Well, it’s time once again to visit the subject of gender fluidity, which is when people pour their gender into a glass and decide if it’s half full of male or half empty of female.
Regular readers know that I address this topic much more frequently than might be deemed normal, but it’s just that it really pisses me off (standing up) whenever I come across some new ridiculous way that our society has turned itself into a pretzel to assimilate the notion of non-fixed genders.
As I always do when I write about this, let me begin with a disclaimer: in no way do I wish to deny people the right to identify as any damn gender they want, even one that doesn’t exist on this particular planet. I simply think that there should be a limit to how far the rest of us are expected to go to accommodate you.
Especially if you’re only 11 months old.
Ari Dennis probably wouldn’t agree with me on that. Ari is either the mother or the father of a baby named Sparrow. It’s not that Ari herself or himself hasn’t chosen a gender, it’s just that the article I read didn’t identify the parental role that Ari has undertaken and, judging from his or her parenting philosophy, I suppose that Ari thinks “role” is a four-letter word, which is one thing he or she is right about.
WARNING: For the rest of this post, I will be using gender-neutral pronouns, even though it sometimes hurts my brain to do so.
Anyway, so we have Sparrow, whose name sounds as if their parents are either 1960s hippies or Gwyneth Paltrow, and who, I’m assuming, has genitals of some sort (this is Sparrow I’m talking about, not Gwyneth, although she–sorry, they–probably does, too). Sparrow’s parent does not mention whether those genitals are, shall we say, innies or outies. That’s so they can raise their baby as a “non-binary” child, a title that may have been really confusing if they’d had twins.
A child raised in this manner is evidently called a “theyby,” although I don’t know why, since “baby” is already gender-neutral. It’s not as if other parents refer to their kids as “shebies” and “hebies,” or “febies” and “mabies,” although given the topic here, “maybes” might be the most appropriate. All I know is that the whole thing gives me the heebie-jeebies.
“We did not assign a sex at birth,” says Dennis. “They had genitals, we know what they are, we just chose to acknowledge that those genitals don’t indicate anything about gender.”
What do you suppose Ari meant when they said “They had genitals?” Did they somehow make Sparrow a blank slate?
“We want them to experience all genders,” Dennis added in something resembling English. “So them going out in public and people treating them like a girl, getting treated like a boy and then getting treated like someone you can’t tell shows them what the diverse options there are.”
Well, okay then. First, let me say that if this kind of thing escalates, our language is really going to have to come up with a new set of pronouns, or else an entire generation is going to end up with multiple personality syndrome by virtue of spending heir lives being talked about using plurals.
More importantly, the quote above is a great example of taking things too far. It’s one thing to remove gender stereotypes from your kid’s childhood; even Prince Harry and Meghan are going to do that. And it’s great to be accepting if your child informs you that their genitals don’t match their sense of self. But it’s something else entirely when you march them out into the world and say, “Look at all the different kinds of people. What kind would you like to be?” I mean, what if your Swedish non-binary child with the vagina decides they want to be a Jamaican black dude?
Harry and Meghan may paint their kid’s room a neutral color, but I doubt they intend to leave it up to their child to figure out whether they are a prince or a princess.
If Ari Dennis was British royalty, Sparrow would have that option (and, I’m pretty sure, a different first name). Dennis thinks Sparrow should decide their own gender. Their older child Hazel did so when they were four years old. Note that this is the same age at which many children might decide to eat large amounts of Play-doh if it has been molded to look like food, so it’s perhaps not the right age at which one should be making life-altering choices.
I’m assuming for Sparrow’s sake that the family (pictured above) will take great care to enroll them in gender-neutral day care, and pre-school, and elementary school and, if Sparrow is commitment phobic, college.
Here’s the thing, though: It is estimated that approximately 0.4 percent of Americans think of themselves as being some degree of non-binary, or, um, in possession of the wrong equipment. In actuality, it’s probably a higher percentage, since some such folks may be reluctant to report themselves to the grad students taking the survey. So let’s say it’s really 0.6 percent. Hell, let’s say it’s a full one percent! Those are still pretty long odds. It means you’re driving your kid absolutely crazy for the one in a hundred chance that he may not be him or she might not be her.
Our granddaughter Sydney is nine months old now, and although she has a gender-neutral name (except for the spelling), we call her “she” and “baby girl,” and so forth. However, like Harry and Meghan, we’re in no way confining her to gender stereotypes, and she’ll be as welcome to play with a toy dump truck as she will with Barbie’s sports car. We’ll even let her use her dump truck to bury Barbie’s car with dirt if that’s what she wants to do.
She’ll be encouraged to be tolerant and accepting of all types of people except maybe Republicans, mass murderers and chefs who put kale in Caesar salads. And if it turns out that she’s something other than what we thought she was, we will love her just as much.
But unless informed otherwise, we’ll assume she’s going to play with the hand–and the other body parts–she’s been dealt.
See you soon.