Raising a Genderfull Kid

a crayon drawn rainbow and clouds

I’m trying to raise a tiny human. It’s not an easy ride, but then parenting never is. It’s hard for everyone for different reasons, for me it’s a mix of mental health problems and trying to raise a kid encumbered by the stereotypes and standards set by heteronormative and cisnormative society.
I have mentioned before that I’m trying to raise him genderfull but not completely what I mean about that.

I’m not necessarily trying to raise gender-neutral, but the opposite, to experience gender to it’s fullest. To experience all aspects of every gender. By this, I hope that he has an easier ride than I did if it turns out he’s trans or non-binary. And if he is cis he will have a better understanding of what that means too, without toxic masculinity.

Mostly, like every other parent, I want him to be happy in himself. In the things he does and the clothes he wears and the body he lives in. Even if that means changing certain things as he gets older. Or keeping them the same.

He’s never going to have to worry about coming out to me, he’ll grow up knowing that, all the kids in my life know that. But I want him to have the tools he’ll need to deal with the reality of being queer or the tools he’ll need to be a friend or ally to his queer friends and family.

To be honest, at this age, there is not much to do except rally against the stereotypes already put on him. Even before the age of three, the aggressive gendering of children is a problem, it starts so early on and most straight people probably don’t even realise it.

But every pink toy marketed for girls and every person who asks if two eighteen-month-old children are boyfriend and girlfriend is a problem.

How am I doing this?

Toys are toys

Snappy drawing a chalk outline of his dolly Pubba.
Pubba is well-loved

There is no such thing as girl toys or boy toys. It’s literally just a way to make you buy different crap for your kids. There is no reason why a kid can’t play with prams or dolls or cars and dinosaurs. The gender stereotyping around kids toys limits what they grow up thinking they should like certain things, and can only do certain things. It perpetuates the myths that girls are no good at maths, that boys are babysitters instead of parents to their own children. It makes kids afraid to follow their dreams, like certain colours and just enjoy being themselves.

Snappy has a lot of cars. He loves cars, he loves anything with wheels. His cuddly, his comfort toy is a pink plush princess doll. Actually, Pubba, is a Princess Bubblegum plush from the tv show Adventure Time. We don’t watch it – he saw it in Barnados when he was nine months old and wanted it. He also has a baby doll called BoBo that he pushes around in a bright pink pram I got from a charity shop (for BoBo). He has a toy kitchen, a slide, plays with my lego (he mostly makes cars) and a bunch of stuffed animals and all sorts of stuff. A real variety that will grow in the future and let him know that he can be anything he wants, play with anything he wants.

Clothes can be genderneutral

Snappy in a rainbow tutu and holding a toy ambulance.

Snappy is currently exclusively wearing leggings and the odd pair of shorts, often paired with a tutu. He has three tutus, mostly because I get them charity shops and we’ve only come across three that fit him. And one of those had to be taken in. He loves his tutus but I get a bit of grief about it from time to time.

From friends, people who know us, more than anything, because mostly, people see a shaggy-haired (he’s due another hair cut soon) blonde kid in a tutu they think he’s a girl – despite him obviously being a crocodile.
The leggings I have to buy from the girl’s sections, I also get him t-shirts from that section too. He’s got t-shirts in every colour you can imagine. It would be the same whatever sex he was. The pink and blue thing really gets on my nerves. There is a whole spectrum of colours and I find it really weird that people get so fixated on this idea that the sex of a baby should be displayed in this way. It’s almost aggressive.

So dress your kids in all the colours. Including pink and blue. Regardless of what sex they are. My nieces said it the best once when putting on her trainers, our friend son said: “aren’t they for boys though?” Her response? “There aren’t boy things or girl things. Just things.”

Despite the early overly pink years, my sister has done good.

Normalise friendships between the different sexes

One thing I started really early on was using the phrase “making friends,” instead of some of the weird stuff people say when children of the opposite sex interact.

Two children holding hands.

I hate, hate with a passion the idea that anyone of the opposite sex cannot be friends. And worse than that is the way people project this idea on children, toddlers and babies. From the idea that toddlers have ‘boyfriends or girlfriends to a kid being called a heartbreaker. This over-sexualisation of children is way more dangerous than any of us unsavoury queers. It also normalises heterosexual relationships and ignores queer relationships adding to the heteronormativity a kid will grow up with.

It’s really weird but so prevalent I don’t think people even realise they’re doing it half the time. I’ve actually been lucky where no one has said this about my kid and any of his friends. I work hard on my language to make sure that he is hearing the right stuff instead of this sort of nonsense.

Getting everyone on board

This one is a little harder. I am a big believer in cutting people off and cutting communication with people and speaking my mind. It’s not possible for everyone to do that though. I have some privilege – being white, my age and experience, the fact that despite my anxiety I’m a gobby git. I can and am willing to tell people off for their aggressive gendering of my kid.

Not everyone can though. I get that.

There are ways around it. The best way is always going to be consistency in what you tell your kids, in your affirmation of their interests and choices.

Kids are smart and more accepting than adults

The non-binary pride flag

The thing is, kids will accept certain things about the world. They will accept the ideas that boys can wear pink and girls can play with cars, but they have to be told that in the first place.

They need to be taught all this. At home and at school.

But it’s not a complicated thing, it’s not something kids need lessons on, or complicated charts and powerpoint presentations. Just honesty and consistency and care.

Eventually Snappy will find his own way, his own pronouns, maybe even his own name. We decided to stick to he/him pronouns I think because it’s easier, though I’m not sure who it’s easier for sometimes. I feel like we’re a bit alone in all this, as friends take their daughters for ‘pampering’ sessions but not their sons, as dads take their sons to see Star Wars but not their daughters. As neighbours homes are filled with pink toys. I am a big advocate of doing what you can in any given situation. If you can use they/them pronouns, go for it, if you don’t feel safe or supported to do then I won’t judge you for doing so.

Even as I’m judged for doing this no doubt.

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bread

Queer, weird, geek, poet and now parent.

12 Responses

  1. Aw I love his rainbow tutu. I had 5 boys and then 1 girl, by default she was brought up with boys toys, but did cling to anything pink she got her hands on. Kids eventually do their own thing whatever we think or want. #KCACOLS

  2. Lydia C. Lee says:

    I wrote a really long response and this it vanished. ugh #KCACOLS

  3. Lydia C. Lee says:

    Not so much on gender but on all things (for my daughter it tends to be age related ‘Am I too old to like this?’ I just say, you like what you like and head high about it. Don’t listen to what people tell you too like.) I love this Kanye quote “Society has put up so many boundaries, so many limitations on what’s right and wrong that it’s almost impossible to get a pure thought out. It’s like a little kid, a little boy, looking at colors, and no one told him what colors are good, before somebody tells you you shouldn’t like pink because that’s for girls, or you’d instantly become a gay two-year-old. Why would anyone pick blue over pink? Pink is obviously a better color. Everyone’s born confident, and everything’s taken away from you”

  4. Lydia C. Lee says:

    And Star Wars is TOTALLY gender neutral – come on! It’s Princesses and a big furry ‘hero’

  5. Becka says:

    I really enjoyed this post and completely agree. We have a boy and a girl so there are a wide range of toys to play with and they tend to share, although sienna is still more on the “baby toys”. Lucas had “baby bob” from the age of two and a pink buggy for him to sit in that someone gave us. Sienna got a Thomas set for a little Easter gift and someone commented it was a “boys toy” erm no, just a toy!
    When we found out we were having a girl I made a point of saying I didn’t want her in pink all the time. It’s hard to avoid sometimes but shops are selling some lovely stuff in pale blues, yellows etc. I adore Lucas in a pink tee. It really suits his colouring, esp if he has a little tan from the summer. Thanks for linking up to #KCACOLS. Hope to see you again next time. X

  6. Jade says:

    Its amazing how much we push the stereotypical genders often subconsciously. All I want is for my kids to be happy and confident in themselves. My boys have dolls, stuffed toys and pink toys that they love to play with and your niece has it right there are just things not boys or girls. Our language is so important and it drives me crazy how much I hear conversations about 5 year old friends ‘going to get married’ etc. #KCACOLS

  7. ERFmama says:

    I like your thought process. 🙂
    Toys are toys, there is no such thing as a “girl/boy” toy in our house, though after the kids started school we have had to have a sit down more than once, simply because a stereo typical behaviour in the playground. Not so much by teachers, we’re very lucky and happy with the current school, not so much with the previous school…
    My son has long hair for example, which caused us a number of issues that shouldn’t even be there.

    #KCACOLS
    ERFmama recently posted…You Can’t Rear Face in Small Cars – Debunking Myths #4My Profile

  8. Love their rainbow tutu! They look amazing 🙂
    My youngest son has a pink fairy drinks bottle we’ve had some odd looks and comments about that and today my older son bought a sequin top from the girls’ section. The top was NASA and had a space shuttle on so definitely appropriate for any child. We really do need to have more shops which just sell clothes, toys, stationery etc rather than boys / girls versions of these! #KCACOLS

  9. I was raised up in a strict home where the mere idea of me being gay wasn’t even allowed to be considered. I did have a gay best friend in high school. He had it rough in high school because in the ’90’s it was still considered to be taboo. He blew my mind when he dressed in women’s clothing. You’re right, had I been taught that it doesn’t matter, all would have been right with the world. However, we were strictly taught that things were gender appropriate.

    While I don’t teach my kids to be all boy or all girly, I do stress to them that people may get the wrong ideas if they wear certain things. I don’t discourage them from expressing themselves the way they see fit. I want them to be comfortable in any outfit or play with whatever interests them. My daughter plays with cars and my son is heavy into fashion and crafting!

    I think you bring up solid points. I admit this topic still makes me uncomfortable just because of how I was raised. NOT because I disagree with you.

  10. I wanted to cheer reading this, what a beautifully open minded and loving and accepting post. I don’t have children yet but when I do I hope I can be like this. Thank you for sharing #KCACOLS

  11. What a lovely post. As you say, children accept everything without the need to question gender or colour. Just let them be them and decided who they want to be. #KCACOLS
    Jo (A Rose Tinted World) recently posted…Why We Need To Change To Zero Waste NowMy Profile

  12. Crummy Mummy says:

    Parenting is such a responsibility isn’t it! It sounds like you’re doing great & he’s very lucky to have you taking this approach #KCACOLS
    Crummy Mummy recently posted…4 reasons why travelling with your parents is actually a great ideaMy Profile

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