The Father Of My Children Has Changed

IMG_1051A year ago Matt was badly injured while he was on duty. He has been at home trying to heal and adjust ever since.

Being married to a police officer, I knew that this was a possibility, that he could leave for work one day and return with our lives changed – or not return at all. While his new physical limitations break my heart for him, I’m just thankful that he returned to me.

I’ve watched him go from brutal 60-hour work weeks to being home full-time (which also felt a little brutal at first. “He’s. Always. Here,” I remember texting a friend in those first days of more togetherness than I was used to).

I was warned to look for changes in him. Boredom, fear, anger, depression. You tell me to look out for something and I get a little bit hyper-vigilant.

I was looking so closely for the negative that it took me a while to see the positive.

Matt had morphed from a tough-guy cop to an amazing stay at home dad.

Since Chase was born 13 years ago, I had been the primary caregiver parent. I juggled (horribly) working part-time, writing, keeping the house in order (kind of, but not really) and caring for the kids.

IMG_0932With Matt not working, I started working more. I figured I’d have to still handle the majority of the child-rearing and house-running duties because that’s how moms tend to think. That we have to do it all. That we don’t get help.

Because I’m the mom, when Matt instantly started taking on more around the house and with the kids I worried briefly that he wouldn’t “do it right” – and by “right” I meant the way I had always (half-assedly) done it.

Then I thought to myself “Screw it! Let’s see how this goes.”

That’s when I realized that Matt is the better stay at home parent. Hands down. Thumbs up. Without a doubt. With his weekly cleaning schedule as my witness.

Once I got out of the way for a minute, I could see how much he truly loves raising our kids and investing in their lives.

He’s more organized and tidier than I am. He can focus on tasks like doing the laundry; whereas I put a load in the washer and never return to put it in the dryer because I’ve moved on to starting and not finishing the dishes because I realized there was a junk drawer I needed to clean out. Then I get hungry and need a snack. And a nap.

He has discovered Pinterest and has boards for recipes and home projects. Not only does he pin ideas (like I used to), but he actually gives them a try, too. He rarely has a Pinterest fail.

IMG_1403He has the school drop off and pick up routine expertly timed and has a carpool text thread with a mom down the street and a stay at home dad across town.

I worried momentarily how Matt being the primary caregiver parent would affect C.J.’s gender identity and gender expression. Would C.J. feel like he had to be more masculine with a man around more than a woman?

Not at all. Matt has helped him build a fairy garden in the backyard, they watch RuPaul’s Drag Race together and, when I’m not around to have makeup done, C.J. does Matt’s makeup.

Matt takes Chase to the park to fly his drone, the driving range to practice his swing and helps him find videos on YouTube to teach himself to play the guitar.

There’s a new safety, comfort and predictability that the boys and I have enjoyed with Matt home this year. And, Matt enjoys it, too.

“I love staying home, it’s easy, I have it down,” Matt says with a proud, sincere smile — which pisses off some of my stay-at-home mom friends. I have to clarify to them that he means it’s easier than working the streets as a police officer.

Cheers to Matt, and all of the fathers out there who make fatherhood look easy – whether they work or not.

And, if Father’s Day is a hard day for you….I see you and tomorrow this day will be over.

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He Just Needs To Find His People, Then He’ll Be Safe

FullSizeRender(14)Growing up, I instinctively knew that I had to worry about my brother’s safety because he was slightly effeminate when young, people assumed he was gay as a teen, then he came out shortly after high school. All of those things made him a target for bullying, harassment, victimization and violence.

I saw him find his people and it eased my worry. The first time he took me to a gay club, I remember thinking, “He’s found his people. He’s safe here.”

The first time I visited his new place in West Hollywood, I remember thinking, “He’s found his people. He’s safe here.”

My youngest son started showing signs of gender nonconformity at age three, started describing himself as gender nonconforming at five, self identified as a member of the LGBTQ community at eight.

Little did I know that the worry I’ve always had for my LGBTQ brother’s safety had a long lost twin – it’s the worry I have for my LGBTQ son’s safety.

“He just needs to find his people, then he’ll be safe. He just needs to find his people, then he’ll be safe,” I say over and over again to soothe myself, feel hopeful and remind myself that it gets better.

I worry daily about the boys in the bathroom who try to see my son’s genitals to determine if he’s a boy or girl; the kids who tease him for reading The Babysitters Club books; the boys who tell him he shouldn’t wear his hair in a ponytail because ponytails are for girls; and the classmates who aren’t amused by his constant accessorizing with jewelry. On days when my worry runs high, I fantasize about the day when he finds his people.

I daydream about taking him to his first gay club. I want to open the doors and walk in first, turnaround and see his face as he takes it all in and realizes that he has – finally – found his people. Standing in that gay club, staring at my rainbow boy, I’d think to myself, “You’ve found your people. You’re safe here.”

I awoke this morning to news of the shooting in Orlando. The deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. At an LGBTQ nightclub. The shooter was angry because a couple of months ago he saw two gay men kissing. At least 50 people are dead and at least 53 more are injured.

My brother is not safe. My son is not safe. Even if they find their people. Because monsters can find them there, too.

My son asked what happened in Orlando because he heard mention of it several times on the news this morning. I had to tell him that a man went into a gay club and killed and shot the people inside.

“Why?” my son asked.

“Because he didn’t like the people inside,” I answered.

“That’s awful? People can just do that?” my son asked with fear in his eyes.

I wanted to say no, that people couldn’t just do that. But, the truth is, they can. And I always try to give my kids the truth.

“But, we’re okay,” I said. “That happened all the way on the other side of the United States.”

To my son that’s a world away. To me it’s down the street.

FullSizeRender(13)Today, as I snuggled with my son watching RuPaul’s Drag Race, took him to Target to spend his money on a new doll and, now, as I watch him flip and dance on the trampoline, I’m near tears.

I can’t keep him safe. His people can’t keep him safe. The only thing that could make his life a little safer is being cisgender and straight. Being the complete opposite of who he naturally is would keep him safe.

As a mother, I’d rather my son be his happy, rainbow self and be unsafe, than miserably pretend to be somebody he’s not and have a better chance of survival. It’s hard to admit that.

“He just needs to find his people, then he’ll be safe,” I continue to think to myself. My worry remains, but so does my hope.

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Dress Code Debacle

Me on the day of 6th grade graduation (and looking like my Shih-tzu's twin).

Me on the day of 6th grade graduation (and looking like my Shih-tzu’s twin).

It’s end-of-the-school-year season around here. For middle school and high school students, that means there are lots of events happening for which the youth are expected to look extra nice and fancy.

Which also means it’s a time when schools send out special dress codes based on stereotypes of what males and females should wear. That stupid gender binary. Boy and girl. Pink and blue. You wear this and you wear that.

For example, this week, an Orange County middle school sent out the following dress code for their 8th grade Promotion Ceremony:

“Appropriate dress for the promotion ceremony:

GIRLS: Dress, skirt, blouse, and/or nice pants, comfortable shoes, small platform heels or sandals. Modest strapless and spaghetti straps are allowed for promotion. Appropriateness and reasonable modesty is the key here.

BOYS: Nice pants, buttoned shirt, polo shirt, closed-in shoes. Cleanliness and proper grooming is the key focus for the boys.”

Where do I begin?

Let’s start with the law.

According to federal law, students have the right to dress and present in a way that is consistent with their gender identity, so long as they follow rules for how to dress that apply to *all* students. This includes how they dress at school every day as well as for dances, graduation, and other school events.

According to our state’s (California) safe school laws, students have the right to wear clothing that expresses their gender identity. If a school has a policy that says what boys and girls may wear to school or for special events, then the school must allow students to wear the clothing that corresponds to their gender identity. It’s even better if school dress codes are gender-neutral and do not tell students what to wear based on stereotypes about what some people think boys or girls should wear.

Dress codes like the one above are in violation of federal and state laws stating that clothing options must be the same for every student regardless of their gender identity and expression. Dress codes need to be inclusive of transgender and gender nonconforming students.

Take my gender nonconforming son for example. He rolls his eyes at polos, but loves a good blouse. He would prefer a small feminine shoe rather than a masculine dress shoe. The kid has his own style and has the legal right to express it at school and school events.

Me at 8th grade graduation, proving that it does get better (barely).

Me at 8th grade graduation, proving that it does get better (barely).

Laws aside, the “key focuses” listed for each gender make me cringe. Assigning the adjectives “appropriate” and “modest” to girls assumes that girls inevitably will want to be immodest and inappropriate. It’s exactly this kind of rhetoric that feeds into a larger culture of victim blaming in cases of sexual assault (think of a college campus in the news).

Telling boys that their “key focus” is cleanliness and proper grooming implies that they are usually dirty, smelly slobs (but hopefully they can pull it together and shower for this special event if they try their best). By specifically stating that boys must be clean and well groomed, the school implies that they either assume girls are naturally clean and groomed or that it’s fine if girls are dirty and sloppy (as long as they aren’t dressing in a way that distracts the boys).

These are unfortunate messages for kids to hear. And, these dress codes have lasting effects. A friend explains:

“I just wanted to share how triggering this dress code is for me and how surprised I am by this. I want to share because I think it gives perspective on how damaging these types of things can be.

While I had no idea what a lesbian was when I was in middle school, I clearly knew that I was different. I also was obviously a ‘tomboy.’ In middle school, I was a quite gifted musician for my age, and as such, was selected to perform in an honor orchestra. This was exciting, until the dress code for the concert was handed out. I didn’t participate in that concert, and there were other events I missed out on as well due to this. All through school, I loved to sing, but never joined choir because of the required gowns that the girls had to wear. What surprises me is how this still resonates with me as a 52 year old woman.”

This friend went on to have a career as a professional musician at the highest level, including performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It’s devastating to think that her middle school dress code had the potential to turn her off to music forever…and that it could be doing so to student musicians right now.

What are unlawful and implying dress codes keeping students from doing? Playing in the orchestra? Attending graduation? Going to prom? Staying in school?

Get it together dress-code-writing adults – or, at least, you know, abide by the laws of your job.

(I wrote this post while ungroomed and dressed inappropriately just to prove a point and go against the key focuses in this middle school dress code. The world did not end.)

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Chelsea Handler, Parenting, Gender & Us

A few months ago, we spent the day with Chelsea Handler talking about parenting, gender and what it’s like raising a gender nonconforming child.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 9.19.50 PMSee some of our time together on the latest episode of her Netflix show Chelsea (Season 1, Episode 10). It’s all about adventures in parenting. She made us laugh, we made her dinner, Chase flirted with her and C.J. called her a racist. You know, the usual. Click here for full episode.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 9.21.37 PM

Don’t have Netflix? You can catch bits of the episode on Chelsea’s YouTube channel by clicking here.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 9.25.42 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-01 at 9.21.22 PM

 

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Survey of Teachers: LGBTQ Bullying on Campus

I’ve put together a brief, 10-question survey that I’d like educators and administrators to answer.

The survey is 100 percent anonymous. I’m not interested in who you are; I’m interested in what grade you teach, the state you live in and what you know about protecting LGBTQ students.

The results will be woven into a longer piece I’m writing about addressing LGBTQ bullying in America’s schools.

If I publish results, it would happen on my blog; but, currently, my only goal is to include my findings in the aforementioned piece.

I really just want to get a feel for what teachers currently know so that I may be able to:

  1. Help them learn more;
  2. Help parents/primary caregivers of LGBTQ students better communicate with teachers should a problem arise; and
  3. Urge districts and school to do more to educate faculty and staff about LGBTQ bullying.

I ask credentialed educators and administrators from across the U.S. who are currently or have recently taught in grades K-12 to participate.

If you are outside of this demographic, but want to discuss LGBTQ bullying in schools, please email me directly at raisingmyrainbow@gmail.com instead of taking the survey.

Please share this link far and wide. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9X987MM

All best,

Lori Duron

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The Gender Creative Child Book Giveaway

When people ask for resources to help raise and/or support a differently gendered child, at the top of my list has long been Dr. Diane Ehrensaft’s book Gender Born, Gender Made.

Gender-Creative-Child_cover_FIN-200x300I’ve officially added her latest book (released this month) to that list. The Gender Creative Child: Pathways for Nurturing and Supporting Children Who Live Outside Gender Boxes is another must-read from the person I’ve called the patron saint of kids who don’t conform to traditional gender norms.

Dr. Ehrensaft explains gender and children like no one can. And, in her new book, she equips adults to understand and support gender-expansive children the way they deserve to be.

I’m often asked how an adult can tell if a child is transgender or gender creative (gender nonconforming). Because I’m not an expert, I typically don’t know the child and giving the wrong answer could seriously impact the child’s life, I’m always hesitant to give my feedback.

I do say that when he was younger, C.J. would say “I wish I was a girl” and “I want to be a girl.” As many times as people told me that those phrases meant he was transgender, my mom-gut told me that wasn’t the case. There’s a difference between wanting to be something and genuinely feeling like you are something.

Of course Dr. Ehrensaft explains it better in what was, for me, the most impactful part of The Gender Creative Child.

“One simple verb will also be one of the signposts that can differentiate a young transgender child from other gender creative children. It is the verb to be. Children who are communicating to us their transgender self will often say, “I am a…(fill in opposite gender or some other gender)” rather than “I wish I were a…” or “I want to be a…” This is not universally true….but for those children who feel no necessity to hedge their bets to appease others or who have met with no confused or disapproving responses, the simple sentence “I am a…” is a very clear signpost identifying a child who is not the gender people they are.”

Want to read more? Dr. Ehrensaft will gift a copy of her book to one of my readers. To enter to win, leave a comment below. Any comment. A thought. A joke. A note. A quote. A question. Whatever.

A winner will be announced here around 5 p.m. PDT on Friday, April 29.
This giveaway has ended. The winner is Yumi! Yumi, please see my reply to your comment below. Thanks to all who entered.

Good luck!

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