Thursday, April 10, 2014

Tomboy overanalyzed

If a child explores his or her gender and his or her parents don't write about it for a major publication, did said gender exploration really occur? The latest: a mother telling the NYT readership every nuance of her 5-year-old daughter's tomboy-ness, poring over every detail. What does it all mean? Transgender is offered as a possibility; gay, somewhat bafflingly, is not, even thought he whole piece is on some level about its author's tremendous unstated fear that her daughter's a lesbian (see the Cinderella bit). Either way, why does this girl need a permanent record (this being, presumably, her mother's real name) of her gender identity aged 5, as perceived by her mother?

Given the tremendous likelihood that this girl (whether ultimately gay, straight, or bi) is not transgender (reason being, few are), maybe she doesn't want 'that time when mom thought I identified as a boy' etched in internet-accessible stone? Or say the girl does identify as a boy - maybe he, as an adult, isn't going to want such a public record of the first inklings of this as recorded by his mother?

From writing about parental overshare in the past, I know the counterargument - that there's nothing wrong with being gender-non-conforming, so why shouldn't these things be out in the open? Indeed - goes this counterargument - it's commendable whenever a parent publishes a tolerant (although this one's borderline...) essay about a gender-non-conforming kid, and, in doing so, models the right kind of parenting behavior.

All most admirable, but what I keep coming back to is, there are certain things only we may reveal about ourselves. Things that others shouldn't judge, but they will. One does not out a friend in a publication as gay or trans, or as having a particular medical condition, or has having been in a crabby mood three weeks ago. Your children are not extensions of yourself, but people in their own right. You don't get to out yourself as a parent-of unless your child (probably one substantially older than 5!) has outed him- or herself about whatever it is.

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