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Kids and gender

November 12, 2008

Kids have a funny attitude towards gender. Most parents gender them like heck even before they’re born — they ask the doctor what sex the baby is, buy stuff accordingly, paint the room pink or blue. But then those same kids equal gender with small details, and not with body types. Or at least that’s my conclusion after a couple of incidents:

Whenever I go out with my parents, I try to look as much as a girl as possible, so people will read me as female. And, when these two incidents happened, I still had long hair. Both situations were almost the same: we were at the house of my parents’ friends, and the kid of the family pulled me down to their height.

“Are you a boy or a girl?” they each whispered into my ear.

“I’m a girl.”

“Oh.” Pause. “Then why aren’t you wearing earrings?” or, “Why aren’t you wearing a dress?”

I think I could have answered “I’m a boy” to these kids, and they would have totally gotten it. Well, not totally, but they wouldn’t have asked about my body parts, and they didn’t even care if I had a girl-name. Their attitude was nice and simple: they didn’t know my gender, so they asked. They didn’t get offended, and they didn’t offend me.

Another issue that interests me is how parents deal with gendering their kids, especially when the parents are cool and totally gender-savvy. The problem is, how is the rest of the world going to treat non-stereotypically-gendered children? I don’t know too much about kids, but several writers have tackled this issue:

Blue milk (a mother) has recent posts about three-year-olds discussing queer politics and pink for boys.

There’s this post about letting a son wear pink.

Theorist Judith “Jack” Halberstam –heart!– talks about the problem of gendering kids.

For a feminist twist: I Sing Like A Girl.

My Life as a Drag King’s take (and here, too).

And last but never least, Lesbian Dad with Terms of engenderment, or The “buddy” question.

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PS: a couple of scientific studies on kids and gender:

Difference Blog on how children associate gender with height.

An extensive review of children’s beliefs on gender.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. November 13, 2008 8:50 pm

    Intriguing!

  2. November 14, 2008 9:40 am

    Thanks for the plug… I love your site, think it is a great resource and wonderful insight all at once.

  3. genderkid permalink
    November 15, 2008 10:32 am

    Thanks! You’re welcome for the link; I found the queer politics article heartwarming (and funny!).

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