Mothering in a Gender Neutral World

I grew up in a time where “It’s Pat” was on Saturday Night Live.  You know, the skit that had a gender ambivalent character that NO one knew if you should say “he” or “she” and they never gave it away (see? I still have no clue if it was a she or he, so I have to say “they”!)  It was funny, we laughed, we didn’t realize that this was only part of what was to come.

Fast forward several years and now we have gender fluidity, gender neutrals, questioning teens, and ambivalence like crazy.  I can’t keep up, and I’m not that old or set in my ways as my parents or grandparents are.  (I can still remember my grandfather’s racial comments about a nurse who cared for him, but he didn’t mean to be rude; he just didn’t know it was unacceptable anymore to say those things!)  Things change so quickly I can’t even process what’s happening.

When I was little, I remember hearing stories about my aunt’s nephew on the other side of the family (so, not my cousin).  She talked about how he was adamant that he was not a boy, that he was a girl, and wanted to be a girl.  He would dress up in his mother’s clothes and shoes, and walk around the house, put on makeup.  The mother would be astonished, and we’d have a good laugh about how cute it was and how funny he must’ve looked.  He is now all grown up, and out as a homosexual, but confident and happy as a make up artist in New York City.  It’s like he always knew he was different but he didn’t know how to express it.  The way students are growing up now, it’s acceptable to express yourself in whatever way you can think of.

So, I think about my three kids.  I think about how they are going to perceive the world as it is now and what’s coming for the future.  I have to accept that they might be unhappy with themselves and want to change not only who they are, but what they look like, or what they were born into, or that they might not have the traditional ways of life.  I think about two teens recently who decided to change who they were, and do away with their gender specificity, and I wonder if their parents struggled with the same or how accepting they are.  It’s hard to not be accepting because if you aren’t, you definitely are not the norm!

I am scared, too.  What if I cannot the accepting mom that everyone else would hope I would be?  Or the mom who is “cool” with whatever happens?  Is it okay for me to be hesitant if my kid wants to be known by another gender, or likes the same sex?  I know I will love my children for whomever they are, and whatever they will become.  But I am still totally freaked out about what’s to come.  I’m not the first mom to deal with this, I know.  I am not the first to wonder what my kids will become or how they will change and grow as time goes on.  Call me old-fashioned, but my processing of all of this doesn’t always work out the way I want it to.

So when my middle child says, “only girls can do ballet” or my oldest says, “I don’t want to have babies” I will try to do away with the gender norms and traditionalist ways that plague us as best as my mom brain knows how and can handle.  Because it’s hip now to be a square, or a triangle, or a rainbow, even if it wasn’t 30 years ago.



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