11-Year-Old Grand Marshal’s Pride Speech

Yesterday, at age 11, C.J. officially became the youngest grand marshal in Pride Month’s 48-year history. As part of his duties as Orange County Pride’s 2018 Grand Marshal, he accepted a community award and gave a speech. He wrote the speech entirely by himself and memorized it dutifully.

Pride doesn’t even come close to explaining what I feel when I watch the following video and read his words (also below).

 

C.J.’s OC Pride Grand Marshal Speech

Thank you so much for this award and for letting me be your Grand Marshal.

I definitely had a lot of ups and downs this year. The things that got me through this year are being myself, being proud of who I am, having a supportive community and having a loving family that is always there for me.

Without my family supporting me and helping me, I would still be getting bullied and I would not be on this stage.

My family has helped me so much this year and it makes me so sad that some LGBTQ people don’t have supportive families and they have to hide who they are — because if they show who they really are, they might end up with no one who loves them.

We have to stand up for those people and make sure they are safe, loved and respected no matter what.

We need to be proud of who we are and use our pride to make a difference. If we don’t use our pride and act out in pride then things don’t change, people are unhappy and people can’t be themselves. We need to always be ourselves and keep going until we are treated equally.

We need to show everyone that we are fun, strong, colorful, brave, smart, loving and, best of all, proud.

We are the rainbow in the dark sky. Let’s try to erase the dark and turn it into a rainbow.

Thank You!

For more picture and videos from C.J.’s big day, click here: https://www.instagram.com/raisingmyrainbow/

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The End Of The Year Violin Recital Dress Code Debacle

This school year has been a shitty one and I really just want it to be over.

But, before that can happen we have a lot to get through. Two open houses. Three potlucks. A play. A class science experiment. A football game. A field trip. Oh, and a violin recital.

“I HAVE GOT to write a letter!” C.J. proclaimed as he slammed a piece of paper down on the table in front of me.

It was a flier for the violin recital. The top read “Performance Assembly and Parent Show Details.”

He pointed to the words of concern.

I wanted to bang my head on the table. At this point the school should know better than to send anything to my house that isn’t inclusive of the LGBTQ community or that enforces traditional gender norms and/or society’s expectations of “normal.” Because my son will reply with (in his opinion) a strongly worded letter.

“Are you sure you want to write a letter?” I asked. I was tired and not being as supportive of his advocate spirit as I should have been. Here’s why. I’ll admit it. The violin recital was the next evening and I really just wanted to attend as drama-free as possible. We’d have to see his bullies and their parents and it felt easier to me to just send the letter after the recital – or, hell, not at all. (We are SO CLOSE to the end of the school year.)

“Yes! Tonight!” he insisted. Then, he explained that days earlier, the music teacher was talking about the suggested attire and told the boys that they couldn’t wear blouses because blouses are for girls.

And, so, later that night we sat down and I put my fingers to the keyboard while he paced the room and dictated a letter to the music teacher and principal. (Somehow, over the last year, I’ve become his secretary. A good summer project will be bettering his typing skills.)

Here’s the final version of the letter he sent.

Dear Mrs. Principal and Mr. Music,

I was looking over the “Assembly and Parent Show Details” flier that was sent home for our violin concert.

When I got to the part about “Suggested Concert Attire,” I noticed something that upset me. It says “Boys, you know what would really make mom happy? Wear long pants instead of shorts.”

This upset me because some kids don’t have a mom. Their mom might have passed away or left them. Or, maybe their family never had a mom because they have two dads. Having two dads is okay. Any kind of family is okay, as long as you have someone who loves you.

Also, it implies that boys only wear shorts and don’t like to get dressed up or wear pants. That’s not true. I like to get dressed up. The flier could have just said no shorts for anyone.

A few weeks ago in class, you said to the class that boys couldn’t wear blouses during the violin performance because blouses are for girls. That’s not true or fair. Clothes are for everyone. Boys can wear blouses if they want. The dress code at our school even says that. Our school’s dress code is gender non-specific. And our state’s Safe School Laws and Title IX say that boys can wear blouses, skirts and dresses, just like girls can wear pants, shorts and polo shirts. People can wear anything to school they want as long as it’s appropriate and safe.

I hope you’ll change your flier for next year to be more considerate of different kinds of families and kids’ gender expression.

Thank you,

C.J. Duron, Fifth Grade

Although I initially had a lazy reaction influenced by avoidance, I went to bed that night proud of my son. When he sees (what he considers to be) a wrong, he wants it righted. Immediately.

The next evening he was in his room getting dressed for his violin recital, for which students were asked to wear white collared shirts.

C.J. had this shirt on.

From Target’s 2018 Pride collection. Available in sizes for kids and adults. I probably should have ironed it.

“That shirt isn’t white,” I said.

“I know. I don’t have a nice, collared white shirt. So I’m wearing this one. It makes a statement,” he said.

“It sure does,” I said. “You never fail to make a statement.”

And off we went, to listen to fifth grade violin novices play songs from The Greatest Showman for 30 minutes. (God rest my ears.)

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Our Son Is Now The Youngest Pride Grand Marshal In History

When OC Pride contacted us and asked C.J. to be their parade’s 2018 Grand Marshal, we were surprised and excited (but not nearly as excited as C.J.). Then, we learned that C.J. will be the youngest Grand Marshal in Pride Month’s 48-year history. That’s crazy!

Yesterday, HuffPost published an article about our little history maker.

It’s been one year since gender creative 11-year-old C.J. Duron attended his first pride parade, which also marks one year since conservative actor and Twitter troll James Woods attacked his family for supporting him.

This year, because sometimes the world is good, Duron, who goes by he/him pronouns, will return to O.C. Pride in Santa Ana, California ― as the youngest grand marshal in Pride Month’s 48-year history…

Click here to read the full article on HuffPost.com

And, here’s an additional official quote from C.J.

“It is such an honor to be OC Pride’s Grand Marshal and to be the youngest Pride Grand Marshal ever. It’s important to me to be an advocate and a leader and change things for the LGBTQ community. I want to change how people view the community and show people that it’s okay to be different – no matter how you are different. If I could change one thing in the world, it would be that all LGBTQ people would feel safe and be safe and have equal rights. Pride events are so amazing it feels like you are inside of a rainbow and unicorns are singing and dancing and throwing glitter in the air. In other words, Pride is extremely fun.” – C.J. Duron, age 11, the youngest Grand Marshal in Pride Month’s 48-year history.

 

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CJ (age 11) Accepts Award for LGBTQ Advocacy

At the LGBT Center Orange County’s 2018 Indigo Ball (the Center’s biggest event of the year!), our family was awarded the Torchbearer Award for shining a light for LGBTQ people, children and their families.

It was a night we’ll never forget; in large part because it was C.J.’s first time accepting an award for LGBTQ advocacy and giving a speech to a large crowd. (He also got to stay up late and wear his new hot pink, three-piece tux with rhinestone bow tie.)

Here’s the introduction C.J. received:

C.J. is an 11-year-old, fifth grader who lives in South Orange County and self-identifies as gender nonconforming and a member of the LGBTQ community.

An advocate for non-binary children, he has traveled to Washington D.C. to educate members of the American Academy of Pediatrics about working with gender expansive children and has appeared on The TODAY Show, The Chelsea Handler Show and The Doctors.

C.J. attends one of the largest elementary schools in Orange County, where he has been instrumental in making it the first school in the district to adopt a gender non-specific dress code. The dress code was used as a model for district-wide implementation last school year.

This school year, through a letter writing campaign, C.J. fought for and was successful in putting an end to sex and gender segregation during PE at his school and, then, across the all of the district’s elementary schools.

This June, C.J. will serve as grand marshal of OC Pride – making him the youngest grand marshal in pride history.

Here’s C.J.’s speech, which made my mama-heart burst:

 

And, finally, click here for a special, congratulatory message from Neil Patrick Harris and David Burtka!

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Sephora Saved My Son

It was 7 pm on a Sunday night when Matt, C.J. and I arrived at the closed shopping mall. We made our way to a door we knew would be unlocked. Having the entire mall to himself, C.J. wanted to run, dance, sing and yell, but we stopped him because guests and shoppers were supposed to be long gone.

We passed empty store after empty store. Doors were locked. Lights were off. We walked swiftly and quietly to C.J.’s favorite store. He pulled on the doors, but they didn’t budge.

“Hey! It’s locked!” he said turning to me.

When he turned back around, the doors to Sephora flung open and five of his favorite Sephora team members shouted “Happy Birthday, C.J.! Come in!”

* * *

In the beginning of February, we learned that our 11-year-old, gender creative, LGBTQ son was being bullied at school. It wasn’t just teasing. It wasn’t just “kids being kids.” It was physical and verbal harassment.

C.J.’s former group of girl friends had turned on him. They said they couldn’t hang out with him because he was gay. They stabbed him with pens. They pushed him, kicked him and pinched him. They stole his lunch and smeared their sandwiches on him. They told him he was invisible and nobody would notice if he was gone. It went on for months.

Matt and I had never seen our child in so much pain. He sobbed in our laps when he got home from school and couldn’t fall asleep at night. He (rightfully so) dreaded weekdays.

We needed to counterbalance the dread of going to school with the anticipation of going somewhere amazing. Where did our son love going? Where would he go every day if he could? Sephora.

Off we went, two or three times at week, to the Sephora in the Shops at Mission Viejo. Seeing that he was serious about makeup and appreciative of tips, our Sephora team encouraged him to attend their free makeup classes. Highlighting and Contouring. Brow Shaping. False Lashes. Age-Defying Skincare. No Makeup Makeup. Smokey Eye. He’s completed them all.

He bonded with his instructors, Miss Brina, Miss Jenny and Miss Jewel. He looks up to store director Miss Gladys, store manager Miss Kristen and the store’s social media maven Miss Marissa. He started talking about them at home. They were his new Sephora friends who helped him forget about (even if temporarily) his former school friends.

Unbeknownst to C.J., the Sephora team was following his bullying story. When they read that the bullying intensified around his birthday (February 1) and he felt like it “ruined his Birthday Month,” they decided to do to something about it.

Once the school’s investigation into the bullying was closed, consequences had been issued and it seemed that better days were ahead, our Sephora team stayed long after their shifts had ended to throw C.J. an after-hours, invite-only, festival-makeup-themed belated birthday party. It was the birthday makeover our son desperately needed.

The Sephora team had decorated lighted-mirror workstations for C.J. and his five best girlfriends (none of whom go to his school). When the kids saw that a makeup bag full of swag and samples were awaiting each of them, they squealed and took their seats.

The Sephora team gave C.J. and his girl friends a custom class on teen makeup inspired by festival season. Which means there was a lot of shimmery pastels, glitter and highlighter. (So. Much. Highlighter.) Then, a special guest of honor, Donovan from Nudestix, gave the group a demo using the brand’s new magnetic eye shadow.

When every square inch of their cute little faces was covered in makeup, the group snacked on edible glitter-covered vegan cupcakes prepared and delivered by Miss Dre, a Sephora team member from another store.

High on sugar and shimmer, the group had the store themselves. They wandered the aisles carrying little shopping baskets on their arms like designer handbags. They giggled and called each other over to look at colorful products.

Before we left, the Sephora team gave C.J. a birthday card filled with sweet and supportive handwritten notes. When we got home, C.J. sat it by his bed. That’s where it remains, to be read regularly.

Sephora helped save my son. They took his worst birthday and made it over into his best birthday. After some of his darkest days, Sephora gave him a bright night and taught him that fearless is the new flawless.

The next day, C.J. went to school with flecks of glitter in his hair and a hint of liner on his eyes.

“I bet the mean girls at school have never been to an after-hours Sephora party,” he said as we got near his campus.

“I bet you’re right.”

“They are the ones missing out. If they had been nice to me I totally would have invited them,” he said, looking out the window.

After school, he made a “thank you poster” and wrote a thank you note to the Sephora team.

“Thank you so much for having that after-hours makeup party for me and my friends! I’ve been having a rough time at school and the party made me feel way better. Some kids make fun of me for liking makeup and ‘girl stuff,’ but all of you make me feel very comfortable…Maybe one day I can work at Sephora with all of you!”

The next time C.J. saw Miss Gladys (store director) she told him that she would love to have him on her team when he’s a little bit older. Now, when he has a bad day at school because his peers tease him for liking makeup, C.J. focuses on his future and his spot on the Sephora team.

 

 

 

 

 

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My Son is Tripped, Kicked, Stabbed, Told He’s Invisible At School

Hi Mrs. Cora,

All of these things are true. I’m not making these up for people to feel bad for me. I just want you to know what has been happening to me. I don’t feel safe at school.

Allie and Rachel and sometimes Trina punch me, hit me and kick me, even after I tell them to stop. When I say stop, they find it as a joke. They laugh with each other after they do that to me.

One time when Allie really hurt me, I had to do a friendly punch to get her to stop. I felt bad about that friendly punch. I’m not a hurter or a puncher.

Two times Allie stabbed me very hard with her red pen and it left marks on me. It hurt me. She did it with the cap on. She did it so hard that it felt like the cap was off. I put my cap on my pen and gave her a little tap trying to show her that I could stand up for myself a little bit, but then I was afraid she would stab me even harder, and she did. So I stopped it.

When we sit at lunch, Allie forces me to move over if she wants to sit where I’m sitting. She forces me by pushing me.

Allie makes fun of me for going to speech. She yells out multiple times “C.J. goes to speech!” That makes me feel very sad and embarrassed.

Last week, Rachel took my sandwich. I tried to get it back from her, but she ripped it apart and made it to shreds even though I was trying to stop her. That made me feel sad, a little bit embarrassed and very hungry. When my mom picked me up from school that day I was so hungry.

When I walk around the classroom, I always have to take the long way because if I walk behind Rachel she finds a way to trip me no matter what. She pushes her chair out to block me or she purposely makes me trip and stumble into other people. I should be able to walk around the classroom safely just like everyone else.

Allie told me she didn’t want to hang out with me as much because I’m gay and her family doesn’t hang out with gay people so she doesn’t hang out with gay people. She said people told her to stop hanging out with me if she wants to be popular. A few days after she said that, I talked to her about it and she said she was joking. I told her you don’t joke about that kind of stuff. It made me feel very sad, but she just ignored me. Yesterday I talked to her about it again and she said she never said that about me being gay. But she did! I heard it with my own ears!

It’s hard to see Allie and her mom at school every day because I know they don’t accept gay people so they don’t accept me. I know what’s going through their minds about me and LGBTQ people. I’m afraid her mom is going to say something to me.

For three Fridays, Allie pushed my violin out of my hands and threw my violin folders in the air and all of my papers went flying everywhere and people stepped on them. That’s not nice. And it was embarrassing.

Rachel said that nobody notices when I’m absent or not at school. That makes me feel sad and like I’m invisible and like nobody really cares about me at school except for you and Principal Alice.

When I told Allie I was going to miss two days of school she said, “Yes! Finally!” That made me very sad and like I couldn’t trust anyone anymore because my own so-called friend didn’t want me around.

Yesterday Allie and Trina wouldn’t let me walk near them and they ran away from me.

This has been my second to the worst month in my life. The worst month was when my grandma died. And this is my birthday month! It should be a happy month! I am trying to make new friends, but it’s very, very hard.

I don’t feel safe at school like I should feel. Our school is supposed to be a school where people are kind, but I don’t feel safe. I told Allie that she has made me dread going to school every day. She made fun of me for saying it because I looked like I was about to cry. And I was.

I always feel very scared going to school every day. I shouldn’t feel that way about going to school, I should feel happy and safe. It’s making me so scared. I feel very sick and overwhelmed and scared from all this.

I know that other kids see Allie, Rachel and Trina treating me the way they treat me. I don’t want other kids to think they can bully anyone. It’s not setting a good example.

Every school year I go into my new class worried that there will be a bully in my class. I never thought it would be my friends.

Thank you for listening. I’m glad you’re my teacher.  

Sincerely,

C.J.

C.J. sent that letter to his teacher when he’d had enough of being bullied at school.

He asked me to type while he dictated. He wiped tears away as he talked. He wouldn’t make eye contact with me. As he detailed incidents that he’d never told me about, I tried to just type. Not act surprised. Not cry. Not fly into a rage.

Up until then, C.J. tried to handle (and ignore) the bullying on his own. When it was too much to keep to himself, he told me bits and pieces and made me promise not to tell the school or contact the parents of his bullies.

It quickly got to be too much for me, too. I couldn’t keep my promise. I had to report it to his teacher. The morning after I did, she asked C.J. if he would write down everything that had happened to him.

The words spilled out of him that afternoon and the next day the teacher and principal launched an investigation. It was a thorough one – which means that, to us, it felt like it dragged on forever.

We learned that, while C.J. was more emotionally hurt by the actions of Allie, he was more physically hurt by the actions of Rachel. Why did he feel like Allie was being so mean to him, but didn’t mention Rachel much when he first started talking about the bullying? Because Allie’s actions left him feeling betrayed. She had been his best friend and biggest protector, until she turned on him. He never had the emotional connection with Rachel, so when she was mean to him, to a certain extent, he attributed it to her just being a jerk and a not-nice person. Rachel’s actions didn’t feel like a personal attack; Allie’s actions did.

We’re working to help C.J. understand the complicated feelings that muddied his current situation, ways to stand up for himself in the future and what it means to be a good (and bad) friend.

The school’s case is closed for now. Consequences have been issued, behavior expectations have been emphasized and Allie and Rachel know what the next steps will be if they bully C.J. again.

C.J. is starting to feel safer school, but I’m not sure he’ll ever feel as safe as he once did. There are lingering effects that I see. I worry I’ll see them forever. He surely won’t be the same boy at the end of fifth grade that he was at the start of fifth grade. I didn’t expect him to be exactly the same, but I didn’t expect him to be a dimmer version of himself.

 

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Our Month in Review: February 2018

Following are highlights from our month on Instagram. Click here for all of the months’ pictures, thoughts and happenings.

Me: CJ, what kind of dessert do you want me to make you for your birthday?

CJ: A gay wedding cake like they talk about on the news. Make sure the top level is smaller than the bottom level. That’s how wedding cakes are, even gay ones. And, I want candles that are the number 11. That’s two ones.

Me: *spends hours trying to make a tiered gay wedding cake for my 11 year old son and ended up with this shitty looking sad ass cake*
 

It takes a special kind of man to be as invested in his makeup-wearing son as he is in his football-playing son. And, to retire from law enforcement and become a better primary caregiver parent than I ever was. Who knew that, at age 17, I would pick this amazing human to be my partner? He was and is my best decision. Ever. Happy birthday, Matt. I love you more than chips and salsa.

 

Our nighttime routine used to involve a bath for CJ using his own custom-made bath bombs and then 30 minutes of TV and a little sweet treat.

Now it involves me on the couch holding him while he cries and worries about what a group of girls in his class (Allie included) will say or do to him the next day.

“I feel so awkward and embarrassed and ashamed. I wish this wasn’t happening to me,” he cried last night. By that time I was crying along with him.

Chase walked into the room and saw us and sat down. “Do you want to talk to me about it, Buddy,” he said sweetly and softly to CJ. Chase wishes he could do more to protect his little brother. But high school is a long way from elementary school.

Hate and meanness affects the entire family. It hurts our hearts individually and as a connected unit. It makes the confident feel powerless. It makes a high school brother want to walk his fifth grade brother to and from school with his arm around him while giving dirty looks to 11-year-old girls. It makes people who sparkle feel ashamed and awkward and embarrassed.

 

“The smell of mountain air renews my soul.”

Sometimes getting distance between you and your problems is the answer. At least temporarily. We’ve escaped daily life in favor of grandma and grandpa’s place in Colorado.
 

Positive thoughts, good vibes, hugs, prayers, whatever you can send our way, send it. CJ returned to school today after five days away. Last night and this morning were really rough for him. And us.

He cried. He worried. He had a stomachache. He cried some more. The break up with Allie continues to hurt like crazy. He feels alone at school. He wants to drop out. We’ve repeatedly told him that it will get better. But, when you’re 11, it’s hard to patiently wait for a time when all people will treat you kindly.
 

CJ wants to be noticed and have his absence felt.
 

CJ wiped the tears away as he dictated and I typed a two page letter to his teacher and principal detailing the bullying and treatment he has endured at school recently. I tried not to act surprised (or fly into a fucking rage) when he talked about incidents that he had never told me about before. Like being repeatedly stabbed with a pen, going hungry because his lunch was stolen and being made fun of because he has a lisp.

 

The best way to end a rough week? Take the “Smokey Eye” class at @sephoramissionviejo taught by @jennyg_makeup and walk out with a look that says “what haters?” Then go to H&M and buy a cute keychain for your backpack. Finish it off with your favorite Starbucks drink courtesy of @msnbarbie

 

Three of CJ’s best girl friends (who don’t go to his school) surprised him with a “Get Your Sparkle Back” full-immersion rainbow sleepover last night.

The agenda included:

  • DIY spa services
  • Watching Queer Eye
  • Making Slime
  • Blasting the Kinky Boots soundtrack
  • Mani/pedis
  • Taking Awkward Family Photo style best friend pictures at JC Penny

They returned our boy with a smile, happiness and sparkle we haven’t seen in a few weeks. They will never know the positive impact they are having on his life.

 

I guess investigations take a long time. Or maybe it’s just that I’m not a very patient person.

One week ago today, CJ wrote a heartbreaking letter to his teacher and principal outlining the bullying he’s endured at school in recent months. The teacher and principal are taking the matter very seriously and conducting an thorough investigation. I can’t talk a lot about the process. But I will say it feels very slow. I don’t like slow.

Matt was a police detective for several years and assures me that I’m feeling what most people feel when they are awaiting answers. I’m frustrated, exhausted, sad and angry. I want to know what was done to my child and what the consequences will be. I want to know what is being done to prevent it all from happening again. I want a good nights sleep and to not be an anxious mess when CJ is at school.

CJ, too, feels like we are in a holding pattern that sucks. Classmates are being interviewed and people are talking. He’s watching the movie Wonder on loop. His spirits do seem higher, but considering how low they were, that’s not saying a whole lot.

 

I’m obsessed with this book. TOMORROW WILL BE DIFFERENT by @sarahemcbride had me highlighting passages and making margin notes like I was back in college.

Before she became the first transgender person to speak at a national political convention (2016) at the age of 26, McBride struggled with the decision to come out—not just to her family but to the students of American University, where she was serving as student body president.

Four years later, McBride was one of the nation’s most prominent transgender activists, walking the halls of the White House, advocating inclusive legislation, and addressing the country in the midst of a heated presidential election. She had also found her first love and future husband, Andy, a trans man and fellow activist, who complemented her in every way . . . until cancer tragically intervened.

TOMORROW WILL BE DIFFERENT is informative, heartbreaking, and profoundly empowering. Order it NOW at amazon.com/shop/RaisingMyRainbow

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