C.J.’s Dad and me: So, when we get home from Colorado we have to unpack, pack, drop the boys off with Pa and Grandma Grab Bags and, then, we are headed to San Diego.
Grandma and Grandpa Colorado: What are you going to San Diego for?
Me: Well, we are going to a conference for bloggers, because I started a blog about raising C.J.
Them: What’s a blog?
Me: It’s like a journal online that other people can read.
Them: We’re not on Facebook.
Me: It’s not Facebook. It’s like a website where I can write whatever I want.
Them: On the interweb?
Me: Yes, the internet.
Them: Are we blocked from seeing it, like Facebook?
Me: No it’s not blocked, you can see it.
Them: We don’t really go on the internet and we definitely don’t do Facebook.
The subject changes seamlessly to talk of the weather, cinnamon bears being more aggressive than black bears and the neighbor up the street who loved his hunting dog more than his wife.
Grandma Colorado: You know, our good friends told us that you were writing inappropriate articles about C.J. online. This must be what they were talking about.
My heart sinks into my stomach, which drops to my knees, which start to shake. My face flushes as I feel anger and sadness.
Everyday people disagree with my choice to chronicle my adventures in raising C.J. and my skin has grown thick. But, when the criticism comes from closer to home the pain is fresh.
Me: Not everybody agrees with my decisions initially, but if they really take the time to read my writings, they usually change their mind. You know, I actually kind of have a lot of people reading my blog and I feel like I’m doing something important.
Grandma Colorado: Well, I don’t know. I don’t go on Facebook. All I know is we’re going to love C.J. no matter what.
Me: Well, that’s all that matters.
Silent minutes absorb the evening.
Grandma Colorado: I just can’t believe that C.J.’s Dad is so forgiving of C.J.
Me: What do you mean?
Grandma Colorado: I can’t believe that C.J.’s Dad is so forgiving of C.J… and you, I guess. Because your brother is gay and C.J. is the way he is.
Me: Do you mean forgiving or accepting?
Grandma Colorado: Accepting, I guess.
I say nothing, because if I open my mouth I’m not sure what will fly out. I’m not, by nature, an insecure person. But, in that moment my mother-in-law, bless her speak-before-you-think heart, hit on one of my biggest insecurities: that C.J. being gender nonconforming, effeminate and possibly gay is my fault. That I should be thankful that my husband is a big enough man to not hold C.J.’s gender creativeness and possible future sexual orientation against me.
Me: Well, that just means that you did something right.
Later, I talk to my mom about it on the phone.
Nana Grab Bags: Well, if someone has to be blamed then the blame goes on me because I had Uncle Uncle.
She laughs and I try to, too. If fault has to be found, then we are your girls.
Later, Grandpa Colorado sneaks up behind me while I’m on his computer.
Grandpa Colorado: Can you add your blog to my “favorites” tab?
Nothing more was said, or has been said.
Wait, I thought blame needed to go on someone when something bad happens… 😕
Why are we even surprised?
Patriarchy creates a problem, someone (your son) clearly being the victim and suffering from it, and then patriarchy turns it around, makes themselves the victim and blames who?? The women.
(Same happened with the movement of feminism, which people call misandry and claim to suffer from)
I’m just so sad that so many women have this in themselves and victimize others.
In my puberty I slowly started noticing, that the world didn’t see my how I did, because they couldn’t get over that I am a feminine looking girl. That fact alone let’s people make all kinds of
assumptions about my character or my intelligence, and the things I would be capable of.
When you start informing yourself about feminism, of course it doesn’t take long for you to be confronted with all kinds of gender issues.
What I think is important, is to remember that we dont have to justify ourselves in front of others. It’s nobody’s business. We don’t have to explain why we love men or women or why we don’t or do wear high heels or shave or legs. We don’t have to have it figured out! (Its really complicated anyway and I bet 99% of heterosexuals and gender-conforming people can’t state reasons for why they are like they are.)
And there’s no fault in people for being how they are. I think it can help to pretend youre a scientist and looking at rats in a cage. You wouldn’t “blame” an animal or the parents of this animal for being different than the rest of the group.
How can people even expect, that when you randomly sort tasks and things after being male and female, that everybody will automatically fit in. That”s just not logical. Why are people sooo surprised to see boys liking pink, when they should rather be surprised that they don”t see more.
And notice, how you are being blamed for this because you’re a woman, not because you are the one who mainly raises him. If your hubby had mainly raised CJ and he would have turned out exactly like this, than you would still be blamed just the same because you would have been “off having a career, being egoistical and not thinking about the family”.
I think I almost teared up at the end there. That was beautiful. Thank you.
I really don’t get why you need to find or place blame here…
I’m not a Mum, and I’m an Aussie – both of these probably impair my ability to understand your perspective on this. However CJ is CJ and you and your family are doing the only right thing to do, loving him and supporting him in his decisions – as long as they don’t bring harm to himself or others…
In a previous post you spoke of friends drifting away, again with an Aussie perspective – keep people with you and around you that care about YOU (and your family), going out of your way for others (beyond societal expectations of politeness) strikes me as a waste of time and energy, we’ve all got more than enough going on without having to pander to superficial people.
Love your work
Thank goodness I found you!!
awesome post. Great ending. Clearly Grandpa C has thought alot about this and came to the conclusion that love matters first and foremost and the rest of the stuff is just stuff. Grandma C may get there,but I’d suspect the stuff part is not yet just stuff because she may be too worried about, hands over my mouth, what “they” will think. But in her heart she knows what’s important. You’ve REALLY touched alot of people. Nice go. 🙂
God Bless Grandpa Colorado: Burly on the outside, marshmellowy on the inside.
Keep it up ‘C.J.’s’ Mom.
“…I feel like I’m doing something important.” You are. In so many incredible ways. Always remember that.
I think the Coloradans are farther along than you think. It’s one thing to dislike a group or subset of people when they are an abstract concept. It’s quite another to realize that a child born into the family, one they have seen as a baby and slowly growing over the years, suddenly isn’t what they expected her or him to be. Suddenly, they have to fight the battle of what their prejudices say they should feel and what they know they feel in their hearts. I know my family fought that battle, and it took them over a decade, but they realized that who I sleep with actually has very little to do with who I am. The best part for me, when I was home for my youngest brother’s wedding, and trying to be upfront with my Dad about myself, was when he said “I don’t need to know anything. Your my son. I love you and I’m proud of you, and I don’t need to know anything else.” Yeah, maybe he was squicked out a little by the thought of everything, but if I end up being half the man he was, I will consider myself extremely successful. Keep up the good work, and don’t go looking for trouble. It will just find you anyway.
I cried, too – especially when Grandpa asked you to bookmark this blog. Well done for you for handling a difficult conversation. I’m definitely in the relieved (it could’ve been so much worse) camp! Most of my family is emphatically NOT in the “we love you no matter what” category, and it’s painful beyond words.
My hope is that, by the time CJ’s generation is having kids, for the vast majority this won’t even be an issue. Kids will just be who they are. And if that happens, it’ll be because of people like you. Thank you!!
I just want you to know, that homosexuality isn’t something people need to be blamed for… I’m the only one in my entire family that I’ve heard of. Who’s to “blame” for that? If I have a gay kid or some other descendent down the line, will I think it’s because of me? No. I think that it just happens, it just is. And CJ is soooooooo lucky to have you as his mom. I’ve been blessed to have supportive parents, too, and it makes all the difference in the world although I didn’t come out until I was 18 (but I had been same-sex experimenting since around 13). I read your blog every time there is a new one, thanks for being part of my day, your stories always touch my heart and it’s great to see something different out there —- not just the same old stuff. And when I see blogs that I can relate to, it really means something. Hi to CJ!
When I hear “blame” and “fault”, it sounds as if this is some sort of affliction. What if it’s a gift? Or just as likely it could simply be a difference, and there’s nothing that says we all have to conform. How boring that would be. If both C.J. and his brother are growing up confident and loved, I think they’ll turn out great. Thank you so much for this blog.
So many of your posts have brought tears to my eyes, and this is just another to add to the list. Even though what Grandpa Colorado did was a small gesture, I think it speaks volumes. I hope they will come around soon enough to truly accept CJ the way he was born.
Although I know that conversation must have been a real stomach-twister, it could have gone so much worse! They have established that they will love CJ no matter what, and the rest, if there comes more, will just be icing. Even those of us who are semi-“grown-ups” in the LGBT community and vocally demand our rights and recognition sometimes have to understand that generations prior to ours, especially those prior to our own parents (our grandparents) may not be able to come fully to terms with who we are. The tables then become somewhat turned on us as we learn that if we value those relationships, sometimes we must accept that that’s just the way they are, and it’s more a function of the way they were brought up and the era in which it happened than any personal conclusions they may have drawn about us.
My own grandmother, with whom I live during school holidays (I’m 20 and in college), knows that I’m a lesbian, but it has never been and will never be said out loud. Like a true Southern lady, she treats all the “friends” I bring home with kindness and hospitality and leaves me to my own devices most of the time. We have a mutual understanding, and I don’t mind it as much as I would mind the inevitably awkward conversation and subsequent permanent awkwardness. I know, based on some of the things I’ve overheard her saying to relatives, that she (and some of them) feel that “the way I turned out” is due to my parents’ failure to enforce gender-conforming behavior when I was young. Even though she knew I didn’t appreciate it, she tried until I was in my late teens to get me interested in shopping, dresses, dolls, makeup, and miscellaneous other things from a world of pink and frilly where CJ probably feels very much at home, but where I will never belong. You should never allow yourself to feel at fault for not putting CJ in a place he doesn’t belong and telling him he must spend the rest of his life there “for his own good.” What is good for him is feeling at home in his own skin, in his own world, wherever that ends up being. You’re a wiser parent than most for recognizing so early on that you’re only along for the ride. 😉
I hope you enjoy the conference and that you find a welcome niche in the community of awesome blogging ladies!
I adore this response. It sasy it all!
I could feel your heart sinking and knees shaking all the way on the east coast. Job well done on a very tough conversation. Sounds like grandma and grandpa are much more hip than most in their age bracket. They may never truely understand CJ, but as long as they love him thats all that matters:) Hang in there and keep writing this blog. It helps me in more ways than you can imagine.
You would be surprised sometimes at what the “older generations” are capable of. When Prop 8 came around out here in CA, my mom was helping her then-89 year old father to understand what all the propositions meant so he could vote. He asked about Prop 8 and she explained that it would prevent gay couples from marrying. This devout Catholic, first generation Mexican-American, former sailor during WWII, railroad veteran of 25 years, and father of 3 thought about it and told her to vote No on 8, because “no one should be discriminated against.” I was so proud of my grandpa, and I still am.
This made me all teary eyed. Yay for your grandpa!!
Older generations may not understand, and may not express their thoughts the way we’d like them to, but just the fact that Grandma Colorado said that they’d love CJ no matter what is all that’s really important.
She may not be able to understand how your husband is so accepting of CJ, because she is uncomfortable with the thought. There are expectations of men that are a part of the gender stereotype that they are uncomfortable with femininity and anything resembling gayness.
It sounds like progress to me. I don’t think it’s necessary for them to read your blog and to feel exactly as you do, in order for them to love CJ.
Thanks again for writing.
I think that in some ways, you have to accept people of different generations and their ideas. Older people generally don’t change their ideas, but they will surprise you. My mother has become surprisingly liberal and accepting as she’s gotten older and is completely supportive of me and my partner. In fact, I wish she’d stop asking about a wedding and adopting!
I just want to say thank you for being strong enough to fight for CJ. This is the same kind of argument/situation I have found myself in over and over and over through out my life. These are the kind of conversations/situations you get to deal with when you are gay or lesbian. These are the same situations you would be going through if you were gay and I can’t express how much I admire your ability to stand up and fight on behalf of your son. CJ’s grandparents are from a different time and place (in more ways than we can truly imagine) but must love you and your family very much to approach that much understanding. (I have been with my partner 15 years. We have an 11 year old son. I have never met her family and they have never met their grandson, because they believe we are abominations.) Know that you are helping forge a world where it won’t matter who you love . . .
Love no matter what is the best part of family. I’ve got my money on Grandpa Colorado reading this right now and by the end of the summer Grandma Colorado will be right in there with him and you’ll have phone calls each week for new stories.
Kudos on the recognition from your peers… and on a bigger more personal level on keeping your cool and always having CJ and his brother’s best at your core…. the very fact that Grandma and Grandpa Colorado are able to accept CJ and the direction they are moving in is evidence of the power of Love and certainly your blog will help them to grow and to strengthen the very fabric of those radiating out from your circle into larger communities where the new paradigm acceptance is being woven….. BIG LOVE to you and the work you are doing for your sons, your family and ultimately for an entire world……..
Good job handling that tough conversation, it could’ve turned out much worse. You continue to inspire me by not caving into others’ beliefs about C.J. and your blog, keep it up!
You handled the conversation so well!!!! Look at it as a hurdle you needed to get over and you did it with grace and dignity. I can’t imagine the ache in your heart as you did it, but your love for your son(s) can never be questioned. I remember a few times you spoke of the person your husband used to be and how wonderful and accepting he is now. He didn’t get there by himself. Maybe grandma and grandpa will read your past entries and come away with a better understanding. Granndpa did take the 1st step and I hope he continues down the path of total love and support that every person deserves to have in their lives. Hugs to you.
Well, there’s only so much you can do. You stood up for your family (your immediate family – you, your hubby, and your two kids) in a polite and loving way. And like you said, his grandparents loving him IS the most important thing.
So the Grand Colorados love you and CJ ‘no matter what’ – that’s huge. Their love will tower over any misunderstanding or blunders they might make because this is pretty new & different stuff for them, because they come from a different time & place, etc. etc. Give them some time. Over the years, I’ve seen my own parents’ views on LGBT change from ‘it’s a sin’ to ‘it’s an illness’ to ‘it’s no big deal’ to today when they’re political activists supporting LGBT rights within their church, at the local and state level. And that’s thanks to the openly gender creative people in their lives…
You know, you’re blog needs to come with a Warning Label.
I cry FAR too often coming here. Just read this post to my Mum over the phone and she said your writing style reminds her of Erma Bombeck.
Thank you again for all you do. Enjoy the conference.
HUGS! I love reading your blog and admire your candidness. Anyone who reads this blog will plainly see your love for your children and family. Thank you for sharing your experiences with us. 🙂
No worries lady.you are awesome, your kiddos are rad and L and L are who they are and we love them for that….keep your chin up and keep plugging along. You have fans over here in the sorrority house….:) xoxo
totally didn’t spell check….yikers….
Wiping my brow from the tension of the conversation. Best wishes!
Grandma Colorado may never truly understand because things have changed so quickly, it’s all beyond the scope of the world view of her and her contemporaries. Their view is that being “different” is wrong, or worse, sick, because that’s what they learned in their youth. The beauty of these challenges for her is that she sounds loving and strong, and those qualities are more powerful than outmoded opinions, judgmental minds or simple backwater gossips.
Grandma Colorado may find the rainbow and its power in dealing with those neighbors, and then she will ascend to a new level of personal growth which will enliven her in ways she now can’t imagine. God speed Grandma Colorado, it’s up to you.
It sounds like yo have negotiated a difficult and uncomfortable situation very well. And congratulations on you award!
This blog is a miracle! CJ is a miracle! And so are you for that matter!! I think CJ’s Dad may have gotten it from his Dad…just a thought 🙂
I am sure that if they read your blog they will see something in it to give them pause for thought in the future, most likely it will be your own candid expression of what you feel and want for your family as you go through those daily life issues. Don’t expect a miracle change of what they believe in, mind you, just a better awareness of what it means when they talk about those things (though that will very likely follow a heated discussion before occurring). Family is the worst because they are the only ones we expect to treat us well to begin with. Hang in there, your’s is a very caring family and that should make a difference for the better.
you know, they are trying ( in every sense of the word:) ): but you are also trying- your best- to be there for him.As the mother of three sons- one of whom is a fairly effeminate,now(17) openly gay (totally fabulous,high maintenance,fascinating and emotionally challenging) son: I think you are doing a great job: we do what we need to do: and we never know,in the end,if it’s enough- or “just right”- it can only be good enough with what we know at the time…And as the parent,right now, of 3 teens and 1 post teen- it’s a lousy job- whether they are gay,transgendered or whatever: teens are no walk in the park!:) Their grandparents are all over 80… one says things like “I love the gays- they’re so gentle” …guess if we were going for a stereotype it’s not the worst:)…the rest- well, we’re really talking serious age here…I wish you all the best with C.J.
I think love- it’s never quite enough but it helps- and they will have angst- but they do get through it..(I hope)- I would just try to not have much identifying info on him in public domain- teens hate ANYTHING that may potentially identify them!
I am so lucky that no matter how my kids turn out, my family will not care and will not judge. I wish that all kids could have that – just acceptance without ifs, buts or shadows of blame or disapproval. (Hugs)