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Archive for August, 2008

Recently in the land of the internet, both on blogs and a message board or two, I’ve read (and sometimes been a part of) conversations about boys who cross the boundaries of social norms. Often, parents are hesitant about what to do.

Do I let my son wear purple to school? Will he be ostracized or made fun of?

What does it mean that my son likes to play with dolls?

Are my relatives right that letting my boy wear a dress will “cause” him to be gay?

Parents worry. I worry. We all worry. And it’s because we want the best for our kids. And it can be a tough world out there, and we just want to protect these small extensions of our hearts.

In these kinds of situations, I do really think that it’s the kids who are the wisest. These boys who buck social norms have the strength to listen to their hearts and to follow them. And often, especially when they are first entering school, their peers, too, have the open-mindedness to embrace the expanded notions of gender that children can play out. When a boy enters a classroom, confidently wearing a dress, he’s taking the lead in changing our world, just one tiny step at a time. And we, as parents, can support him in doing so, thereby taking a step alongside him.

And I know, believe me, that walking alongside “world-changers” is most often harder for us parents than for our children. But I think that the parents asking questions like those above, and all of us, really do know how best to support our kids. If we’ve given them the love and acceptance to develop, for instance, into a boy who loves purple, we will know how to love them through a transition to school, through the small steps that they take to help others expand their ideas about what boys and girls can and should do or be, no matter our fears about how others might accept them.

Just going along for the ride, I am.

Just going along for the ride, I am.

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I’ve got to admit that I’m an Olympics addict. I live for the Olympics, especially the summer games. And I can’t say how thankful I am to have DVR this time around so I can watch everything, still sleep, AND get to miss commercials. And, I’ve gotten Q to be an official Olympic addict with me — what could be better?

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the Olympics from a “labels are for jars perspective,” if you will. In particular, I’ve thought a lot about swimming. There’s something spectacular about the new suits that folks are wearing.

Of course, they help the swimmers go faster than one could ever imagine. But they also do this great thing: they dull the gender binary among swimmers when we look at them, especially from afar. Men are wearing one-piece suits that go over their shoulders. Just like women. And it’s not unmanly. Nor does it mean they are weak. In fact, just the opposite. I like that Q can see men and women in the same suits, especially since bathing suits are, in his mind, a very clear marker of sex and gender, and one that he would like to explore, he reminds us frequently.

The other great thing about these suits is that I’ve not heard a negative comment uttered about them at all. Announcers speak of how they help swimmers go even faster, of their amazing construction, etc. But not once has someone noted the fact that men are wearing the same suits as women, nor have they implied that it took “getting over something” (pride, image, etc) for the men to wear these suits.

So among the heroism, perseverance, and amazing feats that make up the Olympics, I’ve also seen glimpses of yet other ways that we can inject a bit of consciousness into society about our labels and our binary oppositions.

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An interview with Q

M: Can you tell me why you like to break stereotypes?

Q: It’s just really fun and….it’s just really fun.

M: What kinds of stereotypes do you like to break?

Q: I like to break stereotypes that people make, like boys can’t wear dresses and girls can’t wear pants.

M: Anything else?

Q: That’s mostly it.

M: What is a stereotype?

Q: A stereotype is sort of like when people tell you one day that you can’t wear dresses or skirts if you’re a boy. It’s you can’t wear pants if you’re a girl sort of thing.

M: How do you feel when you’re wearing a dress?
Q: Pretty good. I don’t really know.

M: Does it feel different from when you wear shorts?

Q: Yes! Sort of.

M: How so?

Q: Because it’s longer than shorts.

M: How do other people feel when you are breaking a stereotype?

Q: Well, my best friend doesn’t so much feel angry with me. But some other people that I don’t know, they feel mad and sad about it.

M: Why do they feel mad and sad?

Q: Because they don’t want me to break the stereotype.

M: Why not?

Q: Because they would feel sad and mad if I broke the stereotype.

M: Why would they feel sad and mad?
Q: I don’t know.

M: Anything else you want to tell me?

Q: No.

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