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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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To celebrate Blogging for LGBT Families this year, I’m blogging with/about gratitude.

This occasion crept up on me, as I’m not quite ready for June. And, it reminded me about how neglected this blog is. It’s been complicated, thinking about what to share here, what to write, what to keep private. As Q gets older, he continues to navigate the world in complicated ways. And, at the same time, he is so purely himself — a true stereotype breaker. The identity he grabbed onto with such zeal at 4, and the one that still sticks with him today, at 9.

For a kiddo like him, it can be hard to be in the world. Heck, it’s not always easy to be in the world as a queer family (connecting back here, to the purpose of this post). So finding places where it is easy to be? Well…it fills me with gratitude. We are so lucky to live in a community among many other queer families. To have allies around us.

As I thought about this post, though, I thought about how lucky Q is for the school he attends. I’ve been in a bit of a muddle about Q and school lately for a number of reasons. But at the end of the day, my kiddo is known there. He is loved for who he is. And he can shine.

Beyond that, our family is known, loved, and not alone. And that is rare. All too rare. For queer families, queer kids, gender non-conforming kids. Every year, Q takes the stage as co-MC at his school in order to lead the annual LGBT pride celebration assembly. I see his chest swell with pride. He plans his outfit with care (this year it included a rainbow ribbon braided into his hair), and he proclaims it, every year “one of the best days of my life.”

How can I not be grateful for that? As an educator, I think that schools need to take the best in every child and bring that out. Celebrate it. And for Q, that’s what happens at that assembly. He beams with pride. And in those moments, I can feel nothing but gratitude.

The MC in action

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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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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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I’ve hesitated to post, because it’s been all over the interwebs, or at least folks conversing about gender identity, but why not put it here, too?

Johnny Weir.

Thank you, Johnny, for speaking out, knowing that other boys and girls out there, as you said, will want to and need to be themselves. And now they have you to look to as someone who has come before and done just that.

I honor Johnny’s courage, both in staying true to himself and not bowing under the pressure of hateful comments, but instead taking the high road, speaking with dignity, and seizing the opportunity to forge a path for others.

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With a bit of publicity of late, this blog has had a sharp rise in visitors. I like that! It’s also brought with it some folks who rightfully question why I write this blog. In particular, there are questions about whether I’m somehow pigeon-holing Q and/or whether my appreciating things like his love for purple and pink are somehow pushing him further in that direction.

So, why do I write this blog? Yes, there’s a little tab at the top of that page that you can peruse, but here are some further thoughts. I am not happy with society. There are many reasons why. I don’t like that today is Sunday and, across the country, in millions of households, men will sit down to watch football and women will serve them food. Without thanks. Often without thought that this is a warped expectation and what these entrenched gender roles mean. Please, please, please, know, though, that I don’t by any means think that any and every time this happens it’s a negative. I just used that as a generalization to draw light to my point.

On a more personal note, I don’t like that my marriage to my wife is not recognized in the majority of states in this country. Again, I think that too many people don’t truly think about the ramifications of their actions when they vote against me, never once considering that no one ever had to actually vote FOR their marriages.

And I don’t like it that my son gets teased for wearing pink. Or purple. Or bandanas. Yes, I know that there are plenty of other boys who like those colors. Or sport long hair. Or wear bandanas. Or like glitter. And probably some of them get teased too. If you’re a parent, I’m sure you know the feel of the sword to your heart when something hurts your child — be it physically or emotionally. So that’s the simplest reason why I write this blog. There are things that happen to my kiddo because of his choices, and things that COULD happen because of his choices, that I think no child should have to endure. Yes, I know all kids get teased, but that doesn’t mean it’s right. And getting teased merely for what you like — for liking a color or a particular shirt — it’s outrageous. So I write this blog with the intent of opening minds. Just a bit. So that instead of commenting on the pink shirt, people perhaps think twice. Or think twice when they tell their son that a particular shirt is “just for girls.” It’s really not just about my son, but about many boys, girls, men, and women out there.

I write this blog to open minds a bit, to change minds a bit, to “trouble” the norms that we have ALL become so comfortable with. And having my particular son has opened my eyes in a particular way to this particular area of norms and social expectations. So I use him as a bit of an example, I use his experiences as a jumping off point. Does it mean that I know what the future holds for him? Absolutely not! But do I want that future to be wide open? For him to be able to choose what it’ll be like? Absolutely! Really, this blog doesn’t exist just to report on him. It exists to make us all fidget a bit in our seats, to reconsider our expectations around gender….to make a bit of change.

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This post is a love ode to Q’s school, pretty much.

In a chat with Q’s teacher the other day, we were talking a bit about gender dynamics and how they play into Q’s friendships, who he seeks out to play with, etc. As he and his classmates get older, it gets a bit trickier that he gravitates mostly towards girls, given dynamics among groups of girls, at times.

But that’s not the gist of this story. Apparently the other day at lunch someone was talking about Q and used the pronoun “she.” Under his breath, Q whispered, “I guess some of them in here don’t know.” He wasn’t perturbed, according to his teacher, he didn’t come report it at home. Really, it’s an everyday occurrence that people don’t know his sex/gender. And it’s not a big deal to him. But here’s where the real chords should be struck in this ode to Q’s school: The teacher didn’t feel the need to correct the kiddos, nor did any of the other kiddos. Those who know Q is a boy took it in stride. Q took it in stride. And the teacher took it in stride. It was a non-issue.

And for that reason, for letting my boy just be himself, that’s why my heart aches with love for his little school, his teachers, everyone there who thinks so carefully about the very best ways to take care of and nurture children.

Should anyone from said school be reading, know that you are thanked and honored. Deeply and continually.

Q's current growing-out-his-hair look

Q's current growing-out-his-hair look

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Pride!

In bed, snuggling tonight, Q said to me, “Mom, I loved Pride today.” Having a boy who loves Pride, a boy who sees Pride as a regular part of his life…can’t ask for much more. And then the fact that we marched in the parade with HIS SCHOOL!?!?!?! Amazing pride-filled life here. More thoughts on Pride, school, etc to come, but for now, some images.

First ever precision umbrella turning group

First ever precision umbrella turning group

It's serious work, umbrella turning, hat wearing, necklace bearing

It's serious work, umbrella turning, hat wearing, necklace bearing

The lovely packhorse wife! (must have water at all times)

The lovely packhorse wife! (must have water at all times)

whistle at the ready, resting.

whistle at the ready, resting.

Happy Pride, all!

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June 1, Blogging for LGBT Families Day in the blogosphere. Swept up in the recent Prop 8 stir, I’ve not been feeling so hopeful and didn’t know what to write. So I figured, why not a good ole reflection on why it is that I write in the first place.

Truly, I write/blog for my son. This amazing boy. He’s soulful, playful, imaginative — really, his own person.

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He’s also a purple-lover, a dress-wearer, and, in his own words, most proud to be “someone who breaks stereotypes.”

So I write for him for many reasons. But they are equally tied up in the fact that he’s growing up in a queer family. Not that that makes him who he is, but it shapes his day-to-day experiences.

There’s a deeper level to my commitment, though, to blogging for Q and blogging as a member of the LGBT community and a queer family. And it has to do with work that’s both for the community of humanity at large, but also the queer community. Because as embracing and wonderful and inclusive as this community is, there’s still room for growth. There’s room to elbow our boundaries and expand them a bit. My boy is at work on that, enrobed so often in pink, purple, and sparkles. He confounds even many queer folks that he encounters, and in so doing helps to make evident the ways that even within a community that fights for acceptance we can still take our own level of acceptance a step further.

It’s for that expansion, for the larger embracing of identity within our community, for young and old alike, that I really blog. Because I know that will make Q’s life, whatever path it should take, a whole lot more comfortable. And I know that the change and expansion of notions — around gender identity, youth identity, just basically what folks “should do” with their lives — will make life a whole lot better for a whole lot of folks. So that’s why I’m here. And I feel so thankful to be on this journey with so many others.

Thanks, once again, to Mombian for organizing this celebratory day.

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I think the future (or at least part of it), lies here:

Thanks to those who showed their courage and commitment today at the Meet in the Middle march to/in Fresno, CA. And to all who were there virtually. Might Cleve Jones be tiptoeing into a leadership role in the fight for queer rights? Wielding Harvey Milk’s bullhorn, it’s hard to think otherwise….

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