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Archive for the ‘clothing’ Category

Taking a cue from Lesbian Dad, whose back-to-school post can be found here and Mombian, whose post can be found here. This post is more of a reflection and perhaps a few “instructive” thoughts than these other two, as I don’t know that we have tons of expertise around here, but I wanted to take this turning point as a moment to reflect.

Q is starting 4th grade tomorrow, and I’ve written here already about his sweet, sweet school. A school that embraces difference and many identities. A place he’s usually quite happy to be. So, we are so very lucky that this is the place he’s going off to tomorrow. That I’m handing him off into the arms (literally and figuratively) of people who know, respect, and love all parts of our whole (queer) family and our boy.

But, Q has been anxious about the start of school this year. Not happy for the transition from lazy summer days to days full of others. Though he loves it, we know, on some level, that school is hard for Q. As a wise person in our lives said recently, “It’s hard to be Q out in the world.” And that challenge includes school. It’s hard to swim upstream when those around you are easily moving downstream. Even if those around you are more than happy for you to swim against the current, it’s still different. And takes a whole heck of a lot of work. I’ve been working to have lots of compassion for this aspect of Q’s identity and life. And for the fact that he’s still a bit too young to fully understand it, in spite of how wise-beyond-his-years he can be in certain domains.

So tomorrow, he goes off. I’m certain he’ll be okay. And that it will be hard. On levels he can identify and on those he can’t. So were I to give any advice, provide any guidelines, I’d say to look for those levels of comfort and discomfort that your children have — those that they can name and those they can’t. Know that the tears at the end of the day may not be about the fact that your kiddo can’t find her book but may in fact be about the emotional let-down necessary after a long day of just being herself.

I know there will be a whole bunch of conversations we’ll have again tomorrow and in the days to come. Conversations we have a lot. “Do you want us to talk to anyone about it being okay for you to use the single stall bathrooms?” “Do you need any help talking to the kids in your class who are new to the school?” “Is there anything we can tell your teachers to help you feel more comfortable?” Conversations like that, plus a whole lot of waiting, watching, hoping, and then trusting ourselves that we can be a safe and rejuvenating place to come back to. To recharge, feel at home, and then go back out and tackle the world all over again the next day.

I’m looking towards tomorrow with hope and trust….and a wee bit of anxiety, awaiting how things turn out “on the other side.” Hoping that all of your back to schools have been full — of love, acceptance, understanding, and support — really, whatever it is that you need and hope. For you, your families, your kids.

Random Summer Stylin’ (plus “cool” attitude)

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I’ve had a few identity conversations lately with Q. Not of the “what’s your identity” type, as he doesn’t seem to have many questions around that, but more of the type that gets into the grey areas of how he plays out his preferences. Like about his hair and his clothing choices. It’s interesting to notice how ensconced he is in his staunch view that choices he makes are because he LIKES things. And that clothes should be for KIDS, not for boys or girls. And on and on down that line of reasoning. I think he’s so settled in this place, for now, that he told me today that thinking about “boys liking girl things” is sort of outside of the domain of his thought. Today I was chatting with him about The Princess Boy. And, in many ways, Q’s response was, to one extent or the other, “What’s all the hullabaloo. He’s a kid and that’s what he likes.” I’m intrigued by this all, particularly as there are still parts of who Q is that make life quite hard for him at times. Our biggest struggle of late involves locker rooms and the pain that he’s experienced there…for both being mistaken for a girl and for being questioned about his fashion choices.

 

Choices, mind you — as in, “choosing what I like to wear.” Not “choosing to wear girls’ clothes.” I appreciate that there’s a nuanced distinction for Q. And that he can voice it to a certain extent. I don’t think the world is yet that nuanced, unfortunately, but there are many paving the way. Thank goodness.

So, identity. It’s an intriguing thing.

 

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It’s been slow going in blogland as regular life has been too much to keep up with. Now that there are two small folk in the house, of course.

But, I wanted to share a quick picture of baby W — already fighting the good fight!

Don't Ask! ...but oh, they do.

This shirt was made for W by a lovely friend. And how apt it is! People ask and ask and ask. Or assume she’s a boy and get so upset when they find out they’ve made a mistake. I’m so used to it with Q and having it happen with W…why would they know, really. She’s a baby and most babies…well, I think they just look like tiny people, not like a particular sex or gender. It’s intriguing to see things through the gendered lens with a newbie, as I didn’t have mine so astutely tuned when Q was a babe. Makes for a fun journey!

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Thanks for all the congratulatory wishes on W’s arrival. More on that in days and weeks to come, I’m sure.

A few of you asked if Q is excited for the start of school, and the answer is a resounding YES! He is a school lover. In spite of the extra social pressures he feels there and the insipid need to monitor himself, he loves his school, his teachers, his friends, and, most importantly, the routine of it (he is a seven-year old, after all!). So, luckily, he’s excited.

We’ve been talking a lot about back-to-school. For us, we talk about non-traditional things, though. It’s not the type of pencils to buy, who he hopes to sit next to, or what he’ll learn in science but rather how he might respond to a kid who teases him about his newly-achieved ponytail. Or how he might respond to other children who, we learned over the summer, persisted in making him feel unsafe and uncomfortable (not just for what he chose to wear, mind you).

This year, though, I’m trying to push him a bit in these conversations. We’re talking a lot about power. To this point, Q has talked about ignoring kids who tease him, and I think this is his general M.O. But, the teasing has, in the past year, gotten the upper hand. An example or two: He was teased about wearing clips in his hair, ignored the teasing in the moment, but stopped wearing the clips. He was teased about wearing a bandana, again ignored it in the moment, but then ceased wearing said bandana and anything else pink, for that matter.

So this year, I added the layer of power to our conversation. That the teasing and teaser end up with the power if Q stops doing/wearing the thing he’s teased about. And I think he got it. At least got it on a new level. He declared that if he gets teased for his ponytail, he’ll “wear it every day for at least a week!” In my mind, that’s progress. Standing up for himself in a new way.

So, as we inch towards school, it’s with excitement, some new tools of communication and self-expression, and always with a bit of trepidation about what lies ahead. Thanks to those of you looking out for Q on this part of his journey. As always, I’ll keep you updated!

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nail polish is on. Ponytail is in.

Intriguing, eh? Thoughts, anyone?

he's so proud to have reached pony tail length!

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tiny clothes, tucked away

Today is “Blogging for LGBT Families Day.” Wonderfully and graciously hosted by Dana, over at mombian. In considering what I’d blog about, on this day to make our families more known, to bring the intricacies, complexities, and beauty of the queer community of families out into the light, I figured, of course, that I’d write about my own family.

And hence the announcement. Long overdue announcement. We’re having a baby. My wife is pregnant. VERY pregnant, in fact. Due in just about a month’s time.

This expecting a baby has been quite interesting (long-awaited, and so very cherished) in the domains related to this blog. You see, we’re expecting a girl. And it’s just been so interesting, from this side of things where I stand, to think about that, to hear folks’ reactions, and to think about bringing a young girl into our family.

And for us, a family where gender identity, and, in particular, clothing, is contested territory, it’s been quite the ride. Contrary to what one might expect, I’ve found myself utterly fine with pink (as you can see in the drawers above — yes, those are our drawers). Had Q been a girl, I would have asked for no pink — no boxing in, no stereotyping, etc. But what I’ve learned from this journey with him is that clothing, in the beginning, is really not much more than utilitarian. Of course, people will assume a baby’s sex based on the clothes she wears, but beyond that, the clothing is not programming her. In spite of what we thought were our best efforts (and they were, at the time — no regrets), Q wore very “boy” clothes for his first few years. Then he let us know that wasn’t “his style.” (Alas, today, SO much is not his style — the particularities of my child!). So this new babe, she’ll wear pink. And blue. And orange. And white. And many other colors. That’s what we’ve been given by amazingly generous friends as we reap the benefit of hand-me-downs. And I’ll admit that some of those “girl clothes” are deliciously cute.

Where I think I’ve come over these 7 years of being a queer family of three so far is to a point of cherishing my son for who he is and wanting our family to be known for who we are — for the love we share, the individuals we are, the things we do for fun, the jokes we find funny. All of that, for me, transcends labels and binaries and boundaries. And I’m thrilled to bring another person into this world who will get to be a part of all of that — in whatever way she chooses to express it. And for today, I’m thrilled to share this celebration of ourselves with so many in this blogging community.

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Following the advice many of you gave, I checked back in with Q about the stereotype conversation. ‘Twas interesting and enlightening for sure.

Among other things, I asked him what boy stereotypes he knew of. Mainly, he talked about “boy colors.” And he explained that the reason he doesn’t break stereotypes is that he likes the “boy colors.” He was quick to say he also likes the “girl colors,” namely pink and purple. But I understood, finally, that since he doesn’t only like the “girl colors,” he doesn’t see it as breaking stereotypes in that area. Wise, this boy is. Really wise. Clearly more so than me — he’s transcending these binaries left and right.

I then asked about his hair. Again, I was enlightened. His hair, according to him, doesn’t break stereotypes, because it’s not yet as long as he wants it to be. When it is (which is down to the middle of his back), he’ll be breaking stereotypes. Right now though, he’s just in process really, in that domain. Logical? Certainly to him. But he did explain that most boys have hair about “an inch or a centimeter long,” and that his was definitely much longer since, after all, “it’s the longest hair in the family!”

I mentioned to Q that last year he talked a lot about being a stereotype breaker and asked if he still felt like one. “Well, maybe,” was his answer. But then he explained, emphatically, that he could do or like whatever he likes, no matter what other people say. There’s my boy!

I was heartened not because I want him to cut a path outside the norm all the time, but because I was able to see that he’s still got a great sense of gusto for being who he is. And that’s really what’s most important to me — him knowing who he is, even when it’s changing, but mostly him feeling good about who he is. Good and strong.

So thanks for your responses. I’d always love more. And know, next time you’re wondering if you’re a stereotype breaker, that the answer isn’t always as easy to come by as it seems. No matter the clothes you’re wearing at that very moment! (a reminder to those who forgot: Q was clad fully in “girls’ clothes” yesterday when he initially proclaimed he doesn’t break any boy-girl stereotypes).

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Q has been doing a good deal of filtering lately. Like when asked what his favorite color is, he’ll pause. Then take in his audience. Then announce the answer. Usually it’s green and blue now. It is still occasionally pink and purple. Honestly, I don’t know what his favorite color is in reality, but I do know that he usually looks at the person he’s answering, to gauge the reaction to his answer. And sometimes he looks at me. Occasionally with “that look.” The one that seems to indicate that he’s filtering his answer. I can’t describe it, but I can sense it.

Yes, I may be making this all up, but I don’t really think so.

And the whole issue of filtering is so intriguing to me. I don’t think that it’s 100% bad. We all filter things about ourselves at one point or another. I consider it part of Q’s developmental process — figuring out who he is, then who he is in relation to an audience. To me, a bit of that is okay, because we are dealing with other people in life, after all.

Yet too much, in my opinion, is not a good thing. I think that Q filters too much in certain domains. His hair is a big one. He’s growing it out and was wearing clips in it for a while, and also bandanas. We know he was made fun of for both of those things. He now won’t wear them. To me, this is a filtering move that he’s made for social comfort, but I do think that it means he’s chosen to stifle a part of himself.

That’s where I struggle the most. I have yet to figure out the right way to have a productive conversation with him about this. What I want to do is to convince him it’s okay to wear the bandana. Not just under a bike helmet. But 7 year olds and parental convincing don’t go very far, no matter the topic. So at the moment, I’m observing this filtering, occasionally getting tied up in knots about it, but mostly just trying to sit back and observe and notice Q’s navigational skills.

"curly hair" -- in the comfort of home

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Gender markers, that is. I’m continually fascinated by how folks read gender markers on Q. For example, this weekend, he was wearing jeans and a turquoise shirt (not too “loud” turquoise). He declared it “a blue day” — nothing about gender, just really about style. We were walking around our liberal town and he was on his scooter. His helmet, by the way, is VERY boyish — sort of monstery, in fact (who knows HOW we ended up with that style…). We passed a 3 year old in a stroller who asked her parents, “Is that a boy or a girl?” First, so intriguing that that’s the question she asked. I know that young kiddos are all about organizing their world by what’s like them and what’s not, but still…fascinating. Her mom replied, “It’s a girl.” The only clear reason I can point to for the response was the tip of purple bandana peeking out below Q’s helmet. That’s it. Just a glimpse of that marker and for sure it’s a girl in there.

Fascinating.

So fascinating, in fact, that it really makes me want to know more about how people read faces, hair, etc, as I know we as humans are “supposed” to be able to discern sex/gender by faces alone. Not sure I agree with that premise at all.

Earlier this weekend, at cello class, Q had a substitute teacher who referred to him as “she.” I stuck by our agreement not to correct, but later, when explaining what solo Q was practicing, referred to him as he. Clearly, I’m his parent. In spite of this, the teacher kept referring to Q as “she” through the rest of the class. Q was wearing brown shorts and an orange shirt. And boyish sneakers (though they do have lots of silver on them!). His shorts have the slightest gather at the pockets, which I think is the clue that they come from the “girls’” side of the aisle. I think that the gender markers that the teacher picked up on, whatever they might be, were even stronger than my referring to my own kiddo as a boy.

Again, fascinating. Clearly, we are pulled to organize our world based on how we experience our world. And we experience so much through seeing. And what we see is filtered through our stereotypes, our prior experiences, etc. It’s so interesting how much is revealed when we hear folks talk about what they see through those lenses. Suddenly, the invisible filters in our minds become highly visible. And strong. So strong that they can withstand “correction” even by the parent of a child whose gender might be in question.

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Of course we know what that pink schoolbag means...

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I’m so not a fan of “holidays” that are trumped up opportunities for commercialism. For me, Halloween is one of them, though not as bad as some.

We don’t do much in our family for Halloween, though Q usually has some sort of costume — last year, an entirely purple fairy. This year, a vampire. Mighty flexible in his presentations, that kid!

What irks me the most is how maddeningly stereotypical we (society) are about costumes and costume choices for kids. We expect boys to be pirate and girls to be princesses. Or perhaps boys to be lions and girls to be cute puppies. Or pandas. But the moment a girl dons a ghoulish costume or a boy puts on a fairy costume (or a tutu, for that matter), it’s shocking. Furthermore, that girl is accepted, and is perhaps “daring” to take on such a scary identity. The boy — the on in the fairy costume — he gets little more than sideways glances, perhaps a few whispered comments passed behind his back. Because society isn’t okay with that type of crossing the lines. Not for boys. And Halloween just turns a huge magnifying glass on those dynamics. Hence contributing to my distaste for the holiday. Call me uncool, lacking in the ability to have a good time…fine. All I’m saying is read between the lines a bit, and Halloween provides us a perfect chance to do just that.

 

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This photo fails to capture the accompanying patent leather shoes.... :)

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