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Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Things I shouldn't address this long past bed time

Yeah, so bed time is 11 and this warrants far more discussion than I'm going to be able to give it just now, but it's been on my mind. So first, there's the Canadian couple who aren't telling anybody their baby's gender article that everyone I know has forwarded to me. On the whole, I think that gender is a really fluid concept and it's really good for parents to encourage their kids not to buy into the gender binary. I know a whole lot of people, trans and otherwise, who would have had far less trauma in their teens and adult years had they not had parents who were trying to force them to be more masculine or feminine.
However, turning your child into an international freak show is not okay. To make this huge socio-political statement through your infant is no damn fair. To make it through your twelve year old is no damn fair. If the parents want to start dressing themselves in gender-neutral clothing and refusing to reveal their own gender to people, that's fine and that's their business. If Baby Storm reaches the age of 18 and decides ghe wants to tell the entire planet that ghe doesn't want to reveal gher gender, that is absolutely great. Your kid is not a science fair project. Your kid is not a political statement. Your kid is a life, and a fragile life at that, and does not deserve to have gher parents using gher to get attention for themselves.
Then there's this story, about a preschool in Sweden that avoids using gender adjectives and gender-specific toys, stories, and play. Folks have accused the school, among other things, of "mind control" because of the way they manipulate the environment to be gender free. Actually, the school reminds me a lot of the way I was raised. Mom wanted my sister and me not to feel limited by our physical gender, so our toys were very gender-neutral until we were old enough to select our own toys. I had dolls because I wanted them. I had toy tools because I wanted them. My sister wore the same baseball cap night and day for an entire summer, yet nowadays she wears makeup and does her hair and stuff every day. On the other hand, I liked to dress like a little princess as a kid, and now I rarely wear makeup or jewelry. We had those books that were popular in the 70s with genderless characters, and my mom used to sing little songs about how boys and girls could grow up to be whatever they wanted. As a teen and a young adult, I was confused by a great many things, but gender wasn't one of them. I love the color pink, and I love super heroes. I like to climb, build, and roughhouse, but I also like to cuddle and nurture. I wear men's and women's clothes pretty much interchangeably. I'm not a freak.
I mean, yes, I'm a freak, and on so many levels, but the fact that I'm comfortable in my own skin and my own gender, ambiguous as that may be, doesn't make me more of a freak. Bottom line: I'm deeply grateful that my folks tried to raise me in a world without rigid gender rules. It opened doors in terms of the classes I took and the jobs I chose. Were I raised to believe that girls should be princesses and play with Barbies and such, I'd have experienced a lot of confusion later on. BUT, my folks didn't alert the international media to their parenting decisions. 
So I'll close with these neat little things from the Web site The Achilles Effect. This site talks about gender stereotypes that young boys face, and I absolutely love it. This entry talks about the word clouds below: the author looked at the words used in commercials for typical "boy" toys and typical "girl" toys, and while she points out that her methods aren't scientific, I think you'll find they hit pretty close to the mark:
Words used in advertising for "boy" toys:

And "girl" toys


Anonymous said...

I wholeheartedly agree. When we were kids my brother and I used to play dress-up, although he ALWAYS wanted to be in heels with make up etc. My Mum just let us be but I remember a family member arguing with my Mum one day that she should stop allowing him as it would 'make him gay'... little did she know it should've been me they were looking out for ;)

Anonymous said...

I think I'm more concerned that the word "Beat" is rather prominent in the boy picture.

Drew Hakeem-Zahir Tobias Line said...

When I first saw that article, I was like "Whoa! Awesome!" And then it started to sink in. No. Not awesome. They are doing the exact same thing as those they are supposed to be liberating their child from: forcing conformity to a specific gender(less) expression. In order to make any change in this battle to liberate the transgender community, we need to emphasize personal choice of *our own* gender expression and acceptance of those choices, not bounce back and forth between extremes.

As for Storm: Coming out is hard and often, downright hellish. Yes, let's go ahead and artificially create a circumstance where a child has to go through the terribly devastating experience of agonizing whether those close to gher will still love gher when ghe reveals who ghe really is. Let's artificially, without the child's comprehension, much less permission, turn gher into a freak in the eyes of society and community. Fantastic. I applaud you. [*sarcastic voice*]

I wonder if these parents know many transgender people? I do not at all regret being born transgender, but I would not wish my life on my child.

Drew Hakeem-Zahir Tobias Line said...

Also, *like* Joshua's comment.

Brigid Daull Brockway said...

@ Bacon - Maybe it was witnessing your brother's cross-dressing that turned you? Thanks for reading :)
@ Josh - Boys really get the butt end of the deal here. Girls can usually get away with playing with boys' toys. Boys playing with girls' toys, on the other hand...
@ Drew - Yeah, I didn't even think about the "coming out" factor.

The Vegetable Assassin said...

This reminds me of when I was maybe 2 or 3 I had a wicked collection of Matchbox toys. I don't know where I got them, if they were hand-me-downs or new or what, but I had so many toy cars and trucks and a transporter to load them all onto, and a train set...I loved those things. They were my whole life. I knew the names of all the car types, everything. I had a couple of dolls as well and I liked them well enough but I had a big imagination and I preferred the cars. I remember one day being at my grandparents and them bringing me home and all my cars were gone. Just disappeared. Not there. I was confused. And devastated. When I asked about them my parents said they'd donated them to the kids' ward at the hospital because they didn't have toys. To this day I remember that feeling. Of not understanding why they would do such a thing to me. And I was three. I will always remember that sense of loss. I guess they figured, cars were boys' toys and they were worried I showed no interest in girls' toys. Maybe they envisioned me fifteen years down the line coming home with a buzz cut and a vagina tattoo. And what would it have mattered if I had? Maybe that's how it was then. But holy shit it traumatized me.

As it is, I grew up loving plenty of female related things, including men, but I still love cars and technical things and action figures and gadgets and it's hard to understand but I still sort of harbour a grudge about that box of cars.

I guess what I'm trying to say is, what your kid plays with or has exposure to as a child isn't going to scar them for life or turn them into some confused freak, if it's not the "norm". Taking stuff away from them without adequate explanation or reason, just might.

Anonymous said...

I'm not entirely sure how keeping the gender of an infant a secret is necessarily damaging, but I also know this: many parents have done MUCH worse, and not out of love. At no point did either parent say "When Storm addresses the issues him or her self we are going to refuse to answer." They simply expressed that they were not going to inform anyone else. They are raising their children in a way that they deem fit, that no one can actually say without a doubt will severely damage the child, and that is neither illegal nor negligent.

Also, I didn't read or see anywhere that these parents went running to the newspaper to sensationalize their children for fifteen minutes in the spotlight. That would be one thing. Instead, when they are asked they simply explain their position. I doubt my children had any idea at the age of four months that they were one or another sex and needed to eat, sleep, and poop accordingly.

It seems to me that there are plenty of parents the world over that make decisions for their children that others may find ridiculous or controversial. Circumcision, ear piercing, seemingly ridiculous names, far too many middle names...the list goes on. On the day to day front, though, if your kids are alive by the end of the day, no matter what anyone else says or thinks, you've done your job. Parenting is hard. Every parent will catch some flack for one thing or another. I find it interesting that no one has pointed out that these kids will potentially be the target of bullies for their names before anything. Or that these parents obviously love their children a great deal, and that if they change their minds about decisions they make for their children that is THEIR choice to make and theirs alone.

I guess what I'm saying is I can't get all jazzed about parents who are raising their kids in a way that they feel is appropriate. I discerned no discriminatory agenda, no malice, no rigidity in their parenting methods. It seems the only thing they're doing that causes anyone to take pause is not sharing information with people outside of their nuclear family. I can't imagine Storm is very concerned with it, anyway, seeing as he or she is probably still unable to walk, let alone speak.

Also, I did not realise that to post a comment I had to be signed up with a thingy, so this is Maya Waller. Yup. That's me. Anonymous Maya Waller Jones.

Things To Do said...

I find the word clouds super telling and disturbing. Like Joshua one popped out at me as well the word 'perfect' for a girl, how early it starts.