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Archive for September, 2009

First, I admit that I really only knew that THIS was the week thanks to Mombian and Lesbian Dad. So, credit where credit is due.

One of the most high-ranking banned books? And Tango Makes Three. Perhaps my seemingly random posting of a photo of penguins yesterday was actually a thoughtful foreshadowing of this book. Many of you probably know it, but it’s about two male penguins who clearly want to raise a baby penguin together. The zoo staff give them an egg to care for, which they do, resulting in their penguinette, Tango.

Q’s class did a dramatic rendition of this story last year. It was formative for him in many ways, not the least of which being because it was at the school’s gay pride assembly, for which he was the “junior MC!” But there was something simple about the message in Tango for Q. He liked the story, and he liked that they broke stereotypes, those penguins. And he liked the story. Did I mention he liked the story?

The other day I asked Q if he wished he read more books that had kids with two-mom families. He told me, “No. I just like all books. I like the stories.” Really, folks, it’s about the stories. Whether the characters are gay, straight, trans, genderqueer — what most kids gravitate to are the narratives. If it’s gripping and interesting and exciting, they like the book. And yes, I do firmly believe that kids learn things through literature (I’m a teacher, after all!), but do kids learn about gay sex from Tango? And are their heteronormative families the worse for it if they hear Tango? Absolutely not. And is my boy perhaps a bit BETTER for it when he hears Tango? Perhaps.

It’s outrageous how much energy folks put into the content of books and how much fear they direct towards said content. Fear of change, fear of difference, fear of the unknown. And yet isn’t that just what books are supposed to do? Transport us to realms yet unexplored? Help us imagine the unknown/what we could not even fathom were it not for such narratives?

Go on, have a look. It can’t hurt.

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I’m so very curious about gender dynamics among kids. Really and truly curious. Not curious in the annoyed sort of way. Honestly.

So here’s what I’m curious about: Why is it that, especially as they get older, girls tend to gravitate towards girls (for play, hanging out, partners in school things, etc) and boys to boys? How much of this is nature and how much of it is nurture? If we didn’t have such strictly gendered norms that we inculcate our children into, would the gravitational pull be this strong?

And what about the social stigma? Because there’s a point at which it’s often uncool for a boy to play with a girl/be friends with a girl. What is that about? Especially when boys are EXPECTED to ultimately marry girls/women. Now there’s a double standard for you.

There are just so very many things at play here, and I can’t always untangle them in my mind. Of course I want to push back against these dynamics, but where’s the best place to push? Is it just noticing them and pointing them out because most of us traipse around life unaware? Or is it something else?

Please, please share your thoughts with me on this one.

I know these penguins are cool hangin' with members of the opposite sex...

I know these penguins are cool hangin' with members of the opposite sex...

(hey, it wouldn’t be a post without a picture, right?)

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This post is a love ode to Q’s school, pretty much.

In a chat with Q’s teacher the other day, we were talking a bit about gender dynamics and how they play into Q’s friendships, who he seeks out to play with, etc. As he and his classmates get older, it gets a bit trickier that he gravitates mostly towards girls, given dynamics among groups of girls, at times.

But that’s not the gist of this story. Apparently the other day at lunch someone was talking about Q and used the pronoun “she.” Under his breath, Q whispered, “I guess some of them in here don’t know.” He wasn’t perturbed, according to his teacher, he didn’t come report it at home. Really, it’s an everyday occurrence that people don’t know his sex/gender. And it’s not a big deal to him. But here’s where the real chords should be struck in this ode to Q’s school: The teacher didn’t feel the need to correct the kiddos, nor did any of the other kiddos. Those who know Q is a boy took it in stride. Q took it in stride. And the teacher took it in stride. It was a non-issue.

And for that reason, for letting my boy just be himself, that’s why my heart aches with love for his little school, his teachers, everyone there who thinks so carefully about the very best ways to take care of and nurture children.

Should anyone from said school be reading, know that you are thanked and honored. Deeply and continually.

Q's current growing-out-his-hair look

Q's current growing-out-his-hair look

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Not sure how many of you have been following the saga of the South African runner who has been subjected to “gender testing.” She is a breakout star, without the typical “feminine” look that often accompanies successful female athletes.You can have a look here.

While I can’t imagine that pain that she must be going through, having her identity questioned (no matter her biology, mind you), now her testing has brought with it an image makeover. Yes, this runner has been glammed up for the media. Have a look at her new look.

Shame on the folks who thought that a new look would quell “worries” about her identity or worries over the test. Of course a more femmy look will make everyone forget about the testing to which she’s been subjected.

For me, this issue highlights many things. First off, it really points to the boundaries put around women who excel in athletics. Beauty and glamour are a must in order to make it big as a female athlete. Somehow, it’s important to always emphasize one’s femininity — the more of a super star you are, the more important it is to make that emphasis. I don’t for a second think that the athletes are the ones pushing this, but rather it’s the agents, publicists, the sports media, etc.

Most profoundly, though, this athlete makeover is yet another blatant example of how society expects women to look and how terribly unacceptable it is to look any way that jogs outside of those boundaries. To me, that is utterly shameful.

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