… all of you people who are thinking about having kids in the future? Think about raising your kids this way. The world would be a better place for it.
This choice isn’t for everyone in every situation. Some places, school districts, neighborhoods, relatives, co-parents, might make this choice a lot more difficult, fraught, or even dangerous. But part of why it’s so difficult, and turns into such a controversial choice, is that there are so few people raising their kids with freedom of gender. It doesn’t have to be a huge deal. There are pockets of society now, communities where it’s no longer outlandishly remarkable that one child hasn’t chosen their gender yet, whereas another child figured out early on that he was a boy (regardless of what’s between his legs) and loves being a boy.
I want those pockets to grow. I want schools to get used to this, so that kids who are growing up with freedom of gender, kids who don’t want to pick one yet, kids who just aren’t ready or who never want to pick one, can all be safe. Especially intersex kids, who more and more are being raised in ways that allow them time to figure out complicated choices about their bodies. There will always be kids like that, some whose families get much less choice in the matter. Won’t you support them by joining in, if you have kids? Schools need to be able to support this. Other families, who are parenting in more conventional ways, need to be able to support this.
I’m hoping to try, if and when I get to raise children. I don’t expect it to be easy, from what other parents tell me. People react with astonishment or hostility if you don’t tell them “is it a boy or a girl?” and instead answer “oh, we don’t know yet, the kid hasn’t told us yet.” On that Swedish news site, there are lots of accusations that this will cause the child mental illness or that it’s tantamount to child abuse. Some other parents get afraid that “gender confusion” will harm or confuse their child too, as if it’s the chicken pox. But I still think it’s worth it. After all, some people would say that letting me raise my own children would be abusive just because of who I am. After all, what if I have a kid and they’re like me — a different gender than what the doctor decided on by glancing between their legs? I couldn’t possibly do right by a kid by pushing them into a pink box or a blue box, even gently. And look, you — you reading this, and thinking about how you probably want kids one of these days, maybe soon — if you have a child, there’s always a chance that child will be intersex, or trans. It’s worth thinking about, especially since it’s often not that easy to tell if a kid is trans.
Ann at Feministing asks “Given that the parents expect Pop to choose one side of the binary eventually, what’s the point of ensuring that Pop’s early years aren’t gendered?” Well, it’s so that Pop can make a choice, right? What’s the point of not pressuring a woman to have an abortion or have a baby, I mean she’s going to do one or the other, right? Plus, Pop might choose a gender, or a mixture of genders, that doesn’t go with what Pop’s body looks like. That would usually never happen if Pop was given an “ordinary” gender upbringing. In other words, if Pop is trans, getting to choose this way early on means that Pop would never have to deal with the conflict with everyone else’s coercive feelings about their gender that almost every trans person has to deal with or absorb as a kid. And that stuff sticks with you for your whole life, believe me. If Pop isn’t trans, which frankly is more likely, then the parents expect Pop to gravitate towards a gender like most kids would, no big deal.
I’m surprised this Swedish article doesn’t talk about what Pop’s grandparents’ reaction was, because in my imagination their reaction is the most difficult and problematic of all. But I think raising kids like this could be the right thing to do, if you can afford to weather the slings and arrows and make this world a slightly better place for other gender-different kids. This is not a social experiment that turns a child into a lab rat — it’s the undoing of a system that treats us all like lab rats and tries to constrain us into conformity no matter what our hearts feel. It gives Pop more choices to pick from.
One commenter at the Swedish news site claimed that this is a bad idea because “kids need boundaries.” Sure, kids need boundaries about things they should and shouldn’t do for safety and for respect of others. Unfortunately, they need to understand the ways that their family is different and might be targeted by people who don’t understand. But there’s no reason a kid needs a boundary like “you may never choose to wear a dress, you must always wear pants, and you’ll be punished otherwise” anymore than they need an arbitrary boundary like “you may never drink out of the green cup, only out of the blue cup, and you’ll be punished otherwise.”
On top of all of this, some of the discussion at Feministing points out another benefit, even if Pop doesn’t turn out to be trans. For at least Pop’s early years, before society becomes a much more prominent teacher of lessons about “what girls do” and “what boys do,” Pop won’t have to think about that, and hopefully (if the parents can really be gender-blind, which I certainly believe is possible with young kids, I feel that way all the time about tots) will absorb fewer ideas about gender segregation and oppositional sexism. robinemmarose pointed out, on that thread, the similarity to The Story of Baby X, which seems like an excellent illustration of how people react, and the myths that could get teased apart a tiny bit.
So what do you say?
- Not in my house! by Holly December 15, 2007
- The Sissy-Whupping Method by Holly May 13, 2008
- A saner era? Myths about trans kids in schools, courtesy of FOX News by Holly February 17, 2008
- File Under “Feminism is Good for Families” by Jill February 9, 2009
- Too Poor to Parent by Jill May 24, 2008