June 25, 2015
I’m glad that transexual folks are getting some love these days. It makes the fact that, still, almost each day a transperson is murdered tinged with a little more hope. (If only they had Caitlyn Jenner’s money.) It’s a topic I want to write more about, but the link here is that it has opened a wider discussion about the fluidity of gender, and as a promoter of Queer Theory, I think that is much needed.
When we found out that Cozy had a sex (female) we started thinking about her gender (who knows). A big part of me didn’t want to know her sex before she was born to avoid the temptation to start the gender socialization before she was even out. Andrea and I had a conversation about at least putting the kibosh on all things pink. We painted her nursery a calming aqua blue.
It didn’t matter. Waves of pink stuff came in. At the baby shower and afterwards. We inherited secondhand baby girl clothes that were pink. And after I’d done a few loads of laundry, pretty much everything was pink. But my mom had sent a bunch of my baby clothes (from the days of the Johnson Administration, Andrew Johnson) so she’s worn plenty of boy clothes as well. It’s funny how when she’s not in pink, people refer to her as “he.” “Oh, he’s such a cute boy.”
There are really four or five parts to your gender. The first is biological. That’s your genes and whatever you’ve got going on between your legs. Add to that sexual orientation. Do you like the other sex, your sex, or a bit of both on a Saturday night? But then there’s how you see yourself. Some people feel they are born in the right body, but there are a lot of people who feel they are other than the gender society has labeled them. These are our trans friends. After that is how we present our gender to others. Are you more “Butch” or “Femme”? Sloppy dads are somewhere in the middle. Finally, you can add the gender presentation you are attracted to. As a child of the seventies, I’m a sucker for long, flowing hair (unless I’m watching women’s World Cup soccer). This can sound really complicated, but there’s a great exercise called Gender Gumby that makes it easy.
The point is that everybody is a bit different where they plot themselves on Gender Gumby. And because Gumby is flexible, each of us can be different everyday. Occasionally, I like to butch it up and put my Doc Marten boots on and blast some Slayer. Then there was the first time I saw Soundgardern play and stared at Chris Cornell for an hour. Flexible! Lots of queer folks have to play it down on occasion and the straightest Conservatives can get super kinky behind closed doors.
OK, back to the baby. Cozy has a sex but no gender yet. She’s 10 months old and I’m in no hurry to push her into that bag. She is beyond gender and it’s really cool to see that freedom. She doesn’t “act like a girl” in any way, but it’s fun to see the “gendered” behavior that could be ascribed to her.
Cozy likes to climb. She’s like a little tank. She climbs over everything, including Mom and Dad. I’m sure if she was a boy, people would say, “He’s just being a boy.” Cozy likes to slap dad. She thinks it’s funny. Sometimes in restaurants she likes to be loud. Actually, she likes to be loud a lot. She and I have the occasional screaming contest. Boys will be boys. There is a baby doll in the house. I don’t know where it came from. She doesn’t have much interest in it and would rather play with Dad’s box of dominoes. (For the record, I had dolls named Raggedy Andy and Dapper Dan.) She has a little “car” that we call the Cozymobile. She just loves to go fast as she can in it. Give this girl a fashion magazine and she will rip it to shreds in minutes. That’s my little feminist.
She sees Dad cooking and Mom working on her paintings. I don’t think I have to worry about her home environment, but at some point peers and media and school and religion will send her messages about more traditional gender performances (aka “patriarchy”), but for now she is completely blurring, or “queering,” the gender lines. In the past we called this being a “tom boy” but in the future we will call it being a girl.
Babies don’t really have a gender. They are asexual little blobs of joy that we shape into mirrors of our own fears and insecurities. Any armchair analysis of the mothers on Toddlers and Tiaras will tell you that. Or dads forcing their kids to play the sports that they failed at. But there is also a chance to free our children of the suffocating constraints of oppressive gender rules. Every parent that has told a boy not to “cry like a girl” has deeply wounded that child in a way that is life lasting. The same goes every parent that tells their daughter that she is pretty and that’s enough. Let’s raise whole children, not ones from Venus or Mars.
And in 2019, Cozy and I will be glued to the FIFA Women’s World Cup in France. But for now, Go USA! Beat China!