Your Gender Jokes Don’t Make Us Smile

If you haven’t noticed, I’m not a particularly good photographer. I’m not one of those mommy bloggers who uses a fancy DSLR camera with a snazzy homemade strap cover to capture vivid, crisp pictures of our daily, quirky lives.

I take photos with my phone.

And sometimes when I have an extra moment or two in between laundry, dishes, homework and RHBH, I use my $2.99 Photoshop app to gussy them up for your viewing pleasure.

TogetherAll that being the case, I have to make an effort to get frame-worthy pictures taken of my boys at least once a year. I usually try to use some random local photographer at the suggestion of some random local friend.  Said photographer tries to do something “artistic” or “photojournalistic” to “capture the moments in life to treasure forever” or something like that.  We’ve done it barefoot on the beach in Laguna and dressed in layers on train tracks in San Juan Capistrano – just like every other family in South Orange County.

A few weeks ago I received a coupon from the local portrait studio advertising a Children’s Portrait Sale — a photo session, 8×10, two 3x5s and eight wallets for $39.95.  They said it was a $222 value.  I didn’t necessarily believe them, but I booked a studio session anyway.

I put the boys in coordinating outfits and off we went to the first appointment on a Saturday morning.

We were greeted by a photographer who looked to be in her mid-twenties.  She had pale porcelain skin and jet black hair that she wore in the same style as Dora The Explorer.  She had matte red lips and a high-pitched voice.

She walked us the studio and got the boys situated under the hot, bright lights and spacey looking reflectors.  The boys were all straight-faced.

“Am I going to have to make you smile?” she teased, putting her hands on her hips.

Just C.J.She got out a tennis ball with a silly face drawn on it and held it above the camera.  The boys smiled slightly, but it felt forced.

“Okay, now picture your dad wearing a dress!” she exclaimed.

Holy shit!  Where did that come from?  Did she really just say that?  What the hell just happened?

The eyes of both boys darted right to mine.  The forced smiles flew away instantly.  In our family we don’t joke about gender presentation.

It’s not funny.  I never realized how much my boys have picked up on that until that moment in the photographer’s studio.  I stared at my boys and they stared at me.

The photographer, realizing that her joke had left her audience unamused, pulled another funny quip out of her arsenal.  It must have worked, because she managed to get a few good shots of the boys together.

Then it was time for the individual shots.  C.J.’s Brother was up first.

“Now, picture your brother wearing a dress,” she said with a giggle.

“I don’t have to picture that.  I see it everyday.  I saw it this morning,” C.J.’s Brother shot back making unwavering eye contact with her. C.J was staring nervously at me and wringing his fingers.

Just C.J.'s BrotherI was speechless.  I was pissed at the photographer for making fun of gender presentation and being so presumptuous.  I was proud of C.J.’s Brother for taking a stand.  I was worried that the scene would bother C.J.  I was upset with myself for not paying attention during high school photography class so that I wouldn’t have to submit my kids to this kind of awkwardness.  I wish I could take my own damn pictures.

The photographer moved on to another of her one-liners and snapped away.  There was a tension in the room.  You can see it in the individual pictures of the boys.  I didn’t order any of those.

“You both looked very handsome in the pictures,” I said to the boys during lunch that afternoon.

“Thanks,” they said in unison as they colored their kids’ menus.

“That lady wasn’t very funny,” C.J.’s Brother said without looking up.

“No, she wasn’t.  Some people have different senses of humor,” I said, choosing my words wisely.  “I think you handled the situation perfectly.”

“Thanks, so did you,” C.J.’s Brother said with a sly smile, eyes focused as he connected the dots on his menu to reveal a hamburger.

I smiled.  We all handled that situation pretty well.  A lot of times, because of C.J.’s gender nonconformity, I never know how things will happen and what our reactions will be.  More and more, over the course of the past three years, I’ve gotten comfortable with trusting that it’s all going to turn out okay.


About raisingmyrainbow is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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92 Responses to Your Gender Jokes Don’t Make Us Smile

  1. David Morse says:

    What a great big brother, son and nephew. He is so smart and caring. He said just the right thing. Some might think he went too far but it was just a direct response to her.

  2. tokenangel says:

    Reblogged this on a token angel and commented:
    I’m sharing this post I came across today. As a photographer, I have made my own snafu’s in learning to deal with clients and THIS is a lesson that I will take to heart!!

  3. tokenangel says:

    Way to go CJ’s brother! People do use stereotypes everyday and some of them hit us right in the heart. I am hoping that the family’s reaction caused the photographer to realize some things are not funny to everyone and to learn to not use something like that to try to gain a smile. Hugs!!

  4. Clay Severns says:

    Whoa chill out man. People just don’t realize- (and won’t ever realize) that they’re making fun of something that someone else is sensitive too. In my case, the mentally ill. People make fun of them all the time, and I’m like “What’s wrong with you?” But that’s only because I’m sensitive to that subject. It makes me unhappy when people do this, but I have to realize they don’t think the way I do.
    She didn’t realize what she was doing because she was raised not really thinking the way you and your family do.
    I’m not defending her, I’m not defending you, I’m not saying anything at all- just people are different and whether its people calling someone a tranny (don’t think I don’t know what I’m talking about, I’ve been called names like that all my life), or if it’s a subtle, minor joke like what the photographer said, it’s just what people do. I’m sorry. But it’s the whole human race.

    • Mark says:

      look, IMO, bottom line if we all understand the nature of humans we’ll all be better off. the first part is the vast majority of us want to be included. not inclusionary, but included, and that means going with the herd mentality. i’m not supporting it met rely observing. so whenever you hear this understand where it comes from. my intent is to get to the point, and I’m not quite there yet sad to say, is as long as I hurt no one else in the process then I wish to be and do whatever I want to do and be. the liberal view is not so much different than the ultra right that everybody criticizes, it is just as controlling and “religious” as they say the other side is, just more emotionally palatable.

      we have an enormous capacity to hurt others for the threat they are perceived to be. no need to perpetuate it or to buy into it at all, so don’t. but know you’ll be a target, be courageous in who you are, as desiderata said you are a child of the universe, no better and no less than anyone else, but don’t believe otherwise or you will lose yourself. be well Clay, I wish you well.

      • Clay Severns says:

        That’s radical man. And deep.

      • Mark says:

        lol. thank you. I think. :). this is a beautiful group, community if you will. today on yahoo was the story of 6 year old Coy. born male, presents female and the attending issues. sound familiar? anyway, I’m despondent about the postings on the comments, a train wreck I can’t avert my eyes from, and know the struggles of this family in the face of the stupidity I read. no matter my scientific view, as a reasonably educated man, and a psychotherapist who in this venue sets my bar low, I’m amazed at the lack of reason. so I conclude that we strive to be happy for ourselves as much as possible, hurt no one in the process, and the rest be darned.

      • Clay Severns says:

        Yeah, I get that man. Your a psychotherapist? No wonder you use big words. Haha!

  5. Leems says:

    CJ’s brother is clearly a smart lad.

  6. mothlit says:

    I’ve been lucky to live in an area of a large city that’s pretty open, for the most part, and once in a while I’m lulled into this feeling that maybe the world has changed enough that my story’s not really relevant, and I can just live my life and be happy. And then I read stories like this one as well as a couple comments and realize, NO, we’ve a ways to go. And I’m SO glad CJ’s bro couldn’t rest with the photographer’s blindness. That photographer went home with something to think about. It’s the way the world changes, I think, when, one at a time, we have the good fortune to bump into those with the courage to live their truths openly and honestly.

  7. adoptionista says:

    Hmm. So many assumptions. Gender, family style…inappropriate. You’d think she would have given up after the first dress “joke” (if you want to call it that, personally, I think her humor could use some work) didn’t get a smile.
    Not only are the jokes inappropriate, I doubt her humor would had landed great smiles from any kids, even those who might find the mental picture of dad in a dress funny. It’s just a weird thing to say to kids.
    Awesome that your son has the confidence to speak up without blinking.

  8. jeff says:

    I have been a big supporter of you and your family since you first started this blog, but I do think another viewpoint is due here. This photographer who doesn’t know you or your family, or that your youngest boy is gender nonconforming made what you interperated as an offensive joke.
    Was it really?
    I mean how many families and childrens portraits has this photographer took? Dozens? Hundreds? And how many times has she told this very same joke without a problem? Probably a lot. Why would she assume or know that you wouldn’t like it?
    The first time she told the joke and it didn’t get a response, the first assumption is that it fell on deaf ears, her timing was off or the kids didn’t get it. Your first thought is not, “Oh that seven year old boy wears a dress.” No one really thinks like that.
    It’s unfortunate, but gender nonconforming children are definately a media minority right now, if it’s not on CNN or Fox News no one has heard of it. You son is in a minority, believe me I know how that feels. Not only am I gay, but I am also nonchristian and believe me when I say it was difficult enough in the American south during the 80’s being nonchristian, just try adding gay onto it.
    Now big brother comes up for his individual shots and she makes the joke again and big brother blurts out his response, defending his little brother. Which I support by the way, as he gets older he is going to need a big brother. How is she supposed to take this response from a nine year old? Let’s all be honest here, you can’t always take what a child says as truth? Not that they lie, sometimes they do, but sometimes it’s just the childs perception of the events, when you work in the public as I do and the child makes what can be interpereted as an off-color, weird or different remark you always look to the parent for the answer, you didn’t respond to it again so her first thought could have very well have been, “Oh, the moms ignoring the son, maybe he was trying to make a joke back.” So she might not have took it seriously, coming from a child. By this time though the mood is ruined, through no fault of the photographers, she didn’t know. She couldn’t have known.
    The first time she made the joke and the children looked to you you should have immediately stated, “My son CJ is gender nonconforming, he likes girl stuff.”
    That would have made a huge difference in the beginning, broke the ice, and she would have changed her tactics and it would have been a better photoshoot for everyone.
    Up until three years ago I didn’t even know gender nonconforming children existed, I am gay, I was in military and I have a college education. I have been everywhere and seen so many things yet I never came across this until I took up reading Huffington Post a few years ago.
    As a closing to this novel I am writing, I do think that men in dresses can be funny! And I am not refering to Transgender, Transvestites or Drag Queens…well, Drag Queen’s can be funny, but not for the reasons mentioned here. Monty Python, Benny Hill and half a century of British comedians can’t be wrong. You can’t tell me that John Cleese in dress isn’t amusing? Can we, as faliable human beings, not assume that this is the image she was trying to convey and not to offend you, not to mention being a paying customer?
    Like I said I love you and your family, I 100% support you guys, CJ is fabulous and if my parents had been half as cool and open minded as you, I might have had a much happier and creative childhood.

  9. Wow! Good on your son for standing up for his brother and your beliefs. Such a shame this photographer couldn’t pull anything actually funny out of her bag of tricks. :-/

  10. insaniteen says:

    I’m proud of C.J’s brother. You’ve done a good job with him.

  11. amygaspard says:

    I’ve been reading your blog for a while, but never commented. But this entry produced tears. Tears of shame for a society that produced a woman who jokes about genders without knowing it might now be funny, tears of joy for a brother who has the courage and intelligence to challenge her.

    I work as a full-time nanny for a 2 y/o girl and a 5 y/o boy. The boy I care for is a typical boy, but his family (thankfully) never pushed him into “boy things”. He had toy tools and baby dolls. He wore athletic shirts and purple ones, too. Heck, dad even wears purple without a blink of the eye. The boy plays princesses with his sister, and she plays cars with him. It’s awesome. Recently, he’s been coming home telling me that some kindergarten classmates told him he shouldn’t like purple because it’s a “girl” color, and that there’s boy things and girl things. I have never felt that gender roles should be pushed, so I’m comfortable helping him work through these things. But your blog has helped me become even more aware of these roles in our world, and has given me some words and phrases to help him even more. We talk about it a lot now, and he has started telling me how silly he thinks his classmates are when they talk about “boy toys/colors/clothes”. “Toys/colors/clothes are for everyone.” He says that to me now. So thank you to your whole family. 🙂

  12. Natalie Sera says:

    First time I’ve seen anything like this blog. I wish it had been there years ago, when I was a high school teacher. One day, one of my male students showed up in a dress. OK, fine, it’s not ordinary, but the school made a big fuss about it, and the other kids laughed and teased this young man into tears. He was sent home to change, and I thought, why are we making such a big deal about some pieces of fabric sewn together in a certain way? Why are we allowing the majority to harm the innocent minority? To the other staff, this must have seemed like a disruptive oddity (kids snickering and pointing and giggling when you are trying to teach IS disruptive), but to me, it seems a symptom of a much wider malaise: today, it’s my dress; tomorrow it will be my religion, ethnic background, philosophy, marriage customs and much, much more. We as a society prattle on about acceptance of diversity, but when will we actually start practicing it?

    • mark says:

      Indeed, great question. We talk about acceptance a lot, can’t pass hardly half a day hearing about it somewhere, yet hardly ever see any practice of it.

  13. Debby says:

    You have children you can be very proud of! CJ’s brother did something that many adults don’t have the courage to do! Well done!

  14. Charles says:

    People have not one scintilla of awareness how social forces have yielded the synthesis of what they think is appropriate attire. Over a period spanning centuries, notions of masculinity have culminated in the prevailing mandatory twin tube, plain and drab, undertaker’s appearance for men. The less interested we are in using clothes for self expression, the more masculine we become. If a man so much as glances at a rack of skirts while walking through a department store, he has now lost his virility. But this is all socially inculcated, arbitrary behavior. Men are taught that inhibition = manliness. The only manner of thinking most persons know is associative reasoning; skirts are female because only females wear them; NOT skirts are sex neutral because they aren’t a difference of anatomy. A saleslady in shoes yelled and expressed shock when I asked for red shoes, clenching her fists! Well, they were Reeboks and made for men. 41,349 contrived gender signals in society, all placed off limits to men. Men make themselves inferior to women by shunning choices, while believing the contrary to be the case. Society saturates the male consciousness 24/7 with the message that their sexuality depends on remaining within a very narrow and absolutely rigid spectrum of attire. But though skirts are only female by association, we have to take into account darker motives against change—some women want a monopoly on them as power status—not purported inferiority—“only WE can wear skirts!” While some men want skirts to be off limits to their gender for this reason—they desire a guarantee that whenever they see someone in a dress or skirt, there will be something under the fabric they could penetrate—thereby being assured the beginning stage of sexual excitement whenever they see these female stereotyped garments worn. But, the preferences of others do not override my right of self determination, and a right doesn’t attenuate because it isn’t being availed of!

    • Mark says:

      y’know, there’s some merit in what you say re: power and control. for example, I don’t know how many times I’ve heard women say nailpolish is OURS, so guys out of the salon. seriously? this is an aspect that needs to be looked at for what’s really underneath this, cuz it isn’t what you think it is.

      • Charles says:

        Have a look at “The Social Psychology of Clothing” by psychologist Susan B. Kaiser. This woman is sexist beyond belief and speaks about men being “compliant” by conforming in what they wear. Naturally, HER sex has shrugged off all attempts to corral them into a changeless, fixed uniform without possibility of variety. Another of innumerable instances demonstrating the “mental health” movement has nothing to do with health, but everything to do with social conformity, which they define as “health.”

  15. Mark says:

    I think the other side of this is that because of theater, and as some have posted, boys dressing as girls have always been presumed to be a laugh getter. and that’s because primarily the prevailing assumption is girls are less than boys, which of course is not true, but the image nonetheless. this time she had no clue that this family was the exception to the rule, which was why I said brother had the grace to let the first one go, and she should have picked up on it that for whatever reason that humor was not the way to go-but she didn’t. we’ve all simply got to figure out a way to get this across at large that teasing with acceptance is OK, in my view only of course, but that underlying perceptions of differences is bad somehow, and cannot be accepted under any circumstances. also, that whatever weirdness we all do, and we all have ’em, that we take it for granted that folks won’t always fall over us shoeing how liberal they are, but that is their hangups showing, not ours, and we’ll need to deal with their rudeness appropriately.

  16. cheridc says:

    Okay, so how many times did telling kids to picture their dad in women’s clothing work to get laughter and smiles. It must have worked in the past if it is her go-to thing. So do we think because CJ’s Brother (awesome kid) said something that will stop her from saying it again? I don’t know if it will.

  17. Lah says:

    You know, I always read your blog and I gotta tell you that it’s clear as water that you are a great parent. But this post, and the one of the letter C.J.’s brother wrote, has made me feel really impressed with how you and your husband are succeeding in raising such a respectful and mature man as C.J.’s brother. I mean, C.J. himself seems to be a star, bringing happyness and knowledge to everyone around him (as for us, your readers), but, as an older daughter, I know how hard it is to stand up for our siblings in a mature way. It took me a really long time till I became someone my younger brother could be inspired by, and I still have much to improve. With both your kids, you won’t have to worry, they are both inspirational, and that’s certainly because of your work.

  18. Sofia~ says:

    OMG. I’m speechless. I admire you more and more with every post. I have no clue where you find the wisdom and serenity not to snap. YOU are a much better person than I am and CJ is soooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooo lucky to have you.

  19. emiklio says:

    I agree with how well you handled the awkward situation, but I do think you’re being a bit harsh on the photographer. Many people are simply ignorant to the fact that gender identity isn’t all black-and-white, and they wouldn’t even consider that a client might be insulted about it. My high school English teacher taught me that humor is simply “something unexpected,” and the photographer, not knowing your family’s circumstances, would probably think your boys would find a man/boy in a dress to be unexpected.

    She probably just didn’t pick up on the tension and didn’t think to respond to CJ’s brother’s comment.

    I’m glad your family handled the situation so well, and am so proud of CJ’s brother! 🙂 But I don’t think you can really blame the photographer for her ignorance.

  20. Tommy says:

    Great moment for you all, handled expertly. This would be C.J.’s brother’s scene in the screenplay you will write. Except he continues, taking the photographer to task and breaking her down to tears. She admits her mistake, then confesses her own secret, which liberates her. C.J.’s brother emerges as the cool young man he is and the family bond strengthens. Finish with everyone returning for a free photo session with C.J. in full Princess/Monster High glory and genuine smiles captured in the photos. (Or I could refer you to a great photographer in Long Beach who would be honored to shoot those portraits). Great blog C.J.’s Mom, love you guys!

  21. I’m curious why you dressed CJ and his brother in coordinating outfits, instead of letting him be fabulous? Was that his choice?

  22. deb says:

    Kudos to C.J.’s Brother and to you for letting them decide how best to handle the situation! As for you saying that you’re not much of a photographer, maybe give it a try? You know them best — and love them most — so you might be pleasantly surprised at how good they come out because the [wonderful!] essence of who they truly are will come through. 🙂

  23. Lance says:

    I just clapped when I read CJ’s Brother’s response!

  24. Donna says:

    I’m so proud of CJs brother! What a perfect response! I’m surprised the photographer didn’t immediately apologize at that very moment! I’ll see what I can come up with for photographers that are more friendly in your area!!

  25. K says:

    First of all,l CJ’s brother is awesome and a true testament to your parenting.

    I don’t to get into a debate on your blog, but I do want to say two things:

    1) to the commenter who talked about the LGBT community making a faux pas in being “too militant” – if someone continually told you that you were worthless in the eyes of the law and society, how militant is “too militant” to fight for your rights? When your children have no rights to their other parent legally, financially, etc… how militant is too militant? Because visibility is what gets results. The LGBT community isn’t going around waving guns in people’s faces telling them to give us our rights or else. We’re simply refusing to be invisible, refusing to accept second class citizenry. Until you’ve lived this life, don’t tell us we’re too militant in pushing acceptance. Would you have said the same to Malcolm X?

    2) to the commenter who says she’s being too hard on the photographer – please. As someone else said the presumption of a father was really the first misstep, and making fun of anyone is never a good way to handle business. And saying “imagine your brother dressed as a clown” isn’t making fun of clowns, clowns are SUPPOSED TO BE FUNNY. “Imagine your brother dressed as a girl” implies not only that gender non-conformity is a joke, but that boys are also somehow superior to girls, because as someone else pointed out nobody would ever say the reverse to get a laugh. There’s so much wrong with this photographer’s statement it’s mind boggling, and if you can’t see it then that’s part of the problem.

    • Mark says:

      I was the commentator on the militancy POV, K, and to your point, I had acknowledged that what you said. Embedded in that post was my comment that maybe that had to happen in order to break the complacency, as so many other groups had done the same thing in the past. I said it because I’m aware of the issues that you’ve pointed out. But if you might not have been looking for it, based on the idea of where you thought the POV was coming from then it would be easy to miss. Mostly, I was coming from a position of civil discussion in a forum such as this.

      I still maintain, that after the goal of awareness is achieved, to continue that tactic might not be the best way to continue that fight. After the initial shock, your opponent then has time to regroup it’s defenses, and it seems to me that that is where this issue is today. Continued militancy will only serve to make the other POV more resolved to defeat it, employing any and all methods they can find at their disposal. N’est pas?

      Continuing to employ a strategy because it worked once is rather juvenile. Kids do that all the time, adults even more rigidly so. kids though will change tactics quickly when they see the one that did work once or even repeatedly isn’t any longer. But adults cling to notions that it worked when I was in my early 20’s and cannot fathom why it doesn’t when they’re 35, so they get stuck hitting the same old obstacles and wonder why they’re frustrated. if they would just take a lesson from little kids they’d get unstuck alot faster. I see alot of change groups doing this and making their fight to change that much harder than it needs to be.

      I still

      • Mark says:

        BTW, what do you know about Malcolm X, because he was one of the most brilliant tacticians of change. Your comment about his one facet, militancy, is what seems to grab you the most. It tells me where you’re coming from, a rather one dimensional one at that.

        Malcolm, at the time he was killed, was and had been for some time, switching his tactics to mainstream his views, and he was reaching out to the the norm. Which is exactly why he was killed. Internally from the movement that was hell bent on retention of power through terror. They wouldn’t give it up, and knew that Malcolm’s way was the one to solidify and move the movement. In the end, that would allow Malcolm get the gold so to speak, and they’d have none of that. So, yes, I would say that to Malcolm

  26. Vic Anne says:

    Wow! That lady…. Just wow. As a photographer myself, I would be appalled to work with anyone who said things like that! It may be funny to some kids because their family is gender norm to the book, but if you do not know someone personally, you really shouldn’t presume things. If anything, I would have said, “Picture Mommy wearing a cat for a hat” or “Picture Mommy wearing big red shoes and bright green hair!”. Still funny, but also not assuming much of anything about a family. Could possibly be normal for that family, but it will not insult anyone.

  27. Countervail says:

    I think you’re being awfully hard on the photographer. Doing photography, I know it can be a crappy way to make a living. Especially in these high-volume studios, it’s to their advantage to move people through and they simply don’t have the opportunity to make personal connections to each person or family they meet. And you did note that you had both the boys dressed similarly, you would seem like a conventional family to me otherwise, so I don’t think the burden to realize you may not have found the jokes funny was on the photographer. For most children, imagining your parents or your siblings dressed oppositely can be funny since it’s unusual, and I hope and kindly think (though I wasn’t there) that it was that motivating the photographer not something more bigoted. You’re a family with special circumstances and I fear it’s made you extra-sensitive in situations like these. And the situation actually provided you with a gift, a learning opportunity to see where your soft parts are and consider why. Let me explain.

    If the photographer asked your kids to imagine your husband dressed as a clown, but your husband was a professional clown, it might not amuse you, you may find it ironic, but I doubt you’d find it offensive. A favorite guru of mine is Byron Katie, with some insightful philosophy she calls “The Work.” Part of that is turning around a stressful thought to see if there are other ways to view a situation and consider the validity. So in this case I think it would be fair to say your impression was “people shouldn’t make jokes about gender non-conformity.” In turning that around, can you see situations that are just as true? “People should make jokes about gender non-conformity.” or “I should make jokes about gender non-conformity.” When we’re all open and honest about things we can see situations with a light heart, and a happy spirit. Humor breaks down walls, it’s the great equalizer. And having to always be serious about gender non-conformity, you make it “a thing.” If those around you can’t tease and be playful about gender non-conformity, I wonder if you make it harder for C.J. to tease and be playful about it too making it “a thing.” This is maybe harder when you’re protective of a sweet little one but I think a positive goal. “People shouldn’t make jokes about gender conformity.” While the whole of modern comedy would be probably be erased, it’s important to consider gender conformity seriously especially in how it’s maybe not as heterogeneous as we would like to think. “People should make jokes about gender conformity.” It helps us see issues of gender more clearly through the lens of humor. “I should make jokes about gender conformity.” Let’s face it, gender roles can be funny things. And if C.J. sees you can take it on the chin about your gender or your husband about his, it’s nothing but a strength. It helps make an example that gender is a funny creature. And isn’t that a big part of what this blog is about?

    • Hélène says:

      “If the photographer asked your kids to imagine your husband dressed as a clown, but your husband was a professional clown, it might not amuse you, you may find it ironic, but I doubt you’d find it offensive.”

      Except nobody gets beat up at school (or in public spaces) for being a clown or dressing up as a clown. Assuming that people dressing up in the clothes of the other gender (particularly men dressing up as women) isn’t just funny because it’s unusual, like being a clown. It’s funny because we live in a society where gender non-conformity is continually disparaged and demeaned. We assume that finding gender non-conformity funny is always and necessarily something that we have in common, and this is why people who interact with strangers on a regular basis tend to go to these “jokes” more easily. Like it or not, it is offensive because there are clear consequences and punishments for those who are gender non-conforming in our society. It’s not funny because we don’t care if men or boys wear dresses. It’s funny because we care a whole lot if men or boys wear dresses. (Lawrence King anyone?) If you’ve read this blog at all, you know how much C.J. (who is just a kid) already feels the weight of being gender non-conforming in public spaces, you know how much it gets in the way of who he maybe would rather be and how he would rather dress.

      How about instead of justifying our urge to go to gender non-conformity as inherently funny, we learn to find other go-to images and moments? Like you (and others) have said, there are plenty of those. Your dad as a clown. Your mom with a cat on her head. Whatever. There are plenty of funny images one could conjure up that don’t reinforce a system and society of strict gender norms that hurts and harms people. Personally, I’ll pick those. Does that mean the photographer was the worst person on earth? No. So many people are unaware of how much they reinforce gender norms and of the impact that could have. I don’t think that means we should let them off the hook instead.

      • countervail says:

        I would say that there are gender norms for a reason, and it would be unreasonable and really odd to expect society as a whole to start living and acting as if there weren’t. But I’m also giving the photographer the benefit of the doubt here. I don’t think (I hope not) that she was suggesting children think of their parents in opposite gender clothing in a derogatory way, that it was funny because it’s wrong, but rather funny in that it’s different than everyday. I wasn’t at the session but it would be hard to ascertain the photographer’s motivations anyway. That said, and with all kindness, being offended at this particular encounters says worlds more about C.J.’s family and the commenters here more than it does the photographer or larger society. I wonder that it’s really all of you actually think there is something wrong with gender non-conformity.

        The photographer, whatever they said, didn’t do it to hurt (I assume). Whether it was ignorance or clumsy, I’m pretty sure the motivation wasn’t intended to offend and be negative. But the reception obviously wasn’t taken well. That’s clear. And that’s the responsibility of the receiver. I think we have a long deception in modern psychology about controlling our emotions, that it can’t be done. That might be true. But it’s given us a very false sense that the only course of action is to react to these emotions. What we should consider is questioning those emotions, broadening our understanding, and crafting a response that meets the way we want to be as a person. In this particular situation, their reaction made C.J.’s family forget the very understanding and kindness they hope to receive when they withheld it from someone else. They felt offended, without questioning or considering this offense in any other manner, and it turned them hardhearted against a stranger whose motives they could only infer. They let themselves be whiptailed into a dark place, feeling bad about the photorgapher, the pictures, maybe themselves by an impression, a story they told themselves. It’s not grace that one hopes to find in these situations, to be kinder or more understanding, but simply to be how you would hope others to be to you. The photographer said something stupid perhaps. It’s our choice to live as we wish and give a kindness there, a sensitivity and appreciation that they will grow and learn. We can never hope for times when others don’t tease, harass, or worse if we can’t give the kindness and understanding to others we hope to receive, right?

    • Sorry, but that’s a pretty bad comparison. Kids don’t constantly call things clown things or kid things, toys aren’t separated by clown toys and kids toys, like they do with gender. No people should not make jokes about gender. Our kids have it hard enough. You see that joke is based on what gender is supposed to be, that’s just not funny. And it does absolutely nothing to further people’s views on gender. In my eyes it’s the same as saying “that’s so gay” How about following Todd Glasse’s advice and replace that with your name and see how funny that is. “that’s so _____” . It’s not, is it? I will never teach my kid to put himself down to make others feel better. And I am proud of CJs mom for never doing that and standing up for her son.

    • First of all, as always, I admire your way to parenting your kids. I admire CJ’s brother that stood up for his brother. A kid with a mature way of thinking like that is very rare these days. I believe every problems that you and your family going through everyday makes you all a tough family.

      But as good as it is, I believe there is always two sides of a coin in every story. I second this comment above, which when I look into the bottom, I see almost no people back him up. I know that I can’t hope for a same level of maturity in your kids compared with the photographer. But now let me give you a simple example.

      It is easy for someone who’s in minority level to get offended. That’s just how society works. I have a group of friend, and one of them one day suddenly declared himself to become vegetarian. Of course that changes us as a whole, as we have to think about him every time we going out for hanging out together. When we ordered a menu, sometimes it makes us uneasy, as he eat vegetables, while we eat meat, in FRONT of him. Also, when we made jokes, sometimes we accidentally make jokes about food, and suddenly we realized we might have just hurt his feeling. And the situation become a tension.

      Until one day, he openly speak to us, that he is still a vegetarian, but don’t worry about eating meat or making jokes about food, because he assure us that he won’t be offended. “Just do everything like we used to do before. Don’t change because of me.” He said. And we respect his answer about that.

      I am a Chinese, but I live in a place where the majority of local people is not Chinese. Sometimes when they make jokes about Chinese race, I get offended. But then, I realized, I am the minority. They are the majority. The logic: do the majority have to follow the minority? When I reflect on myself about that, I take conclusion, and I made decision that jokes about race won’t hurt me. I take it very normal to hear jokes about race, as I live as a minority. Now, sometimes I can get laugh too at the jokes.

      To win the battles outside, you have to win the battles inside. If you or your kids still “get hurt” with “attack” from the outside, that means something inside is still not won. If you keep treat this issue as your soft spot, then forever your children will also treat it as a soft spot. They will become offended every time someone accidentally or purposely making jokes or offending about non-gender conformity, for whole of their life. Do you actually really want that? Instead, I think you should teach your children on how to treat something like this as a usual, normal thing, as you live in the society as a minority in this particular case. The majority of people doesn’t making contact with non-gender conformity people everyday, but you and your family are making contact with people with gender conformity everyday. So, it’s just logical if the minority are working to assimilate (for example, developing tolerance and understanding) toward the majority. Because if you, the minority, keeps “crying out loud” every time someone accidentally touch your soft spot (which is they probably don’t even know that kind of soft spot is exist), that would only makes the image of people with non-gender conformity become worse. They will label people with non-gender conformity as some class of people who wants to be treated special, and people always have to talk with extra caution when talking with people like this (which is in itself a problem, because the non-gender conformity problem is often not seen at first, if the person manages to hide it, like CJ in this photograph session). Is that what you really want? I think you really want that your boys, whether it’s gender conformity or not, will be accepted smoothly in the society, as an ordinary people like the other, not like some disabled people with some special needs. And that can only be achieved when the boys (and you) accept the society first as the environment where you and your boys grow up, with its plus and minus. I agree with the comment above, that the ability have a big heart, to be able to take the joke as just the joke, not more, is a strength, which I believe your boys will really need it in their growing process, sooner or later. That’s why in the beginning I said, I can’t expect the same level of maturity in your kids than in the photographer. But I think you and your husband, first, can give the example to the kids of how to handle unfortunate jokes likes that gracefully.

      Good luck with the parenting effort. I believe you will raise wonderful kids into mature adults with big heart and great tolerance to others. 🙂

      • Paula Turner says:

        There are many aspects to your comment that trouble me but the overall arching suggestion that people in a minority, whatever that may be, should try to assimilate into the majority is offensive. That suggests that when we all walk out the door we should act and think and look like everyone else. I want to meet and interact and live with people who are different and therefore it is my responsibility to interact and treat others with respect. It is not a soft spot that needs to be hardened if someone wants to be included and no one wants to be treated “special” – they simply want the respect accorded to that majority. Accepting racial, gender or any type of jokes and slurs aimed to demean and treatnpeople as Other is not hardening the soft spot – it is perpetuating beliefs and actions that have marginalized people for centuries.

      • natsera says:

        I am new to this site, but I did leave a reply above. And I’m still thinking about it. Mr. Tjandra brings up issues worth thinking about, because as he correctly states, minority status occurs in many different areas of life, and all of us who discover that we are in some way a minority have to consciously decide what we are going to do about it. I don’t really considering it as hiding as much as I consider it self-protection. My nephew was very girly when he was a preschooler and in early elementary school. His favorite toys of all time were his Barbie dolls, which he played with the neighbor girl, and he loved to wear his mother’s high heels, and when it came time to choose either dance or science as a first-grade after-school activity, he was adamant about wanting dance, even though the staff member tried to guide him into the science class. He was the only boy in the class. His mother backed him up in every choice he made, but at some point in elementary school, he discovered gender roles, and took it upon himself to fit in. He was never under any family pressure to do so. Since he has always been a VERY bright and perceptive young man, it seems to me that he made the decisions he needed to in order to protect himself, but I think he was able to do it because his family always supported him. In high school, he came out as gay, again with full family support, and is very open about it, when appropriate. But he also knows how to protect himself when he is in a dangerous or inappropriate situation. As the case of Matthew Shepard shows, it can be dangerous to life and limb to reveal gender-role non-conformity in some circumstances. None of us wants to see our beloved children subjected to that.
        So I think C.J.’s family is on the right track. They engage in protective action when necessary, such as forewarning people that come into contact with him, such as his teachers, so that they will not be taken by surprise, and will be able to prepare the class and prevent bullying. It’s interesting that C.J. has already started to take self-protective steps such as drawing himself as a boy in his Kinderbuddy picture. It means that he is becoming aware of the need for self-protection. That isn’t hiding, in my book. I wish that Matthew Shepard had been able to protect himself.
        Meanwhile, my nephew continues to enjoy the girly things appropriate to his age group (20’s) when in his safe community (what do you think dressing in drag is?), and still manage to cope exquisitely with the world. Invest your educational efforts where they will be meaningful, but also be aware that you won’t single-handedly change the world. Change WILL come, but gradually, and the first, most important thing, as C.J.’s family is doing, is to raise a mentally, physically, and spiritually healthy child.

      • I don’t know why I can’t reply directly to your comment, so I will reply to my previous comment.

        Sorry I cannot reword my my comment more nicely, as my mother-tongue language is not English. I think my word “assimilate” is a wrong word of choice. I don’t mean that you should act and walk like all the majority people, and then lose your identity. What I truly mean is that I think to be able to understood and tolerate people is quite something more valuable heritage to be passed to your children, than the lesson that teach them to how to “put people in their place”. In other word: just take it easy. I never meant that you should accept people’s insult when they’re insulting you – that’s when you should teach your kids to put those people in their place for good. If someone really mean to insult my Chinese race, then that’s the time for me to take any action deemed necessary to protect my identity, heritage, and honor. There are also non-appropriate kind of jokes that almost everybody knew it will be crossing the lines if they use it. But if it’s comes from ordinary, daily jokes, I really out from my heart recommend you to try to take it as an ordinary jokes. In your story, I think you don’t really need to take the jokes from the photographer into your heart. The fact that you even posted about the story with the photographer in here, it means that the situation you described above is really *means* something for you and your family.

        What I’m trying to say is that I think there is always a better solution for everything if we really think it through. There’s always more graceful way to look at any problem. Because if everybody in this world take every jokes as an insult, wow what a world we live in. We build relation with other people with jokes too. You also don’t want to have a neighbor which get annoyed each time you tried to joking around with them. Of course, in case of neighbors, they are living everyday besides your house, so each party needs to works toward tolerate with each other. It would be very rude if your neighbor who has already know your special case, throw a joke about non-gender conformity — that would be very inappropriate, I agree. But in the case of the photographer, he/she maybe barely knows your family at all. So, it would be wiser, in my way of thinking, to just understood his/her position, accept the joke as merely joke — yea maybe it’s a bad jokes, but hey let’s laugh together — and move on. I, too, can also feel insulted, if I was in your position, and the photographer say “now imagine your brother as a white american people with slant eyes” (no offense intended at all with the choice of race in the example — it’s just an example). I can feel insulted — IF I choose to. But, realizing that it’s just a jokes coming from someone who maybe didn’t really know for his whole life that joking around with race is not fun at all for some people, I choose to play in the game, laugh together (and maybe also a little laugh inside at the photographer’s idiocy and ignorant) and just enjoy the photo session. I just trying to save you from what I think “unnecessary” (which is different from people to people) anger and bitterness that you and your family don’t have to going through.

        Just think that the photographer is still a newbie in the world and doesn’t meet much people enough the be wise enough to not tell a jokes about that. How would he know, if in every situation he met before, the gender jokes always works? Therefore it would be created in his brain an image that it’s okay to tell jokes about gender. From my point of view, he just trying to get you and your family a good photograph session. That’s all. It’s not like he’s actually mean the jokes as an insult, or mean to disrespect your case of non-gender conformity. It’s just that he don’t know if that might translated to you and your family as an insult. I think after the photo session, you can go to him and explain the situation lightheartedly, so that he won’t repeat it again in the future for anybody else. Therefore, you get your message through, there is less one person in the world who don’t know about non-gender conformity, and you maybe win one friend that can help you “spread” the attitude of tolerating non-gender conformity people voluntarily: “Hey, the family with non-gender conformity son I last worked with, is very nice. The children are very nice too. I think I was accidentally thrown some bad jokes, but it seems that everything is okay. I guess there’s nothing wrong with being someone of non-gender conformity.” And the opposite, it’s not helping for you if the photographer think “Wow, the non-gender conformity people are *very* sensitive. I have to tell my friends to stay out from people like that.”

        The bottom line is, if you feel defensive and think everyday that everybody will someday eventually attack on the non-gender conformity problem of your son, you will be more easily to get insulted, even from the better jokes. And I believe it’s a straining, stressing experience, for your son too. Why don’t you think the opposite, that actually many people you see everyday is going to be a great friend and supporter, provided that they know how to handle the uncertain area of non-gender conformity with good attitude. It’s true that we live in a world which non-gender conformity is new (heck, I myself also still try to develop tolerance toward these kind of people), which can lead to misunderstanding. People always treat something they don’t know with a defensive stance. When I read your reply, I’m interested with the word “marginalized”. Maybe that’s what we all do when we face something of uncertainty. But at the core problem, we know that it’s not about enemy or insult, it’s just about lack of knowledge. Rather than also developing defensive stance, it’s better to open up and spread good words and image that there’s nothing wrong (or scary) about non-gender conformity. That’s how to make people less marginalizing, and make you and your family less felt marginalized. Because defensive usually equals to exclusive. I’m just afraid you feel more marginalized than what your environment put you through, because of the defensive stance. I think you will gain and win more friends that someday maybe can deliver great help for your children by putting everything on its place: the jokes as the jokes, the misunderstanding as misunderstanding, the insults as the insults. Each has their own way to be handled. 🙂

        Sorry for the long reply. I tried to choose the best way and words to talk about complicated matter that’ll be easily misunderstood like this. Thank you if you read it through the end. 🙂

    • 'Angela' (John) says:

      I’m not so sure about your assumptions. Would you, for instance, make similar jokes where race, religion, a disability, or disfigurement were concerned?

      It’s very easy to be funny without belittling anyone.

      • countervail says:

        Its hard to say, but you’re making as large an assumption that someone wouldn’t be OK with those areas if the humor could be interpreted benignly. The burden of offense is on the offended. For example, maybe the father of someone’s family had a phobia of clowns that the family was very aware of, and when a photographer suggested picturing him as a clown it was taken very negatively. The point is that with LGBTQ gender and sexuality, it’s always going to come with uncertain situations, odd and possibly uncomfortable encounters, because it’s not something that’s easily perceived. Everyone here seems to be making the assumption the photographer acted in spite of the possibility of offending someone, where it’s just as likely she was simply unaware it could be taken negatively. I could imagine a very liberal family, very aware and concerned with gender issues, being completely unaware of taking offense to a similar situation. It’s the difference between dress-up pretending and actually considering someone as a different gender to me. We are more sensitive to these issues because we live them everyday. But as I point out above to let encounters like this stop us from understanding, being kind to, sharing and teaching others, as well as celebrating our differences, the only people we hurt are ourselves. We can be offended, or we can understand. We can shut down, or we can grow. We can withhold, or we can share. We can think meanly of others, or we can show kindness. What would you prefer to do in a similar situation? While it might be harder and more uncomfortable, I know I would always want to choose the better, kinder, more noble me but I can’t do that until I understand and agree that burden is for me to achieve despite the actions and words of others.

      • 'Angela' (John) says:

        I’m in no way suggesting that the photographer’s intent was anything but benign, but there are many for whom finding what they consider a weakness to exploit provides them with a means to disadvantage other people in all sorts of ways. Being transgendered, or different in some other fairly common way, whether perceived or not by the photographer, should not have been the root for her attempt at humour; that it was merely perpetuates the problems that anybody who is ‘different’ already has.

        Even in the unfortunate (and presumably hypothetical) case of some one having a phobia about clowns, you could argue that it’s possible to use humour in such a way that it does not exploit ANY weakness. I often use myself as an object of humour, and that definitely harms no-one!

      • Yeah, I agree that we can choose another types of jokes without belittling anyone. I also think that the photographer should choose to use him/herself as the object of the jokes. That’s the safest jokes of all. I just feel that maybe he/she already feel comfort with that kind of jokes as maybe she find it always works. Not many people are born with the gift to make jokes or light up a situation, and mind you, her main job is to take picture, not to do stand-up comedy. Her focus is to get the most beautiful picture as she can, and trying to frequently think jokes out of the blue can sometimes lead to distraction. So usually people like that stay with the tried-and-true method (which is not works in this case). But I agree that the photographer need to work on its jokes again to use a safer jokes.

  28. Carissa says:

    As a budding (and wannabe pro) portrait photographer, I am just stunned. Never in a million years would I make any kind of gender or stereotypical jokes to get kids or ANYONE to smile. I get them to smile by letting them take the lead. Holy freeekin’ cow.

    But yay for CJ’s Brother! And You! And your family!

  29. pennyposh says:

    CJ’s Brother is a superhero. That is 100% pure awesome.

  30. If you’re open to share the “rest of the story” … How did CJ take it. And did he understand that his brother stood up for him? We got the wringing of the hands and the after photo meal breakdown on CJ’s Bro… …any insight into CJ?

  31. nrlymrtl says:

    You guys did well. And maybe the photographer will reflect on that session and perhaps gain some wisdom.

  32. Denise says:

    CJs brother is epic. Of course.

  33. doubleinvert says:

    Props to CJ’s brother! This is something that seems to deeply ingrained in this society: that crossing gender lines is a thing of amusement. A lot of people, it seems, just don’t think it through.


  34. Rose says:

    I never forgave our 3rd grade school photographer for telling me to “Say Barbie!” when taking my portrait. I was an 8 year old girl, it was reasonable to think I would like barbies, tat they would make me smile (hell, I DID like barbies, had a million of ’em), but I couldn’t stand the assumption. How dare she pigeonhole me into liking little girl things just because I happened to be a little girl! Nothing could get me to smile after that; Needless to say, retakes were necessary that year. Sometimes photographers are bad at their jobs.

  35. Leanne says:

    You, your husband and your kids are doing a really great job in a tough world. CJ’s brother is a doing an incredible job of protecting his brother, standing up for what he believes in and knows to be right, while also being respectful. People will respect him and learn from him. It’s wonderful.

    I’m pregnant with our first and everytime someone asks if we’re finding out the gender, I cringe and respond that we do plan on finding out the baby’s SEX when we can…and if I’m in the mood to make a point, I add that gender will come later. It’s not easy, but I do believe that gentle education and exposure whenever possible is helpful. Many people just don’t have a frame of reference. Thanks to your blog, as well as a couple sensitive issues in my own life, I am ever more aware of the social difficulties that exist for so many people. Thank you for writing .

  36. Mackenzie says:

    You have two thoroughly awesome kids!

  37. mfarris70 says:

    I’m always amazed at people who work in creative fields who are insensitive to the non-heterosexual, non-conforming person. Perhaps that’s why she’s a discount photo studio photographer.

  38. Lyn~ says:

    Poor Photographer: living in such a limited way as to not have realized that gender fluidity is a fact of Life for some… but after the first faux pas regarding Dad she wasn’t tuned in enough to keep her from making the same comment a second time. Enter Big Brother: BRAVO for speaking his truth and standing tall and defending his brother in a firm but informative way… Here’s to hoping he was able to open this young woman’s heart and mind and inform her that we are NOT ALL marching to the same drummer! Some folks just go blindly on their way not even awake enough to realize the impact of their words or actions… Hopefully she will LEARN from Big Brother!!
    Kudos to You for raising such an empathetic Young man!!!!
    I wonder how she’d have handled the situation had CJ enter her studio dressed in his preferred mode of dress?

  39. Cheryl S. says:

    Love CJ’s brother’s response. Perfect. It says “You’re an asshole.” in just the right way..

  40. Ally says:

    CJ’s brother has learned early how to be a class act. Well played!

  41. Mark says:

    What I liked best is CJ’s bro showing his penchant for not suffering fools gladly. He gave her the one out of grace, but don’t do it again. Love it. A gentleman after my own heart!

    It’s really too bad that all of us can’t just express who we are at any one point in time. That to a boy who just wants to live his life perhaps as a girl, he must undergo all sorts of chemical infusions to do that. Why is it acceptable for that but merely living as a feminine expression is not? That goes the other way too of course. Wouldn’t that be a whole lot easier? You get up in the morning, decide to wear pants or a skirt, pick your accessories, skulls today in gray on black, or do I wear that leopard print tunic, and get on with your day. But if you’d choose, as it is today, to do that, especially on an everyday basis, well, then you MUST have the rest of your body, the parts that publically are never on display must be altered as well. Does having what’s between our legs REALLY be the deciding factor as to how we live today, or everyday, or even sometimes?That makes no sense to me at all. If you’d want that to be congruent for yourself is one thing but to HAVE to because it’s expected seems to me to be the very issue that we’re struggling with already, the right to be different in the face of everybody else’s expectations. Gosh, I have to have all this stuff done so that they’ll accept my choices better. Seems we’re already fighting that issue.

    I think that the LGBT community made a bit of a faux pas by giving the impression that they are pushing the agenda on the rest of culture, and maybe they are being more militant about it because they needed to shake it up. It worked for other groups. And yet by observation, nobody likes to be told how to live and be and what to believe. Perhaps a more effective technique would be subtler advertisements, print articles, fashion pics of people doing and being all sorts of different things, yet all in a normal setting, Allow folks to accept differences on their own, not having it shoved in their face that they HAVE to accept it. I think that’s where aalot of the backlash really comes from. I know I feel that way when governments or anybody tells me that I HAVE to do this or be this or can’t do what I like because THEY don’t like it. What about my feelings and wants? They have no trouble marginalizing my choices but I’m not allowed to feel angry about it? Just my probably less than 2 cents of thought on the matter

    But brilliant CJ bro how you handled that one. That’s a useful thing for your future self you reinforced that day.

  42. George says:

    Well done, you! Parenting; You’re doing it very right.

  43. ConstructionGuy says:

    I’m so glad CJ and his bro have a relationship where CJ knows his bro has his back. Lots of teaching moments like this in the future!

  44. Kristján says:

    Although I realize your lives are anything but simple, I really find myself wishing that when I have kids they turn out as fantastic as yours are. 🙂

  45. Kathryn says:

    It’s so lovely to see how well your boys handled the situation, it is truly an example of how fantastic a parent you are, though I feel you shouldn’t judge the photographer too harshly, what is routine for you and yours is something so far removed from the life of others that it is unheard of and I am sure she meant no harm or ill will towards anyone. Undoubtedly it was just a misguided offhand comment, and I daresay she was not being “presumptuous”, just unawares.

  46. NotoriousDSG says:

    OMG!! You’re a fantastic mother and amazing writer but C.J.’s brother wins the prize for best line and best brother! “I don’t have to picture that. I see it everyday!” In a word? Brilliant! You’re raising two tremendous boys! Mazel Tov!

  47. Mark Hanna says:

    I hope C.J.’s Brother’s comment forces her to think a bit more carefully about this issue. It’d be wonderful if this results in raising her awareness of gender non-conformity. It really does sound like C.J.’s Brother handled things perfectly, you should be proud.

  48. Fabulous Mommy says:

    The thing is, when you are different, you constantly have to teach people how to treat you. It can be exhausting. Our twins just started school and the amount of “they have two moms” conversations gets a bit tedious. I suppose someone has to do it though.

  49. Oh My Gods. I love your kids, they not only rock, they roll too.

  50. Cake says:

    I can’t even. C.J.’s brother is around ten years old? He is so mature and just…. stood up for himself and made his values known, when most adults are uncomfortable doing that. Half the time people can’t even disagree with musical taste, if it’s in opposition to the rest of the room. I’m so impressed with him, he’s amazing.

  51. 'Angela' (John) says:

    You are one HELL of a family; I’d kill to be a part of it!

  52. Kay says:

    C.J.’s brother is a fantastic big brother, C.J. is really lucky. I suspect that the stupid photographer thought her ‘joke’ failed the first time because there was a dad issue, not a gender presentation issue, which is why she tried it again. But I don’t think C.J.’s brother could have handled it better – what a brilliant response!

  53. Gillian. says:

    When you have shown a great example to your children, and they mirror your example in the real world, it is an amazing parenting moment.
    Your sons are amazing, but that is no accident. Amazing parents make amazing children.

    And my word of the day is clearly “amazing”.

  54. Mark Derby says:

    In my day? The words were “sissy boys” and “fruits,” or worse. Being one of the former, I was entirely too accustomed to a large proportion of Americans finding endless sources of humor in these subjects. It wasn’t funny, not to me. I spent most of my childhood trying to hide these traits: to avoid bullying, taunting and ostracism at school. And to avoid (at home) a persistent attitude that–if, let’s suppose, children came from a factory–I was the equivalent of “slightly irregular” merchandise. The sort of thing returned to the manufacturer, to be destroyed and replaced.

    My mother–ahead of her time–did what she could to encourage me. I adored her, and often felt it was my life’s task to protect her: the way she protected me. (She was bipolar, but until she passed away two years ago? I didn’t know. Only that day-to-day life overwhelmed her, and she needed my support.) Her indulgent attitude could lead to greater difficulties with peers, or (mostly unseen) arguments between my parents. Did I fear she made me more vulnerable? Never.

    The intensity and frequency of mistreatment–which, given my vulnerability, went far beyond bullying on some occasions–left scars. 40 years later, I’m still working on sorting out who I really was, and who I am. More recently I feel as if I’m making greater progress. Never imagined I’d survive this long. These things have become less surprising: glad to be here still, and looking forward to the future.

    As I told my Facebook news feed (after voting for Raising My Rainbow at Parents Magazine), this blog does inspire me. At least a couple of times a month. Mostly I’ve been quiet and solitary: but growing less inclined to withdraw entirely, and more willing to speak up. Thank you, again, for that inspiration.

  55. There are two things about this photographer that just amaze me. One is the presumption of a dad. Families are really complicated, and anyone who works with families learns pretty quickly that sometimes there is no dad, or dad died in a car wreck last year, or dad is in jail…all reasons not to smile if someone mentions dad. Second is the fact that she made the exact same joke after it so obviously failed the first time.

    Yaaay to you and your kids for handling it so well.

  56. strawberryquicksand says:

    Wow. How to make a nice, ordinary every-day event turn awkward! The silly young girl should have realised after the first “dad in a dress” flop that something was awry with the whole gender discussion thing and reverted to a differnt joke. In her defence, howver, I’m sure that has worked many, many times before for different children in the past.

    I have been following CJ and your blog for quite a while now and I truly hope that CJ retains his confidence as he grows older. Did you know that the youngest person in Australia to be granted special permission by the courts to start hormone therapy was ten years of age, in 2011? This child had been living as a girl for two years. I know CJ is only young, but it seems he truly knows how he feels. Perhaps something like this could be a possibility for him in the nearer rather than further away future… anything is possible. I wish CJ, you and your family nothing but the best outcome, whatever it is. xo

  57. Lynda M O says:

    You all are the rockingest responders on the planet. I hope she (the photographer) learned a few things today…

  58. jmgoyder says:

    Yay for C.J.’s brother and boo to the stupid photographer.

  59. Sammiifayse says:

    My son is 6mo. I know a couple of trans individuals, but no gender non-conforrmists aside from this blog. At the moment, my son has pink & purple pacifiers, simply because they’re the only colour available at the time. Whenever we’re out and people see him with them, I get asked “Why does your little boy have a pink dummy?” “Pink for a boy? Are you trying to give him a complex?”. I have to try very hard to not snap at people.
    It’s ridiculous that something as simple as the colour of a binkie can cause such a response from people. It’s just a god damned pacifier. He’s not even old enough to be self aware, let alone have any interest in the colour of his binkie. And so what if he did. I wish people could get past the pink is for girls thing as they have seemed to evolve a little from the blue is for boys.

    I feel for what CJ must go through, knowing how angry I get at people over a pink dummy.

  60. mrBrennan says:

    Kudos to CJ’s brother. May we all raise children like him.

  61. Lee says:

    I hate how society assumes dresses are only for girls. I never hear people say as a joke “Now imagine your sister in boys clothes!”
    I wish I was as brave as CJ when I was his age. I’ve always prefered to wear boys clothes, but I’ve always given in and worn dresses and skirts…

    • 'Angela' (John) says:

      Then stop, please, for your sake and for the sake of all the other people who feel the same way. For years I too conformed, at least in public; ‘Angela’ was so far into the closet as to be part of the woodwork, but it made me hugely unhappy.

      Just over five years ago I said “Enough!” and I’ve dressed as I please ever since. The world still goes round, I’m accepted as I am, and my life is so much happier and brighter as a consequence.

      Don’t be someone else’s person, be your own, and live YOUR life.

  62. Nirah says:

    I could understand making the mistake the first time but, once it’s become obvious that saying something like that isn’t considered funny in your family, only an idiot would think to try it again.

    • Paula Turner says:

      I think the particular issue for me is there shouldn’t have been a first time. An appropriate way to encourage someone to smile is to ask them to think of something that makes them happy, not something that is meant as demeaning. The photographer was ignorant about this and many other things.

  63. Harriet says:

    CJ’s brother handled this perfectly.

  64. scutaloo says:

    At least they don’t joke about women enjoying being raped in America.
    I get it every day here in Bearland. About young girls (not even acquainted with the speaker) being natural sluts, too.
    Yeah, we girls are supposed to laugh at those jokes.

  65. Nina says:

    Just when I think your family can’t get any cooler, you do it again. I had a nervous stomach just reading this (I am hugely confrontational, and have no problem addressing things head on, but I was nervous about the photographer traversing farther into bone-head territory), but let my breath out when C.J.’s brother showed his stuff so beautifully. And that he could appreciate you not jumping in says even more. I appreciate you all even more. 🙂

  66. Wow, you must be so proud of your sons!

  67. Beth says:

    Absolutely wonderful. CJ has a great brother and I am so proud of how you parent your children. ❤

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