Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Gender Identity

I hope I'm not opening up a huge can of worms here, but I'm going to explore my thoughts on gender identity on the blog today.

Right now I've got a very girly girl and a very boyish boy--Taevy and Samren. I've also got a boy that often-times really gets in to girly things. Bright. Now, don't get me wrong. I am not freaking out or anything. And I am of the belief that it is COMPLETELY normal for children to go through phases of playing around with things that are typically associated with the opposite gender. Samren had a pair of Taevy's play high heel shoes when he was little that he didn't take off for six months! ;-) And just this year for Christmas Taevy asked for play guns and some (more) cars (because "Samren has all the good ones!). But with Taevy and Samren they've always also been into things typical of their own gender.

Bright has been into "girly" things since I've known him. He just is. It's just him at this point in his life. He's been caught putting on my makeup tons of times. His favorite shoes are anything of his sister's. If you take him to an aisle of shoes he will go the pinkest sparkliest shoes on the aisle every time. He once threw a fit at Pay Less because he snuck a pair of pink sequin shoes on and I wouldn't let him get them! LOL! His favorite color has always been pink, just like Samren's has always been green. Always. If you give him a package of crayons he will pull pink out first every time. He wants to play with dolls and strollers rather than cars and GI Joes. He wants to push his hip out and his head to the side for a pic, rather than flexing his muscles like a football player.

Do I worry about all of this? Do I worry that he is gay or transgendered? Not really. No. But it is enough of a difference in him that Eric and I have talked about the "what ifs." Interestingly enough, today Dr. Phil was about how parents might want to respond to having a child who is gender confused. There were a few families on there that allowed (and maybe even encouraged) their sons to "be a girl" if that's what he felt inside. And then there was a Focus on the Family guy who said parents needed to buck it up and tell their kids they would NOT be allowed to act out what they felt on the inside.

It's no secret that I'm a fairly conservative gal, but I found myself identifying with these moms. These moms just wanted their sons to feel HAPPY, and "acting like a girl" is what gave them happiness. I kind of get that. We got Bright some cars this year for Christmas. But you know what? He also got a new doll and doll stroller. BECAUSE THAT'S WHAT HE LIKES. For his birthday, he had a flower cake, because he loves flowers! It seems silly--when you have a child that isn't into typical gender toys--to buy things for him that he won't like just to make yourself feel better.

There is no denying that there are a few members of our family that are seriously concerned about Bright's "girliness." I think it's WAY too early to make any determinations about gender identity or sexuality based on his current likes and play habits. People are just understandably concerned for what they haven't had experience with.

I'm not going to allow Bright to start dressing as a girl each day. Neither am I going to deny him the type of play that makes him happy. In the end, what we do now (either way) isn't going to matter a hill of beans when he is an adult! He is going to be what he is going to be. And I'm not going to force any child in our home to deny whatever it is that they feel inside. What I know for sure is that he will always be my child, he will always be welcome in our home with his family, and we will always love him.

P.S. 20 years from now when Bright is as "manly" as a man can get I will probably look back at this post and laugh that I ever even slightly thought about this!


Anonymous 4:22 PM  

Your story reminds me of one of the kids in my kindergarten class. Every day - EVERYDAY - at choice time he chose to play dress up and always picked the frilly dress and sparkly purse and then go and build with Legos. One day I asked him why he always picked that dress. His response? Why not?

I always think it's interesting that people worry about the boys who show an interest in girly things but girls who show and interest in boy things are just "well rounded".

Personally, I think this will make him a stronger husband and father because he is in touch with his feminine side.

Mary 7:52 PM  

I bought my 4 year old Nephew that loved baby dolls a boy cabbage patch doll for christams one year.He Named the doll Herman.And loved it.My nephew is 19 now and very much a Man.And He still has His Baby Herman Doll...Mary In Ohio

Laurel 8:07 PM  

Very interesting post. Thanks for "putting yourself out there" with honesty and openness.

I've had kids that play with all things ... we don't focus on gender with toys, because we don't focus on gender in "real life". Two of my boys have been the BEST in the kitchen ... they love to cook and bake. One of my girls LOVED to mow the lawn, so she would be outside working while her brother was inside baking. But ... they are still very much girl ... and boy. No question of gender identity as they got older.

One question I had, while reading your post was ... who has he bonded most closely with? You and Taevy or your husband and Samren. If he has happened to bond more closely to you and Taevy, it may be that he is emulating YOU, rather than a specific gender. Just a thought...

Now ... if years go by and he continues to display a great desire to be a girl ... I would get counseling for him. The choice to change one's gender does not necessarily bring the happiness that the person so craves. It only creates many more issues in the person's life. I have a brother ... that became my sister. He has not had an easy time. I believe he is now more unhappy than he was before the change, when he thought the change would bring happiness.

Momto13 11:17 PM  

I adore you and your a great Mommy for loving and supporting your son while he explores age appropriate play and growth. I love this post!
Love ya always!

A. Gillispie 8:11 AM  

Thanks for your comments on this. Like I said in my post, I fully expect all of my kids to blur the line between conventional "boy annd girl" in their play. Bright has just taken it to a new level in our home, so Eric and I have felt the need to go down the "what if" road.

I think that someone who has gender identity issues (this may NOT be Bright!!) really does have a hard road to travel down. I totally agree that changing genders won't necessarily bring Happiness. It may, but it may not. For our family, if we were ever to have a child who felt he/she was the wrong gender, we would allow our child to explore those feelings and their true likes or dislikes. But I don't think we would allow our child to change genders (meaning dressing the opposite gender) as a minor. That is a decision he/she could make as an adult. They say that 80% of gender confused kids eventually choose to remain the gender that matches their genetalia.

Anyway, great comments!

Cat and Mark 12:50 PM  

Great post! We sometimes see this with our son - but he has 3 (soon to be 4) sisters... he's outnumbered! So he does often play "house" and dolls and that sort of stuff. He also collects bugs. :) But where my son and daughter grew up, they were happy for any toys or clothes - no one cared what was for "boys" or "girls". Hana LOVED all Abi's toy cars and similar items at first (she's a bit more "girly" now) and was very put out if she didn't get all the same things.

Sometimes I think we privileged Americans "worry" about such things because we are fortunate to "have" so much... When we should just be thankful we have children that have a broader view on life and see beyond just Spiderman or just Princesses...

Anyways, great post.

Kimberly 9:36 PM  

What a great post! Very thoughtful exploration of a difficult subject. (I linked to this post at my blog; hope you don't mind.) =)

Thanks for your insights.

Global Girl 6:52 PM  

Good for you!