- Billy getting kicked out of his public boarding school in March 2014, shortly before his GCSE exams. Quite a low as it looked as if he might leave education for good at that point with no qualifications. His mental health would have plummeted. The silver lining was that we were spared having to find a term’s fees. He did go into school to sit a couple of GCSEs, but did no revision and had very odd sleep patterns so was tired. Not surprisingly he didn’t perform well. At least he scraped an English Language GCSE, which will stand him in good stead. The Sixth Form College offered him a place for a Level 2 course as he didn’t have the qualifications, or maturity and study skills, to go on to A’ Levels or equivalent.
- A high point was the National Citizenship Service scheme for 16-17 year olds run by the College for four weeks in July. After three months spent mostly in bed, Billy managed against all expectations to rally himself and take part in the scheme, which was a great success. He made friends, joined in the activities, and enjoyed it. We managed to get him back each Monday morning, which we hadn’t really expected. He misjudged things at the end and smashed up one of the buses, which we had to pay for. The staff dealt with it and he never mentioned it to us nor we to him. We were grateful for their professionalism.
- Another low – being told by a friend’s mum via Facebook that at 15 Billy had got girl pregnant. He had met her online and only met her twice. To our great relief there was no sign of the girl actually having a baby, and the relationship didn’t last long. Whatever she told him, and whatever did or did not happen to the unconfirmed pregnancy, the due-date passed without any sign of an infant. I did manage to establish that the girl was known to social services and that she was being monitored, as if there were a baby it might well be at risk. There was a sense of déjà vu, as if Billy was determined to replicate the circumstances of his birth, but he seems to have been given a bit longer to grow up before taking on the responsibilities of parenthood.
- A very important part of 2014 was Jo’s continued journey from boy to girl. A decisive moment was the intervention of the clinicians from the gender clinic, who came down to her school. The new head had decided to change the school uniform, and I had discussed with Jo the possibility of going back after Spring half term in the new girl’s uniform. She has always hated being dressed as a boy at school, and was really pleased at the idea, although understandably nervous about people’s reactions. The staff hadn’t anticipated things moving so quickly, but were open to the notion that moving too slowly also had dangers for Jo, who needed a sense of forward momentum. Over the half term she changed her name by deed poll, and we cleared out all her boy clothes. The girls’ games clothes, kilt and blouses were duly purchased and named. The biggest problem was and is the shoes, as she is at least a 9 UK size, in some makes 9 ½ or 10 in trainers. I don’t know if you have tried buying women’s shoes that size, let alone black leather school shoes that don’t look as if they are made for hiking. Most stop at 7 or 8. We did discover that Clarkes have a limited range of 9s in female styles, thank goodness!
- Jo finished her six-month’s assessment at the Gender Clinic, and its up to her now to move on to the next stage, which is a physical examination and hormone blockers. She is scared of injections and having blood taken and nervous of the physical, so hasn’t kept any of the appointments so far. A high point was the two trans-teen groups she attended at the Tavi, and the three mentoring sessions she has had with people from Gendered Intelligence (see the links page for details).
- Other domestic news – a third dog joined the family on a permanent basis, an 8 year-old Pointer. We’d been walking and looking after her now and then for about a year since her owner died, but she joined us for good in May. Three dogs is a bit of a pack, and being tall and clever she can open all the doors and pinch anything she likes off the counter. We have a regime of locks, but are still greeted regularly by three enthusiastic dogs rushing from the back to the front of the house when they hear the car engine. Fortunately they all get on well with one another.
- Where do we want to be this time next year? It would be great if Billy had completed his first year of college successfully and moved on to a two year A’ level equivalent course. He would like to share a flat with a friend next year instead of lodging with a local family during the week (the college is too far away for a daily commute) – a big jump but who knows? He has made great strides in terms of settling in, getting himself up in the mornings and keeping out of trouble (more or less).
- We’d love to see Jo continue on her path with confidence – probably with the help of the hormone blockers as she will be 15 in 2015 and her body is becoming noticeably more masculine, which distresses her. She has to wait until 16 for the feminising hormones, but also needs to be on the blockers for a year first, so needs to get a move on. She can of course stay as she is, but our fear would be that the self-harming, usually cuts with a knife or razor on her arms and legs, would carry on if she feels she is stuck with a body she doesn’t like. It would also be great to see her find the head-space to do some schoolwork. She wants to so some sort of post 16 course, but at the present rate won’t achieve any qualifications at all. She has the ability to pass a few exams, especially in more practical subjects, but needs to find the energy to apply herself to it, and there isn’t much spare at the moment.
- Some funds to undertake essential repairs would go in handy – the family bathroom is ceasing up and needs replacing, and a door fell off the kitchen cupboard for the umpteenth time. I came back from walking the dogs to see that Jo had left a note to that effect. The boiler isn’t working properly and anyway is underpowered for the size of the house. There are holes punched in doors and walls and bathroom floors and tiles are all stained. Fortunately we are not particularly house-proud, you can’t be with kids with tempers, but it does get me down at times. I wonder whether one can crowd-fund essential repairs? And what’s really essential anyway? I guess offering a safe and loving environment is still the number one priority for 2015, so a very Happy New Year to everyone.