So I read an article the other day here about an interesting life choice a set of parents has made. In order to steer their children away from society’s bias about what boys and girls should like and should do, some parents are going to extreme lengths. Plenty of parents decide not to know what gender their baby is. However, not so many refuse to share it because they want to raise their kids, effectively, genderless. I have to admit, I kind of get their point. It was important to me not to put those stereotypes on my kids. JuniorBean is free to make wardrobe choices that most Arab boys aren’t (in the house anyway). Upon occasion he has been photographed in embarrassing outfits (can we say sparkly rainbow swimsuit anyone?). Given that he has 2 sisters, he gets stuck playing “girl” games like Barbie if he wants to play with someone. (Mind you, he typically has his dinosaurs take the Barbies to their appointments, but…). I don’t care if he picks up a doll. We simply ensured that he made appropriate choices when going out so that he didn’t get ridiculed. Nowadays I let him choose. He knows the other boys will tease him if he has a particularly “girly” item, but he gets to choose to take it or not. My girls also climb trees, play chase and tag, and have the option to play with cars (which they enjoy) and other “boy” games. I don’t mind.
Having said that, I’m not convinced that there is benefit to teaching your girls and boys that they are exactly the same. They aren’t. I mean, physically, they aren’t. If they were, the world would be a very different place. So, I’m not really sure how confusing them on this point makes sense. I was a tomboy as a kid. I climbed high trees, had a treehouse and trampoline, played football with the kids on the street. I didn’t care that they were “boy” things. I didn’t care much for dolls or Barbies. I like rough outdoor play. But I always knew I was a girl. I understood that my brother and I were different in practicalities if not so much in interests.
Raising your child to be an individual, the best they can be, has nothing to do with gender. At least to me it doesn’t. Somehow trying to raise a genderless child makes gender the primary issue in their individuality. Each of my kids is different. They have different interests and different likes. The girls don’t love the same things. They like many of the same things. But they also share many likes with JuniorBean. It isn’t about their gender… it’s about their personality. Me, I’d rather raise my kids with a very strong sense of self and confidence in their uniqueness than try and make them the same. Gender really just isn’t that much of an issue to me. So, I wonder, what are the influences that caused these parents to choose the gender-denial route? What formative issues did they have that this seems like the best choice? Any thoughts?