Should I Let My Gender-Creative Son Have Co-Ed Sleepovers?

4d64c5bac7e3c9b241180a49738a3d8efcae21dd“Mom, how come I never get invited to sleepovers?” my first grader asked from the backseat as we drove home from school one day last year. “Hannah had one and then Emma had one and now Olivia is having one and I never get invited.”

My heart sank a little, because I always knew this line of questioning would come someday, and I also knew the chances of my child being invited to a sleepover were slim to none. My son’s friends have always been girls, and co-ed sleepovers for kids are typically frowned upon by society — or at least by the conservative, image-conscious part of South Orange County in which we live.

As my eight-year-old son C.J. explains it, he’s a boy who only likes girl things and wants to be treated like a girl. He says he’s not transgender, and self-identifies as “gender nonconforming.” My husband and I think he’s gender courageous.

As we navigate this unique parenting journey, we don’t always have quick answers to C.J.’s questions.

Is it okay for boys and girls to have sleepovers together?…

Click here to read the rest of this blog post, which is featured on Yahoo! Parenting.

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8 Books That Teach Kids About the Fluidity of Gender and the Importance of Acceptance

Its-Okay-to-Be-Different“Transgender and gender nonconforming people (think Caitlyn Jenner or Ruby Rose) are gaining more visibility as they find the courage to come out and live publicly as the most authentic versions of themselves. Around his third birthday, my son started showing signs of gender nonconformity — wearing a dress, growing his hair out and only playing with dolls while insisting he was boy and preferring masculine pronouns.

9780618159895My husband and I have been committed to showing our son positive examples of differently gendered people in literature. We’ve read the following books countless times and always encourage an open dialogue about what it means to be a boy, a girl, a human. More importantly, we use these books to teach about love, acceptance, equality, empathy, and the beauty of diversity. Read these books to your child to help them better understand their gender identity and be a better friend to the boy who has long hair and wears a skirt or the girl with the short spiked hair who only wears pants….”

Click here to learn the eight books I recommend to start with when teaching kids about the fluidity of gender and the importance of acceptance.

9780803741072I compiled this list for Brightly, a fantastic online resource aimed at making it easier and a lot more fun for parents to raise children who love to read.

Have a book to add to the list? Leave a comment here or on ReadBrightly.com.

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My Son’s Funeral Dress

IMG_5395When Nana Grab Bags died on Memorial Day, we immediately started planning her Celebration of Life, mostly because it felt better to be actively doing something as opposed to sitting immobilized unable to do anything. And those were our only two options.

As we began planning, Uncle Michael, Matt and I explained the event’s significance to C.J. and Chase.

“What are we going to wear to the Celebration of Life?” C.J. asked immediately, because even when grieving he is concerned about fashion.

“I’m wearing a tie,” said Chase, who loves any excuse to wear a tie.

“I want to be a girl at Nana’s Celebration of Life. I want to wear a dress. That’s how Nana would want me,” he declared and asked if we could go shopping. I promised him we would.

“Will everyone at the Celebration of Life know that I’m gender nonconforming?” he asked.

“No.”  I waited for the usual self-editing and deep consideration about his gender expression around new people to begin.

“I don’t care,” he said. “I’m wearing a dress.”

“That sounds good,” we said.

IMG_5397He could have said he was going to dress up like a dragon or be a dandelion and we would have said it sounded good — because a sudden death of a loved one puts things into perspective (and because the Celebration of Life would be casual, loving and accepting, like Nana was).

Every day, C.J. pressured me to take him shopping for a new dress and every day I told him that we needed to wait until Uncle Michael got back in town. I was physically and emotionally spent and didn’t feel well-equipped to help my son pick out a dress for his grandmother’s funeral. I needed some back up, some support and in this case I knew my brother was the person I needed most.

When Uncle Michael arrived on Thursday, our first stop was Target. You’d think that for our mother’s funeral we’d hit a higher end store, maybe even Nordstrom. But we all felt too numb for Nordstrom – which is saying a lot. And, besides, Target was Nana’s favorite store.

IMG_5398C.J. led us to the “girls’ section” and started purposefully working the aisles and holding out fabrics he fancied. Uncle Michael and I did the same. The three of us called out to each other when a dress caught our eye and held it up for comments and opinions. Uncle Michael and I have similar tastes and found a few options that we thought were perfect. C.J. nixed them all. Uncle Michael looked at me shocked and flabbergasted that someone would argue with his good taste (and it is good, after all he helped me win “Best Dressed” in high school).

C.J. decided on a cream linen dress with delicate eyelet detail, a dainty navy blue cardigan and a headband with blue and yellow flowers adorning it. He could not be swayed.

“This has to be his decision, this is how he wants to send off Nana,” I told my brother.

“But, there are several better dresses…” he started.

“Trust me, I know.”

The next two days, C.J. kept reminding us that he was going to be a girl and wear a dress at Nana’s Celebration of Life. We said we knew and thought it was perfect. If that’s how he felt Nana would want him, then that’s exactly what he should do.

IMG_5394He never again asked about the strangers who we would welcome into our home and what their reactions to a boy in a dress might be. He was unwavering in his decision and he didn’t care what other people thought. He was committed to making the event about him and his Nana. That made me proud. Because, that is what memorializing a person and the relationship you had with them is all about.

“Pa, I’m going to be a girl at Nana’s Celebration of Life,” he said to my dad the night before the service. He looked his grandfather right in the eyes and stood firm. If anybody in our family was going to have a reaction it would be Pa. I nervously held my breath.

“That is exactly how Nana would want you and that’s what you should do. It’s about you and Nana and she loved you so much,” Pa said as he wrapped C.J. in a hug.

I teared up (because this death has turned me into a crier and) because it’s the first time I’d heard my father be that accepting and empowering of C.J.

The day of the Celebration of Life, C.J. made sure I steamed his dress, like I did mine, and flat ironed his hair, like I did mine. He spritzed on some Chanel Coco perfume and applied his favorite lip gloss. After he put on his cream dress, navy cardi and flowered headband, I surprised him by presenting him with a strand of Nana’s pearls to wear.

FullSizeRenderHe greeted people at the door as they arrived at our house for the Celebration of Life. We introduced him to people from my parents’ church and to their friends who had never met him before.

“This is our youngest son, C.J.,” we’d say.

“It’s nice to finally meet you,” they’d say. “Your Nana told us so much about you.”

That afternoon, my son was not one bit worried about what perfect strangers would think about him wearing a dress. He listened to those strangers tell him that his Nana loved him very much and that she told everyone all about him. He was unabashed and unashamed. He honored Nana and their special relationship beautifully.

I imagined her looking down on him.

“That’s my beautiful boy! You look so pretty! I love your dress!” she’d say, like she always did.

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Friday Fodder: Raising Rainbows Scholarship

During my travels around the nation speaking to different groups and organizations, I fell in love with a school in Greenfield, Massachusetts. The Center School is a progressive, independent day school that offers rigorous education for deep thinkers and creative spirits. Seriously, everything about the school and its community of faculty, staff, students and parents have me enraptured and wishing that C.J. could go to The Center School or a school like it.

The school has become a safe haven for gender creative kiddos. As of next year, the school will have four transgender and two gender non-conforming students and a gender creative staff member. How cool is that? Even cooler? They just launched a Raising Rainbows Scholarship in my honor.

The Center School’s Raising Rainbows scholarship, established in 2015, provides tuition support for Center School students who are transgender, gender nonconforming, gender creative, or who have family members who are.  

The scholarship was inspired by a beautiful, brave Center School transgender student who transitioned when she was in kindergarten. In addition the initiators of this fund recognize the wonderful Lori Duron and the loving story of her gender creative son, as added inspiration.  

Contributions to this fund are fully tax deductible and support students’ academic and social journey at The Center School, which celebrates each child’s unique path in the world.

Consider giving and spreading the word.

* * *

This John Oliver video is by far my favorite thing on the interwebs this week. It’s well-worth 15 minutes of your time — or even a few minutes because he pretty much nails it from start to finish. (Thanks to Leslie for tipping me off to this one.)

“Some transgender people do undergo hormone therapy or sexual reassignment surgery as part of their transition; some do not. And interestingly, their decision on this matter is, medically speaking, none of your f*cking business,” John Oliver said on HBO’s Last Week Tonight, in re media questioning of transgender interview guests’ body parts. Singled out for shaming: Barbara Walters, Wendy Williams, Katie Couric, Larry King, etc.

Oliver’s note to media: “If you’re still wondering, ‘What do I call a transgender person, it’s so confusing,’ actually it’s pretty simple – call them whatever they want to be called.”

* * *

MTV’s True Life series is currently casting for its next season. One episode is titled “I Am GenderQueer” and one is titled “I Have A Transgender Parent.” If either of these topics relate to your life or you know someone who would be perfect for the casting. Please email truelife@punchedinthehead.com.

* * *

Grief is a real bitch. Thanks for the comments, notes, thoughts and prayers as we adjust to life without Nana Grab Bags. Every days sucks a little less. xoxo, Lori

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Rest In The Most Fabulous Peace, Nana

High School GradTwo weeks and one day ago, I talked to my mom (C.J.’s Nana Grab Bags) on the phone a little before dinnertime. I called her to announce that C.J. had finally lost the first of his top two front teeth. That tooth had hung on for way too long and she cheered when she heard the news. Little life victories are meant to be celebrated with Nanas.

A few hours later, Nana passed away and I spent Memorial Day painfully and tearfully recalling every memory of my mother that I could conjure up, afraid that they would perish with her.

I would never wish a long painful death on anyone, but the shock of a sudden and unexpected death seems unfair too. I guess there’s no perfect way to die.

As my brother Michael and I left our mom for the last time, I leaned over her, kissed her forehead and whispered.

“I love you, mom. You are the best.”

Elementary SchoolIt was the first time she didn’t refute my praise. She didn’t say, “oh, no I’m not.” I wanted her to brush off my compliment. I wanted her to open her eyes. I wanted her heart to beat and her lungs to breathe and for the previous hours to have been a sick joke the universe would someday apologize for thinking was funny. If I was being tested, I wanted to pass the test and get my mother back.

We left the hospital and my body trembled all the way home; knowing that I would walk through the door and rip Chase and C.J.’s hearts in half quickly and cruelly.

As Michael, Matt and I told them that Nana’s body had stopped working, I looked into their eyes and watched a jarring life moment confuse them. I watched their sense of reality go into a dizzying spiral.

First BdayThey had seen Nana three days earlier. We ate Chinese food and saw Annie at the local performing arts center. She was happy and smiling in a blue sequined top and her favorite perfume.

For a second, Chase thought we were kidding and C.J. struggled to catch up. And, then it started to sink in.

“Can we see her again and say goodbye?” they asked.

“I’m so sorry, but you can’t,” we said.

“Who’s going to play dress up with me and let me do their makeup and do crafts with me?” C.J. cried.

“We all do those things with you and we will never stop,” we promised.

“It’s not the same. It’s not Nana,” he said.

High SchoolThe rest of that day and the next passed, though I have little recollection. We began planning Nana’s Celebration of Life and explained the event’s significance to C.J. and Chase.

“What are we going to wear to the Celebration of Life?” C.J. asked immediately, because even when grieving he is concerned about fashion.

“I’m wearing a tie,” said Chase, who loves any excuse to wear a tie.

“I want to be a girl at Nana’s Celebration of Life. I want to wear a dress. That’s how Nana would want me,” he declared and asked if we could go shopping. I promised him we would.

“Will everyone at the Celebration of Life know that I’m gender nonconforming?” he asked.

“No.”  I waited for the usual self-editing and deep consideration about his gender expression around new people to begin.

“I don’t care,” he said. “I’m wearing a dress.”

And, so we went shopping for a dress for my son to wear to my mother’s funeral.

To be continued…

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Amazing Resource for People Who Are Transgender or Gender Expansive and Their Loved Ones

OTLO-Cover-ImageI recently had the honor of working with PFLAG on their new publication titled Our Trans Loved Ones. It’s an amazing resource for parents, families and friends of people who are transgender and gender expansive.

Our Trans Loved Ones is free and includes a wealth of information, first-person stories, expert input and more.

Download it, love it and share it.

‪#‎OurTransLovedOnes

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How I Told My Son His Friends Are Transgender

Photo Creds: Bestie Best Kelly

Photo Creds: Bestie Best Kelly

I still remember the day when I sat in my 7-year-old son’s bedroom and told him that his 9-year-old friend Samuel was no longer a boy, but was now a girl named Sophia.

My son, C.J., didn’t say much at first. Which is how most people react when they hear news that they weren’t expecting.

Months later, I sat in the same spot and told him that his 8-year-old friend Riley was no longer a boy, but was now a girl named Anna…..

Read the rest of my post over at Yahoo! Parenting.

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