C.J. may be the most famous seven-year-old that no one has ever met.
People have not seen his face or heard his full name, but they know
C.J. He is the subject of his mother’s blog raisingmyrainbow.com, a
real-time memoir of parenting a child who is gender-nonconforming: “a
boy who likes girl stuff and wants to be treated like a girl,” as C.J.
puts it. Lori Duron has chosen to celebrate her young son while
preserving his anonymity, and nobody in cyberspace walks that
tightrope better than she does. Launched at the end of 2010,
raisingmyrainbow.com today has a readership over two million strong,
from 173 countries around the planet. But Duron’s new book, Raising My
Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous Gender Creative Son,
released by Broadway Books, is no blog rehash. Very little online
material has been recycled into this thoughtful and loving account of
how raising and loving C.J. has affected their family.
Like the photographer Lindsay Morris
(http://lindsaymorris.viewbook.com/you-are-you) — whose poignant
photographs of gender-nonconforming boys, You Are You, will be
published later this year — Duron brings normalcy and humanity to a
subject that is still too frequently pathologized. Describing her
initial fears over C.J.’s love of girl stuff, Duron quotes her mother
asking, “What are you so afraid of?” Her honest answer was, “I’m
afraid that he’ll get teased. I’m afraid that we’ll get teased. I’m
afraid of what other people will think and say.” And of course knowing
the truth sets you free — Duron adds, “It felt like a relief to
pinpoint my feelings and concerns and to say them out loud. Then it
pissed me off royally, because I have never been one to care what
other people think.”
Refusing to assimilate the limited thinking of others — a survival
mechanism for LGBT folks and their allies — also characterizes author
and trans activist Jennifer Finney Boylan. The first transgender
person to serve as GLAAD’s national co-chair, she is also a respected
writer of fiction and non-fiction, whose bibliography includes three
volumes of memoirs: I’m Looking Through You, She’s Not There, and her
newest book, Stuck in the Middle with You, published by Crown.
Subtitled “A Memoir of Parenting in Three Genders,” its three main
sections are “Daddy,” “Maddy,” and “Mommy,” describing life with her
wife and two sons before, during, and after her transition — a
transformative experience for them all, with Boylan and her wife now
“two women, not lesbians, legally married to each other.”
Stuck in the Middle with You also incorporates a range of interviews,
including such literary notables as Edward Albee, Augusten Burroughs,
and Anna Quindlen, to discuss family, love, and gender with Boylan.
Her conversation with Albee yields unexpected insights, prompting
Boylan to reflect that, as a parent, “Perhaps what’s more important
than us being male or female is the fact that we’re human.” When you
become unstuck in your gender, your own humanity is thrown into
relief, for better or worse. And that same spotlight hits the people
around you too.
Over the course of her memoir, as Boylan’s parenting role mutates
along with her gender role, she re-examines her relationship with her
own parents. The book offers a moving account of her mother’s final
days at age 94, when the woman thinks her grandson is her
pre-transition son, and her actual son, now Jennifer, is her sister
Gertrude, to whom she speaks in German. And of course Boylan responds
the way Gertrude would. As everyone in her family knows, when you love
someone, you have to be willing to go to some pretty unusual places.
Raising My Rainbow: Adventures in Raising a Fabulous Gender Creative Son
Stuck in the Middle with You
Laura Albert (lauraalbert.org) wrote the internationally best-selling
novels Sarah, The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things, and Harold’s
End as “JT LeRoy.” Her speaking engagements include NPR’s
story-telling series The Moth, Radiolab, Foyles bookstore in London,
and Brazil’s international Book Bienal. Laura was a writer for the HBO
series Deadwood and wrote the original script of Gus Van Sant’s
Elephant; she was also Associate Producer of Elephant and Asia
Argento’s film of The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things.