I just finished reading a book called Raising My Rainbow by Lori Duron. The book, as well as Lori’s blog of the same name, are based upon her family’s experiences with her youngest son, C.J. C.J. is gender nonconforming, which basically means that he’s a boy that likes girl stuff. I have been reading Lori’s blog for quite a while now, not because I have any suspicions that my 2-year-old son may be similar to C.J., but because her stories are touching, heartbreaking, interesting and educational. Plus, I’m a supporter of gay marriage and equal rights and am a generally open-minded person about lots of stuff. In my reality, there are gay people, feminine boys, masculine girls and everything in between. Let’s not forget the incredibly wide variety of straight folks in my reality, as well. I know and love all sorts of people, which is the way it should be, in my little ol’ opinion. But that’s enough about me.
In her book, Lori tells us about C.J. from the time he first saw (and fell in love with) a Barbie doll at the age of 2 1/2 until about the age of 5. She takes us through the blunt thoughts and feelings of her’s during each step of the process, and also educates us on some really great and helpful information regarding topics like this. “A person’s sex is about what’s in their pants, their gender is about what’s in their brain, and their sexuality is about what’s in their hearts.” C.J. is quite possibly more girly than many little girls you know. He LOVES pink and even went through a time period where he wouldn’t even acknowledge the existence of the color, blue. He loves Barbies, tutus, The Little Mermaid, princess parties and being the mom when he plays house. And all of these things naturally came about from the age of 2 1/2. He was not forced to like these things. He is raised by a heterosexual couple, including a masculine father (that has a good heart and is very supportive of his family). I feel like C.J.’s parents have made so many more right moves than wrong. They have supported him and his interests just like any parent would with a child that is more traditional in the gender sense. This book made me, someone who was already darn compassionate if I do say so myself, even more compassionate. I will never understand why anyone would treat someone poorly because they are simply different. Wanna give the stink eye to a nasty person that is rude, mean and downright bitchy? Go for it. But when it’s simply about differences, there’s just no need to be ugly. Sadly, ugly is what Lori and her family got from some folks, as you could imagine. She even quotes some comments from blog readers that were just horrible and ridiculous. Most of us would jump through the damn computer screen to wring the neck of someone speaking ill of our family, particularly our children. Somehow, Lori has seemed to stay on the high road. I’m sure she’s had her moments, and rightly so, but overall this gal has tried her best to stay calm, rational and loving. Originally an assumed phase, C.J. liking girl toys has continued on now for more than 3 years. And his older brother, Chase, truly seems to be an incredible and loving big brother. This kid has stood up for his brother, as well as his gay uncle, to other kids at school. He also experienced some bad bullying of his own. I must say that those chapters were particularly heartbreaking. The things that Chase had to hear from a fellow classmate are just disgusting. All I could think was, This kid’s (the bully’s) parents know that he’s not nice. It’s not like he’s an angel the rest of the time and only mean to Chase. Why aren’t they encouraging kindness and love in their child? This blows my mind. And almost as bad, the school was quite resistant to Lori’s requests for action. Her little boy finally mentioned wanting to die when the bullying got so bad. I don’t even know how to process that. An elementary school child wanting to die? Wow. Look, I’m the first one to call someone dramatic when they use the word “bully” incorrectly or even just whore it out like crazy. But when bullying is real, it’s real. And when a parent makes multiple complaints to a school about it, action is needed. Fortunately, they eventually got the problem handled and I’m hoping Chase is having a better school year this year.
Although I know many people would never even consider reading a book on this topic because it’s either not applicable to them specifically, they think it’s wrong to let a boy do girl stuff or maybe their religion encourages them to stay away, it would be such an incredible book for any parent to read. We must remember that everyone has a story of their own. How would you feel if it was you? You would want kindness, acceptance and support, wouldn’t you? We must accept people’s differences and hopefully, eventually embrace them. And our children will most likely only learn this if we teach them. I’m not suggesting anything extreme or overwhelming for a young child. I personally think it’s fine to shelter a child to a certain degree for a while in hopes of encouraging a mostly carefree childhood. But there’s a way to balance a fun, worry-free childhood and serious lessons about important things in life. It just takes a good heart and some effort.
This book isn’t all heart-wrenching. It’s funny too. I read some of it while on a plane and had to put forth major effort to hold myself together during funny bits. I remember laughing so hard on that plane, quietly somehow, that I started to cry, also quietly somehow. But I just know that the two people sitting on either side of me could feel my body jiggling. And it doesn’t hurt that Lori loves pop culture and reality TV like I do and references it multiple times throughout the book. If I too lived in Orange County, California (in my freaking dreams, right?) I’m sure we’d totally be pals. 😉
“How come when girls play with gender it’s a sign of strength and when boys play with gender it’s a sign of weakness? I could slap whoever made our society that way.” – Lori Duron, Raising My Rainbow