We get what we get

“We get what we get and we don’t get upset,” said Miss Paula the ballet teacher at the Y, as she was doling out some colored plastic rings with pretty streamerey ribbons attached to them.  Evidently in past years there has been a rash of streamer-ribbon-ring kvetching. No longer. Miss Paula lays down the law, and the pint-sized ballerinas obey.

I watched my girlie absorbing the dictum with a kind of reverential attentiveness she gives only to Miss Paula, and scribbled the words down on my hand so I wouldn’t forget. I am so far from Miss Paula, in law-laying down style and frankly most every other style domain, that most evolutionary biologists would be hard-pressed to locate us in the same species, much less the same genus, family, order, or class.  But I try.  Lord knows I try, in my own way, to guide the young (er, never mind yesterday’s post).

“The BALLET TEACHER?!!!” some of you may be sputtering at this point. “Who cares about distracting tangents about discipline! Let’s get back to: The BALLET TEACHER?!!” To which I have nearly nothing to say. Our girlie loves to dance;  her cousin downstairs took ballet; she asked nicely;  she’s exposed to the culture she lives in (I know, I know; but the bunker in Idaho idea fell apart when we realized we’d have to make our own lattés).

The upside of her ballet class: she wears black. Goth ballerina. She continues to list purple and red as her favorite colors.  Yes: these colors are close, dangerously close to pink. But! — not! — pink!  And in class, she wanders around semi-aimlessly (okay, not quite that, but rare is the time that she is doing exactly what most of the other little girls seem to be doing). While she listens to Miss Paula carefully, she only partially obeys her, as if Miss Paula’s voice is abstract, European-accented music coming out of a beautiful, tiny-framed instrument, and its purpose is merely to provide accompaniment to the dreamy imaginative space in the room, along with the quiet classical piano on the boom box, and the gentle movements of the children.

Just because I am sympathetic to our daughter’s aesthetic and cultural predilections doesn’t mean this ballet business has been smooth sailing for me.  I nearly had a seizure at the birthday party her cousin held at a ballet school once. Really. I needed to keep a paper bag near to hand, and lean over and breathe slowly in and out of it when the kids weren’t looking.  A sea of pink, pink-pink-pink!, and tutus!, as far as the eye could see. Which wasn’t very far, since my  hands were covering my eyes most of the time.

My brother -in-law and boy nephew were totally fine the whole time, by the way, because why? Because at no point was this pink tutu-filled world laid out for them as their one, their only, their true destiny. A destiny that they would have to fight, tooth-and-nail, from pre-puberty ’til sometime around about the late twenties, maybe even early thirties.

Not that I’m bitter.

I have gone through a kind of shock at the first appearances of haute femme propaganda on our free-spirit girl child.  I swooned, and had to be caught at the armpits by several friends as our daughter, then a mere three years old, slowly descended the steps from her cousin’s house wearing a 19th century-style hoop dress ball gown and clear plastic quasi- HIGH HEELS, all purloined from the elder cousins’ dress-up box, and no, the swoon came not  from  parental pride at her beauty, nor from  parental concern over the navigability of the steps in those shoes.  Though I did worry about the steps.

But even then, mid-swoon, I knew that just like with cuss words or potty talk, if I drew attention to my horror it would only make the situation worse (er, never mind my sketchy credulity as profanity or potty-talk cop).  I knew that she was just trying on haute femme femininity for size — for play, for dress-up. I got no worries that we won’t be able to introduce the subtleties of the gender-as-performance argument over the years, and I got no worries — at least right now — that our girlie won’t be able to appreciate the finer points of it.  Hell, her femme-bot Mama sure does.  I have seen her apply lipstick in the reflection of a spoon, and that makes a gal like me swoon.  In a good way.

I dressed up, too, at every opportunity that presented itself throughout my youth. Only I was a swashbuckler.  Miss Paula might have said to my parents, “We get what we get, and we don’t get upset.”

pintsizedswashbuckler2

34 Responses to We get what we get

  1. Mama non grata March 11, 2009 at #

    I can’t wait to try that line on my little ones (maybe on my father, one day, too). I’m sure it won’t have any effect, but what the hell.

    But: what if the boy child wants to wear pink tutus? Or, say, a red dress with hearts on it bought at Valu Village over the weekend? To school, yesterday? Like my four-year-old son did? I was fairly sure he’d be fine at school, but I was nervous for him all day yesterday. Fortunately, he seems to have sailed through in his beloved dress, unscathed by any bullies or preschool gender police. Whether it was by design or by coincidence, his version of Miss Paula made him the “special person” of the day, which may have helped.

    • Lesbian Dad March 11, 2009 at #

      Oh, sister! Yeah, the boys-crossing-the-girl-gender line thing: a way different animal.

      Our boy is dead-set on ballet as soon as he’s old enough, as much as he can be dead-set on stuff at this age. Which for him, is a lot, since he takes after his mother in this regard. But I think everyone would agree, the dress to school is a big gesture, and the most genderqueer-supportive among us know that school can be the young person’s equivalent of the outside of a bar around 2 am. In other words: By all means, Not. Always. Safe.

      To say the least. After Lawrence King, it is impossible for the worst case scenario not to be haunting the periphery of our vision. One tries hard not to be alarmist.

      We haven’t trod that path yet, but may. Meanwhile, I work at drawing wisdom from those, like the mom at Labels Are For Jars, who are.

      [added: if you are interested in reading way into the future, maybe not of your own kid, but the topic, you should totally read up at Stephanie Brill’s Gender Spectrum Family.]

  2. wyliekat March 11, 2009 at #

    Maybe it’s pragmatism on my part, but I’ve always assumed that my younger girl (the one I’ve been raising from birth, not the one I inherited when she was seven) would go through some kind of princess phase. It just seemed inevitable, even though I really didn’t go through one myself.

    The media around princessing is much more pervasive (it seems) than when I was a child.

    I don’t look forward to it, but I am resigned.

    The upside is that she still seems to like playing pirates or karate expert equally well.

  3. Cat@PinkAsparagus March 11, 2009 at #

    We say it as, “we get what we get and we don’t have a fit.” My daughter has little concept of the Disney princesses. Most recently she was wearing a skirt and her hand-me-down Lego Star Wars t-shirt and declared herself a princess. Princess Leia to be exact.

    • Lesbian Dad March 11, 2009 at #

      All hail Princess Leia! And thanks for the variations on the theme. I am totally going to pronounce it this way around the house from now on: We git what we git and we don’t pitch a fit.

      The other day, the lil’ monkey was designating various of us royalty. She included her Grampy Paul, and called him King. I corrected her and said Grampy Paul is very much a queen, which she had to cogitate on a bit. She said something to the effect of, Okay, but Mama’s a queen! And don’t worry, Babi, you’re a King!

      Much appreciated.

  4. genderkid March 11, 2009 at #

    I toyed a bit with the idea of princessdom when I was 6 or 7; I don’t think I actually dressed as a princess, but I put on a crown and kiddie jewelry. That didn’t stop me from critically analyzing gender when I became a teen, so I don’t think you have to worry! Plus, having you around is probably a great example on how one can be oneself.

    • Lesbian Dad March 11, 2009 at #

      Many thanks. I certainly am an example of how one can cuss and talk potty and still be a respectable member of society. Er.

      And I have to say, having The Mrs. around helps, too. She begged her mother both for Barbie and ballet; G’ma held fast on the former but conceded on teh latter. While crossing her hairy-legged, radical lesbian feminist fingers behind her back. Fortunately, all turned out well in the end. The long view seems to be utterly essential for sane parenthood.

  5. Vikki March 12, 2009 at #

    We always say, “You get what you get and you don’t throw a fit”. Funny. We have been engaged in a similar struggle with our kids. We have a boy that looks very boyish and a girl appears very girly. I remind myself often, however, that they are non-stereotypical in so many other ways. We have tried to roll with it and it has gotten easier. That said, I went out with my sister and my daughter for a “girl’s day” at the Mall of America last Friday (to celebrate Zeca’s 4th bday) and felt like the odd gal out. When my sister took Z to have her nails done, I sat out in the mall and people watched while eating jelly bellies. I couldn’t go in. Could. Not. Do. It.

    You were such a little cutie pie :)

    • Lesbian Dad March 12, 2009 at #

      To Vikki up there: Last time I was at the Mall of America, it was its opening weekend and we were on a Lesbian Avenger “kiss-in” (political objective: anti-commercialism/ anti-capitalism? mit lesbo visibility?) Were you part of that one? It was a horror. A zoo. We were a wee dot, with little-to-no impact. The anarchists were elsewhere in the mall, doing a ralph-in. As I recall, I had to argue that it would be a bad idea for us to do our actions in the same locale, what with the unfortunate potential of the mixed message (women kissing? hurl!).

      And hey: we were all cutie pies, weren’t we? Way back and when.

      Ruffian706, you know, it has made all the difference in the world to (1) fall in love with one such a gal, and (2) see one evidently forming before my very eyes. Yes, the pressures from without to conform are tremendous, and our culture’s relationship to gender is the last thing from a level playing field (I figure the tilt at about 45 degrees, spilling kids to either side of the sharply-defined gender divide). Those of us who are hanging on for dear life, trying not to be slid into something that feels wrong (to one degree or another), have a hard time of it, to be sure. I internalized a lot of self-hatred, and never did get the resolution with my mother before she died. Close, but no cigar. Don’t think that doesn’t weigh heavily on my innards. The older I get, the more I see it at the root of a great deal of my personality.

      But I have been very very softened by seeing deeply into the women for whom these sorts of — ? what to call them — well, this sort of narrative of femaleness actually fits. Or is malleable enough to allow them the space they want and need to be whoever it is that they feel at the core.

  6. Ruffian706 March 12, 2009 at #

    “Because at no point was this pink tutu-filled world laid out for them as their one, their only, their true destiny. A destiny that they would have to fight, tooth-and-nail, from pre-puberty ’til sometime around about the late twenties, maybe even early thirties.”

    THANK YOU!! I have long been engaged with this internal conflict, trying to come to the terms with the fact that I am so anti-girly. As someone who prides myself in being open and accepting of people as they come, I struggle a lot with the bare fact that I am implicitly biased against cisgendered females who are uber-girly. Such judgment goes against everything that I believe in, and I know it, which is why I constantly am reminding myself to STOP IT. But, at the same time it helps to acknowledge WHY I am so opposed–for the exact reason that you articulate above. It’s not that I deride them for liking something that I don’t like. It’s that such presentation is hugely threatening on account of being told for so long that this is what I had to be.

    Not to say that this let’s me off the hook and that I should work to be better with it, but it’s nice to be reminded it’s OK not to be super hard on myself about it.

    So I’m super happy whenever I come across someone experiencing the same deeply ingrained gag reflex.

  7. Juliet March 12, 2009 at #

    Did you hear this?:

    http://thislife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1286

    Act 2 – about 29:00 in.

    lovely lovely.

    Juliet

    • Lesbian Dad March 12, 2009 at #

      Was it “The Plan”? About gentrification? That’s what I just heard. Wondering whether your “lovely” was ironic? If I heard the right episode?

  8. Juliet March 12, 2009 at #

    haha! no! wrong episode – no idea about that one and ‘lovely’ was genuine. I meant it to be the one they made for Valentines Day on 02.13.09 (or 13.02.09 in real money ;) ). It’s called ‘Somewhere Out There’. Act 2 is called Tom Girls and begins at around 29:00.

    Any luck?

    • Lesbian Dad March 12, 2009 at #

      Aha!

      http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1283

      Act Two. Tom Girls.

      Lilly and Thomasina have a lot in common. They’re both 8 years old. And they were both born boys, although it became clear pretty early on that they’d prefer to be girls. There aren’t all that many kids in the world like them, but recently, at a conference in Seattle on transgender parenting, they met. And they immediately hit it off. They could talk about things with each other that they’d never been able to share with other friends back home. And that’s comforting, even if they never see each other after the conference ends. Producer Mary Beth Kirchner tells the story, with production help from Rebecca Weiker. (17 minutes)

      Hey, and it was this conference: Gender Spectrum Family Conference.

  9. Lesbian Dad March 12, 2009 at #

    Holy crap. The heart melts/ explodes.

    Update, after hearing the whole episode: I fucking wept from minute 35 onward, and I. Am. Not. A. Weeper. Really. Truly. I am hyperbolic about so much, but for Humor Value. Not this.

    Second update: I swear to god I will pay $100 to the first person can prove that they didn’t finally lose it upon hearing the kids’ voices singing “Somewhere Out There,” at the end. I dare you.

    Thank you, Juliet, for sending this link. I already sent it to Megin at Labels Are For Jars, and, via my sister-in-law, to someone else. Now on to the third such email, after I wipe my soppy eyes.

  10. dimplecheek March 12, 2009 at #

    This was an amazing post! I can’t wait for The Papa to read this, as our little Robby has been consumed with fixing my hair and making me look beautiful. We know we love Robby enough to support and love him through what ever path he chooses in life, but sometimes.. we “swoon”…over our own issues and past experiences. I was never good at the girly stuff, as my mother was absent in those years, so I was grateful for a boy child. We’ll see if that matters, I guess!

    I know this will make The Papa feel better about all the internal cringes he has when Robby wants to style my hair or wear that pink shirt. Hetero or Homo – we all have these issues come up and I for one love reading about life on the other side of the fence and finding it mirroring my own.

    PS – You were a dashing swashbuckler! Too cute!

  11. Juliet March 12, 2009 at #

    LesbianDad – re Lily and Thomasina – I know! I’ve listened to it about five times through already. ‘I’ve got a message for you boys: DON’T TEASE ME OR ELSE!’

    If you can take it, there is also a beautiful (and very funny) piece by Dan Savage in the archives about his son’s response to the idea that his dads might marry: http://www.thisamericanlife.org/Radio_Episode.aspx?sched=1251 (Act 2 circa 17:30)

    And on the subject of ballet: http://www.flickr.com/photos/39599918@N00/3350209508/

    I’m the little one sitting third in from the left. I have another photo of us all wearing those 1980s shiny nylon nightshirts, clutching dolls. But don’t get me started on that…

    I don’t remember wholeheartedly embracing my inner princess, but I really loved being a bridesmaid aged 5 in my pink and white silk dress with flower tiara. And I came out (ha!) alright in the end.

  12. Chumpy March 12, 2009 at #

    Thank you for writing about this.
    Our daughter has a double dose of fully expressed pink genes. When she first started ballet after much begging, aged three, the main attraction for her was the pink fluffy costume and ballet shoes. Five years on she still goes with many of her friends from the original class. Somewhere along the line she has developed a love of dance, the confidence to perform and an ability to respond to music in a very physical way. Any misgivings on my part have long been quelled by the enjoyment she takes from it. She is exposed and reflects a range of female gender expression.
    Our eldest son is currently similarly dance obsessed. He is often the instigator of a run on princess dresses at his nursery and provokes many a heated dispute when he raids his sisters room for dresses, shoes and bling.
    We try not to pass on the stultifying limitation of gender norms or ‘shoe horning’. Thus we too accompany our children and support them as they explore and develop their own gender self expression.
    What’s to be upset about what you get?

  13. alphafemme March 13, 2009 at #

    @Ruffian706 and @LesbianDad

    Interesting thoughts about visceral distaste for femininity. I hadn’t really considered it in quite the way you both put it, that it’s the reminder of oppression of women who don’t conform to femininity, the pressure exerted on them and the pain suffered while trying to break out of its confines; and it’s the anxiety that our daughters will suffer the same thing.

    As a femme dyke, though, I’ve always been kind of dismayed by what I’ve dubbed “femme-aphobia” in the dyke community. I had to go through a whole phase of androgyny/masculinity when I was coming out, the whole duration of which I was intensely uneasy and self-conscious, because I thought you couldn’t be both feminine and gay. That’s a prevalent message in the dyke community.

    And arguably, coming out as a femme dyke in a queer community that rejects/is suspicious of female femininity isn’t much easier than coming out as an andro/butch woman in a heteronormative society that rejects/is suspicious of female androgyny/masculinity. So the question is how to support a full range of self-expression and identity for women *without* marginalizing those who conform to heteronormative standards for femininity? Dismissing femininity as an oppressive standard of patriarchy is, it seems to me, equally oppressive, and only further submits to the ultimate power of the patriarchy to determine women’s self-expression.

    So how do you do it? Re-define the value system from within it (since that’s the only place we can really be)? I’m stymied.

    …And now I want to go blog about this dilemma myself, so I don’t take up any more space in your comments :)

    • Lesbian Dad March 13, 2009 at #

      But I’m glad you took up this much space! Thank you!!

      I definitely don’t have “femme-aphobia,” for which I can proudly offer my beloved as exhibit A. More like “femme-ophilia.” But that itself has evolved over time, as my understanding and appreciation for myself has.

      All these locations on the gender spectrum — which is probably poorly described as a spectrum, since that’s only two dimensional, and relates to two poles, whereas we all really need something much more three-dimensional — but all these locations have felt so different, depending on where one is in history and geography. I came out in the Bay Area in the early 1980s, at a time when the same kind of forces may well have been in effect for you: androgyny was the only politically credible route for self-aware feminists, etc.

      When my first sweetie and I went to our first dyke bar, we were flummoxed, though, since our understanding of lesbian identity was that everyone “had” to choose between butch and femme. Since neither of us wanted to wear a skirt or a dress to the bar, we kind of just came as we were. The college gals, like us, wound up being on the androgynous in-between side, and the workingclass gals whose bar we were visiting, as it were, were more butch/femme.

      My beloved’s experience as a femme dyke is definitely compounded by her motherhood: she feels invisible, and has to find creative ways daily to come out, and stay out. Something about toting around little kids kind of anchors one even more deeply into the heteronormative narrative, at least in the eyes of others, so it’s a lot of work for her. She came out into a very femme/butch supportive environment, the butch/femme v.2.0 that re-emerged as of the early- to mid-1990s in urban communities. So I don’t know whether she’d describe feeling much phobia. But I know this exists, depending on the when and the where one is or has been.

      What was visceral about my reaction to the gender training/ presumption I experienced in my youth really — so far as I can tell — mostly has been limited to my feelings about what’s been true or right or comfortable for me. For my part, the more I’ve grown into my more comfortably gendered self (which I’d describe as gentle-manly, so-called “soft” butch, though I don’t name myself that often), the more I’ve realized that gals like my sweetie are not just attractive to me, but also utterly comfortable with themselves. She certainly didn’t feel the same panic that I did, as a gal. Her pains had to do with “toning down” the strength she felt, when growing up, and then later, when with men, supressing some parts of her femmy self so as to not give up ground or self-respect (as she would describe it). Much of her coming out as a more femmy woman has been from within the comfort of our relationship.

      The birthday party was dreamy-sweet for her, since she took years of ballet, happily. Still has the turnout to prove it. :)

  14. Juliet March 14, 2009 at #

    What a fascinating discussion. I can relate to so much of what you say LesbianDad about your sweetie’s desire to tone down her femmy self when with men. My desire to perform (allbeit subtly) different gender expressions oscillates almost daily. I almost consciously balance by desire for a femme day with a need for what I would term a more dykey day – as if they have to balance out.

    I guess as a result I spend most of my time just about on the girl side of the middle (if we’re working with the continuum – all flaws acknowledged). However, I too have only started to wear dresses or to express my femme-ness more frequently within the comfort of my very out relationship with my girlfriend.

    I was far more androgynous during the years when I was in the (very) complex place of being an out lesbian in love with a man. I needed that symbolic dress code to assert my queerness in a situation which would have me as otherwise entirely straight. This was despite it being an empowering relationship with an openly feminist man who gave me much of my early-period feminist education. He was fully aware of the contradictions within my sexual identity at that time and “got it” in a way that most of my lesbian friends didn’t.

    That became a long explanation too; it’s such a subtle performance we make and so hard to explain in words.

  15. virgotex March 14, 2009 at #

    “Nothing is simple. I’m a ballet mistress, and nothing is simple.”

    Katerina (Geraldine Chaplin), “Talk to Her”

    one of my fav. movie lines.

    • Lesbian Dad March 14, 2009 at #

      ! Touché! To which I can only respond with Ashleigh Brilliant:

      The closest thing to my life philosophy, boiled down to 16 words. Besides amor vincit omnia.

  16. riley March 15, 2009 at #

    As the relatively butch mother of a girly three-year old I was just thinking about all of these issues as I researched ballet lessons. The school closest to our house has a dress code of pink tutus and pink leotards. Reading about the dress codes reminded me of the torture of dance class and brought my research to an abrupt halt. But if she figures out that dance classes exist and wants to take them, I’ll be on board. Recently I’ve been shocked by how easy it is to embraced my daughters interest in pink, glitter, dresses and princesses. I hated all of those things as a child and had only disdain for any kids who were interested in anything I deemed girly, but luckily I get to make my own choices now and none of it seems threatening to me. I feel like we can monitor the types of images of princesses she’s exposed to and keep her supplied with diverse images of women. On top of that I feel like my mom finally has the daughter she dreamed of having all along. All those things she loves and tried to force on me from The Sound of Music to the Nutcracker are being embraced by her grand-daughter. And finally I’m really off the hook.

    • Lesbian Dad March 15, 2009 at #

      Welcome, riley, and thank you so much for adding your voice to the conversation!

      Are you a Star Trek aficionado? Sometimes I think of gender training as like the force of the Borg (“You will be assimilated”). The Borg represent the broad-based cultural force toward a kind of bi-polar gender conformity, and throughout my youth — sounds like yours, too — I was kind of plastered to the side of the Borg ship’s hallways, hoping not to be noticed for my renegade gender-traitor status. (Point of plot information: they are a race of cyborgs operating in a kind of a hive-mind collectivity, and seem not to notice individual carbon-based life-forms until such time as they become a threat.) The interesting thing about having a girlie daughter is two-fold: like you, I realize that I’m off the hook. (Though it’s not directly my mother’s foiled hopes for my femininity, what with her being in the ether now, it still feels that way abstractly.) Plus I now see the whole Borg hive thing in action with a willing participant, which changes its tenor somewhat. Makes some parts of it not the same thing at all. Yesterday at ballet class, when the teacher put on a song from the Tinkerbell soundtrack and had the little dancers flap their fairy wings, I wish I could describe the rapture — the being spoken to — on our girl’s face.

  17. epiphenita March 15, 2009 at #

    So I’m looking at all this from the wide end of the telescope. My partner and I raised two children from the age of 7 (son) and 5 (daughter) from my first heterosexual marriage. That was almost 23 years ago.

    It was a time that talking about gender balance in child rearing made me feel like I was doing a solo. In the desert.

    Without too much backstory, I believe that the child rearing philosophy I had was fundamentally whole and turned out pretty well. Not without its hiccups, but all and all pretty damn successful. Nice to have a little something to applaud in hindsight. But there was/is so much about gender typing that is insidious…even if, or especially if, it manifests as harmless and sweet.

    I am strongly pulled to be both masculine and feminine (masculinity and femininity as defined by society, both straight and gay). And I was a straight wife and never liked the appellation, so I reject that title…while admitting that I have nothing great to replace it with (partner is kind of lifeless, lover is single-faceted and friend is insulting).

    I also have issues with being labeled butch or femme because, well, I want it all.

    And I wanted my children to have it all. So if she wanted to wear a freakin’ party dress with bells in the underskirt so she jingled while she walked and he wanted to play shoot ‘em up with a wooden stick…I grimaced and tried not to discourage. Of course, when he showed interest in cooking or she wanted to learn to weld…I probably showed a bit more enthusiasm.

    Because they would get all the stereotypical shit from society and I was anxious to provide them with atypical gender activities so they could someday pick and choose from the whole spectrum of possibilities.

    When I see gay parents subconsciously glow when Susie is all-girl or Bobby is all-boy (whatever the fuck that means) I find it seriously depressing.

    So hurray for your blog. For this conversation and the consciousness it engenders (oh, I do love a pun).

    • Lesbian Dad March 15, 2009 at #

      Welcome epiphenita! Hurray for your reading and chatting, and for the new shafts of light it sheds on the conversation. Made me think right away about this commentary that Laura Smidzik, former Exec Director of Rainbow Families (MN) told me about: Arlene Istar Lev’s “Gay parents and gender-bending children,” from the July 11, 2006 Advocate.

      Very thought-provoking, and worth a read. Your remark, “When I see gay parents subconsciously glow when Susie is all-girl or Bobby is all-boy (whatever the fuck that means) I find it seriously depressing,” make me think of it right away.

  18. Ruffian706 March 16, 2009 at #

    Gee, I take a few days off of blog-reading to work on school, and see what happens!

    Alphafemme – I absolutely understand your point of view. I hope my comment didn’t feel like an advancement of anti-femme bias. Quite the contrary; it’s been a battle with myself knowing that my reaction against femininity is entirely hypocritical, and serves to put others in the same situation of identity-oppression that I struggled to escape.

    And LD, likewise I know what you mean about having feelings towards this issue evolve. For me, the more I have become secure in my right to my gender, the more naturally it has come to me to not grimace. (Discrimination stemming from insecurity is not limited to homophobes!)

    I didn’t have the fortune of figuring out my orientation or my gender until my mid 20s and late 20s, respectively. In the meantime, I struggled along, largely unable to connect with girls, and in my normative suburban school rejected in efforts to connect with guys. I eventually ended up in a 6-year relationship with a guy that came close to marriage (whew!), and which involved a lot of fights over why I embarrassed him by not being feminine like all his friends’ girlfriends were. Leave it to me to be mistaken for a guy despite having hair down to my knees!

    Having happily moved into the world of queer, I see how here I’m the one who has the easier go of it, compared to so many people. I’m the one with the visibility and consequent “legitimacy”, as opposed to those who, like your beloved, LD, have to come out on an almost daily basis. And I’ve found that relates not only to orientation but gender identity as well. My s.o. and I both identify as queer in gender as well as orientation, seeing ourselves as part of the trans community. I tend to feel “neither”, which translates to a presentation that, through its lack of femininity, is much more easily read as being queer. My s.o., however, feels a bit more “both” (note these are oversimplifications on both parts!), so, simply by nature of hir presentation and mannerisms including SOME femininity, ze is more often read as cisgendered female, and really has to fight to establish hir identity.

    At any rate, yeah, having experienced so far my process of pushing against femininity and learning to lighten up about it, I too often wonder what is to be done to combat such systematic pressures on both sides of the long rainbow line. I feel pretty confident that my experiences will lead me to let my future kids follow their hearts to whatever end…now if only the same could be said of the rest of the world!

    • Lesbian Dad March 16, 2009 at #

      I’m so glad you meandered back here, Ruffian706! You kick-started a right fine conversation. I appreciate so much of what you say here (the fights you had with your near-fianceé sound like some my partner had, either internally or explicitly, with her boyfriends). I’d cut you a bit more slack, since I think the “easier go of it” is relative and situational (as so much is). (Okay I’m a Libra, sue me.) But at times, within queer community that’s using certain yardsticks either for detection or belonging or whatever, you may feel more seen and valid. But heaven knows this same easy legibility also exposes you to plenty enough hardship, too.

      It’s amazing — really, simply amazing — what it does to one to be watching children form themselves. I’ve been a die-hard social constructivist, perhaps simply to counterbalance the die-hard biological determinists in my life. But watching our kids “bring” something with them, watching them “be” somebody very distinct, long before they could be credibly receiving, filtering, and integrating cultural conditioning. Well. It’s just fascinating. As an erstwhile student of Hegel, I’d say that I’m tending toward some sort of synthesis between the two positions. I mean, I had to “be” something of my gendered self in spite of the culture that was trying very hard to construct me otherwise.

      I do like the Ashleigh Brilliant take on this whole matter: it’s both very simple, and very complex, at the same time. Leastwise to me. I share your wish that an open path be available to us all. Least we can clear it for our own kids, in the parts of their journey we have the honor to shepherd and protect, with the hope that the momentum they feel internally will carry them through the inevitable rough patches that we have to leave it to them to navigate on their own.

  19. Life Underage March 19, 2009 at #

    I’m a first-time commenter on your lovely blog here, but I’ve been reading for quite some time now. So, hello!

    I don’t have anything significantly valuable to add to your comment-conversation, but I wanted to say how glad I am to see that you and your wife? lady-friend? what are they calling you guys out in Cali now? are so conscious of gender identity with your children.

    I blogged about this topic myself nearly a week ago, but it’s not something that a lot of people are talking about now. I’m 17, and a product of my mother’s own endless addiction to femininity. I’m just now reaching the age where I can even threaten that one day I will, in fact, begin to cut my own hair with kitchen scissors and wear men’s jeans, and there will be no welcome input from her in the matter!

    Anyway, it’s good to hear that someone such as yourself is writing on the matter, both in your blog and in essays. Us kids out in the midwest, our identities are being smothered by rigid and expected gender roles. Hopefully half of us make it out of adolescence alive to defy them with our own children.

    Simply adore your writing and your angelic children. It’s great to read about the kind of family I hope I can have myself one day…who knew it was possible? :D

    -Lauren

    • Lesbian Dad March 19, 2009 at #

      Sister, I tell ya, when I was your age (!) I for sure wouldn’t have even REMOTELY imagined it. One, because I presumed I was straight (har! the world’s oldest living virgin! good thing I met another such a one just like me in college!), and two because in the HIGHLY unlikely event I was aware that I wouldn’t be following the majority path, object-choice-wise, I still wouldn’t have realized that I all the tomboyishness I thought I had to give up with puberty was never really a liability at all. It was simply a young version of me.

      Thank you for reading, Lauren: welcome, and thank you for your kind words. I dearly hope (and for the most part anticipate, but who the heck knows) that by the time family-making is closer in your sights, things will be even better for all of us, LGBT families and gender traitors and the lot of us.

      By the way, I love “lady-friend.” Many folks call their spouses wifes, but I somehow can’t wrap my mouth around that word, for ol’ time feminist reasons. Fortunately neither can my beloved, so we’re back to “partner.” In spite of our conditional marital condition. We do delight in her calling me her husband, and I can’t resist referring to her in the third person as The Mrs. ;)

  20. Life Underage March 19, 2009 at #

    Re: Your response:

    Family making is quite some time off for me [everything inside me screams 15 more years!]…I hope and also anticipate that all these petty shenanigans we are dealing with now with be an archaic memory. Seriously, I’ve just now learned about the interracial marriage ban [the education system is failing our children! ahh!] and all I can say is, Really? Seriously? I will personally fight to the death to make sure my children are saying the same thing about this mess.

    I have such a great admiration for all the gender benders out there…I think sometimes I want nothing more than to be one of them! I think at this point, I love my long blonde hair not enough that I’m tempted to go at it with the scissors as an act of rebellion. I’ll never forget the day I clipped my keychain to my belt loop–an apparent “butchey thing to do”–and my mother had a coronary. “Be a cute lesbian, Lauren, in the least!”

    Also: “special lady friend” is also my favorite. Wife does not rub me wrong; however, after watching the wonderful Portia and Ellen interview marathon that has happened this week [by far, the best part of my Spring Break!], I have realized that it does not sound as smooth as I once thought it did. Perhaps this is from my current “Do Away With Marriage As A Whole” campaign; oh well…maybe I’ll go old-fashioned as well and stick with “partner.” When that day comes, of course.

    • Lesbian Dad March 19, 2009 at #

      Okay that line: “Be a cute lesbian, Lauren, in the least!” That is hillarious. I can totally hear that, and picture an exchange in a kitchen or something. Sigh. Had I only been out to self or mother at the time, I’m certain I would have inspired the same thing from my own mother.

      What I did get was her offering to do my laundry when I came home from grad school, and her holding up various in-your-face Queer Nationish and Lesbian Avengerish t-shirts (I KNOW the education is failing the children because I KNOW you won’t have heard about those two groups in school. thank heavens for Wikipedia.). She’d say something like, “Are you sure you’re safe walking around in these?” A reasonable question, certainly, and if I did have any of ‘em on in the wrong part of town at the wrong time of day, she’d be right to be worried.

      What I don’t want to even imagine right now is the ways in which either or both my kids are going to give me coronaries. Which, alas, I feel fairly certain they will.

  21. mlthom March 14, 2011 at #

    Every time I feel that I just CAN’T be won over, again, by this blog… you talk about the Borg and have insightful comments by people like Lauren lighting up your posts… I thought I was as in love as I could get…

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