When we pulled up to the Burger King drive-thru speaker, I was thinking about my conversation with Karen. We had met that morning for a brief coffee catch-up and had shared the recent developments in the lives of our gender-variant kids. I was pondering what the best next step would be to form a playgroup for non-traditional kids…when the order-taker asked if the Kids Meal was for a boy or a girl.
I glanced in the rear view mirror and saw my son’s face, frozen. I asked why she wanted to know…”for the toy “ was the reply. I said to give me the girls’ toy, and my little boy breathed a sigh of relief.
Raising a gender-variant kid is no picnic. And being one sure isn’t either. My oldest and youngest sons both preferred dolls to legos, theatre to sports, long hair to boys’ regular. When my middle son would invite a friend to play, his older brother would panic if the friend saw his Barbies and would silently agonize over what would happen if the friend told others about his secret. When my younger son searches the library shelves for an American Girl book he repeatedly checks over his shoulder to make sure no one is watching, and actually refers to his love of dolls as “my secret”. His "secret" makes it hard for him to do much outside the safety of our home.
What a hard way to have to live.
Despite all of the advances that have been made in adult society’s acceptance of gender-variant interests, vocations, fashion, and behavior, in the world of children, being gender-variant is like wearing a permanent target on one’s chest. The worst part is the feeling of shame. I used to feel it too. But the longer I walk this lonely path with my youngest child (the older son is now a happy, successful, self-assured adult who is adored by more people than he can count) the less my shame and the greater my anger…and my determination to do something to change the way we treat children who differ from the norm.
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