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Posts Tagged ‘stereotypes’

I’m in an ongoing conversation with a teacher/friend about gender and identity. She shared how her 5 year old son is very into the notion that “colors are for everyone” lately. No “boy colors” or “girl colors.” Any color for any person.

In talking about Q and how confining sex and assumptions around gender can be, she suggested the notion (which was really suggested by this wise 5 year old, but not in so many words) that gender is for everyone. As in, any gender for any person. Or every gender for every person. Or whatever gender anyone wants. No restrictions based on stereotypes. It came from the suggestion, by said wise 5 year old, that on a particular day when he was hanging out with Q and folks kept thinking Q was a girl, that maybe, in fact, he WAS a girl that day. None of us really know, he suggested. So wise. And so doable inside of the notion that gender is for everyone. So, I’m going with this conceptualization. I like it and am using it.

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I’ve been away from this space for too long and very much am looking forward to a return. Things have “heated up” in the domain of identity, at least in my mind, and so I’m definitely looking “out there” for support.

More on that in my next post.

I came here right now to reflect on the dynamics of summer. This is the second, if not third, year in a row when Q, in the summer, moves much further towards the feminine. Last summer was the beginning of the pony tail. This summer has been all about barrettes, nail polish, other hair accessories, tight shirts, etc. I definitely think that he feels a freedom during the summer without the subtle gaze of peers that occurs each day in school. He did some camp, and a swim team, but the day in day out experience of school was just not there.

And I think this has him let down his guard a bit. I find it intriguing to see what emerges during these times. And, looking ahead to the start of school in 10 days or so, I do think about the effect of being back in that peer group, now with even older kiddos……

For now, though, a snapshot from tonight. My hair was unruly due to pre-hurricane humidity, so I requested a barrette loan. Q donned one too and requested a photo.

Hence, barrette twins:

barrette twins

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Thanks for all the congratulatory wishes on W’s arrival. More on that in days and weeks to come, I’m sure.

A few of you asked if Q is excited for the start of school, and the answer is a resounding YES! He is a school lover. In spite of the extra social pressures he feels there and the insipid need to monitor himself, he loves his school, his teachers, his friends, and, most importantly, the routine of it (he is a seven-year old, after all!). So, luckily, he’s excited.

We’ve been talking a lot about back-to-school. For us, we talk about non-traditional things, though. It’s not the type of pencils to buy, who he hopes to sit next to, or what he’ll learn in science but rather how he might respond to a kid who teases him about his newly-achieved ponytail. Or how he might respond to other children who, we learned over the summer, persisted in making him feel unsafe and uncomfortable (not just for what he chose to wear, mind you).

This year, though, I’m trying to push him a bit in these conversations. We’re talking a lot about power. To this point, Q has talked about ignoring kids who tease him, and I think this is his general M.O. But, the teasing has, in the past year, gotten the upper hand. An example or two: He was teased about wearing clips in his hair, ignored the teasing in the moment, but stopped wearing the clips. He was teased about wearing a bandana, again ignored it in the moment, but then ceased wearing said bandana and anything else pink, for that matter.

So this year, I added the layer of power to our conversation. That the teasing and teaser end up with the power if Q stops doing/wearing the thing he’s teased about. And I think he got it. At least got it on a new level. He declared that if he gets teased for his ponytail, he’ll “wear it every day for at least a week!” In my mind, that’s progress. Standing up for himself in a new way.

So, as we inch towards school, it’s with excitement, some new tools of communication and self-expression, and always with a bit of trepidation about what lies ahead. Thanks to those of you looking out for Q on this part of his journey. As always, I’ll keep you updated!

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nail polish is on. Ponytail is in.

Intriguing, eh? Thoughts, anyone?

he's so proud to have reached pony tail length!

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Following the advice many of you gave, I checked back in with Q about the stereotype conversation. ‘Twas interesting and enlightening for sure.

Among other things, I asked him what boy stereotypes he knew of. Mainly, he talked about “boy colors.” And he explained that the reason he doesn’t break stereotypes is that he likes the “boy colors.” He was quick to say he also likes the “girl colors,” namely pink and purple. But I understood, finally, that since he doesn’t only like the “girl colors,” he doesn’t see it as breaking stereotypes in that area. Wise, this boy is. Really wise. Clearly more so than me — he’s transcending these binaries left and right.

I then asked about his hair. Again, I was enlightened. His hair, according to him, doesn’t break stereotypes, because it’s not yet as long as he wants it to be. When it is (which is down to the middle of his back), he’ll be breaking stereotypes. Right now though, he’s just in process really, in that domain. Logical? Certainly to him. But he did explain that most boys have hair about “an inch or a centimeter long,” and that his was definitely much longer since, after all, “it’s the longest hair in the family!”

I mentioned to Q that last year he talked a lot about being a stereotype breaker and asked if he still felt like one. “Well, maybe,” was his answer. But then he explained, emphatically, that he could do or like whatever he likes, no matter what other people say. There’s my boy!

I was heartened not because I want him to cut a path outside the norm all the time, but because I was able to see that he’s still got a great sense of gusto for being who he is. And that’s really what’s most important to me — him knowing who he is, even when it’s changing, but mostly him feeling good about who he is. Good and strong.

So thanks for your responses. I’d always love more. And know, next time you’re wondering if you’re a stereotype breaker, that the answer isn’t always as easy to come by as it seems. No matter the clothes you’re wearing at that very moment! (a reminder to those who forgot: Q was clad fully in “girls’ clothes” yesterday when he initially proclaimed he doesn’t break any boy-girl stereotypes).

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At Q’s school, there’s a question on the white board each morning, and kids read it and write a response below. Everyone can then see their response and they usually discuss the variety of experiences, opinions, etc. in those responses.

Today’s question: Do you break boy-girl stereotypes? (spurred on by kids from an older class coming in later today to talk about stereotypes and, I believe, do a survey about them — did I mention I love our school?)

Q’s response on the board? “No.”

My internal response: “What?!?!?!?”

There stood my kid, clad wholly in clothes from the “girl” side of the store. Growing out his hair. Purple shoes. And he said he doesn’t break those stereotypes.

Part of me was shocked, part intrigued, part worried. I’ll admit to worried, because last year he talked about how he was a stereotype breaker all the time. This year, not so much. And this seemed to be the clearest message possible.

Now of course I’m fine with however he wants to be and identify and dress and all that jazz. I just still worry that there’s something he now feels like he has to hide (see my last post). I could be wrong. But what if I’m right?

I think I need some advice and opinions here (even if just to tell me to chill the heck out!).

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Today Obama signed into law the Hate Crimes Bill. Inclusive of gender identity. Groundbreaking stuff, I tell you. And not an easy path. I have yet to hit the airwaves, so to speak, to here from those who decry this action. And yet I can’t help but honor those who have given their blood (literally), sweat, and tears in the fight to bring this bill to fruition. For that deep courage, thank you.

 

My own little guy’s fight against stereotypes, while certainly not as monumental, has definitely hit some bumps of late. Hence the many questions I’ve posed here. It’s been wonderful hearing from you. Those of you just stopping by for the first time (thanks NY Times parenting blog commenter for the mention!), welcome, and please do join in the conversation!

Q is in first grade, and the gendered pressures are definitely hitting him in a new way. While in kindergarten he wrote for his first writing assignment that something he likes about himself is that he breaks stereotypes, he’s now hitting some bumps in that road. Recently, his pink and purple bandanas have garnered him some teasing. And as he grows his hair out, he’s VERY choosy about what he’ll use to hold it back out of his eyes. Whereas headbands used to be de rigour last year, they are off the table as an option for school. He’s also making certain choices, explaining that they work “only on the weekends.” Partly, this breaks my heart, as he encounters the reality of society (albeit in his generally lovely and accepting, sheltered school environment). Yet he’s also been able to take this opportunity to grow his strength. To tell other kids that he can wear pink “because I like it!”

He has a new conviction behind his choices, and I so love that about this boy. He’s learning a bit more about what it means to stay true to his own likes and beliefs, and that will surely serve him well in life, whether it’s about what he wears, who he hangs out with, what he does for fun, or what he does for work.

And, this journey does take courage on his part. And brings some sadness and frustration on his part (and mine/ours). But I’m thinking that today’s signing of the Hate Crime Bill is a fine example of where these little acts of courage can get us. And I know that my boy’s courage will get us far, too.

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All it takes is love as the lens!

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