Should I Start School As A Boy Or A Girl?

Back to school is a notoriously tough season for us. It’s not because we have to wake up and get going earlier than we did all summer (which, yes, sucks). And, it’s not because our days (once again) become dominated by schedules, homework and packing lunches.

photo 3Back to school marks the annual peak in C.J.’s anxiety levels (which, in turn, makes me more anxious than usual, though I try not to show it, especially to C.J.). For C.J., it marks the start of weeks and months of self-editing and agonizing over every little decision.

Will he wear girl clothes to school? Will he use the bathroom or hold it all day? Will he be brave enough to carry the “girls” backpack and lunchbox he cherishes? Will he let his classmates see his true, colorful, quirky, fabulous, sparkly, sassy self?

Or, will he play it safe?

The start of first grade was the worst. He took baby steps (and sometimes no steps) toward being his authentic self and finally started sharing his gender nonconforming ways with his classmates and classroom a full three months into the nine-month school year. He didn’t feel truly accepted and comfortable until five months after that first bell rang.

It’s little things, like picking a Monster High lunchbox, but refusing to carry it – opting, instead, for a plain brown paper bag – until November and not wearing a headband to school until March. The days leading up to finally carrying the Monster High lunchbox and rocking the headband were filled with questions and false starts.

“Should I take my Monster High lunchbox tomorrow?…I’m going to do it…I’m going to take it….Do you think the kids will make fun of me?…Do you think anybody will bully me?…Maybe I’ll just wait until tomorrow…”

photo 2My heart breaks with each step in the deliberation process, as I let him make his own decisions while reminding him that his father and I are supportive of whatever he decides because we love him no matter what.

This August and into September, C.J. was getting excited, not anxious. I worried that his usual slow, two-week climb up Anxiety Mountain would, this year, be a race to the top in two days. I was bracing myself.

But, it never came.

Then, the night before school was to start, as we were packing backpacks, C.J. turned to me.

“Mom, I can’t decide.”

“Decide what?”

“When I start second grade tomorrow, should I start as a boy or a girl?”

I panicked, and not because my son might be my daughter, but because a social transition like he was suggesting takes at least more than the 12 hours he was giving me – eight of which we were supposed to be asleep.

“I think that’s up to you. That’s a question that only you can answer,” I said calmly while feeling anything but.

“But, what do you think? Just tell me!” he insisted.

“I think you should go as you. I like you.”

“So, I should go as a boy because I’m a boy? A boy who likes girl stuff?”

“If that’s who you are.”

“That’s who I am.”

“Cool.”

After I got C.J. and his brother to bed, I watched reality television and ate four more chocolate chip cookies than I should have, in an attempt to soothe my aching heart. I worried that the next day — the first day of school — would be drenched in anxiety.

It wasn’t.

photo 2C.J. carefully laid out his outfit. Yes, it was decidedly more masculine than first day outfits from years past and much more so than the clothes he wore during the freedom of summer, but the decision wasn’t painful for him. He wore blue and purple plaid shorts and a polo shirt with a necktie printed on it because he thought it was “fancy but not too hot.”

He carried his pink backpack and pink rhinestone lunchbox without a second thought. We walked onto campus and were greeted by one “Hi C.J.!” after another. He smiled and waved and got a little shy.

He got in line and scoped out his new classmates. After three years at the same school, he knows more than half of them. And, more importantly, they know him.

By the third day of school, he had a wrist full of bracelets he’d beaded himself and orders from classmates who wanted a few of his one-of-a-kind creations on their wrist too.

Tomorrow marks the end of the first full week of school and I would never jinx us by saying this has been the best back to school ever, so I’ll just say that C.J. is loving second grade so far and his teacher read Matilda to the class and C.J. loves Matilda.

 

Printed with permission from Raising My Rainbow, a blog and book by the same name by Lori Duron. Raising My Rainbow is the first parenting memoir to chronicle the journey of raising a gender nonconforming child.

Equality Virginia Legends Gala to Honor the Northams and Hampton Roads Pride

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Celebrate marriage equality with us!  Equality Virginia will host the 9th annual Legends Gala on November 8, 2014 at the Renaissance Portsmouth-Norfolk Waterfront Hotel.  This year, the Honorable Ralph Northam and Mrs.  Pam Northam and Hampton Roads Pride will be recognized for their exceptional efforts to promote equality for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender Virginians. Of course, we will also be celebrating the freedom to marry!

Mingle in style with this year’s honorees and Equality Virginia’s supporters in the Hampton Roads area. The evening begins at 6:00 p.m. with an elegant dinner for VIP guests, followed by the Legends Reception presented by Decorum Furniture at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $175 for the VIP Dinner and include a complimentary bar and access to the Reception.  Tickets to the Legends Reception presented by Decorum Furniture are $50 per person and include a drink ticket, dessert, dancing, and a silent auction.  We hope you join us in celebrating our 2014 Legends! Get Your Tickets!

2014 The Honorable Ralph and Mrs. Pam Northam

pam-and-ralphLt. Governor Ralph Northam and Mrs. Pam Northam have been longtime advocates for Virginia’s LGBT community.  For the Lt. Governor, as a pediatric neurologist first, and for Mrs. Northam, as an educator, their compassion for all people and families shines brightly both in their personal and professional lives.  As a state senator from 2008 to 2013, the Lt. Governor supported policies that promote LGBT equality; he scored a 100 percent in Equality Virginia’s 2012 and 2013 legislative scorecards.  When elected as Lt. Governor for the Commonwealth of Virginia in 2013, both he and Mrs. Northam  continued to advocate for marriage equality and workplace fairness.

Lt. Governor Ralph Northam and Mrs. Pam Northam believe that nobody should be discriminated against for their sexual orientation or gender identity, and have been vocal in their support of LGBT equality in Hampton Roads and beyond.  Their efforts for making Virginia a more welcoming and supportive place to live is inspiring and their warmth and humanity contagious.

2014 Community Legend: Hampton Roads Pride

HRP-FINAL-LOGO-WHITEHampton Roads Pride has successfully put the Hampton Roads LGBT community and the issue of equality front and center in the civic consciousness. Its marquee event, PrideFest, has moved to Norfolk’s Town Point Park, expanding its reach to thousands of new people and gaining countless additional LGBT allies and advocates.  Hampton Roads Pride is also the only such organization in the United States to put on a Boat Parade, underlining the connections with the maritime history of Virginia’s port cities.   Hampton Roads Pride exists to empower all LGBT and allied people: it has promoted strong community partnerships, increased public affirmation of LGBT individuals, and has issued more than $52,000 in scholarships over the past 12 years.  As an all-volunteer organization, numerous people have spent countless hours to ensure the success of Hampton Roads Pride and to create the visibility and support that has strengthened Hampton Road’s LGBT community.

Get Your Tickets!

The HRP Scholarship: Recognizing Talent, Making History

Hampton Roads Pride has much of which to be proud in regard to its recent scholarship recipients. We decided long ago that visibility and respect for LGBT communities meant much more than day-long festivals, and that we had to help our own communities in broader and more long-range ways than just having fun. Hence, whenever there was money in the organization’s treasury, scholarships were given out from the 1990s onward.

Since Pride has moved to center stage at Town Point Park, the scholarship competition has become routine with every year featuring a winner or two. These winners have gone on to do great things. For example, Connor Norton, the awardee for 2010, has gone on to bring world-class and relevant theater to his Old Dominion University campus, helping to shepherd the production of “8” to the University Theater in October 2012. He was also a founding member of the local Reel It Out LGBT Film Festival, which is in its third year and which is the only programming of its kind in Virginia.

Similarly, the two 2012 recipients have also gone on to bigger and better things. Andre Christian graduated with honors in social work from Norfolk State University this spring, and he is currently in Ghana helping to organize communities in an inclusive manner. The other winner — Matthew French of Old Dominion — just successfully defended his master’s thesis on an LGBT-related topic in communications, and is off to pursue a job in New York.

Finally, Kyle Poulin, last year’s honoree, became a service learning teaching assistant for spring 2014 at Virginia Commonwealth University, contributing to the assessment of ongoing and future projects. Most significantly, via his various leadership positions on campus, Kyle has helped to write a proposal for a Ford Motor Company c3 grant — which stands for college, community, and challenge. This is a grant program for college students to create sustainable community projects and systems. His group’s submission is Green Ride RVA, which is designed to develop a sustainable transportation network in the east end of Richmond for residents to gain access to more fresh food options. Accordingly, as Pride has grown dramatically, its reach has increased tremendously — thanks in part to the emerging talents that it has recognized.

Go to the HRP Scholarship page.

HRBOR PrideWeek Event to be Held at Paradise Ocean Club

We are thrilled to announce that PrideWeek’s Thursday Event hosted by HRBOR (Hampton Roads Business OutReach) will be held at Fort Monroe’s Paradise Ocean Club on August 21, from 6pm to 9pm. Join us on the beautiful beach of Fort Monroe this month for one of the most fabulous business networking events you’ll ever experience here in Hampton Roads. Get the full event details here.

The New Website is LIVE!

We are proud to unveil the new and improved Hampton Roads Pride website. Over the past several months we have been working with 3 Degree Designs to create a fresh and exciting online experience for our members and the public at large. We hope this new site will make it easier to participate in Hampton Roads Pride activities by joining, donating, sponsoring and volunteering. Members will still be able to renew their memberships online as well as keep their member profiles up to date just as they did before. We have a full Community Calendar that you can submit events to in order to reach a wider audience here in Hampton Roads. It’s easy to sign up to volunteer for PrideFest (and we really need the help) or for any year-round committee too. Be sure and visit our Sponsors page to check out all of the local and national sponsors that are supporting us this year.

We are truly excited for this new chapter in the story of Hampton Roads Pride and we can’t wait to make more memories in the months ahead. Please bookmark the site and keep your eye on us for all the latest news and updates about PrideFest 2014 and the events that week leading up to the big party!

PrideFest is August 23!

Multi-Platinum Recording Artist Deborah Cox to Headline
PrideFest 2014
Saturday, August 23, 2014
12 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Town Point Park • Waterside Drive • Norfolk, Virginia 23510
For more information visit www.HamptonRoadsPride.org
Free and Open to the Public

Hampton Roads Pride (HRP) is pleased to announce PrideFest 2014 will take place on August 23, 2014 from Noon to 7pm in Town Point Park. Presented by Decorum Furniture and Absolut Vodka, this will be the festival’s twenty-sixth year and its fourth year at Town Point Park in Norfolk. PrideFest will be the culmination of a full week of events known as PrideWeek.

The theme of this year’s festival is “Learn. Love. Be.” The theme reflects HRP’s objectives of promoting the education of LGBT issues as well as providing scholarship funds for young LGBT members; showing compassion for others and being free to love who you want to love; and encouraging all individuals to stand up and be proud of who they are, no matter their sexual orientation, gender, race, religion or creed.

In addition to Deborah Cox, PrideFest will feature transgender comedian Ian Harvie, the Nation’s only Pride Boat Parade, DJs and Drag Queen performances, a group Commitment Ceremony and March, Aerial Acrobats towering over the crowd, a kid-friendly family area, games, activities, food vendors and booths by local businesses and non-profit organizations.

Scheduled speakers and presenters include Norfolk’s own Tim Bostic and Tony London, two plaintiffs in the Bostic vs. Virginia case challenging Virginia’s ban on same-sex marriage, mayors from across Hampton Roads and other community leaders.

“We are so excited about this year’s PrideFest. As LGBT members of the community, we have a lot to be proud of in Hampton Roads and we want to share that pride with our allies, friends and neighbors,” says Laurel Quarberg, President of Hampton Roads Pride. “This is sure to be THE party of the summer and I hope everyone—gay AND straight—comes out to help us celebrate.”

PrideFest is a celebration of Hampton Roads’ LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) Community and its allies—and we have a lot to celebrate this year. 2014 has been a pivotal year for LGBT rights across the country, but especially right here in Virginia—with a US District Judge ruling Virginia’s marriage ban unconstitutional and unwavering support from VA Attorney General Mark Herring.

For a complete schedule of events for PrideFest, visit www.HamptonRoadsPride.org. PrideFest is produced by Hampton Roads Pride. Hampton Roads Pride’s mission is To instill pride, celebrate unity and embrace diversity in the Hampton Roads Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) community by creating visibility and promoting full human and civil rights through education, celebration, and networking.

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