What Storm's parents are doing is putting a lot of effort into something that they feel will make a positive impact on their kid. We all do that. For example, the amount of fuss we like to put on Aias's diet. I'm sure plenty of people think we are crazy for it. Much like our efforts with regard to Aias's diet, Storm's parents obviously feel it's worth their time and effort to raise their child this way because they love their child and this is something that's important to them. Once Storm begins to speak and realizes they are a certain biological sex, who knows how they will want that sex to be acknowledged. I guess the family will just have to pass that bridge when they get to it. Just like we will have to deal with it if Aias decides he wants to buy himself McDonald's hamburgers everyday for lunch when he's older. We can only take these parenting plans so far before our kids become free agents. It's not really that much different than raising your child to have certain religious beliefs; who knows if they will maintain those beliefs as they grow.
Back to the topic of gender and sexuality; as far as I'm concerned, whether people know Aias is a boy or not isn't really an issue for us. I personally think he may as well have a Barbie crotch underneath his diaper for all his sex or gender has mattered in the last 18 months. I've never really had to give his sex or gender much of a thought, other than the times I find myself cursing the clothing selection at a retail shop (is there absolutely no effort put into gender neutral clothes or clothes for boys)? At the end of the day, it hasn't made much of a difference in the long run: he pees, he eats, he poops, he plays. People will sometimes tell me he's a pretty girl, and I say thanks. They sometimes tell me he's a handsome boy, and I say thanks. I'll take the time to say now, there's a difference in how boys and girls are treated, and I think we need to recognize that and we need to DO something about it. For example, there's an elderly man in our building that sees us every day. Every day he asks if Aias is a boy. Every day I say "yes." Then he says "good boy." When he sees me with my friend who has a daughter, he asks if she is a boy. When she says no, he is disinterested. The differences in which people treat male or female children is a topic I suggest everyone read about, and instead of saying we should eliminate gender (which society as a whole is not likely to ever do) I think we need to talk about how we can honour all genders, whatever those genders may be or how they are presented.
I don't want to get ahead of myself and end up writing a dry article suitable only for a 100 level Gender and Sexuality course. What I do want is to throw out a different concept of genderfree. Instead of raising Aias genderfree (as in, genderless or without gender or even gender neutral), we've decided to raise him genderFREE. GenderFREE as in, FREE AS A BIRD! GenderFREE as in, let your gender expression run wild. You see, I don't think you can ever truly be without a gender expression; it just may be that your interpretation of gender doesn't line up with what mainstream society thinks it should be. So here's my message to Aias:
Don't feel limited to one gender expression. Don't just have one, have TWO! Don't just have two, have TEN! Wait, you only want one? Ok awesome, HAVE ONE! If you want to play with a doll, play with a doll. If you want to play with a truck, play with a truck. If you want to play with neutral coloured blocks, play with neutral coloured blocks. If you want to stuff your cabbage patch doll in the seat of your toy truck and drive them both into a mansion you've built with your neutral coloured blocks, be my guest! You know why? Because you are 18 months old. Day in and day out you are going to have people making assumptions about you. This started when you were born and it won't even end when you die. They are going to assume things about you because you are blonde. They are going to assume things about you based on your clothes. They are going to assume things about you based on how small you are. A lot of these assumptions are going to be the result of hundreds of years of patriarchy, feminism (or the lack of it), colonialism, etc. They aren't going to limit it to assumption, they are going to treat you differently as well. Right now it's not your job to express a gender identity based on social construct, it's your job to learn and play. Whatever gender identity you may create as a result of your learning and playing will be fabulous. Everyone is entitled to their own gender expression and that gender expression is something no one should ever be able to take away from you. It's something you should be free to create, to express, and to change whenever you feel like it. YOU. It's YOURS. So be Genderfree or be GenderFREE. But first and foremost, be a kid. Any gender identity YOU choose for YOURSELF will be respected by both of us (your parents) and we will do all we can to create a safe space for you where you can express it freely.I encourage you all to take this same advice. You may not be a kid anymore, but so long as you are living and breathing, your gender identity is your own and you should definitely let it run free. And remember, you can even try being Genderfree (genderless/gender neutral) if you want, but your gender will still be there; it just may not look like what other people think it should. Genderfree or GenderFREE, own what's yours and know your worth.
A few people people I respect and value have also written on this topic, here are some links to their entries:
Darlena from Tales of an Unlikely Mother
Michelle from The Parent Vortex
Arwyn from Raising My Boychick
|A surprised young Aias wears pink jammies because they were on clearance and the blue ones weren't. Priorities!|
|A cool and collected young Aias wearing his signature rainbow leggings. At least a dozen people guessed he was a girl because he was wearing these leggings. Apparently rainbows are for girls? That's funny, I thought they were for gay people :)|
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