Today at school my son Allie wore a dress to school.
Now being a queer-identified gender-fluid person myself I didn’t expect to be upset by this. I’ve raised this boy child in a world where they know some girls have penises and some boys have vaginas. Girls can be any kind of girl and boys can be any kind of boy. Their best boyfriend wears nail polish and pink jeans.
Early on there were lots of discussions about hair length. It seems weird to me this is how young children seem to grapple with the gender rules. Girls have long hair and boys have short hair. They seem surprised when we point out the error in this with direct examples of friends and family members who identify differently and have the “wrong” corresponding hair length.
I wear big boots and rarely wear make-up. I’ve always broken the gender rules. I decided a long time ago that gender is arbitrary and I would be whatever damn person I wanted to be. I didn’t need a fixed gender identity. I’ve had short hair. I’ve had long hair. I never wear dresses.
And here I am buying a pink and purple dress for my child, as requested (possibly for “dress-up”). But then they decide it is the most beautiful dress and they will wear it to school. And dropping Allie off that day terrified me.
“Great, no problem I said”. Dropping them off at school, I whisper to the teacher. “Please don’t let them be bullied”.
Earlier in the week, the teachers had told me that Allie had said, “I’m a girl.”
Picking out skis, the clerk turns to me and says “Is Allie a she or he?” They loudly state, “I’m a she, SHE!” So there we have it. And the teachers shockingly were great. They said they just told Allie it was fine to be a girl.
But then I worried about their classmates. Allie asks me “ do I look like a girl now?, with my dress?”.
Again I say (although at this point I’m mostly just agreeing that yes you are a girl),“Some boys wear dresses and some girls wear dresses. I don’t really know what a girl or boy looks like. You look like Allie to me, with a beautiful pink and purple dress.”
At lunchtime, I arrive to help out in the classroom. There is Allie sitting in the middle of the classroom. They are super cute in their pink dress and so happy to see me. Allie is eating lunch with a friend Nora, “Nora knows I’m a girl. “ Nora smiles and nods, “Allie is a girl”.
Tonight they tell me they want to be a boy named Isabella. “I can change my name right, if I want a girl name and my mummy says it’s okay”. I said, “of course it’s okay”.
Wherever we go on this journey with my sidekick. gender will be a bumpy part of the road. As I told Allie tonight, “Boy or girl, I will love you no matter who you are. Makes no difference to me. “