It’s hard to show and tell at school when it has increasingly become a place where you have to hide and keep secrets. C.J. taught me that this week.
C.J. is this week’s “Special Bear” in his kindergarten class. It’s supposed to be the highlight of the school year for him. Instead it’s been one panic attack after another.
This week is all about C.J. If you knew my son at home, you’d assume he’s made for weeks like this when all eyes are on him. At home he acts as if he’s born to shine, sparkle and steal every scene in this feature film called life. When talking about his future, he’s gotten in the habit of starting every sentence with “When I’m famous…” At home, he’s no wallflower.
Things are much different at school. This year he works every day to blend in and avoid doing something that will call attention to himself and his gender nonconformity. He’s in constant fear that the wrong classmate will find out that he likes girl stuff.
Every day of this week, C.J. is the center of attention.
We had the classroom teddy bear with us all weekend. We were supposed to have adventures, take pictures and include them with captions in the class journal for the students to see on Monday.
“Let me take your picture with the bear for the journal,” I said on Friday night as C.J. sat eating a bowl of ice cream.
“NO! Don’t take my picture! I’m wearing my nightgown! I don’t want them to know I like girl stuff!”
“Oh, okay. We’ll start taking pictures tomorrow,” I said.
Every photo taken with the bear the next day was well thought out and completely staged. At his request, we had to scan C.J. and the background for “girl clothes” and “girl toys” before he allowed us to take any pictures of him and that damn bear. We are horrible at noticing our boy dressed as a girl or playing with girl toys now. They used to stick out like a sore thumb. Now they don’t.
I gladly handed over the bear and journal to C.J.’s teacher on Monday. Then, I realized that for Tuesday, we had to create a custom 11×14 collage of photos of C.J. and a list of his favorite things. We had a questionnaire to guide us.
“What are your favorite things to do?” I read off of the questionnaire to C.J.
“Dancing and cutting my dolls hair and playing with my dolls and drawing me in beautiful dresses,” he said.
I started to write down his answer. I had a feeling that he would stop me. But, if he didn’t, if he was fine with giving his classmates the truth, I would be too.
“You can’t write that!” C.J. said. “That’s what I really like, not what I want the class to know I like. Tell them I like to play on the iPad. But, don’t tell them I play the dressmaker app. Or the makeover app.”
“Okay. What’s your favorite movie?”
“Tangled. But don’t tell them that. Tell them I like Toy Story.”
“Okay,” I said as I wrote. “Which Toy Story? 1, 2 or 3?”
“Three because it has Barbie in it, but don’t tell them that’s why. Just tell them I like three best.”
“Okay. What is your favorite TV show?”
“Jessie and Shake It Up. But don’t tell them that. Tell them I like Kickin’ It or maybe Good Luck Charlie is okay.”
The simple questionnaire was an exhausting process. The accompanying poster board had to be covered with C.J.’s favorite photos of himself. C.J. insisted that I only use photos of him “looking and acting like a boy.”
I imagine that for the vast majority of parents of boys it’s easy to find a picture of their boy looking and acting like a boy. For me it’s not. I struggled and found nine from the last year. In three of them he’s wearing only the color pink (a polo shirt in three shots and board shorts in one). He allowed me to use those.
When we were done with the poster board C.J. said it looked “just okay.”
“What could we do to make it look better?” I asked him, wanting him to like it.
“Make it pink and rainbow and add glitter,” he said.
“We can do that,” I replied.
Today he had to take his favorite book to school for his teacher read to the class. At first he was afraid that he’d get teased if he took his real favorite book, but he took it anyway and I’m glad he did. He took Perez Hilton’s The Boy With Pink Hair.
“He was born that way-The Boy with Pink Hair…Life is not easy being pink…But when you have a best friend who appreciates your uniqueness and parents who are loving and supportive, you can do just about anything.” — The Boy With Pink Hair
Tomorrow he’s supposed to take his favorite toy to share with the class. He won’g do that. He won’t take his cupcake princess doll, his ballerina nutcracker or one of his Barbies. So he’s taking a snow globe and will pretend that he loves it.
On Friday he takes his family to share with the class. His dad, brother and I will stand up there with him in front of the class and support him proudly. No matter what he likes in private or public, we like him just the way he is.
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The struggle C.J. deals with and you as a mother on a daily basis breaks my heart. One day C.J. wont have the struggles he deals with now..i hope..in a perfect world so much would be different.
Super big hugs to CJ. I wish the world weren’t such a crappy place for fabulous people.
I was just led to your blog today by a friend of mine after your post about your son’s Christmas dress was plastered on a friend’s Facebook page as a photo with the story as a caption. First of all, I wanted to thank you for being such an inspirational parent. My son isn’t as glamorous as your son, but he loves wearing his sister’s hand-me-down clothing and his favorite colors are pink and purple. After seeing the photo my son asked why he couldn’t have a Christmas dress too. I felt horrible telling him only half the truth. Part of the truth is we don’t have a car and couldn’t get to the store to buy him one, though I wasn’t aware he wanted one until, well, kind of last minute. It would have been easier if he’d said something sooner. The other reason, which would have been even harder to tell him, is we just can’t afford to buy him a dress for Christmas this year.
I’ve since read a little of your blog to Beekee, who isn’t as bold and brilliant as your son is. He’s much more shy, quiet, and sedate. He can’t imagine growing up to be famous and he’s a little intimidated by the idea of being on camera and in photos. He’s a really shy guy. He was really upset about the way C.J. had to feel over the whole school thing. He said he hates schools if they can’t let kids do what feels right. Beekee loves the hand-me-downs he picked carefully from his sister’s old clothes. He calls them his “girly clothes”. He wears her nightgowns to bed in the summer and his dad’s old hockey jersey as a “nightgown” because that’s how he thinks of it. It’s certainly big enough to be a dress on him. He’s more partial to sparkly pink shirts and a pair of jeans than dresses for the most part, but he doesn’t think all boys should have to be like that. He thinks boys should be free to choose whatever they want.
Almost every time we go out people comment on the fact that I’ve got 4 beautiful girls. They’re always shocked and apologetic when I say that I’ve actually only got one girl, my oldest. They comment about the way my boys need hair cuts, or that it’s hard to tell with my oldest. He has short hair right now, but he loves wearing pink and purple hoodies and things with bling. He hears regularly about how he’s going to grow up to be gay. He can’t imagine how that must feel for a boy that’s got even more pressure on him to be “normal” and only wear boy clothes. He said it’s not fair.
Most importantly, my Beekee had this to say and I’d really like to pass it on. He said, “Tell her boy that it’s okay not to be like other boys. It’s not fair that the other kids treat him bad. I don’t like it when our neighbors tease me all the time because I like girly toys and I wear my girly clothes. I like my girly clothes! It’s not very nice of them. Tell him I wish I knew him so we could be friends and then we could play with girly stuff together and dress whatever way we wanted and then he’d have a friend just like him because I would like that too. I like superheroes and boy stuff too but it would be fun to have a friend that likes stuff other boys don’t like and is a boy too. It would be really nice to have a friend that thinks boy stuff and girly stuff can be worn by anyone because they like it, not because they’re a boy or a girl. It’s just sad that he probably lives to far away to be a friend.”
So, please share with your son that there’s a 5 1/2 (the ever important 1/2) year old boy in Texas that thinks he’s perfect just the way he is and won’t judge him at all. Not everyone is as harsh as the kids he knows at school. Sorry this was so long, but it just felt there was a lot that needed to be said, and Beekee really wanted to share his thoughts too.
That’s just lovely, how your son empathises.. Been there and done that with my son as well. I have so many pictures of him in his sister’s clothes, nail polish, make-up etc. They are born the way they are and the world is a nasty place for these kids. it’s lovely they have a safe haven at home, plenty don’t.
This makes me so sad. My own little guy is 6, and it’s hard enough to socialize him as a “regular” (albeit hyperactive) child. You are an awesome mom, and I hope that your son is able to start sharing his beautiful true self with the world when he is older.
I found your blog and read through it all today, and I somehow missed this post until I scrolled back up to the top – and in a way, it’s so much sadder to read it after having read an earlier post you made I believe sometime last year about how you worried that CJ would start hiding who he is because of teasing and now it has happened. I truly hope that, if CJ still loves pink and purple and princesses next year at this time, that he’ll have the courage to tell his classmates and not be ashamed of himself. ❤ CJ has another supporter on his side from me. As a 25 year old genderfluid individual, I've always been a very masculine girl – I don't wear makeup, dresses, and I have absolutely no interest in anything girly aside from various shades of nonnatural colored hair dye (but that's more because I love standing out in a crowd) and I never heard the term genderfluid until about a year ago and I realised very abruptly that, well, that described me pretty well. Even as a little kid, I always dressed like a guy, acted like a guy, and sometimes I wished I was a guy just to see what it was like, but I was quite happy with a female body. I'm lucky it was never questioned and that my friends and family who matter love me the same and I hope that CJ will always know the same about his friends and family, no matter what he likes and how he dresses. Sending well wishes, warm thoughts, and much support your way this holiday season and in the future.
Oh my God! I just discovered your blog and absolutely love it! I have been wandering around the different posts and stumbled upon this one. I’m in tears! I feel so bad for you son feeling like he HAS TO pretend to be somebody he’s not. I’m from Quebec, Canada and believe we are much more open about sexuality in general and about homosexuality etc. But for a boy that young to want to hide this huge part of himself to his classmates is so sad… I hope he finds a kinder world as he grows up. A world filled with people like you and me who care about what’s inside more than anything else. I have great respect for you and your son, going on with the life that makes you (and him) happy, not crumbling behind what society seems as ‘normal’. All my love to all of you! And be sure I’ll be back regularly to read you! Caroline
I wish he lived in a more accepting place to have to hide who you are because of fear of hate is so horribly sad.
I’m speechless. I just want to hug your son.
it is really a touching story, i’m reading this story at my office at break time, i have to hold my tear. You are a great mom, parent. Your child is awesome. i have to learn much from your boy about facing everyone who can’t take us the way we are (my eyes being really teary right now). Great story n keep on posting ^_^
This is my first time to read your blog, so I’m sorry if this has been discussed previously. I am concerned about this need to have a double life. I almost feel like it is making him have more anxiety and feel ashamed, which he shouldn’t. Is there no way that you could homeschool him or send him to a school that is more open? (Montessori, perhaps?)
It is impossible for this free/repressed paradigm to continue. Some day someone will find out. It is MUCH better for it to be when his classmates are young, and kind, and not prejudiced, than when they are older, and stuck in their ways, and cruel. Not to mention physically stronger and more prone to violence.
Please consider encouraging C.J. to slowly but surely reveal his true self to his classmates, sooner rather than later.
This is the saddest post I’ve read in such a long time. This is breaking my heart. I’ve been on a bit of a hiatus – lots of family staying the past 2 months, so I haven’t been able to read lately. I had no idea that CJ was feeling this way. I swear, I want to cry. What happened? (Sorry. I’m going to go back and read…). Poor CJ.
I know this must have been an exhausting process for you. I had to giggle a little, though. My son (not the princess dress wearing one, either) LOVES all the Tinkerbell movies and makes me swear not to tell anyone. He’s obsessed with being popular. But at home, he does whatever he pleases and he’s amazing. And, we didn’t even think he’d be able to talk let alone express as much as he does because he has autism. Life can deal parents with some pretty difficult decks, but I swear I get more out of my deck than the average parent. I’m fairly certain you do, too.
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it’s a hard thing. I had this experience in high school. Thank gods “Punk and New Wave” came along to give me an excuse to play with clothing styles and outre fashion. Now I just celebrated 17 years as a gay drag nun (I’m one of the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence. You can google me as “Sister Unity” if you want to know more about me/us). I get to be me exactly as I am at my most creative and dynamic in public and in service of the community.
One of my best moments as an adult and as a drag activist was going back to speak about cross gendered men at my high school. I spoke of Native American traditions and more as a boy.. then, that afternoon, lectured and did a Q & A as Sister Unity in full regalia, hose, viel, chiffon floor length skirt, full make up. The high school shrink I had seen as a senior (mother issues!!) came up and told me that I seemed to be a whole person and how glad she was. The Head master invited me back any time and said how proud she was.
I wish I could speak or read some stories at CJ’s school. Maybe it would break the ice. That’s a big part of what we do as drag nuns, break the ice. We are publicly “different”, ourselves, and magically flamboyant, in order to make room for everyone to be who they are as they are.
I just have this urge to let CJ and all our magic children like him, that there are adults and role models just like him, that it’s all going to work out really, really well.
Poor CJ. It stinks to hear that he feels so anxious about being himself, No one should be made to feel awkward based on the preconceived notions of others, it isn’t fair. I understand somewhat. I have aspergers, and I feel I can’t tell anyone because I don’t want to be made fun of or picked on. He’s really lucky to have such a great family though =) School will hopefully get easier for him, make some friends that completely understand and support him.
I just saw an article I thought readers of this blog would find very interesting. I know I did. This is preliminary but they seem to be on to something about how and why people are born gay. It’s biological, but not in the actual genes, it’s in what they call epi-markers. Just fascinating. I’ve been waiting many, many years for some kind of scientific proof that can’t be denied that people are born the way they are born and for the day that discrimination toward LBGT folks would be understood to be every bit as wrong as racism.
Makes my heart cry for your precious boy. I hate for him that he’s hit that age and stage of where he’s at. With my son, it’s when he felt for the first time that he’s “a dummy.” At home he totally rocks and is brilliant. But at school, it’s all ” torture” and he’s “a failure.”
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I hope that one day he can completely come to terms with his likes and dislikes! Remember, gender has no box.
this is sad and i am shocked how a transition to kindergarten can suddenly turn C.J. into someone who feels he needs to hide who he is. Do you think there is any chance he can repeat the assignment later on in the year when he feels more comfortable with the class and tell them what he really likes?
This breaks my heart. I am so glad that he’s his true self when he can be but school is a land mine. I think that kids would be more understanding if they were exposed but I wouldn’t want my poor love to be the first. I’m just so proud of you and your family…and sad for you, but mostly proud. ❤
How unbelievably sad and heartbreaking. First of all, of course, for C.J.! But, I couldn´t help it, one of my first thoughts was about how much the other kids in his class are missing, too. What a great opportunity this would have been to learn about diversity and tolerance! I hope everyone around C.J. gets to learn that lesson regardless – so in the future, he won´t have to be afraid to show his true passions!
It makes me so mad. CJ seems like such a caring boy. He has so much love to give but he feels he can not share his true self with his classmates. Its so very sad.
This makes me so sad to know that at such a young age CJ already knows what society easily accepts.
Much love to you and yours from Seattle. Keep on keeping on, and the rest of us will keep working toward making the world a better place for EVERYONE.
I read your blog every day to see how CJ and your family are doing. I can’t imagine how difficult it must be, thinking at such a young age you need to pretend to be someone you’re not. It brings joy to my heart that CJ has such a wonderful, loving, supportive family to say “it’s okay to be who you are.” Please give a huge hug to CJ, and know your whole family has a big supporter in Central Cali!
Article in AP today underscores my point about marketing. 4 year old boy wants an ez bake oven for Christmas. His 13 to sister goes to buy him one but they only make them in pick and lavender. She calls hasbro on it, no comment. She does change.org and gets 30k signatures in a week. Hasbro then media speaks that over the years they have featured boys and girls together on the box, het continue to market only to what they think girls like, which to be fair is their current main market. That it perpetuates gender stereotypes by their marketing is the real issue here. And that keeps this nonsense embedded in the cultural psyche. And that is my sole point. If we want real change, for kids as well as adults it MUST start in the media. When those kids grow up they will have a completely different viewpoint, and then we’ll start to see personal freedom, in so many different ways take real form.
I guess Hasbro hasn’t figured out that many of the great chefs in history were men. I have two daughters: one is a commando in the IDF and the other is studying to be a medical examiner because she “likes gore and guts”. I suppose I’ve failed as a parent, according to society, because my girls aren’t ‘feminine’. OTOH, my son is quite courtly– like the men in a Jane Austen novel. Unfortunately, we still have a long way to go towards gender equality and stereotype removal.
I was about to say something similar. My son begged for an EZ Bake Oven when he was 4 years old. I got one for him for Christmas – he didn’t care that it was purple. He is now 14 years old and about as “boy” as you can get, and has his heart set on culinary school and a wonderful future as a chef at a fine restaurant. The marketing of these items is ridiculous. Cisgendered boys can like “girl” things just as much as gender-nonconforming boys. We are putting WAY too much weight and burden on the shoulders of kids who are just at the beginning stages of discovering who they are – let them have that very important work, let them own their discoveries, authentically and without expectation! That day will probably never come though, and it’s pretty depressing.
This is just so sad and heart breaking.
We had a moment like this this week. My son (5th grade) has to decide who to be for “traveling biographies.” He wants to be Cleopatra. The librarian assured the group, repeatedly, that they’ve had many instances of kids coming dressed as a famous person of the opposite gender. When he got in the car after school my son reported this and then, without missing a beat, said, “but in my head I knew what she meant — she meant girls coming dressed as famous men, not the opposite.” I am leaving this up to him but I hope he finds the guts to go as Cleopatra.
Your 5th grader is a smart kid, he can already read between the lines that polite society says but mean something else. Although I do somewhat blur lines, i don’t crossdress or anything, I found it hilarious when at Christmas my parents would give me a new set of cookware, and my wife a circular saw that was lighter for her to use than mine was. I just like finer things, as well as tough things, both boy and girl things and I just do what i like. My wife makes sure to buy me soft knots for sweaters, microfiber for pants, since no way would I wear the rough woolens or heavy gabardine. Can’t stand them. I like “romantic movies and chick flicks. my wife prefers action and shows like Criminal Minds. I do too but mainly I’m trying to understand the logic of what the characters have done. Everybody should get to do and like whatever they like. when enough people stand up to the marketers it will change. When their sales drop they will play a different tune to keep the financial status quo. They continue the boy toys, girl toys because it’s profitable. But note the ads of girls playing with the boys with their boy toys. not the other way around yet. In that way they have found that it’s profitable to support feminist thoughts and ideals. It really is about the money at the root of it.
My son decided to be Cleopatra for a similar 5th grade project. I told him that I had no problem with it, but the other kids might tease him. He said he still wanted to do it, so we made a toga-like dress out of a white bedsheet, I braided a black wig and put a gold bead at the end of each braid, and his sister did his makeup. That was about 15 years ago. He was proud of his costume and wore it again and again for Halloween until he outgrew it. I was proud of him then, and I’m proud of him now for knowing who he is and being true to himself. Not all kids will feel safe enough among their peers to go for it, but I wish your son every success, no matter what his decision.
This reminds me of my own experiences as a kid. I remember in grade 1 being super embarrassed when my sister told a classmate that my favourite film was “Sleeping Beauty”. I was super-uptight about hiding my tastes in general, because I knew that they weren’t the same as the other kids, and also because I didn’t really know that much about the things my classmates did. For me this wasn’t a gender issue. But the thing is, looking back, I realize that the main issue wasn’t the difference from my peers as much as my idea that I was different – I wasn’t scared of what the other kids said as much as what I though they might say. In reality I was never “bullied” at school, and I now regret thinking that I should hide myself because it wasted my childhood.
I don’t know what my parents could have done about it, since they were essentially supportive. But I do remember feeling alienated because I thought my parents were oblivious to my problems and I was embarrassed to tell them about it. The main issue for me was that we didn’t have cable tv, so I was clueless about the other kids culture. Its a petty issue but could make a kid go crazy, and of course I knew it was petty then and so was ashamed of it.
Maybe C.J. could be actively encouraged to open up more? Have there been bullying or teasing incidents? Maybe he’s just fearful for no purpose? It must be tricky to on the one hand support your children’s choices but on the other hand strongly suggest new actions when you know its best. Does C.J. ever see gender creative grown-ups or kids being able to express themselves to strangers? Maybe he doesn’t think its possible to be gender creative out of family and close friends.
It’s so sad to read this… I can’t imagine how hard must be for you (and your husband) to see him go through this, but I hope you know how good is that CJ at least has home to be himself.
I remember not fitting in while growing up, I loved boys games and clothes – I only had one skirt and only because it had many pockets, and I was in love with pockets!-, and I didn’t understand why I couldn’t dream about being a soccer player or other stuff that was “only for boys” or why I had to get all those make up games and girly clothes… (I still get christmas presents that are totally different from what I like).
Anyway, it really gives me hope for CJ knowing how caring and thoughtful you and your family are. Hope things get better at school!!
So sad that kids absorb those ideas about gender so crushingly early. While my son is a toddler and happy to play with “boy” and “girl” toys (which is obviously a ridiculous distinction anyway). I didn’t think those days of freedom would end so soon. Terrifically sad.
I cringed through this whole thing. This just sounds like an anxiety problem waiting to happen. Poor little one.
Another beautifully written post. So sad, but it’s very sweet that he took that book to school. Hopefully someday he’ll feel comfortable truly being himself there. You and your family are very lucky you get to see the real him – he sounds amazing.
This is so sad. I want him to be able to express himself as freely as he should be able to. I hate the pressure that other children inflict on each other. This one was a heartbreaker.
I’m in my 60s and still lying every minute of every day. Someday. . .
It’s never too late!
I was almost 60 when I began to get a handle on myself in 2001, and even then it wasn’t until 5th November 2008 (so appropriate, if there were to be fireworks) that I finally said “F*** it!” – it was that sort of moment – and just began to be ALL of me all of the time.
No more John in public, and Angela (mostly) in private. Now I dress as I want every day, I’m accepted just as I am by my friends and neighbours, and I’m happier than I have ever been before.
I feel complete at last
I was just shopping with a friend, and we walked into a teenage clothing store to buy a gift for a niece, and I laughed as I caught myself saying, “Why is everything so LOUD in here?!” …and I’m 27. Lol excellent post!
You describe this all excellently, but it killed me to hit “like”. I so DON’T like what CJ is having to go through this year. It SUCKS that the world is still so ridiculous.
This was a very bittersweet post. I’m sad that CJ is not free to just truly enjoy his moment in the spot light but at the same time, this child is also learning to navigate the not so perfect world we live in and experiencing a family that supports his choices regardless even if his choice is that he is not ready to share his fabulousness with the rest of his class quite yet. He sounds like such an incredibly intuitive kid, he’ll learn who he can show his true self to, how much and when.
Whenever I read one of these posts, I always picture one day watching a talk show or the news and there will some gifted singer, dancer, or actor being interviewed and I’ll hear him say, when I was little my mom used to this blog….. and I’m going to smile, probably shed a tear or two and think to myself, so that’s how you turned out, CJ. Fabulous 🙂
I feel so badly for him. Hiding who we are sucks no matter our age or gender.
I am so heartbroken for him. We just need to keep loving our kids and telling their stories and maybe someday they will not have to hide so much to survive.
I teared up reading this. My little one is in kindergarten too and also getting a lot of unpleasant response from classmates about gender non-conformity 😦 I have been struggling with how to help since I certainly don’t want to tell him not to be himself to avoid his classmate’s ignorant responses. I love how you are handling this and especially love the respect you are giving him in allowing to choose his own private and public faces. I wish so much that CJ and all children could just safely be themselves everywhere.
You are a beautiful mother, with a beautiful soul. It breaks my heart that CJ is feeling the need to repress the true him because the world is not always truthful nor fully accepting – which is something the human species NEEEEDS to change about themselves… I cannot express this enough. We as people need to evolve and love unconditionally without having this mess of a reality taking away from our love and honesty. In love and light, may peace be with you and your family. Namaste.
My heart breaks for CJ. I am so in awe at your ability to allow him to deal with it on his own terms. CJ’s Mom, you are a really great mom.
it is a shame that he has to hide who he really is and what he really loves, but it (unfortunately) is better that way. kids can be incredible mean and unfair and will bully him just because he is “different” or not how other people think he is suppose to be. I really hope that he can be true about himself some day.
Your family is just so wonderful in your support! I hope one day that CJ can find a group of friends at school that he’ll be comfortable being himself with so he doesn’t feel the need to hide 😦
My heart broke for CJ in this post.
A friend just introduced me to your blog today. You (and your writing) are wonderful.
I just read this last post aloud to my 11 year old girl (who is girly!) and we are both heartbroken for your son’s struggle. He sounds utterly magical and we would love to know him.
I was going to write almost exactly what Olivia wrote. It is great that he has you guys as his family, but this world still has a long way to go. I do think we’re headed in that direction — heard Hilary Clinton on NPR today talking about marriage rights for same-sex couples in New York, etc., and people cheering. Someday, maybe someday. . .
Man. You’re an amazing mother, he is going to be proud to show who he is someday and will live a happy and fulfilled life because of his family’s love and support. Kids are cruel so I know it is so hard to be himself at school now. What a sweet boy it sounds like you have!
This cuts me to the quick. This was me in elementary school, both at school and at home. My mother did support my preference for stuffed animals over action figures (Star Wars and Thundercats were the exceptions), but I learned not to ask for the “girl” toys at a young age. I had many interests that were also “boy approved”, especially when it came to music, but my absolute favorite things were not. It became instinct to say “My favorite thing is my bicycle”, a safe answer. What some people don’t know is that, while saying such things is a way to avoid public humiliation, there is still an inner shame in telling the fib, in not being true to yourself. I even felt like I was disappointing my toys and possessions. Kids think the darndest things.
I have a tear in my eye as I read this and realize how lucky we are that my 5 yo has a school that accepts him and his gay dads
The whole “Special Bear” thing is messed up. Not every child wants to be the center of attention, and for some it’s a special kind of hell, even if they’re not gender nonconforming like CJ. Poor guy; he’s learning some hard lessons this year, it sounds.
OMGosh! This breaks my heart into ten-million little tiny pieces!!!! I want to just cry now and hug you and C.J. and the whole family! 😥 I hate that C.J. already feels he has to live this way when he’s so young and impressionable. In my mind though, C.J. is being so sweet, because he doesn’t want to hurt or confuse anyone else because he knows how young him and his classmates are. He is very mature for his age. Please give C.J. a huge hug and kiss from all of us and let him know that we support him, too. I hope things get better and he feels he can become himself more in public. It’s a horrible feeling, hiding your true self. Keep on being the best mom in the world, C.J.’s mom! ❤
My heart just breaks that he has to hide this. You have a fantastic kid and a wonderful family and I’m always thinking of him. He’s a brave child.
I would imagine the anxiety CJ is feeling must be overwhelming because he just knows that one day he’s going to be inattentive, or rather distracted by something and he’ll let it slip, or say, or do something that will let the cat really out of the bag. We all have our secrets, the ones we just know will cause everybody to know we’re flawed and not worthy.
What I’ve found to be helpful is to let it out in small increments, over time, and introduce it slowly so that others can absorb it gradually. They might tease a bit, but they see each of these as small items of the whole, and accept more easily than when confronted by the whole thing at once.
After my first pro pedicures, the tech put clear polish on my middle aged straight male toes, and when I saw how nice they looked I was hooked. Gradually allowing friends and family to see how something I was doing different did not mean I was changing all attributes that they had come to know was they key, for me to do and be what I liked, since it hurt no one else anyway. I’m sure there were areas of me they thought weird anyway, this just was one more little thing. But if I had shown up wearing “I’m really not a waitress” red all at once then that would definately be a different response.
I guess my suggestion is to coach CJ about he’s unique and worthy of being loved and accepted just the way he is, and introduce a bit of who that is a bit
at a time to let others see that
Whoops, here is the article again, this time in its entirety.
As many others have said, this makes me so sad for CJ. It also made me think about this article about teaching about gender in a kindergarten classroom, “It’s Okay To Be Neither: Teaching that Supports Gender Variant Children.” This teacher rocks and is supportive of all of her kids, including Allie who likes boys things. Perhaps CJ’s kindergarten teacher could do some of these lessons/exercises with the classroom and make it less of a gender binary space which would help CJ feel more comfortable. Small changes can make a big difference, and this is a good time to start teaching kids about gender.
That’s so sad. I guess what you were saying about never being in the closet to come out of…at home, maybe, but not at school. Is there any way you can make him feel more comfortable to be himself at school? It might be hard at first but the earlier you do it and get that over with and get used to living in your own skin…I do think the people who figure out/manage to do that earlier end up having an easier time. But I guess it’s everybody’s own process. And he’s only 5 or so. Nevermind, I don’t mean to be critical at all. That’s just so tough. Are there any charter or private schools that might be better? That said…this shit does build a lot of strength and character over time if you stay and work through it and don’t let it conquer you.
As I sat here reading this, my heart was breaking for CJ. It must be so difficult to try to fit in and not be able to be who you are at such a young age. Life is hard enough as it is and to have to try be someone else at school must be very hard.
Unfortunately, duality is a fact of life for many people from all walks and of all ages. It’s sad but true. I understand and I feel for the little guy. Take care.
I understand he is doing what he needs to do to survive, but this just breaks my heart. I’m so glad he can be himself at home.
Poor guy, I wish he had been able to stay happy and oblivious of his different-ness right through the tough years, until he was old and confident enough to say, “screw it, I am who I am”. Grade school is rough, I’m glad he can at least be himself at home.
How painful to hear about this going on in Kindergarten! My son is having a tough time in middle school just with being short and intelligent! I am so sorry. You and your family have done a great job for him to feel so comfortable at home. Stand tall with him on Friday! Never give up. Never back down.
This brought tears to my eyes. Poor baby.
It’s so much easier for girls to show up in a Mario shirt, and a Pokemon backpack, or to say their favorite thing is Minecraft. My youngest gets a bit of ribbing for it, but not enough that she thinks she has to hide it.
He’s lucky to have you at home. I used to babysit a little boy whose parents insisted he be strictly gender conforming. He’d ask me to paint his nails with clear top coat so his parents wouldn’t know (none of the other parents minded their boys coming home with nail polish).
I am so sorry that we live in a society that is not accepting of people as they are. I am sorry that you and your family have to watch CJ struggle with aligning who he is and who he wants the world to think he is. I am sorry that CJ has to question whether it’s okay for people to know he likes the things he likes, and I hope he doesn’t start questioning whether or not he should actually like those things in the first place.
Poor baby. It’s so sad. But, all kids seem to go through it. My daughter is in 2nd grade. She’s a girly girl, so she should have no problems, right? Nope. She wants to be a “popular”. And wonders if she’s too fat. (She’s skinny). I hate that kids have to go through this. And I’m sure it’s worse for CJ. Hang in there, mamma!
Thanks for sharing. I’ve noticed my son is starting to do this at school as well. It is a terrible feeling to see them have to do this…and yet, I think it is the coping mechanism that will work best. There are still days my son is brave enough to be himself. But it is too much to ask a five year old to stand up and endure cruelty when his instincts are telling him to protect himself. Sad.
This makes me want to cry. Something is wrong with the world when even kids this young feel lime they have to hide who they truly are.
I applaud you for supporting him in deciding how he presents himself – I imagine it could be easy to go the other way and try to push him to show his true colours at school.
This breaks my heart. My daughter caved to gender conformity pressure in Kindergarten, too. She had her hair cut very short (to be like her best friend’s), and insisted on getting her ears pierced because people kept telling her she looked like a boy or asking her if she was a boy or girl, even though 3/4 of her wardrobe is pink and there are boys with long hair at her school (a homeschooling enrichment program she only attended 1 day/wk in K). In your situation I would probably start considering other educational options if remotely possible.
This made me so sad for your son. I have two boys on the Autism Spectrum. Kids on the spectrum struggle to understand social rules so we spend a lot of time teaching social skills, talking about what it means to be part of a group and joining in, etc. We want our boys to understand these things because we want them to make connections and friendships in life because they add such a richness and depth to it.
But here is your son who understands the rules but feels he has to use them to hide who he is. Truly it is enough to make me cry.
It seems the antithesis of what I am trying to teach my boys. I don’t want my boys to hide who they are. I want them to understand enough about social skills so that other people can look past the Autism and see them for how awesome they are. I hope the lessons they learn teach them empathy (being considerate about other people’s feelings) more than about fitting in! I really hope my boys don’t get to the point where they feel they need to hide who they are 😦
I have come to feel that a touch of Autism isn’t so bad at times. I love the fact that my boys are still unafraid to be who they are even if they don’t always fit in.
Hopefully in the future all of our boys will find that middle ground between fitting in and standing out!!! I think that as long as we all keep working at it, we’ll all get there.
Poor CJ, this post breaks my heart. I’m so sorry that he can’t be himself at school. But I am glad that at least he is free to be himself at home.
The desire to fit in and not stick out is a sad fact of life for many gender creative boys. It is a shame that he’s so aware of it already in Kindergarten. Finding friends who are accepting and a bit adventurous is a good first step. It is all about changing the group norm. Structured activities where he gets praise and positive attention for doing things he likes to do. A lot rests on how far the teacher and school are willing to go to help. It is about moving from tolerating differences to celebrating them. A slightly older boy who would be totally okay with with bending or breaking gender norms. This would be in addition to supportive girls of course. Sooner or later he’s going to do or say something that crosses that invisible line. For me it was little things like crossing my legs at the knees, or throwing a ball “like a girl.” When the laughs and taunts happen it is wonderful to have allies to stick up for you!
Left out some words about half way. It should read, “It would really be great if he could make friends with a slightly older boy who…
I felt so sad reading this post. But on the bright side, at least CJ has the safety of home and his family, where he can be who he really is. Some kids don’t even have that. At home he’ll just have to sparkle twice as much.
too sad for words…. when my child (for other than gender identity reasons) suffered similar feelings and the need to hide from others at school how she felt – it cost her 15+ years of drug related behaviors and while now at 31 she somehow is still ‘alive’ she has lost her heath and is forever changed…. PLEASE do not let the possibility of heroine addiction or worse suicide be the options that CJ sees as his only way out! My heart is breaking for this tender loving and beautiful family……CJ (the the rest of You) need to help him KNOW in ALL arenas he will be a part of that CJ is WHOLE, LOVED and accepted just as HE IS without any FEAR of showing his true colors!!!
Rooting for You ALL ❤
It makes me so sad that CJ is feeling it’s not ok to be who he is and to like what he likes at school. Have you been talking to his teacher about this ? Maybe she can help somehow.
How did it happen that he has become so conscious of others’ opinions? So sad 😦
I can’t help but love this little person! Being different sucks when the name of the game is to fit in and be the same. He’s already on the right track with such am amazing, supportive family. Keep up the good work, roll with the punches, and never ever let him know anything but the utmost love and he will be just fine. It will be tough, but having a fabulous child is better than no child at all. Give C.J. an extra hug today!!
This is so sad…to be so young but already aware of the societal expectations to behave ina certain way. Thank goodness CJ has a loving and accepting family behind him / her!
What CJ needs to be able to say is “This is me. If you don’t like it, that’s your problem, and YOU need to sort it out!”
But CJ can’t, without the support of friends who DO like him/her unconditionally, and who inspire that sort of self confidence. I hope, for all our sakes, that friends come forward for your CJ, and for ALL the other little CJ’s in the world…
…and the big CJ’s too; it’s long past time.
Yeah, Melissa hit it right on the head. I feel bad for the little guy.
Get him in to a waldorf school. He would feel more at home there… This s just hearbreaking to read
My heart goes out to you all
Hugs. I have complete empathy with you, going through exactly the same. My little fella and his “split” personality. When writing to santa 2 nights ago, after asking for a mermaids tail and a purple fijit frien, he then also asked for santa to give him some cars and other boy toys so he could tell the kids at school what he got for christmas 😦
For the readers here, this should give you an idea of what so many of us who have had to live in our own closets for fear of what our peers would do to us is like. For a child it is devastating, for an adult, we have a better understanding, all around the stress is enough to give the average person a burning hole in their gut.
For me, I spent years hiding I was butch. Then spent years hiding I was a lesbian, then spent years denying I was a lesbian because it was necessary and then I emerged from the closet and it was we knew all along. I do have 2 generations of varying discrimination against me to show the scars for.
CJ, I hope the world so many of us have worked hard to create for you to be free and not filled with fear is showing to be a failure in so many ways. I am sorry CJ. We have to work harder so you can inherit the future filled with equality and no discrimination.
My daughter just left school to come back to homeschooling. She’s in the 9th grade. She is pretty much heteronormative, gender conforming. However, I’m so glad that she’s home. She was just plain bored but because she is gendernormative, she didn’t have any problems. My older child is gender nonconforming, and has home/unschooled from the moment of birth. I am so glad Alexx was able to be as genderbending as they wished, and no one told her they couldn’t. Alexx is now 17, and so confident, with a positive self image.
There are so many homeschool groups (stay away from the ones that have a lot of religious people) who would totally accept CJ. Have you thought about homeschooling CJ?
If you want to read about a genderbending 17 year old, my child’s blog is here–http://mytwospirits.wordpress.com/ Maybe you could encourage her to write more.
(ps, I’m an English teacher, but I’m learning, slowly how to use gender nonspecific pronouns.)
Darlene Tando, LCSW 619-948-8926 http://www.DarleneTando.com Healing Children… Helping Families…Changing Lives… One heart at a time. “Like” me on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Darlene-Tando-LCSW/216808981672205
i wish i could afford a tutor for him. just until he is in his early teens. I was a “deviant” little girl and my mom homeschooled me til 8th grade. By then I had the identity formed without the fear and I just kinda hid and tried to scrape by til graduation. Stayed me tho…
Heartbreaking! Damn reputation! Oh, CJ!!! At least he took the favourite book, and at least he can proudly stand and show that his family loves him.
I almost cried. I hope someday he encounters someone at school that shows him sharing his real life and real interests with people won’t get him hurt… or that the people that do want to hurt him for it don’t matter. I hope his road is smooth.
oh, this made me sad. I’m sorry that he is having a hard time. I hope things get better for him at school and he can be his wonderful unique self, both for his sake and for the sake of everyone who’s missing out on knowing him and his fabulousness. they’re missing out.
This. Most definitely. C.J. is beyond fabulous, and it’s such a shame that his classmates don’t get to see that, but even more of a shame that he feels the need to hide it.
It is so sad that he feels the need to be someone else at school… I can only imagine the horrible things he must have hard to make him behave this way. I sincerely hope that the future is brighter for the next negeration of kids, and that all that so many CJs, organizations, mums and friends around the world are doing in order to guarantee this is not in vain.
CJ is breaking my heart this year. I can’t imagine how hard it must be for such a little guy to have two seperate lives already.
My same feelings, Melissa..