As a woman who has been brought up resolutely into the ‘pink’ side of the gender binary, with bows, ruffled socks, dresses, ballet lessons and gymnastics, I know what I’m trying to achieve. doing now as a mother is different from what mine parents did and what many others are still doing. Each parent’s journey in deciding how to raise their children will be different and should be respected.
My parental choice to try and raise my toddler without the pink and blue gender binary was not necessarily the result of one thing, but rather a conscious choice that I tried to understand over time. time. What I do know today is that my husband and I want my child to have as many options in life as possible.
The first conscious decision I made, along with my husband, was to wait until I knew biological sex, not gender – as one of my doctors reminded me, gender is an identity that l ‘we adopt over time – until I give birth. During my pregnancy, it was a matter of reminding several healthcare providers not to inform me. As a result, the baby’s first nine months of existence in my womb were full of these possibilities, and as it was, after over 40 hours of labor, my husband and I were so in shock when our new -8 pound born finally made an appearance that it took a few minutes to ask the midwife what the biological sex was when it was realized that the umbilical cord was blocking the genital area.
“My parental choice to try and raise my little one without the pink and blue gender binary was not necessarily the result of one thing, but rather a conscious choice that I tried to understand over time. time.”
These first few minutes are probably the only ones that my child will have free from all expectations of how to look, behave and feel. Because once nurses found out about biological sex, they started saying things that reflected how our society treats biological women and men differently, even from day one. These are the kinds of things I have probably said in the past without thinking. This is how everything is common. “Oh, your daughter is so beautiful.” “What a big, strong boy you have. But now that this was my child, I wanted to start thinking about the words I use (and others around me) and all the other ways we create (or reinforce) gender norms without me. realize.
The very first time I actively had a conversation about this new thought was while I was still in the hospital. A nurse was helping me with my catheter in the bathroom, while my husband and parents were in the delivery room, and I heard my husband use gendered language to refer to our newborn baby. As I was still on pain medication and was bleeding enough to be watched, I experienced a moment of clarity.
When I walked out into the room I asked him to examine the words he had said, what feeling or emotion was he trying to communicate? After all, aren’t phrases like “my beautiful princess” or “my beautiful little man” placeholders to express love and pride? From that moment on, he used “mi vida” (“my life”) to convey that same feeling of pure joy and unconditional love that he felt in the first few moments he held our baby. Once we had that conversation, she opened up many more honest ones since, where we discussed how to handle everything from the words other people use to the (sometimes gendered) gifts they give our baby.
“I wanted to start thinking about the words I use (and others around me) and all the other ways we create (or reinforce) gender norms without realizing it.”
For the first year and a half, striving to raise a child without gender stereotypes was primarily about appearance. I spent hours agonizing over not-so-great clothing options available online and in person, ultimately opting for a mix of the “girls” and “boys” sections. On a trip to the now closed Toys’ R Us to use a gift card, I circled the same handle of baby clothes racks over and over again in the hopes of finding something, anything, that was not pink, not blue, and not white or gray – colors that aren’t exactly neutral but really hard to clean up.
When it comes to appearance, I’ve learned over and over again that the default sex is male until proven guilty. When we went to pick up the first baby ID photo at just a few weeks old, the photographer told us how “handsome” our “son” looked, dressed in a white jumpsuit. In all that is bright and colorful, our baby is generally described as a “beautiful girl” or a “princess”. This begs the question, which came first: putting knots on babies to identify them as girls or the assumption that individuals have to be “dressed” to be seen as female? When our baby was 1 year old, we traveled together as a family of three to South America for six months. After this experience, I learned the specifics of being identified by others as a gender other than male can be even more demanding: in some countries we visited, I observed that babies are only identified as non-male that if they have long hair, wear “pretty” shiny clothes with bows or other accessories, and – a big must, they must have their ears pierced.
“What happened first: putting knots on babies to identify them as girls or the assumption that individuals have to be ‘dressed’ to be seen as women?” “
Figuring out how to break free from the binary of dressing our child as one gender or another was warming up. It was about taking good habits, checking our prejudices, removing gendered words like “pretty” or “beautiful” from our vocabulary. We have also made some changes on our side. I cut my long hair for the first time to see how I like it. My husband started growing his for the same reason. And as the older generation in our family indulged in what we were doing, my mom surprised my dad with a Scottish kilt for Christmas in his family tartan. A friend said to my parents, “Why bother? Your grandson won’t remember it. My parents said, “Our grand-baby will never know anything else. It will be our reality.
Now that my toddler is mobile, more visible in the world, and absorbs everything people say like a sponge, the marathon of navigating gender perceptions of behavior and feelings has begun. And that’s all uncharted territory. I still haven’t figured out how to react, for example, when people say things like “Look how well she behaves” when our 20 month old is acting respectfully towards others – something I would encourage my child to do. to do. do regardless of gender identity. When a baby wears clothes that are perceived to be feminine and cries in public, people are more likely to be judgmental and silence our little one. What about these male clothes by default? They are good for something. With these, I know I don’t have to worry about how loud the screaming is.
For our family, there is an additional complexity. We are an English / Spanish bilingual household and aside from the recent popularization of the gender-neutral term Latinx, used to refer to people who identify as Latin American, the rest of the Spanish language as it is spoken and written today. ‘hui assumes binary, so we are using gender pronouns in both languages - which is irrelevant here. I admire families who raise “Theybies” – the ones who use them, instead of her or him – and maybe if I had thought about the concept before our own was born, we might have found a way to make it work.
For now, I try not to let the words I and others use define my child’s future.
“I want my little one to know that all people deserve to be loved – to be who they are – no matter what colors they like, what outfits they wear or what hobbies they love . “
My own words may be imperfect. And the way I put my beliefs into practice can be inconsistent, especially when I don’t feel prepared or comfortable correcting things people say. But my intentions come from the heart: I want my little one to know that all people deserve to be loved – to be who they are – no matter what colors they like, what outfits they wear or wear them. -time they enjoy. That appearance, attitudes, interests, feelings and identities can be fluid and change over time, regardless of biological sex. That no one should ever experience limitations in their ambitions, discrimination, intimidation or violence because of their gender.
Creative gender parenting – the idea that baby has the freedom to choose any gender expression (whether female, male, neither) is important to me because I know that for many the pink and blue binary is harmful and stifles individuals to realize and feel safe to express their identity. I identify as a woman, but my concept of “being a woman” has evolved over time, and I don’t subscribe to most of the ways that gender is defined by society – having to look, act, or feel a certain way. One of the unspoken beliefs of the religion I was born into, Mormonism, is that women are in every way superior to men. Unlearning this, and other damaging sexist constructs, has taken years. Instead of having to learn to break free from the boundaries of society, I want my little one to be able to just be – whatever that means.
For the first year and a half of my child’s life, we were fortunate enough to manage custody of our child between myself, my husband, my parents and my sister-in-law – all of whom agreed with our approach of avoiding gender norms. As baby’s second birthday approaches, the reality of work demands may change. We are thinking of daycare centers and, beyond that, bilingual public schools. Given how hard I have worked to create a safe space for our toddler to become the unique person that baby will become, I am afraid of the messages that potential caregivers and teachers might send to my child.
Even seemingly simple things like going to the bathroom or joining sports teams at school will be things to consider – reminders of the diversity of our society. Sometimes it all seems too much. I asked a colleague whom I admire how he sends his child to elementary school every day without fear that others will thwart the stimulating environment he has created at home. I think about his words whenever the going gets tough: this positivity, love and freedom we have provided is not going anywhere, we will continue to provide it and it will be with my little one every step of the way on his way to the larger world. .
When I see my child spinning past me, walking with determination on the dirt road outside the house where we live, I don’t see a girl or a boy running, I see a little person so full of life – possibility . And I hope it will always stay the same.
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