Boys will be boys…

This video by Laurie Petrou showed up on my Facebook newsfeed yesterday and I felt it was definitely worth sharing:

She also has a very interesting page on gender stereotypes that changes every time you open it, titled Do we see the world through a gender binary?

For the record, Jeremy’s nickname was Sweetie when he was little. He had his own baby named Kip which he wheeled around in a little pink stroller… when he wasn’t driving dinky cars along the floor (while telling them to be careful and not get hurt). Emma’s nickname was Sunshine. She loved to catch bugs, roll down hills, and play with her baby Lisa.

It’s a boy! It’s a girl!

I got asked a question on Twitter yesterday…

“Why do pple get excited learning the sex of their baby? Would they not be as happy if results were different?”

I tried my best to answer the question on Twitter but 140 characters just wasn’t enough space (even 280 didn’t cut it) so I’m writing my answer here.

I remember being pregnant; that sense of unreality when two little lines appeared on a white plastic stick. I didn’t look any different or feel any different, it was hard to believe I would be a mother in less than a year. Well, unless I miscarried (which I did twice). The weeks crept on, I got a bit queasy and the waist of my pants grew a bit snug but that was it.

You often can’t feel the baby kick until almost halfway through the pregnancy and even then, it feels like a bit of gas or a twitchy muscle for several weeks after that. Around that time came the ultrasound; it was a window to the other side of my normal looking, albeit rounder, stomach. A chance to finally get a glimpse of the stranger everyone assured me that I’d love more than life itself.

Being pregnant was like being told I’d soon have a roommate… for the next 18+ years. Except there would be no interviews, no background checks, and no references. I had no idea what this person was going to be like (other than messy and very dependent). No one could tell me what the baby would look like other than having four limbs, all their digits, eyes, a nose, and a heart that looked fine. They couldn’t tell me if the baby would enjoy music, be quiet or outgoing, be fascinated with bugs or books, or serve a mean invisible tea from plastic cups. They could, however, tell me the sex… possibly… if the baby’s legs weren’t crossed. I took it, at least that was something tangible in a vast sea of nothing. Plus it would let me know if we needed to keep arguing over boy’s names (both sides of the family have horrible names for boys). Emma had her legs crossed. Jeremy didn’t.

And then there’s the more practical issues. I went to buy a newborn outfit three years ago. The parents thought the baby might be a girl but the ultrasound wasn’t clear so I figured I’d get something fairly neutral. There wasn’t anything. Every single piece of clothing in the baby’s department was either pink with flowers and butterflies or blue with sports and nautical themes. I ended up picking the least frilly pink clothes in the department and added a receipt. The baby was a girl (well so far at least) so luckily the outfit was fine. Babies need clothes desperately. They vomit copious amounts of milk all over themselves and everyone around them. They’ll crap so hard it ends up between their toes and through the back of their hair (and I really wish I was exaggerating). The sooner you know what’s between their legs, the sooner you can amass a supply of clothes.

And every. single. person asks, “so, do you know what you’re having?” as soon as it’s obvious you’re having a baby and not just consuming lots of Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. The answer “a baby” does not satisfy the nosy, although I did find “a baby with blue eyes” confused a fair number of them. Likely the ones who slept through high school science classes.

I guess whether they’re disappointed depends on what each parent was looking for. I was looking for a baby, preferably healthy. Having a boy worried me a little because I’d grown up around girls and didn’t know what to expect, but hearing “it’s a boy” from the ultrasound technician wasn’t a disappointment. Looking down while I was delivering Emma and announcing, “It’s a girl” wasn’t a disappointment either.

I’m sure there are people who are disappointed for various reasons. Maybe they wanted a second boy or girl so their oldest would have a friend. Maybe they wanted one of each. Maybe they had bad experiences with their own sibling and were worried about raising a similar child. Or, more seriously, maybe there’s sex linked health issues in the family and they’re worried about bringing a child into the world who’ll face pain and suffering. But I have a feeling most parents are like me, simply happy to finally have something to know about their baby, something tangible to share with others and plan around.

I’ll wait until tomorrow to talk about stereotypes.

Emma’s Tumblr Post…

I can’t post the link because it is under her real name and includes photos of Jeremy, including his face, but simply had to share it for her words. It brought me to happy tears…

The Difference a Year Makes

My “little” brother (he’s 6’2, so I don’t think I can quite call him little anymore) just turned 17 in June. And man, is it amazing the difference a year can make in a person.

This is my brother on his 16th birthday: [pretend there's a picture of Jeremy with his Minecraft cake]

And this is my brother on his 17th birthday: [pretend there's a picture of Jeremy lighting his flower candle]

Let me start out by saying that my brother gets a lot of crap from family members, he’s autistic and nobody bothered to look into that when he was diagnosed, they just like to give him shit and tell my mother what she’s been “doing wrong”. My mother is one of the strongest people I know, and I admire her way more than I would ever actually say out loud, she didn’t do anything wrong in raising us.

My mother raised a smart, talented, outgoing, courageous, young gentleman who stands up for what he believes in.
Lately what he believes in has been getting him bullied. At school, by strangers and worst of all; by family.
He believes that if he likes purple, he can wear it. If he likes long hair, he can have it. If he likes his hair dyed pink, blue, purple, ect, he can do that. If he likes sparkly things, he can own them.
My mother and I support that 200%.
He’s not hurting anyone in doing so, he’s not stealing hair dye from stores because he has the right to purple hair. He’s saving his money (or getting it as a treat from my mom), purchasing the dye, and then minding his own business while he lives his life with purple hair.

Society is telling him he’s wrong. Family is telling him he’s wrong.

My brother has done a complete 180 from what he was like a year ago. He used to go outside and bike around for hours, he’d go and goof off with his friends, he used to know almost everyone in the neighbourhood. Now? Now he doesn’t leave the house without my mother, I haven’t seen him with another kid in months. My outgoing brother doesn’t leave the house anymore. Why? Because he’s scared.
He gets people screaming names at him from their cars, my boyfriend almost punched a guy out in the grocery store one day because a grown ass man with a child was making fun of my brother’s hair.

I listen to my family yell at Jeremy, and usually it’s not for valid reasons.
“You’re a boy; cut your hair”
“You’re a boy; cut your nails”
“You’re a boy; it’s not the same when you dye your hair purple as it was when your sister did it”
What are they saying when they say this?
“You’re a boy; and this is what we think you should like.”
“You’re a boy; and you can’t be who you are because of that”

I listen to them make out like my brother is a piece of shit who they’re disappointed in. [pretend there's a photo of Jeremy with bright purple hair, flipping his little cousin on the trampoline]

Yes, my brother is a huge disappointment. Look at how much fun he and our 8 year old cousin are having.
What a disappointment, he doesn’t drink, smoke, do drugs, steal, or even really lie.
What a disappointment, he gets good grades.
What a disappointment, he wants to be himself.

Lately though, he’s been showing a lot more female than male traits. My mom and I don’t know if he’s trans identifying as female, or trans identifying as gender neutral. We don’t even know if he knows, all we know right now is that he’s identifying as gender-nonconforming (he doesn’t quite fit in with either gender).

My mother’s birthday is on Monday, and we’re having a big family dinner.
Jeremy’s taken to shaping his nails, polishing them and painting them beige. He wants my mom to do his hair for him, he likes braids.
My family is not going to approve. My nana has already told my mom that if people are going to act “weird” they’ll be treated like that. If he doesn’t want to follow the rules set by society, people are going to talk about it. And that how you look on the outside isn’t who you are on the inside; so he should dress like a typical 17 year old boy and not be himself.

Here’s a question: if who you are on the outside isn’t who you are on the inside; why can’t my brother dress how he wants?

This is my brother who loves Doctor Who, Minecraft, taking apart and rebuilding electronics, purple, red, and sparkly things.
This is my brother who I promised to teach how to fishtail his hair.
This is my brother who has been bullied his whole life for being autistic.
This is my brother who doesn’t leave the house alone anymore because he’s scared.
This is my brother who doesn’t deserve to be bullied by family as well as strangers.
This is my brother who deserves so much more than what they are giving him.
This is my brother who I support 200%.
This is my brother who I hope walks out of the room with both his middle fingers in the air screaming “fuck you, I’m awesome” the second someone opens their uneducated mouth.
This is my brother who I love unconditionally.
This is my brother who has nothing wrong with him.

I love this quote…

… and the photo although I wish my camera hadn’t been so crummy. It was a fifty dollar camera I bought at Zellers when my decent camera had a tragic ending (due to a cat leash, a cat, our patio, and a squirrel). Jeremy’s got such an impish expression in the shot but photo editing can only do so much with the contrast. Anyway… enjoy :)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Anger and confusion…

Jeremy’s been careening between both these days. Twice today he’s gotten furious over something inconsequential. Once because I was standing about a foot away from him texting while I waited for him to finish his game and get off the computer. He closed his fists and hammered the keyboard three times before getting up and punching the dining room wall hard enough to knock the kitchen clock off. The clock’s a mirror, it fell on the tile floor and shattered. The second time was when we were trying to figure out what office our management is building near the main front door. Jeremy figured they were going to move the management office downstairs and stop allowing people to pay rent upstairs then he freaked out when I disagreed. Management office currently takes up half a floor while this new office will fit maybe a desk and a couple of chairs when they’re done. Neither of us know what’s really going in there but that didn’t stop him from assuming I wasn’t listening simply because I disagreed.

Then there’s the confusion. He mentioned a few weeks ago that he would wear different clothes if he felt safer but had no idea what they’d be. He still has no idea, he hasn’t been able to point out a single article of clothing in any store we’ve been in or tell me if he’s wanting tops or bottoms… or clothes for summer or fall.

He had his hair cut today and it ended up shorter than I expected. The hairdresser was friendly but picky, she just couldn’t get the sides even enough. Even after she’d put purple mousse in his hair, brought out the mirror to show him the back, and got his approval, she still picked up the scissors and trimmed just a bit more here and there… until she finally cut off at least five centimeters. She originally said no more than half a centimeter.

Jeremy couldn’t tell me if he liked the cut or not. It was okay but he agreed he’d have said the same if she shaved him bald. When I pointed out he needed hair for braids, he wasn’t sure if he wanted braids… but wasn’t sure if he didn’t either. In short he had no idea. This despite the fact he said yesterday that wanted to have his hair up when Amy comes for her visit, saying his only worry was getting beaten up while waiting for the bus.

Then we went to the dentist and I started filling out his form. The first question involved dental pain or discomfort. Jeremy could not tell me if he’d ever noticed his teeth hurting. How the hell do you not know if your own teeth hurt?

I mentioned my concerns to his counselor and she had no idea. Her only thought was maybe his lack of awareness had something to do with autism, but freely admitted she suggested that because she doesn’t know anything about autism.

I find myself struggling. Pushing him for answers and suggesting ideas then asking if they’re okay ends up feeling too close to forcing him to do something (especially since I usually don’t get an enthusiastic response, just a mild okay). But if I don’t do or say anything, he ends up simply sitting all day in his pyjamas, staring at the computer.

There’s been a couple of hopeful signs. He picked out his own water bottle a few days ago without me asking if he wanted one. I pointed out the display of sparkly bottles because I wanted one for myself. Once I picked mine out, he asked if there was a purple one then grabbed it for himself. And last night he asked me to feel his nails. He’d dug out the nail buffer and polished all his nails while watching videos. And he wanted to write that letter to Just Kidding News. It didn’t receive any reply but he wrote it at least.

Jeremy just called me into the kitchen to see the clock. He pieced it all back together then glued it into place, fitting back the clock mechanism and hanging it back on the wall. He promises this isn’t my birthday present, that he’ll do something even better.

Which is great but all I really want for my birthday is for Jeremy to know his own mind.

Well fuck…

I called my Mom this morning, just to chat. During the conversation I warned her that Jeremy’s been enjoying having his hair done and is talking tentatively about wearing it outside. I hadn’t expected a warm or enthusiastic response, which is why I was warning her ahead of time, but neither had I expected the response I got.

My Mom went on a long rant about how important first impressions are and how we have to behave appropriately in certain situations. Like if you’re going to a funeral you don’t crack jokes and wear bright colours and how you don’t swear in front of little old ladies. She spent quite a bit of time explaining and reexplaining how if you are determined to make a spectacle of yourself by standing out negatively then you’ll get negative reactions (wait… braids are negative?). That we need to conform and fit in.

Conform and fit in. Right. Once again reminding me why I’m the black sheep of the family. I can’t conform and fit in to save my life and neither can Jeremy.

I reminded her about how her father used to lament the lack of characters in today’s society. I can remember him talking about how nobody stood out and everyone was all the same these days. Everyone dressed the same, looked the same, and acted the same. Mom promptly informed me she’d had similar conversations and he’d been talking about strong political views and not physical appearance. My Mom has also told me repeatedly that political views were something our family did not share in public because it’s rude to share such a private opinion. So by those standards, she seems to feel he thought a character was someone who looked and acted like everyone else but had strong political views that they kept to themselves. Alrighty then.

At the end of the call she gave a long suffering sigh, and told me that she couldn’t speak for anyone else but she’d do her best to refrain from negative comments.

“That’s okay Mom, I’m not expecting the rest of the world to refrain from negative comments, just the family.”

*Dead silence*

“Family’s supposed to be a safe place.”

*Dead silence*

Well fuck :(

I wonder what my Mom would be like if she wasn’t so worried about conforming and fitting in.

Gender Identities in Schools…

I belong to a closed atheist parenting group for mothers of all genders. I posted our letters to Just Kidding News there, which turned out to be a good thing because one of my friends belongs to the same group and she just emailed me a whole whack of information. One of the first links she sent me was this pdf file titled Questions and Answers: Gender Identities in Schools published, no less, by the Public Health Agency of Canada. It contains helpful information such as…

There are a variety of identities and expressions that exist on a continuum between male and female including, cross-dressers e.g., drag queens, drag kings), gender-benders and gender variant, gender non-conforming, and two-spirit individuals. For consistency in this document, we use the term ‘gender variant’ to refer to all of the above gender identities between male and female, on this continuum.

And…

Be cognizant of the language being used in the classroom and during school events. For example, texts and lessons that use ‘she/he’ binary ignore the range of gender identities discussed in this document. By using more inclusive language, such as ‘they’ instead of ‘she’ or ‘he’, not only will transgender youth feel more supported but it will also help educate the entire school community about gender diversity.

And even…

Gender variant students are attending schools in Canada, whether or not they are visible to other students, staff or administrators. There are several reasons why gender variant students may not be visible within the school community. First, most gender variant youth are invisible out of fear for their safety. Individuals whose behaviours do not conform to the stereotypical societal expectations of male and female genders are vulnerable to discrimination, verbal abuse, bullying, and physical violence. Second, while some gender variant individuals’ goal is to ‘transition’, a process where their external appearance is altered to cross from one gender to the opposite, there are a variety of other gender variant individuals that do not embody such drastic changes. The remainder adopt gender variant identities at various points along the continuum. For example, some may choose to alter only their dress. Finally, making the assumption that there are no gender variant youth in schools creates a barrier for gender variant youth to disclose their identities or for recognizing students who may be struggling with this issue.

I’ll be printing the whole document out to give to Jeremy’s teacher on the first day of school. While it would have been a huge help this spring when I was discussing using more pronouns in the classroom, it’ll still be a huge help this fall. Plus I’ve got Jeremy’s permission to tell the teacher he’s gender non-conforming, which will also be a help.