Monday, May 23, 2011

The Gender Spectrum.

With the recent news rolling around in my mind that Butterfly will be Off-Broadway in just a few short months, I have come back around to thinking on "the gender spectrum".

I read an article today about a couple who is raising their third child (they already have two boys) genderless.  What this means is that, while the family knows the gender of the child, they are refusing to tell anyone outside the family (barring the midwives that helped to deliver the child).  They say that when s/he is old enough, s/he can make his/her own decision as far as telling people about his/her gender.  They are already raising their two older boys with complete gender freedom - they can wear dresses, paint their nails, grow their hair long - if that's their choice.  Of course they can also play with trucks or wear blue or join the baseball team, if that's their prerogative. 

The comments at the end of the article were scathing. 

People ripped into the parents without remorse - saying that what they were doing was "abusive" and "horrifying".  They felt that the kids were being treated about as horribly as you could treat a kid.

For me, this was sort of shocking.  Really?  It bothers people THAT much that these parents won't tell them if their kid is a boy or girl?

For my part, I totally get it.

When you tell people you're having a girl - you get a bunch of pink stuff, dolls, floral prints, books about princesses, Tinkerbell movies, and Barbie references.  When you tell people you're having a boy, you get blue clothing, trucks, sports stuff, balls, and rough and tumble stuffed animals.  What a cool thing for people not to know - to know barrage you with this stuff - to get you stuff that ANY baby might appreciate, and then to let their child choose for him or herself favorite colors, style of dress, and more!

It's not that they aren't telling their child if he/she is a boy or girl - they just aren't allowing societal stereotyping to decide for him/her what he/she prefers.  I find it a breath of fresh air.

I wonder if the comments are more based on people's own fears and annoyance at not knowing than they are on actual fear for the "safety" of this child.

I suppose for me, having been addressed as the wrong gender before because my hair didn't fit the stereotypical female idea of hair, it makes a lot of sense.  I think that the world would be a whole lot better off if we just let people be who they were, rather than who we want them to be.  We try to fit everyone into a neat little box because it's easier for us.  We care more about categorizing a person than about who that person IS.  To me, THIS is where the abuse lies.

The dad who told his son "only fags are actors" and thus his son, who wished to be an actor, decided he must also be gay, whether he was attracted to men or not - this seems to me a millions times more hurtful than allowing that same son to wear his mom's high heels around the house with a feather boa while playing dress up with the neighbor kids.  (Yes, true story.)

I suppose what I'm trying to say is, there are many horrible things happening to kids out there today.  Child trafficking, starvation, abandonment, infanticide, parents who tell their kids they're "worthless" or "stupid", parents who beat their kids to death...

Maybe these "hippies" who aren't telling if their kid is a boy or girl is something that makes others uncomfortable.  Maybe it makes them annoyed.  Maybe they think that letting a little boy paint his fingernails will make him "gay".  But if those same parents are loving that same kid unconditionally - if they are hugs to come back to after a hard day, a shoulder to cry on, an emotional support structure, a safe haven - then I say good for them.  And I applaud it.

5 comments:

textrider said...

Right on. I'm with you.

Jeff said...

I wonder though...obviously painting fingernails, wearing high heels, whatever doesn't make a boy gay. But what about the response he receives from others based on these actions? Will that make him more likely to grow up gay? (Thinking of your example of the father of the actor.)

Then the abuse isn't with the parents so much, as with those judging them...

Missy said...

Jeff - yes, totally true. My son painted his fingernails - actually, he's painted them several times, and often people make comments about them. It's never kids, always adults who feel the need to say something. He's pretty confident in himself and just shrugs it off for the most part - but I really don't get why people feel the need to comment. Their comments always have this tone of trying to "save" the child from the horrible fate of doing something that doesn't fall neatly into their idea of the child's gender.

Missy said...

PS - I do think that there are people who grow up gay because others jam them into a stereotype that they may not really fit into - a boy who loves interior decorating or fashion, a girl who is naturally great at sports (esp. non-girly sports). I think that parents have the biggest effect on a kid either way. I think if that boy's FATHER had not been the one who told him only actors are gay, it may not have had the same impact. I've seen it happen with (mostly boys), especially when I was teaching. Everyone said they were gay so one day they went with it. They were accepted by that community more than "normal" society and weren't ridiculed and so they stayed. I think there are those who are naturally attracted to people of the same sex, but I also think there are people out there who just don't fit the traditional gender stereotype, and so they are stereotyped in the only other paradigm people in our country have. You're a boy who does girly things, so you must be gay. You're a girl who does boyish things, so you must be gay. Doesn't seem to matter much if you aren't attracted to people of the same sex, as much as if you're a guy who's a dancer or a girl who watches football and has a short haircut.

Tate said...

I find it funny that they used "genderless." I've always felt that biology gave you a gender but society/upbringing gave you your sexuality.

I think my main concern with this is that I feel it's an extreme. Just because they we view it as wrong that parents control ever facet of thei lives doesn't mean that parents need to give full autonomy to their children. I am in no place to tell these people how to raise their children but I do kind of worry for how they will be treated. I am not complying that people should conform to avoid being insulted but I also think that if one of these children are still happy wearing dresses as teenager, it doesn't mean they wouldn't have been just as happy had somebody stopped them the first time. I don't think it is a one or the other situation.

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