Dress Code Debacle

Me on the day of 6th grade graduation (and looking like my Shih-tzu's twin).

Me on the day of 6th grade graduation (and looking like my Shih-tzu’s twin).

It’s end-of-the-school-year season around here. For middle school and high school students, that means there are lots of events happening for which the youth are expected to look extra nice and fancy.

Which also means it’s a time when schools send out special dress codes based on stereotypes of what males and females should wear. That stupid gender binary. Boy and girl. Pink and blue. You wear this and you wear that.

For example, this week, an Orange County middle school sent out the following dress code for their 8th grade Promotion Ceremony:

“Appropriate dress for the promotion ceremony:

GIRLS: Dress, skirt, blouse, and/or nice pants, comfortable shoes, small platform heels or sandals. Modest strapless and spaghetti straps are allowed for promotion. Appropriateness and reasonable modesty is the key here.

BOYS: Nice pants, buttoned shirt, polo shirt, closed-in shoes. Cleanliness and proper grooming is the key focus for the boys.”

Where do I begin?

Let’s start with the law.

According to federal law, students have the right to dress and present in a way that is consistent with their gender identity, so long as they follow rules for how to dress that apply to *all* students. This includes how they dress at school every day as well as for dances, graduation, and other school events.

According to our state’s (California) safe school laws, students have the right to wear clothing that expresses their gender identity. If a school has a policy that says what boys and girls may wear to school or for special events, then the school must allow students to wear the clothing that corresponds to their gender identity. It’s even better if school dress codes are gender-neutral and do not tell students what to wear based on stereotypes about what some people think boys or girls should wear.

Dress codes like the one above are in violation of federal and state laws stating that clothing options must be the same for every student regardless of their gender identity and expression. Dress codes need to be inclusive of transgender and gender nonconforming students.

Take my gender nonconforming son for example. He rolls his eyes at polos, but loves a good blouse. He would prefer a small feminine shoe rather than a masculine dress shoe. The kid has his own style and has the legal right to express it at school and school events.

Me at 8th grade graduation, proving that it does get better (barely).

Me at 8th grade graduation, proving that it does get better (barely).

Laws aside, the “key focuses” listed for each gender make me cringe. Assigning the adjectives “appropriate” and “modest” to girls assumes that girls inevitably will want to be immodest and inappropriate. It’s exactly this kind of rhetoric that feeds into a larger culture of victim blaming in cases of sexual assault (think of a college campus in the news).

Telling boys that their “key focus” is cleanliness and proper grooming implies that they are usually dirty, smelly slobs (but hopefully they can pull it together and shower for this special event if they try their best). By specifically stating that boys must be clean and well groomed, the school implies that they either assume girls are naturally clean and groomed or that it’s fine if girls are dirty and sloppy (as long as they aren’t dressing in a way that distracts the boys).

These are unfortunate messages for kids to hear. And, these dress codes have lasting effects. A friend explains:

“I just wanted to share how triggering this dress code is for me and how surprised I am by this. I want to share because I think it gives perspective on how damaging these types of things can be.

While I had no idea what a lesbian was when I was in middle school, I clearly knew that I was different. I also was obviously a ‘tomboy.’ In middle school, I was a quite gifted musician for my age, and as such, was selected to perform in an honor orchestra. This was exciting, until the dress code for the concert was handed out. I didn’t participate in that concert, and there were other events I missed out on as well due to this. All through school, I loved to sing, but never joined choir because of the required gowns that the girls had to wear. What surprises me is how this still resonates with me as a 52 year old woman.”

This friend went on to have a career as a professional musician at the highest level, including performing with the Los Angeles Philharmonic. It’s devastating to think that her middle school dress code had the potential to turn her off to music forever…and that it could be doing so to student musicians right now.

What are unlawful and implying dress codes keeping students from doing? Playing in the orchestra? Attending graduation? Going to prom? Staying in school?

Get it together dress-code-writing adults – or, at least, you know, abide by the laws of your job.

(I wrote this post while ungroomed and dressed inappropriately just to prove a point and go against the key focuses in this middle school dress code. The world did not end.)

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Chelsea Handler, Parenting, Gender & Us

A few months ago, we spent the day with Chelsea Handler talking about parenting, gender and what it’s like raising a gender nonconforming child.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 9.19.50 PMSee some of our time together on the latest episode of her Netflix show Chelsea (Season 1, Episode 10). It’s all about adventures in parenting. She made us laugh, we made her dinner, Chase flirted with her and C.J. called her a racist. You know, the usual. Click here for full episode.

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Don’t have Netflix? You can catch bits of the episode on Chelsea’s YouTube channel by clicking here.

Screen Shot 2016-06-01 at 9.25.42 PMScreen Shot 2016-06-01 at 9.21.22 PM


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Survey of Teachers: LGBTQ Bullying on Campus

I’ve put together a brief, 10-question survey that I’d like educators and administrators to answer.

The survey is 100 percent anonymous. I’m not interested in who you are; I’m interested in what grade you teach, the state you live in and what you know about protecting LGBTQ students.

The results will be woven into a longer piece I’m writing about addressing LGBTQ bullying in America’s schools.

If I publish results, it would happen on my blog; but, currently, my only goal is to include my findings in the aforementioned piece.

I really just want to get a feel for what teachers currently know so that I may be able to:

  1. Help them learn more;
  2. Help parents/primary caregivers of LGBTQ students better communicate with teachers should a problem arise; and
  3. Urge districts and school to do more to educate faculty and staff about LGBTQ bullying.

I ask credentialed educators and administrators from across the U.S. who are currently or have recently taught in grades K-12 to participate.

If you are outside of this demographic, but want to discuss LGBTQ bullying in schools, please email me directly at raisingmyrainbow@gmail.com instead of taking the survey.

Please share this link far and wide. https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/9X987MM

All best,

Lori Duron

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The Gender Creative Child Book Giveaway

When people ask for resources to help raise and/or support a differently gendered child, at the top of my list has long been Dr. Diane Ehrensaft’s book Gender Born, Gender Made.

Gender-Creative-Child_cover_FIN-200x300I’ve officially added her latest book (released this month) to that list. The Gender Creative Child: Pathways for Nurturing and Supporting Children Who Live Outside Gender Boxes is another must-read from the person I’ve called the patron saint of kids who don’t conform to traditional gender norms.

Dr. Ehrensaft explains gender and children like no one can. And, in her new book, she equips adults to understand and support gender-expansive children the way they deserve to be.

I’m often asked how an adult can tell if a child is transgender or gender creative (gender nonconforming). Because I’m not an expert, I typically don’t know the child and giving the wrong answer could seriously impact the child’s life, I’m always hesitant to give my feedback.

I do say that when he was younger, C.J. would say “I wish I was a girl” and “I want to be a girl.” As many times as people told me that those phrases meant he was transgender, my mom-gut told me that wasn’t the case. There’s a difference between wanting to be something and genuinely feeling like you are something.

Of course Dr. Ehrensaft explains it better in what was, for me, the most impactful part of The Gender Creative Child.

“One simple verb will also be one of the signposts that can differentiate a young transgender child from other gender creative children. It is the verb to be. Children who are communicating to us their transgender self will often say, “I am a…(fill in opposite gender or some other gender)” rather than “I wish I were a…” or “I want to be a…” This is not universally true….but for those children who feel no necessity to hedge their bets to appease others or who have met with no confused or disapproving responses, the simple sentence “I am a…” is a very clear signpost identifying a child who is not the gender people they are.”

Want to read more? Dr. Ehrensaft will gift a copy of her book to one of my readers. To enter to win, leave a comment below. Any comment. A thought. A joke. A note. A quote. A question. Whatever.

A winner will be announced here around 5 p.m. PDT on Friday, April 29.
This giveaway has ended. The winner is Yumi! Yumi, please see my reply to your comment below. Thanks to all who entered.

Good luck!

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When My Son Does My Makeup

C.J. started dabbling in makeup like most of us started — with Lip Smackers and cheap, hand-me-down eyeshadow that was a free gift with purchase. A spritz of perfume here. A few coats of nail polish there.

Suddenly his makeup bag grew from a old small one I used to carry in my purse to a hard pink box the size of a briefcase with vanity lights inside.

He applied his makeup to himself. Then his Barbies. Then the mannequin head my mother-in-law bought him for Christmas. That head is, more often than not, eerily affixed to our kitchen island; staring at me as I watch TV long after C.J. has gone to bed and the night has grown dark. “You scared the shit out of me!” I say to it often while catching my breath.

IMG_1233 IMG_1234Once C.J. started doing my makeup, he begged to do it every night. With little regard for my skin’s rebellion. My adult acne is due in large part to my son’s heavy application of makeup night after night.

IMG_9789When we were young, my brother and I did our mom’s makeup and always aimed for a natural look. You know, lipstick on the lips, eyeliner on the lids, mascara on the lashes. I quickly learned that C.J. doesn’t care for a natural look.

The first time C.J. did my makeup, he turned me into a zombie.

IMG_8292IMG_8305Then I was a “Candy Girl” inspired by Katy Perry. With heart-shaped blush and candy swirls rising from my eyes.

IMG_9803Then, I was the girl from the Starbucks logo. When I saw myself in the mirror the only thought I had was “please, please, please let all of this come off for work tomorrow.”

IMG_8704IMG_8349A future fine artist who also does makeup to support himself, C.J. still does his own makeup from time to time. Here he gave himself a “Big Eyes” look based on the art of Margaret D. H. Keane.

IMG_9838Naturally, a new favorite pastime of C.J.’s is watching makeup tutorials on YouTube. Who do you recommend?

I’m not the only one in the family who gets their makeup done by C.J. Click here to read about him doing Matt’s makeup.

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Real Dads Let Their Sons Do Their Makeup

For years, my son has been using my wife’s makeup to give his Barbie dolls makeovers and put makeup on a life-size mannequin head he got for Christmas a while back. Then he started doing my wife’s makeup regularly, so I figured it was inevitable that I would be his next victim.

IMG_9811A couple of years ago, C.J. asked if I would allow him to do my makeup. Of course I said yes. Why wouldn’t I? Why wouldn’t I want to be a part of something that brings joy to my son’s life?

If I said no to something as trivial as allowing him to paint my face, what would I be teaching him?

I’d be teaching him that playing dress-up or giving his dad a makeover is something to be ashamed of or something to hide. I don’t want to teach him that.

I want to teach him that his dad wants to spend time with him no matter what we’re doing. I want him to know that even though I’m not interested in makeup or fashion, I will play along as long as I get to sit and talk with him.

IMG_9821While he’s doing my makeup, he talks about everything. From what’s going on at school to which eye shadow brings out my blue eyes.

When I agree wholeheartedly as he discusses what makeup colors go with my skin tone, I’m teaching him that his opinions and tastes matter to me. I’m teaching him that I’ll listen to him when he wants to talk and I will find time for him even when I’m busy.

My son doing my makeup is the same as a dad throwing a football with his son. It’s not about what you are doing together; it’s about doing it together. It’s about encouraging your children to engage with you. It’s about spending time with your child doing something they enjoy doing.

Allowing your children to be themselves is very important. There are activities I do with Chase that I don’t do with C.J. because they aren’t fun for him. There are activities I do with C.J. that Chase doesn’t want to do. And, there are activities we all do together. Spending quality time with each of my sons helps strengthen my relationship with them.

IMG_9822When C.J. does my makeup, it makes me feel like I’m experiencing something with him that he loves doing. It makes me feel like maybe I’m encouraging and empowering him to have fun with something that may end up being his career as an adult. Or, it’s just something we can do together that shows him that his dad loves spending time with him no matter what we are doing.

He loves doing my makeup because he can make me look silly or dramatic and it cracks him up. Sometimes he takes it very serious, like he is really trying to make me look good. Other times it’s more of a face painting exercise than anything. Either way, he loves doing it and I love being a part of some type of activity that my son loves doing.

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