“Where are you two troublemakers off to?” C.J.’s Dad asked as C.J. and I strode between him and his beloved flat screen on our way outside to squeeze in some scooter time before sunset.
“We’re going to ride our scooters,” C.J. said over his shoulder as he continued out of the house.
“Dressed like that?” C.J.’s Dad asked me.
C.J. had just been upstairs playing dress up while I was putting laundry away. Earlier in the day he had been wearing his “Someday They’ll Make a Movie About Me” shirt from Old Navy and swim trunks. Now, he was wearing a pink t-shirt dress with hearts on it and a Monster High barrette in his hair.
“Honey Badger don’t care!” I said to C.J.’s Dad. It’s what we say to each other when we really mean that somebody doesn’t give an eff about something.
“People are going to think that he’s in trouble,” C.J.’s Dad said.
“Yeah, people are going to see him dressed like a girl and that’s the first thought that will come to mind,” I said in sarcasm and continued outside to mount my scooter. I secretly love riding a Razor scooter; it makes me feel like such an extreme athlete.
We used to prefer that C.J. not go out of the house if he was wearing an article of girls’ clothing. We’d gently steer him towards indoor play or have him put on something more appropriate for “safety reasons.” We did so to save all of us from ridicule and judgment.
I’ve also always had this weird belief that if a sexual predator were to be roaming our streets, a little boy dressed as a little girl would tickle his fancy like no other, making our son the prime target for pedophiles. These are the assumptions that I develop in my head that make perfect sense to me. I assume that if a pedophile can score a seemingly confused gender nonconforming kid, they have some sort of bragging rights amongst their like-minded friends. These, of course, are all just assumptions. I’ve never associated with pedophiles, so I’ve never had anybody to either confirm or deny my allegations.
We’ve become more lenient, C.J. doesn’t desire to wear frilly things out of the house as much as he used to and our neighbors are used to seeing a fiery red-headed boy flit about in unusual costumes, nappy wigs and bare feet with pink toenails.
C.J.’s had strapped on his red helmet and took off on his purple scooter. I was looking for the black scooter that I usually ride.
“I just remembered something!” C.J.’s Dad exclaimed entering the garage from the house.
“What?” I asked, moving bikes, balls and bubbles around in an attempt to locate my scooter.
“Whenever C.J. plays outside in girl clothes I’ve always worried that people will think that he is in trouble. I know now why I feel that way.”
“Why?” I asked, stopping my scooter search to listen to my husband.
“When I was a little I knew this kid named Ben. When he got in trouble or did something wrong or did bad at baseball practice, when he got home his dad would make him put on his sister’s clothes and ride her bike up and down the neighborhood.”
“Are you effing kidding me?!” I said, making sure that C.J. was out of earshot.
“No, one time in high school, Ben did something wrong and to punish him his dad made him put on his mom’s bra and panties and sit in a lawn chair in their front lawn.”
“Why have you never told me this before?!” I said in shock.
“I don’t know, I never really thought about it, but when I’ve seen C.J. playing out front in girl clothes I’ve always associated it with him being in trouble and being punished. I assumed everybody was thinking that he did something wrong.”
“Oh, they are probably thinking lots of things, but not that! What did you say to Ben about his father’s method of punishment?”
“I told him that it was weird and that my parents didn’t do that,” C.J.’s Dad said.
“What is wrong with people? That is so disturbing,” I said locating the scooter, though now I didn’t feel like riding it.
What if people thought that C.J.’s Dad and I were punishing C.J. by making him wear girl clothes outside of the house?
I watched my son as he hopped off of his scooter, picked several daisies from our neighbor’s yard and held them in his proud grip as he scooted to deliver them to me with a beaming smile on his popsicle-stained face. He didn’t look like he was being punished.
I Googled Ben later that evening to see what became of him. Ben is a professional athlete. If Ben messes up at sports now does his dad still make him put on girls clothes and parade around for all to see? I wonder.
Just curious does CJ wear girls under clothes with his outfits
i just discovered your blog today and have gone through quite a few posts and comments. i’m happy you started it because it’s obviously helping and comforting for other parents with rainbow children. i’m a single, 29-year-old girl-woman and don’t have any kids (yet. it’s a dream of mine.) or know much about gender nonconformity at all. i honestly have never even thought about it too much. (in college, i wrote a song about accepting transgender individuals to the tune of Avril Lavigne’s Sk8er Boi but that’s pretty much as close as i got. it was a good song. i need to find it.) i guess i just want to say thanks for letting me learn a bit about your life and expose me to something new and different than what i know. i hope i can apply what i’m learning through your blog to other scenarios and always be open minded and accepting. i’d like to think i will. to me, this blog is about more than gender nonconformity, it’s about acceptance. something that should be pretty obvious and practiced regularly. i hope one day it will. until then, i’m glad there are peeps like you out there to remind everyone. ps- your family sounds awesome and you crack me up and i secretly wish we could be besties forever and ever and ever or like go get a juice or something.
Hi C.J’s mother,
I’ve followed your blog for such a long time. I admired the way you raise C.J as a special kid on regular way like any other children. I would like to translate your post into Vietnamese. It’s just for sharing on my own blog and topic on forum.
Please let me know your response.
I am a MomME of five children, three of which are triplets, all girls. One day their school gave out free backpacks and one of my girls chose the sports themed backpack instead of the girly one with flowers. I was appalled and a little upset with the teachers for letting her choose that one, but I eventually got over myself. I was still confused about her choice of backpack and sooner than later my confusion turned into concern. I am all for self-expression, but I will admit that I would probably have drawn a visible line at how far I was willing to go with my child acting out as if she were the opposite sex.
After careful observation, I noticed that she just wanted to try something different and she later regretted picking the sports themed backpack. I was relieved. I don’t know how I would have handled that situation at all. So I take my hat off to all of the parents who are able to open their minds beyond their wildest dreams and embrace their rainbow kids. At the end of the day, I believe most parents common goal is to love, nurture, and protect them, we just choose to do it in our own way.
I was just looking closer at the first picture you placed with this post. Just looking at CJ (his face not withstanding–which probably doesn’t give anything away either) I wouldn’t think anything was amiss at all; just looks like a girl with a short haircut riding a scooter.
What Eli said. Now I’m just pissed.
That’s quite the insidious “punishment” because what is underneath it is not only homophobia, but also sexism: to wear a dress is punishment not only because Ben was a little BOY, but also because to be female is (PRESUMED) to be inferior, weak, and lesser of a human.
Love your blog, and love your commitment to the happiness and health of your child.
Great post! Hoping other parents continue to embrace their children and accepting them as they are.
Hooray for yet another well written post.
I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who played with bare feet on my childhood 🙂
P.S. I don’t know what’s wrong with those people… Ben’s dad probably thought that if he made his son put girl clothes as a punishment when he was a kid, he won’t do it when he grew up… I’ll never do something like that to my (future) children 😛
No, i’m pretty sure Ben’s dad was misogynist at best, not dreaming that his kid would grow up cd, which out of spite could have been the case, not that I’d care of course. But in his mind real men don’t make mistakes or screw up, only women do, so if Ben screws up then dress him up like the woman that he is. Worse is in underwear, as that’s the most vulnerable you can be seen in public. Many of us have nightmares about that. My other bet is that good old dad might have had his own little fantasy’s going on because why would a normal gender appropriate dresser even think about that form of punishment? So misogynist at best, which is by far not a good thing, closet or even not so much that cd in more likely probability. Gotta laugh when you think about it.
Would not be surprised if there was domestic violence in Ben’s childhood home.
I am so grateful to read your posts each week. I have a 10 year old boy that is my rainbow. I have plenty of friends that I talk to about sleeping issues, homework trouble, pre-teen angst, but no one in my life that I can talk to about raising a boy who is quite likely gay. This little window in to your life is so helpful to me. Thank you!
BTW, it was interesting that CJ doesn’t wear more overt frilly stuff outside as much as before. Why the shift? Could it be that the over the top femme view to begin with was what he thought beautiful and that was what caused excitement, and now settling into just normal everyday stuff is the way things really are and that’s just fine too? The gown can be worn more formally, the shirtdress or skirt casually? That seems really healthy to me if true.
I’ll just go along with the other comments re: that particular form of punishment, perverse thinking, although my dad when I was a klutz would call me Margaret, and in an odd way it made me angry yet more determined to be better at it. Odd how different people react. Otoh, I was never forced to sit in a lawn chair in bra and panties either.
You may have some merit in thought about the pedophile thing though. As a therapist intern in school I worked with the level 3’s and they notice everything, especially when it comes to their sexual interest in children. They’re like dogs who will pick out every nuance, so they will see the boy in the dress and will most likely trigger thoughts and feelings more quickly, not differently, but quicker because of the novelty. Basically my experience was that gender is not as important to them, they see both in the child and that it’s a child is the most important part.
It really is too bad though that all of us, especially men, but women too are under so much scrutiny of appropriate gender wear. The focus imo should be appropriate wear not specifically assigned by gender fashion. If it’s hot then why shouldn’t a male wear a shirtdress or skirt? If cold out with lots of snow you wouldn’t make it mandatory that a girl must wear a skirt to walk a mile to school.
To me i’d just be happy if whatever one does that doesn’t hurt themselves or others is just looked at as an I like it or I don’t kinda thing. No fuss. I think you guys have figured that out on your own path here. Good for you.
It is weird and my parents never did that either. Our boys love playing fairies fishing in their fairy dresses right out in the front yard where everyone can see them.
It’s possible that Ben’s psyche made lemonade out of those horrifying lemons, and now wears silky women’s underwear under his jeans and enjoys the hell out of it. Whether or not that’s how he handled it, it sounds like he’s made a successful life for himself, and I hope he’s happy and healthy to boot.
I also hope his father isn’t under the misapprehension that it was due to his ‘superior’ parenting skills. What a horrible man.
Strangers passing by will simply assume C J is a girl and be none the wiser for it. If you and your kid have already had some frank and honest conversations about the potential reactions of neighbors, he will be well prepared. Here’s hoping that your kid has an interior skin that’s as tough as Naugahyde. Ben’s dad needed/needs to have his head examined by professionals and also undergo counseling, as he suffers from severe mysogyny. More power to Ben if he grew up normal in spite of such a perverse male parent.
As always, love this post. Degradation and humiliation isn’t punishment. How appalling. Thanks again for your courage and compassion and love.
I love reading your posts. I am a mother of a four year old born boy. We now refer to her as a she since she has requested we do so. She also has requested that she start school as a girl. She has said things to me like, “you believe me that I’m a girl, right mommy?”. We have seen every possible professional there is in our city! We are told she is most likely transgender. She wouldn’t be caught dead in boy clothes. Ever since we have allowed her to be who she feels most comfortable being, we now have a happy child. Living as a boy, she was just miserable and it took us a long time to figure out what was going on! This has been a long difficult worrisome journey but…….she is happy, which in turn makes me happy. I can only hope our child can teach this world about acceptance. Your son sounds amazing, thanks for sharing your stories!
Lara you are an awesome mom and you’re going to help change the world alongside your child. Thanks.
Wow, that’s messed up about Ben.
I’m going to be 100% honest here; if I walked by and saw a kid looking like that, I’d probably think, gosh, that girl has an unfortunate haircut. Also, scooters! fun! I don’t know why you think a sexual predator would be able to tell he’s a boy somehow.
What a d-bag Ben’s dad was. Love ur blog as always.
This makes me sick reading this…
It’s Roethlisberger isn’t it?
I love reading your blog and look forward to seeing it in my email when you write a new post.
Since Ben is a professional athlete, his father probably asks him for a loan. The father was a very, very evil man.