Giveaway: For Goodness Sex

{AC9DDDC6-2B54-4265-B7D5-B4DF870B0AF3}Img400I’m in love with a book. A few months ago I was given a sneak peek of Al Vernacchio’s book For Goodness Sex and I was so thankful for it, that I wrote a blurb for the book’s back jacket cover.

Here’s my blurb:

At last a book that teaches parents how to talk to kids about sex in a way that is based healthily in reality and not fearfully in doom and gloom.  I wish my parents had read this book!  Vernacchio is smart, funny and offers parents everything they need to know to comfortably move away from the abstinence-based sex education of the generations that came before us.  His lessons do not discriminate and can be practically applied to any gender and any orientation, helping to support all types of families.

I had been looking for some tips for talking to my kids about sex that 1.) didn’t assume their sexuality and 2.) weren’t abstinence based. This book is it.

Here’s a description of the book:

A progressive, effective, and responsible approach to sex education for parents and teens that challenges traditional teaching models and instead embraces 21st century realities by promoting healthy sexuality, values, and body image in young people.

Sex education today generally falls into one of two categories: abstinence-only or abstinence-based education—both of which tend to withhold important, factual information and leave young adults ill-equipped to make safe decisions. Al Vernacchio, a high school sexuality educator who holds a Master’s degree in Human Sexuality from the University of Pennsylvania, has created a new category: sex-positive education.

For Goodness Sex offers the tools and insights adults need to talk young people and help them develop healthy values and safe habits. With real-life examples from the classroom, exercises and quizzes, and a wealth of sample discussions and crucial information, Vernacchio offers a guide to sex education for the twenty-first century.

Want to win a copy of the book?

Tell me a thing or two that you’re thankful for this thanksgiving season. The winner will be selected by C.J. on Monday and announced on Tuesday.

Good luck!!!!

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To The PTA Moms at My Son’s School

Last week I published a blog post about things said during a PTA meeting I attended at my youngest son’s school. I wanted to shine a light on the homophobic, transphobic, insensitive, hateful and hurtful things that some moms said during the meeting and show that as far as we have come in LGBTQ acceptance and equality, there is still much work to be done. And sometimes that work needs to be done in heavy doses at places much closer to home than we’d like.

Almost immediately, PTA moms from our school started commenting, messaging and reacting viscerally on social media.

As they did, I stared at the PTA tagline: Every child, One voice. I’m not convinced that our PTA as a whole cares about every child and some of the voices I heard that night are not voices I want speaking on behalf of my child. That being said, of course I don’t think that every parent at our school and member of the PTA is transphobic or homophobic. That would be a silly assumption and one I never made.

I hope that the PTA moms at my school will reread my original blog post when their feelings have subsided and really take in and think about the words used at the meeting and the tone in which they were said. And, think about the words and tone used since then.

“I wasn’t at the meeting, but I talked to several other moms who were and (insert defensive comment here)…” – PTA Mom

I’m not interested in gossip, hearsay or what other moms are saying behind my back. If you were not at the meeting, please do not contact me to defend the people who were in the room who used transphobic language, homophobic language and/or hate speech. Think long and hard about the people you are defending and why. I’m open to conversations, but I’m not open to your take on a meeting for which you were not present. Instead, let’s talk about how we can make our school and community more welcoming and inclusive of all students.

“We have a great group of teachers, parents and a wonderful school.” – PTA Mom

I’m sure that if you and your child are heteronormative, cisgender and possess no special or unique needs outside of what the school and district are accustomed to dealing with, then you do view it as a wonderful school with a great group of teachers and parents. If that’s the case, please consider yourself lucky.

To the mother who wrote this in particular, when both of our oldest children were in third grade at this school, mine suffered homophobic bullying and harassment to the point that he threatened suicide during winter break. His teacher, the administration at the time and the district handled the situation so horribly that we had to seek the services of a child advocate, contact the ACLU, submit a Uniform Complaint Form and have an official investigation launched.

At the school last year, C.J. was bullied in the boy’s bathroom by a group of boys intent on looking at his genitalia to see if he has a penis or a vagina. It’s interesting to note that parents are worried about my son using the girl’s restroom (which, again, he does not) for unfounded reasons, yet my son has been harassed by boys and made to feel unsafe in the boy’s bathroom.

So, sometimes our school doesn’t seem wonderful to those of us who fall outside of what South Orange County perceives to be “the norm.”

Our family wants nothing more than for the school to be a wonderful place for every student and things are looking up. C.J.’s current teacher is beyond amazing and the new administration has been wonderfully supportive. Our school could be wonderful, and in many ways it is, but it has work to do — as evidenced at the PTA meeting (which this mom did not attend).

“I was there, and while I agree that there were a few loud mouth parents there, you need to know that at least one in particular has made loud mouth, insensitive remarks about other issues, at PTA meetings and elsewhere.” – PTA Member

So because that “loudmouth, insensitive” mom is an asshole all of the time I should excuse her? She gets a free pass to say transphobic things and use hate speech because she talks nastily about everything? No. Again, think about whom you are defending and making excuses for and why.

Think about it this way, if a person of color had been in the room, would people have tolerated the “loudmouth, insensitive” mom making white supremacist comments? I mean, after all, “that’s just how she is.” When we allow hate speech from one person on campus, we allow it from other people and the climate on campus suffers.

“You sat way in the back and if you would have stayed after the meeting, you could have had a constructive conversation.” – PTA Mom

The location of my seat should not matter and bears no importance. I walked in and simply took an empty seat. I left immediately after the meeting to pick up my kids because I had to arrange childcare to be able to attend the meeting.

People shouldn’t have to stay after the meeting to have a constructive conversation. And, if that is the case, then that time should be agendized and communicated to all members, parents, teachers, etc. I’m used to meetings where the constructive conversations take place during the allotted meeting time and biased opinions that are not relevant to the topic are shared privately post meeting, if at all.

I’m always up for constructive conversations. You can reach me at raisingmyrainbow@gmail.com. I’ve already had a really fruitful conversation with the one mom who contacted me requesting to talk after reading the post.

“You should have used this forum to educate.” – PTA Mom

If by “this forum” you mean the online world, I’ve been educating people about childhood gender nonconformity and LGBTQ youth for four years. I encourage you to read my blog and book to learn more.

If you mean that I should have used the PTA meeting as a forum to educate, I argue that that was not my role that night. I was there as a mom, not as the presenter or educator. I was there to listen and learn and when things started to get out of hand, I knew it was best for me to observe and not lash out with my initial reactions.

“None of those things were said” and “I didn’t hear them.” – PTA Moms

The things that I wrote were said. Every single one of them. If you were at the meeting, you may not have heard everything. But, I can tell you that from where I sat I heard all of the things that I wrote – and then some. When you have a child that is directly affected by the topic being discussed, you tend to listen very closely, as I did. I wanted to hear how people responded and reacted to this issue that my family deals with daily. I did not write in my blog post any comments that I heard outside of the public meeting – and those were much, much worse.

“You’re giving the PTA and our school a bad name!” – PTA Mom

I argue that it’s not me who is giving the PTA a bad name, but rather it is the moms who used transphobic, homophobic hate speech during the meeting and the peers who defended them then and have continued to defend them since who give our school and PTA a bad name.

My post was not meant to be a referendum on the actual PTA organization, national, local or otherwise. For me, this horrible event could have happened anywhere: a church group, sports team, scout meeting, etc. The fact that it happened at a PTA meeting is just an example of this particular issue.

That said, I do feel like our school’s chapter failed at the National PTA’s mission to connect all parents to their school community and encourage parent engagement. Tolerating behaviors that alienate parents due to bias and prejudice has to be addressed.

“I for one will never again feel comfortable asking a question at a PTA meeting… I’m worried that people will not feel comfortable to ask questions.” – PTA Mom

Instead of this all or nothing approach to speaking out in PTA meetings, maybe you should take a minute to think about the things you are saying, the way you are saying them, who is hearing them and how they could be perceived.

I teach my kids to think about what they’re going to say and always speak as if a person of every gender, ethnicity, religion, race, sex, disability and sexuality is in the room. You know, just to be respectful of others. Maybe you could try that.

As adults, we can usually tell when a question is being asked out of sincere interest and when it is being asked skeptically, argumentatively and dismissively.   I’ll meet with anyone from our school who has questions that come from a place of wanting to learn about kids like my son. I’m serious; I’ll make time for every single family, do it confidentially, individually or in groups and give you nothing but honesty. All you have to do is ask and show up with an open heart and open mind.

A special thanks to the HRC, Welcoming Schools, PFLAG and the ACLU this past week. The support I’ve felt from these organizations was tremendous and critical. 

Also, even though the presenter at the PTA meeting cited statistics gathered and published by GLSEN, he was not there as a representative of GLSEN.

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The Last PTA Meeting I Will Ever Attend

PTA-logoImagine my utter delight when I learned that at the next PTA meeting, someone would be speaking about the anti-bullying laws in place to protect LGBT and gender creative kids.

Although I’m a card-carrying PTA member, I’ve attended only three PTA meetings in my six years as mother to an elementary-school-aged child. Each time I sat through the meeting feeling like the PTA wasn’t the place for me.

But, hell, if they were going to be discussing LGBT and gender issues, maybe I had been wrong.

I walked into the crowded Multipurpose Room and found a seat in the back corner by myself. I listened as the PTA board and its members ran through the agenda. When they started passionately discussing the nutritional value of whole-wheat goldfish crackers versus original goldfish crackers, I tuned out. I will never argue about goldfish crackers; of that you can be sure.

Finally it was LGBT time. To start, the presenter rattled off statistics from GLSEN’s latest National School Climate Survey. I use the same numbers when I present to groups. They are powerful.

  • At school, 74 percent of LGBT students were verbally harassed in the past year because of their sexual orientation and 55 percent because of their gender expression.
  • As a result of feeling unsafe or uncomfortable at school, 30 percent of LGBT students missed at least one day of school in the past month.
  • A hostile school climate affects students’ academic success and mental health. Grade point averages for these students were between nine and 15 percent lower than for others.
  • LGBT students who experience victimization and discrimination at school have worse educational outcomes and poorer psychological well-being.

“I don’t believe those numbers,” a mother in my row blurted out, startling me.

“Yeah! Where did you get those numbers from!?” another mom shouted from one row over.

The presenter started to reply.

“They’re actually from a survey GLSEN does…”

“Who?!” a mom questioned.

“GLSEN…”

“I’ve never heard of them!” a mom yelled.

Another mom was skeptically writing down the name so that she could look GLSEN up when she got home.

“Are those numbers for elementary students?! They have to be for only high schoolers and this is an elementary school!”

“They are for all students,” the speaker replied. (The numbers are actually for middle school and high school students.)

“But, not in our area. Those aren’t Orange County numbers!”

For a group that tries to stick strictly to Robert’s Rules of Order, this was an unruly behavior.

The presenter carried on bravely in the face of rudeness and righteousness.

“What do we call girls who like play with boy toys and wear boy things?” he asked.

“Tomboys!” the mom next to me shouted out, proud of herself for knowing the right answer.

“Great. And, what do we call boys who like to play with girl toys and wear girls things?”

“Gay Boys!” she shouted just as assuredly.

My head whipped instinctively in her direction and not for any reason other than I could not believe she would think it was okay to volunteer that answer out loud in public.

She felt me looking at her.

“What?! That’s what they call them!” she said, like I was the stupid one.

The presenter started going through a list of the state and national laws in place to protect LGBTQ and differently gendered kids.

When he got halfway down the list of laws, to AB 1266, the crowd went wild. AB 1266 is a California law stating that a student cannot be discriminated against based on their sex, gender, gender identity or gender expression. Specifically, they can play on the sports teams and use the restrooms that are consistent with their gender identity.

“The laws are protecting these trans kids but not the normal kids!”

“I’ve talked to several of my attorneys about this law…”

“I don’t want a girl in the boys bathroom looking at my son’s penis!”

“They should build them their own bathroom so they aren’t in there with other kids!”

“There are two of ‘them’ at our school using the girls bathroom! Two!”

Heat took over my entire body. My heart had either stopped beating entirely or was beating so hard that it would explode. I was going to drop dead at the PTA meeting.

They were talking about my gender nonconforming son. Trust me, I know, because this has been an issue for more than a year. People believe that my son uses the girls’ restroom. And, it’s not just people at our school who believe it. It’s a rumor that has spread through the district and all the way to the local mega church, forcing my parents out of a bible study when a fellow Christian berated them through clenched teeth in front of their small group of fellow believers.

“There’s two?!”

“Yes, TWO!”

By the tone of their voices and looks on their faces, I could tell that these mothers hate my child because of where they think he relieves himself. I wanted to defend my son. I don’t want anybody to hate my child. I wanted to fight for his honor, but I needed to get myself under control first — or who knows what might fly out of my mouth.

As I collected my thoughts, the mob mentality had set in. The moms in the room were influenced and encouraged by the behaviors and opinions of their peers. They couldn’t believe that any person in the room (other than the presenter) might have a differing point of view.

To quiet the crowd, the presenter turned on a 20/20 clip featuring Jazz Jennings, a transgender teen advocate who is nothing short of amazing. I smiled at Jazz, her supportive family, her mermaid swim fin and her happiness.

“Those parents are playing God!” a mother said loudly as she crossed her arms angrily over her chest and shook her head in disgust.

“Yeah, and now that poor thing is sterile!” said another mom. Like a child is broken if it can’t procreate. Like there’s no other way for a family to form.

When the clip was over the meeting was over and I had to rush to get my kids.

Later, I sat with Matt and told him about the meeting.

“We’ve got to pull C.J. out of that school. Those people are fucking crazy,” he insisted.

“No, the school administration is great. I trust them. And his teacher is a dream come true. It’s just the PTA moms who are horrible. And, as much as they would hate to hear it, they are inconsequential. Their opinions don’t matter,” I said.

“You’re not going to another PTA meeting, we don’t need to be around people like that.”

“That will be the last PTA meeting I ever attend, trust me.”

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My Son as Reese Witherspoon as Elle Woods

“What are you going to be for Halloween?” one of my son’s male classmates asked him today.

I waited nervously to see what C.J. would say.

“A lawyer,” he replied.

I smiled. My son was spinning the truth. I’m in PR, I know good spin when I see it.

photo 1-7Yes, in very general terms my son will be trick-or-treating as a lawyer for Halloween. More specifically, he will be dressed as Reese Witherspoon’s lawyer character Elle Woods from the movie Legally Blonde.

There are three very important reasons why C.J. selected this costume:

3. He likes the movie.

2. He likes to wear long blonde wigs.

1. The costume came with a pink purse with a tiny plush Chihuahua inside. (This is the main reason.)

C.J. took several liberties with the Elle Woods costume we bought at the costume store. (BTW, the costume was 75 percent off because not many size-seven, second graders want to dress up as a character from a movie made six years before they were born.) C.J. added two necklaces, leggings, gloves, a tiara and, on occasion, a feather boa. We need to pick up a new pair of comfy ballet flats tomorrow. Nothing like waiting until the last minute, I know.

For the past four years, C.J. has worn a “girl’s costume” for Halloween. And, every year he has stressed out about telling certain people his costume choice. My son doesn’t want to be teased for the things he likes, clothes he wears, hobbies he enjoys, books he reads and costumes he chooses. He wants to like what he likes without people hating his decisions.

“C.J., what are you going to be for Halloween?” his teacher asked him last year in front of the entire class at the end of the day on Halloween.

I was volunteering in class and cringed in my seat in the back of the room.

“I haven’t decided yet…” he said part shy, part embarrassed, part annoyed.

“What?! You better decide! It’s Halloween!” she said.

This is his "serious attitude" face, he says.

This is his “serious attitude” face, he says. (He gives me this look several times a day.)

The other kids looked at him in disbelief. What kid doesn’t know what they’re going to dress up as just hours before ringing that first doorbell and scoring that first candy?

C.J. had decided….in July. He just didn’t want tell his peers and deal with their reactions. We’ve taught him that when it comes to his gender identity and expression, he doesn’t owe people an explanation if he doesn’t feel like giving one. He’s empowered to protect himself when he feels like he needs or wants to.

Evasion was his coping mechanism last year. This year he coped by giving one version of the truth, speaking in generalities and leaving out the details.

He looked at me after telling his classmate he’s going to be a lawyer and smiled. I smiled back at our little secret.

I’m sure everyone who thinks C.J. is going as a lawyer pictures him in a little suit and tie with a briefcase and, maybe, faux spectacles – not a pink velvet peplum skirt, white fishnet gloves, lap dog and crown. But, just as there are lots of versions of being a boy, there are lots of versions of being a lawyer.

All of those who like C.J.’s version of being a lawyer best say “Aye.”

Aye!

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The Scariest Monster My Son Can Think Of

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Quick! Guess which one is C.J.’s!

I hope you guys are ready for some serious spookiness, because in C.J’s class they were given a Mad Libs style story about a monster. They had to dream up the scariest monster they could imagine and fill in the nouns, verbs, adjectives and adverbs to create a truly terrifying tale. Then, they were given a drawing of Frankenstein’s monster and they had to color it to represent their monster.

I saw some of the monsters created by C.J.’s classmates. They were Horrible Monsters, Terrible Monsters, Scary Monsters, Angry Monsters and Mean Monsters.

And, then there was C.J.’s…The Disco Monster.

The Disco Monster

By: C.J., Grade 2

The Disco Monster

The Disco Monster

The Disco Monster crept out of the swamp on its roller skates. Its skin was very bright! Its eyes were very blue and its teeth were very small. It had a humongous black afro and it was covered in gum!

The Disco Monster pulled itself along the ground slowly toward the happy children playing in the park. It had not eaten in days and its stomach was very crazy. The children were from C.J.’s second grade class. The creature is very fond of fresh second graders. He likes them for breakfast, because they are never terrible. The boys are hungry and a little scared. The girls are always scared and screaming. The creature’s eyes detected some third graders. He will have a few crazy third graders for dessert.

The creature was outsmarted by C.J.’s second grade class. They are so smart. They tricked him into going back into the Disco Gum Swamp by running around it. He chased them and fell in the sticky gum swamp.

C.J.’s second grade class cheered and clapped with excitement, for they know that if you use your smart brain, then you can always win.

The Disco Monster has "a humongous black afro and lipstick and gum on his face."

“The Disco Monster has a humongous black afro and lipstick and gum on his face.” — C.J.

The Disco Monster's blazer "is rainbow and patchwork with glitter and covered in gum."

“The Disco Monster’s blazer is rainbow and patchwork with glitter and covered in gum.” — C.J.

"The best part about the Disco Monster is his roller skates. His afro is the number two best part." -- C.J.

“The best part about The Disco Monster is his roller skates. His afro is the number two best part.” — C.J.

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C.J. Returns To Palm Springs…Finally

Since his first trip there in May of 2011, Palm Springs has been C.J.’s favorite destination. He refers to it fondly as the “the place with the rainbow flags.”

We kept C.J. away from his town for much too long. So, a few weeks ago, we surprised C.J. and Chase by picking them up early from school and heading to Palm Springs. C.J. squealed with delight the entire way there.

“Did you pack some of my dresses?” he asked as we drove.

“Yes.”

“My lip gloss?”

“Yes.”

“My nightgown?”

“Yes.”

“My leave in conditioner?”

“Yes.”

And so it went, on and on during the two-hour drive.

We stayed at a truly fabulous house owned by one of my readers. The house is called, fittingly for C.J., Palm Springs Glam — or PS Glam for short.

PS Glam

C.J. has decided that when he grows up he is going to move to Palm Springs and live in the PS Glam House. He is not concerned what the home’s owners think of his plans.

Until he’s ready to leave our un-glam home, he’d like to have a PS Glam inspired bedroom. He refers to PS Glam as if it is it’s own interior design style.

Waiting for us in the fridge were a dozen rainbow cupcakes from Over The Rainbow Desserts. I scored major points when I let the boys (and Matt) eat them not only for dessert, but for breakfast too.

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These pictures hung in the room C.J. claimed for his own and now he wants them to hang in his bedroom at home as well. I cannot say yes to his request at this time.

“That girl is a hot mess!” he said when he first saw the pictures.

“That’s two different girls, not one,” I informed him.

“Wow, that’s two hot mess girls. Are they friends?”

“I don’t think so.”

“I like them. I think they’re funny. I want those pictures in my room.”

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Within 30 minutes of our arrival, we pleasantly realized that Palm Springs still does something to C.J. He feels free there. Like he can breathe uninhibited there. And, run around the grass in his grandmother’s nightgown there.

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He was so in his element and inspired, that he insisted on a photo shoot.

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After a long day of modeling, he put on his favorite shirt, a purple tee with cap sleeves that says “I woke up like this,” and paired it with his tight white shorts. He played in the misters in front of the restaurant, twirling, dancing and entertaining those who dined alfresco. When the misters started to turn his shorts translucent, I said it was time to go.

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We walked the strip and C.J. commented on many sights. For a brief moment, he wanted to be this for Halloween because it reminded him of Katy Perry. I love Katy Perry, but I would not love this outfit on my seven-year-old. So, I’m glad he changed his mind.

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He also wanted this mask, but was very disappointed by whoever merchandised the window because he did not approve of the mask paired with a plaid, flannel shirt. He talked about that for a while.

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The next day, before we left, C.J. worked on some of his fashion designs.

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And enjoyed pool time with his Dad while Chase and I watched a movie.

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When we were packing up to leave the PS Glam House, C.J. saw a postcard with pictures of other properties owned by my reader. He studied those pictures like he was picking Christmas presents out of the Target catalog.

“I want to have my next birthday party at that house,” he said referring to the PS Mid-Century House. “And, then I want to keep it as my present.”

I think C.J. is bound to make a home in Palm Springs…whether that home’s owners like it or not.

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Friday Fodder: Bid On Me Edition

Okay, I try not to ask for much. But, here I am asking for something. I am on the board of the Orange County Equality Coalition’s School Compliance Task Force. Which is a long away of saying that I’m part of a group of people who are dedicated to making sure that schools in our county are treating LGBTQIA youth equally and abiding by the laws the state set forth to protect them.

This coming Thursday is our annual fundraiser. It’s a fancy gala. I will wear a cocktail dress and heels and stay out past 10 p.m. – that’s how important it is. You’re invited, you can buy tickets here. It’s only $35 dollars for some wine, small bites, entertainment and good company.

More than that, we are having a silent auction. Can you please check out the items up for bid and considering bidding? You’ll notice you can bid on a copy of my book and a lunch/coffee date with me. I’d love to meet you! Please bid!

Monies raised will fund the monitoring and support of Orange County schools in their efforts to comply with state and federal anti-discrimination laws, safe school laws and the FAIR Education Act.

* * *

Some of my best friends are writing powerful things. Read them!

Why my family marches in the Pride parade every year, SheKnows.com, by the amazing Cory Byrom, dad to a gender nonconforming son who is more fabulous than I’ll ever be.

My Little Brony: A Tale of Heartbreak, TheClutteredHouse.com, by the equally-amazing Cluttered Mama, mom to a little boy who just wants My Little Pony underwear.

* * *

Here are other things that interested me this week:

Making it Easier for your Child to Come Out: 10 Tips for Parents and Caregivers, OutProudFamilies.com

Time Names Transgender Teen One of 25 Most Influential, Time.com

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