Lori Duron’s son C.J. is not all pink and not all blue—he’s a rainbow. Raising My Rainbow is Lori’s frank, heartfelt, and brutally funny account of her and her family’s adventures of distress and happiness raising a gender-creative son. Whereas her older son, Chase, is a Lego-loving, sports-playing boy’s boy, her younger son, C.J., would much rather twirl around in a pink sparkly tutu, with a Disney Princess in each hand while singing Lady Gaga’s “Paparazzi.” Here, Lori tells Read it Forward what C.J. would want you to know about being a gender nonconforming kid.
1. When most people are born, their sex (male or female based on their genitalia) and their gender (male or female based on their brain) are usually in total alignment. Mine aren’t. Get over it. I was born this way.
2. If you are confused and can’t quite tell if I’m a boy or a girl, just know that I am a person. Please treat me that way.
3. Sometimes I notice that my gender nonconformity makes you uncomfortable. I’m not trying to make you uncomfortable; I’m trying to make myself comfortable.
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4. My gender nonconformity is a way of expressing myself, a way of being true to myself, true to the way my heart beats and my blood flows. I allow you to express your gender your way without being bothered; I hope that you will allow me to do the same.
5. It’s silly when you think, say, or feel that colors, clothes, and/or toys are “only for girls” or “only for boys.” Colors, toys, and clothes are for everybody—even though one particular item may be marketed only to one sex or gender. Antiquated notions like “dolls are only for girls” have no reason to exist, and I see them as pure nonsense.
6. Just because I’m gender nonconforming doesn’t mean that I’ll grow up to be LGBTQ. It’s a strong predictor, but I’d rather you see me as a child and not an underage punch line to some homophobic joke.
7. It hurts my feelings when people point and laugh at me because of my gender nonconformity. I’m not weird; I’m just different. I don’t need people pointing out my differences—especially people who are old enough to know better.
8. I don’t ask that you teach everyone around me about sex, gender, and sexuality, but if you could teach them about empathy, kindness, and acceptance, I would greatly appreciate it. Treat others how you want to be treated—it’s that simple.
9. I don’t fit into a category or a box. I may not be easy to explain or understand, but if you approach me with an open heart and an open mind, I can guarantee that I will change your way of thinking. It makes me sad when I learn that your mind and heart are closed.
10. Kids like me are the most likely to suffer from depression, addiction, and bullying; practice unsafe sex; and injure ourselves or die by self-harm. Please refrain from making me hate myself because I am different. My gender nonconformity should not be a thing of shame.
11. Bullies aren’t just at school; sometimes they are at home too. Home should be the place where I feel the safest and the most loved. If that is not the case, something is wrong and I need help.
12. If you see me doing something that defies “traditional gender norms,” don’t place blame on my parents or family. Give them praise! It means that they are awesome enough to understand that I need their love and support more than anything. Them forcing me to express a gender that I don’t exactly associate with or trying to “fix” me would do dangerous things to me. I don’t need them to tell me to “act like a lady” or “man up.” I need them to tell me that I was perfectly created. If everybody in the world were the same or “expected” to be the same, this would be a very boring world. People like me give the world color.
Featured image: Alice Che/Shutterstock.com; Author photo: © Rebecca Dever