While sitting around drinking coffee Sunday morning I came across this post on Raising My Rainbow and it broke my heart. On so many levels. This blog is about a gender nonconforming first grade boy named C.J. and his family. He dresses like a girl and plays with traditional girl toys. He’s amazing. You should read all about him. And, of course, he has a special place in my heart because my daughter Eliza lives between genders. She’s a badass if I haven’t mentioned it lately and so is C.J.
But recently C.J. wet his pants at school because he was being bullied in the boy’s bathroom. Little boys were peeking through the stall cracks trying to see if he had a penis or a vagina. Intimidated, C.J. stopped going to the bathroom at school and peed in his pants. After drying their collective tears, C.J.’s mom found herself at his school, in front of his teachers and principal, fighting for him. I have been there. And I know I will be there again.
We are mothers of children who don’t fit into the binary boy/girl paradigm our culture subscribes to. We are mothers of children who wear ill-fitting boxer briefs because they don’t make them to fit a girl’s frame. We are mothers of children who wear colorful bracelets and pink skirts but have to use the boy’s bathroom. We are the mothers who drag ourselves to the principal’s office, to the swimming pool, to the soccer team to explain once again that our child is different and fabulous. We are the ones who stand firm footed, square-eyed with people who don’t understand and tell them she’s amazing, she can really kick the ball, that she will be on the team, that she won’t wear a swim shirt unless she wants to, that it is okay to call her by the name she chooses even if it’s Frederick. We watch from the front row when she rocks a double-breasted suit at her guitar performance and we tell her every single day how lucky we are to be her parents. We are grateful for her. For him.
And, yet, we are tired. We live one step away from an off-handed remark, from a misplaced comment, from the seething rage we feel every time someone says something unkind to our perfect, loving, generous, brave children. We keep our children in a bubble as best we can, we pay for private schools, we live in small spaces, we try every day to live from a place of love and not fear. We hold them close at night and tell them there are other people like them even though we don’t know any of them. We tell them every day that they are so incredibly loved and we hope like hell the love and acceptance we’ve shown them will pay off, will protect them.
We harbor the kind of worry that is so profound it catches in our throats when we try to explain it. Because we can’t explain it. We know our gender creative children are exactly who they are meant to be and in the dark moments that is more comforting that you can imagine.
While our children are breaking trail in front of us, we walk close behind with bright lights to search the path ahead. We are vigilant, we are strong, we have one eye on their safety and one eye on their self-esteem at all times. We allow stories like C.J.’s to break our hearts a thousand times so that we keep fighting. We take a deep breath and let it out because we know that if a child cannot safely go to the bathroom at school while dressed in clothes that make him feel comfortable, we have a long way to go.