Occasionally, a moment will just melt my freaking heart. It happened to me last week and my heart is still all warm inside.
My son was up in a tree house with a new friend he had met just hours before. C.J. was wearing a dress that had a big, full lilac skirt and a bodice made of black velvet with delicate purple and pink flowers embroidered on it. His new friend, C.K., was wearing the most amazing Cinderella knock-off I have ever seen, complete with gathered tiers and a sweetheart neckline. They were both barefoot with faces stained from their homemade berry popsicles. They sat with their backs to us two moms. They whispered to each other and giggled often. I could have died of happiness at the sight.
C.J. and C.K. both have older brothers, who were approaching the base of the tree house. C.J. hopped up, threw open the white shutters and yelled “Hey! You boys! Stay out of our garden!”
“Yeah, stay out of our garden!” C.K. yelled from behind C.J. The white shutters slammed shut and uncontrollable giggles wafted over to the deck where I was sitting.
The older brothers looked at us moms and we just shrugged. Yes, I thought, stay out of their garden, stay out of their way, they are having the best day ever.
A few weeks earlier, C.K.’s Mom had been looking for play groups in Orange County for gender nonconforming kids (there aren’t any) when she found my blog. What are the chances that we live just seven miles apart?
We talked via phone, email, text and scheduled a play date. I told C.J.‘s Dad that we were off to play with a boy who likes to play with girl stuff, left the address of our destination and set out with managed expectations. Before I knew it, the front door opened and we walked into a house that is home to no girl, two boys, lots of pink, an enviable dress-up collection and a four-foot-high, multi-floor, all-pink castle. A pink princess tent takes up most of the family room.
C.K. flitted down the stairs in a pink terrycloth sundress. C.J. looked at me. I knew what he was thinking and I nodded and smiled at him, silently acknowledging that, yes, he owns the same exact dress in turquoise.
C.K. is petite, with olive skin, dark hair buzzed for the hot days of summer and the sweetest way about him. There’s an innocence about him that you want to protect and keep intact. Something about him asks politely to be treated delicately; and when you’re with him, you can’t imagine treating him any other way.
The four brothers started playing immediately. C.K. had requested via text — because that’s how kids do it these days — that C.J. bring some “girl stuff” to play with. C.J. brought his life-size plush ballerina doll (which was $14.99 at Ralph’s in December and is quite a nappy embarrassment at this point), a Sleeping Beauty Barbie (who also looks like she’s been through the ringer) and Ghoulia Yelps from Monster High (who lost her top sometime ago and usually has her red bowling shorts around her knees, but don’t you know her wedge sneakers are always perfectly in place!). The two boys discussed in great detail My Little Pony, Care Bears and Strawberry Shortcake as the older brothers sprayed each other in the face with the garden hose and chased each other with plastic snakes.
C.K.’s Mom and I compared our lives. When did C.K. start liking “girl stuff?” Age two and a half or three. Same with C.J. Does C.J. like to dance? Oh, yes. C.J. wears a tutu to dance class?! Yes. Can’t C.K.? No. How sad! We worry about the older brothers. We worry about bullies and we worry about school. Is it jarring now for you to see him in boys clothes? Yes! Doesn’t it feel so much more natural to see them in feminine attire or doing some thing feminine? Yes! We worry about who and when to tell that our son is gender nonconforming. Do you like the term gender nonconforming? How about gender creative? How about gender fluid? How about gender independent? How about gender identity disorder? No!
Spending time with this family felt natural and easy. Over the course of our marathon, three-hour playdate (which I assumed would more closely resemble a 5K), C.K. changed once every hour. From pink terrycloth sundress to black leotard with tutu to full-on Cinderella ball gown to close the show. C.J. wanted in on the action; he wanted to slip out of his tie-dyed rainbow shirt and into that lilac and velvet number he spied on C.K.’s miniature garment rack.
Ever the gracious host, C.K. showed C.J. to a room where he could change in privacy. When C.J. emerged, all dolled up and glowing, C.K. gasped out loud.
“C.J., you look beautiful!” he said in sincere amazement.
“Thank you,” C.J. said. He was trying to be modest, but he was feeling it, he felt beautiful.
C.K. offered C.J. some of his jewels. C.J. slid a heart-shaped, pink-stoned ring onto his finger. C.K. clipped on chandelier earrings and applied some Clinique lipstick. C.J. had serious 99 Cent Store earring envy.
“Man, I just can’t stop thinking about those earrings,” C.J. said later, on the way home. He was in the back seat with his legs crossed, right over left, like my mother always told me a lady should sit.
“Sometimes it’s hard not to think about something,” I said, as I pictured the two small boys making their way up to that tree house, with that garden that those pesky older brothers wouldn’t stay out of. They were way up high, dressed to the nines and my heart melted for my son in the late afternoon sun.
* * *
Other things you should be reading this week:
Pretty In Pink: An article by an amazing dad of a gender nonconforming son. It begs the question I’ve been asking a lot lately….Does standing up for human decency make a person an activist?
What’s So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?: My answer is “nothing,” of course…Nothing at all is bad about a boy who wants to wear a dress.
I am a huge fan of your son and your family, and I am glad he is allowed to love and wear what he wants! I love the “you’re beautiful” anecdote, by the way—truly touching. I wonder sometimes if the concept of gender non-conformity further reinforces the concept of gender conformity, however, being its opposite. I involuntary shudder a little bit at the term “girly stuff,” because in an ideal world, I would reject gender assignment to objects entirely. One has to wonder if C.J. and C.K. love fluffy dresses and pink studded clip on earrings because that’s simply what they love, or if they feel like girls and think that’s what girls are supposed to love?
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Gosh, reading your blog always makes me smile. As C.J gets older, I am so hoping he stays who he is and that he makes it through life strong and unscathed. That kind of individuality should be treasured. I’m so happy that he found a friend. They seem absolutely fabulous together and they should continue to hang out.
I am a blubbering mess! This post was so, so touching. All those boys want is feel beautiful and be who they are. I’m glad they found each other.
I know, right?! I swear I gasped hearing that CK gasped when he saw CJ come down in that dress. It touched me so deeply. Wonderful things happen when kids are allowed to be themselves ❤
Did you see this?
Thanks for sharing that link, that just made my day seeing that story. I love all these stories about parents showing love and acceptance and supporting their children but to me, there is something a little extra special when you see the dads step up like this.
*Heart melting* 🙂
So sweet, and what a beautiful story to share and bring smiles to all of us. We are all lucky to have you as a blogger 🙂
This whole website is just so heartbreakingly sweet, and this particular post even more so. I think C.J. is very, very lucky to have such a wonderful mom. I’ve really enjoyed reading through all of your articles. They’re the kind of thing we need in a dark world – especially where you have so many people promoting hatred in the name of goodness, like that appalling preacher you wrote about a few posts back.
C.K. sounds so cute! I work as a children’s entertainer, making balloon art, and I find the gender differences very firmly fixed in what children ask for – and what their parents ask to have made for them. If I met you I would love to make C.J. some balloon models of princesses, hearts and My Little Ponies in pink and purple and white and blue.
Thank you both for being so wonderful and for writing so beautifully about your lives. I’m so glad that you and C.J found such good friends.
So sweet! But where do you find clip-on earrings?
The 99 Cent Store (C.K.’s Mom taught me that.)
What a fantastic blog! I’m so glad that someone recommended this to me!
there was an article on yahoo news this morning, basically the same as “what’s wrong with a boy wearing a dress”, and generated alot of comments. However, those comments, usually quoting religious beliefs, and general homophobe vernacular were prrimarily negative as being the feminization of the american male, and all of the nonsense usually heard from. I had posted many comments, trying to explain and educate, but alas to no avail. My comments were all thumbs down, and my comments rated at too low to show. Sigh….. This is what this society has become, and I am truly sorry that you have to face this, for what really amounts to no thought process at all. but then again, why should this be any different than anything else in our culture. we’be become a mass of people who have lost the ability to debate, have open minds, are only attracted to sound bites from which to make an opinion. part of the commentary was that we’re all going to hell in a handbasket, to which my comment that that was true, was true for completely different reasons than this. That too got voted down quickly of course.
It’s maddening to try and have a conversation with cretins.
I think there is a play group in the Orange County area. I can look for information on that if anyone is interested.
i don’t have anything constructive to say, but i think this post is totally sweet. my heart is all gooey-melty, now!
That is the sweetest thing ever! Hooray for finding friends who truly understand you. 🙂
This blog (and particularly this entry) is so awesome. Thank you for being such a great mom and an inspiration to others. I hope that someday I can raise my kids as well as you seem to be raising yours.
this really plucked at my heart strings. It is obviously wonderful for C.J. to have a like minded friend, but what about you?! It must be so nice to have met a mother going through similar struggles. I’m happy for you all.
So Awesome! Yay!
Now, that was just too cool ! ! ! !
I tear up reading this because it’s wonderful parents like you and C.K.’s mom that are ushering in a change. Thank you so much. I’m so happy to hear C.J. found a friend of similar mind!
Incredible. This post made my friggin day. Warmed my heart, too. Speechless
As a natural matchmaker, I’m totally wondering if there could be an online group for parents of gender-nonconforming kids which could link to all these amazing posts, allow us to have discussions, and facilitate introducing people for more of these potential playdates. My little A. (just turned 5) would love to meet another pink boy in Seattle that we could play with, and I would love to find a kindred spirit to hang out with here, too.
Johanna, are you familiar with TYFA? They host an online discussion group for parents, grandparents, and caretakers of transgender and gender nonconforming youth:
Click TYFA Talk. The list is moderated and there’s a screening phone call. Highly recommended resource!
There’s a wonderful group offered through the Children’s National Medical Center. They have an online forum, monthly parent meetings (for those in the DC area), and a yearly summer camp. http://www.childrensnational.org/DepartmentsandPrograms/default.aspx?Type=Program&Id=6178&Name=Gender
The author of My Princess Boy http://www.myprincessboy.com and her gender non-conforming son live in the Seattle area.
I loved this paragraph: “C.K. flitted down the stairs in a pink terrycloth sundress. C.J. looked at me. I knew what he was thinking and I nodded and smiled at him, silently acknowledging that, yes, he owns the same exact dress in turquoise.” You have an amazing way with writing that is so amusing, yet conveys a poignant message. I am so happy for C.J. that he was born to a family like yours (and so happy for C.K. that he was too!). 🙂
Oh God they are soooooo cute! And I am not the kind of person to say anything or anyone is “soooo cute.”
The pure joy in this post was so obvious I was grinning from ear to ear while reading it. Glad the playdate was a success!
Awww I’m so excited! I’m glad he has a male friend that is into the same fashion choices as himself!! In a few years you’ll be taking them both to the mall to shop for their favorite Coach and Prada accessories…get ready mom!
It is so wonderful that CJ and Ck have become friends. I imagine this will help a lot. Especially now that you have a friend going though the same thing so close by
What a joyful post! Thank you and the pics (and manicure) are very cute!
Someday – someday – this will all be commonly accepted and understood and people will not need to seek each other out as you and your new friend have had to do. It will be because of loving, compassionate, brave, and, yes, trailblazing, parents like you and CJ’s dad (and CK’s parents, too).
For now, I am so happy and so thrilled for your family and for CK’s family that you all have found each other!
Aw, that’s great that you found a family that’s pretty much identical to yours! It sounds like they had fun!
This was a special post because it described pure, unadulterated joy – something that seems to flow so naturally from the spirit of children free to be themselves. Thanks for sharing this wonderful tale.
YAY!!! I am thrilled that you all found each other and that you have a new kindred spirit down the street :-). I hope the kids have hours upon hours of fun, and that you get hours and hours of a new friend who understands to the core. Much love to you all!!!
Sounds like the making of 3 great friendships! How amazing is that! ><3<
Are you familiar with the game Pretty Pretty Princess? My kids loved it at CJ’s age — it’s a simple board game (I don’t think it requires reading) where you go around a board with tokens and acquire a Princess crown, bracelets, earrings, necklace, etc until you have all Princessly accoutrements and then you win! I think your son and his new friend would really like it.
I love you, I love CJ, I love CK. You are one amazing mom. Love, love, love to you.
So glad you posted the link to the NYTimes article. I read through it, thought they did alright but am certain they missed some great words of wisdom by not tracking down you & your family. Lovely post today – absolute joy to read – and btw, CJ’s Bro is still getting props from my family & friends for his awesome letter to Chic-Fil-A.
Of all your posts, this one may be my favorite!! I’m so happy for CJ and CK!! I hope they continue to have a great time playing together and that this is the beginning of a lifelong friendship! OMG is there anything better to be witness to?
I’m misty eyed and feeling the love. Reminds me of the music video for Blind Melon’s “No Rain” where the poor dejected Bee Girl walks around being her awesome self and no one “gets” her then she discovers a whole field of other Bee People and has that special joy of being with people who understand her. So happy for CJ, CK and you!
That’s so brilliant. Well said!
Awesome song, by the way! I play it in my car on days when I’m feeling off… And when I just want to smile.
CJ’s Mom, I HOPE you can embrace the role of “Activist” (HUGS)
This makes me so happy and so sad, I wish that I lived near you because my 5 1/2 yo would love playing dress-up with CJ. He is not really into “girl” toys or really many toys at all but he loves his dresses as much as CJ and he does have a huge doll house. I with it was easier to meet similar kids/families in NJ. And FWIW, I have pics of my son just before turning two walking around with purses. Thanks for your blog, it helps me feel more normal.
check out the children’s national medical center list mentioned in the comments above. I know there are several NJ families on that list.
Yeah CJ has a friend who is such a great fit for him, Likely a great comfort for all involved…..
C.J. has a friend who likes the same things! Hurray for him and for his cool new buddy. I know your heart must be smiling.