First of all, thank you for sharing your voice, raw and untouched. It is there, and present, and strong, and I think the rage and disappointment that ripples through each passage, while in some ways, confrontational, is an essential part of you — though not the largest part, anymore.
I am sorry for your pain, both past and present. I am sorry for the intrusive questions, which to some small extent, as a bi woman, living with mental illness, I have experienced at a much lesser level.
There’s such a compulsion to label, to categorise, to judge, and to ultimately 'other' humans we share the world with.
I have three children, and we have used those external “accepted” — cis - markers of gender to label them accordingly, from in utero to out. The world has changed in the nine years since my son was born, and there are those who argue (from positions of their own lived experiences) that we should raise our children without gender assignment, should use neutral pronouns, until they tell us otherwise.
Is that possible? I know that there are parents out there, with varying levels of privilege (financial, colour, educational and otherwise) who commit to this, who give their children gender neutral names, and do not use gender specific pronouns. Ten years ago, during my first pregnancy, it’s a privilege that it’s not even something I could begin to conceptualise thinking about.
When I was pregnant with my third child (three years ago now), I thought often on this, and on the way we had parented our other children so far.
We accepted the cis-gendered designations handed out by doctors, but worked to raise our children by listening to them. We refused to accept the idea that certain characteristics were innately feminine or masculine, no toys, or activities were off limits for our first two children.
Our son was (and is) gentle, with heightened empathy and compassion, and before school, would split his time between building Lego towers, crafting with boxes, and playing with trains and babies and toy kitchens. When he was three, he loved to wear fancy tutus and skirts, because he liked the way he looked when he danced in them. We told him then, and tell him daily, that he’s beautiful.
His younger sister has a fiery spirit (her nickname is actually firecracker), she too is kind, but also fierce and adventurous. As a two year old, for months on end, she dressed as Ironman, her favourite superhero. We would tell her then, and tell her now that’s she’s beautiful.
We tell them that beauty is kindness, and joy, and being who you are. I know that’s not always the definition the world applies, but it’s the one our children have grown with.
Never once did we tell them that certain things belonged to boys or girls, or that anything was off limits to them. We listened, accepted, and allowed space for them to be who they were (and are).
Yet, while I was pregnant with our third child, I found myself questioning if we had done them a disservice, by not applying a concept of gender neutrality, until they were capable of expressing it in terms they understood?
I don’t know the answer, I only know my children, and I know that they (so far) always feel safe to tell us how they are feeling, and what they are thinking.
So, we told people our third child was going to be a girl. At the moment though, in truth, she is just a 2 1/2 year old toddler who is strongly asserting the idea that everything she desires is “no mine!” And that which she doesn’t is met with a “Me don’t like!”. She’s shown a preference for “pik!” (Pink) clothes, but that could just be because she likes the colour, so, as with the others, we follow her lead.
Parenting, as you know, is always questioning and striving to do better than your parents did, and then hope, that incrementally, you in turn make the world better.
I am sorry that we still answered those questions in the binary — and lack of knowledge or capability to break the labels apart isn’t something I’ve managed to do as a parent.
I do hope, that listening, and being present, and dismantling the messages they come home from school with on a daily basis, is enough, for now, that educating our children on difference, visibile and otherwise is enough to help them be who they are — whoever that is.
Sorry, this kind of rambled, but the generosity of you, always, sharing your truths, made me think, about or world the way it changes (yet often stays the same), and the things we can do to push it along to make it better for the most marginalised.