Words

Raising My Rainbow

A proud parent shares her love
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Are you ready to fall in love? Because reading Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous, Gender Creative Son—Lori Duron’s account of raising her son, C.J., who loves Barbie, Disney Princesses, Strawberry Shortcake, and women’s hair and shoes—will absolutely take you there.

An interest in gender issues is definitely not required. Duron tells her family’s story in a way that gets at the heart of what it means to love another person unconditionally.

To say that it wasn’t always easy to support and celebrate C.J.’s differences is an understatement.

Wanting to protect him from harassment, Lori and her husband struggled with questions like what sort of clothes C.J. could wear in public. How could they explain to five-year-old C.J. that his glitter skirt was fine at home but couldn’t be worn to a friend’s birthday party?

Out of concern for not skewing C.J. one gender direction over another, they bought gender-neutral toys when he really wanted Barbie dolls.  C.J.’s delight at receiving his first Barbie is exhilarating; Lori and her husband’s sorrow that they had kept such delight from him, heartbreaking.

It is a complicated path and the story is conveyed in a way that readers will feel what it is like to walk in their shoes. Eventually, they reconcile to the fact that some friendships will fall away, some family members will not be accepting, and there are difficulties from which C.J. cannot be protected. Recognizing that the only thing they can do is love and celebrate him simplifies the path before them. But early in the process, Lori confesses shame and embarrassment that the sight of C.J. doing “girly” things “made our chests tighten, forged a lump in our throats, and, at times, made us want to hide him.”

C.J. is what is described as gender fluid, or gender-nonconforming, or, as C.J. explains it, “a boy who only likes girl stuff and sometimes likes to be treated like a girl.” Relatively little research has been done on gender-nonconforming kids, but some studies estimate that 2 to 7 percent of boys under age 12 regularly display “cross-gender” behaviors, though very few wish to actually be a girl.

Gender-nonconformance in girls has hardly been looked at, mostly because it is more widely accepted for girls to depart from traditional feminine roles. All of which points to the fact that we can choose how we define gender and cling to those definitions, or allow them to be matters of degree. C.J.’s family’s story goes far in inviting us to review and reassess our definitions.

Lori started her “Raising My Rainbow” blog in January 2011 partly out of desperation and partly out of defiance. She wanted to hear advice and connect with other parents dealing with similar issues and she wanted to be fiercely proud of her gender-fluid son. The blog has since been named as a BlogHer’s Voices of the Year twice, and Parents Magazine recognized it as one of the blogs “Most Likely To…Change the World.” In June, the book that was inspired by the blog was the recipient of the American Library Association’s Stonewall Book Award celebrating outstanding GLBT literature. 

Lisa Gresham is the Collection Support Manager for the Whatcom County Library System (WCLS). She selects adult fiction and downloadable materials for WCLS’s 10 branches and bookmobile.

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