Owning It

The famous twirling brothers of Orange County.

I took the kids to the park to let them burn off some energy.  C.J.’s Brother was practicing some of his Parkour meets Jackie Chan meets eight-year-old white boy from The O.C. moves while C.J. played with a pink and yellow My Little Pony under one of the slides.   Another boy ran up to the playground and called out to C.J.’s Brother, turns out they are in the same class and the boy’s name is Kyle.

“You’re brother is playing with a girl toy!,” Kyle said to C.J.’s Brother after a few minutes.

“Yeah, I know, he’s gender nonconforming,” C.J.’s Brother said, stating the facts and moving on up the ladder to the tallest slide.

“Oh,” Kyle said following C.J.’s Brother up the ladder.  He obviously didn’t understand what the term “gender nonconforming” meant, but it apparently explained why C.J. was playing with a My Little Pony and, so, Kyle moved on.  That was that.

Are we all just looking for an explanation? Even if we don’t’ understand it?

I realized I had been holding my breath, partially to hear better and partially because I panic a little during situations like that.  They are situations that we find ourselves in regularly and that have the potential of going all sorts of sideways.

I resumed my normal breathing pattern and took a moment to relish in the pride I was feeling for having a kid as kick-ass as C.J.’s Brother, who accepts, defends and protects his girly little brother.   I like that lately there is no shame in C.J.’s Brother’s life, no fear, no hesitation.  It wasn’t always that way.

For about a year, C.J.’s Brother struggled with C.J.’s gender nonconformity.  He’d say things like “why does C.J. always have to play with girl toys?” and “why can’t C.J. be more like a boy?”  The whole thing troubled him and he was struggling.

Then, one day after his eighth birthday, we sat him down and told him that there is a name for kids like C.J.  They are gender nonconforming.  They are boys who like girl stuff and girls who like boy stuff.

It seemed to lift a big confusing weight off of C.J.’s Brother’s shoulders.  It freed up some space in his brain and heart.  There was a reason for C.J. being the way he was.  There was a name for it.  It made sense.

Pink handbag? Check. Mini Cart? Check. Canned veggies? Yuck!

When something has a name it changes things.  Especially when the name is big and long and official sounding, like “gender nonconforming.

Not all families are as lucky when it comes to kids dealing with a gender creative sibling.  We lucked out.  C.J. absolutely could not have gotten a better big brother.  We remind them constantly that they are the very best of brothers.  The brightest stars aligned when they were placed together.

So, it hit me that day at the park, when something is out in the open, when the mystery is gone, when it is a known fact and has a name, does the power shift back into the hands of the rightful owner?

Because, for a moment, Kyle seemingly had the power.  He saw a child doing something “different” and alerted others for the sake of amusement and attention.  He thought, foolishly, that he was the first to ever do so.  Oh, no my friend, we’ve been living this for half of C.J.’s life.  Two and a half years of people – mostly kids — laughing at C.J.’s defiance of traditional gender norms and pointing it out to others with less than positive intentions.

But, when C.J.’s Brother didn’t react the way Kyle expected, when he gave C.J.’s behavior a legit name and, then, not a second thought, the power shifted back into our favor.  When we unabashedly own our differences we shed our weakness and cloak ourselves in power.  It feels damn good.  We wear power well, if I do say so myself.

I went to my regular PFLAG meeting last night.  How times have changed.  When I first started going to PFLAG a decade ago in support of my brother, I was the youngest by far.  I was in my early to mid twenties (no need to get specific).

Now, my PFLAG family includes junior high and high school students who have to fit the meeting in between homework, athletic practice, tutoring, dinner and bedtime.  There are brave kids sitting in our circle who came out to their family at ages 11, 12 and 13, after knowing since early elementary school that they were gay.

C.J.'s ballerina, cowboy, pimp hat look.

Most of these kids and others who I have met outside of PFLAG decided to be out at school to shift the power back in their favor.  Secrets give power to the person holding the “truth” who could possibly expose it.  The powerless are the people who the secret belongs to, the person who is scared to death (sometimes quite literally) of their secret being exposed.

The bullies, predators, haters and gossips in life move in circles, they sniff out the smallest scent of fear and strike.  When there is no fear, no secrets to sniff out and uncover, those people lose their power.  The power goes to the rightful owner.


About raisingmyrainbow

RaisingMyRainbow.com is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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51 Responses to Owning It

  1. Mel says:

    If C.J. was playing with Fluttershy, my partner would be right alongside him, giving her a funny voice. He’s 23 and enjoys My Little Pony (along with other “girly” things), he completely adores Fluttershy. I made him a large plush of her for Christmas a couple of years ago and recently he bought himself the doll based on her in the movie. Has C.J. got his hands on one of those yet? They are quite pretty.

  2. I needed this today. My son was made fun of for playing with a girl toy at the park and I’m so shaken up about it. I don’t know how to react, what to tell him, how I should feel . . . it’s all very confusing. Reading this post had given me strength. You and your amazing family it inspire me and warm my heart. Thank you, as always, for your blog. Whenever I need a virtual hug, I come here! <3 Never stop!

  3. Pingback: Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder … | Enhance The Human Experience

  4. Anne Kelly says:

    Reading your post gave me a thought. Now I can’t really understand what it’s like to be C.J. or what it’s like to be C.J.’s family. But when you talk about being understanding of C.J. and how must of the U.S. society do not view his lifestyle as normal, I relate that to many characteristics that are used to socially judge each other. Especially Beauty. I wrote a little on my thoughts of how “Beauty is in the Eye of the Beholder” http://enhancethehumanexperience.wordpress.com/2012/03/11/beauty-is-in-the-eye-of-the-beholder/

    Thank you for teaching C.J.’s brother to be accepting of the lifestyle differences, and for the second hand education of your surrounding community through the brother’s acceptance of the lifestyle as normal.

  5. deb says:

    This is beautiful. C.J.’s Brother’s answer and his delivery were perfect, and I think exemplifies what is wrong with the way we (adults) respond to kids today. Instead of replying in a matter of fact way to *what* a child asks, we often (and I’m including myself) try to explain too much, particularly if we too are unsure about something or trying to process it on some emotional level. Children are so in tune with any emotion that adults, especially their parents, convey, that if an explanation is too complicated/convoluted and they pick up on our discomfort, it may add to their confusion instead of answering what was probably a much simpler/more innocent question than we made it out to be. I think sometimes (not all, obviously), kids act out toward others because they don’t really understand the issue — at their own level — and they internalize the discomfort we’re putting out there. There really is some truth to the old advice about answering *only* the question a child asks: If they need more information, they’ll ask for it … that’s the beauty of children. Kudos to C.J.’s Brother for they way he handled the question.

  6. I recently read that “understanding” does not lead to healing like so many believe (including me). Healing has more to do with empathy. This was from a source on Nonviolent Communication, which I am still learning about, in hopes I can do it and model it for my kids!

    I do love how younger kids can be given a “name” for a difference, and let it go. Would that we could all do that! Thanks for your blog, your questions, your thoughts and connections.

  7. Lily says:

    Love the older brother. I have 2 boys, the eldest is “non gendercomforming” the youngest is very BOY. Which makes it intetesting in our house. The oldest wants a flowered car seat (that his brother will start using a year or so). He has been pleading the case that it has many different colors etc. It is hard to explain that his younger brother is not so interested in flowers and glitter. :)

  8. hawkdad73 says:

    I wish they had a “love” button. I absolutely enjoy reading your blog. You are living what we try to teach our kids about loving yourself and supporting the ones you love.

  9. Hi, I have been reading your blog for some time now, and I just want to say how amazingly inspirational it is. :-)

  10. RainbowWarrior says:

    Way to go, Brother, own all the special-ness of your family!
    As per usual, Mom, you are an inspiration. What beautiful words and insightful sentiments. :)

  11. That’s AWESOME, and I love this so much because I can so relate! My almost three year old son loves pink, putting on my makeup and playing with “girly” toys. He sometimes gets a weird look at parks from other kids, and even other parents, but he has the right to have the freedom to be himself, even if it means he’s in a pink tutu while he’s doing it. Right on!

  12. Jay says:

    Hi,

    Im from the philippines, when i started to read your previous post over querrty.com I cant hold on but to follow your post daily…your son’s are so blessed to have you as their mother…I hope that every parents have the courage and knowledge to accept what is reality and what need to do for such gender conforming children..but still I wish C J to live a straight life as he grow old(besides hes just 4 after all) but if not. I do still wish him the best…your such a great parents…

    Congratulatins..a wonderful mother and parents :)

  13. verybookish says:

    This is a wonderful post.
    I wish I could adopt you.
    CJ is lucky to have his brother, and I think they are both lucky to have you.

  14. RP says:

    I think this is one of the most powerful posts ever. It is important to make sure that there is no shame within oneself – that eats up a lot of self-respect.That is when one goes weak.

  15. Michelle says:

    Let it be fluttershy, let it be fluttershy…the exact pony that led me to the web search about McD’s gendered toys that brought me to your blog in the first place. D and CJ have close birthdays and seem to be alike in a lot of ways!

  16. nessa ghassemi says:

    “When we unabashedly own our differences we shed our weakness and cloak ourselves in power”. This is so true, and applies to every aspect in life.

    Thank you for yet another fantastic post–I admire you more every time. CJ is so lucky to have such a fantastic supporting family–I wish/hope for a world where CJ or his brother will never have to justify or provide a ‘name’ for anything they do/like to others and where persons will accept each other for who they are. Thank you for spreading the love! :)

  17. Karen says:

    Beautifully said. I’ve been following your blog for about a month now, found it on Circle of Moms. I have learned so much from your blog about embracing the child for who he/she is. It’s something I’ve always felt, but your blog empowers parents to really DO it, and allows the reader to see things just a little differently than they have before, at least for those of us who have not experienced gender nonconforming children of our own. Thank you. SUCH an inspiring post!!!

  18. Elaine Z says:

    Owning our truths returns the power to us. I learned this back in grade school, when I was given my first eyeglasses – bifocals, no less! A few kids brightly decided I should be called “four eyes”, to which I automatically responded: “Lot you know, these are bifocals – I have SIX eyes!” The wonderfully confused looks on their faces (which I could actually SEE) made me realize I didn’t have to accept others’ judgements as true. What a wonderful gift to give to your children, that being openly themselves is always OK. Bless you and your family!

  19. Belle says:

    Every time I read your blog I find it so inspiring. Even though my son is not gender non conforming, Your blog inspires me to be very open with him about the differences in people which I hope will mean he will grow up to be just as accepting as CJ’s brother.

  20. Tommy says:

    You are maturing as a writer and a woman before our eyes. This post is applicable to us, a couple of kinky Leathermen in their 50’s. We still have to deal with the occasional “Eeewww, you put What? Where? EEEEEWWWWW!” And sometimes that comes from within our own Leather Community! The education process is never ending.

  21. Kristin says:

    Everytime I read your Blog, “space is freed up in my brain and heart” too. I believe your family radiates such immense love outward that it magnifies on those you all encounter and stuns them, so all they can do is use their powers for good. Thank you for sharing this gift of your writing and the blessing that is your family.

  22. My daughter is 17 and one of her best friends is gay. I have known this mother since our girls entered 1st grade together and were instant best friends. I am always saddened by her denial of her daughter’s orientation. The other day she finally accepted that it’s possible that her daughter’s curious, or maybe bi-sexual. Finally, I had enough, “Accept her for who she is. Love her just like that before she hangs herself from a tree” (our town has recently suffered many teen suicides, one of them for this reason). She looked at me like I was the crazy one, and then I just said “You made her, she came from you, how can you not love her exactly as she came out?” I feel so much better now! It’s gonna take my friend a while to forgive my outburst, but the sad part is, I think her biggest hang up is what her parents may think, this is a 38 year old, pushing away her own child because her parents may not approve? She is the parent now, or at least she’s supposed to be! So thank you for always sharing your story, you’re reaching out to so many people and challenging them to just love one another in whatever package they may have come in! :)

  23. As always great post…and LOVE the handbag…just wait till hes a teen and you have to fork out 100s of dollars for his Chanel “man purse” as my friends like to call ours :) Start saving now!

  24. LW says:

    This is so true – in any arena – made me think of the poisonous gossip mags and the ‘are they/aren’t they’ type stories they run (pregnant/sleeping with x/undergone plastic surgery/whatever!), which only have oxygen to fuel them while it’s a secret. Once something is out in the open and fact, interest wanes much faster.

    Good on CJ’s brother, no wonder you are so proud of them both! :)

  25. Devin says:

    Thank you for this post. You are lovely.

  26. Dillan says:

    thank you for writing. I love your stories. If you have a sec, take a look at what I’m doing over here: http://savoryourexistence.com/ I wondered if I can interview you. I think my fans would love to meet you. ;) dillan@savoryourexistence.com

  27. Absolutely! Everyone should read this post – you are so right!

  28. antarabesque says:

    “It freed up some space in his brain and heart.” I pray it could be so for everyone…

  29. meetkristenlavallee says:

    I absolutely LOVE reading your posts. You seem like such a great, wonderful, understanding mother. It’s nice :). I love reading about your family, the way you handle life’s struggles are reassuring and hopeful for society. Keep spreading the love Xx

  30. Lyn Z... says:

    Like a magnificent sunrise – Your post shed Light upon a Universal truth….
    Hallelujah For us ALL… the world is learning and growing and your boys will be
    leaders in their day and will benefit from the hard but loving work you are doing
    in the way you are raising them, to own what is their story… to tell and Be who
    they are and to live their way authentically…..

  31. I believe that one learns more about life, wisdom and maturity when some way or another, one is an outcast. It gives one a chance to look inside from an objective point of view. C.J.’s little brother is such a great example of that maturity because he defends himself in a confident way.

  32. Robin says:

    Insightful and spot-on. Living life authentically gives the power to the rightful owner.

  33. I love how you describe the power play here. It’s so true in many situations, not even just what you’re going through. There are many times where I’ve consciously chosen not to give someone what they want – especially if it’s a person trying to pick a fight. It’s fantastic how CJ’s brother is matter of fact about CJ’s gender nonconformity – whether it’s intentional or not, it shows great character!

  34. Kirsten says:

    Beautiful. Can we even imagine how awesome it’s going to be to have kids like Cj and Cj’s Brother, raised in families like yours, become the grownups of the world? I only know it’s going to be a better, far more fabulous place.

  35. Anne says:

    Great post!

  36. jungalero1101 says:

    Fantastic post. CJ truly is a lucky kid to have a family like you.

  37. zaylinda says:

    Was it Fluttershy?

  38. mark says:

    Very well said. Well done. We, the straight guys I know who just get this goofy happiness from painting our toes have figured this out, albeit by chance, that nobody really notices, or if they do don’t care enough to think much more about it if you just be yourself and don’t try to sneak around it. There will be plenty of people who will always judge you, or criticize you or laugh at you, or even beat you up for a lot less than for what you like. So be it. You,re at times I’d guess wishing it was as simple as nailpolish, but it’s more for you and god bless you for your ability and strengh of self, your husbands and your other son’s as well. The struggle you’re going through will make a difference in the world. Thank goodness for that as we need all the help we can get.

  39. awomynous says:

    This is good advice for everyone, regardless of what “oddity” they are dealing with. :)

  40. richard cadena says:

    its always nice to see how your two boys are growing up together. i’ve been following your blog for about a year now and always enjoy your latest post. continued good luck.

  41. derekberry says:

    We’re discussing gender differences and the controversy over “gender nonconforming” children this week in my Psychology class. We discussed a lot about the implications of this for the individual growing up, his or her family, and a growing society as a whole. I mentioned your blog, so we may this would interesting to talk about. How someone still quite young reacts to this. Because, me as a kid, I imagine I would not have been accepting if my brother played with girls toys or dressed up in clothes I deemed weird. He’s lucky to have a brother to who can embrace that and even defend him.

    • Kirsten says:

      Derekberry, I don’t think you could’ve landed on a better blog for your class topic. Be sure to go back and read some earlier posts and you’ll see some of the challenges they’ve faced to get to this point. Read also about grandma & grandpa Colorado, Uncle Uncle and Ms Sensible, not to mention the ballet classes. Today’s post is what this whole blog is all about: owning it, deeply, passionately and honestly, even as you try to figure out what, exactly, the “it” in your life is. Talk about power!

    • Ellen says:

      Thinking like that is really aimanzg

  42. lubbockgaymale says:

    Good for you and the kids! Give it a name, act non-caring about the ‘difference’ and you can move on easily… well, except for the idiots you’d never want to associate with anyway!

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