Goodbye Kindergarten

Today was the last day of school.  C.J. has bid kindergarten adieu and will spend the summer gearing up for first grade.  There are tears — in my eyes, not his.

That's C.J. in the lower left-hand corner, in case you didn't recognize him.

That’s C.J. in the lower left-hand corner, in case you didn’t recognize him. He was wearing extra mascara that day.

I’m sad and anxious, as I have been at the end of every one of C.J.’s school years.  I don’t know what to expect next.  Who will his teacher be?  Who will his classmates be?  Who will accept his gender creativity?  Who will make him feel small because he likes girl stuff big time?

C.J.’s kindergarten year was amazing.  His teacher, Ms. Valentine, deserves much of the credit.  She greeted him on the first day with her big blue eyes, perfect blonde hair, sweet smile and leopard-print shoes.  She knew who he was.  He was the gender nonconforming boy.  The boy who likes girl stuff.  The boy whose mom is sometimes seen as a liability…what, with her blog and all.

Ms. Valentine had, as I hoped, read the letter that I wrote to her and posted on my blog days before school started.  She took it all in with an open heart and an open mind.

I met with her early on to talk about C.J., his gender nonconformity and how it all affects his learning and time at school.  She was kind, optimistic and excited to have him in her class.  C.J. was safe in her care; I knew it from moment number one.

“Does my teacher know that I like girl stuff?” C.J. asked every day for weeks leading up to the first day of school and for a few weeks after it started.

“Ms. Valentine?  Yes, baby, she knows,” I reassured him.

“What did she say about it?”

“She thinks it’s awesome.”

C.J. smiled that red-haired, freckled-nose, dimpled-cheek smile that always makes me smile too.  He loves it when people know and accept that he is gender nonconforming.

The first day of school, Ms. Valentine started a new tradition of not lining the students up by sex.  There would be no “boys’ line” or “girls’ line” in C.J.’s class.  She winked at me.  I smiled and nodded my head in gratitude.

All of the other moms struggled with the concept.  They had a hard time comprehending what was happening.  If there wasn’t a line for girls and a line for boys how would anybody function?  How would the kids walk into the classroom and around campus?  How would the earth continue to spin?  For the first week of school the other moms tried to divide the lines based on genitals every morning.  And, every morning Ms. Valentine would remind them that she was doing things differently this year.

C.J. instantly felt safe in Ms. Valentine’s presence.  She had pretty hair, sassy shoes and she smelled good.  He was sold.

That's C.J. in the middle.  Looks like he has fresh low-lights and a sleek blow-out.

That’s C.J. in the middle. Looks like he has fresh low-lights and a sleek blow-out.

He spent the year self-editing more than ever.  Not prompted by anyone — not us, not Ms. Valentine.  It was totally his decision.  I had been told that gender nonconforming kids start to conform more once they enter kindergarten.  C.J. did just that at school.  At home he remained our sparkly son.

In kindergarten, he drew himself as a boy for the first time in his life.  He decided at the last minute not to wear his Rapunzel pajamas on Pajama Day.  He stopped wearing the necklaces and bracelets that he beads in his free time.

He did, however, continue to wear “girl socks” every day tucked into his “girl shoes.”  His Monster High lunchbox is thrashed from a year of daily use.  And, he got plenty of compliments the day he wore his purple, glittered Wicked t-shirt to school.

He hated the week when he was “Special Bear.”  Five days were all about him and he was supposed to share about himself, his family and his home life every day.  He didn’t want to.  He has his public self and his private self.  Sometimes the two overlap, but sometimes he doesn’t want them to.  And, that’s fine.

He did, however, love the Mother’s Day fashion show when we got to walk the runway in his purple plaid shirt, magenta bow tie and pink boat shoes for everyone to see.  It was his first legit catwalk and it felt like home.

If you ask him, he’ll tell you that his favorite subjects in kindergarten were playing on the playground with his friends and doing crafts.  It’s the academic portion of school that he struggled with.

Old Mac C.J. made a farm.

Old Mac C.J. made a farm.

You see, when your focus is on self-editing and self-preservation, learning your ABCs and 123s don’t seem important.  He’s concerned about being teased about liking girl stuff and not about identifying numbers one through 30 out of sequence.  In the end he qualified to move on to first grade.  He meets state requirements, but there was the option of having him repeat kindergarten.

His dad and I had to struggle with the decision to push him onward and upward or hold him back.  A mom who I met through PFLAG told me that her therapist believes that LGBTQ kids are usually a year behind their peers academically because they are having to deal with all-consuming social and life issues while staying on top of school work.  It can seem overwhelming.

I’ve also had people tell me that LGBTQ youth are typically more gifted than their peers.

Who knows who is right?

In September C.J. will strut into first grade; into an unfamiliar classroom helmed by a teacher who we do not know.  Will she have an open heart and an open mind?   That’s all we ask for.  But, we’ve come to realize that those are two big things to ask of someone.  It shouldn’t be that way, but it is.

Whoever C.J.’s first grade teacher is, we hold out hope that s/he will be as great as Ms. Valentine has been.  We also hope that Ms. Valentine has a bitchin’ summer and that she’ll K.I.T.

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C.J. Defends NPH

“Mom, I got in a fight today at school,” C.J. said to me as I entered the house after a long day at work.

“What?!” I said setting down my purse, laptop bag and workbag while trying to get my heels off as quickly as possible.

“Yeah, it’s true. I got in a fight with Mia,” he said.

“What kind of fight?  Why?”

“I told her that I got to stay up late to watch the Tony’s that you recorded and she said that Neil Patrick Harris is not a real person, that he is fake and not a real human being,” C.J. explained.

“And, what did you say to that?”

“I told her that yeah huh he is.  But then she kept saying it.  She said it ELEVEN times!” he said both irritated and dumbfounded.

“Well, she’s wrong.  He is a real person,” I said.

“I know, I tried telling her but she wouldn’t listen.  I told her to watch the Tony’s tonight like I’m going to.”

“And, what did she say to that?”

“She doesn’t know about that show.  None of my friends know about the Tony show.  But, everyone else believed me that Neil Patrick Harris is too a real person,” he explained.

C.J. has been watching the Tony’s in 30-minute increments since they aired.  He is obsessed.  Now, he can’t decide which awards show he wants to go to next year: The Tony Show (Tony Awards) or The Night When Everybody Dresses Fancy (Academy Awards).  Lucky for him he has several months to make up his mind and figure out a way to score an invite to one or the other.

* * *

Thanks to all of you for the awesome suggestions of things to do while in New York City.  Thanks to you, we’ve walked the High Line and visited Chelsea Market — where we ate a grilled cheese sandwich, drank a hot chocolate and had a People’s Pop.  Tomorrow we have a tour of the Tenement Museum.  You guys are the best!

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My Son’s Many Walks

How many walks does your son have?  Because my gender creative son has four walks not including his normal everyday walk, which he refers to as his boring walk.  He’s named all of his walks.  Naturally.

He keeps his four non-boring walks in his arsenal for use pretty regularly throughout the day depending on the location, occasion and audience. He has also been known to do a hybrid of two or three walks if the mood strikes.

Let me explain.

photo 3There’s his Fashion Walk which is pretty much straight from the runways. He gets a real serious face and tries to walk by putting one foot directly in front of the other or crossed over the other if at all possible. His eyes look straight ahead. He erases his usually smile in favor of a serious pout and then sucks in his cheeks. Usually he puts his right hand on his right hip and swings his left hand dramatically.  Think angry hungry stomping model.

His Fashion Walk is most often used inside of a mall and has been spotting in JC Penny, Forever 21, Nordstrom and Target.

When he is doing his Sassy Diva Walk, his rump sticks out a little more than usual and at least one of his wrists hangs limp from the elbow that is kept tightly at his side. Sassy Diva Walk steps are either very short and quick or long fast strides.  For some reason, this walk requires him to look left and right a lot as if he’s looking for someone he knows, although I’m pretty sure that when you’re doing the Sassy Diva Walk you wouldn’t wave to a friend if you saw him/her because you’re too busy being a sassy diva.  Think Beyonce as “Sasha Fierce.”

photo 2This walk is best suited for busy places with a fast pace full of people with things to do. It has been utilized at the local art fair, the end-of-the-school-year carnival and, again, Target. It got the most use on our recent Carnival cruise.

The Rock Star Walk is a little out of control and inconsistent. Which I guess is fitting given the name.  It usually has big sloppy steps that swing a little wide to the sides. His head can bob from side to side or up and down dramatically.  His arms flail and do all sorts of made up hand signs that I assume he uses to convey that he’s a glittery unpredictable badass who has seen some things in his short life.  Think Avril Lavigne meets Pink.

The Rock Star Walk is the most “masculine” of my son’s walks. I’ve seen it used around his brother’s friends, at Dave and Busters, amusement parks and Target (yes, we go there a lot and it is welcoming of all of my son’s walks).

I saved his Ballerina Walk for last because it looks to be the most painful. Because he doesn’t have pointe shoes, he curls his toes under his feet and hops up on top of them. He then walks gracefully and painfully with his head held high, shoulders back and arms out to the sides. His lips are sucked inside his mouth, which I believe is because he’s trying to hold in yelps of pain.  Think Natalie Portman in Black Swan.

photo 1This walk can only be safely done on carpet. Which means that few have ever witnessed it.  That is for the best because those who have seen it have had to look away as they imagine how much it would hurt them to walk that way.

His normal walk is just his natural gait and carries him to school and other boring places like the grocery store and Home Depot.  And that’s fine because I use my normal, boring walk there too.

This Friday and Saturday, C.J.’s Dad and I will be walking around New York City.  We’ve seen most of the major touristy things.  What should we do and where should we eat/drink?  If you have a recommendation, please leave a comment below or email me at raisingmyrainbow@gmail.com.  Thanks!

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Friday Fodder: Gender Spectrum, PFLAG and Navy SEAL Edition

Who’s going to the 2013 Gender Spectrum Conference?  Me!

The 2013 Gender Spectrum Conference is designed to create a welcoming and supportive community for all gender nonconforming youth, their allies, caregivers and professionals. The conference provides the most up-to-date quality information and resources, with more than 45 workshops around relevant topics in the fields of medicine, mental health, education, the law and social issues.  I’ll be speaking.  😉

Click here for more information.

* * *

PFLAG wants your help!

There are currently more than forty prospective PFLAG chapters in the process of being started, which would grow PFLAG’s network to 400 chapters in communities in all 50 states. Most of this growth is happening in areas where the introduction of equality legislation is progress and even being out as a LGBTQ person or an ally is an act of tremendous courage.

Two small, no-cost actions on your part can help PFLAG National create and support new chapters!

1.  Esurance has long supported LGBT equality. In fact they offer same-sex couples married rates, even in states that have not yet passed a law in support of marriage equality!  This year, Esurance is donating $100,000 to three worthy charities, including PFLAG! Each will get a percentage of the donation based on the number of votes received.

Visit on.fb.me/15KFgSD once per day, between now and June 30th, to cast your vote for PFLAG National to earn up to $100K from Esurance!

2. For over a decade, Orbitz has supported dozens of LGBT and HIV/AIDS charities nationwide and now, Orbitz is helping to support PFLAG as it further expands the PFLAG chapter network across the country.

Visit bit.ly/15apGz7 to download Orbitz’ FREE app for your phone, and Orbitz will donate up to $10 to PFLAG National to support the creation and growth of new chapters.

* * *

Read this:  Defying Stereotypes: Navy SEAL Team 6 Soldier Comes Out As Transgender In A Powerful New Book

 

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My Son Is Not Blue He Is Pink

In honor of LGBT Families Day (June 3, 2013), GLAAD contacted me and asked me to publish something on a topic related to LGBT families.  Instead of a blog post, I wrote the following poem.

My son is not blue he is pink.

He twirls.

He sparkles.

He captivates.

 

My son is not blue he is pink.

He skips in his dress.

Wears his nightgown to bed.

Paints his nails with a steady hand.

 

My son is not blue he is pink.

He dreams of being a grown up.

The girl on top of the wedding cake

and a daddy who is more like a mommy.

 

I grew up with a boy who was not blue but was pink.

Who loved Wonder Woman.

Who turned into a rainbow.

Who watches his nephew and smiles.

 

A pink mom married to blue dad raising two boys — one blue and one pink.

Boys who can be any color of their choice.

Love the person of their choice.

Live the life of their choice.

 

Because when you are a family with a boy who is not blue — but is pink,

you learn to not care what other people think.

 

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Friday Fodder: Stop Everything You’re Doing Edition

shezow-character-shezow_570x420Stop everything you’re doing and set your DVR to record The Hub’s new series titled SheZow!.  It premieres tomorrow, June 1, at 12:30 p.m. EDT/9:30 a.m. PDT.

Learn more about the series here. 

“Twelve-year-old Guy is an extreme dude who inherits the power ring of his deceased aunt – the amazing superhero SheZow! The ring gives him villain-battling super powers, but was meant to be worn by a girl and the result is absolutely she-larious!

A lovable yet mischievous tween who hates responsibility, Guy Hamdon is suddenly forced to save the world as the legendary female superhero SheZow. Trapped inside a crazy female superhero costume with big hair, high heeled go-go boots and she-mazing superpowers like mega strength and she-riffic speed, Guy “plays” the part of heroine on his way to becoming a super man.

Once Guy Hamdon utters the magic words, ‘You go girl!’ he becomes SheZow…and it’s ‘No more Mister Nice Girl!’”

* * *

Screen Shot 2013-05-30 at 4.45.11 PMAfter you’ve set your DVR to record SheZow!, stop everything  you’re doing and check out the new photography project by one of my readers, Parisa Taghizadeh.

View the amazing photos here. 

“BOY is a series of portraits of my son who enjoys “dress-up.” Although the project seems to be about a boy’s love for princesses and fairies, it’s more an inquiry into what little boys are allowed to be before the world changes them and molds them into some notion of what it means to be a man in our society.”

Seriously people, the photos moved me.  I could see C.J. in them.  They are beautiful and captivating, but more than that they show the perfect innocence that boys like C.J. sparkle because of.  I can’t stop looking at the photos.

* * *

934023_565048466848682_732414134_nAfter you’ve checked out Parisa’s photos, stop everything you’re doing and go straight to Facebook and “Like” Millions of Moms for Love.

“We will not stand silently while groups like One Million Moms or the American Family Foundation spread their anti-gay message. We believe every human being has the right to love who he or she was born to love and not suffer discrimination because of it!”

This group and its founder reinforce that you should never underestimate the power of a mother.  Learn more in this article about Millions Moms for Love by GLAAD.

* * *

Other things that have interested me this week:

A recent USA Today story about a family raising a gender variant child: http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/05/28/gender-boy-girl-school/2366811/

A recent CNN post about sex/gender stereotyping kids: http://www.cnn.com/2013/05/28/opinion/perry-gender-children

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LGBTQ Politics on the Playground

All photo credits: C.J.'s Dad (cause when I say I need playground photos, he gets the job done.)

All photo credits: C.J.’s Dad (cause when I say I need playground photos, he gets the job done.)

I admit it; I can very easily get myself all worked up when people talk ignorantly about LGBTQ issues.  Even when the person talking ignorantly is five years old.  I should have more self-control, but I don’t.  So there.

“Mom, Marina from my class told me that boys can’t marry boys,” C.J. said as he climbed into my car after school.

“And, what did you say to that?” I asked.

“I said yeah-huh, that boys can marry boys and girls can marry girls.”

“And, then what did she say?”

“She said that I was wrong and lying and that boys can’t marry boys and if I kept saying that she was going to tell the teacher on me.”

The feisty part of me (which makes up about 80+ percent of my personality) wanted to get out of my car, find Marina and her mom in the parking lot and explain to them that boys can marry boys.  Not in our state of course, but in some other states.  And, it’s not federally recognized.  But still.

photo 2Here’s the thing. I feel like Marina wasn’t spreading a message in support of marriage equality when she was informing who knows how many kindergartners that boys can’t marry boys.  I feel like she was saying that it’s not right for boys to be in relationships with boys, period.  The way C.J. relayed the conversation to me her tone was negative and antagonistic.

How did the topic come up anyway?

I reminded C.J. that we know lots of boys who are married to boys.  I started naming off couples but was interrupted.

“Oh, good, can you write those down so I can show Marina a list tomorrow?” C.J. asked.

photo 2Was I really going to draft a list of the married same-sex couples for C.J. to take to school to prove his point?  No.  Should I have?

A few weeks ago, I overheard one of my friends on the phone and could tell that her son was having an issue at school.

“What’s going on?” I asked.

“I didn’t want to tell you and get you all fired up….” she trailed off.

“Oh, well now you have to tell me!” I said animatedly.

“At school the other day, on the playground, a little boy told my son and some other kids that gay people get sick and die,” she said.

“Excuse me?!?!”

“I didn’t want to upset you.  I’m taking care of it,” she said calmly.

“Did you talk to the principal?  Do you want me to talk to the principal?  I’ll go right there right now and explain what is happening.  What, is this first grader a medical expert who is commenting on AIDS?”

“It’s all fine now,” she assured me.

“Does your son think that Uncle Uncle is going to get sick and die?” I asked.

“He may have, but I explained that that is not the truth,” she said.

photo 3Ugh!  Where do these kids get these ideas?  From their parents.  And, why are they talking about such things on the playground?  Because they know – starting in kindergarten and first grade – that the subjects are “odd” and “weird” and “taboo” and “titillating.”

But, to my kids, boys being married to boys are so commonplace that it doesn’t warrant a second thought or consideration.  It’s as “normal” as their dad and me being together.

And, to my kids, gay people don’t get sick and die.  At a recent BBQ, after seeing his dad and me in swimsuits in the pool with a handful of gay men, C.J.’s Brother actually pointed out that gay men tend to be in better shape and eat healthier food than we do.  (I’ll have you know that I cut back on carbs for a day to make myself feel better.)

So, yes, I’m easily excitable and, then, usually move on to a next thought just as easily.  My next thought was…what if years from now Marina wants to marry a girl?  What if that little boy on the playground is gay, but doesn’t want to get sick and die?  By teaching their children these things, have the parents done them a service or disservice?  Because, I don’t know about that boy on the playground, but I do know that, should she choose to get married, Marina would make a beautiful bride no matter her partner.  And, I hope her parents don’t ruin that for her.

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My Son The Dressmaker

One of the things that I remember most about my maternal grandmother is that she loved to sew.  And, she was damn good at it.   Like, she could whip up a prom dress if you needed one at the last minute and she made more quilts than our family knew what to do with.  You only need so many blankets when you live in Southern California.

As a child, I remember playing with her rainbow-colored, plastic-headed pins and produce-inspired pincushion.  I’d imagine that they were tiny gum balls clinging to a giant red tomato with a strawberry repelling down the side to safety.

My grandmother would have let me help with the actual sewing, but it just wasn’t my thing.  Her talents, creativity and never-ending patience were lost on me; but C.J. would have loved her.

My mother, Nana Grab Bags, loves to sew and her and C.J. have been spending a lot of time in her sewing room lately.  They started out using fabric glue and Stitch Witchery on their creations.  Now, they have moved on to C.J. draping fabric on himself and Nana Grab Bags pinning it.  Then, she carefully removes it and sews it just the way it had been pinned.  My son cries as if he’s been assaulted when he gets a small splinter or scrapes his knee playing outside, but if he gets poked or scratched by pins while draping and sewing he doesn’t bat an eye.  Instead, he tells me that it’s okay.

My mother offers her style suggestions and they discuss design.  But, ultimately, it’s C.J. decision and Nana Grab Bags gladly obliges.

C.J. recently designed his own dress.  Brace yourself, because it’s a lot to take in.  All fabric, accouterments and placement were C.J.’s decision.

Some of the fabric C.J. selected because "it's shiny and sassy and drapey."  Clearly.

Some of the fabric C.J. selected because “it’s shiny and sassy and drapey.” Clearly.

This ribbon reminded C.J. of fairies and fairy tales and Barbie.

This ribbon reminded C.J. of fairies and fairy tales and Barbie.

These fabric rosettes are super sassy fancy flowers according to C.J.

These fabric rosettes are super sassy fancy flowers according to C.J.

He picked this iron-on patch because it reminded him of Monster High.

He picked this iron-on patch because it reminded him of Monster High.

C.J. and Nana started with  Mock Smock fabric that comes smocked at the top and pre-finished at the top and bottom.  C.J. paired it with pink glitter spandex leggings.

C.J. and Nana started with Mock Smock fabric that comes smocked at the top and pre-finished at the top and bottom. C.J. paired it with pink glitter spandex leggings.

Draping the fabric and pinning the flower and fringe.

Draping the fabric and pinning the flower and fringe.

Nana pinning the back per  his instructions.

Nana pinning the back per his instructions.

Making decisions.

Making decisions.

Nana tied the back so that it would be no-sew.

Nana tied the back so that it would be no-sew.

Teamwork.

Teamwork.

Working it.

Strike a pose. Vogue.

All smiles.

All smiles.

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Friday Fodder: Whoopsie, Forgot To Publish This On Friday Edition

DEAR ABBY: I am a longtime reader but a first-time writer. My problem has been bothering me for some time now.
We have a grandson who is 4 and very much a “princess boy.” He likes girl toys and dresses and doesn’t like any of his boy toys. We’re at a loss about how to handle this.
He’s an adorable little boy and we love him to pieces. His parents don’t accept this behavior, and I’m afraid it will affect him now and in the future. How would you handle this? We don’t say anything to his parents because they are pretty much in denial. — WORRIED GRANDMA

What was Dear Abby’s reply? Read it here.

* * *

The high street pharmacy chain Boots has admitted it was wrong to use separate in-store signs labeling girls’ and boys’ toys after shoppers took to Twitter and Facebook to accuse the retailer of sexist behavior.
In a statement posted on Facebook on Tuesday it said it was taking steps to remove the signs and that it was dismayed by customers’ reaction to the move.
“It was never our intention to stereotype certain toys. It’s clear we have got this signage wrong, and we’re taking immediate steps to remove it from store.”

Read the full Guardian article here.

* * *

Not so long ago, Toni Bias dreamed of playing in the W.N.B.A. But after starring on the girls’ junior varsity basketball team as a high school freshman, Toni came out as transgender last summer, began going by the name Tony and started transitioning to male.
At the time, California had no policy governing transgender high school athletes. Already finding himself the target of bullies, who often taunt him with “he-she,” Tony feared he would have to endure even more abuse if he pushed to try out for the boys’ team.
So he made a wrenching decision: he quit basketball.

Read this New York Times article about the rules and regulations for transgender athletes…and learn if Tony returned to the sport he loves.

* * *

A Pawtucket (Rhode Island) family has organized a first-of-its-kind support group for young transgender children. Using their experiences as a family, they hope to help children navigate the challenges of growing up in the wrong body.

Read more about their family and get info here.

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“My Mom” by C.J.

The following excerpts are from a book that C.J. made for me at school for Mother’s Day.  The underlined portions were filled in by C.J. to complete the sentences.

photo 4

I think my mom is 48 years old.  (I’ll have you all know that he overshot it by 13 years.  Notice on the illustration, he originally went with 30 something — but, upon further consideration, he made me almost 50.)

photo 3

You can tell she’s a mom because she is beautiful.  (This made up for the fact that he thinks I’m nearly old enough to join AARP)

photo 2

I think she learned how to be a mom by reading a book.  (This part is true.  Do you like the high heels I wear while reading?)

photo 1

My mom wanted to have children because she had children.  (That pretty much sums up how it all happened.)

photo 3

While I’m at school, my mom works.  (If you’ve ever wanted to see what I look like when I’m blogging, here’s a picture.)

photo 2

My mom is special because she washes the dishes.  (Of all the things that could make me a special mom…..this is it.)

photo 1

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY!!!!!!!!

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