In February and March, I started sharing bits of our journey on Instagram. Some of my readers aren’t on Instagram and have asked me to share posts here as well. So, following are highlights from March. Click here to view every post. If you’re on Instagram, follow me. If you already follow me, ignore this post. Or not. It’s up to you.
“To be gender nonconforming is to risk being killed, but on a daily basis it more likely means being harassed, confused and misunderstood in the community or maltreated by mental health professionals. . . . There is no doubt that these children are among the ranks of minority individuals in our society who must anticipate bigotry and antipathy from those who either do not understand, are ill-informed, govern their thinking with myth rather than reality or . . . project hatred onto those who are different from themselves. At the same time, gender creative children diverge from almost all other minority children in that they have an additional mark against them: they may face aspersion from their very own family, loved ones who are supposed to be their protectors.” Diane Ehrensaft in her book Gender Born, Gender Made.
The statistics for kids like CJ are scary. Compared to his straight cisgender peers, he is prone to the highest rates of depression, addiction, unsafe sexual behaviors and suicide rates. The most important thing families can do to improve those statistics is simple. Love and support the child no matter what.
“I love you no matter what.” Matt and I say it to both of our boys. Our love for them isn’t conditional. No matter who they are, who they love and what other people say, we love them no matter what.
“We studied Mary Cassatt at school today and did art like she did. My art teacher said we could make a boy hat or girl hat for our person. I rolled my eyes at her on the inside because she is an artist and she should know that there is no such thing as boys’ hats and girls’ hats. This is me. I’m in a shirt and bow tie because people always dressed fancy in those days. And I gave myself a hat that the art teacher said was a girls’ hat. When she said that I rolled my eyes at her again on the inside.” — CJ, age 10.
“It takes a village to healthily launch a gender nonconforming child into adulthood. But that’s not always how the siblings want to spend their time.” — Diane Ehrensaft, PhD.
There are some struggles and challenges that come with being the sibling of an LGBTQ person. Chase and I have that in common. At nearly 14 years old, Chase is source of constant wonder to me. He loves video games, he taught himself to play the guitar, he listens to classic rock, his hobby is photography and he has mad skills in the kitchen.
While CJ reminds me of my brother, Chase is like no one I’ve ever met. I’ve never witnessed a cisgender straight boy become a man.
Chase is the very best brother that CJ could have. He is kind, loving, supportive and protective. He also calls CJ out on his shit, doesn’t treat him special and holds him accountable. Sometimes that’s exactly what CJ needs.
Kids (all people, actually) look for themselves in other people and things. CJ notices anything that is a fellow redhead — from Ariel to orangutans. He also notices anything that is gender nonconforming. And, if given the chance, he’ll make things gender nonconforming.
Much to CJ’s displeasure, I’ve been monopolizing the sewing machine lately. He’s kept himself busy making food out of felt, which he can sew by hand. “Should I use a whip stitch or a back stitch?” he asks me. “What’s the difference?” I ask.
(Clockwise from top: doughnut, pop tarts, carrot, egg, toast)
He doesn’t much like electronics or technology. Sometimes I wish he’d just play on the iPad and chill for a minute. Nope. He always wants to be creating and crafting.
Today he is making felt finger puppets. Most 10-year-old boys read and follow Lego instructions, my boy reads and follows sewing patterns. Oh, and he’s pissed that this pattern says to make pants for a boy puppet and a skirt for girl puppets. “Boys can wear skirts and girls can wear pants!” he declared. “I’m going to put my boy in a skirt!” Take that pattern maker!
Like most gender nonconforming boys, CJ’s closest friends have always been girls. His girl friends are funny, smart, colorful, loyal, kind, accepting, supportive and fiercely protective. And, they write him notes like this:
You are the peanut to my butter. Twinkle in my eye. Shake to my bake. Blue to my sky. Sprinkles to my sundae. Flip to my flop. Jewel on my crown. Milk to my shake. Beat of my heart. But, most of all, MY BEST FRIEND. I’d walk through a fire for you! Well, not fire because it’s dangerous…but a super humid room. But not too humid, because my hair….