Self-Expression: My Son Draws Himself As A Girl

Raising My Rainbow is written by the mother of a slightly effeminate, possibly gay, totally fabulous son. She’s chronicling their journey right here on Queerty. Read up on RMR‘s cast of characters.
Today my son drew himself as a boy for the first time in his life. He’s five-and-a-half-year-old and, for that many years, when he has drawn himself, he has drawn himself as a girl.

In the mediums of crayon, colored pencil and marker, our son is a beautiful girl with long red hair, a big puffy ball gown the color of cotton candy and a tiara with a gigantic heart-shaped stone front and center.

Sometimes he’s a sassy girl in a jean skirt, black leather jacket and knee-high boots.  Sometimes he’s a girl going to school in a hot-pink t-shirt dress and purple high top sneakers with turquoise socks peaking out.

It took his dad and me a while to get used to seeing our son’s self-portraits: For a long time there was the urge to correct him, to remind him that he is a boy and his renderings weren’t accurate.  We fought that urge until it wasn’t there anymore. Feelings of uneasiness popped up when it was time for arts and crafts, especially when there were other people around. I’ve had to remind myself that you never tell an artist that his or her art is bad or wrong. Art can’t be, especially when you’re five.

Being acutely aware that children who continually draw themselves as the opposite sex are more likely to be transgender, we have always wondered if (and when) the day would come when our boy would draw himself as a boy looking like a boy.  We imagined that if it ever happened we would feel a sense of relief and happiness.

Then, it happened and we were nothing but sad.

C.J. has just started kindergarten and at his school every kindergartner is matched up with a “Kinderbuddy,” an older student at the school who will see C.J. on a regular basis throughout the year to read to him, play with him and mentor him.  Hopefully they will have a mutually beneficial and special relationship.

Because the school tries to match up Kinderbuddies based on sex/gender, C.J.’s Kinderbuddy is a boy. Because C.J.’s sex and gender aren’t in total alignment, that process for matching up Kinderbuddies isn’t exactly ideal.

On their first day of meeting, the Kinderbuddies had to sit together and draw a picture of themselves together.  That’s when it happened; C.J. drew himself as a boy next to his boy Kinderbuddy.

“Mommy, I got a Kinderbuddy today.  And, he’s so cool!  He’s a teenager!” C.J. said after school. By “teenager” he meant “sixth grader.”

He showed us the picture that they had drawn together.  We didn’t recognize our son.  We looked at each other in shock.

“Hey, Buddy, how come you drew yourself as a boy?” C.J.’s Dad asked casually.

“Oh, that’s because I didn’t want my Kinderbuddy to know that I like girl stuff,” C.J. said matter-of-factly.

Our hearts sank.  We had always thought that things would feel more right, more normal, on the day that C.J. finally drew himself as a boy, but it didn’t.  Things felt sad because our son had to do it out of self-preservation. He did it to adapt and conform.  He did it to hide his true self. It felt like he had lost some of his innocence.

Diane Ehrensaft, an expert on raising gender-nonconforming children, once wrote that “gender-creative children are blessed with the ability to hold on to the concept—that we all had one time in our lives—that we were free to be anything we wanted. Boy, girl, maybe both.”

With that drawing, it felt like our son was losing his grip on the idea that he’s free to be anything he wants to be.  Was he?  Or, was he tightening his grip and exercising control over when it should be on display and when it shouldn’t?

C.J. didn’t want to hang his Kinderbuddy drawing on the fridge or his bedroom door like he usually wants to do with his art.  He wanted to throw it away.

“Why?” I asked.

“Cause that’s not really me,” he said as he sat in the sun at our dining room table, drawing himself with a side ponytail, purple shirt with a pink heart on it and an orange skirt.

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  • LT

    This is a wonderful story! You son will truly benefit from having wonderful accepting parents! God bless!

  • Dumdum

    If there is anything to reincarnation and personally I would like to think that there is. Because if this it ? How depressing is that ? Maybe Transgendered people are just identifying with their past life. Like this little boy having a memory of a past gender. When I was little I wanted to play with dolls and be the Mommy. My parents of course freaked. I was punished and even sent to a shrink. This of course was in the 1960s.I never considered gender reassignment surgery as I am quite happy as a Gay man. But I am so glad that these people are willing to allow their child to find his own way with a loving and generous heart. That’s just so darn sweet.

  • RomanHans

    “Hey, Buddy, how come you drew yourself as a boy?”

    O . . . kay.

  • Mr. Enemabag Jones

    Glad this is back. One of the few parts of Queerty that I still love.

  • 2eo

    Awesome, and a much better artist than me at such a young age.

  • The Real Mike in Asheville

    While I am all for loving parents accepting, loving and celebrating the uniqueness of their children, I just can’t shake the notion that Raising My Rainbow has less to do with the kid than the parents.

    I am, alas, old enough I clearly remember just how awkward and uncomfortable little Chastity Bono was being forced to appear with Sonny & Cher on their variety show. Clearly Chastity’s appearances were not for her benefit, it was all done for the promotion of the Sonny & Cher brand.

    Here, I just can’t get past what the parents, particularly the mom’s, intentions are: certainly they love and support their children and raising them to be non-judgmental supporters of each individual’s right to express and be themselves. But, it also seems that this kid is being so scrutinized, when does he get to be just a 5 year-old being a 5 year-old.

  • ChiChi Man

    @The Real Mike in Asheville: No hate here. Just hoping to shed some light on some of your concerns. Parents think endlessly about their children and what’s going on with them. My parents were always asking me questions about what I was reading, who I was playing with, if I was sucking my thumb, etc. Some might say they were over-protective, but I felt nothing but love.

    In this article, I think the mom is merely discussing one aspect of her son. If he always carried a blanket, it would be perfectly normal to wonder why and wonder if he’ll stop. And if he stopped, it would be perfectly normal to ask him why he’d stopped. I think this is kid is very lucky to have wonderful parents looking out for him.

  • Jules

    W/ parents like that, I can’t help but think the boy will be okay no matter what. He’s more likely to grow up to be a truly interesting, artistic individual.

  • Dumdum

    @ChiChi Man: You go girl !!! When you are 5 you may be 5 going on 105 or better. I have friends who have kids 3-5 that make me feel like a low grade moron. Wake up ! Evolution Yo !!! OK. Back story. I am the fairy god mother of three kids. I watched them all pop out. After 13 hours there she was. I thought I would lose my lunch ! Thank goodness no-one had time to eat. Six years later I am over for a visit. This little girl was on the couch crying. I asked. What’s wrong? She said. And I quote. “Oh nothing,I am just going through some stuff right now.” Maybe I was a retard. But kids are way different these days. Maybe it is not saying much for me that a 5 or 6 year old is just as or more advanced than I. But it gives me hope. They all love their silly uncle who can play like a kid. But I have to say at 52 they make ME feel small.

  • zaneymcbanes

    @The Real Mike in Asheville: Totally agree with you. And furthermore, I feel like this blog actually does more to reinforce gender stereotypes than to eschew them.

  • RomanHans

    Count me in with the doubters. Yes, these are heartwarming stories of acceptance. But in every episode there’s also weird hints that the parents are enabling the boy’s behavior, so to some degree he’s doing what THEY want rather than what HE wants.

    Case in point: “Hey, Buddy, how come you drew yourself as a boy?”

    The kid is clearly flailing around at his gender identity to draw himself as both a boy and a girl. Color me crazy, but if he drew himself as a boy, I’d say something like, “Wow! Great drawing! That really looks like you.”

    Rather than, you know, “Hey, that’s weird! I thought you were a girl! What’s going on? You changing your mind now?”

    Which could explain why the kid tears up the drawing at the end. Did he decide it wasn’t him, or did he decide that his dad didn’t like it? We can’t answer the question here, but I’d feel a lot better if it didn’t CONTINUALLY come up.

  • Cyn

    Hmm, when I was little, I wanted to be a boy. When I played with the boys, I was always a boy. When I played with the girls, I was always the boy. And my parents continually tried to fix me, make a “lady” out of me.

    I did outgrow the wanting to be a boy, physically, and got ok with being a rather middle of the road bi woman. You probably wouldn’t label me butch or femme, except by what I was wearing at the time. My parents attempts did not change me, nor did they influence me much except to shame me as not good enough.

    This kid will find his own way, with or without his parents help, he will learn lessons about the rest of the world the same way.

  • MickeyP.

    I applaud these parents. All they did was ask the kid why he drew himself as a boy! They didn’t even hint at anything else. They wanted to know,NOT make a huge deal about it. I think they are awesome parents for letting this child just BE! I wish there were more parents like this. Good for them!

  • Dixie Rect

    Looks to me like the Queerty staff got a box of Crayons at Target and decided to write this blog entry. Raising my rainbow is complete BS! It is shameful to perpetuate this farce on the gay community.

  • MickeyP.

    @Dixie Rect: Dixie,please tell me you’re NOT serious! And,if you ARE serious,you can get medication for being delusional,you know!

  • MickeyP.

    I think the parents are awesome! That is one lucky kid. I wish more people would be as open minded. I congratulate them!

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