I discovered the blog Raising My Rainbow sometime last year and have been reading it (semi-)regularly ever since. Written by Lori Duron, it chronicles the ups and downs of raising CJ, a gender-creative little boy who “only likes girl stuff and wants to be treated like a girl”. The blog has been enormously popular and successful, leading Duron to write a book of the same name.
I thoroughly enjoyed Raising My Rainbow. Duron’s comfortable voice makes it a light, easy read despite the important (and sometimes depressing) subjects she talks about. Like the blog, the book makes no attempt to preach to readers; it simply offers us a glimpse into CJ’s life and the challenges (expected and unexpected) of raising a child who is different from what society expects them to be. Duron starts with the accidental discovery of CJ’s adoration of Barbie and takes us forward through the adventure of his pre-school years. Along the way, we get to know the Duron family (including Matt and Chase, CJ’s father and brother) and grow with them as they discover the fluidity of gender and the difficulty of coping with a society that hasn’t yet adjusted to the concept. Passionate about pink, CJ is consistently stymied by a world that tries to cast him in shades of blue or green; in love with glitter and frills and dresses, he’s disappointed whenever someone tries to dress him in boring boys’ clothes or buys him boys’ toys for Christmas. CJ’s travails raise questions about how our society deals with gender, sex, and identity. After all, why is it acceptable for a girl to wear trousers but problematic if a boy wears a skirt?
One of the book’s strengths is Duron’s genuine, honest writing. She makes no effort to sugar-coat the difficulty she and Matt had adjusting to CJ’s nature, his cross-dressing and love of girls’ toys. “I had always thought of myself as a liberal, nonjudgmental, and progressive person, but obviously I wasn’t, or feelings of unease would never have flitted through my head.” She even talks about the time she had CJ tested for color-blindness because he prefers pink to blue. Raising My Rainbow is far more powerful for being a journey of discovery alongside the Durons. Initially unsure how to react, Matt and Lori constantly wonder what would be best for CJ, trying to navigate the fine line between respecting who he is and protecting their child. Following their family’s struggle to cope with how the world interacts with CJ is more effective and memorable than any attempt at advocacy.
Raising My Rainbow is an accessible, engrossing, important book. I found it hard to put down (I’ll just read one more chapter!) and ending up finishing it in a few sittings over the course of a single day. If you’ve never thought about the question of gender, Raising My Rainbow will expose you to a new facet of human identity and a community of people who ask for nothing more than empathy and an open mind. Even if you have spent time thinking about such questions, you should still read the book. It’s a pleasure to read and it’s wonderful to travel with the Durons as they discover the privilege of raising a little boy who is fabulous.
I’ve had this book on reserve at my library for quite awhile–I think I’m up to #4 on the list by now. Nice review–I’m even more anxious to read it now. I’m always interested in reading about different types of family dynamics, and I think this will fit into that theme nicely. Thanks for sharing your thoughts!
You’re welcome! I hope you manage to get the book soon and enjoy it.
It is an important subject, and I suspect that there are gender-creative folks in everyone’s life (i.e. family) – they have just learned to hide it.
I think you’re probably right. Even in the absence of overt discrimination, the overall heteronormative atmosphere can have a big impact and might make some people feel/want to be invisible. Over the past few years, I’ve become more aware of the unconscious assumptions I make about people’s gender and sexuality (and the associations that go with them), and I’ve tried to teach myself not to do that. I still catch myself doing it, but I think the important thing is that I manage to not pass those habits along. 🙂