All Articles Tagged "tom girls"
by Charing Ball
I have a seven-year old nephew, who does really oddball things at times.
Don’t get me wrong, he is a smart kid with lots of imagination but he definitely has a penchant for marching to the beat of his own drum. Like one time, my brothers, his kids and I went to see the new Transformers 2 (this was some time ago). We were piled in the car, heading to the IMAX Theater when I noticed that my nephew had on a blue and yellow Sponge Bob Squarepants mitten. Just one mitten, in the middle of August, while wearing shorts and a t-shirt. Now, no one around me seemed to notice this. So to ensure that I wasn’t the crazy one, I asked him, “dude, why do you have on a mitten?” In typical fashion, he smiled sheepishly, shrugged and said, “I dunno know. I just like it.” So I asked his dad, my brother, who rolled his eyes in the back in his head like he’s been down this road before. He said, “Look, he had this glove on for three weeks now. He refuses to take it off; he even sleeps with it on. I asked him, he doesn’t know why – or at least he doesn’t tell me. I just let him wear it. It’s makes him happy.” Fair enough.
I thought about my nephew and more specifically, my brother’s response last week when I watched a news report, via YouTube about the seven year old kid in Denver, who prefers to dress like a girl and is joining the girl scouts. Yeah, I’ll give you a few seconds to comprehend that one. Okay, got it? Good, let’s move on.
The kid,, says he likes “girl stuff” including wearing wigs and dresses and playing with dolls. Recently, his older sister joined the Girl Scouts and being a boy that likes “girl stuff,” Bobby decided that he wanted to join too. But when Bobby’s mother took her son to register, a troop leader told her, according to published reports, “It doesn’t matter how he looks, he has boy parts, he can’t be in the Girl Scouts. Girl Scouts don’t allow that [and] I don’t want to be in trouble by parents or my supervisor.”
When the Girl Scouts of Colorado heard that a local troop leader had denied Bobby, they released a statement saying that “Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members. If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”
Well that story seemed to have a happy ending, but does it? If it was up to me, I would like to see an end to the silly gender specific boy/girl scouts organization in favor of a single “The Scouts.” As a child, the boy scouts always seemed cooler and much more fun than the girl scouts anyway. They went hiking, camping and made fires and stuff. Whereas my ghetto girl scout troupe hawked cookies all the time. Why would Bobby want to join the Girls Scouts is beyond me. Nevertheless, despite being accepted into Girl Scout organization, some folks still believe that even if Bobby thinks of himself as a girl, his family treats him like a girl; he’s still not a girl. Therefore what the parents, and the Girl Scout organization, are doing is aiding in the confusion of a child. In short, there’s something about seeing a boy in a dress that really freaks people out.
But of course, this is not the first example of how trans-gender exploration at young ages has levied similar charges. Last year, one mother’s decision to allow her 5-year-old son to dress up as a female cartoon character for a preschool Halloween party spawned a mini-controversy in the blogosphere about if that was an acceptable parenting decision. And by now, we are all familiar with My Princess Boy, a book by Cheryl Kilodavis about her 5-year-old son Dyson’s love of pink, dolls and sparkly dresses. That book, as well as Cheryl’s decision to allow Dyson to appear on various talk shows in a dress led to a lot of outrage and condemnation from adults, who felt that Cheryl was exploiting her child’s confusion for financial gain. But lots of parents are grabbling with what to do when children, specifically boy children who want to do things outside the normal scope of what is considered “boy stuff.”
It’s weird how girl children have the whole range of gender expression open to them. They are free to climb trees and be fairies; go fishing and have tea parties, play football and play Barbies, and at worse we call them tomboys. But let a boy child want to dance ballet or play Barbies or even exhibit qualities typically associated with girls including sensitivity, crying and gentleness, than the entire world is ready to call him gay and suggest “corrective” action before the behavior before “it gets out of hand.”
It seems totally unfair to boy children to only exist under this narrow set of options of manhood. And it speaks volumes of our own issues with homosexuality, particularly in men. What does it say that fears of homosexuality take precedence over the mental well being of the boy child himself? The truth is, he may grow up to be gay or he may not, but pretending to be Wonder Woman or Ariel from the Little Mermaid every once in a while isn’t going to “make” him anything other than the creative and playful child he obviously already is.
I’m not trying to totally dismiss a parents’ anxieties, as there are some justifiable concerns, particularly the social pressure of fitting in. And even if you’re open-minded about your son’s choice of toys or dress-up clothes, we can’t simple ignore the reaction from family, friends and even complete strangers, who might be less than understanding, if not downright dangerous. If safety is the concern than it might make sense to limit his imagination time to places and environments where it is safe to do so. However, the fact that your son enjoys playing with “girl” things or has qualities we typically associate with girls, should not be seen as failure to instill some archaic notion of masculinity on him but rather a power implication of the good job you, as a parent, has done to allow your child to embrace his feminine side. After all, in our essence of being, we are all composed of feminine and masculine energy. And in no way, especially in a society where hyper-masculinity has contributed to so much violence and pent up aggression, should we continue to deny our sons the opportunity to explore all sides of themselves. When all is said and done, we are trying to create well-balanced people. And isn’t it important that we allow our children to do, in the words of my brother, what makes them happy?
Charing Ball is the author of the blog People, Places & Things.
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