Boys will be girls. Girls will be boys.

Image via stampinmom/flickr

At a family baby shower, long ago, back in the wooded parts of upper New Jersey, we were all asked, in that let’s-play-baby-shower-games sort of way, to provide advice for the mother-to-be. I remember telling that MTB, who happens to be my cousin, to dress her boys in pink and her girls in blue. It made some ladies in the room uncomfortable to even think of defying the traditional gender roles of girls and boys, or pink and blue, but living in a world where boys can be girls and girls can be boys who are girls who like boys, my request was more of a reminder that we don’t know what we have, at least in terms of offspring, until they know who they are. And while I’m not a mother myself, not yet, and if I were, I’d hope to follow my own advice. At least until my child was old enough to make his or her own decisions.

While this site is generally about adult topics, a recent NYTimes article on boys who act like girls and girls who act like boys caught my attention this morning. I love how far we’ve come, being able to read articles in national newspapers about young children who don’t identify, at least not fully, with the prescribed roles of their given gender. Or how I can listen to This American Life and hear a story about two girls, Lilly and Thomasina, who were born boys, but at 8 were already living their lives as girls. Instead of living their lives as their chosen gender, they chose gender, and at 8, or even younger, that’s an incredibly liberating existence. One that allows boys to paint their toe nails, wear pink and play with Barbies.

I’m not saying that parenting a gender-variant child is easy. As a parent, I can only imagine what it’s like to learn the boy you love would rather be a girl. Especially if you’re not prepared to handle it, and truly, how many parents are ever ready to handle parenthood, let alone a child who doesn’t prescribe to traditional gender roles? And as a child, kids can be cruel. If they can’t understand who you are, and how you dress, the teasing and fighting that will ensue for a good part of the 13 years most of us go to school can suck. But these stories are so inspirational too. I wish I could have been that strong in my own identity when I was a child. And sure, the internet has helped us all come a long way in not feeling alone, as evidenced by the Raising My Rainbow blog, a loving, personal blog about “the adventures in raising a slightly effeminate, possibly gay, totally fabulous son.”

I love these children. The children who are honest about who they are. Even if their parents just don’t understand. Even if it’s just for now. Even if it’s just for them.