Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Gender Bender

Remember the blog project I did last year with three other women? Well, Froggie decided to resurrect it with me and we each got to invite another friend to join us. She invited a mutual friend (someone I met through her) and I invited a friend whose blog I really enjoy reading. So now it's Froggie, Mom of Many, Moma Rock and Merrylandgirl. Hope you enjoy the topics that we'll be exploring!

This week, Moma Rock picked the topic:  I recently read about parents who kept their child's gender a secret for 5 years. What are your thoughts on this?

Before reading ahead, first see what everyone else had to say on this topic:
Froggie
Mom of Many
Moma Rock

I'd like to start out with a short video.


Pat is a Saturday Night Live icon. I happen to do a pretty good impression of "them," if I do say so myself. Scary, huh? In any case, I think that if a parent doesn't allow a child to identify with a gender, they could turn into someone like Pat over time....

When a child is born, the first thing everyone wants to know is the gender. Some parents even find out the gender in the second trimester, provided the baby cooperates during the ultrasound. I was not one of those parents. I waited until each of my children were born before finding out the gender, but that was always the biggest topic on everyone's mind. I had people telling me I was crazy to wait, especially the third time around. I'll admit that I did get curious at times, but I knew finding out at the end was like the icing on the cake. I don't even like hearing spoilers for a movie, book or TV show. Why would I want a spoiler for the birth of my child? Finding out the gender was such an exciting part after all the labor and delivery drama. I was so thrilled each time I heard the announcement from the doctor. If I had the chance to do each birth all over again, I'd still wait until the very end. And of course, I always wanted everyone in my life to know the gender right away. I wasn't keeping that a secret any longer, even though I held off on sharing the name for religious reasons.

Getting back to my point...it is a big deal to people to know someone's gender. When someone doesn't know a person's gender, it can be quite awkward and frustrating. I've come across situations like that and I had to wait for cues from others. When the person's name was as androgynous as Pat's, that became even more perplexing and I had to ask someone in private. It drove me crazy not to know. So I can imagine the people in this child's life becoming increasingly annoyed that they don't know if they should say "he" or "she" and send him or her to the boy's or girl's bathroom.

While I get the desire of parents to not force their child into a gender stereotype, I also feel that it is mentally cruel to the child. It's like not giving them a name or hiding their birthday from them. I'm glad they finally revealed the child's gender. What if they hadn't though? What would they do when it came time for the child to go through puberty? How would they explain their changes without revealing the gender. I could see the only time that this lack of a gender assignment would be advantageous....at a venue where the ladies' restroom is crowded but the men's restroom line just "whizzes" by. They could just say they're a man and go right on in.

I think gender roles have come a long way. Women aren't just housewives (unless they choose to be) and some even earn more than their spouses. There's a lot more gender equality than in the 1950's. There is still a ways to go in some aspects, but women these days are more independent than ever before. There are also men taking on roles that only women would have taken on in the past, such as stay-at-home dad. With all this gender freedom, I see no reason why a parent should have to hide a child's gender to keep them from falling into a stereotype. Girls can play with boy toys if they want, and vice versa. A lot of toys these days are gender neutral. Pixar films have brought forth characters that either gender could like. Just wait till "Brave" comes out this spring...a story of a girl who has to save her family by using her archery skills. A bit of a change from the princess roles Disney usually assigns to women (with the exception of "Mulan").

I can't tell other parents how to raise their children, but I do think some choices are a bit extreme and put undue stress on a child, especially when they rob their child of an important piece of their identity. In the same token, for children who are born in the gender that a parent doesn't want, I don't feel it is fair for the parent to raise the child as the gender that they did want. It's extremely selfish on the parent's end. I think it's important for a child to know their gender, especially as they become more aware of their physical being. However, I also think they should have the freedom to identify with their gender while also exploring all the options available to them, regardless of their gender. Otherwise, we'll have a lot of "Pats" walking around someday without a clue as to who they really are, leaving them to be socially ostracized.

2 comments:

Sara said...

I agree! :) Very nicely written!

Sara said...

I'm nominating you for the Kreativ Blogger Award! Check out my recent blog post for information:
http://momarock.wordpress.com/2012/03/05/a-kreative-blogger-award-me/

If you want to participate, awesome! If not, that's OK too!

-Sara