What It Feels Like To Raise A Gender Nonconforming Child

IMG_2926I feel like I don’t always do a perfect job of explaining what it feels like to raise a gender nonconforming child (even though I’m usually pretty good with words).

I recently ran across Emily Perl Kingsley’s essay titled “Welcome to Holland” and it describes my parenting experience perfectly. I am not raising a child with a disability (like Kingsley is/was), but my child does have unique needs and his life — our life — looks much different than what I envisioned when the ultrasound technician told me that he was boy. I wouldn’t change it for the world, but it took me some time to adjust.


 Emily Perl Kingsley

I am often asked to describe the experience of raising a child with a disability – to try to help people who have not shared that unique experience to understand it, to imagine how it would feel. It’s like this…

When you’re going to have a baby, it’s like planning a fabulous vacation trip – to Italy. You buy a bunch of guide books and make your wonderful plans. The Coliseum. The Michelangelo David. The gondolas in Venice. You may learn some handy phrases in Italian. It’s all very exciting.

After months of eager anticipation, the day finally arrives. You pack your bags and off you go. Several hours later, the plane lands. The stewardess comes in and says, “Welcome to Holland.”

“Holland?!?” you say. “What do you mean Holland?? I signed up for Italy! I’m supposed to be in Italy. All my life I’ve dreamed of going to Italy.”

But there’s been a change in the flight plan. They’ve landed in Holland and there you must stay.

The important thing is that they haven’t taken you to a horrible, disgusting, filthy place, full of pestilence, famine and disease. It’s just a different place.

So you must go out and buy new guide books. And you must learn a whole new language. And you will meet a whole new group of people you would never have met.

It’s just a different place. It’s slower-paced than Italy, less flashy than Italy. But after you’ve been there for a while and you catch your breath, you look around…. and you begin to notice that Holland has windmills….and Holland has tulips. Holland even has Rembrandts.

But everyone you know is busy coming and going from Italy… and they’re all bragging about what a wonderful time they had there. And for the rest of your life, you will say “Yes, that’s where I was supposed to go. That’s what I had planned.”

And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away… because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss.

But… if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn’t get to Italy, you may never be free to enjoy the very special, the very lovely things … about Holland.

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What I’ve Learned From Letting My Son Dress Up As A Girl For Halloween

IMG_8322Halloween is a time when Matt and I are reminded of how much we’ve evolved as parents. From three-year-old C.J. wanting to be Snow White and us convincing him to be a skeleton to now – when I steam his dress and watch in awe as he applies makeup using skills he’s acquired watching countless tutorials on YouTube.

Our boy is growing and maturing. The past few months he’s been drawn to mid-century design, vintage pinup fashion and 1950’s culture. So, when he saw a 1950’s car hop girl costume, his annual costume hunt quickly came to an end. Of course, because C.J. has to use his creativity and love for all things creepy and quirky whenever he can, his waitress has a backstory. She was murdered with a pair of pink fuzzy dice while delivering an order. Cue the excuse posthumous makeup.

Today, Yahoo! Parenting is running a slideshow of C.J.’s Halloween costumes over the years with my commentary about our evolution as parents of a differently gendered child. Check it out! (And, never, ever read the comments.)





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So Proud: PFLAG Flag Bearer Award

This afternoon was very special and one I’ll never forget. At the 2015 PFLAG National Convention Awards Luncheon, I enjoyed lunch with my husband Matt, PFLAG Executive Director Jody Huckaby, Caitlyn Jenner’s sister Pam Mettler, Betty DeGeneres and others. Then, I was awarded the PFLAG Flag Bearer Award.


The PFLAG Flag Bearer Award honors outstanding LGBTQ advocacy outside of the PFLAG framework and acknowledges the recipient’s accomplishments and lasting contributions to the safety and/or equality of our LGBTQ children, family and friends.


Following is my acceptance speech. I hope you’ll read it and understand how important PFLAG is to me and how thankful I am to be the 2015 PFLAG Flag Bearer.


Days after my brother came out 23 years ago, my aunt sent my mom a packet of literature from an organization called PFLAG. On top of the photocopies was a note that read, “When you are ready, I think you should check out PFLAG.”

My mom wasn’t ready, so I went by myself. And I fell in love with PFLAG, because at that time, they were the only group of people to tell me that there was nothing wrong with having a gay brother.

Five years ago when my youngest son started showing signs of being transgender or gender nonconforming, I knew where I needed to go to feel love, acceptance and support. I went back to PFLAG.

PFLAG is the most supportive support group I’ve ever seen; it’s good for my soul; it’s what church should feel like.

On my blog, in my book and when I speak, I tell friends, families, allies and members of the LGBTQ community, if you don’t know where to go, go to PFLAG.

PFLAG also taught me that one mom can make a difference. I used to say “I’m just a mom.” After learning about PFLAG founder Jeanne Manford, I started leaving off the just. I’m not just a mom. I’m a mom. And as Jeanne showed us being a mom is a very powerful thing. Moms can be fierce advocates and world changers.

Thank you PFLAG, I value this recognition more than you will ever know. And thank you to my amazing husband Matt I couldn’t have a better partner in life or on this unique parenting journey. You prove that dads are pretty cool too.


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Trust Your Mom Gut


IMG_7865Parents often ask me how they can tell if their child is transgender versus gender nonconforming and if they should be transitioning him/her.

Before I reply, I always clarify that I’m not a certified expert on gender or when to or not to support/encourage/allow a child to transition. I’m merely self-taught and have personal experience.

The only thing I’m an expert on is my child — and most days he does a thing or two that makes me question even that.

When people ask me about the state of their child’s gender identity, I reply with a question.

“What does your mom gut tell you?” (Or dad gut or primary caregiver gut, I don’t discriminate when it comes to questions of the gut.)

There’s trusting your gut and the there’s trusting your mom gut. My mom gut feels stronger and is correct more often than my regular gut. Like it is more accurate because it’s an invisible nerve that is tethered to my child and feels and knows things about him that no other person could feel or know.

My mom gut says my child is not transgender and not currently in need of transition.

I’ve considered very, very seriously at least three times during his life that C.J. is transgender (and I’ve mildly contemplated it during fleeting moments on hundreds of days).

The first time was when he was four and for a few months was pretty adamant that he was going to be a woman when he grew up.

The second time was when he was six and asked us to call him by a girl’s name and use female pronouns.

The third time was not so long ago when he watched one of his friends transition socially from male to female and said that maybe he should transition too.

FullSizeRender-3Over the last four years, some professionals have told us that C.J. is transgender and that we should help him transition socially.

But, we never have. Because my mom gut said it wasn’t the right decision. I’m glad I didn’t. Sometimes transitioning is the answer and sometimes it’s not. Sometimes there is no answer. And, sometimes you just keep on living in the middle of the gender spectrum because that is where your child is most happy and healthy.

My son no longer wants to be a woman when he grows up, like he did when he was four. He didn’t feel comfortable during those days when he was six and we called him Rebecca and used female pronouns. And, after watching his friend transition he declared that he couldn’t imagine being a girl every day.

So, he continues to identify as gender nonconforming; just as he has since he was old enough to identify as anything and despite how much I’d rather him use the term gender creative (I’m a sucker for positive connotations).

His gender isn’t up to me. It’s up to him.

On this unique parenting journey, I believe that:

  • If your heart beats wholeheartedly, lovingly and accepting-ly for a child;
  • If you don’t have religion or the fear of what other people will think clouding your judgment; and
  • If you would love your child the same if they were cisgender, transgender or gender nonconforming.

Then you should go with your gut.

If you can’t quite tell what your gut thinks, but your child is happy, healthy and thriving, give it some time.

IMG_7850If your child is consistently insistent that their sex and gender don’t match up or shows signs of distress (like depression, anxiety, behavior issues, self harm, self mutilation, etc.) seek out help from professionals. I’d start with a gender therapist.

Eight years into parenting a differently gendered child, have I totally and completely ruled out that my child is transgender? Absolutely not. C.J. has taught me to get comfortable living in uncertainty. More importantly, he’s taught me that you should feel confident listening and trusting your mom gut (dad gut/primary caregiver gut), so long as your heart is in the right place.



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Fall Appearances and Speaking Engagements


Here’s where I’ll be this fall. I’d love to meet you!

Cal State Fullerton: Thinking Queer Series

Thursday, September 24, 7 p.m.

Fullerton, California

The Cal State Fullerton LGBTQ Resource Center welcomes students, staff and the local community to the first installment of its 2015-16 “Thinking Queer” series featuring Lori Duron, author of Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son. The event will be held in the Titan Student Union Gabrielino. Click here for the details.

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OCEC School Compliance Taskforce: Evening With Authors

Thursday, October 22, 7 p.m.

Irvine, California

You’re invited to the Third Annual Equality in Education Awards event hosted by the Orange County Equality Coalition’s School Compliance Taskforce. This year’s event is an Evening With Authors and will feature readings from:

  • Lori Duron, Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son.
  • Jessica Herthel, I Am Jazz
  • Karyl Ketchum, Norms And Other Violences
  • Colin Stewart, From Wrongs To Gay Rights

Tickets start at $10 and include a gourmet coffee bar, wine and cheese.

Click here for more info.

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2015 PFLAG National Convention: We Are The Change

October 16-18

Nashville, TN

I’ve never been to Nashville, y’all! What better time to pay the city a visit than for the PFLAG National Convention? Will you be there? What should I do while I’m in town?

Click here for details.

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And the winner is….

The winner of last week’s Pink Truck Designs giveaway is none other than Thomas, a third grader from Orlando who sounds very much like C.J.

Thomas, have your adult email your email address and postal address to RaisingMyRainbow@gmail.com so that we can coordinate getting the prize to you. Thanks to all who entered and to Pink Truck Designs for the awesome shirts!

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C.J.’s Favorite Things: 3rd Grade Edition (GIVEAWAY!)

C.J. is officially a third grader. So far he does not like third grade as much as second grade because they don’t do as many crafts and when they do crafts “they are boring-er crafts.” He also misses his second grade teacher Mrs. D. On the upside, he has made a new friend named Ellie who likes C.J. because his hair “reminds her of fried chicken.” So there’s that.

Here are the other things that C.J. has been digging lately.

IMG_6868Juicy Boots – When he feels like the day or event calls for something a little flashier than his standard TOMS, C.J. busts out his new Juicy Couture Boots and compliments abound much to his delight. The boots feature purple velvety, quilted hearts and glitter laces. I wish they were available in my size. We found these gems at Kohl’s.

IMG_7039Dork Diaries – A reluctant reader, C.J. has found something that he enjoys reading more than People and Us. I don’t want to jinx anything, but The Dork Diary Series by Rachel Renée Russell may just be making a reader out of my son — and he’s proud to report that so far this school year none of his peers have teased him for reading “a girl’s book.” Other reads he’s enjoyed? The Lotus Lane series and Smile, Sisters and Drama by Raina Telgemeier.

IMG_7122Screaming Lady Backpack – I found this at Nordstrom Rack (Nordstrom Rack is one of my favorite things) and it just screamed C.J. See what I did there? It is made by Volcom, but C.J. calls it his “Screaming Lady Backpack” and thinks it’s “scary hilarious.”

HGTV – C.J. has officially ditched the Food Network for HGTV. Turn on Disney Channel or Nickelodeon and he’ll complain; turn on HGTV and he’ll sit down to give you his opinions. He prefers any show featuring a tiny house and also House Hunters, Flip or Flop and Fixer Upper. Fixer Upper is my favorite; I want to go on a double date with Joanna and Chip right after they give my house a makeover.

IMG_6872Pink Truck Designs – C.J.’s favorite shirt of the moment is by Pink Truck Designs and features a police cruiser just like his dad drives, only in pink (C.J.’s favorite color). C.J. says if he were a police officer he would want a pink cruiser (but he doesn’t want to be a police officer because he wants to be an artist, he wants you to know). Pink Truck Designs is a clothing line for all ages created by a mom whose daughters love bulldozers and snowplows. Their designs are inspired by the notion that it’s not just a boy thing or a girl thing — it’s a kid thing!

GIVEAWAY – Pink Truck Designs has been gracious enough to gift one t-shirt to a lucky reader of mine. To enter, visit their website and decide what t-shirt you want. Leave the product name and size in the comments below. A winner will be announced at some point on Friday (9/18/15), so be sure to enter by midnight on Thursday (9/17/15). Good luck! The winner has been announced! It is none other than Thomas, a third grader from Orlando who sounds very much like C.J. (See his comment below.) Thanks to all who entered and to Pink Truck Designs for the awesome shirts!

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Music Video Exclusive: Tom Goss’s Breath and Sound

I met award-winning musician Tom Goss when he asked our family to appear in the music video for his song “Illuminate The Dark” – a song about the devastating effects of negatively judging people based on looks and before knowing anything about them. My sons fell in love with Goss instantly because he sings, plays guitar and can do flips on a trampoline. I fell in love with Goss because of his voice, his LGBTQ advocacy work and because he overflows with kindness.

When he allowed me a sneak peak of the music video for his new song “Breath & Sound,” its beauty, simplicity and powerful message held me captive. “Breath & Sound” illustrates through lyrical dance that the act of falling in love and the cadence of a relationship is the same for all couples, regardless of sexual orientation, gender or color.

I recently sat down with Goss to talk about “Breath & Sound” for HuffPost Gay Voices.

Me: With the Supreme Court’s June ruling in favor of marriage equality, the timing couldn’t be better for this video’s release, don’t you think?

Tom Goss: Yes! It’s amazing to see how this country has grown and evolved in terms of its acceptance of all kinds of love. We are experiencing a momentous time; but that’s not to say the work is done. We have to continue to have an open dialogue to live harmoniously; I hope that my music and videos like this one encourage that dialogue.

Me: What do you hope the LGBTQ community will feel when they watch this video?

Tom: I want them to feel like I’m telling their story. I want them to be moved. That’s why I’m doing this. There isn’t enough LGBTQ content being produced. Historically, people have been afraid to tell these stories – but I’m not. I will always use my voice to help tell the stories of those who cannot.

Me: What do you hope people outside of the LGBTQ community feel when they watch it?

Tom: I want them to understand the boundlessness of love. There’s a reason the first verse focuses on the straight couple alone — that’s what they are used to seeing. I want straight people to be drawn into a familiar story, one they understand and relate to. Once there, I want to show them that this exact same story is being lived by the LGBTQ community. As a gay man, I don’t want special privilege. I just want to love – passionately, fearlessly and completely.

Me: How did you come up with the initial concept for this video?

Tom: I’ve been dreaming about this video for years. As soon as we recorded the song I knew I wanted to shoot a lyrical dance because I’m fascinated by movement and even more so by collaborative projects. About six months ago I was explaining my vision to director Michael Serrato (Big Gay Sketch Show; Willam Belli and Violet Chachki music videos; and Neil’s Puppet Dreams). I told him about my big, complex, beautiful — but ultimately flawed idea — and he started getting as excited as I was and sharing ideas of his own. His ideas solved the problems I was having in the story and it became clear that it was something that we could accomplish together.

Me: The dance is such a beautiful metaphor for the flow of a relationship…

Tom: If you think about it, all relationships are really a kind of dance. We want to be close to somebody, but we’re afraid to let them too close. We come together, we push each other away. We chose the movements to highlight that experience. This feeling isn’t confined to one specific kind of relationship; it doesn’t understand gender or sexual orientation. The dance of attraction and love is a universal one. The dance is the same regardless of the dancers.

Me: At first watch, the video looks simple and effortless, but then I got to thinking about the choreography, editing and about how sometimes making something seem simple is very hard work. What was the hardest part about making the video?

Tom: The hardest part wasn’t on my shoulders, but on the dancers’. It was inspiring to see how connected they became to each other throughout shooting. Everyone involved believed in the concept, the song and its potential to spur something beautiful. They committed to me, Michael and each other — helping build something greater than the sum of its parts.

Me: What other great projects are you working on?

Tom: I’m in pre-production on a video addressing LGBTQ youth and suicide prevention. I’m extremely excited about the team we are building for this project. I believe it has the potential to reach a lot of people. More than anything, I want to help make the world a better place. I think this video will do just that.


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