Over the weekend I read an interesting article in the Times magazine by Lori Duron, author of Raising My Rainbow: adventures in raising my fabulous, gender creative son.
I'll be honest, I was confused. The article talked about how concerned Lori and her husband were when their son started expressing a love for all toys usually favoured by girls at a young age. From the moment he saw his mom's old barbie doll he was hooked. When he started dressing up in girls clothes they were concerned.
The article, and presumably the book it stems from, talks about how Lori eventually discovered online (where else?) that there was a label she could give her son: gender creative, or gender non-conforming. Somehow having this label made it easier for them. Her worries about whether or not he was homosexual were eased by the discovery of this label.
Her son is 7.
Well I am.
You see, regular readers will know that my younger daughter, Little Miss George, loves dinosaurs, plays with cars, is obsessed with Spider-man, Batman, the Teenage Mutant Ninya Turtles, knights and battles and swords. She actively steers away from 'girls' toys, and only occasionally, when she sweetly feels that she'd like to wear an outfit in her wardrobe that she knows we like (she's incredibly thoughtful) she will wear a flowery dress. Otherwise it's leggings or jeans and Marvel comic or dinosaur t-shirts. She even has a shirt for parties.
Her best friends are all boys.
Am I worried that she's a lesbian?
It never even crossed my mind to be remotely concerned. Concerned neither about her toy preferences nor her future sexuality. She's only 5. We have always told her that everyone likes different things. We are all unique and special. We tell our children that there are toys that a lot of girls like, and toys that a lot of boys like, but there are equally toys that look like a toy girls would like, but that boys like, and vice versa. Same with clothes.
When I was growing up my friends were boys... Right up into secondary school. I could never be bothered by the girlie bitchiness to be honest. Boys were more straight forward. Whilst in primary school I loved cars and my favourite toy for ages was a garage. My fondest memories of building Lego was of building the Lego fire station. I painted a dragon on my wall as a teenager.
Do these things, these preferences, during my younger years mean that my parents should have been concerned? I don't believe so.
In my view when you are younger than the age of... maybe approximately 11.....you can do anything (obviously that's legal) and get away with it. You can spend your day dressed up as a Ninya Turtle, or as Barbie, and quite frankly no-one should bat an eyelid. The only other time in your life you will get away with that will be when you are a pensioner and can again basically wear whatever you like. People will assume you are batty. More fool them.
What I find especially interesting is that my daughter has also started playing Rugby in an after school club. This is in contrast to the Disco dancing class my elder daughter! Princess Peppa, attends.
A very traditional 'boy' sport and I'm still not in the slightest bit worried. In fact, quite the opposite. I am incredibly proud that she is brave enough and has the opportunity to take part in something she loves, regardless of any label or expectation about who should or shouldn't take part.
I guess, what I'm trying to say in a very roundabout way, is that we shouldn't worry. We shouldn't bat an eyelid. I completely understand that it is somehow more acceptable in today's society for my daughter to dress in combats and baseball caps, and less acceptable for a young boy to dress in pink skirts. I understand that this is the reality. What I don't understand is why? If we don't embrace all our difffences then we will lose the incredible strong male ballet dancers that grace our stages. We will lose the gymnasts and the ice dancers. We will lose fashion gurus like Valentino. If it's not acceptable for boys to like 'girlie' things, we will lose talent and creativity and genius. Equally, if it's not acceptable for girls to like boy things, then there would be no female Rugby players, no female mechanics, no female soldiers. More lost creativity, lost talent, lost genius.
Frankly, if I ever met Lori's son C.J. I would say "good for you". Love Barbie? Great. If you loved dinosaurs? Great. It's all good. It doesn't matter. Why we worry about it is beyond me. And well done to Lori for embracing her son's preferences, despite her worries. We need brave parents like Lori. If you are concerned, you would do well to visit her website to help quell your worries.
Woman fought for equal rights, and in many ways I think we won acceptance to be, or do, anything. In many ways men are still pigeon-holed. It seems harder for them to step out of the stereotypes. It's a shame.
Oh... And one final thing. I do worry about my daughtes fondness for swords and fighting. In some ways I'd prefer it if her likes didn't involve play fighting. My job in this case is just to ensure she understands what's playing and what's not, and that real fighting is really dangerous. The fact that it's a boys preference doesn't worry me at all, it's just the fact that she might break her nose that worries me there.
But I'm not going to stop her when she wants to dress up as Captain Hook to my Peter Pan!
Does your child break the stereotype? Is it a challenge? Are you worried?