My Son is Tripped, Kicked, Stabbed, Told He’s Invisible At School

Hi Mrs. Cora,

All of these things are true. I’m not making these up for people to feel bad for me. I just want you to know what has been happening to me. I don’t feel safe at school.

Allie and Rachel and sometimes Trina punch me, hit me and kick me, even after I tell them to stop. When I say stop, they find it as a joke. They laugh with each other after they do that to me.

One time when Allie really hurt me, I had to do a friendly punch to get her to stop. I felt bad about that friendly punch. I’m not a hurter or a puncher.

Two times Allie stabbed me very hard with her red pen and it left marks on me. It hurt me. She did it with the cap on. She did it so hard that it felt like the cap was off. I put my cap on my pen and gave her a little tap trying to show her that I could stand up for myself a little bit, but then I was afraid she would stab me even harder, and she did. So I stopped it.

When we sit at lunch, Allie forces me to move over if she wants to sit where I’m sitting. She forces me by pushing me.

Allie makes fun of me for going to speech. She yells out multiple times “C.J. goes to speech!” That makes me feel very sad and embarrassed.

Last week, Rachel took my sandwich. I tried to get it back from her, but she ripped it apart and made it to shreds even though I was trying to stop her. That made me feel sad, a little bit embarrassed and very hungry. When my mom picked me up from school that day I was so hungry.

When I walk around the classroom, I always have to take the long way because if I walk behind Rachel she finds a way to trip me no matter what. She pushes her chair out to block me or she purposely makes me trip and stumble into other people. I should be able to walk around the classroom safely just like everyone else.

Allie told me she didn’t want to hang out with me as much because I’m gay and her family doesn’t hang out with gay people so she doesn’t hang out with gay people. She said people told her to stop hanging out with me if she wants to be popular. A few days after she said that, I talked to her about it and she said she was joking. I told her you don’t joke about that kind of stuff. It made me feel very sad, but she just ignored me. Yesterday I talked to her about it again and she said she never said that about me being gay. But she did! I heard it with my own ears!

It’s hard to see Allie and her mom at school every day because I know they don’t accept gay people so they don’t accept me. I know what’s going through their minds about me and LGBTQ people. I’m afraid her mom is going to say something to me.

For three Fridays, Allie pushed my violin out of my hands and threw my violin folders in the air and all of my papers went flying everywhere and people stepped on them. That’s not nice. And it was embarrassing.

Rachel said that nobody notices when I’m absent or not at school. That makes me feel sad and like I’m invisible and like nobody really cares about me at school except for you and Principal Alice.

When I told Allie I was going to miss two days of school she said, “Yes! Finally!” That made me very sad and like I couldn’t trust anyone anymore because my own so-called friend didn’t want me around.

Yesterday Allie and Trina wouldn’t let me walk near them and they ran away from me.

This has been my second to the worst month in my life. The worst month was when my grandma died. And this is my birthday month! It should be a happy month! I am trying to make new friends, but it’s very, very hard.

I don’t feel safe at school like I should feel. Our school is supposed to be a school where people are kind, but I don’t feel safe. I told Allie that she has made me dread going to school every day. She made fun of me for saying it because I looked like I was about to cry. And I was.

I always feel very scared going to school every day. I shouldn’t feel that way about going to school, I should feel happy and safe. It’s making me so scared. I feel very sick and overwhelmed and scared from all this.

I know that other kids see Allie, Rachel and Trina treating me the way they treat me. I don’t want other kids to think they can bully anyone. It’s not setting a good example.

Every school year I go into my new class worried that there will be a bully in my class. I never thought it would be my friends.

Thank you for listening. I’m glad you’re my teacher.  

Sincerely,

C.J.

C.J. sent that letter to his teacher when he’d had enough of being bullied at school.

He asked me to type while he dictated. He wiped tears away as he talked. He wouldn’t make eye contact with me. As he detailed incidents that he’d never told me about, I tried to just type. Not act surprised. Not cry. Not fly into a rage.

Up until then, C.J. tried to handle (and ignore) the bullying on his own. When it was too much to keep to himself, he told me bits and pieces and made me promise not to tell the school or contact the parents of his bullies.

It quickly got to be too much for me, too. I couldn’t keep my promise. I had to report it to his teacher. The morning after I did, she asked C.J. if he would write down everything that had happened to him.

The words spilled out of him that afternoon and the next day the teacher and principal launched an investigation. It was a thorough one – which means that, to us, it felt like it dragged on forever.

We learned that, while C.J. was more emotionally hurt by the actions of Allie, he was more physically hurt by the actions of Rachel. Why did he feel like Allie was being so mean to him, but didn’t mention Rachel much when he first started talking about the bullying? Because Allie’s actions left him feeling betrayed. She had been his best friend and biggest protector, until she turned on him. He never had the emotional connection with Rachel, so when she was mean to him, to a certain extent, he attributed it to her just being a jerk and a not-nice person. Rachel’s actions didn’t feel like a personal attack; Allie’s actions did.

We’re working to help C.J. understand the complicated feelings that muddied his current situation, ways to stand up for himself in the future and what it means to be a good (and bad) friend.

The school’s case is closed for now. Consequences have been issued, behavior expectations have been emphasized and Allie and Rachel know what the next steps will be if they bully C.J. again.

C.J. is starting to feel safer school, but I’m not sure he’ll ever feel as safe as he once did. There are lingering effects that I see. I worry I’ll see them forever. He surely won’t be the same boy at the end of fifth grade that he was at the start of fifth grade. I didn’t expect him to be exactly the same, but I didn’t expect him to be a dimmer version of himself.

 

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Our Month in Review: February 2018

Following are highlights from our month on Instagram. Click here for all of the months’ pictures, thoughts and happenings.

Me: CJ, what kind of dessert do you want me to make you for your birthday?

CJ: A gay wedding cake like they talk about on the news. Make sure the top level is smaller than the bottom level. That’s how wedding cakes are, even gay ones. And, I want candles that are the number 11. That’s two ones.

Me: *spends hours trying to make a tiered gay wedding cake for my 11 year old son and ended up with this shitty looking sad ass cake*
 

It takes a special kind of man to be as invested in his makeup-wearing son as he is in his football-playing son. And, to retire from law enforcement and become a better primary caregiver parent than I ever was. Who knew that, at age 17, I would pick this amazing human to be my partner? He was and is my best decision. Ever. Happy birthday, Matt. I love you more than chips and salsa.

 

Our nighttime routine used to involve a bath for CJ using his own custom-made bath bombs and then 30 minutes of TV and a little sweet treat.

Now it involves me on the couch holding him while he cries and worries about what a group of girls in his class (Allie included) will say or do to him the next day.

“I feel so awkward and embarrassed and ashamed. I wish this wasn’t happening to me,” he cried last night. By that time I was crying along with him.

Chase walked into the room and saw us and sat down. “Do you want to talk to me about it, Buddy,” he said sweetly and softly to CJ. Chase wishes he could do more to protect his little brother. But high school is a long way from elementary school.

Hate and meanness affects the entire family. It hurts our hearts individually and as a connected unit. It makes the confident feel powerless. It makes a high school brother want to walk his fifth grade brother to and from school with his arm around him while giving dirty looks to 11-year-old girls. It makes people who sparkle feel ashamed and awkward and embarrassed.

 

“The smell of mountain air renews my soul.”

Sometimes getting distance between you and your problems is the answer. At least temporarily. We’ve escaped daily life in favor of grandma and grandpa’s place in Colorado.
 

Positive thoughts, good vibes, hugs, prayers, whatever you can send our way, send it. CJ returned to school today after five days away. Last night and this morning were really rough for him. And us.

He cried. He worried. He had a stomachache. He cried some more. The break up with Allie continues to hurt like crazy. He feels alone at school. He wants to drop out. We’ve repeatedly told him that it will get better. But, when you’re 11, it’s hard to patiently wait for a time when all people will treat you kindly.
 

CJ wants to be noticed and have his absence felt.
 

CJ wiped the tears away as he dictated and I typed a two page letter to his teacher and principal detailing the bullying and treatment he has endured at school recently. I tried not to act surprised (or fly into a fucking rage) when he talked about incidents that he had never told me about before. Like being repeatedly stabbed with a pen, going hungry because his lunch was stolen and being made fun of because he has a lisp.

 

The best way to end a rough week? Take the “Smokey Eye” class at @sephoramissionviejo taught by @jennyg_makeup and walk out with a look that says “what haters?” Then go to H&M and buy a cute keychain for your backpack. Finish it off with your favorite Starbucks drink courtesy of @msnbarbie

 

Three of CJ’s best girl friends (who don’t go to his school) surprised him with a “Get Your Sparkle Back” full-immersion rainbow sleepover last night.

The agenda included:

  • DIY spa services
  • Watching Queer Eye
  • Making Slime
  • Blasting the Kinky Boots soundtrack
  • Mani/pedis
  • Taking Awkward Family Photo style best friend pictures at JC Penny

They returned our boy with a smile, happiness and sparkle we haven’t seen in a few weeks. They will never know the positive impact they are having on his life.

 

I guess investigations take a long time. Or maybe it’s just that I’m not a very patient person.

One week ago today, CJ wrote a heartbreaking letter to his teacher and principal outlining the bullying he’s endured at school in recent months. The teacher and principal are taking the matter very seriously and conducting an thorough investigation. I can’t talk a lot about the process. But I will say it feels very slow. I don’t like slow.

Matt was a police detective for several years and assures me that I’m feeling what most people feel when they are awaiting answers. I’m frustrated, exhausted, sad and angry. I want to know what was done to my child and what the consequences will be. I want to know what is being done to prevent it all from happening again. I want a good nights sleep and to not be an anxious mess when CJ is at school.

CJ, too, feels like we are in a holding pattern that sucks. Classmates are being interviewed and people are talking. He’s watching the movie Wonder on loop. His spirits do seem higher, but considering how low they were, that’s not saying a whole lot.

 

I’m obsessed with this book. TOMORROW WILL BE DIFFERENT by @sarahemcbride had me highlighting passages and making margin notes like I was back in college.

Before she became the first transgender person to speak at a national political convention (2016) at the age of 26, McBride struggled with the decision to come out—not just to her family but to the students of American University, where she was serving as student body president.

Four years later, McBride was one of the nation’s most prominent transgender activists, walking the halls of the White House, advocating inclusive legislation, and addressing the country in the midst of a heated presidential election. She had also found her first love and future husband, Andy, a trans man and fellow activist, who complemented her in every way . . . until cancer tragically intervened.

TOMORROW WILL BE DIFFERENT is informative, heartbreaking, and profoundly empowering. Order it NOW at amazon.com/shop/RaisingMyRainbow

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My 11 Year Old Was Just Dumped By His Best Friend Because He’s Gay

This piece originally appeared on HuffPost.

My son C.J. lay in my arms all night. He cried until a restless sleep found him, then he whimpered rhythmically. If I moved away, he moved toward me so that our cheeks were touching.

He hadn’t slept in bed with me since he was six months old. He turned 11 on February 1. A week later, Allie, his “school best friend” broke his heart.

“My family doesn’t hang out with gay people, so I’m not going to hang out with you anymore,” she told him as they walked together after school.

C.J. didn’t say anything. He was in shock and confused. The feeling of his heart breaking for the first time rendered him speechless.

We’ve known Allie’s family casually for nine years, in the way you know a family when you raise children together in the suburbs. C.J. has gone to school with Allie for half his life. She’s always known that he’s a gender creative boy who like “girl things.” It turns out, while Allie and her family had apparently been (at least somewhat) okay with C.J.’s gender creativity, they aren’t okay if he’s gay.

“How was school?” I asked C.J. when he got in the car that afternoon.

“Fine,” he said. I could tell that nothing in his world was fine.

We drove for a few minutes in silence until his pain came pouring out. It was too much for me to catch.

“She just said it. She said her family doesn’t hang out with gay people, so she can’t hang out with me. She says I’m the only gay person she knows, and she doesn’t want to know me. She says that all of our friends will be her friends now because she is more popular than I am,” he sobbed, with his head in hands. Tears dripped out from between his little fingers that were dirty from playing handball on the blacktop.

At this point in his life, C.J. doesn’t talk much about his sexual orientation. He’s not yet a romantic or sexual being; he’s an 11-year old boy with lots of time to figure out who he is attracted to while having our unconditional love and support. When he does talk about it, sometimes he says he’s gay. Sometimes he says he’s half gay and half bisexual. Sometimes he says, “I’m just me!”

Whatever his future sexuality, that day homophobia turned my son into devastation personified.

Like all LGBTQ and gender expansive people, C.J. has learned to live life ignoring the stares, snickers and snide comments of strangers. He can brush off invasive questions and critiquing quips from classmates with a certain amount of ease. But, facing hostility from one of the most important people in his life – one of his best friends – was something he’d never had to deal with. It put a gash in his heart that may never heal completely.

I focused on driving even though it was the last thing I wanted to do. I wanted to pull over and crawl into the back seat to comfort him. When we arrived home, Matt, my husband, was working in the garage and could tell right away that something was wrong.

C.J. was all tears and unanswerable questions.

“Are Allie’s parents homophobic?”

“Do they hate gay people?”

“Do they hate me?”

“If people are friends with me, can they still be popular?”

“Who will I sit with at lunch?”

“Who will I play with at recess?”

“Why do people hate people for something they can’t change?”

My gut reaction was the desire to lash out. I wanted to send Allie’s mom questioning texts. I wanted to point out Allie’s flaws to C.J. and return the birthday present she handed him with a smile a few days earlier. I wanted to erase all the play dates they’d had and the crafts they’d made. I wanted to delete the pictures they took with Santa at Christmas time.

I knew I wasn’t thinking rationally with my brain; I was feeling with my heart. I reminded myself of the lesson we teach both of our sons: we can’t let hate breed hate. That’s easier said than done.

C.J. doesn’t feel shame about liking makeup or thinking boys are cute. Allie had seen more of that this school year. A few months ago, she was the first person outside of our family who C.J. told he might be gay. She was a little uncomfortable, but their friendship carried on. After the movie Wonder came out, they discovered they both had a crush on the male costar. Allie thought it was weird, but also totally understandable because the boy was so cute.

I guess there had only been little hints of gay up until just before the big breakup. Then, Allie got in trouble when her parents caught her reading my blog about raising a gender creative child on her iPad. Days later, she attended C.J.’s birthday party and there were gay people among the partygoers. During the party, C.J. randomly told her that he couldn’t wait for OC Pride (our local Pride) and that she should go because Pride is so much fun.

Either Allie decided she was too uncomfortable with C.J.’s non-heteronormative identity to be friends with him or her parents made the decision for her, because the next day their friendship was over — but C.J.’s physical and emotional pain had just begun.

He climbed onto my lap like a small child. I held him and rocked him while thinking, “This is what hate does. This is what the effects of bigotry look like. A mother rocking her fifth grader because neither one knows what to do to ease the pain.”

We sat, sharing tears for nearly an hour with few words said.

“I love you so much” I whispered over and over.

“I know,” he whispered each time.

“If I could take away the pain, I would.” I said.

“I know. But you can’t take away the gay,” he said.

I wished Allie and her parents could witness that moment. Would it prompt them to reconsider their phobias? Would they change their minds? Would they see that my tender-souled boy is a great person to have in their lives? Would they see that I’m teaching my child to love while they’re teaching their child to hate?

C.J.’s pain came in waves, like pain usually does. He’d forget for a moment. He’d tire for a minute. Then he’d remember. The emotions would crest and break.

At times, C.J. was inconsolable. I watched him shivering on the couch and struggling to catch his breath between sobs. This is one of the reasons why some LGBTQ and gender expansive kids kill themselves. This is why some of them sink into depression, turn to drugs, drop out of school and participate in unsafe sexual situations. This is why some mothers with children like mine find their arms empty one day.

I worry that C.J. can’t take this kind of pain and rejection for years on end. He can’t have nights like this multiplied by seven more years of school and an infinite number of classmates who will hate him for who he loves and what he wears.

We got him into the bath, telling him that a good soak would soothe him. Matt lay on the floor next to the bathtub so that C.J. would feel his presence and protection. Matt wiped away his own slow, silent tears when C.J. wasn’t looking.

“You’re not going to be alone, buddy. You’re still going to have friends,” Matt said before listing all of C.J. friends – excluding Allie.

Matt and I didn’t think Allie could persuade all of C.J.’s friends to turn their back on him. Until now, all of his girl friends have always been fiercely loyal and protective. But, she’d planted a seed of fear in our hearts we had never felt before. If Allie, who had once been one of C.J.’s most loyal friends and protectors, could change her view of him seemingly overnight, I worried it might be possible that others could do the same. I suddenly found myself spiraling as I imagined Allie and her parents texting, emailing, facebooking, tweeting, snapchatting and facetiming every family in the school directory to turn them against our son because he might love a boy one day. Gossip and hate spread fast in the suburbs.

I caught myself before the terrifying daydream could unravel any further. Rather than dwelling on worst-case scenarios, Matt and I decided to try to use the experience as a teachable moment. We reminded C.J. to treat others the way he wants to be treated and that the easiest way to rob haters of their power is to act like their actions don’t bother you.

C.J. asked if we could just go to bed and wake up tomorrow. I agreed without hesitation. Sleep is often the answer.

His mention of the next day was a reminder that it would be the first day when he’d have no friends at school, sit by himself at lunch and play by himself at recess. He pictured every day of the rest of his days being spent alone and hated, because Allie’s family doesn’t hang out with gay people, so Allie doesn’t, so no one else will.

“It won’t hurt this bad forever. It’s going to get better. I know that’s hard to believe right now, but I promise,” I said to C.J. in bed. “You have lots of friends. You are amazing and if people don’t see that, they are the ones with the problem, not you. Kids should be lining up to have a unique friend like you.”

The next morning I drove C.J. to school slowly, in no hurry for him to leave the safety of my car.

“I love you. Have a good day,” I said to him, as I do every morning.

I watched him walk away from my car with his head hung low. It felt like my heart was walking off with him.

I drove teary-eyed to work, thinking of the parents of rainbows who felt this pain before me and those who will feel it after me. I thought of the LGBTQ and gender expansive youth who have or will experience C.J.’s pain and rejection without unconditional love and support at home.

When I arrived at work, I looked in the rear-view mirror and wiped my eyes. I took a deep breath and walked into my office, ready to start the countdown to when I found out how C.J.’s day at school went. Who would be friends with C.J.?

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Our Month in Review: January 2018

Following are highlights from our month on Instagram. Click here for all of the months’ pictures, thoughts and happenings.

Let’s face it. I’ll never be as cool as this kid.

 

Just some logo-inspired art CJ did for our friends HRC to thank them for their help and support during the James Woods Debacle of 2017.

 

“I like wearing this hat because, number one, it has llamas on it. And, number two is the best of all, I feel like I have long braids hanging down.” — CJ, age 10

 

“My heart is beating so fast! I’m so excited!,” CJ squealed as we drove to Ulta Beauty to spend the $50 gift card Uncle Michael gave him for Christmas. He says he’s going to spend the rest of the day doing makeup and using his new straightening iron. Who’s coming over for a free makeover? He wants to order in Thai food and I’ll supply the wine.

 

My glam squad is getting me ready for the Golden Globes. My look is unicorn inspired with a touch of mermaid and a dash of sparkle. UPDATE: This look apparently requires several types of highlighter liberally applied. Over and over again.

 

When I was about CJ’s age I was obsessed with The Babysitter’s Club series. Ob-sessed. I was such a freaking Kristy, but longed to be artistic and exotic like Claudia. And urban and mature like Stacey. Seeing CJ reading this book makes my heart smile. “The kids at school are going to say it’s a girls book and babysitting is for girls,” he pointed out. We both just rolled our eyes and went back to our respective books.

 

“This is great lighting. Take my picture. And I’ll give you my ‘what you’re saying to me is bullshit face’.” — CJ, age 10
Maybe I should be discouraging his use of profanities. Maybe I should be discouraging having a “I’m not interested in your bullshit” facial expression in his arsenal. But, the truth is, he’s used that look a few times when it was necessary. When someone was saying something about his gender expression. And I was proud. CJ will be 11 this week. His confidence is growing. He’s sure of who he is. He’s a wonder.

  Friends who try out new slime recipes together, stay together. CJ met this new friend only a few months ago, but the connection was instant. They like to jump on the trampoline, swim, craft and create. They giggle nonstop. Seriously. Nonstop. When they grow up they are going to be interior designers and go into business together. The best part? We love the friend’s entire family. How refreshing is it when you find your people?

 

Can I get an “amen” up in here?

 

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School Responds to My Son’s Request to Stop PE Sex/Gender Segregation

Among the sports CJ likes? Golf!

Last week, C.J. wrote a letter to the three PE teachers who rotate working at the elementary schools in his school district. In the letter, he explained that he doesn’t think they should segregate students by sex/gender during PE class. He sent a copy of the letter to his principal and teacher.

His letter did not go unnoticed.

One of his PE teachers replied saying that they group kids by gender so that “the girls will get a chance to play.” She said that “if you put 5 boys and 5 girls on a field together the boys will never throw the ball to the girls.” I cringed while reading her email. She did end it by saying that C.J. could join whatever group he wanted to when the class was divided by sex/gender during PE. He’d not previously been given that option; no kid had, as far as he could remember.

C.J.’s amazing teacher sent him an email that he has read over and over.

“I am so proud of you! You are one of the bravest kids I know, and I am so happy that you are in my class. No matter what happens, you spoke up and communicated your feelings, and that is a HUGE deal! I hope they make changes so all kids will feel comfortable,” she wrote.

We need more teachers like C.J.’s teacher.

C.J.’s principal replied letting him know that his letter was outstanding and conveyed a great message. She told C.J. that she forwarded it to her boss (our district’s director of Elementary Education) in hopes that it would spark a conversation for all schools – not just C.J.’s.

“Thanks for being brave and for taking the time to write such a poignant letter.  I think that there are many adults who need to hear your message about equality and including everyone. I am proud of you!,” his principal wrote.

The next day, the principal sent an email letting C.J. know that the district’s director of Elementary Education said that C.J. is “absolutely correct, and that she is going to be working on getting all PE teachers to understand.”

How many kids have taken a stand, written a letter, had the encouragement of their teacher and principal AND had the principal’s boss tell them that they are right?

“I am so proud of myself and happy! From now on, I’m going to stick up for myself and other kids even more. I think it was more important for my teachers to hear stuff from me instead of you,” C.J. told me.

Rollerskating!

Like I said in my last post, I’m so used to handling things like this for C.J. I’m used to advocating for and protecting him. I’m used to traveling a few steps ahead and trying to make things as right as possible for him. But, he’s older now. He’s stronger now. I need to get out of his way. I can’t clear his trail, he needs to blaze his own. Because his voice is more powerful than mine.

A few days ago, I let C.J. read all of the social media and blog comments in response to his letter. He was beyond happy to hear that some people were going to read the letter to their gender creative kids and share it with their schools to spark consideration, conversation and, hopefully, some action.

Here are some of his other favorite comments:

“This letter is amazing. I wish I had written it 30 years ago. Maybe that would have gotten me out of gymnastics and into wrestling like I’d wanted to do.” — K. on Facebook

“Hey CJ- I’m 35 now but fifth grade me wants to say THANK YOU. I was the girl who wanted this same thing but lacked the confidence you have to write this letter. Thank you, thank you for helping make the world better for the next generation. You are one of my heroes.” — B. on Facebook

“Great job, CJ! I raised a child who felt the same way, all through middle school, and I’m certain that he wasn’t alone. Thank you for speaking up, for yourself, and for everyone else. You ARE making our world better!” — C. on my blog

“Every time in school I was in an all-boys group for anything I was always scared and anxious because it meant possible humiliation or getting hit. When girls are mixed in with boys there is a civilizing vibe. I was never as anxious when the group was mixed and I could focus on the work at hand.” — S. on my blog

And, finally, some teachers let us now how they split up students without relying on sex/gender. Here are our favorite tips:

“What a great letter. Tell CJ that a great way of splitting people evenly is to have them clasp their hands together naturally. Split by who has their left thumb on top and who has their right. It’s about a 50/50 split of people.” — A. on Facebook

I can’t find our other favorite tip that was posted, but it basically said that if your school/class uses the Class Dojo app (which ours does), the teachers can use it to split up classes in all sorts of ways. That sounds like a great, easy feature.

This week, during PE the classes were not segregated by sex/gender. The physical activity of the day was dance. All the kids danced together and laughed together. As it should be.

Monkey bars!

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I’m A Boy And Some Girls Are Stronger Than Me

We were on our way to C.J.’s parent-teacher conference when he said he had something to tell us before we got to the school. I panicked for a moment. No parent wants a surprise announcement on the way to (or during) a parent-teacher conference.

C.J. is in fifth grade and his teacher has students not only attend the parent-teacher conference, but lead it. It’s pretty awesome.

“At the end of the conference, I have to tell you three concerns I have and I feel like I should tell you one now instead of surprising you in front of my teacher,” C.J. said.

We were turning into the school’s parking lot. At that point I didn’t know if I wanted to be surprised in private or with an audience.

C.J. told us his concern before we entered the classroom and shared it again in front of his teacher. His concern concerned all of us. His teacher – ever empowering – suggested that he write a letter about his concern and send it to the appropriate people. She felt that would be more powerful than her or I relaying his message.

During winter break he worked on the following letter. The day after he returned to school, he emailed it to his three PE teachers, his teacher and his principal.

Dear PE Coaches,

I feel you shouldn’t split the boys and girls up in PE class. When you do that, you are assuming that all girls are weaker than boys. That’s not true. I am a boy and there are some girls who are stronger than me and some girls who are weaker than me. Everyone is different.

I’m gender nonconforming, so all of my friends are girls. When you split up the classes by boys and girls, it makes me feel alone because all of my girl friends get to be together and I am alone with all the other boys. I bet some other kids feel the same way. PE should fun and about the chance to exercise with your friends. That’s what I want to do.

These days, more and more, everyone is friends with everyone more. You should encourage that by having boys and girls work together. This will help with equality.

If you need to split the classes up, there are lots of ways to do it. For example, you can divide people up by people who like dogs more and people who like cats more. People who like hamburgers more and people who like pizza more. There are lots of ways to split up one big group into two or three smaller groups.

I hope you will discuss this with each other and the principal and consider it. I told my teacher about this and she said that sometimes adults needs to hear things from kids instead of other adults because it makes more of an impact that way. I sure hope so.

Thank you,

C.J., 5th Grade

With this concern, more than ever, I’ve seen C.J.’s advocate spirit blossom. He wanted to advocate for himself, but, even more so, for other kids who may be feeling uncomfortable during PE and afraid to do or say anything about it. The segregation of students based on sex/gender during PE had been bothering him since the start of the school year and he wanted to do something about it. He didn’t want me to take the lead. He wanted to take it.

I’m so used to handling things like this for him. I’m used to advocating for and protecting him. I’m used to traveling a few steps ahead and trying to make things as right as possible for him. But, he’s older now. He’s stronger now. I need to get out of his way. I can’t clear his trail, he needs to blaze his own. Because his voice is more powerful than mine.

 

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A 10-Year-Old Boy’s Christmas List

Last week, for the second year in a row, C.J. walked up to Santa and said, “I don’t believe in you, but I want to tell you what I want for Christmas just in case.”

Santa was nice and obliged. As I listened, it struck me how much more accepting and nonjudgmental Santas have gotten over the years. When C.J. was little and asked for “girl toys,” Santa would make a face and/or a small little quip. This Santa just smiled and nodded. Then again, he told the kid in front of us that he was on parole, so maybe he was just happy to be out of jail for the holidays to find some solid seasonal work.

The items on the top of C.J.’s wish list are…

pc: American Girl

Logan doll by American Girl: This year was the first time (in their 31-year history) that American Girl introduced a boy doll. His name is Logan and he is reportedly a hipster who plays the drums in a band.

“But, you don’t even really play with your American Girl dolls that much anymore,” I said, trying to save myself $115.

“I play with them sometimes. And, besides, I have to show American Girl that they did the right thing and should be proud of themselves for finally making an American Boy.”

I hope my $115 makes American Girl feel super proud of themselves.

pc: Gap

Denim jacket from the Gap: I’m in trouble. C.J is starting to care about brand names. He wants a denim jacket and specifically said on his list “it should be from the Gap or Levi’s – NOT FROM TARGET!!!”

Zinger. Those three exclamation points really made me listen up. Little does he know, I consider myself lucky that Gap and Levi’s are the fanciest brands he could think of.

All the bath bombs in the world: There’s nothing C.J. loves more than a warm bath after a long day of fifth grade and gymnastics. A former bubble bath aficionado, he now prefers the more effervescent bath bomb. He has requested one for every day of the year until next Christmas. He is not getting that many.

A DIY bath bomb kit: Perfect. I’ll get him the kit and he can make his own bath bombs for the year. I’m sure that won’t be a messy project.

pc: Target

Conair Infiniti Pro Rainbow Curling Iron with a 1-inch barrel: He’s 10 years old. How does he know he wants a 1-inch barrel and not 1.25 or 1.5?

Batiste dry shampoo: Don’t ask me. He sees the commercials and is convinced he needs it to refresh his hair in between washes.

Sewing basket filled with supplies: “And not a toy one for kids, a real legit one!”

The softest blanket in the world: I hope the one I got for $8 at Kohl’s on Black Friday works.

Fingerling: Who would name a child’s toy a Fingerling? Whoever did was smart, because those things are hard as hell to find. The first two I ordered from China via Amazon never arrived and were hard to get refunded.

pc: Amazon

 

As sassy and particular as C.J. can be, I know he’d be happy with any gift I picked for him. He’s full of the Christmas spirit. After all, his sense of wonder isn’t confined to the holidays. It’s a year-round thing.

I hope that you and yours have a wonderful next few weeks. Follow us on Instagram (@RaisingMyRainbow) to keep in touch until 2018. And, if the holidays aren’t happy for you, please know that I’m thinking about you.

Remember, you are not alone 🌈 If you need support, reach out to The Trevor Project 24/7 at: 866.488.7386. Find more ways to connect with a safe, online community at: www.thetrevorproject.org

 

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