In one of those meandering trips that the internet often takes you on and wastes your entire day with, I’ve been reading blogs written by parents of kids who nudge, push or whack gender boundaries on their arse.
It’s nice, because I have one of those myself; the lovely Boogie projects gender in such a straightforwardly confusing way that she’s mistaken for a boy about half the time by random strangers.
Not that she has to do much to achieve that effect.
Nothing will convince you of the complete, utterly arbitrary nature of gender more than having this happen even when she’s doing nothing; for a girl to get read as a boy these days, it’s entirely sufficient for her to have a short haircut and wear tracksuit pants. Incredible, I know, but (sadly) I kid you not.
I sometimes think that anything under-12 not pink and frilled may soon have to wear a forehead stamp, or a unicorn’s horn, if it’s a girl – you know, just so people aren’t made to feel uncomfortable.
I say ‘these days’ but that’s clap trap. One of ‘these days’ I’ll
bore you rigid entertain you with hilarious tales from my childhood when I was mistaken for a boy about 85% of the time. And that was so long ago, pink hadn’t even been invented.
Of course, the reason we rely on such clearly unsatisfactory markers to establish gender in children – hair length, trousers, lack of obvious adornment – is because very few children look so ‘obviously’ male or female that their sex would shine through any of that window dressing. Pre-puberty, (clothed) body markers are non-existent, and facially, all children look more or less pudding-like, don’t you think?
By that I mean of course that they all have that soft, round, air-of-plumpness quality which is what makes them so cute.
While wearing trousers, with her short hair and all and her lack of clips and frills and pink, and all the other markers we expect of a girl, Boogie does look entirely like a boy. Or, at least like how we expect a boy to look.
She has never, however, been misidentified as a boy when wearing a dress; because short hair and all, a simple piece of material is still enough to alter her perceived gender projection entirely. And yes, she does look entirely like a girl.
I can further confirm that if L’il Boo wears a dress he, too, is always identified as a girl. Even if he is engaging in full-blown ‘masculine’ behaviour, like pretending to shoot everything in sight whilst picking his nose.
A dress, it seems, is a powerful thing.
And I’ll tell ya, a weird thing to hang something as fundamental as gender on. Not fundamental to me, of course, but then this whole gender thing wasn’t my fucking idea, was it?
And because gender is so arbitrary, I hesitate when I describe Boogie as one of those kids I’ve been reading about.
So the girl likes tracksuit pants (because they’re better for running, see?) and doesn’t like hair clips (annoying, see?); it’s hardly revolutionary, is it? She’s not even going to get a support group, for god’s sake. And she certainly doesn’t regard herself as bending anything, not yet at least.
Her gender fluidity is entirely dependent on others’ perceptions. And if people’s perceptions weren’t so restrictive, she wouldn’t be ‘misidentified’ at all because they’d have to ask her what sex she was first before making assumptions about her based on whether a piece of material is stitched down the middle or not.
And if the whole thing wasn’t so fucking weird, people wouldn’t give a flying fuck anyway.
Christ on a bike, I hate this world sometimes.