August 31, 2012
What’s so bad about a boy who wants to wear a dress? (New York Times Magazine, 8/12/12)
The answer, of course, is that there’s nothing bad at all about a boy who wants to wear a dress…but what I’d like to know is why this is the question.
The article is well worth reading, and I’m thankful for these parents who make a decision to accept their sons as they are and to not force them to suppress their gender expression, and to get them support in their schools and neighborhoods. I know it does take courage to do it in the face of a lot of misunderstanding and pressure to the contrary. They make me hopeful and thrilled for their kids.
But it just shouldn’t need to be considered a revolutionary act to stand up for your kids.
I’m impatient despite my relief that these people exist, and will probably keep growing in numbers, with an article written mostly by and for people who are only just now learning to face up to the things that people like their kids have always had to. And that this is an eight-page article in the Times, not because we’re suddenly aware of the existence of gender-variant people, but because a certain number of otherwise mainstream parents have decided to accept it in their children. Not even completely and unconditionally, but to one degree or another. Not that gender fluidity has always been a normal part of the fabric of human identity and yet that these kids have almost always lived under a terrible burden of abuse and repression (and probably still do more often than not). But that a relative handful of parents are willing to stand up to a cruel and unjust culture to prevent abuse of their children for being who they are. To say that maybe conformity is not the highest possible goal, to recognize that it might be easier for them but not actually the best thing for their child.
Lots of people have fluid or androgynous gender expression, and young children can be far more self-knowing than we give them credit for. The question I wish a writer for a major, mainstream news publication would address is “what the hell is wrong with a society that would treat the most vulnerable of children the way that we currently do?” How is it that ostracism, bullying, ridicule, forced suppression, employment discrimination, and violence are considered the normal responses to deviations from it, and acceptance is considered the curiosity?