C.J. and I were at the park on a sunny summer day when we ran into a girl from his kindergarten class and her mother. As the kids played, the mom and I got to talking about our respective summer plans and made small talk. I’m not very good at small talk.
After awhile, she touched on the subject of C.J. being different and liking girl stuff. She had volunteered in his classroom throughout kindergarten and had seen him gravitate toward pink and purple, be the only boy to play house, carry a Monster High lunchbox and draw himself as a girl.
Because I work, I only volunteered in C.J.’s class once last year. His dad did it a handful of times. I often wondered what the moms who volunteered on a weekly basis thought of my son. There were at least three of them who were in the class so often that I wondered if they were on the payroll.
I assumed they had chatted amongst themselves about C.J.’s effeminate ways at least a few (or 250) times. I know how Orange County moms talk. They may have even brought it up to his teacher. But they had never, not until now, in the safety of summer, brought it up to me.
“C.J. is gender nonconforming,” I said matter-of-factly and with a kind smile.
Her eyes immediately darted to C.J. Yes, he was within earshot. She looked at me and jerked her head toward him to indicate that he could hear what I was saying.
“Oh, he knows he’s gender nonconforming,” I assured her.
C.J. looked up and smiled at me. Then, he went back to playing a complicated pat-a-cake game with his girl friend.
For C.J. knowing that he is gender nonconforming is like knowing that he has red hair, hates ketchup and that high-fives feel too aggressive. It’s a fact. It’s something that makes him who he is, but doesn’t totally define him — even though, for us, some days it feels like it does.
The mom was swimming in an awkward silence. Staring at her daughter because she didn’t know what else to do. I watched her swim for a minute or two. I didn’t rush to make her feel safe.
“How did you explain that to him?” she finally asked.
“Well, we didn’t. He explained it to us. Not in so many words, but he’s always been a boy who only likes girl stuff. We just gave him the term once we learned it. And, that was so long ago now that it’s like he’s never known life without that phrase,” I explained. “He uses it just as much as we do now.”
“But, other kids don’t know what it means,” she stated.
“Most don’t, but he explains it to them if he feels comfortable doing so. Some kids hear that big-sounding term and don’t ask what it means. I’m sure it sounds too confusing to even deal with,” I said.
“Do parents ever get mad when he explains it to their child?” she asked. I wondered if she would have gotten mad if C.J. had explained gender nonconformity to her daughter prior to our conversation.
I took a second.
“If they do, they don’t tell me. But, you know, I equate it to kids letting other people know that they have some other special or unique need. It’s something that is beneficial for others to know and to keep the child safe, but doesn’t necessarily need to be declared,” I explained.
She got silent again. She was thinking. She was uncomfortable.
“He also knows what it means to be transgender and homosexual,” I said.
“Come on, honey. We have to get you to swim lessons,” she called to her daughter.
Maybe I should get better at small talk. Or maybe I shouldn’t tell my son so much. The jury is still out.
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Just found your blog! I applaud your grace and skill in allowing your son to be exactly who he is. He is one lucky man!!
Ha! I’m horrible at small talk, too. It is now that I have gender non-conformity to talk about that I can finally talk to other parents. I think I kind of like watching parents squirm, though…
Kindergartners can handle the information better than most adults. My daughter had a classmate in kindergarten who was gender nonconforming (a girl who wanted to be a boy). My daughter told me in a matter-of-fact way. I wasn’t sure it was true or if my daughter got it wrong, but I didn’t push it. At my daughter’s birthday party, a number of the girls also stated this in a very matter-of-fact way (and the little girl/boy just nodded). Apparently, the entire class is well aware of and perfectly okay with this. Kindergartners are fabulous people.
What I think doesn’t effectively matter so long as you comfortable in your choices and decisions, but for what it’s worth, I think that the way you talk with and treat CJ is amazing. You’re giving him the language he needs to express himself and that is one of the key things any parent can do for their child. For so many people, finding that language can be such a solitary experience and the fact that you are there to guide and assist him is amazing. I can’t wait to read your book and always look forward to your blog posts.
You’re my hero! You don’t need to get better at anything. Look at the situation like this: Two kids are happily playing, just being themselves and totally accepting of each other. Here’s you, like them, loving and supporting, understanding and caring. Now enter the other mom, unnerved by something she doesn’t understand, unable to process something that doesn’t fit into her nice neat view of nice neat categories that inadequately define a vastly complex world that operates fully on spectrums and differences and in-betweens.
She’s the one who left. She’s the one who couldn’t understand. She’s the one who took her daughter away from a place and a person who she was having a great time with.
So who do you think has something to learn, then?
YOU are the perfect mother. Your son might not be a perfect black-and-white heteronormative gender binary boy, but he’s perfect just the way he is too. The world needs more people like him, who understand that it’s ok to be who they are whether or not people have a nice neat little category to push them into, and the world definitely needs more people like who, who supports others no matter their choices, natures, leanings, or tendencies. You sought to understand, when so many others only seek to refuse. You are a hero, no matter how many small minded people try to tell you otherwise. Never forget that!
PS. I had a friend a few years back who chose to identify as “gender pirate” – because she refused to acknowledge that she ever had to conform to one or the other and stick to it; like a pirate, she’d go wherever the wind blew, and to hell with anyone who didn’t like it! She’d live free, and no-one would take that from her. I think that’s a great term! Definitely needs an explanation, though.
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I think that you handled this perfectly. Once she opened the door- it was fair game! People are so concerned with the gender roles of their children. I teach preschool and it was very interesting to hear parents reactions when I said We don’t have “boys and girls” stuff in my room. We have kid stuff. Meaning- the block area transitions smoothly into the home living area- dress up play is never directed- if boys want to wear pink and heels- go for it! If girls want to be construction workers- more power to them!
I think that being open about your son is the best way to handle all situations. And like you said- the kids were playing together just fine, Kids don’t discriminate. It’s parents that teach that. You had no obligation to make her more comfortable. You probably wouldn’t have been anle to no matter what you said- her hangups wouldn’t have allowed it!
I also have an autistic child who has ADHD and OCD and I tell everyone! It doesn’t make me love him any less, or be any less proud of him!
Oh- I saw this the other day too and wanted to share! http://www.gaystarnews.com/article/boy-transforms-kickass-superhero-girl-new-kids-tv-show290513
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I think you handled it perfectly. Keep being as straightforward as you were in this conversation, and you will eventually meet the people who can handle it. You are not responsible for her discomfort…besides, if you hadn’t told her, and she was then comfortable with you, what next? In the long run, is that really how you want to live your life (or C.J.’s?). I realize this is a very different situation, but I have a son with autism, and I tell everyone. And I’m glad I have done so–because it often leads to an interesting conversation with someone who turns out to be surprisingly informative about services, or incredibly supportive. You will find your people. Just keep it up.
You are doing a great job! My mother’s theory, and mine once I had children, is that if they are old enough to ask, they are old enough to know. This time may have been uncomfortable for this mom, but after reflection, and maybe research, maybe next time she will be more comfortable. I think it’s a good step forward that someone wad able to broach the subject with you, and you handled it beautifully.
I’m never good at small talk. You knocked it out of the park, in my opinion. And the “We didn’t, he explained it to us” was absolutely perfect. Obviously she was uncomfortable but you’ve given her things to think about – in the long run, it might be a positive thing. Regardless, you did your part and as always, were an excellent Mom to your child.
It’s fantastic that CJ is so well informed. It can only help him as he gets older and tries to figure things out for himself. You & your family are amazing!
you are not in charge of how others feel. You tell your son what he needs to feel safe and secure in his world keep it up! 🙂
Yes, you made her uncomfortable. Yes, that’s unfortunate, and you feel bad about it. In a perfect world we wouldn’t have to make people uncomfortable just to make the world a better place for our kids. Sadly, this is not a perfect world.
I have a friend who was brought up to believe gay people are abhorrent. Her dad (a farmer) used to say that he’d love to take his shotgun to the Sydney Mardi-Gras (a local gay pride parade) and shoot as many as he could, to make the world “a better place”. He never actually did it, but he repeatedly said it’d be a great thing to do. My friend is now struggling to overcome a lifetime of programming, and because most of her circle of acquaintance are straight, she is rarely challenged on this. (I, of course, try to encourage her to think more reasonably.) She is not a horrible person – she’s just deeply programmed to believe one thing, and it’s hard (and slow) to change the beliefs of a lifetime.
But my point (and I do have one!) is that some people have been taught all their lives, by their families and everyone else that they care about, that certain groups of people are disgusting. It takes time and patience to show them the truth, and if you’re just a casual acquaintance,then you probably won’t have the opportunity to do much. That said, you’ve done what you could, and I for one hope that by making the other Mom feel just slightly uncomfortable, you just might have made her think about *why* she’s uncomfortable. Perhaps I’m being overly optimistic here, but if she *does* think about it, she just might end up realising there’s nothing to be afraid of – and therefore, nothing to hate.
Hm. I LOVE that you spoke with her about it, but I think that last comment tipped her over the edge, and I wonder whether it was worth it. I mean, this is a woman who was willing to talk to you about it, and though uncomfortable was probably trying to be open minded. Sometimes we have to lead them gently by the hand…I guess what I’m saying is I wouldn’t have added more terms to her vocabulary till next time. Not that you were wrong to do so, just that it might have been more helpful, if the end goal was her enlightenment. On the other hand, oftentimes the enlightenment of others isn’t our concern.
Oh geez, and reading the other comments, I sound super judgmental. What I should have prefaced that with was this: You rock! I love your blog! I guess I just thought your rocking was obvious and moved on to the one tiny concern I had.
Naomi, I can so relate to this comment. I’ve written LOTS of comments here that I think sound judgmental or less than supportive. Which is kinda crazy as I’m a huge fan of CJs mom. AND I often consider other angles, as you have done. I echo what you said about that the main thing is that CJs mom rocks, her blog rocks, and CJ rocks.
FWIW. I go through similar struggles about my own conversations with others. I guess it is a process, figuring out what to say to people about our differences. I’m impressed by CJs mom’s ability to apparently stay centered and engaged and considerate in these situations.
Knowledge is power. Period.
That was so typical for her to pack up and run when confronted with what she considered “too much information”.
Keep up with that talking. At least you will be educating people–and who knows, maybe you will meet a parent who is struggling with a similar issue with their child, or someone who will be a cheerleader for your family (we would be!)
I know it’s nowhere near the same, but my son has told people about his anaphylactic food allergies since he was 3. He’s been taught to be assertive to adults, even if they think he’s “rude”. I’m sure we’ve ben discussed as the “overbearing parents”. He’s the odd one out but for the most part it’s just a part of him, not his identity.
He would love your son–he likes nail polish, even begged me to get a nail art stamping plate w/ Iron Man on it. He just gets nervous about the idea of his friends seeing him with polish (he’s 11). But he’s also over the moon squealing about a pikachu nail art photo he saw on pinterest.
Keep it up. You’re doing just fine on small talk and you do your son a great service being such a fantastic advocate for him 🙂
You know what I loved most about this? The part about, “He explained it to us.” We learn SOOOOOO much from our kids, if we’re really paying attention.
Please keep engaging in that kind of talk. Even when the result is not what is hoped for. Your words will resonate again and again in her mind when any similar subject if broached. It must be very difficult to not put up a wall with people. I know it is for me. The way you share is very matter-of-fact and it shows confidence in your son, yourself, and the facts. People need to see that. You rock!
Hahahahahha that gave me a good chuckle. Even though that woman walked away, you have gotten her thinking!!!! I came online today specifically to seek out your blog, which I have followed for quite a while now. In one of our Australian magazines, That’s Life, there is a story about a trans gender child who was born a boy but now lives life as a girl – and is loving it. you can check out http://www.thatslife.com.au but the story might or might not be there for a while. It’s called “a perfect princess” and the boy in question was always grumpy, throwing tanties, and in one case, even tried to chop off his penis as he said it didn’t belong there. He was always disruptive in class and got sent home. He kept saying he wanted girls clothes, so the mum bought him a pink doona for his bed, and a pretty white top and purple shorts with a butterfly on. The difference, she recounts, was amazing. Ronan went from being cranky Ronan to happy Emma and finally the time came, when she was nine, to go to school as Emma, permanently. The kids were really accepting, and Emma was very diligent, studied in class all the time, no longer got into trouble and was a lot happier within herself. The mum, of course, had a terribly hard and confusing time and it wasn’t until she confided in a friend, initially, that the friend suggested that her child was transgender. It was a great story (That’s Life is full of real life stories only) and it brought a tear to my eye and made me think of you guys and your little lady. 🙂
p.s. if you would like me to mail you a copy of the story, send me a message at email@example.com asap (so I don’t throw the mag in the bin) and I can tear it out and post it to you in the mail. My scanning skills are pretty poor..
In This day and age I still can not believe how many people remain and wish to remain ignorant It is sad that the other woman felt so uncomfortable about a child.any child.
Shame on her. ” How did you tell him.” you are NOT what others ” tell ” you, you are.!!!
I love that you’re so willing to engage in discussions like those, even at the expense of social awkwardness. I definitely vascilate between wanting to be bold in my thoughts, but also wanting to be a “people-pleaser.” Seriously, though, it can be so difficult to navigate as to when something should be said and how much should be explained. That’s where I get overwhelmed. On the one hand I want to speak what I believe to be truth, but on the other hand I don’t want to overwhlem others and lose their trust. I feel like having unconventional thoughts on sexuality makes it so that you always have to be prepared to fight off the label of “crazy, ignorant, liberal.” Thanks for your example of engaging in appropriate discourse…I’d love to know even more ways of how to do that!
I think people get too hung up on gender roles. As a kid it has nothing to do with sexual tastes just general. What I don’t understand is the problem people have with accepting that a kid can like ‘girly’ things. It’s like saying as a man you can’t wear a purple shirt, a pink shirt or have long hair. It’s just confusing to me. In any case as a parent [I am not one myself though] I think you are doing a phenomenal job just letting your son be a kid.
I wish I had known this term years ago…as I watch my 18 yr old stroll through the room.. on his purple phone with his friends (all girls) …flicking his wrist as he goes… People have judged him for years…and to me, he’s just mine. Whomever he is, whatever path he takes.. he’s always going to be that wonderful boy who captured my heart before he was even born… and I always think that if people can’t appreciate my beautiful, sensitive boy…it’s their loss. 🙂 Thanks so much for this share..
I read your blog post because it came up on my news feed. It is wonderful that you are preparing your son for life by giving him the tools and knowledge that he needs to survive and thrive and I applaud your being his biggest advocate, cheerleader and defender. The amazing friends I have gained throughout my life (primarily because of my degrees in design and career in professional theatre) have given me the opportunity to view firsthand how different we all can be chemically, sexually, and in the area of gender. I even have a friend who was born a male, but who figured out that he was transgendered AND a lesbian! Just goes to show you that gender and sexuality are two different parts of our make up.
My incredible son, has also given me a new perspective on how important our chemical balance is in determining who we “are”. My son, who my husband and I adopted from Russia, is a 7 year old who is heading to 1st grade in the fall, just like your son. However, my son was born with a frontal lobe brain injury that has left him with Bipolar Disorder, Tourette Syndrome and ADHD. As a result his brain’s ability to control certain impulses (aggressive thoughts and actions, inappropriate touching, kissing, saying inappropriate things) has been impaired and he requires medication to be able to keep these impulses in a normal range. It has been a long, and at times, exhausting (both financially and emotionally) road. Educating ourselves (and at times, it seems like everyone else!) on what is going with our son, is and always probably will be ongoing. But it is getting easier.
As a parent who understands what you face with a child with challenges, I will pass this on to you. Others just aren’t going to have the experience or knowledge that we do about our unique situations, but why would we expect them to? My experiences haven’t been “the norm” in our society and neither have yours. Recognizing this has given me the freedom to approach our lives with the most positive attitude that I can. I could allow this to make me negative, but assuming a positive approach has served me and my family, particularly my son, better.
And this extends to how I view other’s reactions to our differences. I no longer assume that someone’s “awkwardness” necessarily means that they view us negatively. Quite the contrary. Usually I have found that they want to be supportive, but have been honestly unsure how to approach the subject without offending us. Sure our differences have put people at unease at times, but I think most people naturally are uneasy with things that they don’t know much about. Who wouldn’t be? Now, if parents or their children are openly hostile or judgmental, then obviously they will have to be confronted. But, we haven’t experienced that yet. Luckily for our children and for the generations of children who will follow, greater understanding is coming to light, especially with the internet and inclusion of those with challenges being much more prevalent in our education system.
Which brings me to the last point I’d like to make regarding your post. I choose to help my son and his classmates navigate these early learning waters, because kindergartners, with and without special needs, still need help getting through the school day. And understanding each other. Not because I am a stay at home parent with the flexibility (hahaha) of running an at home business, or because I am a hovercraft parent. At that age, as much as our children with obvious differences have special needs, all kindergartners have “special needs”, it’s part of the definition. As someone who has chosen to be a parent, I recognize that and understand that early on in the school years our children and teachers still need help. And I don’t feel right saying that I can’t volunteer because I “work”. Everyone works. Whether you’re a stay at home parent who has planned for that or whether you are a parent who has chosen (or had to go back) to work. But, regardless, in my mind, “many hands make light work” and more parents, especially dads, need to actively plan to be more involved that way.
I wish all good experiences to you and your beautiful child. He/she is in good hands and will have a rich, full life with your love, help and support.
All I’ve got for you is:
I think you got it absolutely right.
Much love from a sister, niece, great niece, and friend to many “nonconforming” folks.
On the one hand there’s the complete comfort and ease you have of accepting gender non-conformity in theory and in practice.
On the other hand there’s the complete DIScomfort from another’s viewpoint.
It’s like the 2 viewpoints crash into each other.
I always feel ill-at-ease when someone else is this uncomfortable. I wish I didn’t, but I do. Even reading it, I feel a sadness and loneliness when she collects her kid to escape.
I wonder how she will think about this conversation over time. I hope someday you will hear from her again and give us an update.
I’m glad you are going to be at the gender conference soon. As much as this post is charming and as much as you are fine with all of it, this kind of thing really must take a toll.
I’m imagining a city of refuge for gender non conforming kids. Like, if many parents moved to be together. Not easy to do, what with moving. I guess camps and conferences are th next best thing. But oh it would be sweet to have many families like yours living in one place.
Oh, and “how did you explain that to him” – “he explained it to us” – is totally classic!
I have many a similar conversation, and at times I think, ” Am I sharing to much with my children, am I too honest and open? “. I know one thing, you and I are both trying our very best to create, happy, well-adjusted children 🙂 and we are are loving them with all of our hearts. I think it’s ok if we make a mistake or two 😉 xoxo
To raise, rather 😉 they have already been perfectly created!
I’m from Orange County. When i realized I was a lesbian, I drove for MILES to find a bookstore as far away from my house to sit and read LGBT literature. My high school girls’ basketball coach was a lesbian, who lived in fear of discovery. Orange County NEEDS moms like you. Thank you, for making where I come from a safer place for kids like CJ, for kids like me.
I want to give the other mom the benefit of the doubt, that she knew she’d hit her comfort zone but when she goes and thinks some more she will settle down. Either way, you did the right thing. You’re a great mom.
My 3 year old son is gender conforming – an expression that I learned from your blog. Because of your blog, I realized how important it is to assure him that there is no such thing as girl color, or girl’s and boy’s toys. Information is always the best way – and our young kids are capable of undersatnding way more than we imagine.they do. All kids, by CJ’s age, should already know about homosexxuality and transgenderness – it’s just out there. And they should also learn that there’s nothing wrong with it.
Keep doing the phenomenal job you have been doing! Don’t worry about other parents’ reactions or discomfort; your job is to support and praise your children, not make the rest of the world ‘comfortable’!
I hope the other mom can begin to understand that C.J. and others like him were BORN THIS WAY, the exact way Creation created him. I hope she will be understanding and, in time, be supportive.
“Maybe I should get better at small talk. Or maybe I shouldn’t tell my son so much.”
No. Maybe other people should get used to seeing, hearing about, and interacting with people who are gender nonconforming as if it is something normal (which, hey, it IS!) instead of as if it’s something ‘dirty’ or bad. Anyone who sees a gender nonconforming CHILD (or any child) as ‘dirty’ or bad is someone who needs to educate themselves and realize that nature comes in many flavors, some of which may be new to you, but all of which are acceptable and fine.
YOU are doing it correctly. And being vocal about it – even it it sometimes makes small-talk with those who are still ignorant a little awkward – helps other people learn and grow.
Then again, I’m a very outspoken LGBTQ advocate, and have VERY strong opinions on these kinds of issues – especially as they relate to kids. I don’t tend to let the ignorant people’s awkwardness silence me or change what I would say. 😉
Good luck, and keep it up. 🙂 We all do what we can. 🙂
~ the Unicorn
I absolutely love your pieces! The honesty and sharing is refreshing. People are uncomfortable with what they don’t understand, but I believe your words will inform and help many!
As a working parent (elementary teacher), I know first hand that questioning feeling of what volunteers are saying. I wonder what they say about my son in my absence and if they see things that keep the bday party invites away. I don’t focus on it anymore, but I do wonder.
Your son is lucky to have you 🙂
I love reading your posts. That’s all 🙂
You guys are amazing parents and I admire your honesty and openness with your children. Her discomfort is her problem, not yours. Hopefully your openness with her will leave her with a clearer view of the world.
I second this. Rock on CJ’s mom.
You were PERFECT! you were even composed! You educated her, which she obviously needed. THAT is the way for kids and adults to learn those “big words”! You and your rainbow are wonderful!
You’re not responsible for her emotions. I think of it like the kid that falls down, parents that react overly dramatic get kids that play up the drama. The parents I admire are the ones who tell their kids to get up and keep walking get no tears.
You’re doing your job, just tell TJ to keep walking.
I admire you. You’re being completely honest and forthcoming and nothing you said was offensive or false. Your calm demeanour in the face of prejudice is so refreshing. If only more people were as accepting and enlightened as you.
She’s uncomfortable with C.J. being comfortable with who he is? What is wrong with that picture? My bottom line is always will this woman’s head explode the day that her “perfect” child comes home in Goth black, multiple piercings or tattoos? Kids find ways to make themselves unique whether it is in-born or chosen. Our job, as parents, is to help them understand how to navigate a world that may or may not accept their differences/ choices.
The woman you spoke with has an all-too-common personal problem; she is uncomfortable with sexual issues, and is terrified about having to answer any questions from her child(ren) about the topic. Such people panic at the notion that they might have to actually explain anything about sex to their offspring. Pity those children. They’ll grow up with many of the same issues. Not CJ! Well done, you. 🙂
Agreed! And I would add, she is also confusing “sex” with “sexual orientation” and “gender.” They are totally different concepts!!!! I also don’t get why some parents think children won’t understand what “gay” and “transgender” means.
Why is it a big deal (or any deal at all) that kids know what transgender, gender nonconforming or homosexual means? Seriously. Kids should be taught love and acceptance, period. Thank you for living your life with your family beautifully and not being ashamed of who your awesome son is.
Being open and honest with your child is never a bad thing. It is this same thing that makes people uncomfortable though. I am open and honest with my child because we are a team. We take one day at a time and are always each others cheerleader. My daughter has sensory processing disorder and I tell others because it is impotant to knowing why she does things and affects her daily life. My child may be different from your child, but each colors the world in their own fantastic way 🙂 I totally agree with you letting others know the family as a whole knows who CJ is and supports him. I think when we recognize who our children are as people we let others know that we have their back and that is a good thing. When CJ heard you and looked up it made me smile because he knew his mother was on his team and, even if others aren’t, you and your husband being there for him means the world! Great job mom!
Oh and I don’t do so well with small talk either.
Beautiful picture, CJ. You really are quite the talented artist!
Kids have many very effective ways of letting adults know when they are saying too much. Kids walk away, they change the subject, thev crash cars together and make explosion noises, or they put their fingers in their hears and sing “na na na na na na na.” Some even say things like “enough, Mom,” or “Okay, I’m good” to end an uncomfortable conversation. Putting a label to something does not make it any more true that it was; not using labels in no way changes reality. You have great instincts as a mom. Keep listening to them, not to other moms!
Hon, I love reading your posts and CJ has a great mom. You shouldn’t worry if people can’t understand or don’t want to. Some people may not want their kids to understand certain terms yet and that is their right, but, and I agree with you, its like a special disorder, he has a right to explain it. Loved the small talk.
I am a cis-gendered female married to a cis-gendered male with (apparently) cis-gendered kids aged 3, 5 and 7. They all know about being gay or bisexual, and I have started explaining transgender to them as appropriate. They know toys are for kids, not “girls or boys” and people should be allowed to wear what they like and play how they want. The more people who talk about this in everyday small talk, the more “normal” it will become, and I am ALL FOR that.
Your family are so brave.
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Reblogged this on JerBear's Queer News, Views & Memories and commented:
My how I wish I had a mom like C.J.’s but then moms like her were virtually non existent 50+ years ago. Now I have virtually no relationship with any member of my family. Why? Because we have virtually nothing in common and no common frame of reference. C.J., on the other hand, will never know a familial relationship like mine. When he talks about why he’s different than other boys – why he sees the world in Technicolor and others see it in black and white – when he ask questions C.J.’s mom has the answers or, as important, when she doesn’t know the answers they find them together as a team. A team bonded together not just by blood, but by unconditional love. He is blessed to have her and his brother and father and all of them are blessed to have him. The fact that there are others who are uncomfortable is sad but just a mere bump in the road. The bigger picture is that slowly but gaining momentum as the days, months and years go by, the world is becoming a more welcoming place for those of us who have been waiting for that place, “somewhere over the rainbow.” Now thanks to folks like C.J. and his mom that place over the rainbow is within reach. Then, (borrowing words from a great man), we will be free at last!
I love that you speak so openly to C.J.! It would be nice if more parents were willing to talk to their children about important issues that may be uncomfortable or awkward. I don’t have kids, but if and when I do I hope I will be able to have open and frank conversations with them about gender, sexuality and other important subjects (in an age appropriate way of course). I think children appreciate this and benefit in life from such honesty.
I also admire that you are willing to talk openly to other parents or inquiring adults about C.J.’s gender nonconformity even when it’s awkward and difficult. This is hard, but it is likely the best way to help people understand and guide them toward acceptance.
It’s NOT you and CJ who are out of step, it’s the rest of the world still struggling to adapt to the change in pace and perspective which you’ve chosen to embrace. That some people will also never change is nothing new either; why else do we still have a ‘Flat Earth Society??’
This made me smile. good for you.
Maybe she needs a while to think over it and than she will come back to you. Tolerance is a big thing you have to learn but it takes a while, when you never learned it in earlier times. I wasn’t tolerant at all until someone just told it right into my face when I was a teenager. It took me two weeks to think about it and to understand what he meant. But after I understood I could go back to him and say thank you. Maybe she needs a while as well. You just can hope it for her.
Her questions seem like a “trying to figure out” how a person explains being “different.” When you think about it, there really has not been much discussion of this subject in our culture (any culture?). How does one explain it, and what do other people think about it when you do explain it. These seem to be natural questions. At least she had the guts to open the subject to your face. It is a first step. I agree with schauseite. When tolerance wasn’t modeled to you in your formative years, you’re like a grape nut trying to hatch out of a box of Captain Crunch…for lack of a better analogy. It is so cool that CJ “knows,” and doesn’t have to hide it and you don’t hide it from him.
Hey there C.J.’s mom,
I continue to gobble up your posts… and the creme de la creme ones make it onto our Handsome in Pink facebook page. (https://www.facebook.com/HandsomeinPink) “He Knows He Is Gender Non Conforming” has more than made the cut! Great writing! It’s amazing how the things we take for granted, like our kids being aware of who they are, turns out to be such great fodder for a blog post. But it takes someone completely not on our wavelength to help us realize what we take for granted, in this case, that you do not need to lower your voice, C.J. knows he is gender non conforming!!!! Hilarious.
I think you did a great small talk here. And when we put a name on something, and use that name, we confirm that it exists and we can talk about it. Great post, your son is so lucky to have you as his mother!
Cut! Print that last one, it’s a keeper. Okay, moving on! (One day you will hear people say that while you sit in one of those canvas chairs. Then Emma Watson will sit next to you and ask you how she’s doing portraying you, because Natilie Portman will be too old.) Hope you’re having a fabulous summer.
Arrrg! I was so hoping she would be open minded about it and not uncomfortable. Small talk is overrated anyway.
You know, I just don’t get it. What would a mom like that have you do? Pretend he’s not what he is? If it were any other aspect of CJ’s physicality, it would be incredulous to pretend. “Yes, he was born with only one arm but we don’t acknowledge it.” As you’ve talked about before on your blog, many people never think about the differences between gender, sex and sexuality. They see a little boy and think that’s all there is to it. You and many others are making a difference, though.
I think you did just fine. Sad how so many people would rather just blah-blah about the weather or some other superficial subject and when conversation turns deep they are stunned into silence, or find themselves in the awkward position of not being able to find anything worthwhile to say. She was obviously taken by surprise by your candidness, and unable to recover enough to participate, her instinct to flee took over. Certainly she will think on what you had to say.
Our children are well equipped to filter out all the baloney and rush right to the truth. In my opinion it is the influence of their parents (or others) who complicate issues and interfere in the relationships that children are able to naturally understand. By that I mean that it is not always necessary to ‘define’ someone to enjoy a relationship with them. Kids know who other kids are. They either are compatible or not based on many factors. The incessant desire for some people to define anyone, adult or child, by their gender identity is foolish.
CJ’s Hummingbird is lovely! Reminds me of the art in the children’s book “Rudy’s Pond”. CJ’s beautiful spirit shines through again!
Love this post…you could have been telling my recent story! I love your form of small talk and I completely support your being honest with your children! It’s so frustrating when parents are afraid to be honest with their kids. If children are able to communicate their feelings this young, why are people so afraid to explain to their kids that “sometimes boys marry boys, and girls marry girls” or “sometimes people are born with a brain that doesn’t match their body”?! You just have to break it down in their language and not make a big deal of it. Thank you for reading my mind tonight. 🙂
You go woman. There’s that strong Momma we all love!
Well now, she did bring it up! Your terminology was just a continuation of the conversation. In my world it’s been “don’t ask, don’t tell” for years. But my feeling is, if you ask, you better be ready for the answer, and she obviously wasn’t. But it is a start!
If she wanted small talk she should have stuck to the weather =]
While I can’t say I’ve ever had to tackle an especially delicate topic, I generally over-explain everything and only give up when their eyes glaze over and/or they start asking totally off-topic questions.
Reblogged this on Mommas Got a Brand New Bag and commented:
Its not your responsibility to make other people comfortable with themselves. That’s their problem, not yours : )
Be honest with your child. That’s my theory
The other lady’s discomfort is her problem. Your response was perfect.
There’s something disturbing about this post…He doesn’t like ketchup!?! 😉
I always love reading, but am particularly interested in your interactions with other parents. I’m so often amazed and the ease of which you seem to show such tact and are able to delicately but frankly present the situation (I’m sure it doesn’t always feel that way!)
I thought of you and C.J. when I wrote a piece recently about the way I choose to dress my infant daughter. http://athenaillustration.com/blog/2013/7/2/why-i-dress-my-daughter-like-a-boy
I love that C.J. is helping educate his own generation so that things will be easier for future children.
Big people should be able to handle big talk. I think the way you handled that conversation was perfect.
Phenomenal post. I’m with you on “small talk” When there are big things to do and fix… Right. I’m glad you and CJ both have language and understanding. Be safe.