Mom, What If I Date A Transgender Person?

Chase on the beach

Chase on the beach

More often than not, my 11-year-old son Chase initiates a serious conversation with me when I am otherwise occupied and unable to make eye contact and use body language to signal that he has my undivided attention. He has employed this tactic while I’ve been driving, cooking dinner and running on the treadmill in our garage.

The other night, as I sat on my bathroom floor painting my toenails, Chase walked in and asked if he could soak in the bath. I should have known something was up; he always takes a shower.

He ran the water, added some bubbles, stepped in, sat down and closed the shower curtain. He said something that I couldn’t hear over the running bath water.

“I can’t hear you. Wait until you turn the water off,” I shouted.

“It’s really sad that some parents don’t accept their kid if they are gay,” he said. “Is that really true?”

“Yeah, it’s true and it is really, really sad….” I said before he interrupted me.

“I just can’t believe it. I just read an article about it online,” he said in a voice full of worry.

Chase on Halloween.

Chase on Halloween.

We’ve been open with both of our sons that not everyone is supportive of the LGBTQ community – even some parents of community members. But, Chase didn’t believe me until he read it online.

“But, you know that we will love you and support you no matter what, right?” I had stopped painting my nails and was now talking to the shower curtain.

“I know that. You and dad would love me the same no matter if I’m gay or straight.” He sounded assured.

“I don’t care if you love a boy or a girl, I just want you to be with someone who is good and kind and treats you well and who you want to treat well. I want you to have a good partner.”

“If I date a transgender person, does that make me bisexual?” he asked.

I didn’t see that question coming. I looked bewilderingly at the shower curtain.

“Ummmmm….” I had to think, but was having a hard time concentrating as the conversation had quickly taken a turn down a path I had not anticipated.

“Is the transgender person you are potentially dating a boy or a girl?

“Girl.”

“Okay, so she was born with a boy body but identifies as a girl and lives as a girl and dresses as a girl?” I clarified.

“Yes, I think so.”

“Is this a real life girl you’re thinking about?” I asked.

“NO!” He still isn’t totally comfortable admitting to me when he finds someone attractive.

Chase bowling.

Chase bowling.

“Okay, sorry, just checking. Ummm, I guess that’s a little bit tricky.” I didn’t want to ask if the fictional transgender female had transitioned medically because I was already getting bogged down by logistics. “To me, that would make you straight and would make her straight. But, I guess to some people that would make you bisexual….”

“Okay, then that would be the only time I’m bisexual, the rest of the time I’d be straight,” he said quickly.

“Sounds good,” I said, not knowing what to say and rolling my eyes at myself for only the shower curtain to see. “I guess that could also make you pansexual,” I offered — because I couldn’t leave well enough alone.

“What does pansexual mean?” he asked.

“It means that you fall in love with the person, not their sex or gender.”

“I think I’ll be pansexual because that starts with ‘pan’ and ‘pancake’ starts with ‘pan’ and pancakes are my favorite food,” he reasoned.

I’d never heard someone identify sexually based on a sexual orientation sounding like their favorite breakfast food, but who was I to judge.

“Pancakes are good,” I agreed.

I heard him pull the drain and the water start to empty from the tub. He pulled the shower curtain back.

“I think it’s really cool that you’re open to dating a trans person. You have a good heart,” I said.

“Thanks,” he said hurriedly as he wrapped himself in a towel and scurried out of the room quickly, avoiding the dreaded eye contact that accompanies conversations about love and sex between mother and tween son.

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God doesn’t make mistakes, people do

Art by Leelah Alcorn

Art by Leelah Alcorn

The suicide and suicide letter of Leelah Alcorn haunt me. They have gripped my heart and not let go, squeezing tighter every time I think about them. And, I think about them often.

Leelah’s suicide affects me so deeply because, like her, my child is differently gendered — putting him in the group of children who have the highest rate of suicide attempts in the world.

That could be my child. That could have been my brother.

We grew up in very religious home. We went to youth group on Wednesday nights and church every Sunday. If you didn’t go to church, you didn’t go anywhere else.

Starting in seventh grade, at age 12, I was taught that being gay was one of the worst sins a person could commit and being transgender was unspeakable. When I was in high school and my brother came out I was afraid to tell the people at church. When I did, my pastor made to cry tears of shame and fear. That was the day my disappointment in and separation from organized religion began.

Then, along came C.J. The more gender nonconforming my son became, the less I wanted to do with church. The thing I heard – and continue to hear – most about my son is something that Leelah often heard.

“God doesn’t make mistakes.”

Art by Leelah Alcorn

Art by Leelah Alcorn

Religious people use the saying in their opposition to those who are differently gendered. They hope to mean that God makes everyone cisgender — with bodies and genders that align. He doesn’t. Just as not everyone is white and right handed with blonde hair and blue eyes. They feel that if my son is gender nonconforming, it’s a mistake and it’s my fault.

My son, with his boy body, girl brain and pure heart, is not a mistake. My unconditional love for him is not a mistake. No part of C.J. is an inaccuracy, error or blunder. He is perfectly created by – if you are a believer – a God who does not make mistakes. My son and Leelah were perfectly made.

God doesn’t make mistakes, people do.

Often they make mistakes in God’s name. The bulk of the hate mail I receive (I’d say at least 80 percent) is from religious people who say outright or strongly imply that they are speaking on behalf or at the inspiration of God or his son Jesus Christ. They spew vile, hateful, graphic words at my family and me in the name of a god who explicitly preached to spread love. When people write those things to me and press the send button, I picture their God and their Jesus in heaven shedding a tear and shaking their heads. This is not how he intended his disciples to witness. Of this I am sure.

And, that is not how he wants parents to parent the children he has given to them. Bullying your child into the path of a semitrailer is no way parent. No way to be a human being. No way to call yourself a Christian. That’s a lot to have to answer for at the pearly gates on judgment day. I hope Leelah’s parents and all other homophobic and transphobic Christians are prepared when that day comes.

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What My Son Wants For Christmas

“Mom, I only want three things for Christmas this year,” C.J. said from the backseat as I shuttled him to gymnastics.

“Oh, really? Just three things?” I had a hard time believing the brevity of his list.

“Yes. If I only ask for three things, I’ll probably get all three, right? My chances will be better?”

“Yeah, probably.”

Then, he proceeded to tell me in length about the three items on his wish list.

He wanted a jacked that, when you put it on and zip it up, makes you totally invisible. When I told him that an invisible jacket doesn’t exist I broke his heart. Later I suggested to Matt and Chase that we buy C.J. a hoodie and when he zips it up we pretend that we don’t see him. Problem solved — except that neither Matt nor chase thought the three of us could successfully pull off ignoring C.J.

The second thing that C.J. wanted was a time machine so that he could go WAY back in time and go to a disco roller-skate party and go “not so far back” in time to play with himself as a baby. He also wanted to go back to the exact moment he realized that he likes “girl stuff,” not “boy stuff.” If the revelation that there is no such thing as an invisible jacket broke his heart, imagine the melancholy he felt upon learning that time machines do not, in fact, exist. I am the crusher of dreams and ruiner of Christmas.

I waited for him to tell me about the third thing he wanted and hoped with all my might that it would be something a little more realistic (and, preferably, orderable from Amazon).

Nope. He wanted a life-size stuffed animal giraffe. When we got home I opened my laptop and showed him several of the largest plush giraffes I could find. We’re talking four to five feet in height.

“How tall is a real giraffe?”

I googled for an answer when I should have just said “four to five feet.”

Real giraffes are 18 feet, so, naturally, C.J. does not want a four or five foot tall plush giraffe.

“Can you think of anything else you might want? Besides those three things?”

“A clear hamster ball big enough from me to get in and run around in. A human size hamster ball.”

Later that night, I sat down with C.J. and helped him create an Amazon Wish List. I let him click away and grow his list until his heart was content — to make up for the afternoon’s invisible-jacket-time-machine-giraffe-height devastation.

C.J. found 67 on Amazon that he has to have.

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Amazon.com

 

He wants this seven-inch Taylor Lautner doll to match the three Jacob Black/Taylor Lautner/Twilight posters he has hanging above his bed.

Jacob 11inch

Amazon.com

He also wants this 11-inch Taylor Lautner doll.

Jacob with Shirt

Amazon.com

And, he wants this seven-inch Taylor Lautner doll. Because a boy can never have too many Taylor Lautner dolls.

Target.com

Target.com

These heels for when he “goes to a party or has dance parties around the house.”

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

Because I watched it with him once and he says “it’s one of the best movies of all time.” I have to agree.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

Who hasn’t loved Polly Pocket at some point in their life? (“Me” Matt said.)

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

These are like the new Troll dolls that they had when I was a girl.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

I had one of these when I was a girl. They are $50 now. That’s not how much they were when I was little. FYI.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

The new Monster High doll’s name is Invisi Billy. He’s the son of the Invisible Man and “has a look that’s all his own.”

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

He wants these so that he can play Disney Infinity with his brother.

Amazon.com

Amazon.com

It’s the closest thing to a human hamster ball I/Santa could find.

***

Happy holidays to all of you and let’s catch up again in 2015!

xoxo,

Lori

 

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California Department of Education Lies, Does Not Investigate LGBTQ Bullying

Ronin-cheerleader.jpg.pagespeed.ce.3GDLKTtQ8BRqgOhqwhHY

Ronin Shimizu

Like my son, Ronin Shimizu was a young boy living in California. He was a cheerleader, like my son hopes to be one day. Ronin is described as positive and happy, like my son is often described. He endured bullying because he liked something that some people is “only for girls.” Sadly, my son knows exactly how that feels.

Last week, 12-year-old Ronin decided to end the bullying by ending his life.

I worry every day that my son will have this too in common with Ronin. Because the group of kids like Ronin and my son have the highest rate of suicide attempts in the world.

The articles about Ronin’s death report that in the years leading up to his suicide, Ronin’s parents made multiple complaints to his school about the homophobic and gender-based bullying their son was experiencing. The school’s response was inadequate and the bullying continued. Even after his parents removed him for school to homeschool him, Ronin continued to experience bullying that became unbearable.

As I read the coverage of his death, I’m swallowed by sorrow and anger. So many people failed Ronin: his bullies; the adults responsible for those bullies; people who knew about the bullying but did nothing to end it; the school; the district; and the state.

California’s safe school laws are comprehensive and advanced in comparison to other states. California leads the nation in establishing laws to protect perceived and confirmed LGBTQ kids and, then, the state fails these kids miserably by not enforcing the laws the way in which they have promised to do.

images-6Our family’s child advocate and anti-bullying superhero Karyl Ketchum recently traveled to Sacramento with a colleague to meet the staff at the California Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity. The office was created to investigate complaints of bullying and discrimination against schools and districts throughout California and enforce the state’s excellent safe school laws and education codes.

While at the office, Ketchum discovered that the California Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity has not investigated a single claim of discrimination filed by or on behalf of students across the state. The office’s failure to enforce anti-bullying laws has resulted in dangerous, system-wide ignorance and unaccountability in California’s schools. The Education Office of Equal Opportunity doesn’t even log or track appeals.

The on-going systemic failure is detailed in the scathing 2013 California State Auditor’s Office’s report summarized here: https://www.auditor.ca.gov/reports/summary/2012-108

“Students across our state are waiting indefinitely on news of their appeal and for relief from the bullying they are experiencing, relief that, under the current system, will likely never come,” Ketchum said. “In the entire history of the California Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity there has never been a single actual investigation into the veracity of a student’s complaint of bullying, harassment, or discrimination. This situation constitutes a state of emergency for our children. We need a response from the California Department of Education that measures up to the size and scope of this emergency.”

I don’t know if Ronin’s parents filed an official uniform complaint form with the school, district or California Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity. But, I have to believe that if the California Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity were doing it’s job, schools and districts would be more informed about the laws they are supposed to be abiding and guided by. Schools and districts would know that they have to answer to someone. And, when Ronin’s parents brought the bullying to their attention, action would have been swift, not stumbling.

Until more school and districts understand and enforce the protections kids like my son and Ronin are entitled to, I’m terrified that we will continue to hear of more outcomes like Ronin’s. If other parents can’t teach their kids to treat others like they want to be treated, for families like ours, schools, districts and the California Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity are our only hope. Right now that hope seems dim.

If you want to do something to help LGBTQ kids and their families in California, please email and/or phone State Superintendent Tom Torlakson’s office and let him know that ignoring the situation at California Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity is dangerous and must stop. Please join me in demanding that California Department of Education Office of Equal Opportunity be restructured, appropriately resourced and that it become computerized now…before we lose one more young person. Torlakson can be reached at 916-319-0800
and EHughes@cde.ca.gov.

If you or a young LGBTQ person you know is thinking about suicide, please call The Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386. For adults over the age of 24, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

 

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And The Winner Is….

On Friday, I announced that I was giving away a copy of Al Vernacchio’s book For Goodness Sex to one lucky winner.  To enter to win, you had to leave a comment letting me know what you are thankful for this Thanksgiving season. The comments were so heartwarming that the book’s publisher contacted me and gave me another copy of the book to giveaway.

So, the two winners are:

Dan Woog

and

fit40sblog

If you’re a winner, email me at raisingmyrainbow@gmail.com with your name and mailing address.  Congrats!

What am I thankful for? The supportive, loving, caring, inspiring, smart, hilarious people in my life: Matt, C.J., Chase, our village and all of you. I’m a lucky, lucky girl.

 

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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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