On Gender Fluid Children

As I watched Caster Semenya compete in the 800 meter event at the Olympics, I wondered (like many others) whether she held back to not win the gold. To my completely inexpert eyes, it looked like she did, and deliberately settled for silver.

She insists she didn’t, but if she had, I wouldn’t blame her one bit. After all, winning the 2009 world title led to a huge controversy where her gender was questioned, at length, and she was banned from competing as a woman. She was forced to be public about a very private matter – being intersexed – and suffered endless public humiliation. Why would she go for the gold when this public shaming is the prize?

I thought a great deal about Ms. Semenya when I was reading What’s So Bad About a Boy Wearing A Dress?,  a lengthy piece about “gender fluid” children in the New York Times Magazine. I’ve heard mixed responses to the piece – many who feel the piece isn’t fair to girls, as it’s primarily about little boys being “girlish” – and the usual hysteria about how liberals are ruining our children… read the rest at The Uppercase Lowdown (please?).

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  1. says

    We’ve always been totally open to gender fluidity. My plan all along was to give our son a variety of experiences and opportunities that would allow him to explore and grow into his own unique identity, whatever that might be. As it happens, our son usually behaves like a “textbook boy”: loves trucks, cars, and motorcycles; doesn’t want to hang out with girls but does like his pretty 20-something teachers; can nearly bring the house down with his playtime sound effects; and enjoys discussing things such as fires, train crashes, plane crashes, car accidents, etc. (Last time we flew, we were in the baggage line when he loudly asked, “So what happens if our plane crashes to earth?” and everyone turned and looked at us as we tried to shush him and get him onto a different topic.)

    A few months ago, after seeing a baby, he explained that he wanted to use his piggybank money to get his own baby doll. I tried to look neutral about the whole thing but inside I was excited that he wanted to explore a more nurturing side. So my husband took him to Target… and what do you know, he came back with the loudest fake-peeing baby he could find. ;-)

    I think kids should be allowed to just be themselves… They should have the freedom to explore without having to look over their shoulders, worrying what the adults might say.

  2. says

    I wish everyone could be so enlightened. It’s sad how afraid people can be of anything/anyone who doesn’t conform to that square box idea of the social “norm.”

  3. says

    I made a point to buy my little boy a couple of dolls, and he played with them a bit when he was little. I want to expose him to boy and girl things. His favorite color is pink right now (he’s almost 6), but he is very aware that that is a “girl” color, and I keep telling him that there is nothing wrong with liking pink.

    I don’t think there is anything I would not support him doing that is girly, I would only be worried about him getting his feelings hurt if someone says something. But then we’ll talk about that and hopefully I can instill good self-esteem in him.

    I have learned that it really doesn’t matter what other people think, life is too short. If you are okay and happy with your life, and you are not hurting other people’s feelings, just go ahead and live your life.

  4. Amy says

    May I just say I have been away for awhile but really enjoying catching up? Very well written and thought provoking articles Cecily.

  5. Cate says

    We can guide our kids and offer alternatives, but when they go to school it all changes. Their peers play an important role in their choices from then on.