The first FL2W book this month has been fascinating after I read Joy Ladin’s book Through the Door of Life earlier in the summer. That book traced the adult, individual perspective of experiencing gender dysphoria, and the author’s journey from suffering in a male body, to coming alive in a woman’s body and living openly as a woman. This month’s book, Raising My Rainbow, by Lori Duron, documents another journey – that of the acceptance of a mother – of an entire family – of a gender-nonconforming child. In the book, Ms. Duron also talks of her starting and maintaining a blog to share her experience of parenting her free-spirited child, and that also resonated for me as I sometimes struggle with what the purpose of this blog is for me, and how much I want to or should share.
This post, for me, has to do more with the random thoughts, and reflections that both these books have left me with:
- My own childhood was filled more with “boy”-stuff than “girl”-stuff. I was fascinated with cars, and anything that could be built with or assembled. I did not have many dolls, and don’t remember playing with them much. I did have the classic girl love of horses and anything horsey. I didn’t much care for dressing up, and still don’t like putting on makeup, or wearing high heels. But, I also was definitely NOT a tomboy!!
- I grew up in the San Francisco bay area, and most of my friends and acquaintances were gender-questioning, and were LGBTQ. It was never a big deal.
- When my daughter was born, I didn’t want to impose the whole girl=pink equation on her, and I hoped that she would feel free to explore boy-stuff, like cars and trucks, along with girl-stuff. What a surprise for me when she was about 4-5 years old, and decided that her favorite color was pink, and she loved wearing dresses! But, she is now a very independent person, who dresses up, and also gets dirty at the stables where she continues to love to ride horses (as above, a typical girl passion). She didn’t date or show much interest in boys during her teenage years, and I remember thinking to myself “What if she’s gay? Am I OK with that?” She is now happily married (to a man, for what it’s worth), and the most important thing, for her as for everyone, is that she has found someone who she loves, and who loves her, and they make each other happy.
- My career has taken me into the world of people who live with HIV infection, and that means that many of my patients are LGBTQ, and it is not infrequent that I take care of someone who is transsexual/transgender. As a teacher of medical students, one of my goals is to help them feel as comfortable with the full spectrum of gender identity and expression as I hope I am – the lesson I have learned through all of my personal and professional experiences is that gender is fluid, and not a mere result of having two X chromosomes or an X and a Y.
- With all that time living near SF, I thought I had a pretty well-developed “gay-dar”, but my professional life has educated and finessed that more. In social settings, you can “sense” that someone is gay or straight, but you don’t often get to test your hypothesis (unless you make a pass and get accepted or rejected). As a physician, I ask all my patients, forthrightly, “Are your sexual partners men, women, or both?” And, I get all kinds of answers. And, some of the most “macho” men, and some of the most “fem” women, turn out to prefer same-gender partners.
- Now, with our two young sons, I am learning all about the “boy” world, and how different from the “girl” world I experienced with my daughter (although sans the makeup and high fashion – my daughter and I don’t do shopping!). This boy world is loud, and physical, and fast-paced. I was so sad to see the color pink erased from S’s palette not long into his socialization in preschool – “Yuck! Pink and purple are girl colors!” S is pretty decidedly all-boy, and J, who is more of the “Sensitive New Age Guys” (check out Christine Lavin) type, still tends to the boy stuff. They both have creative outlets, and love reading, but neither is into dolls, unless they are Power Rangers, or action heros.
So, gender and sexuality are linked, but not predictably and not simplistically. In this days when we are debating same-sex marriage, and trying to work out what is acceptable by society and our culture and religious beliefs, I think both these books serve an important role in opening our eyes to what it’s like to experience gender nonconformity directly.
This post was inspired by the memoir Raising My Rainbow by Lori Duron as she shares her journey raising a gender creative son. Join From Left to Write on September 5 as we discuss Raising My Rainbow. As a member, I received a copy of the book for review purposes.