It’s Pop! Swedish Parents Raise “Genderless Child”

200px-ItispatThis is just too bizarre to pass up. A Swedish couple has long opposed “the artificial construct of gender.” So, they have refused to disclose the gender of their child, who is being called Pop in the Swedish media. They are dressing Pop with dresses as well as non-dresses — and have given the child feminine and non-feminine hair styles alternatively. Only a few close relatives know the child’s true gender.

Pop’s mother insists “[w]e want Pop to grow up more freely and avoid being forced into a specific gender mould from the outset. It’s cruel to bring a child into the world with a blue or pink stamp on their forehead.” She insists that Pop is currently “genderless.”

The parents have announced that they are going to have another genderless child so Pop will be either a brother or a sister. It appears the parents were able to overcome their own artificial constructs of gender.

I must confess that I find this all to be unmitigated bunk. As the father of four children (three boys and a girl), I have been most struck by how hard-wired gender preferences are from playing with pretend weapons to playing dress up. For an earlier column on raising boys, click here. There is nothing, in my view, artificial in this construct. Rather, there is no reason not to relish the difference between boys and girls. Since Skinner, parents have been treating their kids like experiments in social engineering rather than allow kids to develop naturally.

To be sure, society creates many negative stereotypes for children, particularly girls. Anorexia nervosa is one such outgrowth of such socially reinforced images. However, there is no such thing as a genderless child absent a physical anomaly.

With the exception of watching It’s Pat, the child will have few movie options for Friday night.t33229v35di

For the full story, click here.

53 thoughts on “It’s Pop! Swedish Parents Raise “Genderless Child”

  1. JT,
    Skinner was an apt name to bring up in this. The experiments he did with his own children were bizarre. This couple are quite frankly idiots in the sense that they have let ideology addle their wits. My wife and I are both feminists and we have raised two girls. Without trying to impose gender limitations on them, yet there were obvious biological differentiations that took place early on. Were they cues from surrounding society, or genetically based, who knows? However, they were distinctly different in behavior and preferences from boys of their age. As parents we followed a philosophy written about by Dr. Chaim Ginott, in his seminal work “Between Parent and Child.” This basically held that it was fine to let children make their own decisions in areas that didn’t effect their health and safety.

    So while being more watchful and stricter parents than average, in what we felt were the important things, they chose things like clothing, color and toys. Invariably, with no prompting they were drawn to what we might term feminine clothing and interests. As long as they knew that they should not let their sex hamper their goals in life, or control their behavior, we were content and are thrilled with the independent women they’ve become.

  2. Wow. Talk about a fear of commitment.

    Perhaps this is the best way to create our future Michael Jackson.

  3. We did this years ago in one of our movies. The lady asked if her newborn was a boy or girl, and the doctor told her it was too early to impose choices on it.

    To the couple: It was just a bloody comedy movie, you bloody twits!

  4. JT: “To be sure, society creates many negative stereotypes for children, particularly girls. Anorexia nervosa is one such outgrowth of such socially reinforced images.”

    True, but my mind drifts back to a time before the Safety Nazis invaded during the late 80’s and early 90’s. A time when everyone was much more laid back.

    The time was 1976, and what ten/eleven year old boy didn’t have a crush on Amanda Wurlitzer?

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0074174/

  5. I was with a woman who had twins who had just started crawling. She was holding the girl and I the boy. The boy was making a mighty effort to escape my arms so he could explore those interesting electrical boxes on the floor. Of course, the girl was making the same mighty effort. Here’s the thing though. The mother described the boy’s behavior as all boy, and commented that the girl (whom the mother was having to work hard to hold still) had no such interests. When I pointed out the effort she was making to keep the girl quiet, she insisted, despite the fact that I could see the tension in her arms, that the girl was perfectly still.

    I agree that what the parents in this story are doing with their child is absurd. I would point out, however, after thousands of years of “civilization,” we really have no way of knowing what is nature and what is nurture.

    Gender is behavior. Save a working uterus, and the ability to create ova or sperm, there is no activity that is limited to a particular gender (and spare me the paeans to the mighty penis. It can be replicated surgically. And some women do ejaculate). It is only our social constructs, and our fear, that insist on some behaviors as male and some as female. Individuals have likes and dislikes, are physically inclined to some activities or others, but that is, or would be in a world not overcome with sexism, a personal choice, not something defined absolutely by genitalia.

    I recommend Gender Shock: Exploding the Myths of Male and Female by Phyllis Burke (New York: Anchor Books, 1996).

  6. Deborah,

    Your story reminds me of the article that was published a few months ago that said that most of the hyper behavior that kids behave after eating sugar was due to parents’ expectations.

  7. I will be interested to see how Pop turns out in about 20 years. Get the straight jacket and hide the guns and knives.

    I can see the headlines in about 2030: Pop goes Pop, Swedish mother and father first victims in serial killing spree.

    Hopefully Pop is allowed to become who he/she is.

  8. eniobob:

    you ruined my day. I was hoping she wasnt going to run in 2012, so much for republican presidential aspirations. She is just another frigging liberal populist republican.

  9. I remember there was a time in the late 70s when there was a similar movement to free young children from gender expectations that culminated in this doll for boys. It was supposed to help boys connect to their nurturing side. It was called Buddy, I think and while I had few friends who had kids back then i do recall that there was not a single boy who had/wanted a doll for boys. One couple I knew refused to buy their son guns. he simply took carrots or his finger and pointed while shouting “bang”
    they gave up and let their kid be himself.
    I have a daughter who is a barn rat and prefers horses and dogs to people She will wear a dress if she absolutely has to and there are really very few times when she has to. My oldest is very very girly but never played with dolls. hated them.
    this couple and their genderless child is certain to be in for some big surprises. There are ways you think you can mold your kids and the truth is that they will be who they were meant to be. the best you can do is meet them where they are at and love them to pieces.

  10. GWLawSchoolMom said; “There are ways you think you can mold your kids and the truth is that they will be who they were meant to be. the best you can do is meet them where they are at and love them to pieces.”

    Well stated!

    We can only hope this “experiment” ends well.

  11. Can anyone think of a scenario where experimenting on one’s own children has ended well?

  12. Buddha,

    So far my kid is responding well to my experiment on the effects on infants of exposure to large amounts of George Clinton and the Parliamentary Funkidelics

  13. Gyges,

    Ok. That’s enough evidence from the positive column for me. I’ll mark that as a win for P Funk University. But knowing George Clinton, in all fairness, there may be effects later in life. I mean when I saw him he was wearing diapers and cowboy boots. There’s nothing wrong with that when you’re three, but I’m thinking he was closer to 53 when I saw him. It in no way harmed the music mind you, but it may be anecdotal evidence that your children may grow physically but not fashionably. Not a fatal side effect to be sure, but a possible one.

  14. Buddha,

    Since you don’t know my family I’ll just let you know, the kid stands no chance in the fashion department anyway.

  15. Buddha writes: Can anyone think of a scenario where experimenting on one’s own children has ended well?

    no. my mother gave me a Toni Home Perm the night before I started first grade. I looked like Harpo Marx. I have never forgiven her.

  16. Gyges writes: So far my kid is responding well to my experiment on the effects on infants of exposure to large amounts of George Clinton and the Parliamentary Funkidelics

    me: let’s not confuse experimentation with basic music appreciation.

  17. I agree with the other commenters that the parents’ behavior here has gone overboard. Indeed, I think their actions effect the result they are attempting to avoid: molding their child into a particular gender construct.

    But I also think many of you give short shrift to the destructive nature of gender roles in society. I myself recoil when I see new parents buying blue for their expected boys and pink for their expected girls. Just because some boys seem to gravitate towards playing with guns and some girls like to play with dolls doesn’t mean we should restructure society such that we practically mandate that choice. While some believe these gender “preferences” to be rather benign, when our society then takes these and goes the further normative step of suggesting that those preferences are “right,” we go down a very bad path: a path where men are the strong and heterosexual and fix cars and grill hamburgers and do tough business, and where women are dainty and stupid and bake cakes and are discouraged from working and earn less when they do work. These very persistent and pervasive stereotypes are the direct result of our society’s obsession with gender roles. And our encouragement (tacit and explicit) of gender-based preferences is the root of it all. It’s not a difficult line to draw. It all starts with buying blue sheets and pink sheets…

  18. You question my families right to raise our child the way that you want to. I will have you know that we pay for medical bills for men to become women. You want to try? Ya. we take the piping off and make a nice oval shaped contraption. I am told that we make the best woman for the man you could ever want, ya. Want to come and see for yourself?

    If you want, we can make a man out of you women. We have extra parts laying around, sometime. Ya know one that needs one? They attach on permanently. We are experimenting with snaps but you know the country gets so cold that some complain. You want to try some with the snaps? So right now, we make them permanent.

    You need some changes?

    Albrechtsson Johansson, MD

  19. I thought the doll for boys was called GI Joe?

    Back to the topic, I would have thought that the story of David Reimer would be enough to discourage anything like this. This is where Dr John Money decided that he could convince a genetic boy, who had lost his penis at 8 months old through a botched circumcision that he was actually a girl, with appropriate surgery and hormone treatments. Money reported that the procedure was 100% successful, but in the real world, ‘Brenda’ would tear off dresses, steal his brother’s masculine toys, and generally act like any other little boy. When he was 14, he learned the truth, and decided to go through reassignment surgery again, back to the male he was born with. Despite this, he had an unhappy life before committing suicide at 38.

    I hope little Pop doesn’t suffer such serious psychological damage, but I wouldn’t bet on it.

  20. Deborah,

    That was a very thoughtful post. I see that Lolo also has reserations about our gender norms, as do I. If we look cross-culturally and trans-historically, we see that other cultures have defined male and female in very different ways from our own, in some cases, as the opposite from what we consider “normal”. This casts serious doubts on the intrinsic validity of our own social norms.

    I wish parents would not use their children to make points that they should be making themselves. Many people seem to live through their children, asking them to carry the burdens of their own dreams and desires. It would be nice to see the parents deciding they were no longer going to buy into gender norms and start changing their own looks to what they wanted at a given time. This would give their children a role model of people following their own heart.

  21. Jill said; “It would be nice to see the parents deciding they were no longer going to buy into gender norms and start changing their own looks to what they wanted at a given time. This would give their children a role model of people following their own heart.”

    I’m not sure how I would have felt, as a child coming home from school to see my father dressed as a woman. While I would agree that people, who are honest with themselves, make excellent role models; I’m not sure such confused/variation would be a the attributes of a good role model.

    Role Model: A person who serves as a model in a particular behavioral or social role for another person to emulate.

  22. Jim,

    Implicit in your response to Jill is your own acceptance of binary gender norms — the idea that everything is either male or female. What does it mean to be dressed “as a woman”? Perhaps you mean wearing a dress and wearing makeup and earrings, or something like that. I would challenge this binary as unduly narrow. Jill’s idea of not buying into gender norms doesn’t have to mean the father wears a dress and high heels. It could simply mean that he vacuums around the house or folds the laundry. That itself is challenging gender norms, in my view. It’s a little pathetic that such a simple thing could be considered a challenge to gender norms, but that’s the way our heteronormative society operates. Sad but true.

  23. Jim,

    Human beings come in 5 sexes not two. The fact that we think we know what is male and female clothing is a function of current social norms, not any given underlying reality. Remeber that people used to freak out at male hippies for wearing long hair and female’s who wore their hair short. Think also of kilts, togas etc. Check out a costumes of the world and through history. I think a child would be happy to come home to any strong, loving, secure parent who truly cared about their wellbeing. Every kid has to deal with something that’s different about their family from another family–love is what gets one through this, not conformity.

    Lolo makes excellent points in her anaylsis and I second them all!

  24. Lolo,

    I cook. I vacuum the floors. I fold the laundry. I even clean the bathroom. Who would have known that I was so gender-enlightened? :>)

    My reply to Jill was based on her comment; That the parents start changing their own looks to what they wanted at a given time.

    A child seeing their father vacuuming the floor is a good way to make that role gender neutral. Him doing so, while dressed up as a woman….not so much.

    Making everything “gray” is more like saying nothing at all, than it is, what I consider to be, the actions of a “role model”.

    –If we made all food taste like chicken; it would make all food equal to our palate. In doing so, we ruined the steak dinner.

    vive la différence –Even when the “différence” is not what you would expect.

  25. Lolo,

    Sorry to assume your gender! DUH!!!

    Jim,

    If you really want difference then every woman dressing a certain way and every man dressing another certain way isn’t it. Things would be much more colorful if people dressed according to their own desires, not in sex defined uniforms.

  26. Jill,

    Please don’t think that I’m saying men must dress the way society wants them to, or they should be considered less of a man. -I am not. (The same would apply to women.)

    I think children are a different story. Children need guidance and direction. In fact, they seem to crave it. I don’t see anything wrong with a parent telling their child; “little boys don’t wear dresses”. -I know that all blocks don’t fit perfectly into the holes (no pun intended), but that shouldn’t make us avoid a societal standard. We must be willing to recognize, and more importantly, accept such deviations in behavior.

    Sexuality and gender association is determined early in life, and it has nothing to do with one’s god-given whistles and bells. I think parentage and society can have an effect on that, but only slightly. We will all be who we are…even if society doesn’t accept it. -The trick is to get society to accept it.

    In Samoa, they have the Fa’afafine. The National Geographic Channel’s “Taboo” series on this topic was quite interesting.

  27. lolo writes: But I also think many of you give short shrift to the destructive nature of gender roles in society. I myself recoil when I see new parents buying blue for their expected boys and pink for their expected girls. Just because some boys seem to gravitate towards playing with guns and some girls like to play with dolls doesn’t mean we should restructure society such that we practically mandate that choice. While some believe these gender “preferences” to be rather benign, when our society then takes these and goes the further normative step of suggesting that those preferences are “right,” we go down a very bad path: a path where men are the strong and heterosexual and fix cars and grill hamburgers and do tough business, and where women are dainty and stupid and bake cakes and are discouraged from working and earn less when they do work. These very persistent and pervasive stereotypes are the direct result of our society’s obsession with gender roles. And our encouragement (tacit and
    explicit) of gender-based preferences is the root of it all. It’s not a difficult line to draw. It all starts with buying blue sheets and pink sheets…

    me: yes, it all starts with sheets. and t-shirts and one-sies and rompers. and don’t forget the bunnies and duckies for girls and trains and trucks for boys and it all ends where? in the bars where women hitch up their skirts to get that tough pool shot and men stare at their legs?
    I think you’ve taken a fair point to a rather illogical extreme. babies arrive with intact personalities and no amount of color inculcation will change that. for instance, when my oldest was born I was determined not to dress her in pink. trouble was she had no hair until she was nearly two. people often told me that I had such a pretty little boy and by that time I dressed her from head to toe in pink (avoiding those nasty elastic headbands favored by some parents) and they still thought she was a boy. once the hair came in, in ringlets she was still mistaken for a boy until it got pretty long. I don’t think that being mistaken for a boy when she was a toddler harmed her in any way. neither did being dressed in pink.
    I don’t think that my dressing her in pink in those years made her dainty or stupid or suggested that she might be better at cleaning her apartment because she has tits.
    she is a 4th generation feminist and still likes pink. and floral prints and toile. she also likes blue and purple and so what if she likes Betsey Johnson. She has brains and guts and may not want to tune up cars but none of that is a result of wearing pink t-shirts or hawaiian print leggings when she was a toddler. It wouldn’t bother me a bit if she did want to work on cars or if she was butch in any way. my job as a parent is to offer choices and give her every advantage I can and allow her to develop into the woman that she decides to become.

  28. Jill writes: I wish parents would not use their children to make points that they should be making themselves. Many people seem to live through their children, asking them to carry the burdens of their own dreams and desires. It would be nice to see the parents deciding they were no longer going to buy into gender norms and start changing their own looks to what they wanted at a given time. This would give their children a role model of people following their own heart.

    me: what’s the point of having kids if you can’t live through them? where i come from the 11th commandment is that you will do better by your kids than your parents did by you. kids find role models everywhere, not just at the breakfast table. I’d hate to be judged by history for stuff I said or did when i was barely conscious. this argument is as weak as the one that states professional athletes are role models because they can hit or run or something and are paid like a gazillion dollars a year for it. athletes are entertainers in the same way actors are.
    besides, we should give our kids just enough trauma so that when they go into therapy they have something interesting to talk about.

    if you think I should have my kids post here to make this point instead of me just ask. Maybe they will and maybe they won’t. I think you might be surprised at how different we are and yet so very much alike.

  29. GWL,

    This statement: “what’s the point of having kids if you can’t live through them?” to me, is not what having children is about at all. I’ve seen too many kids break on the wall of parental disappointment, not because they weren’t intelligent, kind, talented and wonderful people, but because their parents wanted them to be something they were not. Ususally, this invovlved not being what the parent had always hoped to be– whether a great athlete, academic or working in a certain type of career.

    This to me, shows poor emotional boundaries. Parents are who they are and children are who they are. Of course parents and children may be similar, but they are each unique people. I think people should live their own dreams. It’s a problem when people live vicariously through others, be that a spouse, a celebrity they don’t know personally, or their children. If you mean that parents should enjoy their children, I couldn’t agree more. If you mean the boundary violation type of living through another person instead of living your own life, I think that’s a real problem.

  30. Jill writes: This statement: “what’s the point of having kids if you can’t live through them?” to me, is not what having children is about at all. I’ve seen too many kids break on the wall of parental disappointment, not because they weren’t intelligent, kind, talented and wonderful people, but because their parents wanted them to be something they were not. Ususally, this invovlved not being what the parent had always hoped to be– whether a great athlete, academic or working in a certain type of career.

    This to me, shows poor emotional boundaries. Parents are who they are and children are who they are. Of course parents and children may be similar, but they are each unique people. I think people should live their own dreams. It’s a problem when people live vicariously through others, be that a spouse, a celebrity they don’t know personally, or their children. If you mean that parents should enjoy their children, I couldn’t agree more. If you mean the boundary violation type of living through another person instead of living your own life, I think that’s a real problem.

    me: lighten up Jill. I was being ironic.

  31. Jim,

    I congratulate you on your cooking, vacuuming, folding, and cleaning. You are indeed an exception to the rule.

    I will say that I disagree very strongly with your suggestion that you find nothing wrong with a parent telling their child “little boys don’t wear dresses.” This makes “vive la différence” ring hollow, and it prevents the child from determining for himself how he wishes to express himself. If he wants to wear a dress, let him wear a dress. If it causes problems at school or if he gets made fun of, he’ll either cave and start conforming to the insecurities of others or he’ll stay strong and be a happy non-conformist. You might think the former option (caving and conforming) will lead to a more well-adjusted person. I can assure that it does not. I know enough transgender people to feel confident in saying that the longer you wait in allowing your inner self to bloom, the longer you delay your own mental health. The more we stifle such non-conformity, the unhealthier our children become.

    GWLM,

    I traced a line from pink sheets to gender stereotypes that you found illogical. I understand that buying sheets is on its own a benign act, but I challenge you to start from gender stereotypes and trace a line backwards and see where you end up. I believe that the root *is* in otherwise benign activities that we engage in thoughtlessly everyday. I believe one of those benign activities is buying color-coded sheets.

    As to your own personal story, it appears that you are an ideal parent. You say: “It wouldn’t bother me a bit if she did want to work on cars or if she was butch in any way. my job as a parent is to offer choices and give her every advantage I can and allow her to develop into the woman that she decides to become.” These are wonderful words. My quibble is not with you — my quibble is with the vast majority of other parents who do not share your open-mindedness to allow their children to make their own choices.

  32. Lolo,
    Even when I generally agree with someone I dislike when due to supercilious smugness, generalizations are put forth and agendas detailed. Life is a lot messier than that.

    I’ve been married almost 3 decades and have raised two daughters to adulthood. I’ve believed in feminism before there was a feminist movement. I do all the cooking, shopping and most cleaning in my house and always have. My brother, who’s been married Fifty years does the same. We were raised that way. Incidentally, the male part of that raising was a large, brawny man that most thought of as a man’s man, but he didn’t believe in any sexual stereotypes and taught that to his sons.

    I don’t do these various tasks because I’m a feminist, but because as a partnership, my wife and I have developed a logical division of labor. Although she’s at least a good a cook as I am, if not better, she doesn’t enjoy cooking or shopping. She handles the money, pays the bills, does the laundry, gardening and household repairs. What made it work for my father, brother and myself was that we learned to appreciate women for their intelligence and wit, as much as for their looks. none of us would have ever been attracted to non-evolved submissive women, who were looking for Daddy.

    Neither my wife, nor I wanted our daughters to feel constrained by their femininity, but they had to interact with other children their age and early on they wanted Barbie Dolls. I loathed this and despised Barbie, as did my wife but we allowed our kids to make many of their personal choices, as long as health and safety weren’t involved. They chose Barbie’s, dolls and feminine clothing. They also chose Lego’s and Hot Wheels. Many hours were spent sitting on the floor playing with Barbies with my girls. Perhaps that gave them a message too about gender rigidity.

    Had I had a son, like Jim Byrne said, I would have advised him that wearing dresses is a bad idea, because I know what he’d been in store for at school or in the playground. However, if he wanted to wear it at home, or even to use makeup at home, that would be fine. Perhaps early on we would have had to discuss the implications of it in an age appropriate fashion. Had he been leaning towards cross-dressing or being gay that would have made no difference to me except for the worry of how society would treat him.

    I write all this not as a rebuke but to caution you that although this society pushes many stereotypes on us, for various nefarious reasons, many of these stereotypes, especially when it comes to gender are breaking down and I don’t believe they’ll comer any faster by using our children as experiments in progress to validate our own beliefs.

  33. Lolo writes: GWLM,

    I traced a line from pink sheets to gender stereotypes that you found illogical. I understand that buying sheets is on its own a benign act, but I challenge you to start from gender stereotypes and trace a line backwards and see where you end up. I believe that the root *is* in otherwise benign activities that we engage in thoughtlessly everyday. I believe one of those benign activities is buying color-coded sheets.

    me: challenge me? to draw a line backward from stereotypes to the color of sheets one slept in before they knew the names of colors? why on earth would I do that? certainly not to please you. if sheets are so despicable, why not also add toys, clothing, books, and most importantly the expectation of parents and family to the brew of what makes kids girls/boys/both? all I know about gender is that somewhere around 3 all my girls suddenly went nuts for Barbie dolls. it was as if some weird gene was activated and barbie madness ruled the next 3 years.

    lolo: As to your own personal story, it appears that you are an ideal parent.

    me: why yes, I am a practically perfect parent which makes sense since I am a practically perfect human being.

  34. Pink and blue used to be reversed. This according to wiki.answers.com:
    “Pink is not just for girls. If you went back in time to just before World War II (the 1939-1945 war) and found a girl wearing pink then that girl would have been thought of as dressing butch. For most of history pink was the boys colour (because it’s an offshoot of angry red) and blue was the girls colour (because it was thought to be calming and serene). People of that age would have had problems with boys wearing blue and girls wearing pink.
    In the war (WWII) the Nazi German government issued pink triangles to homosexual men in concentration camps to indicate that they liked the same sex, that is boys (pink). This negative association lasted past WWII and so today we have blue for boys and pink for girls. Because we let what the Nazi’s thought about people influence how we saw pink!!
    …So, the short answer is, pink is not a girls colour and only worn today as one because of the Nazis. ”

    Jill said, “Check out a costumes of the world..” and mentioned, “sex defined uniforms”. I checked and, turning to the southern hemisphere, if I may, here is a traditional man going to church in Irian Jaya. Definitely blue stamped.
    WARNING– damn near complete male nudity
    http://www.lukimpng.com/images/Baliem_Valley_-_Irian_Jaya_-_Traditional_costume.jpg

    More tradition, and I love the facial expression:

    Please forgive me if I’ve offended.

  35. Here’s an arrangement of Kahlil Gibran’s “On Children” by the wonderful acappella group Sweet Honey in the Rock.
    [audio src="http://prof.chicanas.com/es147docs/OnChildren.mp3" /]

  36. GWLM,

    I’m pretty bad at picking up on sarcasm, but I’ll hope you’re just being “ironic” again and leave it at that. :-)

    Mike,

    If my comments were the supercilious smugness to which you refer, I guess I have failed in using this imperfect medium to convey my true thoughts, and I apologize. I have not intended with my comments to demean anyone.

    Now, on to your own comments. I think I have misrepresented myself in my past statements. I did not at all intend to suggest that the commenters on this blog were themselves rigidly conforming to gender stereotypes. Indeed, the opposite seems to be true. But I think commenters on this blog are an exception. From what I can tell over the last nine months or so that I’ve been following this blog, the readership (or the commentership) tends to be very well-educated liberals or staunch libertarians who enjoy learning and thinking critically about the world. As the Palin campaign has made clear, most people are not well-educated and do not enjoy learning or thinking critically about anything. So, in asserting the prevalence of narrow conceptions of gender in our society, I was referring predominantly to the masses, not the readers of this blog.

    I also am not suggesting that the personal anecdotes you shared are irrelevant or thought the opinions you derived from them are unreasonable. I am not at all denying that many (if not most) girls like dolls and feminine clothing. It’s just that there are a great many who don’t, yet those choices are forced upon them by parents, teachers, friends, and television. Your sarcastic suggestion that the hours you spent playing with Barbies on the floor with your daughters might have given them a message about gender rigidity misses my point. My point is not that you should force your children to conform to non-traditional gender stereotypes. My point was that you shouldn’t force your children into *anything*. If they gravitate towards Barbies, wonderful. If they don’t, don’t force it upon them. (Of course, the “you” I’m referring to here isn’t literally you. You have already stated that you haven’t done that.) As I said in an earlier post, I completely agree with everyone that what was done in the article above was wrong. I agree that those parents should not have messed with their child like that. That is precisely my point: they should not have chosen anything for their child. The child should have done the choosing.

    You said: “Even when I generally agree with someone I dislike when due to supercilious smugness, generalizations are put forth and agendas detailed.” I am not sure if this means you thought I had an agenda. If I have an agenda it is this: I am a gay male who grew up in the rural south. Racism, sexism, and homophobia are alive and well in my hometown. I have many gay and transgender friends who were disowned by their parents. I have gay friends who were kicked out of the military. I have many gay male friends who were formerly married to women because they were so afraid of being who they were. These people are not just some random people that you might see on a Dateline special. They are my personal friends, and when I see people I care about get hurt, that hurts me and makes me want to do something about it. Gender stereotypes and homophobia go hand in hand, and my goal is to show people that just because gender stereotypes don’t harm *you* (because you yourself conform to those stereotypes), that doesn’t mean that they don’t harm other people. The “other people” happen to be me and all of my friends, so I freely admit I’m a little biased. So, I do have a stake in undoing harmful gender stereotypes. That is my agenda.

  37. Mike (and to a lesser extent et al),

    I personally prefer to think of myself as a humanist, but I realize we don’t always get to choose labels for the movements we support.

  38. We must challenge our own ideas of what it means to be male and female, it’s the only way change will occur. It hasn’t been that long ago that jobs were advertized for “men” or for “women”. Most of us now believe that is unacceptable. But at one time it was not only acceptable but unremarkable. The idea that there are “man” jobs, both inside and outside the home and “woman” jobs doesn’t make sense. All people have their own interests and abilities. Sometimes these line up with what our culture believes is “normal” and other times it doesn’t. It’s not really being “butch” for a woman to like activities such as working on cars or looking a certain way. It just means this girl likes a certain look or certain activities. We label this “butch” because we are wedded to gender norms.

    Mike, in my experience, school isn’t the only place children are bullied for being different. They can be bullied, abused and treated quite cruelly in the home for their crime of non-conformity to gender norms or other non-conformity, (say to a parent’s desires). It would be really nice if parents paid close attention to who their child actually was, what they valued, and as you have pointed out on a prior thread, nourished that. To me, the best protection children have against being bullied is being loved and having strong people around them who will stand up for them should they be bullied either at school or at home.

    We have to realize that many things we believe are self evident truths, aren’t. In Saudi Arabia many people believe women can’t drive. In the US, insurance companies give men higher costs on their policies because they ran the numbers and men get in more accidents.

    Some religions believe women may not be priests or ministers. Some believe the same of LBGT people. We know this isn’t true because people from each of these groups function as ministers and priests. If someone is doing something they’re not “supposed” to be able to do, we can’t let ideology stand in place of reality.

    I’m strongly with Deborah and Lolo on this one. We really have no idea of what men and women are capable of doing. We have so many strictures on this from the beginning it would be hard to know. We can look at other cultures and time periods where the exact opposite of what we believe, was turned on it’s head and believed just as fervently. That tells us that we’ve made a mistake in assuming a biologically based set of characteristics or clothing based on sex.

  39. Just to give the parents the benefit of the doubt there:

    Their child could have been born with an uncertain gender, for example, both a penis and a vagina. This is not that uncommon and in the USA gender assignment surgery is then discretely performed on the infant almost immediately. The parents may have decided however to let this child develop and choose its own gender preference. This is fact may be the best course of action in these kinds of situations, because it could prevent a later identity crisis.

  40. “Your sarcastic suggestion that the hours you spent playing with Barbies on the floor with your daughters might have given them a message about gender rigidity misses my point.”

    Lolo,
    My point wasn’t meant in sarcasm, but in trying to show (poorly it seems), that their Daddy a large masculine looking kind of guy could play with doll and enjoy it. I had to discuss mixing and matching Barbie outfits with them and play a role in dialogues between Barbies of different hairstyles and cuts.

    “If my comments were the supercilious smugness to which you refer,”

    I actually have to apologize to you for the snark, it was uncalled for and while I try to pride myself on my equanimity of temperament, as you can see I’m far from perfectly evolved.
    Further truth be told when I though of “supercilious smugness”
    I liked the alliteration so much I put it in, but then felt that I had perhaps gone to far.

    “As the Palin campaign has made clear, most people are not well-educated and do not enjoy learning or thinking critically about anything. So, in asserting the prevalence of narrow conceptions of gender in our society, I was referring predominantly to the masses, not the readers of this blog.”

    Where we might disagree on this is that I think the majority of Americans today are much more accepting of being Gay, than let’s say 20 years ago. However, there is still a substantial minority that are stupidly prejudiced against what is a normal
    part of humanity.

    However, from your perspective of being a Gay man, growing up in the rural south I would expect and see the justification in your skepticism. I have been a supporter of Gay rights since long before Stonewall. In public school through the
    Junior year in High School I got into many fights because people saw me as different. I had a large vocabulary, an inordinately pretty face (who could believe it now) and while I would always fight back I would do so crying at having to fight at all. Many times Jocks called me Fag or Faggot of Fairy after having beaten me up, many times two or three of them attacking me at once because I was big. Those times in the 50’s and early 60’s that was the worst anathema you could put on another boy.

    People in that situation always have the choice of identifying with the oppressed, or the oppressors. I identified with the oppressed and so became interested in how this society mistreated gay people. Why were police raiding bars for instance? Why weren’t two adults allowed to have consensual sex? Who were they hurting? when I became older and actually began to meet, become friends with and to work with and for gay men and lesbian women, I saw clearly the evil of stereotypes. I also saw that when guys knew I was straight, they ceased to hit on me, but quite frankly their hitting on me was flattering and not obnoxious. Men who are most fearful of gay men are in my opinion fearful of their own sexuality.

    I further agree with you that many parents try to impose straightness on their children, grievously harming them in the process. It is all really so silly,if it wasn’t so tragic,
    because being gay is just another part of nature.

    “So, I do have a stake in undoing harmful gender stereotypes. That is my agenda.”

    I’m with you in solidarity and emotional commitment.

  41. “Mike, in my experience, school isn’t the only place children are bullied for being different. They can be bullied, abused and treated quite cruelly in the home for their crime of non-conformity to gender norms or other non-conformity, (say to a parent’s desires). It would be really nice if parents paid close attention to who their child actually was, what they valued, and as you have pointed out on a prior thread, nourished that. To me, the best protection children have against being bullied is being loved and having strong people around them who will stand up for them should they be bullied either at school or at home.”

    Jill,
    I couldn’t have said it better.

  42. I encourage you to watch the movie Ma Vie En Rose, a story about a transgendered boy and his struggle with his family forcing him into his male gender role solely for the purpose of avoiding public embarrassment.

  43. I’m Swedish, so I know about this case (through the papers). The child is not intersexed. The child itself knows its gender.

    I still think this is very bad. Gender identity is extremely important to a person, and you need to develop one in peace. That is a completely different topic from gender sterotypes.

    I think the parents should have focused on giving options to their child; i.e. say, like my parents did, “You are a girl and a girl can do everything a boy can do.”

    Also; it bothers me that the view is that you need to be genderless in order to be equal.

  44. I think, Jonathan, that Pop will express hir gender preferences naturally is the idea. We save cord blood for those one-in-a-hundred occurances, so why not make it easier for Pop to either cement what would have otherwise been hir assigned gender, or express differently from it? If Pop is cis, then hir upbringing won’t be much more genderqueer than Humphrey Bogart’s. If ze’s trans, then it’ll be a lot less heartache.

    Really it’s an excellent expression of one’s 4th amendment rights, or speaking as a Canadian, one’s section 7 rights.

  45. This is not stupid or absurd, as some are quick to point out from their moral high-horse. True, the majority of people will in fact be comfortable with the gender identity that matches their genitalia. However, I would love to have had these parents as a child! Because being told by society that I was a particular gender that I did not feel, has created much confusion and heartbreak in my life – trying to pretend I was something that I wasn’t.

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