At Raising My Rainbow, Lori Duron blogs about C.J., her gender-nonconforming son. Her journey from anonymous blogger to author, speaker, and advocate is inspiring, and her book — which shares the same name as her blog — is the first parenting memoir to chronicle the journey of raising a gender-creative child.
Here, we talk to Lori about blogging, her blog-to-book experience, and being a positive resource in the community.
What was your goal when you launched your blog in 2011?
Near the end of 2010, I was hungry for information about children like my youngest son — boys who like the toys, clothes, and pastimes traditionally considered to be “for girls.” My husband and I realized we were on a unique parenting journey, one that felt lonely and confusing in those early days.
I went online to learn about kids like mine and to hopefully feel a sense of camaraderie. I searched blogs and parenting websites, conducted countless searches, and found nothing. At the urging of friends and family, I decided to be that thing I had been looking for.
In January 2011, I started my blog, Raising My Rainbow, and wrote anonymously as “C.J.’s Mom.” I had no idea what I was doing or what I was talking about — I knew that then, and I really know that now. I wrote posts about my adventures in raising an effeminate son and published any info and resources that I found helpful.
My blog gained momentum as the controversial topic of LGBTQ and gender-nonconforming youth became a cultural phenomenon. In the news, there was Nerdy Apple’s son who dressed as Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween; J. Crew had an ad with a little boy getting his toenails painted pink; and the children’s book My Princess Boy hit bookstores.
A few hundred people read my inaugural post, and in the first few months, my readership grew rapidly.
I decided to be that thing I had been looking for.
What was the journey like in the beginning?
My readers began to answer my questions and feed me research. They taught me the distinct differences between sex, gender, and sexuality and that my son is gender-nonconforming. They also taught me that the population of kids like C.J. has the highest rate of suicide attempts in the world. And, they are nearly ten times more likely to suffer from major depression, substance abuse, and unsafe sexual behaviors. They report being bullied at school and many report being bullied at home.
When I learned the stats, I knew I had to continue to stand up for kids like mine. My work began to be syndicated on a site for LGBTQ news. I upped my Facebook presence and my commitment to Twitter. I put myself out there a little more. I became an advocate.
I got hate mail, but also received dozens and dozens of support messages. I received emails from parents who were struggling with the gender identity of their child; they felt alone and helpless like I once did. I tried to help them the best that I could.
I have readers in more than 190 countries. There are little gender-nonconforming boys in Ireland, the Philippines, Iran, all around the world. And, their parents need help.
Can you talk about blogging anonymously as “C.J.’s Mom”?
I felt safe blogging anonymously; I felt like I was protecting my family and myself. A lot of people aren’t comfortable with a boy wearing a dress or playing with dolls, and I didn’t want those people to know who we really were. I knew from the start that my audience wasn’t going to be everybody: I understood that all too well. Initially, I felt as if I were in hiding after publishing a post. I hoped that people would read it but not know that I was the author. I was afraid of being recognized in public, even though my blog contained no identifying photos or names. I wanted to create change but get no credit. I loved being anonymous and sometimes miss it.
I wanted to create change but get no credit. I loved being anonymous and sometimes miss it.
But it got to the point when I knew I had to put a face to the name. A lot of people started to think the blog was all fiction and lies, and that was devaluing what I was trying to do. They needed to see I was, in fact, a real person. A large group of people also assumed that in order to lovingly parent an LGBTQ child, I, myself, must be LGBTQ. My husband and I wanted to step forward as straight allies to put those false assumptions to rest. Another big factor for us in coming out of the blogging closet was that hiding behind anonymity started to feel like we were ashamed of our son — or our lives — and we weren’t.
I merged my two lives. There was blog life and real life. And then, suddenly, there was just one life.
We revealed ourselves with the publication of my book and it was scary as hell, but it also felt like a huge relief. I merged my two lives. There was blog life and real life. And then, suddenly, there was just one life.
Tell us how your book deal came about.
I’d been writing my blog for a year and my content was syndicated on an LGBTQ news site when someone left a link to it in the comments of an article on Gawker. Someone at ICM — who would later become my agent — clicked over to my blog and contacted me to see if I had ever considered writing a parenting memoir based on it. I owe a lot to that commenter on Gawker.
My agent helped me put together a book proposal and shop it to publishers. I signed my book deal with the Crown division of Random House on C.J.’s birthday — one year and one month after launching my blog. I am extremely grateful for how things worked out.
How did your blog help (or hinder) you in the book writing process?
Writing two posts a week for the year leading up to my book deal helped so much. By the time I started working on the book I had found my voice, my way of advocating and educating, and strength and passion that I didn’t have early on.
It was hard to stick to my blog schedule while writing the book. And, I kept the book a secret from my readers, and even some family and friends, until a few months before its release. I wanted to savor my final months of anonymity, and I didn’t want the pressure of people regularly asking me how the book was coming along.
Has the focus of your blog evolved since publishing your book?
Yes, slightly. I still write about our adventures in parenting our son. But I also try to share LGBTQ news and resources with my readers.
As we’ve gotten used to our son’s gender nonconformity, sometimes it’s harder to write. When things happened in our lives a few years ago, I would think to myself, “this is a blog post,” like when a hair stylist kept referring to my son as “she” and “her” and made him cry, which made me cry. We are at such a place of acceptance, ownership, love, and support now that these kinds of moments don’t seem to stick out — or we’ve just gotten really good at ignoring them — which means I have to think a bit more about what I’m going to write about.
You once wrote: “I’ve gotten really good at ignoring negativity.” What’s one piece of advice you can give to bloggers who deal with hateful comments on their blogs?
You don’t have to publish hateful comments! I still monitor all of the comments on my blog. I used to feel guilty when I didn’t publish a negative comment, like I wasn’t being fair or showing both sides of a story. But, you know what? It’s my blog, not an impartial website, and I choose positivity over negativity.
It’s my blog, not an impartial website, and I choose positivity over negativity.
As for hateful emails? My advice is to not read them. However, I don’t follow my own advice. I read them. At this point, there is no new hateful thing that anybody can send to me; I’ve read it all. I’m immune to hate mail.
Above all else, don’t give hateful people your time or energy. I choose not to engage with nasty people. It can feel like you’re giving that person the final word, but they aren’t worth a response.
What other resources have you found helpful on your journey as a mother of a gender-creative son?
Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), Human Rights Campaign (HRC), Welcoming Schools, Gender Spectrum, and the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN) are my go-to resources. As a blogger, I like to check out what’s on WordPress.com and BlogHer to see what my peers are up to.