Thursday, March 20, 2014

The Bravest Boy I Know

Last week was rather momentous in our house. The boy wore a dress to school for the first time. I had bought him several since our first disastrous skirt experience and they had been hanging up just waiting for their debut but I never asked him when he would wear them. It was okay if they were just there.

I was surprised one morning when he came downstairs wearing his new black dress with black leggings and chucks. He looked adorable. I had a small moment of jealously...I mean...not fair that my son looks better in a dress than I do. He added makeup and some jewelry and went off in to the world. I held my breath. He was walking in to a Middle School wearing a dress and I was terrified and proud.

Only a few hours in I got the panicked text to please bring pants. I was sad that it didn't go well for him. My mom took him pants and he and I were texting. He decided not to change and I told him how proud I was that he decided not to let a few simple minded people determine how he felt about himself. He had a similar talk with my mom who then brought the pants home.

Of course the next thing that happened was a call from the guidance counselor. She wanted to make sure I knew what he was wearing. Yeah. I bought him the dress and taught him how to get it on over his head. I applied his makeup. Guilty! But the conversation was actually a really good one. She wanted to let me know that the school was in full support of the boy being who he is. Yay! I really didn't want to have to fight that battle, not that I wasn't ready and willing.

The boy came home beaming. He told me he finally felt right. My heart glowed and sank a little at the same time. Sad to think that it has taken this long for him to feel right. Happy that he is finally coming in to himself.

Since that day he has worn a variety of dresses and pants, creating a style of his own and not giving the haters a moment of his time. He really is the best and bravest person I have ever known.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Becoming a Reconciling Church

This past Monday we had a meeting at church welcoming all LGBTQ individuals, families, and allies. We are working on becoming a reconciling church. As background, we go to a very liberal Methodist church that meets in an old warehouse building. It never occurred to me that anyone would feel or be unwelcome in the church but I've been schooled on that this week. As a whole the UMC is split in support and so there is a process to becoming a reconciling church. Being a reconciling church means being openly welcoming to LGBTQ people and families. I'm still learning about the process and I am really excited for our church.

I'm a Christian. I'm a Christian because I believe Jesus was an awesome guy and had the right idea about the world. Jesus was all about the love. So simple and yet so complicated for some people to understand. Love.Love.Love. That's all we have to do. Simply love each other. It is not for us to judge, only to love. This is how I view my relationship with God and church. I want our church to be all about the love too.

So back to the meeting. We had a great group of people and we basically just spent the time going around the circle and explaining why we were there. Some of the stories were heartbreaking to me. I wanted to go in to the past and gather them up in a big hug and tell them they were good and right and loved. My son is very lucky to have the family he has. Not everyone is that fortunate and it just hurts me to the core. 

So where do we go from here? Not sure yet. But we've started something and I am excited to be a part of whatever this turns in to.

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

With bells on

The boy went to an amazing preschool. They taught him at his own pace and before he "graduated" he could read and do simple math problems. His teacher, Miss Sunny (how perfect is that name for a preschool teacher?!) was sweet as can be and he really thrived there.

One day when it was time for pick up Miss Sunny took me aside and I quickly panicked wondering what on earth he could have done. He was a sweet kid, never a biter or a pincher, a lover rather than a fighter. It felt like being called to the principal's office. In a low voice she let me know that all the boys were currently enamored with dress up an loved running around in high heels but not to worry it was normal and just a phase.

Uhm. Did she fail to recognize my son coming to school every day in Hello Kitty mary janes? Occasionally wearing nail polish or hair barrettes? I laughed inside at the time and just nodded saying it was no problem and thanks for letting me know.

Later on when I thought about it it made me really sad. Sad that she thought she needed to explain why I might come in one day to see my son dressed up and running about in heels. Sad to think that to some people this would be viewed as unacceptable and prohibited.

At that time I had no idea there was a name for what was happening with my son. The fact that he liked both boy and girl things never really registered with me as I frankly view impressing gender roles on children as silly. Let them play. Let them giggle and have fun and let their imaginations run wild. That's how they learn and thrive. I am forever thankful for Miss Sunny who let the boys run around in high heels and dresses during free play and who adored my boy no matter what he came to school wearing.

The boy circa 2004 at preschool in a glittery skirt, mismatched socks, and bells on his ankles.

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Ear Piercing and Skirt Mistakes

The boy and I ventured out on a Saturday morning which is not something we normally do. We are not morning people. But today was a big day because I finally agreed to let the boy pierce his ears. He's been asking to have them pierced since kindergarten but I always said no. Today I finally said yes. He was all giddy anticipation on the ride to the mall and delighted in looking at the different earrings he could choose from. Not a hard decision since you only get 4 choices but it was like some kind of magic to the boy.

He picked black squares and I think they look really good on him. He said they didn't hurt but after a couple of hours of errands he started complaining and then said "Oh well, beauty is pain." lol. 

The skirt mistake was all my fault. I feel terrible about it. There is no creature more easy to embarrass than a teenage boy. Add to that a divergent gender identity and public shopping can be difficult. There was a TARDIS (From Doctor Who if you're not familiar) skirt at Hot Topic that the boy was dying for. Naturally he needed to try it on to get the size right so when the lovely sales girl asked if we needed anything I said he was interested in this skirt. He looked mortified. I didn't know that my fairly soft voice would at that moment sound like a bullhorn to him. Poor boy.. He did try on the skirts but refused to buy any. I let it go and let him pick out some shirts and accessories. He later told me he did want the skirt but could we buy that kind of thing online from now on. No problem kiddo. I still feel terrible for embarrassing him but who knew. We're still learning as we go. 

One of his favorite purchases was this really soft and silky Doctor Who shirt. I picked out the Dauntless necklace for him and when we left the store I explained to him why. If you haven't read the Divergent book series you should. This symbol is from that book. Dauntless is a faction in a dystopian society and they are fearless risk takers.

When I gave him the necklace I told him that even though he is Divergent, it's okay to be Dauntless too. And I mentally reminded myself that sometimes I will have to be Dauntless for him when he can't be for himself. This growing up stuff is hard.

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Hello Kitty Mary Janes and Trucks in Mud

The boy was 3 when he first strayed from any gender norm. Before that he was just like every other rough and tumble toddler. Happiest when he could splash in puddles and play in the mud.

It happened at the shoe store. His shoes had fallen in to terrible disrepair (on account of all the puddle splashing and mud playing of course) and it was time for a new pair. He was excited and I told him he could pick any pair he wanted. I figured I was in for some flashy light shoes as most of his preschool buddies were wearing them. For the record, I hate those flashy light shoes but I was willing to let him have them if it made him happy.

We strolled the aisles and I picked up various shoes to show him, including the flashy light kind, but he had very little interest. Then we got to an end cap filled with Hello Kitty shoes. He stood there for a moment, completely taken in by these pink and purple kitty adorned shoes. He pointed to a pair of black Mary Janes with a little Hello Kitty face on the buckle. Those were his shoes. I had him try them and on he was completely in love. He wouldn't take them off, insisting he must wear them out of the store. I shrugged my shoulders not thinking much of it at the time. After all, I DID tell him he could choose ANY pair he wanted. Who was it hurting? No one.

Thinking back I think we were lucky because I don't remember getting any negative remarks about his shoes. Does that mean no one made any? Of course not. But at least if they did they didn't make them near me or my son.

That year at Christmas time I also took the boy to see Santa for the first time. I fretted to myself over what he might possibly ask Santa for. My sweet boy with his mop of sandy blonde hair wearing cargo pants and a dragon hoodie along with those ever present Hello Kitty Mary Janes. Over the year he had also amassed some Disney Princess accessories for dress up and had become fascinated with Barbie. What was he going to ask Santa for? I wasn't worried for myself. I don't care what people say about me. I was worried for the boy. I didn't want his first time seeing Santa to  be damaging if someone said or did the wrong thing. I wished I could visit ahead of time and prep Santa and his helpers for what might come out of my charming little boys mouth.

We went to the mall on a crowded Saturday and the boy was enamored with all of the decorations and music. He loved the hustle and bustle of the holiday season. He didn't even mind waiting in the long line to see Santa. I held my breath as he sat on Santa's lap and was asked what he wanted. A giant grin spread across his face and he practically shouted " MUD!!"" People chuckled and I breathed easier. My sweet and silly guy was completely unpredictable. He skated across gender lines as he pleased and didn't seem phased. He didn't play with girl toys or boy toys. He just played with toys. And at that moment the deepest desire of his heart was to play with mud.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

School Play and Bullies

The school play is nearly complete which is a great relief to me! Dress rehearsals from 6-9pm on a school night make for grumpy kid and mom. They are doing A High Schoolers Guide to the Galaxy which is a spoof of Hitchhiker's Guide of course. From what the boy says it's really funny. Can't wait to see it at the end of the week!

The boy has been dealing with some bullying at school as a result of his current fascination with make up. He's very stoic about it but of course as a mom I worry what it's really doing to him inside. And I'm stuck because he claims to not know the kids so reporting them is impossible. I think he just doesn't want me to report it. I'm trying to respect his choices in this regard but will keep my eye on the situation. Every time the phone rings while he's at school my heart stops for just a second wondering if it's the school and if something has happened. Being a parent is terrifying sometimes. You just want your child to feel safe and loved but the world doesn't always provide those things while you're away from them.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Gender Divergent

So this is the start. It's always hard to know where to start something so I think I will start just with some facts so you can see where we are coming from.

It's likely that you're wondering what I mean by Gender Divergent. Also called Gender Non-Conforming, Gender Creative, and a great number of other things it simply means that you don't conform to gender norms. Girls playing with trucks and wearing boys clothing. Boys playing with dolls in a princess dress. These are just basic examples of something that can be very broad.

My son, a thirteen year old now has been Gender Divergent since 3 years of age which seems to be a common age for these things to occur.

In writing this blog I suppose I am just hoping to share our journey with others because if your child is exhibiting signs of Gender Creativity you are not alone!