Tuesday, October 21, 2008

What's a Gender Blender?

That was the question Crabkid asked me that this morning en route to school, as a winsome gender-neutral radio voice announced "Gender Blender!" a new show focused on helping gay and bisexual and polysexual and transsexual kids bump up their self-esteem. I thought I was on NPR until I realized I'd switched away from talk radio yesterday during a squabble with Crabkid, and had instead dialed into a local station whose African drumming music had drowned out the back seat back chat wonderfully well.

Returning to the gender blender question: I like to think I'm supremely tolerant and broad-minded but if anything is a yardstick for your truest values, it's parenthood. And while I tell myself I will be quite fine with any gender blending my child might one day be drawn to here in the epicenter of liberalism, the fact is I think I'm really only just capable of surviving lesbianism or bisexuality (the Lindsay Lohan sort please, with lipstick involved) and even then the concept of a lesbian/bisexual daughter gives me a slight vasovagal feeling, which is a cardiological term for feeling faint. If Crabkid starts walking around in a breast-binding shirt, shaves her head and listens to whatever future equivalent there is to Ani di Franco, I'll have to join a support group. And if Crabkid one day wants to be a full-on gender-blended Thomas Beattie, it may be too much for my socialized Victorian ways, ways inculcated in me by growing up South African during the 1980s, which in American years is like being a child in the 1930s. Seriously, in the land where races couldn't even blend, gender blending wasn't even a faint notion on the horizon. There were no gay people ever in South Africa when I lived there, not a single one. And the ones declaring themselves queer now? As far as I'm concerned it's just a phase they'll grow out of. (Cousin Paul, are you listening? SNAP OUT OF IT!)

So...what is it that makes me cool with the concept of a gay male child but uncomfortable with the idea of a lesbian/gender-blending daughter? I understand and relate to homosexuality and bisexuality on a conceptual level and as an atheist have zero religious or otherwise ideological issues with any of it. I can even see how I am just an unevolved human who has not allowed herself to branch out on the great sexual continuum because of my background and upbringing and a certain prudishness that is nothing to be valued.

Still, I'm not digging the possibility of a lezbo daughter even if some of my best friends are lesbians! Yup, we're all tolerant until we're proven hypocrites.

Crabkid, if you're older and you're reading this and you are by some chance gender blending, just remember that Mom loves you no matter what, but she's just a bit hysterical over that macho key chain thing hanging off the back of your flubby man-jeans. She'll get over it, but you have to give the dinosaur time.

Back to this morning, when my 4-year-old asked me "What's a gender blender?" my mind raced ahead to the many uncomfortable questions parents have to face whether they're ready for them or not. But obviously a 4-year-old doesn't need to know that Mom finds the question tricky. What she needed was a simple answer, so I told her the truth, which is to say I told her the first thing that came out of my mouth and that I thought sounded convincing:

"A gender blender is a very special type of coffee machine."

p.s. If you missed it, big competition happening this month with major cashmere involved!


mommyknows said...

Couldn't have said it better myself.

Mrs. G said...

A coffee-machine?!?!?! LOL! I swear. I didn't see that coming.

Alexis said...

Well, I imagine you'll get two varieties of response to this: those who are relieved that someone else said, and those who are outraged by your closed-mindedness.

So I'll try to be neither. I get why people, open-minded, progressive people, have this anxiety, but I guess it must be a product of my own upbringing that I don't see the big deal. Maybe it's because my mom worked in restaurant kitchens when I was a kid and thus all her friends were gay men and some gay women. Maybe it's because my sister and my mom both came out to me within a year of each other when I was 20-ish, I don't know (although mys sister is now what one of my gay friends calls a "hasbian" since she is currently dating a man). Maybe it's because I have always secretly believed I was a gay man trapped in a woman's body?
If anything, I almost kind of hope my daughter IS a lesbian.
That said, Dan Savage did a column some time back where he argues that gay-positive straight parents are too intent on making sure their kid knows all kinds of sexuality are okay. His argument was something along the lines of "most gay kids had straight parents that didn't want gay kids and they turned out (mostly) okay." I'll try to find it and send you the link!

tonypark said...


What can I say here that won't come across as sexist, boorish, inappropriate or homo-phonic?


(Although, I'm bursting to add that a good mate of mine told me recently his 20-year-old daughter had just come out. He was a bit unnerved, but the girl is a stunner, so I said to him: "Relax, it's a good thing. They need more like her on their team.").

Oops, I've gone and done it, haven't I.

tonypark said...

Oops, sorry, I meant homo-phobic. I wonder if that was freudian? Am I worried that I sound queer - as in homo-phonic? What am I doing on a parenting website anyway? What kind of man are you, Park?

Crabmommy said...

Indeed you need to seriously question your msculinity, coming to this mommy blog. Dig deep. Alexis, a "hasbian" is brilliant. I'm going to pass it on to all the hasbians I know (some of my best friends...)
And Alexis, Crabmommy loves you something fierce for all reading my twaddle all over the blinking web and still staying with me.

Anonymous said...

Thats brilliant well said

Xan said...

So would it be weird of me to say that we actually hope Autumn is a lesbian? I think I'll actually be a little disappointed if she turns out be straight. Of course I'll love her no matter what, but in the back of my mind I can't help but hope she'll bring home a girlfriend one day.

All the lesbians I've known are very lovely people who are so comfortable in their own skin it makes me jealous. More than anything, I want my daughter to be a happy and vibrant human being, and in a way I think that heterosexual culture crushes that.