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Friday
Jul132012

Binary Parenting

There’ve been discussions about raising children in a gender-free or gender-neutral environment, the most familiar being Storm, a baby being raised without the sex characteristics being publicized or known even amongst the closest of relatives. Before Storm was Pop, a Swedish child being raised the same way, all pronouns being gender-free. This must get extremely difficult, especially when there are groups who feel the same way, but there’s the Egalia Preschool in Sweden (“Sweden’s ‘gender neutral pre-school”) where they try to have balance in everything gender-oriented. Kids are called by their names, “friends” or using the newish gender-neutral Finnish word “hen.” I’ve not heard of any schools trying this here in the United States, but can certainly see it happening in the next few years.

Besides the parents making a choice not to disclose gender, there’s a movement that insists people might not even be one gender or another. The belief that there are only two genders is a Gender Binary System. Someone who has the sex characteristics of one sex (male or female), but the brain of the other sex is considered Trans* (the asterisk replaces the modifier of choice for individuals… i.e. Transgender or Transsexual). However, most trans*folks identify with the Gender Binary System. Those that do not are considered Gender Variant… not feeling or acting either male or female. In fact, there are some gender variants that don’t even use male or female pronouns, the common descriptors being them, they or their even when being singularly addressed. It’s getting confusing out there! (In writing, the gender-free pronouns tend to be sie or zie instead of he and she, and hir instead of him and her.)

In talking to Zack (my transsexual spouse), I asked about his childhood as a girl. He had an older brother and Zack (then Sarah) coveted his brother’s toys and pastimes. Many times, even in the very progressive household he lived in, he was pushed towards female things from toys to clothes. I wondered about other someday-trans* kids and how to help them have the most well-adjusted growing up time, what would Zack have changed (besides transitioning pre-puberty) to make things easier… and what are his thoughts on raising kids gender-free. He told me it would be awesome if kids were offered toys, books, clothes, etc. that were both genders and that any choice would be acceptable. This would be easier at home than out, especially for little boys who chose “girl” things. But, if there was a way to do so, this is how Zack said kids would be able to express themselves the best, as long as all choices were welcomed.

Z did look at me sternly and ask, “You aren’t suggesting kids be raised gender-variant/gender-neutral, are you?” I asked him why, what were his thoughts. He said this is a binary world and as hard as the them, they, theirs try to force people to acknowledge a third (fourth, fifth, etc.) gender, it is unlikely that will ever happen. He said he would imagine children not raised binary would be so confused as to not know where they fit in in our culture.

It sounds funny, a transguy talking about conforming to society’s expectations, but in order to not be humiliated in school, to be able to get a job, to not be continually angry (as so many them, they, theirs are), living in the binary world just makes sense.

I wonder what’s going to happen to Pop and Storm as they get older. Is their pronoun going to be them, they, their?

What are your thoughts? How are you raising your kids?