Friday Fodder: Here I Am! Edition

Hey Strangers! It’s been a while!

C.J. had a case of pneumonia (bless his heart) that WOULD.  NOT.  GO.  AWAY.  Several trips to the hospital and several rounds of different medications and he finally kicked the thing right as Grandma and Grandpa Colorado arrived (bless their hearts) to watch the kids for a week while Matt and I vacationed in Panama (bless our hearts).

So, that’s where I’ve been and, now, I’m back.

Following are the things that have caught and held my attention recently. Enjoy!  More soon…

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As many of you know, one of my badass besties is Sarah at NerdyApple.com. Her oldest child goes to school with a boy named Morgan who celebrated his 17th birthday one week ago by wearing a shrug, lace gloves and fashion belt to school. Well, the administrators at his school didn’t respond well (to put it mildly) and, now, Morgan and his family have inspired the #clothinghasnogender movement.  Read more here.  Morgan, if you or your mom read this, you should contact Sarah cause she’s awesome and her and her family will stand by you until the end.

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Meet the New Generation of Gender-Creative Kids, TIME.com

Lindsay Morris photographs a rural retreat where kids are free to be themselves. These pictures make me smile.

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Transgender Students Learn To Navigate School Halls, NPR.org

I love this piece written with such heart by a high schooler about her classmate and friend who is transgender. Bravo to the author, her friend and open-minded, open-hearted high school students everywhere.

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‘Sanctuary Palm Springs’ to create haven for LGBT youth, DesertSun.com

A Palm Springs couple is set to open a foster home for LGBT youth. Nearly 20 percent of foster youth in their area identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender. They’ve found themselves homeless after coming out to family or being bullied at school. About 26 percent of LGBT youth say their biggest problems are not feeling accepted by family, trouble at school or bullying and a fear to be out, according to the Human Rights Campaign. “We’re calling this not a group home but an LGBT family home. Because many people, when they come out as LGBT, they lose their family,” the couple said. The home will operate as a nonprofit and provide basic necessities such as food, clothing and medical care, along with mentoring, career advice and life coaching, a range of artistic activities, therapy with local professionals and enough responsibilities to become self-sufficient.

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It’s time to start thinking about summer camp!  If you have a transgender or gender nonconforming child, check out Camp Aranu’tiq.  If your family has LGBTQ parents, consider attending Harbor Camps LGBTQ Family Camp. Click here for more info on both camps.

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West Hollywood Wig Out Birthday Spectacular

“Where are you going for your birthday party?” one of C.J.’s girl friends asked him while they were play-dating at our house the week before his birthday.

“West Hollywood,” he said casually, as if every second-grader in Orange County knows what and where West Hollywood is.

“What’s that?” she asked.

“That’s where they have lots of gay people and people like me,” he explained. “I’m going to wear a skirt there and they won’t even laugh at me.”

“Cool,” his friend said as she smiled and nodded, even though I could tell that she had no idea what he was talking about.

Six months prior, C.J. decided that he wanted to have his birthday at a wig store. I thought for sure he’d change his mind, because he does that a lot.

But, he repeatedly mentioned it and by November, I knew that I had to try to make it happen. So, I enlisted the help of my brother, Michael, who lives in West Hollywood, and gave him a list of things that C.J. wanted to do in celebration of his eighth birthday.

  1. Go shopping for toys
  2. Go to lunch
  3. Try on wigs
  4. See the rainbow sidewalks (which I told him existed in West Hollywood)
  5. Eat pink cupcakes

On the morning of C.J.’s birthday party day, we woke up and drove 30 minutes to my best friend Marie’s house to pick up her and her two daughters (the dads stayed home to work). Her daughter Grace is four weeks older than C.J. and they are besties through and through. If you need proof, you can read their matching shirts that say “I heart my bestie.” Marie’s daughter Kate is one of Chase’s best friends despite her being three years older than he is. They share a love of bacon, Modern Family and making each other laugh.

We took the kids to the Toys R Us near Marie’s house to check “go shopping for toys” off of C.J.’s birthday party to-do list. C.J. selected some Shopkins, a Monster High pen and a Ballerina marionette.

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An hour later, we were in West Hollywood greeting Uncle Michael and six of his closest friends at The Abbey – which has twice been voted the best gay bar in the world and was Elizabeth Taylor’s favorite pub. Rest assured that at noon on a Saturday, the crowd was tame and family friendly.

We were escorted to a secluded table on the patio and C.J. promptly handed out pink mardi gras beads to his guests (no flashing required). Because they were sitting across from me and next to each other, Uncle Michael helped C.J. decide what to eat. Imagine my surprise when C.J. ordered Nutella crepes for lunch.

After lunch, the 13 of us (three straight females, six gay men and four children – for the sake of setting the scene) walked in parade fashion up Santa Monica Blvd. to the crosswalks painted rainbow. We crossed the street taking pictures all the way. Then, we turned around and crossed again. Then again. Then again. People took pictures of us taking pictures of ourselves.

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We paraded back to our car and drove to the wig store of Uncle Michael’s choosing. Though they didn’t seem excited to see us rush into their store initially, the staff of three joined our party when they realized that we were celebrating a unique boy who likes wigs and falls more than just about anything else. Every member of the group chose one wig to try on. When C.J. fell in love with a fall that matched his one-of-a-kind hair color perfectly, I bought it for him and he wore it out of the store and the rest of the day.

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At a neighboring toy and costume store, C.J. carefully deliberated which souvenir Oscar to award himself. Eventually, he bypassed the awards for “Best Diva” and “Drama Queen” for a win in the “Best Son” category.

“Because don’t you think I’m a better son than diva and drama queen?” he asked me looking for reassurance. I agreed.

Back at Uncle Michael’s place, we ate pink cupcakes, opened presents and sang along to popular Disney tunes that were blasting.

C.J. fell asleep on the way home — as he always does after a long, fun day in West Hollywood.

“That was the best birthday party! I’m going to tell everybody at school that they should have their birthday parties at West Hollywood,” C.J. said next day.

West Hollywood, if you see an influx of children’s birthday parties in the coming months and years, remember who started the trend.

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A huge, heartfelt thank you to everyone who attended the West Hollywood Wig Out Birthday Spectacular and made the day beyond special for C.J. Your acceptance and love for our family is profound and it’s quietly letting our kids and their friends know that it’s okay to unabashedly be themselves.

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C.J.’s Birthday Part I: The Playdate

C.J.’s eighth birthday was on February 1, which was also Super Bowl Sunday, which a lot of people thought was really cool, except for C.J. Luckily, Katy Perry’s halftime show made the day bearable for him.

Because of the NFL’s total disregard for my child’s birthday, we were forced to celebrate early.

On Friday, I picked up C.J. and three of his best girl friends after school for a birthday playdate at our house.

The night before, while C.J. was asleep, I decorated the house in the pink and black party supplies he had selected. I was giving myself an “A” grade in parenting. Then, we arrived home and Matt was waiting with a bouquet of pink and white flowers for C.J., which knocked me down to a “B” grade and moved him up to an “A+” grade because a dad surprising his son with a birthday bouquet of flowers will always earn 100 percent.

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At C.J.’s request, we gathered around the dining room table and decorated cookies. As you can see, to this group, more is more.

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Then, we made Valentine’s Day-themed monkey necklaces. The package showed a girl monkey and a boy monkey, but we called them red monkeys and black monkeys. I told C.J. and his girl friends that we had enough supplies for each of them to make one red monkey necklace and one black monkey necklace.

They all made the red monkey first and decorated it to be a girl monkey.

“I’m going to make the black monkey be a half boy, half girl monkey,” C.J. informed everyone at the table.

“Me too! The boy monkey will be half boy and half girl like you, C.J.!” one of his friends said. All the others excitedly followed suit and C.J. was beyond flattered.

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The cookie decorating and necklace making didn’t take nearly as long as I had anticipated; I was scrambling to think of something for them to do.

“We’re going to go upstairs and play what we always play during lunch and recess,” C.J. proclaimed.

“What do you play?”

“Annie.”

And, with that, they were off, clamoring up the stairs and slamming doors as they all selected articles of clothing from our enormous dress up bin and dispersed to various rooms to get suited up. C.J. put on a dress, which I wasn’t sure he’d feel comfortable doing because one of the girls had never been to our house before nor seen him in a dress or skirt.

When they reconvened in C.J.’s room they took their places (naturally, C.J. got to be Annie since he was the birthday boy) and, then, at the top of their lungs, started singing “It’s A Hard-Knock Life.” Over and over and over and over again. They even had a semi-choreographed dance routine. I wondered what the other kids on the playground thought about them when they did this at school.

After close to an hour of enjoying their vocals, I suggested it was time to open presents. On the way downstairs C.J. and his friends tried to convince me that the new Annie movie is better than the original Annie movie. In an attempt to be a gracious host, I said that we should agree to disagree.

Proving they know him well, his friends gifted him with My Little Pony, Monster High, Littlest Pet Shop and a Target gift card, which he later spent on Shopkins and leggings.

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When, it was time to take his friends home. C.J. left his dress on and slipped on flip-flops.

“Is C.J. going to take me home wearing a dress?!” his newer friend asked.

“Yup.”

“Why?”

“Why not?” I asked.

She shrugged her shoulders and giggled and took his hand as they walked to the car.

We went to bed early that night, because the next day was a very big day….

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When Your Child’s Boy Friend Becomes Their Girl Friend

C.J. met Samuel about three years ago when Samuel was a boy named Samuel. Now, Samuel is a girl named Sophia.

Initially, C.J. and Samuel bonded over being boys who liked to be mermaids in water and princesses on land. They painted their nails together, celebrated birthdays together and put on fashion shows together.

“Samuel is more gender nonconforming than I am,” C.J. would point out to me privately. It was a fact that often caught him by surprise because he rarely met a boy who was more gender nonconforming than he was.

About this time last year, Samuel decided — once and for all — that he was not Samuel, he was Sophia.

I had emotional talks with Samuel’s mom. We’d both always known it was a possibility that our sons were transgender; but, thinking it could be so and having it be so are vastly different. Nothing prepares you for your boy’s first day of school as a girl.

With every ounce of my being, I tried to make it all about Sophia and her mom during our talks and time together during her transition. Then, I’d hang up or walk away and wonder what Sophia’s transition would mean for my son and my family.

IMG_0994C.J. had gone through periods during which he wanted to be known as Rebecca, Chloe, Raquel and Cleo. At different times, he said that he’d be a girl when he grew up. A few times, he’s said that he might be trans. But, he never fully committed to any of it. When it came to his gender identity and gender expression, we followed his lead, but he never continually led us in the same direction. It was maddening a lot of the time, though we never let him know it.

If his friend Samuel became Sophia, what would C.J. become? Would C.J. want to transition because Sophia did? If C.J. transitioned, would it be the right decision for him?

After much stalling, I nervously sat down next to C.J. on his bed and explained to him that Samuel was becoming Sophia.

He looked at me oddly and thought for a minute or two.

“Is he transgender?” he asked.

“Yes. She is transgender. So from now on we call her Sophia and use ‘her’ and ‘she’ instead of ‘he’ and ‘him,’” I replied.

He was quiet some more.

“What are you feeling?”

“I don’t know.”

“Are you sad?”

“Yeah.”

“Are you jealous?”

“Yeah.”

“I want to wear dresses to school and everywhere like Sophia will now.”

“Well, you know you can.”

“I know. But it’s different now because she’ll be a girl wearing a dress and I’ll still be a boy wearing a dress.”

The first few times C.J. saw Sophia, I saw some envy in his green eyes as he studied her. I worried how Sophia’s transition made C.J. feel; it was clear that it was making him feel something.

“I don’t want to be a girl every day. I don’t even want to be a girl every other day. I’m not transgender,” he blurted out one day while we were playing with his LEGO Friends.

“Okay,” I said.

C.J. has been consistently leading us in the same direction for six months now. I was worried that Sophia’s transition would influence C.J. to do the same, but, as of right now, it’s done the opposite. C.J. still dresses up in skirts and dresses at home, plays with dolls, paints his nails and loves to take part in fashion shows. He’s the same boy he was when he met Samuel, even though Samuel is not.

“I’m gender nonconforming, but I’m not transgender,” he sometimes explains to people.

I tell him he doesn’t need to clarify.

“Sometimes I do,” he insists.

“Okay,” I say.

C.J. and Sophia have taught me that gender is unique to every person. You don’t have to clarify your gender for other people, but sometimes you have to clarify your gender for yourself.

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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

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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.

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

xoxo,

Lori

 

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