discrimination - or worse.

So when I see good stuff happening - especially when it takes place right on our doorstep - I'm going to share it far and wide. Let's normalize this stuff. Let's make celebrating diversity our everyday, rather than hating or fearing it.

So chill out, haters. Take a load off with us. It's a lot of energy to judge people, you know. It's way more fun to celebrate and support them for who they are.

Besides, we have cupcakes.


In Which I Answer Common Questions About Having a Transitioning Spouse



First of all, I want to say a massive thank you to the many people who have reached out to us over the last several days. Our support circle has certainly grown, and we are very grateful for it. 

People are naturally curious about what happens to a relationship - and a family - when a spouse comes out as trans. So I thought I would answer some of the most common questions and comments I've received. (There are a handful that deserve their own blog posts, so I'm going to save them for another day.)

Get your coffee ready. Here we go!


How have things been since you told the world you have a second trans person in the house?

Crazy, but the good kind of crazy. The world has been a lot kinder than I expected, frankly. We’ve received hundreds of supportive messages from people from around the world. I haven’t had a chance to reply to them all yet, but please know we’ve read every single one and they mean a great deal to us.

I did a brief interview last week with 105.3 Kiss FM, which you can listen to here, and Alexis and I spoke to Metro Ottawa, too.

I do these interviews because I believe it’s the only way to normalize queer families. The more people hear our stories, the more they learn, the less sensational we become, and the more widely accepted we are. A few of us have to be public to make change happen. It’s really that simple.

There will always be hate, of course. I did an interview with Us Weekly right after my last blog post, and the comments are… well… don’t read the comments. Just don’t do it. Some of them will destroy your delicate faith in humanity. I stopped after 3 and haven't checked them since. 

And then there was that guy on twitter who had this to say about why I have a trans child:



I might frame that one.

Frankly, I’ll take the small amounts of hate if it means we get to live authentically. That closet we were in for the last few months was hella stuffy.


How did things at Zoe’s work go after she came out?

Zoe sent an email the day I wrote our coming out post (you know, the second one I've had to write. Heh.). Since then, she’s received over 60 supportive responses from coworkers who are looking forward to welcoming her back as her true self.

Yet another example of how Ottawa, Canada is a wonderful place to live. You should totally live here. It’s cold enough to crack your ovaries in half, but our warm hearts more than make up for it.

Zoe is working from home this week, and is back full-time in the office the next. I will be expecting regular text updates on day 1 because my stomach will be in knots. And also because I’m fairly high maintenance.


But be honest, Amanda: Are you really happy with a trans spouse, or are you just saying that?

She still makes me coffee every morning, which ensures I’m not a giant asshole to the world. So yes, I’m legitimately happy. And you should be, too. Trust me.


Ok… It’s just… There’s no way I could be happy, you know? I would be settling if I stayed. So are you settling?

Fact: I said, on more than one occasion, that I could probably never stay with a spouse who transitioned. It would be too weird. Too hard. Too overwhelming.

But there’s a difference between theoretical situations and actual situations. When the actual situation occurred – something I never thought would happen to me – I had to re-evaluate my black-or-white views on it. I'm glad I did.

Look. I understand if you couldn’t be happy and had to end the relationship. I would never fault someone for that.

There are many factors in play when a spouse transitions: How happy or unhappy you were as a  couple before your spouse comes out to you, your own sexual orientation, your partner’s sexual orientation, any feelings of betrayal you might have about them keeping their gender identity from you, whether they start stealing your lip gloss out of your purse like a bitch, if they start upstaging you in the hair department… The list of potential deal-breakers is long.

I was essentially handed a golden ticket to divorce when Zoe came out to me. We could have split completely amicably at that point. We could have co-parented, and I could have supported her in a friendship role. I considered all of it.

I chose to stay because I love her and she loves me. I am very much attracted to the person she is. I’m a “hearts not parts” kind of girl, so her gender doesn’t matter to me. And she only likes the ladies and I happen to be a great one, so it all worked out. We’re like a really weird fairy tale. And I regularly steal her lip gloss.


Wait. Zoe is a trans woman, but she… only likes women? Huh?

LGBT 101: Your gender identity and sexual orientation are separate things. Completely.

Sexual orientation is who you go to bed with, and gender identity is who you go to bed as. She is a woman. She is attracted to women. Many trans women identify as lesbian or bisexual. It’s not that uncommon. 


So you’re comfortable being in a same-sex marriage?

Of course. I’ve been checking the mail every morning to see if my gay agenda has arrived. I’m sure it’s chock full of ways to destroy the fabric of society.

Can you believe it? I’m now part of a giant conspiracy to tear apart the traditional family, which is why all these organizations lobby to make my “lifestyle” illegal. I understand why they’re fearful. I mean, look at all the damage I’m causing by continuing to raise my kids, volunteer in the community, earn a living and pay my mortgage. Such immorality. WE SHALL RUIN ALL YOU HOLD DEAR.


And the kids are ok?

Actual conversation I had with my children a few weeks ago:

Me: “So guys, I’m getting ready to tell the internet about your mama.”

Kids: “That’s fine. Whenever you’re ready.”

Me: “Really? You’re not worried about being teased or anything?”

One of the kids: “Nah. It’s actually cool to have gay parents now. I told a couple of people already and they said they wish they had two moms.”

Other kid: "I know, right? I got the same thing when I told my friend."

Me: "Wow. Welcome to 2016."

YOU GUYS, I AM FINALLY TRENDY. Put that in your pipe and smoke it, everyone I went to middle school with.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go work on my gay world domination glitter shirt.




World, Meet My Wife


She told me in the car.

It was early July, and we were on our way home after a botched date night. My spouse’s mood was off, once again; this chronic melancholy, this little Eeyore cloud hanging over our lives and saturating everything in miserable little droplets. It happened all the time.

The unhappiness had put a wedge between us for years. I, the happy, bubbly, social person on one side, my partner, the quiet, brooding, isolating one on the other. And on those rare nights we could sneak out for a meal or a drink, I would grow resentful when the Eeyore cloud starting pissing all over our parade.  

“I wish you would tell me what’s going on with you,” I said as we drove home from the coffee shop.

“I can’t,” she replied.

“Enough of that. We’ve been together 22 years and you’ve been unhappy the whole time. Everyone can see it. The kids and I can feel it.”

“I know,” she admitted.

I sighed. “Is it me? Are you unhappy with me? With our family?”

“No, it’s not you. It’s not the kids. This predates all of you, trust me.”

“Look,” I said. “I’m tired of brushing this under the rug. I think it’s time for some honesty. Nothing 
will get better if you don’t tell me what’s wrong.”

“I can’t,” she insisted, staring straight ahead, hands firmly on the wheel.

I thought of potential big secrets and just started guessing. “Are you gay?” I inquired. Hey, it happens, right? Maybe she’s not as in to me as my ego wanted me to believe.

“No,” she said.

“Ok,” And then I just threw it out there. I still can’t tell you why. “So, do you want to be a woman or something?”

Silence.

And suddenly, I knew.

But I had to ask again because I needed to hear the answer. “You…” my voice caught in my throat. “You’re a… a woman?”

More silence. My stomach was in knots. I wanted to throw up.

“I can’t talk about this,” she said in the smallest, most vulnerable voice I had ever heard from her. I felt my heart break on the spot.

And I, the supportive mom of a trans child, the advocate, the ally, friend of the LGBT community, replied with an eloquent, “Oh, you have got to be fucking kidding me!”

Yep. Not my proudest moment.

The life I knew – the life I had with my husband – died that night. There’s no other way to describe it.

I thought I knew everything about my spouse. And yet, at that moment, I felt completely blindsided by the news. I didn’t know this could happen twice in one family. I didn’t understand how someone could hide something like that from the person they've been married to for over two decades. I didn’t know how this would affect our family, the kids, her job.

I felt betrayed, hurt, devastated, angry and scared. And she, by the light of the Walmart parking lot we had stopped in, looked a perfect picture of terror and relief. “I never thought I’d tell anyone,” she said, staring down at her lap. “But I just told you.”

I wanted to scream at her and I wanted to hug her, all at once.

We were lost in a situation neither of us saw coming.

*****

But that was eight months ago.

I would love to tell you that, given all the experience my family has with trans issues, it’s been an easy journey. It hasn’t. The first few months were incredibly bumpy, and something I’ll be talking about in future posts. I didn’t think we could come back from it all.

But we did. Life with Zoe is beautiful. That’s her lovely chosen name, by the way, and I helped pick it by vetoing all the ones I hated. I hated a lot of them. I’m really supportive.

Her name is now legally changed on her birth certificate, along with her gender marker. The papers came in about a week ago. Her birth certificate says “female,” which means – you guys – I’m gay married! *insert rainbows and plaid shirts here* You have no idea how many lesbian jokes I’ve been holding in for the last few months. Shit’s about to get real.

This same-sex marriage revelation was a perfectly comfortable shift for me. It feels right because we feel right. After nearly 23 years together, I finally have my whole partner, not just the part she wanted to show me. And that Eeyore cloud? It hasn’t come out to play in a while. My wife is gorgeous, witty and social now that she’s finally comfortable in her own skin. We’re the happiest we’ve ever been.

I need to give some serious props to our two boys. These guys could teach a class in resiliency, compassion and acceptance. They’ve embraced their mama with open arms, just as they did their sister.

And Alexis? She taught her mama to be brave like her by example, and saved her from drowning in secrets and misery for the rest of her life. What a gift that girl is.

While I know there are many horror stories out there about what happens when people come out, we haven’t dealt with a single one yet. Our families, friends and neighbours have all been incredible. We’re so fortunate to be surrounded by many caring, open-minded people.

And that brings us to this very day.

Today is the day Zoe is coming out at work. There’s much at stake here, and she’s understandably nervous.

Like her daughter, Zoe has also written a coming out email. And I’m timing this blog post to go live right around the time she sends that message out to all her coworkers who don’t yet know she’s transgender (the ones she works closely with already know, as does HR, but there are may more people to tell.) It’s a big day.

After we do these two things, there’s no more hiding. Zoe gets to be herself full time. I get to say “my wife” without outing her before it’s time. My kids finally get to say “I have two moms.” We don’t have to remember who knows and who doesn’t know and who can’t know yet because they might tell someone else, and… Well, let’s just say it’s been exhausting for all of us.

We’ve been living in the closet, and it feels damn good to be busting out of it.

*****

This is the internet, so I expect not all of you will be supportive. But believe me, there isn’t a thing you could say in response to this news I haven’t already thought of in the last several months. I used to worry about the shade people will throw our way, but not anymore. Our world is so full of love and support that it leaves absolutely no room for hatred or ignorance to reside within it.

Besides, on top of having both a transgender daughter and wife, I’ve been fully immersed in gender issues for two years now, studying research, interviewing experts, giving talks, writing articles, and connecting with thousands of families. So unless you’re coming at this with at least as much knowledge as I now have, I’m probably not going to pay your negativity much mind. Just sayin'.

So why share this at all? The same reason we share Alexis’ journey: I want you to learn with me.
If you learn along with me, then you won’t be afraid. You won’t be judgmental. You won’t think families like ours are defective or weird. You’ll get to know the queer parents at your kids’ school instead of avoiding them. You’ll invite the trans kid in your child’s class over to play, like you would any other child.

And then you’ll teach these things to the people in your life, whether directly or indirectly. Knowledge creates change. And then the world gets safer for Alexis and Zoe, the two bravest ladies I’ve ever had the pleasure of loving.

You and I are going to help make that happen, ok?

So here’s to the messy stuff of life, the woman I love more and more each day, and to wonderful new beginnings.