The Coachella Classmate and DragCon Unicorn

C.J. was very “nervous-excited” for his big presentation. He took a bubble bath with lavender bath salts to calm his nerves. He decided to leave his hair down and put some mousse in it to accentuate his curls. He put on his black and white checkered shirt, pink tie and pride flag lapel pin. We headed out the door.

That night, dozens of parents, family members and friends packed into the classroom to be super impressed with the academic work of their elementary school student.

The students prepared a presentation highlighting six “skill challenges” they had conquered entirely in class in about an hour using their hands, imaginations, limited supplies and no assistance.

Parents weren’t allowed to help with the assignment, so Matt and I heard C.J.’s presentation and learned about his “skill challenges” right along with the other attendees.

“First, I did the ‘Apply Makeup’ challenge,” C.J. started his presentation. “I applied makeup to Emma’s face. The look I was going for was rainbow unicorn realness. I wanted her skin to look like a disco ball. To achieve the look, I applied five layers of highlighter to her skin. I wanted her eyelids to look like a purple rainbow unicorn that just got back from Coachella. To achieve the look, I applied purple and pink sparkle glitter eyeshadows. This was kind of a difficult challenge because it was hard to get both of her eyes to look the same. I finished off the eyes with a light coat of mascara. I think she slayed it.”

I don’t have permission to post a pic of Emma. So here’s C.J. in a similar look he created on himself.

He proudly showed off a photo of Emma sporting a very (very) ((very)) healthy dose of sparkly makeup.

Matt and I really never know what C.J. is going to say – especially when he’s instructed and/or encouraged to be creative. We were surprised and amused. We looked around to see the reactions of the other people who were listening. There were polite smiles and some active-listening nods.

“My next challenge was the ‘make a puppet’ challenge. I made a unicorn puppet. My puppet is a fierce girl unicorn who just got back from DragCon. Her body is made out of poster board and is gleaming white, acne free and is shining like a diamond. Her mane and tail are made of rainbow yarn that reminds me of a cup of rainbow noodles. The person wearing this puppet puts their fingers through the holes and can make it prance and dance like it’s living in France. This challenge wasn’t too hard, but was a lot of fun,” C.J. said.

C.J. looked at us proudly. Matt and I were trying not to laugh. I was biting my lip and Matt was pretending to stifle a cough. Other attendee were looking at each other and whispering. We smiled at C.J. and each gave him a thumbs up.

“Another challenge I did was the ‘sew a bag or pouch’ challenge. I sewed a small bag or purse. My small bag or purse is more like a small evening bag. I used a hot pink leopard print fabric and black thread. I used black thread so that you wouldn’t be able to see it. This bag was supposed to look like something a Hollywood star would use – maybe even to go to the Oscars! Who knows?! This bag looks like a bag that is ready to party! This challenge took some time and effort because when I put the needle through the fabric the needle wouldn’t go through easily. I would have done better if I’d been able to use my sewing machine,” he said.

His presentation continued with him explaining the work he did as part of the “fix something busted” challenge, the “learn a basic stitch challenge” and the “make a prop” challenge.

At the end of each challenge description, Matt and I instinctively looked around to see the reactions of the other attendees. How often do people hear an 11-year-old boy talking about doing a classmate’s makeup to look like she went to Coachella? Or, making a puppet that just got back from DragCon? Or hand sewing a purse that “is ready to party?”

It dawned on me during his presentation that, for so many years at times like these, we’d looked around for negative reactions to C.J. and his creativity. But, on that night, I was looking around for positive reactions. I was looking around to see if there was anyone present who was amused, entertained and appreciative of my son – who was the only one in his class to the do the makeup and sewing challenges, while most of his male peers did something Minecraft-related.

That night I didn’t care to see the people who thought my son was weird (or worse). I only cared to see the people who thought he was different, colorful and quirky. And, we found some new allies. Some of “our people.” People who are fine with C.J. applying highlighter liberally to their daughter’s face while talking about drag culture. Thank goodness my eyes and heart had been looking for the right kind of people, or else I would have missed them.

That night and C.J.’s presentation helped me realize something.

I realized that when we stop looking around to find our adversaries, we finally have a chance to look around and find our allies.

About raisingmyrainbow is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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19 Responses to The Coachella Classmate and DragCon Unicorn

  1. Pingback: Loud and Proud: 13 LGBTQ+ Blogs You Need to Start Following this Pride Month | Beyond Bylines

  2. AlphaMom says:

    Thank you for this. I have learned how a person’s positive or accepting non-reaction to my son is like a great shiny beacon saying “Get to know me, I am super cool.”

  3. Laurel Brenner says:

    I could totally go for a cup of rainbow noodles! Great post – it reminds me of that Mr. Rogers quote that goes around a lot after a tragedy, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” How wonderful to shift to looking for allies/your people!

  4. bestpi says:

    A brilliant observation. And you are so lucky not to have a boring kid. He certainly keeps things interesting. And I just love hearing about him. I think he’s just amazing. And so are his parents.

  5. Lauren says:

    Really needed to hear this message today. Thank you!!! ❤️

  6. dawnautom says:

    Lovely post Lori, it’s always great to hear what CJ is up to.


  7. LoriTrow says:

    So creative!! I would carry that bag to a party! Just perfect for carrying all you would need. Great job CJ!

  8. Patti says:

    Well done, CJ and parents!!

  9. heartwork62 says:

    This warms my heart. Thanks for all you are doing to make this world a kinder and more inclusive place to live.

  10. Kathleen says:

    My Mom was trying last night to convince me to make amends with a couple of former friends of mine who I’d been friends with for twenty years. But the friends are transphobic and no longer a good fit with me. I simply told her, no, it wasn’t a good idea. I’d rather spend my time with my people, the ones who understand my quirks and accept me for who I am. And it makes so much of a difference!

  11. dmd1014 says:

    So much love and a bunch of high fives, “thumbs ups” and impressed faces from across the internet. Way to go C.J.! Grateful for open hearts, minds and eyes that see the beauty in diversity— for your family, for mine, and for the world.

  12. Lisa Walls says:

    “Like!” and “Yes!” RE finding allies. Thanks for sharing.

  13. Helene says:

    So adorable ! I hope C.J. is having a good school year!

  14. Lisa R. says:

    I love your words of wisdom! It can sometimes be so disheartening when doing advocacy work. Your reminder to look for our allies comes at a good time.

  15. Dawn Briscoe says:

    “I realized that when we stop looking around to find our adversaries, we finally have a chance to look around and find our allies.” – – I can’t begin to tell you how much I love this quote. Wise words we can ALL stand to hear often.

  16. Monica says:

    I just love you all! Keep on being you!

  17. Stephanie Longden says:

    Thank you Lori for sharing a wonderful evening. I can’t tell you how pleased I am that you’ve found more allies. We so need them. Too many people think we (the different minority people) are a joke or much worse. It is always a pleasant reminder that not all people are overflowing with hatred. To me hatred is evil because it’s sole purpose is to cause great harm to another living being. This is entirely unconscionable.
    Sadly I have been hated from birth so know only too well the damage it causes. I can’t tell you how awful it is to be hated by one’s parents. I am uncomfortably close to my 55th birthday and still bear the scars. The love you and Matt have for C.J. is a most wonderful gift that also benefits the World, you lift our souls.
    My life hasn’t all been doom and gloom so I would like to share that I was extremely fortunate to fall deeply in love with a man in my 30’s, many years after I transitioned and who loved me just as much.
    I rather feel that your dear son, C.J., will continue to thrive and has every chance of a happy and fulfilling life precisely because of the great start you and Matt have blessed him with.
    With love and kind regards, Steph ❤️

  18. Ed says:

    Sounds like CJ had some fun and wow needle and thread…old school old fashioned. Great learning experience.

  19. C.J., that makeup look rocks! And my fingers sympathize with yours over the hand sewing, especially on fabric sturdy enough to be a purse without some kind of heavier liner. I’m no great seamstress, but I’ve done my share of making Ren Faire outfits and such over the years. Sewing machines definitely make life easier! Still, knowing hand sewing means you can make neat repairs on the fly. (And if there’s no needle and thread handy when you snag a hem, duct tape works wonders!)

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