I spent my morning, like any 47 year old single white guy*, at the playground watching 2 year olds. I was hanging out with my friend Jessica and her stunningly beautiful baby Gus. And, of course, taking the opportunity to do some research.
I got into a discussion with one of the moms about the appearance of gender delineation, like when does that happen, isn’t it interesting that some of the observable differences really seem to be innate and appear quite early, etc. Jessica remarks “what do you do, like walk up to people and go ‘I’m Sam and hey, I’m transitioning! (puts hands on hips) Whaddya think: boy or girl!?’”
But I live in
This young woman, who is the mother to two obviously advantaged, charming children (Lucien 2, Isabella 5) tells me that Isabella has a schoolmate whose presentation is not “typically male.” This boy, who is 4, prefers pastel colors, pinks and purples and peaches, and doesn’t play like the other boys. “Is he trans, do ya think!?” I ask eagerly. “Who can tell what he’ll be” she says sagely, like a mother who has already seen every possible variegation. “Do you think he’s trans?” I ask again – I’m dying for her to jump on my tranny-wagon – I don’t even know why but I’m very excited. “Who knows?” she repeats, shrugging and turning to the kids, who are now, with the exception of Isabella (the only female child) magnetized by the arrival of two awesome hot wheels.
I might have been a gender ‘tweener, I’d say. Boy play was too rough for me; Tonka toys, hot wheels, blowing up frogs, forcing girls to remove their panties (this is my experience, kids!) just didn’t appeal - it required a level of aggression I not only didn't have, I shunned. On the other hand, I was rarely earthbound – I was often up a tree. I played football on the boys’ team. I was tough and athletic and girl-crazy by 4. I could hold a spider, make things in the woodshop; as mentioned I favored G.I. Amazon Explorer.
Girl games were anathema to me. They literally made my skin crawl. I have this same phenomenon when someone tries to get me to shop in the Women’s clothing section of any major department store. Cold sweat, shakes – I wish I was kidding. What was the appeal of Barbie, exactly? Beyond that she could be on the explorer team with Johnny West and G.I. Joe, and, some years later, do sexy times with same in a bowl of hot water I was calling “the hot tub” – what was it she did, precisely?
The mom shares that she sees her husband speak differently with each child. He doesn’t hear it; he insists he talks to his kids, boy or girl, the same. It’s nuanced, sometimes, the way these differences assert themselves. I try to be gender-neutral with kids, but stuff sneaks in. I am appallingly chock-a-block full of ideas, stereotypes, prejudices, phobias – about men, about women, about boys, girls, trans people, homosexuals, butches, femmes, queens, jaysus you name it. I have a lot of ideas and many of them are wrong.
*time telescopes when you’re a single guy without kids or animals. I thought I’d created a life like that so I had some freedom, some lebensraum, but what it actually looks like is I’m the default sitter for other folkses kids and pets. I reckon it keeps me off the internet machine.