The Gender Trap

I would be lying if I said there weren’t a part of me hoping that K is one of the children who becomes a desister. Meaning, in a few months, or years, she decides that she is not actually a girl, but goes back to being a boy. It’s not that I have an issue with her being transgender. My hesitation comes from a worry about the world. I know that growing up trans is going to be very difficult at times, and like any parent, I don’t want my child to hurt. If I can protect her from the hate and the pain that she will inevitably experience, I would love to be able to do that. I think this inner hope causes me to fall into what I call “gender traps” a bit more easily.

So what is a gender trap? For me, a gender trap is when I allow myself to fall into the misconception that specific toys or activities are more related to one gender than another, and somehow I use this information to try and make inferences on K’s gender identity. One of my most recent gender traps occurred about two weeks ago. Ben was out mowing the lawn and I was sitting outside building a deck (drilling, screwing, hammering, etc.) While I was building, K asked if she could take her play lawnmower out and help daddy mow the lawn. It didn’t matter that she was outside mowing in pink sparkly shoes and a fantastically twirly dress, as I sat there I caught myself thinking, “Maybe she is a desister. Mowing the lawn is such a boy thing.” What I find most ironic about my ridiculous gender stereotype is that I was actively doing an activity that is traditionally considering “for men.” Even though I was defying gender stereotypes, I didn’t imagine that that was possible for my daughter as well.

When K first asked us to be our daughter, I caught myself wondering if we needed to introduce her to more boys to play with or even more stereotypically boy activities to take part in. For instance, should we force her to join a baseball team? Should we not have had her join a gymnastics class dominated by little girls? When I first started questioning it, Ben asked me if I would force big sister into the same activities. The answer was obviously no. I mean, why would I force any child into an activity they have specifically told me that they do NOT want to do? Needless to say, K stayed in gymnastics and I didn’t force her to try out any “boy” teams.

Ben and I have tried to catch ourselves a lot with things like this. Part of the difficulty is probably because of K’s non-traditional gender expression. I find that we fall into gender traps with her far more easily than her cis-gender big sister. If big sister wanted to go out and help daddy mow, I would never consider that her gender identity was “boy.” In fact, I would probably be applauding how she is defying stereotypes. So how do we get over this? Until I let go of the hope that K may be a desister, I feel like there is always a part of me that will doubt her gender identity and by doubting it, am I really accepting her as a “girl.” We are still very new to this (it’s only been about 4 months) so I imagine a lot of that is just going to come with time. After all, I had a son for 4 years. It’s a struggle to see my son in K’s face anymore. More and more, I just see K, a fact that makes me simultaneously incredibly happy and a bit sad. For now, we will just keep doing what we are doing: loving our child and supporting her in any way that we can. With time, I know that the “gender traps” as my brain gets more and more used to K’s gender identity. In the meantime, we will continue to questions ourselves on decisions to ensure that we don’t make decisions for her based on her gender identity any more than we would for her cis-gender sister.

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