Saturday, December 5, 2015

Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son by Lori Duron

I have always been curious about how folks discover and then adapt to some kind of specialness in their children—and admit to a real fascination with a child such as Duron’s CJ. At age 2½, CJ exhibits such delight in Duron’s boxed 25th-anniversary Barbie that she opens it and…it was the toy he’d always wanted.

Duron’s first-born son, Chase, was all boy. CJ, her second-born son, had a strong affinity for girls, and girl things. Duron and her husband were surprised and not entirely thrilled at first, and tried to steer CJ’s inclinations a little, thinking ahead to all the issues her son might encounter in the neighborhood and in the years ahead. But CJ would have none of it. It seems he was fully aware of what he liked “right out of the box,” as it were. He liked dresses, earrings, makeup and high heels rather than Sponge Bob, soccer, and the manly arts. His mother learned to call this “gender nonconforming.”

Duron spent some time struggling with the notion, searching online, talking with specialists, and offering CJ more common options for sports and clothes, and gradually comes to accept that her child is something very special indeed. The year CJ begins pre-kindergarten, she starts writing a blog to address the information deficit online for her experience as a mother of a gender nonconforming child. Through that avenue she makes friends, exchanges information and resources, and eventually becomes a spokesperson for gender-questing individuals. She also receives a lot of hate mail saying she was a bad mother, but fortunately she felt confident that wasn’t true. She was discovering real time that her son was unique. CJ’s proclivities are bred in the bone, and didn’t appear to have anything to do with nurture.

This is a fascinating story, mostly because CJ is one hot ticket. I don’t know how much Duron jazzed up CJ’s language as she reports what he says, but he has real personality in speech, and in choosing styles, colors, and “drape” in his clothing, even as a bitty child. CJ’s brother Chase takes some heat as the result of having a brother with what others perceive as gender confusion, but Duron herself intervenes when it begins to impact Chase’s school work and social interactions.

Duron narrates the audiobook of this title, produced by Audible. In an interview at the end of her reading, Duron tells us that she felt she wanted to read the produced book herself to give the needed emphases. She knows her sons will read it one day and wanted to make it sound the way she heard it in her head—accepting and ferociously protective of them. She did well.

Duron admits to being anxious and confused herself, so if occasionally she was a little rough on folks that seemed surprised about or mentioned CJ’s clothes or attitudes, we can probably cut her a break. Encountering a gender creative child for the first time might be a little surprising for some folks, and they may need a little time to process it cognitively. I have never encountered a child like her CJ. From the sounds of things, he is one easy fellow to like. She might be able to lose some of her attitude now: a quietly instructive voice on Duron’s part might be more helpful. I wouldn’t want to give up Duron’s very careful yet casual and joyous way of celebrating her son’s differences, though. I guess I can take a little attitude if we continue to hear more of CJ’s specialness.

Duron’s book was enlightening on a number of levels, not the least being the suggestion that her son’s gender fluidity may be genetic. In addition, one learns a great deal about legal protections already instituted for gender nonconforming children, hopefully ensuring that they needn’t be bullied in schools or communities. This means lots of folks have been through Duron’s experience before, though she did not find personal narratives online and felt she had to write her own. Her blog got so much attention that she was approached about writing a book, film projects, among other things. She is still posting: check it out.

The story of this family is really pretty special, in no small part to Duron’s own personality. Everyone would get something out of Duron’s experience: even if you don’t have a child who is gender questing, many parents have children who wish they could play with girl toys or boy toys at some time or another. The clothes might be another matter. I was surprised to hear Duron lived in Orange County, CA. Am I stereotyping if I say I would have thought creative folks around Los Angeles would have inoculated the population against surprise about dressing up? Ah, well. We can‘t all be as fabulous as CJ. What a guy!

You can buy this book here: Shop Indie Bookstores

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