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8.12.2012

What's so bad about a boy who wants to wear a dress?

I read a magazine article today in the New York Times about transgendered boys.
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/08/12/magazine/whats-so-bad-about-a-boy-who-wants-to-wear-a-dress.html?pagewanted=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=tha210_20120812

There were stats and anecdotes from parents raising what they called "pink boys". Most of it fit Kit to a tee. How many parents handled it was different, and a lot of the boys referred to grew out of the behavior before they reached puberty. No one said if they were homosexual as adults or not (The stats said 80 to 90% were gay - but not including the group that stopped dressing up). It was interesting, and informative in letting us know we're not alone, but didn't really tell me anything I didn't already know. One curious fact that I hadn't really thought of was that young girls 'cross dressing' and behaving like boys is much more acceptable and always has been. Tomboys have always been a part of society and those girls are allowed to express themselves much more freely. The reasons they gave for this were interesting, if a bit murky, but the subject of a different blog.

What was more interesting were the online readers responses to the article that went on for so long I finally gave up reading. They went everywhere from "I wept, the article was so good" to "if we don't make the kids conform and society continues down this path our future Chinese overlords won't be so accepting". The biggest thrust of the readers was compassion on the one hand from people who were involved or those who could empathize, to bigoted dismissal from those who had never witnessed it. Some consider it bad parenting to let a child dress up like girls. Some blamed the environment (DDT and pesticides) as if this hasn't been going on for thousands of years, some felt overbearing and protective mothers share the blame, the media took some heat, along with any other excuse like calling it a birth defect rather than acknowledge that it simply exists and always has.

A big sticking point seemed to be whether boys should be allowed to go to school in girl's attire. We deal with that every day with Kit. We draw the line on it being a distraction to other kids and the learning experience, not because it doesn't conform. To read some of these comments you'd think parents are destroying the human race with their promiscuity. What gets me most is the absolute ignorance with which some people will cast an opinion. Of course that's the case with most subjects, but it's clear that those who have no experience with this (or tolerance of differences) shout the loudest about how dangerously misguided it is not to force these boys to be "boys". As though Kit ever had a choice. None of them do. Who wakes up at the age of 3 and says to themselves "I think I'll start behaving like the sister I don't have"? But when you don't see it with your own eyes, it can be very tough to comprehend.

The striking thing about these comments wasn't really that little boys wanted to dress like girls. Very few comments said that in itself was wrong. 'It's a phase', 'everyone experiments', 'clothes don't have a gender‘, they said. But when they want to go to school or out in public it's a different issue. Now they're abnormal, the parents are weak, they're disruptive, etc.. So, to sum up - there's no problem with boys having cross gender issues, we just don't want the neighbors to know about it.

Transgender issues are about 1 percent of the population. As far as I can tell in this town, Kit is the only one exhibiting them. If these comments reflect a cross section of public opinion - we are in for a very bumpy ride. Good thing we're in it together and he doesn't have to stand alone.