Monday, September 16, 2013

Raising My Rainbow

by Lori Duron
Broadway Books     2013
288 pages     Memoir

Lori Duron is the mother of two boys, Chase and C.J. Chase is a boy's boy and C.J. loves princesses and Barbie dolls. At first Duron and her husband were a bit freaked out by the way in which toddler C.J. embraced all things girlie. Luckily for C.J., Duron already had experience with this because her brother was a bit gender-creative, as she calls the phenomenon. The couple tried to figure out a strategy for dealing with this child who was an anomaly in a gender-specific world.  Eventually she started a blog to try to connect with other mothers having the same experience. In the blog, she explores LGBTQ resources, speaks to psychologists and teachers, and compares notes with her blog-sphere friends. The blog, called Raising My Rainbow, has now become a book, which was published last week. The book doesn't read like blog postings, but more like a memoir of three years in the life of their family. It is interesting and enlightening, but more importantly, it shows how far our society has come when it comes to LGBTQ issues. Twenty years ago, a book like this would not have been possible.

I read Raising My Rainbow from the other end of the age spectrum. I am the mother of a gay man who just turned 40. As I was reading Raising My Rainbow, I wracked my brain to remember his "gender creative" characteristics. Here is what I remember: when he was two years old, he choreographed the entire 1812 Overture and made the same dance moves every time the music played. Gender-creative, perhaps, but I took it to mean that he was tremendously musical. 

When he was about 10 or eleven, my son wanted dance lessons because he was planning a career in musical theater. He took two years of lessons and then landed the role of John in the community theater production of Peter Pan. A dream realized. Later, he became the drum major of the high school marching band and had leads in high school and university musicals. The dance lessons led him to all of those things. 

Gender-creative, I suppose. I always thought it was just Matthew being Matthew.

As a parent, I have always believed that it is necessary to follow the lead of your child when it comes to interests and activities--to not force activities on your child. Each child is unique. In about 6th grade, Matthew said, "You know, I don't want to play soccer anymore." What he wanted to do was to be a hockey fan, so for several years, he went to all the university hockey games. When he was 10, he became a big fan of the Miss America Pageant, because a family friend spent a year as Miss Michigan, and he became an expert on all things Miss America. Now he is a fan of his university's basketball team, and he knows the music of all the divas of the musical theatre. His hobby is to DJ, and he performs for fundraisers and occasional gigs for dance parties. Matthew being Matthew.

The most important part of parenting is to create self-confident, independent children who can carve out their own place in the world. In that regard, raising Matthew was successful. He is very accomplished in his chosen career, nationally and internationally known in his field, and is well-respected in his community. He is charming company and a caring, loving son.

It is necessary to  our society that we have these gender-creative individuals. If not for them, we would not have many of our dress and costume designers, musicians, actors, women athletes, hair dressers, and on and on. They greatly add to the richness of our society.

More than anything, Raising My Rainbow is an affirmation that parenting is no easy task.
Mothers will like Duron's take on parenting, the humor with which she faces daily life, and the seriousness with which she tackles bullying and other major parenting issues. She speaks of the "fluidity and flexibility of gender." What she has learned is a lesson for all parents; there is no mold for children. Each child is a unique creation. Duron's C.J. is just being C.J.

Interview with Lori Duron and Jennifer Finney Boylan in Psychology Today:

The Raising My Rainbow Blog:

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