Choosing their own path

Childhood gender fluidity.

I just finished reading an article from the NYTimes focusing on children who prefer to dress “alternatively”.

The night before Susan and Rob allowed their son to go to preschool in a dress, they sent an e-mail to parents of his classmates. Alex, they wrote, “has been gender-fluid for as long as we can remember, and at the moment he is equally passionate about and identified with soccer players and princesses, superheroes and ballerinas (not to mention lava and unicorns, dinosaurs and glitter rainbows).” They explained that Alex had recently become inconsolable about his parents’ ban on wearing dresses beyond dress-up time. After consulting their pediatrician, a psychologist and parents of other gender-nonconforming children, they concluded that “the important thing was to teach him not to be ashamed of who he feels he is.” Thus, the purple-pink-and-yellow-striped dress he would be wearing that next morning. For good measure, their e-mail included a link to information on gender-variant children.

“Girl acting like boy” is way less of a problem than it used to, and “boy dressing like girl” is still the one that makes people the most squirmy…but I have had some of these same issues with Sage. She never, ever played with dolls (except Barbies, which she more organizes than plays with), and around age 7 she absolutely refused to wear anything even remotely resembling pink or a dress. It got to the point of complete meltdown when a skirt was offered to be laid out. She insisted that her hair be cut short so that it couldn’t go into pigtails anymore, she stopped wearing headband and barrettes, etc.

It’s a weird place for a parent. And especially now that she’s been diagnosed with Aspergers, I’m hearing through the grapevine that there are plenty of family members who blame me for it because I didn’t push her harder into that very social role that girls are “supposed” to be in. If I had set-up playdates with other girls, played tea parties, taken her to some sort of church, and maybe demonstrated a better role model…you get the idea.

Now that she’s older, we can compromise on clothing, toys, etc., but I have to admit that sometimes I’m sad on the inside about her rejection of some things. I liked doing her hair, and picking out sparkly, pretty things for her. (Sh, don’t tell anyone.) I like jewelry and shoes…oh do I love shoes. Sage hates anything that’s not a Adidas athletic sandal.

At any rate, she’s her own person and always has been and I really wish that a lot more people would accept that, about her, and about all the other kids that are just finding their own way.


2 Responses to “Choosing their own path”

  1. When/if we ever produce a society where the only perceived differences between genders are those which are hardwired in (which’ll be a lot fewer, and mostly much more subtle, than many think, I suspect), it’ll be interesting to see how gender-fluidity manifests itself. After all, currently it tends to show as wanting to wear the ‘wrong’ clothes and such, which certainly wouldn’t be an issue.

    Not that, sadly, I’m likely to be around to see such a society, but ho-hum.

    (Yes, I read way too much SF.)

  2. I’d like to see a huge de-emphasis on gender. Girl, boy, somewhere on the many faceted spectrum in-between, it doesn’treally matter all that much. I’d like us to just be humans.

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