Monday, March 22, 2010

Girl or Boy?

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.


  1. hmmm you must have two very adorable sons! =]


  2. Thank you silverdew! They sure are :) I am glad to see you blogging...wish they had blogs when I was 15! Maybe you will inspire my son to write and share his thoughts. Thx for reading! Gretchen

  3. When my younger brother was 4, he confiscated a doll that I had been given as a gift. He basically claimed it as his own, and for him, it was like his pacifier. He chewed the fingers off, and after that, I realized it was useless trying to reclaim it. That was the only 'female' toy he took a liking to, and no one thought it unusual. This was in the 60's, so perhaps people were more tolerant. Not sure about that...I, on the other hand, liked dolls, forts, racing cars, go carts, pretty dresses, putting on makeup, playing sports w/the guys, etc. Perhaps it had something to do w/the fact that I grew up between 2 brothers, but I never thought of myself as 'different', only a very competitive girl who had to put up w/two brothers who occasionally picked on her. Needless to say, I have developed a strong sense of who I am, and have learned survival skills as a result.

    The funny thing is, no one ever says anything about girls playing w/such items, so there is an obvious double standard here. I remember when my son was about 6, he wanted to put on nail polish too, like his big sis. We felt it was harmless, along w/his sister dressing him and his best buddy up as girls w/dresses and makeup when they were 9. They got a kick out of it, and I think they could probably relate to the hassle it is sometimes being a girl w/all the fixings...

    Needless to say, they've both grown up to be self-assured and independent young adults who know who they are.