Lately I have been reading Raising My Rainbow by Lori Duron. I am actually flying through it. The book is about Lori’s parenting a gender non-conforming child. Matt and I have talked about the prospect of this happening for us and what we would do. It seemed like the answers came easily while we watched another episode of Ru Paul’s Drag Race. It was clearly no problem. We certainly wouldn’t have any problems in this area. Or would we?
I was surprised by how emotionally reactive I was to her son’s desire to purchase items in the pink aisle of the toy store. I could completely relate to Lori’s son’s brokenhearted plea to purchase toys in that sacred aisle. I also remember the social pressures to not even ask. It wouldn’t be until my high school year, when I told my friend Claudia that I had always wanted a Ken doll. She purchased me two for my sixteenth birthday, you know, so they could date. But that wasn’t the part that surprised me.
What surprised me was how much I empathized with his mother. She wanted to keep him safe, as I too would want to keep my child safe. How does a parent do that? I remember the bullying I underwent as the only out kid in high school. I remember what it was like feeling alone and isolated. I can’t imagine watching helplessly as my child goes through the same thing.
It’s a similar helpless feeling that I would have watching as my child of color navigate a racist society. The questions are so similar. How do I affirm my child’s identity while teaching them that the world may be harsh and invalidating? How do I teach my child to continue to try their hardest when the deck is stacked against them? How do I both empower and educate my future child? How do I keep the influence of media and society at bay so that they can learn and grow into who they truly are? Being a child with two dads may be difficult enough, hell, being a child in the age of social media is ridiculously hard already! There is no room for naivete, yet, they are as deserving as a childhood as much as anyone else.
I am sure that these aren’t just questions that I have. In fact, some have even been hurled my way already. And I feel so unprepared, like there is an expectation that I will have the perfect answer. And what I have come to find is that the perfect answer for one person is the world’s worst answer to another. The one thing that I have taken from My Brown Baby and Raising My Rainbow is that the answers come in small moments. They come in many small conversations and in many different contexts. There is not THE conversation. And as much as I would love to have THE answer to relieve me of my anxiety, the truth is that the answer is going to be dependent on my child and THEIR needs. So until I meet my child and watch to see what direction and how they grow, I am going to need to learn how to live with the anxieties of the unknown.