13 November 2009

Boys and Girls

I couldn't help myself. I read this post yesterday in Child Caring from Barbara Meltz's Mailbag and the first thought I had was of Blur's song, "Boys and Girls"... "Girls who are boys/who like boys to be girls/who boys like their girls/who do girls like their boys..."

And I really wanted to scream at a couple of the comments that warn this woman that her 5-year old girl is definitely a transgendered, female-to-male child and that she should get her child to counseling NOW.

This kid is 5. When I was 5, I wanted to be a Coca-Cola truck driver, an apple tree (so sayeth my best childhood friend and I have no reson not to believe her), a spy, an astronaut, an actress aaaand...an infantry soldier or tank driver. I also, for the record, wanted to marry my best friend who was, and still is, quite female. You see, we decided that it would be the best way to ensure that we'd never be separated and we'd have the added bonus of being able to live together!

For the record, we came to this conclusion after our parents shattered out plans to dig tunnels connecting our houses so that we could visit whenever we wanted - and of course, stay up all night together. Marriage just seemed the natural solution after the work order request was rejected by both sets of Mom and Dad.

When I was 5, I hated dresses. I played equally with GI Joe and Barbie. I climbed trees, rode my bike, got grass stains on my knees, threw a football or Frisbee out back with my father who, by the way, assured me that I had a quarterback's throwing arm, make no mistake! I also taste tested leaves and mud, dug up and dissected worms (someone made the mistake of telling me that a worm cut in half would regenerate. I know, now, that my own personal hell after death will involve lots of worm halves somehow) and my hair was perpetually tangled and dirty.

I don't have any memory of clearly wanting to be a boy, anatomically especially, but I liked boy things and much preferred them to girl things. I still do - give me a gun and a motorcycle over a mani/pedi night and I'm happy as a pig in...well...yeah... But at age 5 or thereabouts, I never really gave it any thought. There was stuff I liked (tanks!) and stuff I hated (dresses!). Add to that the fact that neither of my parents encouraged or discouraged any particular gender "appropriate" pursuit of happiness at that age and what you had was a child with vague notions that she wasn't like other girls, but not really caring too much beyond that.

Left to my own devices then, I managed to get through a good chunk of my younger childhood before I really realized, mainly through my peers, that I was expected to act and dress a certain way that didn't necessarily jive with what I wanted. From that point forward, until I was almost 20, I have been accused by people of both sexes of being, in no particular order, a dyke, butch, a bitch (OK, I can agree with that one. Sometimes.) and a freak, along with some other, less printable insults.

A few years ago, someone told me that it was my short hair. If I let it grow, my problems would be resolved. Erm...no.

So that was me then - and me now. And somewhere out there, a woman is asking what to think and how to help her own little boy-girl. Which brings me into the archives over at Boston Moms to this piece talking about gender disappointment. It's a discussion about mothers who were devastated that their dreamt of, desired girl-babies turned out to be boys. One woman said that she still couldn't shop for friends who had girls because it makes her cry; another wrote a book, Altered Dreams: Living With Gender Disappointment.

I can say, with confidence, that I am truly grateful that I was not born a girl to any of these women - and that I am not their son(s) now. It makes me wonder how these women who wanted nothing more than little girls would deal with a little girl like the 5-year old who says she a boy...or with me when I was 5...or like my own dirt eatin', worm lovin', mud sittin; little girl. Would they treat such a little girl as if she were broken? Would they force her in to the little girl dreams that they had for her, all pink and lace or empowerment and hearing womyn roar?

I love both of my parents in a way that I can't even truly articulate for letting me be a boy and a girl and a tree and a soldier. And I love M for letting our own daughter just be who she is, not what she is. I have pictures of her sitting in a mud hole, waving a worm around. In the next picture, it's two worms because, well, when you wave a worm vigorously enough, it tends to er...ahem...break. Of course, to her, it only meant that she now had TWO WORMS!!! I look at those pictures, and the shots of her pet slug that she loved and played with and tried to give night night kisses to for a week before we released it back in to the dirt, and I wonder who - and what - she will decide to be when she grows up.

I don't want someone on either side of the fence telling her that she's broken. I don't want her to be forced to accept herself in any other way but the way she is. If she turns out to be a girl amongst girls, hopefully I'll get some good makeup tips. If she goes the other way, you'll see us on the trails together someday.

On a personal note, I learned, eventually, to walk and love the blurry line between genders (although my ex-husband used to accuse me, fairly regularly, of being a "total guy"). I have no desire to swap out my body for a man's, nor do I care in the least to be a woman as we're expected to be, whether pliant and demure, frilly and lace or feminist, empowered and in love with our vagina. Oh, sure, I toe the line of femininity and shave and pluck and wax and rearrange, but I hate it. Whenever I do it, I shake my mental fist at the sky and curse the accepted beauty standards for women. You can see it too. In pictures of me, the truest smile is when I'm filthy dirty, covered in cammo paint and mud and in my uniform.

Nevertheless, I love the boy-girl, girl-boy that I am. More than that, I love watching all babies and toddlers as they play, freely and unfettered, totally unaware that someday, their biological sex will impart accepted norms and standards unto them that may not be at all in line with how they really feel or are - as people.

As Blur sang at the end, "Always should be someone you really love...."


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