This is a post that invites you to talk to us or suggest a topic.
What do you think? What are you wrestling with at the moment? Send me your thoughts and suggestions.
Here’s what I’m running with today . . .
Yesterday I received this comment from TJ:
Love this post and am thoroughly celebrating your very precocious queer daughter. Another point for all those “How do you know for sure?” naysayers: Sure, this young person’s gender and sexual identity may shift over time. Maybe many times. And her crushes may look very different from day to day: femmy girls, boyish girls, bois, queer bio-boys, trans-folk, whatever. I celebrate the wonderful flexibility that comes with being queer and NOT having to pick identity boxes. So proud of your daughter for asserting her queer self so early, and hoping that pressure from conservative straight OR gay communities never stifles her self-expression.
I love this comment! Yes, yes, yes. There is a whole exciting world out that that she doesn’t know exists, and she really isn’t ready for. Yet it is exciting to think of all the exploring she will do as she grows up, not just in meeting different people, but traveling to different communities, and trying on different identities.
I hope she sends back stories to her ol’ mom about her amazing week at the Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival or some other cool event or destination.
Lesbian, Gay, Queer, Femme, Butch, . . . : The Power of Labels
I use the word lesbian to describe my daughter, because lesbian and gay, are the words she chooses to describe herself. I prefer queer because I see it as more inclusive and less restrictive, but she is young and hasn’t become aware of all the nuances of identity and attraction. But for her lesbian has a strong identifiable history, community, and a connection to feminism. Being a feminist is also an important feature of her identity.
She is at a stage where clarity of identity is important – especially since she lives in a less accepting environment. The kids she interacts with on a daily basis may know the concepts of gay and lesbian, but not usually. Anything beyond the straight-gay binary is just too complicated yet.
She likes saying “I am a lesbian and I am proud,” “I am a feminist and I am proud.” Ah, the power of labels to make us feel powerful!
A Universe of Possible Crushes
TJ, you are absolutely right. She made the picture of Dreamgirl X, because that lovely lady is one familiar type of female she interacts with and is drawn to. Someday hopefully she will travel to other places and meet other types of people.
The spectrum of gender performance and identity in elementary school is so very, very limited. In fact, she may be one of the few who actually push the envelope of gender non-conforming appearance.
In high school I think there is greater freedom. For instance, there is a slim high school-aged check-out girl at our local market with short, dyed hair and hip, arty glasses. She doesn’t look like your typical Southern high school girl.
Last week while I was looking at the cheeses in the refrigerated display of our local market my daughter leaned in toward me: “that girl’s cute” she said with a shake of her head toward the girl working the register in the lane behind us.
Apparently this short-haired nerd-pixie is also her type.
I leaned in, looked over my shoulder, and whispered, “we’ll have to go to her lane then when we are done shopping then.”
*Sigh* Isn’t the local grocery market a quintessential location for young crushes?! So sweet. (Reminds me of John Updike’s short story, “A&P”)
I am thankful that my daughter will share these harmless, innocent observations with me, because I am sure I was too embarrassed or insecure or private or something to share such a detail with my mom.
Gender Performance and Feeling Awesome
I’d also like to add to TJ’s comment to my post How Do You Know For Sure [that your daughter is a lesbian]?, to say that my daughter likes to play with gender performance too. But this is obvious to the people who know her – her sexual orientation is not (and therefore must be proved).
The other night she and I went to her very first play – not an animated kids’ story made for Broadway or the Rockettes’ Christmas Spectacular, but a real get-your-catharsis-on play. This was exciting for her and so asked if she should dress up. “Sure” I said and off she went, thrilled to wear her suit and tie. She came back to my room dressed in her gray pinstripe suit to make sure I was wearing an outfit that would compliment hers(!). She’d decided I should wear gray or black, but immediately approved of my navy blue Mad Men-inspired dress with pearls and pumps.
We had a wonderful night at the theater and she reveled in how “handsome” she felt. She even took a couple extra spins before the mirror just to enjoy it fully.
So, as TJ says: So proud of your daughter for asserting her queer self so early, and hoping that pressure from conservative straight OR gay communities never stifles her self-expression.
I hope that coming out and growing up in the Bible Belt committed to being her authentic self means that when she’s grown there is nothing that can stifle her.
Lastly, thanks for all the great comments I’ve gotten this week!
The New York Times ran this story on Friday: The Freedom to Choose Your Pronoun.
The story, about the recent adoption of “other” as an option beyond “female” and “male” by some institutions and entities (like Google+), focuses on teenagers in a manner that suggests that eschewing the gender binary is the result of rebellion and youthful transformation. This offers a somewhat skewed image of the developments in fluid gender identity and the expansion of preferred gender pronouns (P.G.P.s).
Maybe this isn’t an instance of teenage rebellion. Perhaps this upcoming generation of adults has an understanding of gender that is more nuanced. Haven’t we worked hard to make a more complex understanding of gender possible?
Also, by relegating gender flexibility or gender queerness to the realm of the teen the article calls into question the choices of much older adults who identify themselves as beyond the binary. Are they just rebellious? Immature?
I understand that kids and teens experiment with their identities. They should; it’s important to learning who they are, but this story frames this issue as though it is primarily an issue of teenagers.
I know it’s great that stories like this are making it onto the pages of publications like the NYT, but it saddens me when they seem to be framed in a way that will educate, but not frighten the uninformed readership.