Time for a Fight, Part I

I guess it’s about time we had an all-out fight over this gender thing. There is no question that I’m one of those people who is much happier not acknowledging the elephant in the room. Yes, I will feed and water and wash the elephant, and I just want everyone to be okay with that without having to discuss it. That was working for me. Then, somewhere in the last few weeks, my husband dropped his “stuff it down” attitude toward his feelings on this.

It started when G said he’d like to be more pink on an upcoming camping trip. I expected this was coming. Twice during the week before he was mistaken for a girl and happily went along with the strangers’ assumptions. “Sure, pink out” was my somewhat hesitant knowing-my-husband-might-not-go-for-it reaction.

I brought it up casually, “G wants to wear pink this weekend.” My husband’s face told me all I needed to know about how he felt about it, so I said we’d talk more in the morning–honestly believing that if I gave it time to sink in, if I explained my case, he’d be okay with it.

That’s not what happened.

The next day we each presented our cases.

He thinks if we allow G to wear pink on vacation, it turns our family into a freak show. He’s concerned that G will put us in the awkward position of having to pretend we have a daughter, perhaps calling him Rachel. He’s also concerned about O. It will be confusing for O to have a brother who is acting like a sister. D is very, very uncomfortable with the deceit.

For my part, I think G is already dealing with the deceit–alone. Just ask him his favorite color. Far from turning our family into a freak show, if we allow G to present as a girl on vacation, we actually get to blend in for a couple of days. Now, G is gender ambiguous. He may be wearing boy clothes with pink butterfly jibbitz on his crocs and begging for a new fairy at the gift shop. If he presents as a girl, no one questions it, and G gets to focus on being a kid without everyone staring at him, trying to figure him out.

Luckily we had an appointment already scheduled, and we carried the argument into G’s therapist’s office. Over the next 45 minutes, we came up with the following resolution–If G is willing to acknowledge being a boy who likes pink, we’ll support him in whatever he wants to do. However, we’re not going to allow him to put the rest of the family in a situation where we need to be deceptive–we’re not calling him Rachel or referring to him as our daughter. The idea is that G needs to be comfortable being a pink boy. Emphasis on boy. Emphasis on pink.

“So,” I asked in the car on the way home. “If G says he’s comfortable being a boy wearing sparkly shorts, are you going to be okay with that?” As my husband started questioning, “How long are the shorts? How many sparkles?” I knew that we didn’t have the agreement I thought we had. And, there is not way to force it. I can’t say, “Hey, you said if G was okay with it, you’d allow it” because G knows when Dad’s not okay with it, and that’s worse than just saying no in the first place.

It’s complicated.

In the end, the weekend still had some rocky moments but it was cold and G was dressed as a boy. Both boys picked out new princess jibbetz. Dad grimaced. The sales clerk was amused, but otherwise nothing particularly interesting happened. We came home. A quiet week passed. Then came Saturday and it was O’s turn to rock the boat and my turn to really, really lose it…

2 Responses to Time for a Fight, Part I

  1. john says:

    Thank you for this blog first of all. It’s great.
    I work with kids who are bullied and deal with substance abuse problems and many are LGBT and I hear their stories a lot.This blog is good for me to read and also to get their opinions and start conversations. Regarding this issue. As a single father of a 4 year old girl we have occasional disagreements about clothing. I generally don’t let her wear a full blown princess costume out to the supermarket or to school or out in public. I don’t let her wear winter boots in the summer. Swimsuits in the winter. And if something looks mismatched or weird I try to gently tell her and steer her away from it and I will not let her go out in public looking odd or set her up to be mocked. I consider that a good thing. I am all for her being an individual and having her own style someday..and if someone doesn’t like her tastes I want her to have the fortitude to tell them who gives a sh*t what you think. But now is not the time for total freedom in that department. she is incapable of sometimes making a good decision in this respect. So what I’m saying is..Just because my daughter is not LGBT does not mean our parenting guidelines are all that different ..in this case. Your husband is merely looking out for G..And if he was presenting as a boy and wanted to wear mismatched clothes to school or a sparkly birthday hat to a ball game..He would say no I imagine. So maybe in this case he is just saying “look whether he is presenting as a boy or a girl….I don’t want him to dress inappropriate.” And that is something we all deal with as parents of young children gay or straight. Right?

  2. Sophia Cairn says:

    John, I really appreciate your taking the time to comment. It’s incredibly helpful for me to hear the perspective of a parent who doesn’t have the emotional tie-ups of the gender issue. You are exactly right. There are some things G asks for that aren’t appropriate for any 8-year old child. My husband frequently says, “I wouldn’t let a daughter wear that!” And, I’ve used that line myself with G when it comes to play make-up, short skirts (even for play), etc. It’s definitely the hardest as parents when G asks for things we would let him wear or carry if he were a girl. In the end, like any good parent, both my husband and I want to protect him and keep him safe without making him feel bad about who he is.

    Again, thanks for the comment. It was a good reality check and a point I will take to heart.

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