Image Source: Andrea Domjan
Despite his sex at birth being male, gender-creative 13-year-old CJ Duron has always been partial to "girly" things like makeup and the colour pink. But why, he challenges, does all that have to "mean something?" The teen, who is wise beyond his years and has reached a level of self-awareness that most adults don't ever get to, shared in a recent blog post his thoughts on why gender is not only "over," but "so last year."
"My name is C.J. and I'm 13 years old," he wrote on his mom's blog, Raising My Rainbow. "I am a member of the LGBTQ community. My gender identity is male and my gender expression is female. That means that I'm awesome. Just kidding. It means that I was identified male at birth and I like my male body and I prefer male pronouns, but the way I dress and the things I like are considered feminine (whatever that means) . . . I've always known I'm different. I've always known that I'm not a 'typical boy.' And, I've never really cared that I'm different. There is no part of me – not even a single part – that wants to be a 'typical boy.'"
"When people call me a girl or misgender me I don't really care. To me, gender is over. Gender is so last year."
Typical being in quotes here, of course, because it's still unclear as to why objects like toys and clothes are thought to "belong" to certain genders. For CJ, it's important to him that, beyond putting an end to gender bias in general, a simple fact be known: "Kids shouldn't be forced to be something or someone who they aren't. Kids should be able to be themselves." He added: "When people call me a girl or misgender me I don't really care. To me, gender is over. Gender is so last year."
But, he notes, "When someone tells you their preferred pronouns, you should use those pronouns. Just like when they tell you their name and you use it."
Image Source: Andrea Domjan
Although he's confident in himself, CJ has experienced his fair share of bullying and dealing with haters, but he wants kids that are like him to know that it can, and hopefully is going to, be OK. "My advice for younger kids like me is that it's going to be okay. Just be yourself. People will learn to like you the way you are. You aren't weird, you're just different. And being different is awesome!"
"The more people see people like me, the less 'different' we are and the more they accept people like me. Besides, I'm not ashamed of who I am."
He added: "I am being me. One hundred percent. And, at this point, I don't care who sees me being me. I haven't always felt that way. I've been bullied, badly, but I've always come out stronger. Bullies aren't going to get me to stop being me. I think it's important for people – including bullies and haters – to see me because people need to see there are kids like me out there. Gender creative kids need to see other kids like themselves. The more people see people like me, the less 'different' we are and the more they accept people like me. Besides, I'm not ashamed of who I am."
Because he knows that having a great support system in the form of his parents, Lori and Matt, is unfortunately not the case for everyone, he also shared advice for the parents of kids like him.
"My advice to parents who have a kid like me is they should let their kid be who they were born to be. It's okay. There's nothing wrong with your child," he wrote. "You need to learn to accept it, because you aren't going to be able to change it. And, if you try to change it, you're just making your child upset. You're probably making yourself upset, too. And, your child might grow up to not love themselves. Everyone should love themselves."
Image Source: CJ Duron
For CJ's parents, advocating for him and educating other people about kids like him has been important since he was 2 years old, when they got the feeling that he "was a girl at heart, because that was before we understood gender identity and gender expression." Eleven years later, Lori and Matt still have their son's back, but CJ's definitely an advocate for himself, as well as for the LGBTQ+ and nonbinary communities.
"As he got older, starting around fifth grade, we encouraged him to start advocating and educating for himself," Lori told POPSUGAR. "We knew that he needed to develop those skills to stand up for himself and keep himself safe for the rest of his life. He did so, always knowing that we were right behind him and would go ahead of him if needed. He was never alone. He always had our support. To see him find his voice and make change, not only for himself, but for other people like him, brings us so much pride. He's authentic, brave, and he's taught us so much."
To let CJ have the last word: "If I can see a way to make life better and easier for gender creative people, I always try to do it. Being kind, sticking up for others and not being a jerk. That's what life is all about."