Our Month(s) in Review: June and July 2017

Following are highlights (lowlights not included!) from our months on Instagram. Click here for all of the months’ pictures, thoughts and happenings. If you’re on Instagram, follow me. If you already follow me, thanks!

C.J. leaves this message wherever he can. Here, he wrote it in chalk on the floor of a busy restaurant that encourages patrons of all ages to draw on the floor. Every time he leaves his “be yourself” message out in public, part of me thinks that someone who needs the message will happen upon it after we leave. But, most of all, I hope that C.J. always feels pride when it comes to the things that make him different and that he’ll always feel brave enough to be himself.

 

With no summer camp this week, my son has spent a lot of time drawing his favorite superheroes.

 

Serving everyone the “Pride Eye.” According to C.J., his “Pride Eye” look is inspired by the colors he saw at Pride this year, cotton candy, unicorns, love and happiness.

 

Sometimes, to celebrate the end of a rough week, you find the closest Pride, buy two train tickets, travel two hours and then…you march.

 

“What should I do now?,” C.J. asks at least once a day because he knows if he tells me he’s bored I’ll tell him only boring people can be bored. “Why don’t you sew something? The machine is out,” I said the other day. At age 10, he knows his way around the machine just as well as I do. He made this skirt in an afternoon.

 

This week C.J. added contortionist to the list of things he wants to be when he grows up. We encourage and empower young girls. We tell them they can be whatever they want to be when they grow up. Make sure we do the same for boys. C.J.’s list of future professions includes: artist, makeup artist, drag queen, Olympic gymnast, hair stylist, contortionist, RuPaul’s Drag Race judge, AGT judge, Cupcake Wars judge.

 

It’s C.J.’s last day of sewing camp. He made lots of friends and lots of drag queens. Here’s his felt Sasha Velour. The employees at our local Joann’s Store were so supportive and encouraging of C.J. – who was the only boy enrolled in sewing camp. They told him that they see a future for him on Project Runway. They were even more complimentary of Matt, who took C.J. into the store an hour before each day of camp to pick out new fabric, notions and patterns. “It’s so great to see a dad in here buying fabric for his son and encouraging him to sew. A lot of dads wouldn’t do that,” they said to Matt. They’re right and I’m glad they gave Matt the kudos he deserves. He’s the best dad. (But, this also got me thinking, how come I’ve been celebrated for taking Chase shopping at a sporting goods store?)

 

I spoke at Aetna today about raising a gender creative child. The Q&A session that followed was the most emotional I’ve experienced in a while. It was a reminder that you never know what the other people in the room or your co-workers are going through. Be nice to people, listen and practice empathy.

 

This week C.J. is the only boy at sewing camp. He’s also the only one who made a Violet Chachki hand puppet.

 

Yesterday I spent the afternoon speaking at the Orange County Bar Association about raising a gender creative child and provided thoughts and guidance for interacting with children of all gender identities and expressions. What a great group of caring and inquisitive people!

 

C.J.’s perfect summer day includes having his three best girl friends over to jump on the trampoline, swim and do makeup. “Let me show you a trick I learned from drag queens,” I heard him say several times during their makeup session.

 

I was cooking dinner and noticed I was all alone downstairs and the house had grown very quiet. Then, Matt texted me this pic from upstairs. C.J. had been doing makeup all weekend. Just when he thought he was running out of willing faces, he asked Matt. And, Matt said yes. Like he always does.

 

And, yes, I absolutely did immediately come to the defense of women everywhere and make it very clear that women are strong and fierce protectors. It didn’t matter. He still wants a husband instead of a wife.

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Matt and I Speak Out After James Woods Ruthlessly Attacks Our Son

In recent years, James Woods has traded in tackling prime roles in critically-acclaimed films to gleefully play the part of a smugly menacing public nuisance on social media.

He’s been called “President Obama’s biggest, most famous troll on Twitter,” and now, he’s terrorizing the family of a gender nonconforming child. — HuffPost

That gender nonconforming child is our son. We are that family.

Rather than retreating and/or ignoring the barrage of hate that followed Wood’s tweet, Matt and I chose to speak to HuffPost about what we’ve experienced over the past several days. Click here for the interview.

If you choose not to click through or read the entire interview, at least read the following excerpt about the support we’ve received — because it’s been amazing. People Magazine also did a short interview, click here to read it.

What kind of support have you received?
Matt: We have received a lot of support from our friends and family. Anybody who knows us knows that we have an awesome support system. It goes to show that you don’t cultivate relationships with quality people for the good times. You do it for the hard times. That’s when true friends step up, support and encourage you. They remind you that you’re doing the right things for your children. I expected my friends and family to be there for us, I wasn’t expecting the outpouring of encouragement and love from the public and celebrities.

Lori: This incident has shown us that the village we are lucky enough to be a part of will assemble at a moment’s notice to support and protect us. We’ve had close friends and mere acquaintances reach out to us and defend us. They offered to help us in any way they can and have made good on their offers. The LGBTQ community was also swift to be by our side. We’ve been in constant communication with the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) since the tweet. I’ve seen firsthand how quickly and powerfully HRC can mobilize to provide support, a listening ear and sound advice. It’s amazing. PFLAG has also been checking on us throughout the day and offering help. Members of the LGBTQ community who are strangers to us have offered support and encouragement.

And all of the people and organizations that have contacted us have always been – first and foremost ― concerned for our safety and wellbeing. And, then, there are the celebrities who came to our defense. When Neil Patrick Harris replied to Woods’ tweet, I was speechless. As a parent, when someone comes to your child’s defense, the positive emotion is overwhelming. With Neil being who he is and having the audience he does, that positive emotion was multiplied. We are so thankful for his tweet and support. When other celebrities started retweeting Neil’s tweet, it felt like this big, powerful, loving, supportive army had assembled in front of us and we could take a moment to catch our breath.

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My Gender Creative Son’s First Pride

Just a boy and his two best girl friends marching at Pride.

“That was one of the best days of my life. Thank you so much for taking me,” C.J. said as Matt tucked him into bed for the night.

Most kids say that to their parents after a day at an amusement park. Not our kid. He said it after we took him to his first Pride.

On Wednesday, we told C.J. that we were taking him to the local Pride on Saturday. His level of excitement was unprecedented. He’d seen pictures of Pride and, with all the visual rainbow-ness, he’d been asking to go for the last year.

I told him that we needed to make signs. We did need signs, but mostly it was a project to keep him busy for a few summer hours.

C.J’s sign

Matt’s sign

My sign

The night before Pride, C.J. laid out his outfit. He woke up at the crack of dawn the next day to get ready. And, even though we didn’t plan to leave the house until 10:15 a.m., he started contouring his face at 8 a.m.

We arrived before the parade got started and, admittedly, the vibe wasn’t initially all rainbows and glitter. The parade got a late start and, from where we were sitting, C.J. couldn’t see the festival area I told him about. He was a little worried that he’d gotten his Pride hopes up too high.

He watched the parade pass by. As with all new things, he observed quietly before letting himself go and clapping and jumping for the goodies being thrown by the parade participants. As the parade ended, we followed it to the festival.

“I loved the parade. I wish it was longer. And next year I want to be in it for sure. Who knows, I may even be in drag in the parade next year,” C.J. said as we walked.

The festival was everything C.J. hoped it would be and then some. There were free things, candy, games and contests. He also noticed that there were a lot of condoms. C.J. was also a big hit at the festival.

Hula hooping to earn a bag of candy from Kimpton Hotels.

“People kept stopping me saying ‘always be who you are. Never change. You’re so awesome.’ And, I took so many pictures with people,” he said smiling.

My sweet, fabulous, rainbow boy has never received so many compliments. He’s used to getting stares and whispers when we’re out in public. He’s not used to getting the smiles, hugs and encouragement he received at Pride.

The cotton candy lady hooked him up with rainbow cotton candy bigger than his head sprinkled with edible gold glitter.

When it was time to go, he didn’t want to leave and offered to stay at Pride by himself. He said he would ride home in a taxi. We said no.

We stopped to eat on the way to our car and I asked C.J. what he liked best about Pride.

“I liked the vibe. I liked all the colors. But, most of all, I liked all of the people. Nobody judges anybody. You can just be who you want to be. There should be Pride every week, because it’s so much fun,” he explained.

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Category Is: Covered Wagon Realness

C.J.’s school year ended on Friday. Days prior to that was his class’s Open House – a night near the end of the school year when families are invited into the classroom to ooh and aah over the students’ best work. Of course Matt and I attended. We are really good at oohing and aahing.

Being in fourth grade, C.J. spent the year learning about his home state of California. On his desk sat a ceramic tile on which CJ had painted one of California’s missions. The front of the classroom was covered in art depicting California’s missions at sunset. I found C.J.’s and took a picture of it with my phone.

On the side wall there were individual pictures of each student looking like they were panning for gold. I took a picture of prospector C.J. and walked to the back of the room, where the biggest writing project of the year was on display.

The students had to write an essay as if they were 1840s emigrants traveling by covered wagon across the western half of the United States from Missouri to California.

The students had to take the assignment seriously. They had to carefully consider who they would want in their wagon, the supplies they would bring and the challenges the journey might hold.

I read snippets of other students’ essays as I searched for C.J.’s. Many of them had their wagons loaded with family, friends and pets.

I couldn’t wait to read who C.J. picked to travel and start a new life with in California. I bet it would be Matt, Chase and I. His family. Of course.

There it was! I found C.J.’s essay and started reading.

“C.J., Bob The Drag Queen, RuPaul and many more travelers were on their way to California from Kansas City, Missouri,” started the opening paragraph. “It was winter. They were going to California because they wanted to get wealthy and have better jobs and a better place to live.”

Another mom bumped in to me as she read her child’s essay hanging next to C.J.’s. I glanced at her child’s story and then stopped when I realized that might prompt her to read C.J.’s drag-queens-on-a-road-trip-a-la-To-Wong-Foo essay.

When given the freedom to pick whoever he wanted to start a new and better life with, my son didn’t choose family; he chose the most famous drag queens in the world. He left me in Missouri and struck out for California. I wanted to be in covered wagon. I’m fun. I like drag queens.

After reading and photographing his essay, Matt and I made our way to the door and stopped to talk to C.J.’s teacher.

“So, tell me, in all your years of teaching, have you ever had a student load their covered wagon with drag queens?” I asked her.

She started laughing and shaking her head.

“When I first started reading his story, it took me a minute to realize who all of those people were,” she said, still laughing. “Of course that’s who he chose! Only C.J.!”

Yes. Only C.J.

I told C.J. that I loved his essay and he explained that his initial concept had included more wigs, makeup, costumes and hijinks. And Jinkx Monsoon.

He said he toned it down after a few reminders that the story was supposed to be historical fiction, not fantasy. I’m not sure why that meant that Jinkx got eliminated and the other two queens got to stay. Maybe I was in the wagon in the first drafts, too. Maybe I got edited out. Maybe I stayed in Missouri with Jinkx. Maybe I’ll visit C.J., Bob The Drag Queen and RuPaul in California one day once they get settled, wealthy, have better jobs and a better place to live.

 

The Starving Travelers

By: C.J.,  Grade 4,  June 2017

C.J., Bob The Drag Queen, RuPaul and many more travelers were on their way to California from Kansas City, Missouri. It was winter. They were going to California because they wanted to get wealthy and have better jobs and a better place to live.

“Come on!,” yelled Joe, a man who was also traveling to California. “Ya’ll got to get these wagons over the river before nightfall!”

Once all the wheels were off the wagons, they all got the wagons on the river. Within minutes, something happened that they were not prepared for.

“Oh no! Oh no!,” yelled Bob The Drag Queen. “All of our food is floating away!!”

Joe dove in to the water and swam as fast as a dolphin. It was no use. All their barrels of water and boxes of cornbread were gone. C.J. looked around and heard sobs as loud as a stampede of buffalo from all the travelers.

“Come on! We have to keep going,” yelled RuPaul. “We need to get to California!”

C.J. looked at Bob The Drag Queen who had no hair because her wig fell off and Bob The Drag Queen looked at RuPaul who had also lost her wig.

C.J. asked RuPaul “What are we going to do?!”

“I don’t know, but we need to get out of here and to California as fast as cheetahs!” said RuPaul.

The next day was full of hunger, fear and a bunch of mixed emotions. As all the wagons traveled in the heat that felt like lava. The sun blistered the travelers backs. Skin was peeling off of their backs. It was almost too much to handle.

Just as the travelers thought that they couldn’t go any farther, out of the corner of his eye, C.J. spotted a group of Indians. C.J. jumped up and stood up as tall as he could in his high heels to show that he wasn’t afraid.

Once the Indians saw how starving, tired, scared and weak the travelers were, the Indians played games with the kids, gave them a place to sleep, gave them food and water and told them the fastest trail to California.

RuPaul, Bob The Drag Queen and C.J. got to California three days later. They got more food and a nice house and became very wealthy.

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Writing About Boys in Skirts: Lori Duron Interviews Lesléa Newman

The day I met one of my heroes. Lesléa and I in 2014.

One of my favorite authors has a new book out about one of my favorite topics. Lesléa Newman’s Sparkle Boy is about a little boy who loves things that sparkle, shimmer and glitter. He’s a lot like my son C.J. I interviewed Lesléa about her new book and her work over the last 35 years as an award-winning, trailblazing author and advocate for the LGBTQ community.

Lori Duron: I discovered your work when my brother gave my sons your book The Boy Who Cried Fabulous. As a fabulous, gay uncle, he wanted his nephews to see characters like him in literature. Little did we know that the book would resonate so much with my youngest son, C.J., who is fabulous and gender creative. After I started my blog, I reached out to you to say how much that book meant to us and our son. And I wrote a blog post about it.

Lesléa Newman: I so appreciated hearing from you! The Boy Who Cried Fabulous resonates with lots of people, including teachers and librarians who love the fact that it contains so many adjectives, which is something I never thought of.

Duron: Shortly thereafter we discovered A Fire Engine for Ruthie, about a little girl who likes motorcycles and fire engines. I feel like that book doesn’t get enough attention. I mean, it came out 13 years ago and the protagonist is clearly more than a tomboy — she’s gender creative. Once again you were ahead of your time. What was the reaction to that book when it was first published?

Newman: As far as A Fire Engine for Ruthie goes, I wrote that book as a direct response to Charlotte Zolotow’s classic, William’s Doll. The book did well when it first came out, but unfortunately it never went into paperback and is now out of print. (Any takers out there?) Tomboys of all ages really liked that book.

Duron: And, now, all these years later, you give us Sparkle Boy (out June 15). Thank you for writing this book, it’s so important that gender creative boys like my son see themselves in literature. What inspired you to write Sparkle Boy?

Newman: I was inspired in part by your book, Raising My Rainbow, which I was moved to tears by many, many times. I also learned a lot, especially about the different journeys each family member takes, in addition to the journey taken by the person in the family who is gender creative. Jessie, the older sister of Casey, who is the “sparkle boy” in my book, starts off in one place emotionally at the start of the story, and ends somewhere else. I think this is very important, and shows that everyone goes through a process when someone in the family discovers something about themselves.

I was also inspired by attending Family Week (in Provincetown, MA) which is run by the Family Equality Council. I saw so many little boys wearing tutus happily running around, filled with joy at being able to be themselves. One boy’s dad said to me, “I wish my son could wear his tutu every day, not just in Provincetown during Family Week.” And I remembered what you said in your book—that your job as a parent is to make the world a safe place for your son to be himself. That is my intent with Sparkle Boy: to put forth a book that respects, accepts and celebrates everyone’s right to shine!

Duron: You started writing books that deal with LGBTQ issues and identities in the 1980s, long before there were LGBTQ shelves in popular bookstores and online booksellers. What was it like writing about LGBTQ issues and advocating through written word back then?

Newman: You know, I really didn’t think about it. When I came out, in 1982, my writing just exploded. Previous to that time, I only wrote poetry and considered myself exclusively a poet (I had studied with Allen Ginsberg and Anne Waldman at the Jack Kerouac School of Disembodied Poetics at Naropa Institute in Boulder, Colorado). But in the early 80s, much to my surprise, I wrote a novel called Good Enough to Eat, I was hungry (pun intended!) for books that featured a character like me (a Jewish lesbian) and couldn’t find any, so that’s why I wrote it.

I write to explore the world inside me, the world outside of me and the relationship between the two. I followed up that novel with a short story collection called A Letter to Harvey Milk. Each of the nine stories featured a different Jewish lesbian. And I was still writing poetry. I didn’t write these books to make any kind of political statement, though I do think writing as an out lesbian about lesbian characters is a political act. I was just writing stories about my life and the lives of the people in my community. I took the advice of Grace Paley, with whom I also studied, who said, “Write what you know you don’t know about what you know.” And then a lesbian who knew I was a writer stopped me on the street and said, “There are no books that show a family like mine. Someone should write one.” And, thus, Heather Has Two Mommies was born.

Duron: Heather Has Two Mommies was a pioneering book. It was the first children’s book to portray a family of two lesbian moms and their child in a positive way. What was the reaction to the book when it was first published?

Newman: I had a lot of trouble getting the book published. No publisher would touch it. Finally, my good friend Tzivia Gover and I decided to put the book out ourselves under the auspices of In Other Words, which was her desk top publishing business at the time. We sent out fundraising letters (before the internet! licking envelopes and stamps!) and raised about $4,000 — mostly in $10 donations. Then we found an illustrator through the lesbian gravevine and printed 4,000 copies. I never thought anyone except lesbian moms would be interested in the book, so I was surprised at the huge reaction it received.

Lesbian mothers were thrilled with the book. I heard about kids who got three copies for the holidays, who went to bed with the book tucked under their pillow every night. And I heard from people who were less-than-thrilled with the book and stole it from the library and refused to return it, or returned it with its pages glued shut. Part of the book was read into the Congressional Record by Senator Bob Smith of New Hampshire in an attempt to convince other representatives to vote on a bill that would cut federal aid to schools that in his words, “carry out a program or activity that has either the purpose or effect of encouraging or supporting homosexuality as a positive lifestyle alternative.”

Duron: You’ve written more than 70 books and your works are pretty evenly divided in terms of intended audience. About half are for an adult audience and half are for children. What are the pros and cons of writing for each audience?

Newman: To me, it’s really all writing. What I try to do is let the content dictate the audience (children, middle-graders, teens, adults) and the form (poetry, prose, fiction, non-fiction). As long as I’m writing, I’m happy. The advantage to writing a picture book, is that usually—though not always—it takes less time to write than a chapter book or novel.  The advantage to writing a novel is that I always know what I am going to be working on when I return to my writing notebook the next day (as opposed to starting from scratch every time I finish something short such as a poem or a picture book).

What I love about writing for children is that a book such as Heather Has Two Mommies can really make a difference in a child’s life. So many families have told me how important that book was to them because it was the first time their children saw a family just like their own between the covers of a book. That is extremely important and validating to a child. What I love about writing for adults is that often I hear from readers who tell me how my work has touched their lives. I never get tired of hearing that. That’s what it’s all about.

Duron: I think it’s important for people to know that you’re an amazing voice for the LGBTQ community through written word and the speaking that you do, but you’re also such an encouraging and nurturing mentor. You help emerging authors and advocates; that’s something not a lot of established authors do. They don’t always want to help other people.

Newman: I don’t really understand that. I firmly believe that when one of us succeeds, all of us succeeds. So many people have been kind to me along the way: my mentors, Allen Ginsberg and Grace Paley; the women in my writers group; and so many others, too numerous to mention.

The literary life is not an easy one. Authors need to stick by each other and support each other. I am always thrilled when emerging writers I have mentored succeed (shout out to Newbery medalist Kwame Alexander author of The Crossover, and Leah Henderson whose first middle grade novel, One Shadow on the Wall has just been published). Allen and Grace kept in touch with me for years (again, before the internet), always showing an interest in my work and taking me seriously as a writer. That was so important to me. I honor my mentors by paying it forward.

Buy Sparkle Boy now!

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Our Month In Review: May 2017

Following are highlights from our month on Instagram. Click here for pictures, thoughts and happenings from the entire month. If you’re on Instagram, follow me. If you already follow me, thank you!

My wife gets a load of emails and messages from people asking where our son’s father is, as though I couldn’t possibly be around and still allow a male son to display female behavior. To those people I say, I’m right here fathering my son. I want to love him, not change him. My son skipping and twirling in a dress isn’t a sign that a strong male figure is missing from his life; to me it’s a sign that a strong male figure is fully vested in his life and committed to protecting him and allowing him to grow into the person who he was created to be. I may be a “guy’s guy,” but that doesn’t mean that my son has to be. — Matt

 

 

What did I expect when I was pregnant and learned I was having another boy? More of the same. Life on repeat. A life of hand-me-downs — everything from clothes to toys to hobbies.
When CJ started showing us that he was differently gendered. I grew frustrated and scared. He wasn’t a card I expected to be dealt.
But, as Cheryl Strayed says, “you don’t have a right to the cards you believe you should have been dealt. You have an obligation to play the hell out of the ones your holding.”
I’m holding CJ. A child with special and unique needs because of his gender expression and gender identity. Because he is a boy who is a girl at heart. And, because of what the future could very well hold for him. And, you know what? I’m going to play the hell out of this fabulous, unexpected card I was dealt. I’m going to love him, support him, encourage him, build him up and let him soar. I’m going to hustle for him and kids like him.
Don’t sit at the table staring at what you think is a shitty hand, start rearranging those cards and making plans to play the hell out of them. It’s your obligation. Own it.

 

 

Me: What’s this?
CJ: The cover of the new comic book I’m writing.
Me: How and why does RuPaul save the day?
CJ: I’m not going to tell you yet. But, let’s just say it has something to do with Jinkx Monsoon, a couture gown and grape juice.

 

 

Her: We’re having a gender reveal!
Me: No, you’re having a genitalia reveal.
Parents-to-be CAN’T reveal their unborn baby’s gender. In general, gender is what’s in a person’s head that tells them that they’re male or female (or both or neither or some unique combination). A child’s concept of gender starts to develop around age three. So, a child’s third or fourth birthday would be a good time for parents to host a gender reveal.
Parents-to-be CAN reveal their unborn baby’s sex. In general, sex is what’s between a person’s legs that tells them they’re male or female. That’s what’s truly revealed at a gender reveal. The fetus’s sex. Its genitals. Its penis or vagina. (Or both if the baby is intersex.)
When I attend gender reveal parties and the parents-to-be yell “It’s a boy!,” I want to yell back “The baby has a penis!” When they shout, “It’s a girl!,” I want to shout “The baby has a vagina!”

 

 

It’s amazing how fast time moves when you’re watching kids grow. The human who made me a mother is 14 years old today. He asked for an electric guitar and spent the weekend as a production assistant on a music video set in Los Angeles. I’d never ask for him to stop growing — the alternative is my worst fear. I just wish I could slow things down a bit, get him to hug me a little longer and not be in such a damn hurry to be the amazing man he’s destined to be.
 

Shoe shopping with CJ is not fun. His feet are super narrow. One foot is half a size bigger than the other. He’s right smack-dab in the middle of little kids and big kids sizes. Oh, and sometimes he wants shoes from the girls’ section and sometimes he doesn’t. But the shoes in the boys’ section are “too serious” and “no fun.”
Our tried-and-true solution? Buy plain-ish shoes and customize them. We got shoes from Nordstrom Rack and added velvet shoelaces by Aldo (a different color for each shoe, of course). Then, we added silver star and lightening bolt sticker patches from The Trend bar.

 

 

Young CJ: I’m going to go dress up like a superhero.
Me: Cool.
Young CJ: Okay. I’m dressed. Now take a picture of how superhero I am.

 

 

I thought he’d never be a reader. It didn’t come easy to him. And, in first grade, his teacher taught him that there were “boys books” and “girls books.” Teachers, please don’t do that.
Then, when he started reading the Dork Diaries series, kids at school made fun of him for reading “girls’ books.”
Now, in fourth grade, he doesn’t care what people say about the books he chooses. Lately he’s been tearing through gymnast biographies. “People at school think I’m a lady anyway. So, they don’t care what I read.”

 

 

 

That time CJ discovered the “big eyes” art of Margaret Keane and was so inspired that he did his makeup to look like a big-eyed waif from one of her paintings.

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If People Think I’m A Lady, Just Let Them

We’re at a restaurant for dinner. The server approaches our table with piping hot entrees and starts placing them in front of us.

“And, here are her chicken strips,” she says as she places a basket of food in front of C.J.

“Thank you.”

That’s our reply when our son is misgendered, when someone assumes he’s a she. We ignore it.

It happens nearly once a day. It happens when he’s dressed masculine and it happens when he’s dressed feminine. It happens when his hair is a sweaty, knotty mess after two hours of gymnastics and it happens when his hair is clean and in a neat French braid. It happens when his fingernails are painted and it happens when their not.

We have a rule that we don’t correct people when they misgender C.J. It’s not our rule actually. It’s his. We just follow it.

We use the male pronouns that he prefers, but if somebody else doesn’t, he doesn’t want us to correct them or even acknowledge it.

“If people think I’m a lady, just let them,” he says.

(By the way, before he turned ten he’d say, “If people think I’m a girl, just let them.” Obviously, in C.J.’s mind, when you enter the double digits you go from girl to lady.)

“If strangers think I’m a lady it doesn’t matter because I’m never going to see them again. So who cares what they think,” he explains.

We’re cool with that. It’s his choice. And, knowing that his choice can change, we’ve checked in with him often during the last six years.

At age four, he didn’t want us to correct people because he liked being mistaken for a girl. That’s when he wanted to be a girl, so when people mistook him for one he would beam proudly knowing that he had convinced someone of something successfully. It’s like the feeling I get when people think I have my shit together and am good at adulting. We all feel proud when people see us the way in which we want to be seen.

We didn’t correct people.

In first and second grade he wanted us to correct people when they misgendered him. He no longer liked being mistaken for girl. Sure, he sometimes still wanted to be a girl, but more than anything he wanted to be his rainbow self. Why couldn’t people understand that he was a boy who was a girl at heart? It was frustrating for him.

We corrected people.

Starting last year, he asked us not to correct people when they misgendered him because of the whole “if they are strangers, I’ll never see them again anyway” reasoning and because he felt that correcting people drew more attention to the fact that he’s different.

We stopped correcting people.

It was a hard habit for Chase to break. He’s a protective older brother and wanted people to know when they had erroneously referred to his brother as his sister. Plus, if his brother wanted male pronouns, he should get them.

A server approached our table to take our drink order and referred to C.J. using female pronouns. Chase corrected the server.

“Babe, don’t do that, he doesn’t like it,” I said once the server was out of earshot.

“Well, I don’t like it when people think he’s a girl when clearly he’s a boy,” Chase argued. (Disclaimer: C.J. does not always “clearly” look like a boy.)

“But, it’s my choice and I don’t want you to make a big deal out of it! You’re embarrassing me!” C.J. said folding his arms across his chest.

“I’m not embarrassing you! I’m standing up for you!” Chase insisted while pulling his baseball hat down to block us from his view.

And, that, my friends, is how something as simple and mundane as asking for a Diet Coke, lemonade and Arnold Palmer at a restaurant can turn into an emotional debacle when a person is misgendered and it isn’t handled the way they want it to be.

It’s not about C.J. being misgendered; it’s about how we react to it. We can’t control the first, but we can control the latter – under his ever-changing direction.

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