Introducing Rainbows At Play!

It all started years ago when we went looking for other families like our own — families raising gender bending boys who like wearing skirts and playing with dolls.

kids_bridge

We came up with nothing…until we found each other.  Every day we are grateful for the relationships that have developed between our families.  We’ve always been aware that we have it good and, now, we are giddy as hell to help other families connect.

This blog post marks the official launch of Rainbows At Play.  Rainbows At Play is an online community that connects families raising gender nonconforming kids so they can playdate and find fierceness in numbers.

raplogo

Here’s how to join:

  1. You must be a primary caregiver of a differently gendered child.  (If you are not raising a child, please don’t join the community.  Help us keep Rainbows At Play kiddos and families safe by only joining if you are an adult primary caregiver.  We will post updates to our blogs about Rainbows At Play that will allow others to join in on the joy and happiness of the community.  You can also follow us on Twitter and Facebook for updates and fun peeks into the Rainbows At Play community.  We hate to be exclusive, unwelcoming and uninviting.  We hope you understand why we have to be when it comes to this very special project.)
  2. If you don’t already have a Lefora.com membership, go there and create an account so that you can access communities, groups and forums hosted by Lefora.
  3. Go to Rainbows.Lefora.com and fill out the application.
  4. Be patient.  Initially, Kelly and I will be reviewing all applications ourselves.  We hope to have so many families apply that it takes us a few days to get to new applications.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?  The more who join, the better your odds of finding a local playdate mate and family just like yours.
  5. Once you are accepted into the community, read the “Rules and Guidelines” and “Getting Started” topics found at the top of the Community’s homepage.
  6. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  7. Spread the word and the sparkle.

This parenting journey can be lonely, but it doesn’t have to be.  Let’s get playing!

Lori and Kelly

Raising My Rainbow and Living A Bold Life

Advertisements
Posted in All Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 42 Comments

Friday Fodder: HRC and Me Edition

gender_youth_270I was honored when the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) asked me to write about my reactions to the “Supporting and Caring for Our Gender Expansive Youth” report they released yesterday.  The report compiles findings from their recent Youth Survey and was co-authored by Gender Spectrum.

You must read the report.  It’s devastating and will show you that we need to do better — we have to do better — for the sake of differently gendered kids.

And, if you have time, ready my essay, here’s an excerpt:

“Sometimes (C.J.) dulls his sparkle because others don’t know what to make of it.  He’s had people hurl homophobic slurs at him.  He’s had peers in the school bathroom try to see if he has a penis or vagina.  He’s had adults tell him to stop being a sissy and to “man up.”  Today, he was told to “go jump off of the Tyler Clementi Memorial Bridge.”  All because my seven-year-old boy likes pink more than blue, dolls more than trucks, skirts more than pants.

It’s scary raising a child; it’s even scarier raising a gender nonconforming child….

Imagine raising a child who — according to the survey – will feel less happy than their peers; is more likely to experiment with drugs and alcohol; views their life goals as unachievable; believes they have to leave home in order to be accepted; feels unsafe at school; and finds religion to be unloving.”

* * *

Here are two fundraising campaigns that you might be interested in:

Quirkie Kids Kickstarter AdQUIRKIE KIDS is hoping to raise $2,500 in the next 30 days to launch a line of pink tees for girls AND boys with playful designs not normally associated with the color pink. QUIRKIE KIDS believes that all kids should be free to wear pink and is working and gives kids more options to express themselves through their clothing.  Click here to check out the campaign.

The documentary Inside Out has also launched a 30-day funding blitz.  They are asking 80,000 caring people to donate $10 (the price of a movie ticket) to fund the first feature film to go deep inside the lives of transgender and gender non-conforming children and their families. By following the journeys of five children over one year audiences will understand their hopes, fears and— often difficult— decisions. Inside Out puts a human face on these stories and, in doing so, inspires empathy, increases awareness and broadens the public’s understanding of people.  Click here to learn more and/or donate.

Posted in All Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

My Son Has Discovered Figure Skating

Photo: USA Today Sports

Photo: USA Today Sports

In mid-January, one of my friends posted on my Facebook wall:

Friend:  I was watching that viral video of Jason Brown ice skating, and I had this sudden realization that your son is about to experience Olympic-level ice skating.

Me: He doesn’t even know what he’s in for. I am ridiculously excited.

Friend: It’s gonna be life-changing.

My friend was right — probably because if he lived closer and were 30 years younger, he and C.J. would be inseparable and a fierce force to be reckoned with.

I waited weeks for the Olympics to get underway and set the DVR to record.  Over the weekend, Matt and I sat down with our sons to watch the games.

Chase loved the snowboarding and skiing events.  C.J. only loved them when somebody crashed.   Which is rude, but honest, I guess.

When figure skating came on, I watched C.J.

“Is this still the Olympics?” he asked confused.  How could we have possibly gone from barreling down a mountain on a board to dancing gracefully on glimmering ice?

We were watching Meryl Davis and Charlie White compete for the U.S.

“Are they in love?” C.J. asked me.

“I have no idea.”

“If they kiss we’ll know for sure that they are in love,” he assured me.  They never kissed.  They must not be in love.

Photo: Ottowa Sun

Photo: Ottowa Sun

We watched Canada’s Kaetlyn Osmond perform.

“She’s really good,” I said when she was finished.  Stating the obvious.

“Well, she’s 18, what do you expect?!” he said as he turned to give me an exasperated look.  When he took his eyes off of the screen the judges delivered her results.

“Go back, go back, go back!  I want to see her skirt and her score!”

I grabbed my laptop and pulled up the video of Jason Brown’s long program at the U.S. National Championships last month.

“Wait.  A.  Minute.  I love his ponytail and glitter costume.  I like his style,” C.J. exclaimed.

He watched the video, entranced for seven minutes and 22 seconds.  At one point he was clapping as he watched.

“What are they throwing at him?!” he asked at the end.

“Flowers.”

“Why?”

“Cause they liked him so much.”

“Awwwwwwwwweeeeeee…….”

Photo: Getty Images

Photo: Getty Images

At night, while C.J. was in bed, I watched Jason Brown skate the same performance at the Olympics.  It was perfect, except that he had a small fall.  My heart broke, for Jason and my son.

The next night C.J. wanted to watch Jason Brown at the Olympics, so I turned it on.  C.J. watched the television and I watched C.J.

Jason fell.

“What?  What was that?!  What just happened?  Was that part of the routine?” C.J asked not taking his eyes off of the screen.

“No, he fell.  And, then he picked himself up and kept on going.

“Well, it’s okay, maybe nobody noticed.  Yeah, maybe nobody noticed.  Maybe everybody thought that was one of his fancy tricks,” C.J. said trying assure himself that everything was going to be okay.

It was time for Jason’s score.  153 point something.

“Well that’s good.  Anything over 100 is really good because 100 is a lot.” C.J.’s hand was on his chest in relief.  We know nothing about figure skating scoring, but Jason was smiling and seemed happy so we were too.

My friend Nerdy Apple sent us a video of Jason Brown skating at the Olympics with fart noises strategically overlaid.  Farting Figure Skating.  I tried to show it to only Chase, but Chase was laughing so loudly that nosey C.J. came running downstairs inquiring about what was so funny.

“Show him, show him, you’ve got to show him!” Chase said through a crying, pee-your-pants laughter.

I showed C.J.

“Is that for real?  Was he farting the whole time?” he asked very seriously.

“No, it’s a joke.  He wasn’t farting.”

It took a minute for him to accept it and get over the shock.  Then he smiled.

“Play it again,” he said.

I did and he laughed too.   A fart joke aficionado, C.J. now loves Jason Brown even more.

Posted in All Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 28 Comments

Happy 7th Birthday, C.J.!

IMG_0290C.J. turned seven on Saturday.  My baby is growing up.  He’d been planning his birthday celebration for three months – the amount of time he usually puts into preparing for big life moments like his birthday, nobody else’s birthday, Christmas, Halloween and the end of the school year.

This year’s celebration took the cake; we may have peaked with his seventh birthday party.

We spent the night before at our friend Marie’s house in her RV in her backyard, which is one of C.J.’s favorite things to do.  He loves glamping.  We woke up and walked across the backyard into the house where Matt and I prepared birthday cake pancakes.  As with most things I get off of Pinterest, the results were sub-par.  But, like a good mom will tell you, if the worst part of the day was pancakes that wouldn’t cook all the way through, it’s a good day.

We took our time getting dressed and primped.  C.J. had his outfit laid out for a week.  He selected: his black Chuck Taylor All Stars, gray super skinny jeans, a pink-leopard-print skinny belt, a studded Monster High t-shirt and a pink oxford shirt.  He decided not to chalk his hair because he was afraid it would detract from the birthday crown he knew he would be getting.  He also dressed his American Girl doll, Julie, in a party outfit that he pulled together for her after much thought.

IMG_0262All of the party goers loaded into Marie’s van (thanks for driving, Marie!  I still owe you gas money).  C.J.  Me.  Marie.  Marie’s daughters Grace and Kate.  My friend KK and her daughter Saige.  And we were off….to the American Girl Place at The Grove in Los Angeles!!!!!!!!

I had booked a 12:30 p.m. party in the American Girl Café.  I don’t know who was more excited: C.J., me, Marie, Grace or KK.  Kate and Saige were trying to play it cool because they are 13 and 10 and way too cool for dolls, but they were excited deep down inside.

When I called American Girl in December to make a reservation (it’s a tough one to get), I was pleasantly surprised when the American Girl customer service rep asked, “What is the birthday child’s name?  How old will the birthday child be turning?”  She didn’t assume that the birthday child was a girl.  I told her that the birthday child was a boy and there wasn’t a moment’s hesitation.

“Do you a lot of boys celebrate their birthdays at the American Girl Place?” I asked because I’m always curious.

“It’s not common, but it happens frequently,” she replied, not skipping a beat.

“Do you do anything differently depending on whether the birthday child is a girl or a boy?” I asked.  They didn’t.  I was pleased, again.  I like it when things seem easy.

IMG_0287Uncle Michael and two of his friends met us at the American Girl Place.  C.J. was given the pink, glittery birthday crown that he had been waiting (and not-hair-chalking) for.  American Girl Julie also got a crown.  And, they both got a sticker that said “Happy Birthday!”

We were seated at our table for 10.  This is where our crowd really went wild.  Everybody who brought a doll got a high chair for their doll so that all dolls joined us at the table.  If you didn’t bring a doll, you could borrow one from the Café’s shelves.  C.J. had me borrow Ivy.  She is Julie’s BFF and he wanted the girls to be together at his party.  But, he also wanted to spend some time with Isabelle, the 2014 American Girl of the Year.  So, he let (made) Uncle Michael borrow Isabelle.

So, there we were, 10 humans and six dolls.  The server walked over to greet us and say happy birthday to C.J.  Then, she said, “What does the birthday girl want to drink?”

C.J. looked at me, wide eyed.  I put my hand on his arm and said “The birthday boy would like an Arnold Palmer.”

“Oh, I’m so sorry,” the server said.

IMG_0285Out came our drinks and each doll got a tiny teacup and saucer.  C.J. and Marie smiled and squealed.  Out came our appetizers.  All miniature foods.  More smiles and squeals.

The Café manager approached our table.

“Are you the birthday girl?” she asked C.J.  He looked at me.

“He’s the birthday boy,” I said.  This was getting exhausting.  I usually don’t speak for him so often, but I wasn’t going to let anything dampen his day.

We ate.  The dolls ate.  The cake was placed in front of C.J. and we sang Happy Birthday.  He leaned back, drew in a breath, his cheeks puffed out, be began to blow and, then, he stopped suddenly.

“Oh, I need a minute, I didn’t make a wish,” he said with concern.  Pink candles were melting onto the pink and white cake.  I was fighting the urge to rush him.  He must have come up with something, because he blew out the candles and we erupted in applause.  My boy beamed.

There's a holder for your doll in the bathroom stall so that she can watch you pee.  Not weird at all.

There’s a holder for your doll in the bathroom stall so that she can watch you pee. Not weird at all.

After lunch we entered the two-story American Girl Store and C.J. was more overwhelmed than I have ever seen him.  There was so much to look at and so much he wanted.

We stopped by the doll hospital, where you could check your doll in for healing (repairs).  We visited the doll salon where dolls were getting elaborate up-dos.  Uncle Michael in particular was fascinated by this section of the store and snapping pics with his phone.  Then, a moment that C.J. had been waiting for arrived.  Julie got in line to get her ears pierced.  You can watch your doll get her hair done, but you can’t watch her get her ears pierced.  I’ve heard that’s because they use a drill to make holes in her head and that would prove traumatizing for children.  I haven’t shared this information with C.J.  I stood with him in the waiting area and when Julie was presented to us with small shiny stars in her ears, he was all happiness.

IMG_0266Uncle Michael spoiled him with the American Girl gymnastics equipment set; KK and Saige bought him a skirt; Uncle Michael’s friends bought him and Julie a white dog named Coconut; and I bought him a wheelchair for his doll.  Presumably to use as she recovers from some injury incurred on the gymnastics set – although, once home, he put Julie in the wheelchair and pushed her down the stairs (more than once or 15 times).

The American Girl Place was overwhelming for all of us and we weren’t disappointed to leave after three hours.

C.J. fell asleep in the car as we headed home to celebrate the big “7” with Matt, Chase and my parents.  He continued to luck out in the gift department.  He wanted Monster High dolls and Lego Friends sets…and he got them.

When I went to work on Monday morning a coworker asked me if everything went okay at the American Girl store and if people were staring at C.J. because he was a boy celebrating his birthday at doll store.   I don’t know.  I don’t know if people were staring at us, because I was staring at C.J.  And the view was fabulous.

Posted in All Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 52 Comments

We Don’t Know It’s A Good Day Until It’s Over

The other day I was at the house of one of my favorite neighbors. We were discussing our children. Her kids are all in their 20s and her youngest is autistic.

Family hike. #goodday

Family hike. #goodday

She has read my book and blog and was talking about the similarities she sees in raising an autistic child and raising a gender nonconforming child. The stares. The judgments. The questions. The isolation. The impact on siblings. The self-doubt.  The stress. The worry.  The planning, predicting and protecting.

She, like me, feels like she always has to be predicting and planning for the moments that come after the one that is happening.  We’re constantly trying to think one or two or seven steps ahead to avoid unpleasant people and uncomfortable scenarios.

“I hate that sometimes you don’t know that you’re having a good day until the day is over,” she said. “You wish you had known when it was happening but you were too busy doing everything in your power to make it a good day — or at least not a bad day.”

She was absolutely right. I had never thought about it.

Saw this dog on the way to dinner.  #goodday

Saw this dog on the way to dinner. #goodday

At school, were worried about C.J. using the restroom privately and safely, were worried about him being bullied on the playground and we’re worried that his teacher will continue to do activities divided by gender.

At gymnastics we worry that someone will make fun of his painted toenails and long hair and make him want to quit a sport that he loves so much and has the potential to be really good at.

On a recent weekend getaway we worried when we saw another child staring at C.J., then snicker, then walk up to him, look him up and down and — with a disgusted look — ask if he is a boy or a girl.

Learning to knit.  #goodday

Learning to knit. #goodday

We spend so much time worrying, predicting, planning and protecting that often it’s not until I’m lying in bed at night — mapping out the next day — that I reflect and think to myself, “Today was a good day.  Today was a great day.  We rocked today.  I liked today.”

And that’s a shame.

I want to enjoy the day as we are living it.  I need to worry less.  That seems doable. I need to predict, plan and protect less.  I’m afraid those habits will be hard to break.  I’ve been doing them every moment of every day for the past four years.  It’s become a way of life.

“I can’t not be thinking of the ten scenarios that could happen ten steps ahead,” I said to my neighbor.

“I know. It’s what moms do when we have a child with special needs.”

“It’s exhausting.” I said.  She agreed wholeheartedly.

Our view at breakfast.  #goodday

Our view at breakfast. #goodday

I imagined how simple life would be if we didn’t have to live like this, if we could realize as the day was happening that it was a good one.

I’ve been making a point to stop throughout the day and take inventory.  Is it a good day?  Yes.  They’ve all been good days recently.  What if a bad day happens?  We’ll deal with it then, so let’s not worry about it now.  That’s what I tell myself.  It’s nice to hear.  But it’s easier said than done.

 

Posted in All Posts | Tagged , , , , , , | 39 Comments

Friday Fodder: I See A Need Edition

FeetOkay, I’m thinking out loud here.  I see a need.  I’ve seen it for more than a year now.  I’m often contacted by adults raising a gender creative child who are looking for other gender creative families to playdate with. 

I’ve managed to connect a few and that has felt awesome.  We love our gender nonconforming playgroup and it’s so important that C.J. be able to play with other boys who like to do nails and put on fashion shows.  I’m sad when I think about gender creative kids who have never met or played with another gender creative kid.  That sucks.  And, parents and siblings benefit from our playgroup too.  It’s a win-win dressed in pink and dipped in rhinestones.

photo-37In the past, when a family has contacted me asking if I know of anybody in their area to meet up with, I put a call out on my blog and social media.  (Are you following me on Facebook and Twitter?  You should be.  You’re missing important posts like this and thoughts from C.J.).  Sometimes my calls are answered by families close to the original family.  I get permission from both families to share their email address and first name and, then, I make a e-introduction and tell them to have fun, respect each other’s anonymity and let me know how things go.

I’ve done this for families in:

  • California
  • Canada
  • Georgia
  • Hong Kong
  • Illinois
  • Massachusetts
  • Michigan
  • Minnesota
  • Ohio
  • Oregon
  • Philadelphia
  • New Jersey
  • New York
  • Washington

I’m getting more of these requests and I want to help.  But, how do I do it?  The same way I have been?  Set up a separate page on this site?  How much work and liability do I assume?  How do I manage something that could take on a life of its own?  Do you know of anybody already providing this service who I can point interested parties to?

I see a void and want to fill it, but how?  Your suggestions are greatly appreciated.

Posted in All Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 51 Comments

My Advice For Raising A Gender Creative Son

Back in September, I wrote an essay for Parents.com containing my advice for raising a gender creative boy.   I got wordy – as I tend to do – and the word count of my original essay was edited down.  I get asked (a lot) for my advice and, so, I’m publishing my full essay here now.  If you have advice, please leave a comment below.

My youngest son is six years old and his life is divided into two parts: before Barbie and after Barbie.

During the first two and a half years of his life, C.J. was largely underwhelmed buy the clothes and toys passed down from his older brother.  Nothing seemed to excite him, until he discovered a new Barbie in the back of my closet.  He insisted on opening the box and playing with her.  By his third birthday he could name every Disney Princess and her movie of origin.  Shortly thereafter he started dressing like a girl at home.   When he was old enough to explain himself, he told us that he is a boy who only likes girl things and wants to be treated like a girl.

I wanted information about raising a child like mine – a little boy who was a girl at heart, with a penchant for pink, sparkles and everything fabulous – but couldn’t find any.  I searched for blogs.  Nothing.  I searched popular parenting sites.  Nothing.  I conducted countless, random Google searches.  Nothing.

I complained about the lack of information to my friends.  They all agreed that I couldn’t possibly be the only person cyber-searching and that I should start my own blog.

After months of procrastination, I did it.  RaisingMyRainbow.com went live in January 2011. My readers quickly educated me; they are the ones who taught me that my son is gender nonconforming.  That was back when I had no idea what I was doing or what I was writing about.  Now that I know a little more, I try to help the people who contact me with questions or concerns about raising a child who shuns traditional gender norms.

Here are the things that I most often tell them:

Chill out and give it some time.  My husband and I have been there, in that early, panicked rush to figure out what was going on with our son and if he was going through a phase or if his behaviors had some deeper meaning.  The only way to tell if something is a phase is to wait it out and patiently observe it.  If the behaviors go on for an extended period of time your child may be gender nonconforming.  My son has definitely taught me patience.

Search out resources and funnel your energy into getting educated.  Learn the distinct differences between sex, gender and sexuality.  Sex is what’s in your underwear that determines if you are male or female.  Gender is what’s in your brain that tells you if you are male or female.  And sexuality is what’s in your heart that tells you who you are attracted to.  Read Diane Ehrensaft’s Gender Born, Gender Made and my book Raising My Rainbow.  PFLAG and Gender Spectrum are amazing organizations and resources for families like ours.  Support is out there, I promise.

Ask yourself some tough questions and make decisions.   Is your job to love your child or change him?  Is your child free to be who he was created to be?  Is there room for shame in childhood?  Who are you working to make feel comfortable, your child or everyone else?  Will you be his first bully?

This isn’t about you so don’t take it personal.   According to Gender Spectrum, significant gender variance or a transgender identity occurs in as many as one of every 500 births – making it more common than childhood diabetes.  A few months after C.J. found Barbie, I found the following quote: “You have to go the way your blood beats. If you don’t live the only life you have, you won’t live some other life, you won’t live any life at all.”  I want my son to live a life.  I have to let him go the way his blood beats.

Gather a stellar supporting cast.  Like any family raising a child with special or unique needs, you’ll benefit from help.  We’d be lost without our family, friends, pediatrician, therapist and child advocate.  Children like C.J. have the highest rate of suicide attempts in the world and are much more likely to suffer from major depressions, substance abuse and unsafe sexual behaviors.  To raise a healthy gender nonconforming child, it’s going to take more than one or two people.

Don’t forget the siblings.  Diane Ehrensaft recently said, “It takes a family to launch a gender nonconforming child, but that’s not necessarily what a sibling wants to do or how they want to spend their time.  Are we asking siblings to step outside their comfort zone and/or do too much?”   Siblings have their own anxieties, confusions and vulnerabilities.  They need empathy and support, too.

Know your child’s rights at school and know that their siblings are a protected as well.   We always expected that C.J. would be bullied and teased for his gender nonconformity, but we didn’t anticipate that his older brother would have to endure it first.  The Human Rights Campaign’s Welcoming Schools program has a wealth of information, as does Gender Spectrum.  Get yourself really familiar with Title IX and your state’s safe school laws.

Show your child examples of other kids like him.   We are lucky enough to be a part of a gender nonconforming playgroup.  Every month or so, my son gets to play with a group of boys just like him.  Not everyone is that lucky.  Before we had our playgroup, we read lots of books about kids who are gender nonconforming or different from the norms of society.  Our favorites are The Boy Who Cried Fabulous, A Fire Engine for Ruthie and anything else by Leslea Newman.  We also love My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis and Roland Humphrey is Wearing a What? by Eileen Kiernan-Johnson.   Todd Parr books are great, too.

Enjoy the path less traveled.  You’re not weird, you’re different and if everybody were the same this world would be a very boring place.  Paint nails, braid hair, tap dance, smile big.  We watch everybody stressing out to keep up with the Joneses as our son sketches a dress he wants to sew for himself.  Then he takes a bath with strawberry scented soap and spritzes himself with raspberry-vanilla body spray before putting on his nightgown.

Diane Ehrensaft has said, “Gender creative children are blessed with the ability to hold on to the concept — that we all had one time in our lives — that we were free to be anything we wanted – boy, girl, maybe both.”

Or son continues to hold on to the concept and he has retaught it to us as well.

Posted in All Posts | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 23 Comments