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Archive for the ‘social norms’ 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)

Image

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I’m in an ongoing conversation with a teacher/friend about gender and identity. She shared how her 5 year old son is very into the notion that “colors are for everyone” lately. No “boy colors” or “girl colors.” Any color for any person.

In talking about Q and how confining sex and assumptions around gender can be, she suggested the notion (which was really suggested by this wise 5 year old, but not in so many words) that gender is for everyone. As in, any gender for any person. Or every gender for every person. Or whatever gender anyone wants. No restrictions based on stereotypes. It came from the suggestion, by said wise 5 year old, that on a particular day when he was hanging out with Q and folks kept thinking Q was a girl, that maybe, in fact, he WAS a girl that day. None of us really know, he suggested. So wise. And so doable inside of the notion that gender is for everyone. So, I’m going with this conceptualization. I like it and am using it.

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I’ve been away from this space for too long and very much am looking forward to a return. Things have “heated up” in the domain of identity, at least in my mind, and so I’m definitely looking “out there” for support.

More on that in my next post.

I came here right now to reflect on the dynamics of summer. This is the second, if not third, year in a row when Q, in the summer, moves much further towards the feminine. Last summer was the beginning of the pony tail. This summer has been all about barrettes, nail polish, other hair accessories, tight shirts, etc. I definitely think that he feels a freedom during the summer without the subtle gaze of peers that occurs each day in school. He did some camp, and a swim team, but the day in day out experience of school was just not there.

And I think this has him let down his guard a bit. I find it intriguing to see what emerges during these times. And, looking ahead to the start of school in 10 days or so, I do think about the effect of being back in that peer group, now with even older kiddos……

For now, though, a snapshot from tonight. My hair was unruly due to pre-hurricane humidity, so I requested a barrette loan. Q donned one too and requested a photo.

Hence, barrette twins:

barrette twins

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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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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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