Thursday, October 6, 2011

Gender Neutral Kids

Most of us probably remember the story of Storm, the kid with no gender.  If you don't, here it is.  I know it's old news, but this idea has come up a lot in my personal life, so I figured it was finally time to talk about it.

These Canadian parents are raising their child to be "gender neutral."  This is of course semi-ridiculous, as a child MUST have anatomical parts pointing to them being either male, female, or both, but never neither.  But the point of their "experiment" has nothing to do with biology and everything to do with society and it's effect on impressionable young children.

I have to admit, in most ways I agree with these parents.  The whole thing is not about dressing your son in dresses and seeing what happens.  It's not about teaching your kids that dressing "the wrong gender" is better, or that it's worse.  It's about letting your children choose, for themselves, what they want.  Yes, children need to know who they are.  They need a strong sense of identity, and a strong sense of self.  Doesn't it make more sense to let them form these senses on their own, rather than showing them how society thinks they should see themselves, and that's it?  Isn't it counter intuitive to make sure that their "sense of self" is what society wants, regardless of what they want?

These parents aren't keeping their child's gender from their child, or even from the child's siblings.  They are keeping the gender secret from people who don't NEED to know, because honestly, why does it matter?  And the answer is almost always "so I know what to buy."

Well, that's the point these parents are trying to make.  Why does the child's gender have to effect what you buy?  While they are infants they have no idea what boys and girls are, and don't give a flip what you dress them in as long as it's comfortable.  Babies are pretty androgynous to begin with, and no matter what you dress them in someone, somewhere, will always guess wrong.  So these parents buy what THEY like until their child is old enough to choose for him/herself.  This is the same thing parents of babies with a declared gender do as well.  No difference there.

Once the child is old enough to choose their own clothes, again their gender makes no difference.  As a friend, aunt, grandparent, you should buy what the child obviously enjoys wearing.  You've seen pictures of the child in clothing, and it shouldn't be too hard to figure out if the kid prefers jeans or frilly dresses.  Buy what the kid likes, not what you THINK the kid should like.

And toys.. ugh.  The idea of gender specific toys irks me so much I won't even rant about it, because it would take forever.  Seriously, buy it if it looks fun.  Who freakin cares if it's pink or blue?!

So why is this topic near and dear to me right now? Because my oldest kid, a boy, loves pink.  I asked him what color car seat he wanted, and he said pink.  Unfortunately, the pink was a lot more expensive than all the other colors, or I would have bought it for him.  We went to the store to pick out some new shirts, and he was drawn to the pink Dora shirts.  They didn't have any in his size, but I would have bought him a pink Dora shirt otherwise (we went with Red Cars, because red is close to pink).

Why would I do this? Because ultimately, my child's happiness is more important to me that society-pressured gender roles.  Who decided that pink was only for girls, anyways? Why does it even matter? The answer is simple.  It doesn't.  It NEVER matters.  And we should stop teaching our children that it does.

And maybe this seems petty to you, to be making a huge deal out of clothes.  But it's not just clothes.  Gender roles are constant in our lives and those of our children.  It starts with refusing to dress our boys in pink, then we're refusing to let them take ballet or musical theatre, then we're teaching them that those careers are only for women, and they should strive for more.  More? So women are only worthy of LESS? Yeah, it goes there.  And that's the problem.

I am against the idea of teaching my children they can't do things - any things besides child birth and peeing standing up - because of their anatomical parts.  It's a totally arbitrary system, and I refuse to support it any longer.  There was a time when I only bought boy clothes for my son, and girl clothes for my daughter.  And that time is over.  No longer will I teach my children that their gender is what defines what they can and cannot wear, do, and become.  Who's with me?!

*fist pump*

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