Friday Fodder: HRC, PFLAG, Stonewall and Twirl Edition

Here are the things that caught my attention this week.  🙂

Time To ThriveThe Human Rights Campaign Foundation presents Time To THRIVE,  the inaugural national conference promoting safety, inclusion and well-being for LGBTQ youth…everywhere! Time to THRIVE will take place over Presidents’ Day Weekend (February 14-16, 2014) at Bally’s Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.

The conference provides a “one-stop-shop” opportunity for youth-serving professionals to build the awareness and cultural competency, learn current and emerging best practices, and gather resources from leading experts and national organizations in the field.

Check out the conference website:  www.TimeToThrive.org

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photo401PFLAG National — through its Straight for Equality project — is working on a new resource to invite, educate and engage allies of people who are transgender and gender nonconforming and they need your help!  They are looking for your answers to the following questions:

1. If you consider yourself a trans ally please share your answer to this question:

What was the turning point or event that led you to support inclusion and equality for people who are transgender?

2. If you identify as trans or gender nonconforming please share your answer to one of the following questions:

Can you share a story about a time where an ally (or lack of one) had a real impact on your life?

Based on your personal experience, if you could tell trans allies one thing what would it be?   

3. If you are the parent of a trans or gender nonconforming child/youth please share your answer to one of the following questions. If your child is comfortable with providing her/his own feedback, we’d genuinely appreciate the input!

What was there the turning point that led you to become an advocate for your child? 

What roles have non-family allies played in you/your child’s life?

Answer the questions in four to five sentences each and submit your responses to jhenkel@pflag.org.  They’ll review the feedback, and if your response is used for the publication, they will contact you directly to confirm. Only first names, ages and locations (e.g., city and state) will be used in the publication.

Learn more here:  http://www.straightforequality.org/questions

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SNEP Logo 300wStonewall National Education Project’s second national symposium will be held on March 3-5 in Los Angeles.  

At the conference, Stonewall National Education Project will widen its scope to include not only school districts that are at the forefront of the LGBT-inclusive education movement, but also those that are just getting started in their consciousness-raising efforts.  Original school districts will return and serve as mentors.  In addition to the ongoing theme of sharing best practices, symposium workshops will focus on these three pillars: LGBT safety, policy and curriculum.

Learn more: http://www.stonewallnationalmuseum.org/education/programs/

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This was my favorite dress, in case you care.  (photo from E!)

This was my favorite dress, in case you care. (photo from E!)

Last, but never least, is C.J.’s BFF Twirl (a seven-year-old, gender creative, fashion and design prodigy).  Read Twirl’s thoughts on the looks from the 2014 Golden Globes and wish you had half his style sense.

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What It’s Like Be Friends With Us

One of my very best friends in the whole wide world is Marie.  If you’ve read my book, she’s in there.  She’s the one who, after I mentioned the idea of starting this blog once, would never let me not do it.  She’s encouraging and awesome like that.  She’s also accompanied me on many, many adventures in support of the blog and book – she has now ridden a subway, danced the night away in a gay club, stood with me lost for an hour on a less-than-desireable street corner and sat through more gender/LGBTQ presentations and workshops than most licensed professionals.

During our many adventures, she is often asked what it’s like to be friends with us, how she supports our family as we raise C.J. and what non-family allies can do to help.  Here are her thoughts. 

Marie's daughter Grace is  four weeks older than C.J.   They love each other.

Marie’s daughter Grace is four weeks older than C.J. They love each other.

I have been friends with C.J.’s Mom for about 15 years now.  We met in college and bonded over our love of the written word and literature on a trip hosted by our fabulous English professor.  We have been through births, miscarriages, silly times, sad times, drunk times and — of utmost importance — parenting times.

Parenting isn’t easy.  Period.  There are no manuals; we all know this.  God sometimes throws curve balls at us.  Well, he threw one right into C.J.’s Mom and C.J.’s Dad’s home.  It was a perfectly pitched curve ball too – the batter at the plate said, “Yep.  I’ll take a swing at it” and the team manager supported the decision.  Since then, there have been a few singles, doubles and triples; even a homerun or two.  Every once in a while, they strike out, but in my humble opinion, it’s a rare occasion.

My family has been on this journey with C.J.’s parents the entire time and so maybe that helps when it comes to acceptance.  We knew C.J. B.B. (Before Barbie) and we loved him.  And, we know C.J. A.B. (After Barbie) and we love him.  One thing I know about the A.B. C.J. is that his personality is far more outgoing.  He wants to be involved in things, has opinions about things and loves imaginative play.  The B.B. C.J. was sweet, but his personality was not as bold and sociable as the A.B. C.J.

When C.J.’s parents embraced him for everything he loved and wanted to play with, C.J. began to sparkle.  There’s no other way to put it.  He sparkled.

All parents want (or should want) their child to sparkle and sometimes it takes a little extra time to find the one thing that triggers the glittery moment – but when they do, loving and nurturing parents will move Heaven and Earth to make it happen for their child on a consistent basis.  I cannot imagine a world where C.J. was forced to play with a toy he didn’t like all because people said the toy he did like wasn’t “for boys.”

I will admit, it was uncomfortable at first.  I won’t lie.  Not that I was personally uncomfortable with buying dolls or other “girl toys” for C.J.; after all, our (adult) feelings don’t really matter in all this.  The person’s whose feelings matter are the child’s.  But that was just it – I didn’t know how to react to C.J.’s feelings and at that, didn’t know how to react to C.J.’s parents’ feelings about C.J.’s feelings.  Sound familiar??  (If you know anything about this blog, it should!)

For about a year, I called and asked, “Is it ok if we buy C.J. this or that for Christmas, his birthday or just because I was picking it up for my daughter?”  The answer was a bit hesitant at first, because they were navigating new waters, but it didn’t take long for the answer to become a resounding “yep.”  Now, there’s no reason to call.

C.J. and Grace even coordinate their Halloween costumes.

C.J. and Grace even coordinate their Halloween costumes.

C.J. and Chase and my two daughters have grown up together and everything is very normal for them.  Both my daughters have stood up for C.J. when other girls have said his liking girl’s things is “weird” or that he should only like “boy’s stuff.”

Families with gender non-conforming children have to surround themselves with like-minded people – people who are tolerant and patient, understanding and compassionate.  There is no room for hate or ignorance.  I can’t imagine how tough it is on people who do not have a structured support system.  As family and friends, our job is to help with kindness, not criticize with disdain.  This is not an area for you to offer advice unless you’re asked for it.  In my experience, C.J.’s parents questioned all decisions, no matter how insignificant they may have been.  The last thing parents need is someone giving his or her two cents, adding to the confusion.

Stay positive and love the child (and family) whether you’re in a public or a private setting.  You can’t say things are okay at home and then turn your back on the family when you are in public.  You shouldn’t be expected to “get it” out of the gates, either.  Some people are naturally going to be more accepting than others, but the best thing you can do is love and support the family as they journey down their path.  Don’t turn your back on them or dismiss their feelings as insignificant or trivial.  The child may or may not be going through a “phase” and you do not want to be a part of bullying a child.

The family will appreciate you being open to their new situation and trust me – no one is more nervous than the parents.  Like C.J.’s Mom has said before, they have lost several undeserving friends throughout this journey.  Friends who wouldn’t accept C.J. or the rest of the family because he didn’t conform to society’s “norms.”  Shame on them.  Too bad for them.  They, and others like them, are missing out on knowing a beautiful family who has much to offer others.  Give the family time to figure things out.  C.J.’s Mom and Dad revise their plan daily as they follow C.J.’s lead.  Allow your family and friends to do the same.  Follow them.  Be there to listen.  Above all else, a favorite saying of mine and C.J.’s Mom is, “Just don’t be an asshole.”

What do you think?  How can non-family allies support friends raising a differently-gendered child?  Leave a comment below.

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C.J. At Play

C.J. and Chase had two weeks off for winter break.  They were a long two weeks, as they tend to be when the kids are out of school.  Over the break, Chase — who has considered a future behind the camera and is quite impressive at making short films using the iMovie app on his iPad mini — tried to help C.J. make a movie using his dolls as the main characters.  Chase quickly grew bored and frustrated.  I don’t blame him.

So, he taught C.J. how to take his own videos using the iPad.  C.J. proceeded to take 81 minutes of footage of himself playing with his dolls.  He might have taken more, but, alas, there was not enough free space on the iPad.  I found the many clips last night and have compiled a few snippets so that you can get a little taste of the real C.J.

Now, you have learned some of his favorite catchphrases that I hear every day, like:

  • Holy ja-moly!
  • Oh, snap!
  • Cray-cray!  (Everybody and everything are always cray-cray)
  • By the way…
  • You can’t get enough of me!
  • I’m resistible!  (Which actually means “I’m irresistible!”)
  • I need my place to shine!
  • I’m shopping my butt off!
  • I did not sign up for this!
  • I’m on fire!
  • I quit!

You’ve probably also noticed that C.J. likes to make up his own jokes and may be overly concerned about hair and shoes.  But, I mean, can you blame him?

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Reflections: Raising My Rainbow Turns 3!

It’s hard to believe that I’ve been blogging for three years now.  Back then, I had a three-almost-four-year-old boy who worried me because he liked everything intended for a she.

I started this blog to connect with other families raising slightly effeminate, possibly gay sons and to get advice from LGBTQ teens, adults and their parents about raising the next generation of the community.  The first thing I learned from my readers is that my son’s effeminacy isn’t about his sexuality — it’s about his gender.  If I had never started the blog I might still be trying to figure out that and so many other things.

I’ve felt a lot of anxiety during these three years.  Risk has always been a negative four-letter word for me and all of this has felt risky: starting a blog; sharing a part of our family with who knows who; admitting that my son plays with “girl things” and “wears girl clothes” and that, at times, it made me feel uncomfortable; speaking out; writing a book; outing my family; learning to live without being ruled by fear; and beginning to advocate openly.

It would have been so much easier to spend the last three years working my day job, running the home, caring for my kids, shopping online, perusing the boredom trifecta of Facebook/Instagram/Pinterest; and learning new skills, like knitting or how to cook rice without a rice cooker.  But, none of that would have helped me grow up and grow as a person as much as this blog, book and raising a child with unique needs have.

I wouldn’t change a thing about my life, my path, my family, my friends or the last three years.  It’s been amazing and I’ve been blessed.

Four months ago, on the morning of September 3, I got out of bed, put on my new blue dress and tried to use hair and makeup, smoke and mirrors and compression undergarments to disguise the fact that I hadn’t been sleeping well and had been eating my feelings for weeks.  I was preparing myself to be — the moment the cameras started rolling with me on the couch of The TODAY Show – to be the most hated woman and mother in America.  It was a risk I was willing to take.  Wholeheartedly.

I’d been watching for years as very vocal members of the public and media bashed, threatened and harassed moms like me; moms who are open about and unashamed of having a child who is differently-gendered and/or openly homosexual.  And, I was next, I thought.  I mean, I had taken some heat, but nothing compared to that felt by others.

Matt and I did our interview on The TODAY Show and no sooner were we off the couch than I received my first hate email resulting from the appearance.  “Here it goes,” I thought to myself.    Then came the emails of support and cries for help.  Before the end of the day, I had more than 300 emails.  And, as it has been since I started my blog, for every email of hate, I received dozens of emails from people who were glad they had found my blog and book.

I wasn’t hated, no, more than that, I was feeling the love.  And, by revealing our identities, we had done a lot to quiet two large groups of our haters.  Those who believed for years that my blog and family are works of fiction.  We aren’t and we proved that when people got to see us in the flesh.  Look!  We’re real!  We live and breathe!

And, for years I had people ask  “where is this kid’s father?!”  He’s right here, right beside on The TODAY Show couch, at most of my appearances, being quoted in interviews and writing a kickass piece for The Atlantic in which he clarified, “My son skipping and twirling in a dress isn’t a sign that a strong male figure is missing from his life, to me it’s a sign that a strong male figure is fully vested in his life and committed to protecting him and allowing him to grow into the person who he was created to be.”

I’ve gotten really good at ignoring negativity.  And, there’s still a lot of it out there.

Do I read the comments made in response to what I write?  Comments made on this blog?  Yes, every single one.  Comments made on other websites where my essays are posted.  No.  I can’t.  It’s not healthy for me.  And, I don’t publish the few, random negative comments that people attempt to make on my blog.  I used to feel bad trashing the negative comments on my blog, like I wasn’t being honest or fair or giving everyone a voice or showing both sides of the story.  But, you know what?  It’s my blog.  Everyone has a voice.  I have one here.  If haters want to be heard, they can start their own blog for me to not read.

This is the year when I realized that I’ve grown up a ton since the start of all this.  At 36, I finally feel like a full-fledged grown up.  I want to do something with my life when and where I can.  At last, I proudly, comfortably, fell like an adult and, I feel like raising a child like C.J., writing this blog, my book and advocating are the main reasons why.

When I first started writing, I would be experiencing something in life and think “a blog post is happening right now.”  That doesn’t happen as often any more.  I have to be thankful for it, because it means that we are so totally comfortable with C.J.’s gender nonconformity that it doesn’t steal the spotlight, it isn’t a focal point, it doesn’t call out to get our attention and make us feel uncomfortable, worried, anxious or hope that others aren’t looking.  It’s just a part of him.  We have come to a place of total acceptance.  If you’ve been reading my blog for long, I’m sure you’ve noticed it.

My writing style has changed, I’ve stopped using wit and sass to deal with my uneasy feelings about the many facets of his gender creativeness and I’ve just started being really, really honest about my feelings.  I’ve become more sincere.  Allowing C.J. to be 100 percent C.J., helped me to be 100 percent me.

With the publication of my book and coming out, I feel like I’ve aligned and merged the two lives I felt I was living.  There was blog life and real life.  Now there is just one life.  It’s easier that way, isn’t it?

What’s next?  This.  This blog.  This life.  This family.  And you, I hope.

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My Son Is Getting An American Girl Doll For Christmas

My 2013 Christmas post is up at Salon.com!  If you celebrate Christmas, I hope that you are having the merriest one ever. If you don’t celebrate Christmas, I hope that you are having a super awesome day.  xoxo, Lori (and the entire family)

“For more than half of his life, my son has preferred dolls, toys and clothes that are marketed to girls. It started when he was two and a half and he picked up a Barbie and refused to put her down. He’s gone through all of the toy phases that girls his age usually go through.  Barbie gave way to Disney Princesses gave way to My Little Pony gave way to Monster High.

My son is now almost 7 years old and I thought that our pocketbooks were going to luck out and that he was going to skip over the very pricey American Girl doll phase. I really thought we were in the clear. Then American Girl catalogs started arriving in our mailbox a few months ago in preparation for the holidays….”

Click here to read the full post.  

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A Very C.J. Christmas 2013

C.J. can hardly wait for Christmas.  No.  I mean it.  I’m not sure he can wait.  He’s never been particularly patient.  He’s tried to convince me that if he eats two chocolates out of his advent calendar every morning, two days will pass in one and Christmas will come sooner.  He has also tried to convince me to let him open one present every night like his Hanukah-celebrating classmate gets to.

His Christmas wish list has been done for weeks.  He keeps it in various “safe places” – like under his pillow, in his dirty clothes hamper, rolled up and jammed in the shower of his Barbie Dream House and folded up in his jewelry box.  He wouldn’t let me send the hard copy to Santa lest he forget the items on the list; so he instructed me to “email text it to Santa on Instagram.”  Rest assured that I did just that and hashtagged it #americangirldollsareexpensive, #ithoughtwewereluckyenoughtoskiptheamericangirldollphase and #pleasehaveyourelvesmaketheamericangirldollsothatidonthavetobuyit.

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introChar-holidayYes, at the top of C.J.’s wish list is the American Girl doll named Julie Albright.  She’s a San Franciscan from 1974 with long, silky blonde hair.  Second and third on C.J.’s list, are gymnastic equipment and a bed for Julie.

pTRU1-16293914enh-z6You’ll see on the list that C.J. has also been coveting the Barbie FAO Schwarz Toy Soldier Doll offered exclusively by Toys R Us – which says that the doll is “the perfect gift for any girl!”  I think she’s fabulous and would love to wear her complete look from head to toe.  She may already be wrapped and under our tree, allegedly.

C.J. wants every Monster High doll.  I asked him why he didn’t put them on his list and he said because Santa and everybody in the world already know that he wants them.

He put a Barbie Dream House on his list even though he already has one.  When I asked him about it, he explained that he wants to make New York City in his bedroom and have lots of buildings, skyscrapers and apartments for “his girls” (his girls = every 11 inch doll that he owns).

pTRU1-15923750dtAt the bottom of the list, you’ll notice he wants a WWE wrestling ring set.  That one really surprised me.  When asked about it, I learned that C.J. likes the figurine that it comes with (you should zoom in to take a closer look) and he thinks that ring will go well with his Monster High dolls.

Researching and writing the wish list was a labor intensive task for C.J.’s personal life.  For his academic life, he spent quality time decorating a giant construction paper gingerbread person.  Here it is:

photo 1

It is half girl and half boy.  I’ve been told that the boy parts are the pants, sunglasses and lips.  The girl parts are the peplum (I hate peplums and C.J. loves them.  When it comes to this matter, we’ve learned to agree to disagree), the hair and the jeweled barrette.  The shirt is covered in candy and candy is for everybody and, so, the shirt is for boys and girls.

This Friday is the last day of school before C.J.’s two-week winter break.  There’s going to be a party and book exchange.  Here’s the fine print:

photo-31

…because books aren’t for everybody, there are “books for boys” and “books for girls.”  When I read the note to C.J. he said, “so, I’m going to get a book that I don’t want?  A boys book?”  For his contribution to the book exchange, he selected Yakov and the Seven Thieves because he thinks that it looks like boys will like it and, more importantly, because it was written by Madonna.  He had me sign the gift tag “To a boy or a girl, Love C.J.”

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Friday Fodder: Gifting and Giving Edition

Are you done with your holiday shopping yet?  I handmade elaborate gifts based on inspirations from Pinterest for everyone on our list.  I lavishly wrapped them and have had them nestled under the tree since December 1.

I’m kidding.  The only reason why I’m even halfway done with my shopping is because I can do it in my jammies from the comfort of my couch and laptop.  How did people do it before online shopping?

Here are some of my suggestions for gifts and giving, in case you have half your recipients to shop for, too.

Donate to GLAAD: My friend Jennifer Finney Boylan serves as GLAAD’s national co-chair (she’s the first transgender person to do so, FYI).  GLAAD is a nonprofit organization that fights for LGBT equality through media advocacy.

Like Jennifer and me, GLAAD believes that the most powerful way to improve the lives of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adults and children is through the power of stories.  And, it’s by amplifying the stories of families like mine on film, in print and online, that GLAAD helps to change the world.

Through the rest of 2013, the Gill Foundation is matching all donations made to GLAAD.   You can donate in honor of or tribute to someone and that could be a great holiday gift.  GLAAD and my family are welcoming donations in tribute of “Lori Duron and Family.”  To get giving click here:  www.glaad.org/donate.  On that page you’ll be asked to fill out the usual info; there’s also a button marked “Make a Tribute Gift” and if you click there, you’ll see the place to write down the name of the person you are making the donation in tribute of.  You can even set it up for them to receive an email letting them know that you have made a donation in their name.

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Buy My Book: Look at the fabulous books that my friends, readers and supporters have created for you to give as gifts to the people you love! pleasure.

Raising My Rainbow by ME!

She’s Not There by Jennifer Finney Boyle

Stuck In The Middle With You by Jennifer Finney Boyle

Born Gay, Born This Way

The Persecution of Mildred Dunlap by Paulette Mahurin

Gender Born, Gender Made by Diane Ehrensaft

My Princess Boy by Cheryl Kilodavis

The Boy Who Cried Fabulous by Leslea Newman

Roland Humphrey Is Wearing A What? by Eileen Kiernan-Johnson

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Camp Aranu’tiq sent me an email this week.  Over the summer, they served a record number of campers and in 2014 they expect to serve more than 300 campers and families through their summer camps, brand new leadership camps for ages 16-18 and a new weekend family camp! You could consider a holiday gift to help their campers have the best possible experience.

$600 covers tuition cost for one camper

$350 covers camp’s costs for having one camp volunteer

$100 is a big help toward food and supplies camp programs

You can donate here: camparanutiq.org/donate.

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In non-holiday related news: 

If you live in the UK, there is a network and production company putting together a film about parenting a gender nonconforming son.

They are looking for gender nonconforming boys and families who are interested in learning more about the film and possibly participating in it.

They assure me that their approach is supportive, not judgmental.  They are a well-established, award-winning science and factual independent TV production company with worldwide experience supplying to the main channels in the UK.

If you are interested in learning more, email me at raisingmyrainbow@gmail.com.

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And, finally, if you’ve made it this far in this loooooong post, read this amazing essay that was inspired by one of my recent blog posts.

A Thousand Heartbreaks by Jennifer Savage on Mamalode  

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