Let’s talk about… Gender – Part II

As I stated in the Part I of this post, everything that I have to say about gender falls into two categories:

  • Things I have learned and believe as a result of being the parent of two children
  • Things I have learned and believe as a result of my own experience as a human being

Turns out that I didn’t cover all of the things that I’ve learned about gender in that post so here is another installment…

A is just about to finish up his first year in school. This can’t possibly be. It seems like the first day was just last week.

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First Day
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He’s pumped

Not long after the school year started, we started to notice the influence that school had on him when it came to gender. Now before I go on, let me just say that he goes to a very open and accepting school. A school where he is not the only child of two lesbian parents. A school where kids can dye their hair whatever color pleases them. A school that doesn’t box kids in based on anything, let alone gender. But, inevitably he started to make comments about gender that seemed to be influenced by an outside source. Things like only boys can do certain things. Only boys are allowed in his room (being the only boy in the house, that didn’t got over too well for him). You get the idea.

We didn’t freak out. We knew it was coming. The influence of gender roles in our society is strong. So, we took this opportunity to talk about gender more with the goal being to help him frame the things that he heard at school. We gave examples of boys that he knows with long hair and girls with short hair. We talked about our family structure and other families that we know. We asked him questions about his own gender and preferences. He is clear (for now) that he is male. He wants people to know he is a boy and he makes choices that are consistent with that. For example, he prefers short hair (at least on the sides and back, his new thing is “long in the middle” which he now clips or wears in a unicorn style ponytail or multiple Mohawk style spikes).

When asked about his sister (who currently identifies as “princess”), he says that she is a girl. When asked about Mama-that-stays-home (a.k.a. my wife), he says that she is a girl. When asked about Mama-that-goes-to-work, he says, “something in between.”

Something in between! Can we just stop all the fuss around the world about gender identity and let kids solve the labels problem for us? Kids are great because they don’t take offense to gender or see why someone should be offended by being misgendered (take for example a conversation I had with a little girl at Disney World many years ago: Walt Disney World Gay Days 2010). People are what they are. Some people are this or that and some are something in between. Okay, fine. Who cares?

I remember the first time we posed the question to A. Both mamas were reading him a bedtime story (most likely as a way to have some discussion around the new found gender stereotypes that he was expressing). This is where the conversation went:

A: I like Mama [M] better.

Mama[A]: Why?

A: Because she’s in between a mom and a dad.

Obviously, this was just about the best answer possible. I was not at all offended by this statement. Both because it was an innocent statement and because it is entirely accurate. I carried him (and his sister) in my belly. I gave birth to them. I breastfed them both beyond two years. But, I also am the Mama that goes to work. I wear ties and bow-ties. I play video games and read comic books with him. Something in between pretty much covers it.

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woman and young girt standing in front of steps and holding hands
J visiting Mama-that-goes-to-work
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I’m the one in Blue

Pregnant Superheros

During my recent birthday shopping trip to Burlington, I stepped into Earth Prime Comics. As I was skimming titles, my wife says “You have to buy this one.” Which, by the way, is never something I thought I’d hear from her in a comic book store. But, she was so right (she is right about 99% of the time, I listen to her about 33% of the time, this is something I am working on). So now I am reading this…

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I know this book is a couple years old. I know there are articles out there, published when it was released, but it was news to me. A superhero that is pregnant!? I love the image. I love the idea. I love it. And here’s why:

  • I am a woman (won’t go into the complicated asterisk here, but stay tuned, it could be a future topic).
  • I have been pregnant, twice.
  • I don’t believe that being pregnant and being active are mutually exclusive activities.

One of the things that bugged me the most about being pregnant was people contantly cautioning me about doing things. Don’t paint the bedroom, don’t climb the ladder, you’re going to have to quit running, stop moving the furniture, get someone else to mow the lawn, take it easy. STFU. People seem to think that women are particularly delicate when pregnant and cannot do things. A ridiculous notion. You can be pregnant and do things. Physical and mental things, all kinds of things.

Disclaimer: This is not to say that at a certain point during pregnancy there are no physical limitations, in my experience there are. Nor is this intended to offend anyone (really, truly, honestly, everyone has a different pregnancy and birth and postpartum experience and all of those experiences are valid and worth large amounts of respect). Also, this is entirely my own opinion and not to be construed as medical advice (please seek the advice of your medical provider when determining the appropriate level of activity during your pregnancy).

To illustrate my point… I have been pregnant twice. During my first pregnancy, I ran the Goofy Challenge at Walt Disney World. I even used a couple of photos of me during the race, sporting my “Running for Two” shirt to come out of the pregnancy closet. During my second pregnancy, we were rushing to finish a home improvement project before the baby was born and I was tiling the bathroom floor at 35 weeks, painting after that, and moving furniture, etc. During both pregnancies, I worked full time until either the baby came out or I was past my expected arrival date. All the while, I was literally making another human being.

Pregnant Wonderwoman with I grow humans what's your super power?

Side note, the superpowers don’t stop at making the human because at some point you have to get that human out of your body and (if you choose to do so) feed it by turning the food you eat into baby human food… WOW. Let’s just think about that for a minute.

Zooming back out, the great thing about pregnant superheros is that being pregnant and becoming a mother is not their everything. It’s not their defining role.

Motherhood does not have to be your defining role.

That is the take home. No one part of yourself is your defining role, not even motherhood. I identify with many labels: wife, mother, leader, advocate, writer, artist. But none of these (or any other parts of myself) solely define who I am.

Looking back on my childhood experiences, this was likely a contributing factor in my tenuous relationship with my mother. Though I have spent many years processing and coming to terms with this part of my life (and this is certainly an ongoing process for me), I’ve learned to frame my experiences as lessons learned. That way regardless of how shitty things may have been or seem now, I’m getting something positive from it. Something I can translate to my own parenting. Something that will make my kids’ experience better.

What’s your superpower? If you are or have been pregnant, what’s your pregnancy claim to fame?