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Archive for the ‘equality’ Category

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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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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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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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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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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It’s so easy to get away with making closed-minded statements about folks who don’t conform to gender norms. Or to sexuality norms. It remains so very easy. I don’t think that it’s the LAST acceptable stereotype or prejudice, but it remains an acceptable one.

This weekend I was part of a discussion on a different blog involving stereotypes of Native Americans. It’s amazing how many people failed to see the way that power and privilege play into how we think about, talk about, and portray Native People. Coming from the perspective of a white person, “playing Indian” propogates stereotypes, is probably based on stereotypes, and only belittles and demeans the multi-layered community of Native People. Yet it remains fine to have football teams named things like the Redskins. Or, still, for kids to play “cowboys and Indians.” Certainly, there are some who are uncomfortable with these things but don’t quite know how to voice that discomfort. I definitely understand that stance.

I think the same is true with gendered norms. There are plenty of folks who are uncomfortable with the blatantly pink and blue aisles at Toys ‘R Us. But they don’t know how to address that discomfort. Or they don’t know what to say when a relative describes a nephew as “all boy.” Or how to react when a friend titters at a transgender individual who might struggle to “pass” more than others.

But just because we’re uncomfortable doesn’t mean we need to suppress ourselves. Sure, we might stumble over our words. Or feel embarrassed. Or have to laugh at our own spoken missteps. But speaking out, even simply in the form of a question, calls into question the assumptions and stereotypes that we all walk around with. “What do you mean by that?” It’s a simple question. But one that can so easily begin to break down the strong walls that have been silently built up around us — walls that constrain how we express who we are, as men and women, boys and girls.

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There's still a long road ahead...

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Today brought with it the news of the defeat of marriage equality in Maine. I’m saddened, angered, frustrated by this loss. But I won’t explore the details of those sentiments here.

What’s most pertinent about this moment in history, as well as the anniversary of last year’s similar moment with Prop 8, is the message that it sends to our children. Of course there’s the message it sends to everyone — that it’s okay to vote on the rights of a group of people. But to our children who sit somewhat outside the norm, be it in the domain of gender expression, orientation, whatever it is — I think now is a particularly important time to watch out for their little hearts.

At the same moment that my son joins my indignation about the marriage loss in Maine, I wonder what messages he tucks away to explore at a later date: What rights of mine might be taken away later? What’s so wrong about being gay, anyway? Why do other people get to decide what’s right for me or for other people? Questions such as these, along with the other insidious messages that accompany the passage of laws that discriminate — these are the things that compel me to hug my boy a bit longer, to whisper extra messages into his ear, to remind him that he’s perfect just the way he is now, and will always be perfect, no matter how he chooses to be in the future.

So I take today’s loss as yet another reminder of the ways in which I need to be strong everyday for Q, help him to continue to be a proud person, to own and stand strong in his ever-changing identity.

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Years ago, now....

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