When I got pregnant, my partner and I knew we wanted to be thoughtful about the ways we helped our kids construct their gender and the way they viewed gender in general. Whatever sex our baby was born, we had every intentions of gender-bending the hell out of it. We toyed with the idea of raising a gender neutral child. But between the confusion and protests it would incite in our families and all the extra work it involved, we decided it wasn’t for us. What we really wanted was to find ways to equip our future children with the tools to think critically and the ability to challenge the notions of gender dichotomy that society would inevitably be pitching to them from womb to tomb.
Much easier said than done.
When it was time to find out the sex of our baby, we decided against it. This would be our first mandate as gender-bending parents. We figured if nobody, including us, knew the sex it would prevent everyone from intentionally or subliminally transmitting their gender based hopes, dreams and stereotypes through my belly.
Inexplicably, friends and family still lovingly whispered, shouted and rain danced nonsense at my stomach whenever they’d get the chance. It usually sounded something like, “Hey baby boy in there! Hurry up and come out so we can play ball!” SMDH.
Our next gender-bending challenge was clothing. As soon as our son was born, we were bombarded with utterly boring “boy clothes”. I had to lay down some rules. No sports! No “macho superhero’s”! And nothing with the words, “champ”, “all star” or anything of the sort. I was really hard core about this. I planned to balance out all the blues and greens with lots of pinks and purples and was ready to go to war with anyone who had a problem with it.
Turns out, it wasn’t as easy as I thought it would be. Even as a “progressive” parent, these binaries are still hard-wired within me and require some serious unlearning. I couldn’t fathom putting a dress on my son! If he asked for it, that’d be one thing. But doing so as a regular practice of gender bending? I wasn’t nearly as bold as I thought I was.