Greetings!

I don’t do this a whole lot, but after my most recent post, the internet machine tells me I have quite a few more followers on this little old blog than I did previously. So hi, hello there, welcome. Pull up a chair!

I’m Katherine, and I’m a weird queer lady who some people say over thinks everything. But I think I think just enough. My interests include hating capitalism and loving cats. I have an about page if you need more vital information such as my cats’ middle names.

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I’m also a writer and artist trying desperately to make a living and support my little family. This blog does not pay. And most outlets that do pay for parenting related content are only interested in queer related content in a very limited capacity, and pay very low. Because of this, I now have a Patreon page, where readers can sign up to support my work. If you are able to support this blog financially, and you believe that I’m adding something valuable to the conversations around families and parenting, I am asking you to please consider it.

I’m glad you’re here, and I hope you enjoy.

Progressive Cisgender Parents Are Failing Our Kids

I perpetually have a draft or seven in my drafts folder about how progressive cisgender parents are failing transgender children. I feel deeply complicated about these drafts, and often have had trouble articulating them to the point of completion. I am not transgender, and this is not a blog about trans issues. I am not qualified to talk about what transness is, or isn’t, with any kind of authority.

Yet, this is, at least to some degree, a blog about parenting. And while I’m not a transgender person, what I am is a cisgender parent. So I am quite qualified to talk about being a cisgender parent, and to tell other cisgender parents that they are fucking up.

Cisgender parents: You are fucking up.

So of course, I had a draft about this idea (and a fairly recent one) percolating the other day, when I saw a New York Times op-ed titled “My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She’s A Tomboy” floating around the internet. When I first saw the headline, I rolled my eyes.

NOTE: This blog post is over 3000 words long. If you want to read about why that New York Times piece is a fucking problem, I suggest you read this excellent piece first or even instead. If you only have the time/energy to read one piece about this issue today, don’t make it mine.

ANOTHER NOTE: I do not personally know the author of the NYT piece discussed here, but we are in some of the same professional networks, and I have read and enjoyed some of her other work.

“Well how do you know?” I whispered under my breath.

But, as a writer who writes for the internet, I know that writers almost never get to choose their own headlines. And I know that editors sometimes put rather ridiculous headlines on pieces for reasons of “search engine optimization” (basically, clickbait). And this particular piece of writing was being shared by feminists who I love and respect.

If you are one of those feminists that I love and respect who shared the article on social media, please know I am not singling you out here. It really was a wide variety of folks in multiple circles, and I am not doing that passive aggressive thing where one says “lots of people did X” when they really mean “my friend Betsy did X but I don’t want to name her.”

Anyway, because people I respected had shared the article, I figured maybe the headline was just crap and it was worth a read. So I read it.

***

Tomboys are great. I was raised by one, a fierce woman who knew very much that she was a woman, and also that she was better than everyone else at climbing trees. She was, in many ways, a paradox of society’s gendered expectations, and also of what we think of when we use the word “mother.” Growing up, she was a small and compact woman, who literally seemed to never stop moving during the day. When I was very young, she quit the army to be a stay at home mom, and that is how I remember her. She was an excellent mother who regularly helped us with fun craft projects and made cookies all the damn time. She was also an athletic woman who loved playing outside as much as she loved baking, flatly refused to learn how to put on make up, and loathed dresses.

As a child, my mother was forced to wear dresses to school, because that was the rule. When I picture the mother of my childhood, I see her in jeans and a tucked in flannel shirt. I remember her heartbreaking stories about being a teenage girl and having boys say “you’re not like a girl, you’re more like a buddy.” But she was a girl.

***

A few weeks ago, a heard a story that I hear over and over again. Someone’s young child, a boy, was doing something that didn’t align with the expectations of the gender assigned to him. Specifically this particular boy wanted to wear a dress, and also his mother’s shoes. And one of his parents — his father — was very upset and concerned by this behavior. He wasn’t sure his son should be allowed to do these things. And his other parent — his mother — felt that it was fine and was no big deal and was looking for was to reassure the nervous dad.

The responses, from other progressive parents, were very telling.

“Oh, my nephew was really into dresses when he was that age, then he grew out of it, it probably doesn’t mean anything.”
“A lot of little boys go through that phase, it’s nothing to worry about.”
“My son was really into pink for awhile. We were worried about it but we just let him do it, then one day he just suddenly stopped. So it’ll probably be fine!”

All of these responses have the noble goal of soothing the nervous dad so that the kid can go on doing what he wants to do, dressing the way he wants to dress and playing the way he wants to play. But all of these responses are also very troubling, particularly if we take two seconds to think about what words like “anything” and “nothing” and “fine” mean in this context.

What they are saying, though they won’t come right out and say it, is “I understand that you are worried that this could mean your child is gay or transgender, but don’t worry, he probably isn’t!” They are affirming homophobia and transphobia as right and good (because nobody wants their kid to turn out to be some kind of queer, right?) and assuring the parents that it’ll probably be fine. And bear in mind here, these are progressive parents. These are parents who, when pressed, would say that of course they would support a gay child or even a trans child and love them “no matter what.”

But situating straight as cisgender as a “fine” way for a child to be and queer and transgender as somehow dangerous is homophobic and transphobic. And if the kid turns out to be any kind of LGBTQIA, those subtle messages could make a child feel less safe and less able to come out. And sometimes, those messages are not subtle at all.

***

Four years ago (according to her tweets, there is no date on the piece), the author of that New York Times op-ed published another essay about her child. That piece is on parenting.com and bears the headline “My Daughter Wants To Be A Boy!” In her recent tweets, Davis has pointed out that we writers rarely write our own headlines, and she did not write that one. She seems to think that the problem with that earlier piece, and how it relates to her more recent piece (My Daughter Is Not Transgender. She’s A Tomboy) is the headline. But here are some quotes from that apparently four year old piece:

They told us at school that she gravitated toward the boys, and though she is quite small for her age, and not particularly hearty, they told us she could hold her own with the rowdy bunch of them.

And again, I thought, “How great is she?”

Well, okay, 90 percent of me said that. The other 10% thought, “uh-oh.” As she started to announce in ways both subtle and direct that she’s a boy, and ask me questions like “Why can’t boys have vaginas and girls have penises?” the ratio of heartwarming to heart-sinking has shifted.

and

But there is something about having the only girl who won’t play princess, the only girl in the school who thinks and says she’s a boy, that has shaken me a bit. Dressing like a boy? Cool. Thinking you actually are a boy? Way more complicated.

and

And I’ve already endured the heartbreaking experience of having long-haired, pink-and-purple-clad girlie-girls look at my daughter and say, “Is that a boy or a girl?”

and

There’s really only one remaining objection to [redacted]’s proclivity: we have the loveliest assortment of hand-me-down dresses, ones that currently [redacted] refuses to wear but that I don’t want to waste. For this, though, I have clear-cut solutions. We wear dresses on Thursdays, and any time she wants to wear her tie, she has to wear a skirt, too. Which she does, as long as she can wear jeans underneath and, as always, her Spiderman shoes.

So no, the issue is not the crappy headline. The crappy headline, while crappy, is actually fairly accurate to the piece. Four years ago, Davis’ child (who she refers to by name in the piece, though I won’t republish a child’s name in that way) showed signs “both subtle and direct” that she wanted to be a boy. Davis was cool with her kid being a tomboy, but transgender was a step too far, it made her uncomfortable, it made her afraid. It made her so afraid that she was willing to force her child into a skirt and unhappiness. This piece is basically the very definition of a well-meaning parent — who sees herself as enlightened and accepting — being transphobic as hell. Davis’ child did not receive subtle hints that being a boy was not something available, it was direct. We wear dresses on Thursdays.

And if her recent NYT piece is any indication, Davis got her wish. Four years later, she happily states:

In fact, I love correcting them, making them reconsider their perceptions of what a girl looks like. But my daughter had been attending the after-school program where this woman taught for six months.

“She’s a girl,” I said. The woman looked unconvinced. “Really. She’s a girl, and you can refer to her as a girl.”

and

But it has always just been a look, even if it came with a rejection of princesses (which also delighted me) and a willingness to play family with both boys and girls as long as she could be the dog or the police officer.

and

The message I want to send my daughter is this: You are an awesome girl for not giving in to pressure to be and look a certain way. I want her to be proud to be a girl.

And maybe Davis’ kid really is a girl, and really does feel like a girl now, even though four years ago that wasn’t exactly the case. For every transgender person who has said “this sounds exactly like me, once I was told I couldn’t be trans I shut up about it and just said what my parents wanted to hear” there is a cisgender person who has said “this sounds exactly like me, I thought I wanted to be a boy when I was very young, but I didn’t really.” And that’s fine, and I can’t know which camp this particular kid falls into.

But regardless, both of these pieces are a problem. And are instructive as to so much of what is wrong with progressive cisgender parents who center their own feelings about their children’s identity over and over again.

***

I’m already angry with how much time I’ve had to devote to Davis’ writing in this piece. I didn’t set out to write a take down of either her four year old essay or this week’s op-ed, I want to talk about something larger. But we have one more thing to cover, and it’s from this excellent article on medium by trans parent Chase Strangio:

“[T]he message they send is that a girl cannot look and act like her and still be a girl.” This is a timeless message that has been told to girls, boys and non-binary people in the United States always and has nothing to do with trans-ness. We question the “realness” of people’s gender all the time — especially people who are Black, other people of color, people with disabilities, all trans people. This is not happening to the author’s child because some people support trans kids, this is happening and has always happened because of white supremacy and patriarchy. The author’s issue is not with trans people or trans-ness, or it shouldn’t be, it is with enforcement of gender norms and the impulse to situate people outside of real girlhood or boyhood because of who they are or how they look or how they act. But connecting this to the affirmation of trans young people in their genders is reckless and dangerous and wrong. Trans youth are dying because society is telling them, telling us, that we are fake. Trans women and femmes of color are being murdered because the impulse is to believe that trans-ness is fraudulent, that our bodies are threats. A white young person being asked questions about her gender is not a new problem and it is not a problem that should be blamed on trans people or trans affirmative shifts in society or medicine.

This touches on something that I think is very important. Davis positions the questions about her child’s gender as something that is happening because of trans rights, but that is bullshit. And the most common defense of the article I have heard has been “I was also a tomboy who was called a boy as a child, and I relate to this.” And yes, girls who don’t conform to society’s idea of what a girl should be are often punished and ridiculed, and it’s crappy and mean and it shouldn’t happen. But it isn’t the fault of trans people or a result of trans kids getting a teeny tiny bit of respect from time to time.

And I think most people, at least to some degree, know that. Yet Davis is very clear on the point. And while she says she wants Trans kids to feel safe, she also pits that safety against what she really wants, which is a cisgender child. She states:

Somehow, as we have broadened our awareness of and support for gender nonconformity, we’ve narrowed what we think a boy or a girl can look like and do.

But if cisgender people who are 30, 40, or even 50 years old, are stating that they like the article precisely because they relate to the plight of a girl who is often asked if she is a boy, then that can’t be true. This isn’t happening because we, as a society, support gender nonconformity, this is happening because of the same boring old patriarchy that has always been there.

A quick return to Strangio’s piece:

We should question the impulse to situate a problem in relation to trans-ness when in fact it is a problem that exists because of systems of power that also hurt trans people. That piece could have — and should have — been written with no mention of trans-ness. But then it wouldn’t have been interesting to anyone. It is interesting because it offers a new lens to question the legitimacy of transness while just describing the basic realities of gender policing. And truthfully, pretty benign gender policing when it comes to what people of color, people in prison, homeless people, people with disabilities, trans people, are subjected to.

***

All of this language has consequences, not just for one child but in a general sense. It’s important to note that the NYT has a history of publishing transphobic crap by cisgender authors. And again, I am a cisgender woman and in no position to explain how that must feel for trans people. But I do know what I’ve seen since Davis’ op-ed.

Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists (TERFs) have seized upon the article, and are using it to attack trans people on twitter. This is surprising to no one who has ever encountered TERF mythology before, and it is mythology. Yesterday I saw one woman claim that it is illegal in many places to do anything but supply puberty blockers to a child who shows any signs of being trans. When asked what places she was referring to, she dodged the question. But the idea that gender non-conforming children are being forced to transition is a huge part of the anti-trans mindset in this country, and it is dangerous and harmful.

Lisa Selin Davis should know that, and if she knows that, I find it to be very troubling that she still chose to publish this piece.

***

This is about cisgender parents, and cisgender parents who want to view themselves as progressive and affirming and accepting. I think Lisa Selin Davis wants to be those things, I think a lot of us do. And she isn’t the only one fucking it up. In fact, most of us are fucking it up, and to a certain degree that makes sense because parenting is hard as hell and gender is complicated.

But we need to stop this nonsense. We need to stop setting up being cisgender as “fine” and being transgender as some kind of failure that we’ll deal with and “love them no matter what.” We need to start out by supporting our kids no matter how they identify, and by keeping our nervous feelings about that to ourselves. We live in a deeply transphobic and cisnormative society, and it’s understandable that parents may have some complicated and confusing feelings about the possibility that something like gender could make our kids’ lives harder. But the only way to counter that is to actually counter it. If what really makes us nervous is that other people might make our kids’ lives harder if they aren’t cis, then we need to stop giving those “other people” a head start by doing it for them.

If we, the progressive cisgender parents of the world, are really as open and accepting and trans affirming as we say we are, then we have to start fucking acting like it. We have to make our homes the safest place in the world for trans children, and not just children we know for sure to be trans, but children who are still exploring. We need to stop wrestling our “daughters” into dresses they hate because somehow we imagine the fabric will be going to waste if it isn’t used to make our children miserable. We need to stop including the caveat “but some people might not like it!” every time we let our “sons” wear something pink. And we need to stop demanding that trans kids prove to us that they are trans fifty thousand times before we will believe them.

Because these stories are not uncommon. Again and again I hear from cisgender parents who have noticed that their child is operating outside of gender roles, or even straight up saying “I’m not a boy, I’m a girl.” And the parents stifle them, in direct or indirect ways. They keep on parroting “boys have penises and girls have vaginas” even though they know it’s more complicated than that, because they don’t want to “confuse” their kid. They wait to buy the dress their kid is begging for because “what if it’s just a phase?” They include with every single nail painting session the message that “some people don’t think this is ok.” Instead of positioning themselves as their kid’s biggest supporter, they are the first gender gatekeepers, the first people telling their child “it will be very hard to be what you want to be.” And then, when after years of that, the child seems to conform a little better, they breathe a sigh of relief. And even though they didn’t listen all the times the kid said something else, now that they are calling themselves the gender assigned at birth, cisgender parents are suddenly obsessed with “taking kids at their word” and they celebrate the fact that, phew, everything turned out fine.

If your kid says “hey I think I’m a boy” the answer is “great! if you say you are a boy I will call you a boy.” If your kid says “hey you know last week when I said I was boy, I realized I’m not actually a boy, I just thought I might be because some kids at school said only boys have short hair” the answer is also “great! if you say you are a girl I will call you a girl.” If your kid asks why they can’t be a boy with a vagina or a girl with a penis the answer is ACTUALLY YOU TOTALLY CAN. And if your kid asks if they can wear boys’ clothes and still be a girl, the answer to that is yes also.

And if you find yourself deeply relieved that the kid you once thought might be trans appears right now to be a cisgender tomboy, for the love of everything that is good, do not write about it for the New York Times

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Yo, Some Queers Live Here

I’m a pagan and a buddhist, a person who’s struggled to figure out exactly how she feels spiritually and religiously over the years, and also a person who’s taken the time to really explore and learn about other faiths. Today is one of those days between Ostara and May Day that feels like it’s going backwards, even though you know it isn’t. It snowed last night, and this morning while none of that snow had stuck to the ground, it was still a little cold to take the toddler out to play (at least for wusses like me). So we played indoors, listening to music, coloring, dancing, putting everything away in the play kitchen just to get it all out again.

Also, last night the United States bombed Syria. The force of war and violence feels overwhelming. I saw the news about the air strike right after meditating for the first time in months, my eyes opened, fresh and clean, and then this is the stark and ugly reality of the world we live in.

I mention all of that to give you context me. This morning my wifespouse went off to what we knew would be a busy and overwhelming day at work, and I stayed home with our toddler. This morning I tried to smile and play through my worry for the world. I tried to cherish my time with my child — even the parts that weren’t especially fun — with the knowledge of other parents who have lost children. This morning here I was, a gay pagan buddhist driving toy trucks around the house with my 22 month old, trying not to cry.

And that’s when they came.

Many months ago, I wrote about proselytizers. After moving to this house and this neighborhood, one day two polite and friendly Jehovah’s Witnesses came to my door. I wrote about my conflicted feelings about them. Today, they came back. Or rather, not them, but other proselytizers, representing the same faith, came through the neighborhood. I saw them on the sidewalk, and I took a deep breath, ready to be polite and friendly and conflicted when they knocked on the door.

Only, they didn’t knock.

My wifespouse and I are queer people. Ours is a queer family. We are proud of that. We do not have a rainbow flag, but we do have an adorable wooden sign, made years and years ago by a former housemate of mine. It reads:

“Yo, some queers live here.”

Last time proselytizers came to our home, I honestly don’t think they noticed it. Today they did. I know they did because they stopped just below it. For a moment, I thought they wouldn’t come up the steps at all. For a moment, I hoped they wouldn’t. But they did.

My child climbed into the window seat to watch them approach. He was holding a small wooden car in his hand and pointing. I took a very deep breath, preparing myself emotionally for the knock on the door, for answering it, for smiling. The moment stretched out and grew longer and longer, I was waiting for something to happen, only nothing was happening.

But something was happening, actually. They didn’t knock, but I could hear them muttering to each other under their breaths, just on the other side of the door from me. I could hear them cooing at my child through the window. I could hear them doing everything a person might do except knocking on the damn door they were standing right in front of.

Finally, after an agonizingly long wait, I just opened the door.

They weren’t smiling. The two women looked shocked and alarmed. One held back. The other had a small tract in her hand. She gave me an incredibly dirty look. I said “good morning.”

And then there was a tense exchange of pleasantries.

“We just want to… invite you and your… family, to our celebration of Jesus’ death…” she holds up the tract, but doesn’t reach towards me, she isn’t trying to hand it to me.

I hold out my hand and say “thank you” and with trepidation, like she’s avoiding something dirty, she places it in my hand.

“Oh!” says the proselytizer, “well… thank you for taking it.”

We wish each other a nice day, and they get off my porch in hurry, and I close the door in a hurry. My kid smiles at me, and he doesn’t know what is wrong, and I don’t know if I did the right thing by being polite and taking the tract or not.

***

So this is a message to any Christians reading this, especially to my Christian friends and family who might be reading this (I know that some of you do).

Be nice. Just be nice. It’s not that freaking hard to be nice to people who are different than you. And if you are going to go out into the world, you really should be expecting to run into people who are very different than you! Spoiler: we all have to deal with that. You are not special in that way, every single faith on the planet is composed primarily of people who will, at many points in their lives, have to interact with people with vastly different beliefs than their own. Sometimes you will meet people who do things that you personally would not do because your religious convictions lead you to believe that those things are wrong. It might make you uncomfortable! You still have to be nice.

And if you happen to believe that people who don’t follow your (very specific) moral code are going to hell, you should still be nice to those hell-bound people! And if you also happen to believe that it is your duty as a believer to share your belief with others, so that they may also be saved, then you should be especially nice.

If you come to a gay person’s home, with an offering of a tract about Jesus, you had better not shrink away from that gay person’s hand. If you have the audacity to go door to door, from stranger’s home to stranger’s home, to share your beautiful faith with the world, guess what? You are going to run into people that you think are sinners! And it is your job to not be an asshole when that happens. You had better hand your literature into the hands of devil worshippers joyfully and with a friendly smile. Because if your goal is really to save these people, if your goal is really to save me, then you are a disgrace to everything you believe when you let your prejudices get in your way.

If I can be nice, you can do it too. If you can’t? Get the fuck off my porch.

They Don’t Care What Kind Of Phone I Have, They Just Want Me Dead

I have an iphone.

Like a lot of parents, my iphone is perpetually out of storage because it is filled to overflowing with pictures of my kid. Like a lot of parents, I check social media on my phone during long days with said child, when I get bored of the endless toddler games of “look I put a truck in the pretend kitchen” and “look I put a truck on the piano” and “would you believe it there is a truck on your arm!” Like a lot of parents, I text my spouse when she’s at work and I’m having a bad day, anything from “oh my god this is the fourth poop today” to “he is begging to go outside and it is so cold” to “this child is the only thing in the universe that makes this worth it.”

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It is an iphone 4, and it is used. It was a gift from a friend when my previous iphone 4 died. I couldn’t afford a brand new phone, but I needed a phone, and she was upgrading (I think to a 5 or a maybe a 6, which I believe she purchased used). My service provider charges me between twenty six and forty dollars a month, depending on how much I use the thing.

My life wouldn’t go without this phone. Its front button is broken, and so I have a lot of weird work-arounds to make it functional. My family does not have a landline. I live in a city with spotty public transportation, and when I’m out, I often need to have my phone with me for tracking the busses (the tracker does not always work, but I almost always need it and sometimes it does work) and to be able to contact someone or call a cab if the busses just never come. In addition to that, I’m a writer, and I often type up first drafts of certain projects on my phone when I can’t use my laptop (this happens more than you might think, when you factor in the toddler). I use my phone to read and respond to work related emails. My family relies on my income as a writer to pay our bills and survive. I also use the phone to contact loved ones, contact our landlord, and even help manage my insomnia.

And my entire family is on Medicaid, my wife and I only because of the Medicaid expansion that came with the affordable care act. And that insurance has literally saved my life. Twice.

I am working as hard as I can, as much as I can, to make money for my family. I have the cheapest possible phone that will meet my needs. I’m not trying to prove that I’m a model poor person here, people can have whatever phones they want. If a poor person has the newest iphone, I don’t think that means they don’t deserve to go to the doctor. And many many people have explained that the price of a new iphone is still much lower than the annual cost of healthcare, that’s not up for debate.

But I do want to mention that I know a whole lot of poor people, and while most of us have phones, and many of us have iphones, I don’t know a single poor person with the new iphone. And even for those of us doing the whole having-a-phone-thing (and you know, a connection to the outside world, a way to make doctor’s appointments, a way to call my mother) as cheaply as possible, it doesn’t magically mean we can afford the actual cost of healthcare, which also happens to be a cost that rich people are never expected to pay. Once upon a time, I believed in the myth of the good poor person. I believed that if I was just frugal and careful, I would never need help. The problem was people expecting luxuries, I thought. The probably was people not spending their money more wisely. The problem was people not working hard enough.

I am tired of working hard and being wise. I am tired of constantly worrying about money. I am tired of living with the knowledge that I am going to lose my insurance because of selfish rich men who don’t care whether I live or die. And I won’t accept the blame for that. I won’t pretend any longer that the problem is somehow me, that income disparity isn’t by design, that paying people less than they can live off of isn’t theft. I won’t do complex magical thinking to to convince myself that hey, if only we didn’t occasionally break down and order a damn pizza, maybe I could have afforded to pay for my own gallbladder surgery.

If you stand at a bus stop in January waiting for a bus that might not come — with people who cannot afford a car, or insurance, or gas to put in that car… people who also cannot afford to lose their job if the bus doesn’t show, but they’re going to anyway — you will see a lot of cell phones. Some of them are smart phones. Some of them look fancy. Some of them are like mine, half broken, but kind of work. Some of them are flip phones. Some of them are the free phones they sometimes hand out from booths on the sidewalk. All of those people holding those phones, they all deserve basic human dignity, they all deserve to go to the doctor when they need to.

It’s worth mentioning that the same people who insist that poor people could afford the cost of healthcare if they just lived without every single nice thing in the universe are the same people fighting to keep the minimum wage low, fighting to block unions, fighting to keep anything down that might make our lives better.

It isn’t about iphones. They just think we deserve to die. They think I deserve to die.

Quit Beating Around The Bush About Gender Neutral Parenting: Buy Your Son A Pink Dress

Regular readers will know that I write a whole lot about kids and gender. This isn’t really a blog that’s just about that, it’s a blog about families pushing back against harmful norms that isolate and hurt us, norms that have their root in patriarchal and capitalist ideals popularized by the so-called “traditional family” which is more accurately called the nuclear family. But you really can’t push back against that stuff without pushing back against gender roles. And as I’m currently actively engaged in raising a toddler, I have a front row seat to the way that our culture teachers gender roles and norms early, and aggressively.

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I notice stuff, and I write about it.

Recently I published a piece about gender differences in kids’ clothes on a popular parenting site. I don’t read the comments on my work outside of this blog (a practice I encourage all writers to adopt for their own mental health) but I have shared the piece in my own networks, and it’s garnered some discussion. I’ll be honest, I was very nervous publishing it in the first place, because the last time I published a piece about little boys’ clothing I received some “helpful” emails explaining that boys need their clothes to be different in these ways because they’re made of snails and puppy dog tails or whatever. Given that in this newer piece, I admitted to dressing my assigned-male child in “girls'” clothing, and also outright stated that I think these gender differences in how we (as a society) dress kids are harmful… and this is a relatively mainstream audience… I was bracing myself for the worst.

So far it hasn’t come.

What has come, however, is a ton of people thanking me for writing it (you are very welcome) while stating things like “I have two boys, so I haven’t really been in the girls’ section.” Folks were happy to have me name the differences, and to complain about the differences they had noticed, but they weren’t willing (or able) to take it any farther than that. So let me get this out of the way, let me stop inching up to the topic carefully, let me be clear about not just naming the problem, but also talking about how we push back against that problem.

If you are a parent or caregiver to a boy child, or a child who is assumed to be a boy, and you are still picking out/purchasing most of his clothing, I think you should buy him a dress. Make it a pink dress. And I think you should do it today.

Get your son a pink dress.

Why? Because he deserves it. Because little boys are just as deserving of a chance to enjoy a pink frilly dress as little girls are of a chance to enjoy a pair of overalls with a damn train on them. Because our sons are going to grow up in a world that repeatedly tells them not to be tender, not to be kind, not to be sensitive and if we don’t give them a different message no one fucking will. Because if it turns out that you’re wrong about your kids gender, and in two years they realize that they’re trans, it’s gonna be a whole lot easier for everybody if they don’t get the idea of that dresses are off limits. Because most gender nonconforming kids have to beg their parents for the clothes they want, and it shouldn’t be that way, and you know it. Because the very idea that it is somehow shameful for a boy to wear a dress is misogynist as fuck. And he’ll never know that he’s allowed to wear dresses if you don’t show him that.

Kids are smart. Kids are learning all the time. They are internalizing the messages they see all around them. And unless you are raising your child as a nudist, they clothing you put your kids in affects the way they see themselves. This stuff matters. And little boys growing up with no actual exposure to feminine things directly contributes to them seeing little girls as “other” at a very young age. They are internalizing both the subtle and overt messages they are getting from the world that tell them that girl stuff is not for them, and girl stuff is not for them because they are better than girls.

I’m fairly femme. I love wearing dresses and skirts, I find them to be in many ways more comfortable and freeing than pants. I like that they come in fancy and girly options. I like that they’re pretty. I like the way they feel on my body. And I know, as a person who wears both pants and skirts, that the experience of wearing a skirt is totally different — even just on a physical level — than that of wearing pants.

How are little boys ever going to be able to relate to little girls if they don’t even know how different this most basic experience — wearing clothes — is for them? And little boys not being able to relate to little girls is a problem. We know it’s a problem. We know it contributes to adult men dehumanizing adult women. We know that the vast majority of children’s media features white, male, cisgender, able-bodied, assumed straight, protagonists, and kids who fit that description get used to thinking of themselves as normal and everyone else as abnormal. Men get so used to living in this intense bubble of privilege that if it is threatened even a a tiny bit, they often freak out. Some of them freak out to the point of supporting fascism.

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There’s lots of things we parents can do about that (talk to your kids about oppression today please!) but one of them is to put your little boy in a dress. If it turns out he’s cisgender and incredibly butch, and he hates dresses and doesn’t want to wear them, he’ll tell you when he knows that! Putting your son in a dress is not forcing him into anything anymore than putting him in pants is forcing him into anything, and if he doesn’t like dresses, you can add it to the long list of stuff that you shrug about and say “we tried it, it wasn’t for him.”

If you’re short on cash, you can find a dress at your local thrift store, or even just make a point to reach out to moms of girls and let them know you’re open to receiving more feminine hand-me-downs.

If you are worried about your kids safety, you can put him in the dress on a day you know he’ll be home all day.

If it makes you uncomfortable, good. That feeling you feel right now is you coming face to face with your own internalized misogyny and cissexism. It feels bad! Confronting it is important, and it’s good for you, and any kids you have. You’re slightly squicked out feeling is understandable, given our culture, but it’s also yours to deal with. It is not fair to make that your child’s responsibility, and it is definitely not fair to deprive your child of things that he may turn out to love just because you don’t want to deal with your shit.

Little boys are missing out on all kinds of really great shit, like the color pink, and hearts, and how cool it feels to spin around in a floofy skirt, and understanding that women and girls are also human beings. And it’s not fair, and they deserve better.

You can start small. It’s just one dress! You don’t have to tell your great aunts about it if you know they’ll freak. But you have to start. If you believe in equality, if you believe that you’d be cool with it if your kid told you they were trans, if you believe women’s rights are important, this is your path.

Do it today. Buy your son a damn dress.

 

We’re living in dangerous times, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Want to show your support?
Donate to the Post Nuclear Family’s Adoption Fundraiser
or
Support me (and this blog) on Patreon!

DeVos Doesn’t “Believe” In Gay Conversion Therapy, And That’s Enough For (some) Gays, Apparently

I don’t usually use my blog in this way, but the world is going to shit and we need to talk about it when the very people who are supposed to be standing up for equality act like toothless cowards. First, deep breath, here’s a cat:

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In case you’ve been living under a rock, Donald Trump has nominated Betsy DeVos, a woman with absolutely no experience working with or in public schools, as his Secretary of Education. In fact, DeVos more or less hates public schools, but she did give Trump a whole lot of money! She’s also from Michigan, where she’s been working her ass off to funnel taxpayer money into private schools for years. Regular readers will know that I reside in Michigan! Readers who are also friends will probably know that I have a lot of anxiety about the schooling options available for my family, in part because of policies that are in place because of Betsy DeVos.

Betsy DeVos is bad news for poor kids. She’s bad news for kids of color. She’s bad news for disabled kids. She’s bad news for queer kids. And even if you, or someone in your family, doesn’t fall into one of those categories, if you have a progressive bone in your body, this person is bad freaking news. And yet…

Well, just check out this email I received last night from Equality Michigan, the largest and best known LGBT advocacy group in the state:

On Tuesday, January 17 Betsy DeVos appeared before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions for her confirmation hearing as President-elect Donald Trump’s nominee to be the next U.S. Secretary of Education. After hearing from hundreds of Equality Michigan supporters from all over the state and receiving requests from a broad chorus of pro-equality advocates across the country, Ms. DeVos spoke out in support of LGBT students.

Equality Michigan was pleased to hear her state, “Every child in America deserves to be in a safe environment that is free from discrimination.”  She went on to say, after being pointedly questioned by Sen Al Franken (DFL-MN) about the inhumane practice of so-called conversion therapy, “I have never believed in that.”

If Ms. DeVos is confirmed as Secretary of Education, we look forward to working with her and her department to put those values into action in the form of policies that protect the safety of LGBT kids and ensure freedom from discrimination. Thankfully, there are many proven policies currently in place that should be maintained. We know from direct experience here in Michigan just how successful the policies of the Office Civil Rights have been. Equality Michigan works with students, parents, and educators who rely on current nondiscrimination policies to keep kids in schools, focused on education, and healthy. These policies have literally saved students lives and we look forward to seeing them continued.

Thank you to everyone who signed the petition, spoke out, and joined with LGBT equality organizations all over the country, local and national, to highlight the need for clarity on these issues. Obviously, our work is far from done. We will all keep working together to put our shared values of fairness and equality in practice and make them a lived reality for our community.

I’m not going to mince words here. This is a fucking problem. This is dangerous, and this is ridiculous. Equality Michigan is essentially waving the victory flag over two vague statements made by DeVos during the hearing… neither of which included any indication of how her beliefs would affect education policy. Note that she didn’t say that was would outlaw conversion therapy, or even that she’s against it, just that she’s “never believed that.” Forgive me if I don’t feel the sudden urge to embroider the woman a rainbow throw pillow.

But even if she had come out in full support of LGBT students, hell, even if she’d come out in full support of LGBTQIA students (which is *cough cough* more than mainstream gay advocacy groups like Equality Michigan are ever willing to do) she’d still be dangerous. And it would still be a problem for Equality Michigan to “look forward to working with her.” This is a classic example of a failure of intersectionality, of one oppressed group being a-ok with harm done to other oppressed groups, so long as it isn’t done to their group (except in this case, it’s “as long as we can pretend it isn’t going to happen to our group”). This is abominable and disgraceful.

I haven’t yet been able to find a full transcript of the hearing that is actually readable, but here is a wrap-up of a few things she said and refused to say.

As a poor, queer, mother, all of this scares the crap out of me. As a person who actually gives a damn about other people, it cares the crap out of me. But what really scares me the most is when organizations that should have my back are “looking forward to working with” people like Betsy DeVos.

We’re living in dangerous times, and it’s going to get worse before it gets better. Want to show your support?
Donate to the Post Nuclear Family’s Adoption Fundraiser
or
Support me (and this blog) on Patreon!

Resistance and Reality

In just a few short days, the country which I call home will be swearing in a president who ran on a platform of open racism, xenophobia, and fascist ideas… and won by leveraging the fear, greed, racism, and sexism of citizens who lean conservative, with the aid of a a foreign power. It’s a terrifying time to be alive for many of us, but especially those of us who are already marginalized in many ways. I and my family are far from the most affected by the current political climate, but as a poor queer family we certainly are affected by it.

For one thing, it now is extremely obvious that any hope that the ACA would remain was folly, and my wife and I will surely be losing our insurance (look for my upcoming piece on Romper about that). To add insult to injury, our plans to use our insurance to get some long term needs taken care of while we still can has pretty much been foiled by constant illness. Ditto my plans to put a ton of my energy into protesting and other forms of resistance. This week, we need all the strength that we can, and we’re starting three steps behind.

No matter how you slice it, our lives are about to get a whole lot harder financially.

And considering how much power is being given to people with angry and fearful anti-LGBTQIA views, we don’t know what other ways our lives are about to get harder. But we’re extremely nervous, to say the least.

To that end, we are trying our best to complete our second parent adoption process as quickly as possible. It’s one thing we can do to legally protect ourselves as a family a tiny bit, and it’s something we wouldn’t have access to in the event that they managed to remove our marriage rights (which seems unlikely right now, but a lot of things that seemed very unlikely are happening, so we’re not making any assumptions). But of course, it’s expensive. And we’re a poor working class family trying to navigate a capitalist society. All of which is to say, there’s a fundraiser.

You can donate here. I hate to ask for the help, but we’re out of options, and our child needs this. Ultimately, his rights are a hell of a lot more important to me than my pride. And what is there to be gained from being too proud to ask for help anyways? Nothing. I want to believe in a world and a future where we help each other out, and support each other as a community. Crowdfunding is a deeply flawed way to get closer to that right now, but at the moment, it’s what we’ve got. If you’re a regular reader, please consider giving. Even the smallest amount matters. Here’s that link again.

I also have a Patreon now, if you’d rather contribute in a more general way. I’m still figuring out all the nuts and bolts, and working on how to handle the tiers and rewards, but one big thing I’d like to do with the Patreon is support this blog right here. So if you like what you’re reading here, and you want it to keep coming, consider supporting me on Patreon if you can. Expect updates in that regard very soon!

I am writing this on Martin Luther King Jr Day. I want to believe that thing about the arc of history bending towards justice. I want to believe that the people who are pushing so hard against justice are making their last stand, that this is our one step back before two more steps forward.  I want to believe in hope and beauty and resistance and resilience. But I’m also really really scared. And I need to be honest about that.

I’m not well enough to be at a march today, and I’m too behind on bills to take any time off work. But I’m going to resist oppression and fascism however I can. We’re all going to resist however we can. Right? Right.