Chase started high school in August. Weeks before that, he joined the football team and began training. Our house quickly became a popular hangout spot for Chase and his new friends/teammates – which is what Matt and I have always wanted. (I certainly didn’t buy a Ping-Pong table, pool table and trampoline for my own enjoyment.) We’d rather have all the kids at our house than out who-knows-where doing who-knows-what.
We order pizza, put out sodas and heat up the pool. We welcome anywhere from five to 20 teenagers into our home most Friday nights and often on Saturdays and Sundays, too. They are all great kids. They are really good at using their manners and cleaning up when I ask them to.
All of Chase’s friends have taken to C.J. without hesitation. The guys who come over are impressed by the flips and tricks he can do on the trampoline. The girls who come over teach him cheers, do his makeup and talk with him about RuPaul’s Drag Race.
When Chase gets sick of having his little brother around, C.J. hides under the Ping-Pong table or pool table hoping to go unnoticed while still feeling like he’s part of the action. It works most of the time.
All of these weeks we assumed the teenagers knew C.J. is a boy.
After attending a Halloween party, Chase and a handful of his friends crashed in our living room. As their rides slowly started arriving to shuttle them home the next morning, the boys collected their things. (They never manage to take home all of their things. We officially have a “Lost and Found” by our front door.)
One of Chase’s friends was holding the mask he’d worn to the party the night before and asked, “Does she want my mask?” to no one in particular.
“Yeah, he probably does,” Matt said.
“No, I was asking if SHE wants my mask. If C.J. wants it,” the friend clarified.
“Yeah, he probably does,” Matt said again.
The friend looked confused.
“C.J. is a boy,” Matt said matter-of-factly.
“Eeeeefffffff meeeeeee,” the friend said, putting his hands to his head. “Eff me. I’ve been calling him a ‘her’ and a ‘she’ this whole time! Why didn’t you tell me? I feel so bad!”
Matt told him it was okay.
The friend apologized again before leaving the house and then again a week later when he came over.
We assured again him that it’s fine. We’re fine. C.J. is fine. But the friend wasn’t fine. He felt bad and embarrassed.
We told him we aren’t hung-up on pronouns when it comes to C.J. and he prefers we ignore it when he’s misgendered. And, honestly, we are so used to people mistaking him for a girl that we don’t even notice the misgendering most of the time. None of us ever noticed the friend using the wrong pronouns.
We’d assumed the teens who spend time in our home knew C.J. is a boy. Chase’s friend reminded us that it’s not always evident – and, sometimes, I’m sure it’s downright confusing to newcomers.
Our lackadaisicalness when it comes to C.J.’s pronouns and misgendering caused one of Chase’s friends (and maybe more, who knows) confusion and embarrassment. I felt bad for the friend; he had the best intentions.
How many of Chase’s other friends think his brother is his sister?
We’ve done little things to be clearer that C.J. is a boy. You know, we do awkward things like saying his pronouns louder and referring to him as Chase’s brother more often than necessary. Like when someone isn’t fluent in your language and struggling with comprehension so you increase your volume thinking that will help them understand? Yeah, it’s like that. Super effective.
As much as I feel bad for Chase’s friend, I feel good because we are educating the teens who spend time in our home. They see we are just as fine with boys in dresses playing with dolls as we are with boys in helmets playing football. We don’t get hung up on pronouns, labels or society’s expectations. Everyone is valued, accepted and loved in our home.
I hope they feel that. I help they continue to enjoy our home, our food and, sometimes, our company. If they ever moved on to someone else’s house, I sure would miss their manners and messes and left behind socks.
Awww this is a great post its so nice to see, I completely understand why the friend feels bad.
Bless them 🙂
I love kids today. My older son’s friends are here playing Super Smash Bros and my GNC is sashaying around in his jingly belly dance belt he got for his birthday. Two 11 year old southern country boys are completely cool with it.
Yep. A new world around gender fluidity is coming. That’s a very good thing. It will be embraced I think by most people to of course vary degrees of expression and there will be no real issues. Like earrings on guys, and tattoos on women, nobody’s going to really care all that much. That’s a good thing.
This is a really interesting post. We too mostly just ignore the use of wrong pronouns of strangers but if I feel like the person may be around our family more frequently I have also noticed myself throwing out more “clues” to the new comer. This has evolved though not because of how my daughter who looks like a boy may feel, but rather to keep the new person in the loop and to prevent them from feeling awkward I guess. I know this isn’t my job really but I have found myself doing it. My wife and I have been together a long, long time but were not always out to the whole family. I distinctly remember when one niece was told by her parents that we were gay and a couple and she was SO, SO mortified that she hadn’t figured that out on her own, or that maybe she had “said something stupid” at some point in front of us. When our girls started a new school I found myself also saying to other parents “I’m Julie, one of Avery’s mom’s” in order to prevent the confusion of my wife also introducing herself as Avery’s mom two days later.
I agree with so many of your commenters here though–it’s a changing world where a young person feels more awkward about their social faux pas than about the gender expression of a sibling.
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I’d love to know your thoughts about sleepovers. My 14 y.o. is exploring “her” gender identity, (for clarification “her” refers to sex assignment at birth), and so are many of her peers. She often has female-gendered friends sleep over. This week she asked if her transgirl friend can also sleep over. We are an open-minded family, but have always sent boys (even the boys who identify as gay) home at 10 pm. We are uncomfortable with the idea of boys spending the night, (and probably the other girls’ families would be also, or we assume they would) and we can’t identify a “why” that our daughter finds acceptable. Yet we are still uncomfortable with it, and that matters, even when we’re not sure of the “why”. Ultimately, I decided, that yes, her transgirl friend can spend the night, although she hasn’t asked again. Thoughts?
I really hope you don’t mind me replying? Your situation struck a chord with me, I thought I might be able to give an insight.
Even though I’m a woman who was wrongly assigned male at birth I understand your discomfort. You might call me a trans woman but if you didn’t know some of my history you would likely not think trans.
I think the biggest problem we face is the decades of unfavourable and inaccurate representation of trans females in the media. To the extent that the media has brainwashed us to think certain ways about everything in society. Trans women are portrayed as jokes, mentally unstable, neurotic, dangerous and worst of all, that we are really men. Newspapers used to out trans women by saying we “were born a man”. Even men are not born men. There is always an unhealthy interest in trans girls/woman’s genitals and what we do with them. The majority of media coverage is nothing less than transphobic in its attack against trans females. Some people believe it all and it feeds their hate. Most people believe some of it and it feeds their discomfort.
The reality is rather different. Most trans girls are transsexual. We hated our genitals from an early age because they are so distressing to us. Most trans women I know begged God to make us girls before we were 5 years old – which is way of saying “please God, make our bodies match our gender.” I can safely say that none of us would be showing our genitals to anyone because we hated to see them ourselves. I’m sure your child’s friend will, like many other trans girls before her, change for bed in private. Your acceptance of her will show her she is loved and respected as the girl she clearly is. That will mean the world to her and be a very important part of her socialisation.
I wish you all the very best.
Thank you. I appreciate you.
Thank you thank for sharing some of your story. Part of my “yes” decision is in fact based on my belief that transwomen are women. I sort of thought “well, if her family believes my home is a safe place then yay” and they’re not supportive than I am honored to provide a safe space for her. I appreciate the info from you – I actually hadn’t thought about it from that point of view : )
Our daughter came out to us as a lesbian when she was 13. (She’s now about to turn 20 and a junior in college.) When your kid isn’t a straight cisgendered kid, sleepovers can be tricky. Do you only allow same-sex identified kids? Only kids you know your kid isn’t romantically interested in? Only kids born with the same genitals? I mean, there are lots of ways to go here. And many of those ways don’t make sense once you scratch the surface.
What we ended up deciding was that any friend of hers that we knew pretty well and were comfortable with could spend the night. She tended toward having mostly friends who were girls, so that all looked pretty standard from the outside, but those are the friends who, for her, may have developed into something more. We didn’t want to rule out sleepovers, though, so we didn’t. We got to know her friends and gave the okay on a person by person basis and not on a gender basis.
And she did have friends who were boys sleep over, as well, but less often and more in a group setting. While this, at first, made the parents of the kids wonder how that would work, we just talked it out with them. It helped that the group our daughter most often wanted to sleep over was a small group where not only the kids knew each other, but the parents, as well. Once it happened for the first time, everyone relaxed.
If one on one sleepovers with a particular person make you uncomfortable for some reason, I can’t recommend groups enough. Sure, a couple could potentially sneak off, but they could during the day, as well. With a group, people are much less likely to mess around.
What a wonderful, rational, and well reasoned response! Nice job!
Wonderful blog. Your children and their friends are blessed to have your home to be comfortable at, fed, loved and accepted. Thank you for sharing.
Omg😘😍u are incredible mom😘🥀ur very good mom, ur kids are very proud of you 🤗i lov ur blog😍im glad i found it☺😚😉we LEARNED evryday,my daughter is lesbian n im proud of her☺since she waz young we knowest we educated our self to educate others,not evryone waz on our side of understanding, but thas life,,KEEP UP THE GOOD JOB ,😗😘💐🌸🏵I SEND MY BLESSINGS
The really great news was that case’s buddies and in this case, buddy, had no issue with CJ exactly as he is, and was embarrassed for his own assumption and behavior. That means this is changing a lot faster than anyone thinks and I’m very pleased with that!
Dang spell check. I specifically spelled out Chase’s buddies.
I know, that was exactly my thought – he didn’t care that C.J. is a boy who looks more like a girl, he was embarrassed because he used the wrong pronouns. Sounds like his parents are doing a pretty good job, too.
You know, if enough of us raise our kids to just accept other people as other PEOPLE (not labels) maybe, just maybe someday…. And then we can take all the mean people who are only interested in (face it, it’s the truth) what’s between someone else’s legs and put those people on an island. And C.J. can be President. Or at least in charge of wardrobe. Whatever. It will be fabulous!
I really commend you for the accepting of boys who wear helmets! ;P I kid, of course…you guys are awesome!
I have a new favorite football team.
This really makes me rethink how we identify with one another as human beings. Why is it even important to us to know or acknowledge the gender of others around us? If it weren’t for the restrictive conundrum of the pronouns and individual preferences for he or she, would it even matter? What if we viewed gender like the color of one’s hair or skin or one’s ethnicity? If I walk into a room of people, I do not change my behavior or focus based on those values. They are all just “people.” I so appreciate your candid posts about your family’s life experiences because they open my mind to this broader view of humanity. CJ is, first and foremost, a human being. As a society, we are very much stuck on our awareness of whether someone is biologically male or female or identifies differently than society’s norms for their biological assignment. How many times have I seen a person and commented to my husband “Hmm…I don’t know if that’s a boy or girl…” It really shouldn’t matter, except that the darn pronouns do get in the way if I’m going to interact with that person.
It’s going to be a long process to get everyone comfortable with focusing less on what makes a boy a boy and a girl a girl and simply accept each other as human beings. I totally get the friend’s embarrassment, and I think your lackadaisical response sends the message that “It’s all OK. No harm done. We’re all trying to figure this out together.”
Love your post. Been my point for years. Not just why I liked it. 🙂 Fact to me is that everyone gets to live the life they want to live. I don’t need to talk gender expression or not. They get to live the lives they wish to live. Why is this do hard? Why is it important for me to care. To judge. I’m sorry. But I am not simply getting this.
Good post. About 3 years ago I came to the same conclusion, alot of that came from reading this blog. So I made a conscious decision to think of myself, and others as humans first, and being male or female as an adjective. It freed me from being concerned with and specific behaviors and allowed all to just simply like or do this or that based on what they liked. And that is an inherent quality of all humans, so therefore must be a truth. To feel this or that, to like, be or do this or that. All humans have that same ability or rather capability to do so. It’s not limited for one sex or the other. I then don’t have to limit myself because I’m one sex or the other. I can express all of that range if I want to and not limit myself to what others think I should do.
My son is gender creative as well. People call him a she and her and what not all of the time, and like your son he just lets it go. (And usually gets a kick out of it.) But this is a good reminder that sometimes confusion can lead to embarrassment. Thank you for the good reminder! And thank you for your words. This blog and your book have helped my husband and I out so much in knowing we are not alone!!! 🙂
So – idk if this is related really but – This post made me think of our own family and things I’ve wondered about before in terms of making things obvious vs just going about your regular life. We are a same sex couple with 2 children and we moved to a new neighborhood last year so the boys made new friends. When they began getting invited to people’s homes who didn’t know us, I at first wondered if I should give the parents there a heads up or if I should just act as I would have if we were a hetero couple and just be. We opted for the second. Either my wife or I would do drop offs and pick ups introducing ourselves as “[kids] mom”. I kept waiting for it to be an issue or to come up. One day one little boy who was at our house asked us if we were married and if that meant my son had 2 moms and if he called us both mom etc. Also, my son has gotten some questions from his friends while at school but nothing rude or that made him uncomfortable. They’ve just been genuinely interested in how it works. I think in general, it’s best practice to be your authentic self, and let people see that there’s nothing to be scared of or weirded out about. Hopefully all the kids we’ve gotten to know and all their parents see that we are just a home where people are treated with respect and we have fun and we love and we goof around and we expect kids to have manners etc (Just like you guys) and hopefully if they had any negative pre-conceived notions of what a gay family looks like, we helped to change their minds – but not because we sought to; just because of who we are. xo
I just love hearing about good families. Thanks for sharing. Can I ask – did you and your wife come from good families? I love that you are brilliant role models for your children, their friends and families.
Hi Stephanie – I’d say we have a mixed bag of families. My closest family members and friends are very supportive and have always made me feel comfortable. There are some outlying aunts, cousins etc who are not as warm and therefore are not a part of our lives. My wifes family took some time to get comfortable. In her teens she had a hard time and relationships were strained but everyone came around and now it’s all good.
The young people, especially with supportive, loving families are doing more to change hearts and minds than all us oldies put together. We hid as children because our own parents hated us and we hid as adults because most people hated us and were backed by the law. Now apparently 25% hate us, legal protections are hit or miss but we are seeing more families like yours who actually love their children unconditionally. You are all amazing.