Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Trans Health, Dogs, Ballet and Chuck

Jun 2, 2012

After coming back from our third Trans Health Conference in Philly, I found Alexey sick in bed with a cold and I tried to cheer him up by telling him about where we’ve been and how we’re considering taking them sometime in the next couple of years.
Simone: We missed you guys so much at the conference. We think we’re going to take you soon with us.
Alexey: To camp?
Simone: No, there is a camp for kids there, indoor…but it’s a conference with lots of workshops where people teach each other. You know how in our family, upstairs, we don’t care too much for gender or play with gender and you can do whatever you want?
Alexey: Uh-huh
Simone: Well, we are not the only ones who think this way about gender. This conference is another place where you can be however you like and be accepted. There are lots of kids there that feel different things about gender and a lot of adults as well. There you can wear a dress and feel safe for 3 days and protected from the outside world.
Alexey: And you know, in school, when I said I want to wear a dress at home, they said that’s for girls and then, they told me not to do it.
Simone: Well, you know what I told you to say when they do that, right? Just say ‘So what, it’s none of your business!’ and move on, okay? You know we talked about how many people get all freaked out about that kind of thing but you can of course do whatever you want but you should also remember to keep yourself safe and comfortable.

Jun 3 2012

Alexey and I read “Dogs Don’t Do Ballet,” a book about a dog that wants to be a ballet dancer but everyone tells him he can’t. Eventually, he does and everyone cheers.
Simone: So, you see dogs do do ballet. Who else people say can’t do ballet?
Alexey: Boys
Simone: And now what can we learn from this book about that?
Alexey: That boys can do ballet too!
Simone: Good job, you’re amazing.
Process: Alex and I were very impressed that he saw the parallel immediately.
Then he was watching a cartoon about Chuck and his car friends. The bigger Truck said ‘little guy’ to some little car.
Alexey: Why ‘little guy’?
Simone: I don’t know. I don’t know why it’s gendered. It’s just a car. Because it could be ‘little girl’ or…
Alexey: Little car
Simone: Exactly, you could just say little car.
Alexey: And he called the big car ‘Excuse me, Sir.’
Simone: Yes, it can also be Ma’am or you can just say ‘Excuse Me.’
A little later…
Alexey: Do you like this show?
Simone: No, not really. It all looks kind of the same and the cars seem to be all boys.
Alexey: no, this one is a girl…I heard her sound like a girl
Simone: Which is what? You mean higher pitched?
Alexey: hear this one
Simone: Oh it just sounds like a kid, though..the big car said ‘c’mon boys’ which makes me think it’s all for boys only and that’s not the kind of world we want to be in – it’s not very welcoming and it’s not sharing and that’s why I don’t like it.
Alexey: Oh.
A little later
Simone: Oh, I see there is a mom there on the show. Chuck’s mom.
Alexey: So see, there are girls.
Simone: Yeah, but what about all the friends. They’re just boys. Sure, there is a mom but none of the bigger cars or trucks are girls.

Alexey put on a necklace of mine
Alexey: And baba’s gonna say I’m a girl
Simone: Well….does it matter?
Alexey: No, I’m gonna play in the yard.

Alexey: Cut my hair only when it's as long as yours
Simone: Okay, but are you ready for all the stupid comments about how only girls have long hair. 
Alexey: Yes!
Simone: Oh yeah, what are you gonna say?
Alexey: That boys can have long hair
Simone: And?
Alexey: And that it's none of their business!

Dresses, Toys & Bathrooms


On the Train

Simone: You know if you want to wear a dress to school, you can…but be prepared that kids might make fun of you and the teachers might not like dealing with it. At home you can wear a dress.
Alexey: I want to wear a dress at home.
Simone: Okay, we can get you a dress. We can either buy you a dress or you can wear one of my shirts as a dress, like Ark does.
Alexey: Okay
Simone: Because what really matters at the end of the day is what you have inside here (hand on heart), how kind you are, not what you wear or how long your hair. All these things, like hair and dresses or toys are just things. And what do I always say? What’s more important: people or things?
Alexey: People
Simone: That’s right, which means it doesn’t matter what you wear. You should support others, too. People make such a big deal out of it, but it isn’t. And you know if boys you know want to wear dresses or play with dolls, never make fun of them. You know better than that. Other people might make fun of them but not you, not my son. You know to be kind. Promise?
Alexey: I promise


When he saw the battery box and the picture on it, he said “You see how toys are like this… and girls…that’s stupid.”
Simone: What?
Alexey: Here, boys ride Spiderman car and girls ride princesses. That’s stupid.
Simone: Oh yeah? How come?
Alexey: Because boys can wear these colors too (points to the purple).
Simone: That’s right, I’m very proud that you get that.
Alexey: People at the store, who sold us this, also think it’s stupid.
Simone: That’s highly unlikely.

While at the Brooklyn Children’s Museum,

Alexey: Why do you have to go to the Women’s bathroom?
Simone: Because they tell me to go there, because it’s for girls. Even though…I don’t believe in gender. Hey, don’t you think boys and girls should be able to pee together?
Alexey: Yes
Simone: Then, why don’t they pee together?
Alexey: Because I’m a boy and you’re a girl.
Simone: But that’s not a reason. Let’s go tell Daddy girls and boys should pee together.

While at Prospect Park, an older boy asked Alexey if he’s a boy. Alexey laughed and said ‘No, I’m a girl.’ I watched the situation happen without interjecting but later asked him if he gets asked that a lot. He said that he does get asked that a lot, but that he doesn’t care and that it doesn’t upset him.

While at our park, I was watching Alexey play and I wanted to talk to him about being able to play with all children, regardless of gender. I wanted to make sure he knows he doesn’t just need to play with boys. Alexey said he does know he can play with all kids and that he often plays with girls. He did, however, say that since it’s usually the boys who play with Bey-Blades and so he ends up playing with them. He also said the boys usually fight with the girls. When asked why, he said that it was because the boys don’t them to play with the Bey-Blades. I mentioned that that sucks because all kids should be able to share their toys, no matter the gender. I reminded him that if someone asked to play with his Bey-Blades, he should share. He agreed and randomly remembered the video on bullying they watched at his school. I thought that was kind of great because he really did get the message in the video. I was able to connect, then, that message to why sharing toys with anyone is important. I said, ‘You shouldn’t ever say to girls that they can’t play with something you have. You shouldn’t say that to boys or to transkids either. You shouldn’t say no because it really limits your life. 

When at the Naniwa Sushi restaurant, we were looking at turtles and Alexey said the biggest one is the Papa Turtle. Both Alex and I did a double-take and asked him why that would be. Alexey answered that Papas get to be the biggest. I asked him to look at Alex and at me and see that, obviously, I am actually the biggest in our family. We both told him there is no reason to connect size to positions within the family or to strength. And we said it doesn’t really matter who the biggest is, to begin with.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Gender Convo

5 years 10 months

After drawing a ghost, Alexey declared it was a girl’s ghost.

 Simone: Why is it a girl’s ghost?

Alexey: Because it’s not a boy’s ghost.

Simone: Why not?

Alexey (fidgeting): Because boys don’t have long hair. I will show you how girls and boys have hair.

He draws some examples of hair

Alexey: You see, this is a boy’s hair and this is a girl’s hair. Girl’s hair is curly.

Simone: Anyone can have curly hair. And boys can have long hair. Remember you had long hair when you were younger. Daddy has long hair. And mommy had short hair. People are just people.

Alexey: Yeah

Simone: Out there, in school, teachers will always say boys and girls are different. That’s what people do. They say about babies, “Oh, this baby has a penis so we should raise it as a boy and cut his hair short and he can only wear pants and play with cars.” And we do the same process with girls. We say ‘Oh, that baby has a vagina; we should raise her as a girl and she will wear pink and have long hair.” That’s called gender. Say the word ‘gender.’

Alexey: Gender.

Simone: Right, it’s a way to organize people into these two groups and say they’re different. But boys and girls aren’t different, we’re all people. And you know there are people, like your mom, who don’t feel that they’re the gender they were raised. And some people were born a boy and want to be a girl. And some people were born a girl and want to be a boy. And that’s okay. But people don’t think that’s okay. And you know why it’s a problem? Because what if a boy wants to wear pink or a girl wants to play with a car? What then? At school, they will say they’re different. But what do we say in our home?

Alexey: That girls can be boys.

Simone: That’s true or that boys and girls aren’t different. We’re all people.

Alexey: Okay, this can be a boy and a girl ghost.

Simone: Okay, of course it can be. Why don’t you write that down next to the picture?

Then we went through spelling boys and girls (which he wrote as ‘grills’ the first time).

Simone: You know here at home we think differently. We don’t tell you what’s for boys and what’s for girls. You can do anything.

Alexey: I want to be a girl.

Simone (chuckling): Well, why do you want to be a girl?

Alexey: Because I want to be a girl.

Simone: Well, you can be a girl, if you want. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. If you want to wear dresses or whatever, that’s fine. But, you know what other parents do when their children tell them something like that. They mostly say “Oh, that’s wrong, don’t be that way, you’re a freak, and it’s abnormal.” And it really hurts the children.

Alexey: What’s a freak?

Simone: It’s a bad word people use for someone who’s different, who doesn’t do what other people do. But we would never say that to you, no matter what you do. Remember, you can tell mommy anything. And I am a professor of gender and I think differently about sex and gender and sexuality. At least, on this floor, that’s how it is. I’m sure if you go to your grandmother, she won’t like hearing that you want to be a girl because she was raised like a lot of other people.

Alexey: Why do you want to take a picture of my drawing?

Simone: Because, I think it’s a great drawing and you learned an important lesson and I want my friends on the computer to see it.

Alexey: Can we watch Thomas now?

Simone: You got it.

Process: When he gendered the ghost, I froze up because he’s never done that before with any of his drawings. I wanted him to explain to me why it’s a particular gender before I went into the gender conversation, one that we’ve never had before, in this way. I felt excited and scared because I wanted him to understand and knew that it would probably be the first of many conversations in order for him to get it. I realized that when he said he wants to be a girl, he both knows he’s a boy (and just during my writing that last entry, I thought maybe he didn’t) and that because I’m okay with it then it must be easy to do (to start being a girl), which it isn’t. I knew he didn’t really feel like a girl (whatever that means) and that he was just saying it, but it’s interesting to consider how one realizes a child really does feel like a different gender of if he really even feels his own gender. I don’t think Alexey feels like a boy, he just knows that’s what he is, because others have said that to him.