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.