The New Gender Binary

Binary: (adj.) consisting of, indicating, or involving two.

When I first started blogging about my adventures in raising a gender creative son, I wasn’t very educated when it came to gender. All I knew is that I wanted everybody to be cool with my then-3-year-old son wearing a dress and loving the Disney Princesses. I wanted it to be okay for boys to like feminine things and girls to like masculine things. I didn’t know at first that I was fighting the gender binary.

Gender binary: (n.) the classification of gender into two distinct, opposite and disconnected forms of masculine and feminine.

Male vs. female. Boy vs. girl. Blue vs. pink. Superhero vs. princess.

It seemed like everybody wanted my son to be one or the other. Either or. People were uncomfortable with him living in the middle — in the no man’s and no woman’s land.

August September 2014 183Over the years, I’ve watched as things started to change in regards to the public visibility, awareness, understanding and acceptance of differently gendered people. The binary was being busted and I couldn’t have been happier.

TIME Magazine even proclaimed that society had reached “the transgender tipping point” and that the transgender movement is poised to challenge deeply held cultural beliefs. Yes! Bring it on!

America was finally talking about gender. It’s complexity. It’s fluidity. It’s individuality. The general public might, maybe, hopefully, be beginning to understand the ridiculousness of the gender binary.

For years, I’ve been sharing our family’s story in hopes of encouraging people to loosen up a little about gender, allow it to be fluid and support those who aren’t solely masculine or solely feminine. People can be both or neither or a unique mixture that can vary depending on the day or hour.

For the sake of my son, I wanted the world to see that there are more than just two options when it comes to gender expression and identity.

Laverne Cox, Jazz Jennings, Caitlyn Jenner and others were helping by living publicly, authentically and without shame. They are brave beyond belief and I’m so thankful for them. After all, if people can handle a former male Olympian as a female in a corset on the cover of Vanity Fair, surely they would be cool with my son wearing a skirt while maintaining that he’s a boy. But they weren’t. They aren’t.

Things seemed to swing in another direction. Because of the transgender movement, there has become a new binary. Cisgender vs. transgender.

Cisgender: (adj.) noting or relating to a person whose gender identity corresponds with that person’s biological sex assigned at birth. (Example: I was assigned female at birth because of my vagina and my gender is female.)

August September 2014 137Every time I publish a blog post or post to social media and use masculine pronouns for my son (whether I’m talking about his desire to be called Mrs. Clooney, get his ears pierced, etc.), people — no matter how accepting and progressive they think they are — tell me I’m using the wrong pronouns. They insist that my son is transgender and that I’m not honoring that.

Good for them. Seriously. Good for more people pushing others to honor people who are transgender.

But, gender policing me sometimes seems like it isn’t an act of understanding, but rather an act prompted by a lack of understanding.

I couldn’t be honoring my son’s gender identity any more when he is expressing himself as female and I use the masculine pronouns that he prefers.

He is a boy who likes to wear skirts, lip-gloss, sparkly ballet flats and (for now) clip on earrings. He knows what it means to be transgender, he’s watched two of his friends and countless adults transition.

He insists that he is not transgender. He identifies as gender nonconforming. He says he’s a boy who only likes girl things and wants to be treated like a girl. He doesn’t like it when people use feminine pronouns to address or talk about him. He loves his male anatomy (as 9-year-old boys are wont to do).

In the new gender binary, he has no home. Cisgender vs. transgender. He’s neither.

In the old gender binary, he has no home. Male vs. female. He’s neither.

So, still, I find myself fighting a gender binary while explaining my son’s gender identity and expression. That’s fine, I will do it until the day I die or until he asks me to stop. It’s just that, when I saw transgender education and acceptance coming to the forefront, I expected things to be different.

I thought that if society could see, start to understand and accept transgender people (which some consider to be at the very extreme end of the cisgender-transgender gender binary), that they would have no problem at all accepting all of the people who are “just” gender nonconforming.

We have to get beyond trans. Let’s make that the next social movement. Let’s get to the point where we say, “Hey, I don’t know if that person is male or female or both or neither, so I’m just going to treat them like a person” or “My brain tells me to use female pronouns for that person but the person tells me to use masculine pronouns, so I’m going to masculine pronouns because what the hell does it matter to me?!” or “That guy likes to wear skirts. Cool.”

Let’s respect every person’s unique gender journey by not believing in any binary. Let’s bust the binary. Once and for all.

Click here to read this post on HuffPost Queer Voices.

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About raisingmyrainbow

RaisingMyRainbow.com is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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99 Responses to The New Gender Binary

  1. ettinacat says:

    Gender identity =| gender expression. CJ demonstrates that.

  2. Pingback: Link Love (2016-08-27) | Becky's Kaleidoscope

  3. Francine says:

    Thankyou for that post, I have only just stumbled onto your blog, Lori, your son is lucky to have such a thoughtful mother. At a time when people are rushing to label themselves and each other it’s nice to see someone who understands flexibility, and the importance of just asking people who they are and respecting the answer.

  4. Liz says:

    I really appreciate your voice and learn so much from you!! Even in the midst of all the progress people still tend to think in very black and white terms. Thank you for allowing your son to be himself and honoring that … and for taking the time to help others see more colors than just black and white!

    I have a son who is gay and am in community with a lot of moms of lgbt kids. Our kids need our love and support so much which is why I started a private Facebook group for moms of lgbt kids. It’s a place for moms to help each other learn how to love and support their lgbt kids well.

    The group was started in June 2014 and presently has more than 1,000 members now.

    It’s a place where we share information, tell our stories to one another, and encourage, inspire and support each other.

    Only members of the group can find the group or see what is posted there but if you know any mom who might want to join the private facebook group please have them email me at lizdyer55@gmail.com and put “Mom’s Facebook Group” as the subject.

    Here is a link that has a little more info about the group:

    http://serendipitydodah.wordpress.com/2014/06/01/serendipitydodah-for-moms/

    • Angelica says:

      Just out of interest: I would love to know if you accept mums who are themselves transgender… or do we not count as mums? Note: Don’t worry, my son appears to be cis-het… so far. ;o)

  5. Bea says:

    Cis and trans kind of ultimately is a binary though? Because trans is an inclusive word that means all people who aren’t cis, in the same way that people use ‘queer’ to mean ‘not straight’. Nonbinary people fall under the trans umbrella. That doesn’t mean that they suit the gender binary, but that they’re not cis. Being a binary trans person is not the only way to be trans.
    If you’re suggesting that your kid isn’t cis, then he falls under the trans umbrella. It doesn’t mean he’s therefore a girl, just that he’s not a boy.
    What you (read: what we all) should be asking for is more nonbinary representation.

    • mdaniels4 says:

      I don’t think that’s congruent at all Bea. Non conforming doesn’t mean Trans, nor does not being cis mean Trans. Cisco merely means matching your internal gender and outward expression to the vast of the expected degree. For example. I’m cis but I like my toes polished. All colors and clear. But because of that I’m non conforming to the expected complete expression of an adult male in this culture. Neither is Steven Tyler or guy fieri. Or Shaq for that matter as he wears toenail polish and an earring. But we’re certainly not Trans. In a sense most of us are non conforming to a certain degree. Some more than others.

      • Angelica says:

        I do agree with Bea. That is the definition of trans that I was told too. Psychology has established about 20 personality traits that are statistically correlated to one’s sex. ANy or all of them can be crossed over in the individual and that then comes under the “trans” umbrella regardless if said individual would ever want SRS.

      • mdaniels4 says:

        Well that’s fine of course. As a clinician I also know that things change. For example, homosexuality being a perversion to be treated in at latest dsm3. Certainly no longer. Psych is Not a science but an art. As one I would never be presumptuous to think this can be reduced to repeated test tube results that science requires. My bet is that non binary human sexuality will be fully accepted at least socially within 5 years. At that point there will be no gender dysphoria as described by dsm5. And that will be because people will have become accepted for how they express. My proof? Long hair, Metrosexual fashion sense, earring on men. Tattoos on women. Women reaching far into the realms of traditional men. The acceptance is coming quick and the debate on Trans, not withstanding the agenda of activists, which truly is btw an issue, because it serves them as activists individually, will be a relative non issue. So passe.

      • Angelica says:

        While I will support everyone in the right to manifest as they please. I will never support a political movement that seeks to deny us the right to transition, when that has so obviously made me happy to continue living.
        http://angelica.x10host.com/my-name.html

    • mdaniels4 says:

      I should have also said in this that any non conforming is also their assigned gender, unless chosen otherwise. In this specific, CJ clearly identifies as a boy. He just likes girl things. I like girl things as defined by others. I could care less I identify as a man. My wife likes guy things and identifies as a woman. He’ll. I polish my toes more than she does. So are we a Trans couple by your definition? That makes no sense to me at all. Zero. But I do understand that the Trans community would like it to be so to further their agenda. At least some would, probably the activists who rely on this for their own sense of self. I mean this in no mean or disrespectful way. This is what humans with a passion do. But I too have a passion for education, understanding and research.

  6. rebecca says:

    thank you for your voice, your support of your son and the space for other voices here as well.

    while kids and other people who are not gender-conforming may be trans (as in going to transition at some point), i fear this equation of a boy liking pink or nail polish, etc., meaning he must want to be a girl.

    I got this about my son (people assumed my son was trans because he liked nail polish and sometimes wore a skirt and had long, braided hair). All this does is perpetuate the forced gendered roles and attach gender to things that do not have gender. My partner and I have raised our kids to know that toys are just toys and clothes are just clothes and interests are just interests.

    if our kids are told that liking pink and nail polish and frills = being a girl and liking trucks and building and science (groan) = being a boy, how will we ever allow them to just be who they are and in the longer run, how will we ever finally abolish sexism and misogyny?

    • Angelica says:

      for me the deciding factor of whether I am trans or an effiminate male.. was that I seriously hated my physical male characteristics. e.g. I simply detested having facial hair and going bald… and I did not like having testicles, or smelly feet.. whatever So.. trans I am… and now I’m really happy every day ❤

  7. I really appreciate you looking beyond the gender binary. In the late summer of 2014 I came out as Agender (genderless). I am now 59 years old and am now in my second year if being non-binarty/agender. I wish I had been aware of the half dozen or so non-binary gender identities. I was friends with several Transgender women but although I felt a closeness I knew I didn’t feel female. I also didn’t feel male but felt stuck, thanks to the pioneers who challengedo the gender binary 16+ years ago, the world is slowly becoming aware of non-binary gender identities. Now many teens, young adults and older adults are becoming aware of gender identities and finding communities online in one of the many Tumblr non-binary blogs, some of several blog on WordPress and at sites like Everyday Feminism. Soon there will be more awareness by the wider community. This will face hostility from the anti-trans, right wingers, in fact there all ready is, but the voice of non-binary gender identified will be heard and more those on the non-binary spectrum will find an identity and a welcoming community.

    • Angelica says:

      I share similar experience. I am aware of masculine tendencies that I have in some areas and feminine in others. I think there are independent gender characteristics that can cross over independently, so I suppose I’m like partially trans. I do prefer to identify as feminine in every day life, and I never want to dress as a man ever again.

  8. Alex says:

    Long time reader. First time commenter. Forgive me for not reading the other comments, as I generally ignore them for fear of becoming angry. Anyway, I’m sure you’ve heard about the organization Gender Spectrum (genderspectrum.org). They do great work in general, and do awesome outreach and education on breaking down the gender binary, including work with schools and school districts to create gender-inclusive schools, which would quite clearly make a welcome space for your son and your family. Their work includes community outreach and education. It’s truly inspiring. I’ve been lucky to get a taste of their awesomeness and I hope to have more with my position in a local public school district. They’re a great place to start, as are the schools, because that is where we all learn. Thanks for sharing!

  9. mdaniels4 says:

    My spellchecker in a recent comment of mine made a mistake. I lean more heavily on nurture on creating the problems of expression than nature does. Nature is how the human is wired in its own unique way. But it is nurture that creates the conflict based on outward forces looking in. Just wanted to clear that up. And I agree with lavender to a good degree that a male cannot truly be a woman, not just biologically but of psyche. Because of that nurture, regardless of his nature, he will have been bathed in nurture that is given differently to natural girls. Rightly or not is not the question. Transitioning gets him almost there, just not quite. But it’s a closer proximity to leveling the inside and outward conflict to the individual. That perhaps makes it worthwhile to experience the hardship of that process.

    BTW. Can we dispense with the zie and zir stuff? Replace the h and s and it sounds just like he and her anyway. I don’t understand the point. Say either one and it still comes out the way understood it before. iSilly words in my opinion that add nothing to the support of the individual.

  10. cheryl s. says:

    “Hey, I don’t know if that person is male or female or both or neither, so I’m just going to treat them like a person” I really think this is the bottom line.

    • mdaniels4 says:

      I think so too. Unfortunately society at large makes a judgment and then reacts to that as if it’s true. You don’t and I don’t, but also unfortunately there doesn’t seem to me to be enough of the us’s.

  11. hp440lisa says:

    I wish people like yourself would start to see “Transgender” as more representing sex based discrimination and gay and transvestite conversion therapy on both children and adults. We have kids being told they can become the boy or girl they identify as but they are to young to see the strings being attached to them by Transgender activist and their unscrupulous or uneducated allies.
    Some kids are told if you persist we’ll give you hormone blockers, then hormones, then surgery. What they are not being told is that they are being branded property of the LGBT for life through the use and promotion of the word Transgender.
    Other kids are getting the message because they cannot get hormone blockers, hormones and then surgery at a young age if they don’t kill themselves they’ll look like a man in a dress (Leelah Acorn.)
    Then there are kids like yours who like to cross dress and may or may not grow up to gay or transsexual. In fact the research says most kids like yours will grow up to be extremely emotionally damaged heterosexuals and the minority actually grow up to be exclusively homosexual.
    The truth is when you take a close look Transgender doesn’t represent a spectrum at all it represents a dead end into the gay community and sexual discrimination.
    The only way LGBT activist and their supporters can refer to a person such as myself as Transgender is to use a sex I no longer legally am and have never identified as for justification for it. That is sex based discrimination and illegal human experimentation.

    • mdaniels4 says:

      In fact the research says most kids like yours will grow up to be extremely emotionally damaged heterosexuals

      Where in the world did you get that? It is completely untrue. Recent longitudinal studies show the complete opposite in that gender non conforming kids are, when, allowed to express themselves without shame grow up to be well adjusted folks as much as anyone else. Assuming everyone else is well adjusted. The key was that in either case being who you are and accepted for it is what helps you to become well adjusted. Certainly not severely damaged heterosexual adults. Methinks someone needs to delve further into their research before pronouncements.

      • amym440 says:

        Where I got that information is through the largest study of gender-non-conforming youth conducted in the U.S. You also point only to the kids raised in a supportive home. http://www.hsph.harvard.edu/news/press-releases/children-nonconformity-ptsd-sexual-abuse/
        I believe a large part of the PTSD and sexual abuse comes from the myth promoted by the LGBT activist that most of these kids will desist and grow up to be gay. That is based on very outdated thinking and research that was biased.
        I’m saying as a person that is defined as being transsexual the idea that all the points on the supposed “gender spectrum” that are inbetween traditional male or female or that all non-traditional male or female behavior is all “transgender” and belongs in the gay community is sex discriminatory, conversion therapy, and harmful to adults and children. What needs to be better researched is just exactly does the adult Transgender grouping really represent and should kids be being associated with it or the gay community simply based on having a cross sexed identity, cross gender behavior, or non stereotypical male or female behavior. I would argue the research was never there to justify the professional adoption of the word Transgender and its use has never been properly legally vetted.

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  13. Angelica says:

    What a lovely article… I totally agree that one should NEVER tell a child that ze must have a sex change to be hir real self. I do think however that masculine and feminine are NOT opposites… I think genders are complementary and I believe there are about 20 different traits that are statistically more associated with one gender or the other. I consider any one to be transgender who has any of those traits of the other sex, but that does NOT mean ze should have to have sex reassignment.

    In fact I think it extremely important that your son be allowed to manifest his feminine side while still identifying as a man. Alas Many people will confuse that as being a fetish, but cross dressers who do it for arousal are actually manifesting a displaced heterosexual sexuality and not a gender identity.

    My experience has been that some of my gender traits changed for me when I changed from male to female hormones while others seem to be innate and completely fixed… A good example is that despite aversion therapy… 30+ years later I had to face the fact I was unable to feel sexually attracted to female people no matter how hard I tried… my love for men has returned. :o)

  14. Biscuit says:

    Hi, I’m really happy for you and your son. I strongly believe that gender is self determined and that means respecting that some boys look and act like girls and some girls look and act like boys. Nobody else can tell you what your own gender is.

    I’m nonbinary and I found this article on huffington post and I thought you made some great points. Cis and trans are helpful descriptors when talking about gender, but we need to remember and respect that some people are gender nonconforming but not trans. It’s really as easy as taking another person’s word for it when they say they’re X gender.

  15. Ken says:

    My first thought was, how about “open-gendered” for gender-creatives who are not cis- but not trans- either? Each time you post it feeds my soul.

  16. While I’m not sure exactly what you mean by saying your son “wants to be treated like a girl”, I think this is worth addressing because no matter how much your son thinks he wants to be treated like a girl, ultimately identity does not trump perception. He’s a boy, people note this fact, therefore people are going to treat him the way people in this society treat boys. Although he’ll be treated differently than typically gender conforming boys he still won’t be treated the way girls are and that’s because males are, to be frank, treated not only differently but with more respect and regard than females in this society. In this way gender isn’t simply a binary or a spectrum as some people would describe it but more specifically a hierarchy.

    Biological sex is a thing (if it weren’t none of us would be here because that’s how reproduction works) and we don’t get to choose the sex we’re born with. That’s up to nature or chance – however you prefer to look at it. As a male your son will never understand what it’s like to be a girl or a woman, which isn’t something to lament in the current state of things.

    I agree that we need to get beyond trans but perhaps for a different reason than the one you cite. Gender isn’t something to be reified in my opinion. It’s an oppressive system. It’s a lie. There’s nothing wrong with the bodies of children whose behaviour doesn’t align with the traits and interests that gender tells us are inherent to each biological sex. Your son is living proof of this. So am I. So is everyone because human beings, whether male or female, don’t have substantially different brains; our sex doesn’t predetermine our thoughts, feelings, tastes or ideas. Wearing feather boas and princess dresses doesn’t make a boy a girl. There’s no logical reason why those things should be attached to female people. Your son will grow and develop over time, which is why it’s so important for us to allow children the room to live without labels. I hope that he continues to accept himself and experience life freely. If we want equality between the sexes, this is the revolution that needs to happen.

    • AMM says:

      Gender isn’t something to be reified in my opinion. It’s an oppressive system. It’s a lie.

      And yet you spend your entire 3-paragraph comment reifying gender. (The first two paragraphs are in fact classic gender essentialism.)

      If gender is not an objective fact, then what our gender is is a matter of how we choose to define it, and need not be tied to what genitals or reproductive organs we have, or clothes, or chromosomes, or birth certificates. If you wished to destroy that “oppressive system,” I cannot think of any better way than to let people choose their own gender (including ones outside the binary) and way of expressing it and let them change their designations and definitions as it suits them. (Remember the Dr. Seuss story “Sneetches”?)

      • mdaniels4 says:

        They certainly can AMM. But realistically this is about the social forces outside oneself that everyone is dealing with here. What you call yourself inside, and expressing that desire to be called that is one thing. To supporters and generally nice, intelligent people will generally prevail. But if you’re honest, you’ll admit we’re not dealing with that section. We’re dealing with the rather less nice and the relatively uneducated who could give a rats butt what you call yourself. They have their own nomenclature that is surprisingly well shared by a large percentage of the population.

      • Your reply suggests you’re confused about what ‘reify’ means. You can’t take a concept e.g. gender or womanhood and expect people to accept that they suddenly mean what you’d personally prefer them to mean when these concepts already have an established, commonly understood meaning. Gender is femininity and masculinity: codes of conduct set out for males and females aimed at producing dominance in the former and submission in the latter. If MtF trans people are simply expressing their own brand of “innate” gender, why do they invariably adopt feminine mannerisms and presentation as part of “living” as women? Gender identity reinforces sex-based stereotypes. When transwomen who perform femininity more acutely than actual women – adult females – tell women that they’re more ‘woman’ than them, this is misogyny. When women are shamed into accepting that men who “feel” the way they believe women are supposed to feel because they’re women and female, that’s sexism. When a man says he’s trans or non-binary/agender because he doesn’t fit masculine stereotypes, that’s because stereotypes are both nonsense and yes, oppressive. When trans people “choose their gender” as you put it, they’re adopting the stereotypes reserved for people of the opposite sex. Women are a category of people who already exist. If certain men who don’t want to be perceived or addressed as men, that’s not the responsibility of actual to women to negotiate and accommodate.

      • Angelica says:

        TBH I think the problem comes from the fact that we use the word man and woman both to identify one’s reproductive sex and one’s gender identity.. and certainly these are statistically in agreement.

        However when we recognize that there is a statistical difference between male and female character traits, then we must also acknowledge that there are traits that one can call feminine and others that we call masculine with the proviso that there are exceptions to the rule. I think most people will agree that boys will tend to take physical action rather than talking about it, they are more aggressive and willing to take (often irresponsible) risks, while girls have far better social talents and are more cautious. I personally believe these gender traits served us well back when we were evolving as a species in prehistoric times: The disposable males would confront threats, thus protecting the reproductively more valuable females of our species (and the genetic offspring of both the male and females with those traits).

        The development of an individual’s genitals and hir character traits are not necessarily linked. There can be many factors that influence this, and personally I think artificial hormones and chemicals in a pregnant woman’s diet can alter the characteristics of unborn fetus. Thus I think it is fair to consider that “transgender” is a real world phenomenon. As to what the appropriate treatment might be (if any is actually necessary)… well I’m really happy now that I can call myself a trans girl.. and when I am asked if I am a man or a woman, my response is “probably not”, but it doesn’t mean that there are not two very distinct separate averages that are correlated with reproductive organs. :o)

      • There’s a “statistical difference between male and female character traits”? WTAF does that mean? That’s all I’m reading from your reply. You have a serious problem. I hope you figure it out.

      • Angelica says:

        Dear Lavender, if you ever do want it explained in more detail, I’ll be happy to help. Alas I suspect you don’t actually want to contemplate what I have to say. So I shall leave you be.
        bai then 💋

      • mdaniels4 says:

        The vast majority of these trait differences are learned. Please see previous postings on this subject. Neurological differences are quite small. All of these really are human traits and enhanced and suppressed by cultural teaching. The messages constantly bombarding the little human from the day they’re born. In the case of transgender reality, much of the stress results from expressing these human traits out there that are within the self, yet at odds with the cultural norms of the bodies they’re in. A good example of this is in cultures that support 3 genders. These cultures reflect a spiritual component of self that allows for the individual. In most of those cultures there is little conflict within the members of the community. It’s just accepted. Of course there are multiple biological influences too of which all of that is being sorted out yet, but strictly speaking change the expectations and you’ll change the expression. We are anything but gender neutral but even with that you’d have to rewrite Cinderella and all poems like boys are puppy dog tails and snails etc. That’s not going to happen.

        Asylum can see, I’m an adherent of nurture And nature, not OR. But I lean more heavily to nature bring out the complexity of the individual for better or worse in the culture they reside.

      • You’re right, I don’t want to contemplate what you have to say, and that’s because you’re sexist, condescending, and you don’t make a bit of sense. But what would I know, with my inferior, meek, emotional ladybrain and all, right?

      • oopster74 says:

        From my point of view, there’s a difference of opinion on the words used, so it might help if I clarify my understanding of the words first before going any further

        Sex – the physical sex of someone’s body, ie male or female
        Gender – the mental sex of the person in question, ie male or female
        Gender identity, the match or mismatch of sex and gender, ie cis = sex and gender matches, trans = sex and gender don’t match
        Gender Role(s) – Behaviours imposed, expected, “the norm” for people based on their physical appearance.

        Now, you say that trans people (and you’re specifically talking about transwomen here), aren’t more woman or less woman than any other woman, they’re just another type of woman, as all women are. Where transwomen have said they’re more women than some other women, well we get accused of not being women at all, it gets annoying, stones get thrown, and some others genuinely believe that. Lets face it, stereotypes exist for a reason, and some people are stereotypes, some people are anti-stereotypes, and then others don’t care either way, they just get on with things. So why do some transwomen adopt more feminine mannerisms than their cis counterparts? I’d think that’s pretty simple. Some are simply naturally more feminine in their mannerisms, some are over-compensating, some are trying to hide any hint they’re trans by not doing anything remotely seen as masculine. Me personally, I mainly wear jeans and t-shirt, swear like a sailer, race radio controlled and slot cars, collect model trains, drive far too fast, and am about to go paintballing. Now stereotypically, they’re not considered very feminine interests or pursuits, and I suspect that I’d get abuse from all sides for simply doing the hobbies that I like. Even my sister has had a slight go at me ‘cos I like radio controlled cars. So if I we’re to do everything ultra femme, do my weekly shopping in Asda in a taffetta ballgown with sequined heels, that would be totally inappropriate for that setting, but i have every right to do that if I so wish. How I dress and act has absolutely no bearing on how someone else chooses to live their life. The owner of this blog has what she calls a “gender creative son”, and she sounds like a brilliantly supportive parent who’s probably had a lot of sleepless nights over this, but that comes with the territory of being a parent.

        Most transpeople are normal and boring and you’d never know you we’re sat next to one if you didn’t already know. It’s time that we have a sensible talk and attitude about these things, and not the Jerry Springer approach that so often happens.

      • mdaniels4 says:

        I had the opportunity to put my two cents in with family members this weekend. Two fashionally different young men together were commented by one that he guessed he knew their sexuality. I said you can certainly opine but you cannot know, unless you’ve slept with either of them.

        Second occasion was irritation at the glbt insistence that they have the only right at free speech, but if he voices his he gets chastised for hate. He has a valid point. Nobody gets a free pass as far as I’m concerned. I pointed out that while it may be true he feels uncomfortable by two guys kissing, he must look into his own feelings because it isn’t a truism. I don’t feel uncomfortable so therefore they do not make anyone uncomfortable ergo, he is making himself uncomfortable.

        I also pointed out that many uneducated hetero people think gay sex is deviant. I comment regularly on forums that you don’t think many of these heterosexual couples don’t have the same type sex? After all, there are only just so many ways a human can get off by inserting something somewhere else into another human. I usually get the feedback that I must be gay, a pervert, secret cross dresser or whatever. I almost always laugh at this because it’s a fallacious fallback to a stupid position. Point is, I made a point because he laughed without further comment. He got it. Which means something he’ll think about.

        But I do agree with him about the glbt politic. Theyve been pissed off for a long time and very much hurt. I get it. But militant payback on the majority will NOT help the cause. It’s a reactions. Not an action. And will cause that acceptance to be drawn out much longer than it would be necessary because of the push back. In the battle, it is not bull in a china shop one way mentality. Now or nothing at all. One must adapt and be flexible. This is how war is won. Historically and figuratively. These family members are intelligent people. They are expressing their feelings and also need to be respected. As 5hose we in this group support.

      • oopster74 says:

        Not seeing the relevance to my comment, but, seeing 2 guys kissing (and I mean snogging, really going for it) makes me feel uncomfortable, but I’m ok with them doing it, I just don’t like seeing it because I’m not a gay man, mind, watching any couple going at it would make me feel uncomfortable, but that’s because it would like I’m invading their privacy, and not because I think they’re doing anything wrong.

      • mdaniels4 says:

        Sorry oopster. It was because of your comments regarding stereotypes and on conforming appearance. That’s all. It was just a weekend full of those and your comment hit a chord based on immediacy.

      • mdaniels4 says:

        Oh. And by the way, I also am uncomfortable by public going at it. I had meant a simple kiss, hug, holding hands. I think publicly going at is is very distasteful and disrespectful to others, and also of self. But many find these same sex gestures to be in this category. I don’t at all. The two young gentlemen referenced were very avant-garde shall we say. They were not even holding hands, so therefore based solely on fashion there was no reason for this family member to make that leap. 2 reasons at the time were really about him. I mean him no harm. It’s part of the reality to overcome. One is to give him the opportunity to consider another perspective. I do not argue with other people. At all. Learned that. I cannot change uneducated opinions. Period. Waste of breath and time. And any possibility of a relationship too. 2nd. He is smart but also cognizant of male hierarchy and this was a way of confirmation of normality to others. I merely wanted to point out he needn’t do that with me. I accepted him for himself and the honesty to discuss. Not necessarily to agree but to discuss. It makes for a so much better family thanksgiving table gathering. 🙂

      • You’re a delusional male supremacist. You wrote, “Gender – the mental sex of the person in question”. No. There’s no such thing as mental sex. Sex is not determined via the brain and brains are not sexed. Ladybrain is a male fantasy meant to justify female subordination to males. The determination of biological sex is based on perceived reproductive potential. It has nothing to do with brains or personalities. Gender is a propagandist mechanism of patriarchy because it tells us that certain traits and aptitudes are inherent to males and females – biological determinism is what that is – and the learned socialization that produces masculinity in males and femininity in females results in male domination and female submission. Gender is a hierarchy. There isn’t a thought a man can have that a woman can’t or an emotional a woman can feel that a man can’t.

        And I’ve not said transwomen are a different type of woman. There aren’t different ‘types’ of women. There are women (adult human females) and there are men (adult human males). You can’t force women to deny what we are in order to include men i.e. males as women because they don’t pass the masculinity test. They’re still part of the male sex class and females are oppressed as a sex class, so you can stop trying to obscure that fact.

        Males can never be female, which means men can never be women, no matter how they present or think women are supposed to feel. Women are not an idea in men’s heads. We’re not a fantasy and we sure as hell aren’t a stereotype. Stereotypes do exist for a reason, and that reason is that as long as we attach the inferior characteristics of femininity to females, females will never be viewed as equal to males, and males will continue to exploit and control our reproductive capacity and labour. Bravo for demonstrating how misogynistic gender identity is.

      • mdaniels4 says:

        I feel compelled to address this lavender, because you are simply incorrect. There are 3 distinct aspects that make up human sexuality. Biological sex which is your reproduction capabilities, gender, which is in fact in your head, that which you feel as yourself, true self, and the 3rd is who you are attracted to. Actually I think there is a 4th aspect of expression in relation to the norms of the culture you’re in.

        Now the difference between the brains of men and women neurologically is really quite small, especially at birth. This has been proven. It is also been proven that the training one receives provides a neural pathmap that provides great distinction in how one behaves and thinks, and that is the predominantly expression of gender that we talk of stereotypes. The constant bath of images, speech patterns, fashion, etc is what clues a person into how they are to appear if they want to fit in as normative. In the culture they reside. So therefore, by the time we’re talking about, there is in fact a female or a male brain. But one that was trained to be, and reinforced rather than designated by what you have or not between your legs or in your chromosomes.

        The feminist rant you went on has really very little to do with it. Yes there is that patriarchy thing going on, but it by itself is one of the parts of the bath I mentioned before.

        There may be a few more points I might want to comment on, but quite frankly it was all over the place that I can’t remember it all.

      • If gender’s just in your head and it’s your own personal, individual “feeling”, explain to me what it means to “feel like” a woman. How can a man – an adult with male biology – know how it “feels” to be a woman when he has no experience whatsoever of what that actually means?

      • mdaniels4 says:

        Well it’s somewhat a difficult concept in the binary world. But if you were a rather neutral individual perhaps you could understand. I believe in human traits. Not necessarily male or female but a mind or mix of both. So if so, and you were so inclined to know oneself, then you can feel emotions different than other folks. Again. Not necessarily male or female. But in a binary world you’d automatically assign your feelings to be one OR the other. But they’re not. They are part of being human. That’s the part we’re not recognizing. So if I cry easily. That’s an assigned female thing. If I like fashion then that also is more femininity oriented. Get enough of those and can you not expect that one would feel like a woman, although being man? After all. All those things combined tell you what? That’s what THEY have told you over and over. So you come to the conclusion you feel like a woman. But how can you ever know what it feels like to actually be a woman? Point is you can’t. You are you. But in a world that treats you like you don’t really exist as yourself. And that’s why gender is in your head. But if you acknowledge that it’s your humanity and not merely gender as it is normally understood, then your divergence is minimal.

        To tell you the truth. I have no idea what it means to be a man or a woman. I like traits of both. I tear up at appropriate times of human suffering as well as mistreated animals. I love cooking. I notice fashion. I like shopping and deeper conversation. Most of my friends are women and I dislike sports and over competiveness. God I love my motorcycles and my sports car. I will cotton to no disrespect. Does that make me a woman. (or man for that matter?) Oh hell no. I am just a man of a different stripe. And I make no bones about it and fully accept who I am. Am I gay. Oh hell no. None of that describes or takes away whom I think I am. A man that likes alot of things that being a human has to offer.

        Just to be clear, you mentioned this earlier. A woman can certainly think and do anything a man can do. And absolutely vice versa. No matter what THEY say. And that’s what folks need to get past. And that’s what this blog is all about. In this case CJ is a young man that likes alot of things. Boas and skirts and transformers and ninja turtles. In short, in this venue, he seems like a helluva human being to me. So does chase, Lori and Matt. I do hope this helps.

      • oopster74 says:

        Wow! For someone who’s never met me, you certainly know a lot about me! Btw, that’s sarcasm. I knew I was trans before I ever learned the radfem position on gender, so think again on that. Persecution complex or what.

  17. MHB says:

    You may find comfort in reading some (sensical) feminist analysis of gender: thenewbacklash.blogspot.com. Sex = male/female, gender = masculine/feminine. Sex is a biological fact, neither shameful nor determinative of personality. Gender is a system of coercive social control, the assignment/enforcement of dominant personality traits in males and submissive personality traits in females, meant to keep women dependent upon men so that men maintain access to women’s bodies and labor. Your son is male, but not masculine, and that *should* be fine; that should be *great* in fact, given the harms of masculinity (war, rape, etc.) However, if we accept that males are not innately masculine and females are not innately feminine then we must also admit that the system of women serving men in order to gain their protection from other men (feminists traditionally call this patriarchy) is not “natural” but instead *exploitative.* If men are no longer excused for violent behavior, male dominance disintegrates. This is a huge social upheaval, which is why so many would rather pretend feminine boys are girls trapped in the wrong body (what could be more cruel than to tell your child their personality should not exist in their body???) than simply accept that boys can naturally develop the same personality traits that girls can naturally develop. To put another way, we are supposed to redefine the category “girl” to include penis in order to avoid redefining the category “boy” to include dolls and dresses.

    • AMM says:

      It strikes me that you are imposing your own “coercive social control.” “Man” and “woman” are, in practice, social constructs, which means that we (as social beings) define what they are. If someone feels that, under their understanding of “man” and “woman” (or “boy” and “girl”), they are one of those — or neither — it’s coercive to insist that they are wrong and are only allowed to use the designator and associated social protocols that _you_ have defined. Just as it is coercive to insist that those who you have designated “boys” must be rough and tough and those who you have designated “girls” must be sugar and spice.

      One may speculate as to how this or that individual might identify if they had grown up in some hypothetical ungendered utopia, but the reality is that we grow up in this society, with all its flaws, and must find a way to live with ourselves within that society. If that means that someone born with a penis feels that identifying themself as “woman” works best for them, then it is arrogant and oppressive to insist that they do otherwise, especially if it’s just so they better fit your gender theories.

      • mdaniels4 says:

        Perhaps it’s because this idea of the separateness is so culturally invasive that even in a community of supporters we find it difficult to get beyond the vernacular. We’re I think making this harder than it is. We’re buying into it just as much, not in our hearts but in our heads. Why can’t we just make a continuous message that there are no real man/woman/boy/girl things and be done with it. Are there white folk things and black folk things? Hardly. My black buddy uses Schick razor blades like I do. How about that!

        For example I use dove deodorant. Have for years. I like the smell. Period. So I’m using a product marketed to women vs one that’s marketed to men. Big deal. I also like head and shoulders shampoo because I like the smell. I hardly have Selena gomez locks to toss to show how sexy and vibrant my hair is. Of course the marketers would fight this tooth and nail and it sure would be interesting to see how far they’d take it too. Until of course everyone really understood what they’ve been doing all along and then you’d have advertising with football players using H & S or dove, and their ad mate women crawling all over them for their clean free smell. That’s how it works.

  18. Pingback: The New Gender Binary | Gender Normal

  19. Pingback: Trans or not trans? Is there a middle-ground? | I am a Person

  20. Amy says:

    Thank you for your post and continuing to share your experiences on this journey with your son. Your reflection on the challenge to get people (gay and straight, trans and cis-gender) to accept your son for who he is, off the binary, reminds me of the struggle bisexual (or perhaps more accurately pansexual) people face gaining acceptance from the lesbian and gay community. As a bisexual cis-gender woman, I have experienced as much, if not more, more stigma, judgement, disbelief, and rejection from the lesbian and gay community than I have from the straight one. I think as humans, if we happen to reside at the end point of a binary (gender, sexual orientation, race) we often struggle to let go of the dichotomy and accept that there is an infinite and wonderful space in between.

  21. Michelle says:

    My teen is transgender but, like CJ is gender creative. Jeremy’s non-binary trans and pangender. The hard part is that even with a trans label, zie’s “not trans enough” for people. Zir pronouns are “too weird and confusing”. So zie gets referred to constantly as he/him, which makes zir uncomfortable. And people try to place zir into boxes. Yes, zie loves RC cars, computers, and dismantling just about ever piece of electronics that crosses zir path. Sadly I mean just about every piece.

    Jeremy taking apart the television to see what was inside… “oops… I didn’t think it would do that.”

    So people focus on that part and assume that zie must be male and I’m somehow forcing my 6ft 3in teenager to pretend to be trans. Ignoring zir huge love of soft silky clothes, cute stuffies, perfume and jewelry. I agree, there definitely needs to be more room for our kids and less pressure to be assumed a gender and forced into an arbitrary role.

  22. Outstanding post. As human beings, we are always more comfortable with labels. I learned that decades ago, as a special ed teacher. Gradually, we all became aware of a wide spectrum of learning preferences and capabilities in people that defied labels. We are slowly doing the same now with human gender orientation and preference.

  23. AMM says:

    One of my sons told me he is transgender, and he’s on HRT now. I still say “he” because he’s not asked me to do any different. Still answers to the same name. So far, I haven’t gotten any overt flack for it. Actually, he hasn’t said much about what he means by “transgender,” other than that he doesn’t want body hair and wants me to go with him to some place to start laser hair removal. But he’s 25, so it’s not up to me to figure him out. My job is just to be supportive.

    I think there’s a generational thing here, too. When I was at the Philadelphia T-Health Conference, there were a lot of non-binary people in their 20’s or so. In my generation (I’m in my 60’s), not so much.

    Actually, I’m really non-binary myself. When I’m by myself, I don’t think of myself as male or female, just me. But I was AMAB and subject to the sort of gender-policing (or rather gender-brainwashing) that was the norm in the South (USA) in the 1950’s and 1960’s (and beyond), and I think that’s why anything I associate with masculinity or being male kind of repulses me. Once I was finally convinced that there was an alternative to passing as male, I went pretty hard in the opposite direction. I expect to fully transition, with most of the trimmings, not because I like I’m “really a woman” or anything, but because I’m tired by now of fighting and picking one binary gender and sticking with it just seems easier. But I wonder whether, if I’d grown up in a less gender-rigid place and time, I might have gone the same route CJ is going.

  24. Jon says:

    I think the reason for the confusion is that most people don’t understand the difference between gender identity and gender expression. Gender identity is how one identifies such as male, female, neither, or somewhere along the gender spectrum. Gender expression of how one chooses to express their gender or one self in their clothing, hair, cosmetics, shoes, etc. Both are firmly tied to the binary. If you challenge the binary with either gender identity and/or gender expression, everyone assumes you are transgender. There are those who are quite comfortable with their gender identity assigned at birth but not with the constraints of gender expression. CJ seems more gender EXPRESSION non-conforming (or gender expression fluid). (Personally, I never quite understood the term non-conforming since it gives credibility to conformity.) I applaud ANYONE who pushes the boundaries of gender expression. In the future, I hope we all are able to decide who we are (gender identity) and express ourselves as we choose.

    • mdaniels4 says:

      I agree with much of what you said. I too hope someday we can just let people be. To me there are no boy or girl toys, clothes, products or whatever delineated by gender. What I do see are toys, clothes products MARKETED to a specific gender. That this is done doesn’t surprise me. The fact that most people can’t see it for what it is is what bothers and concerns me. That they go off on rants about it as the takedown of society is truly amazing in its ridiculousness.

    • I think the dominant identity politics interpretations of gender expression vs gender identity have things the wrong way around.
      Self -Expression in areas culture interprets as gendered, generally says something about the self, not about gender. Gender identity is just the strategy or culturally available label we chose to permit our self expression. Self expression connects with things that are true about the self, but the identity strategy (whether “gender identity”or a fluid strategy, or a gender critical position ) just represents the kind of options available to us in our context. The labels and strategies people use can be quite interchangeable, and can shift over a lifetime. We shouldn’t put weight on these things, or turn tthm into a problem, especially regarding children. We need to stop deifying “gender identity” as if it were a core and unchanging part of a person. Yes some of the things gender frames ARE core things of ourselves , and the can be social friction when gender framed aspects of self don’t match the gender system assigned to your apparent sex. But this does not mean anything about the self is “misaligned”, just that gender systems themselves are arbitrary and fail to describe the contrasts and combinations within healthy people.

      Your term “their gender identity” is the problematic hidden assumption in your argument. People don’t all “identify” with gender, many are critical of or resistant to it (and some simply rendered powerless under its weight). People being shameless about their biological sex, or preferencing sex -framed descriptors for themselves aren’t necessarily “comfortable with their gender” , nor even comfortable with the concept of “their gender”. They have a relationship to gender (which is largely involuntary and may be resented), and accepting the thing which provokes gender assumptions (their biological sex) doesn’t in any way mean they accept gender imposition itself. Being a gender essentialist is natural for a concrete thinking small child (which is why so many gender non-conforming kids cross-identify), but it isn’t a natural or ideal state for growth . Most people are non binary, in the descriptive sense. Turning it into a label kind of misses the point (the the boxes are artificial).

      Gender as a power system is traditionally distributed by biological sex. That a fact of our current existence. Pretending it isn’t happening doesn’t help hold the power system to account, it just naturalises it. Which brings me to your point about non-conforming. Non-conforming as a descriptor (rather than label) simple recognises that there is a system of rules and you fall outside of them. The rules existing does not make them inevitable or good. If used in a descriptive rather than identity politics way “non-conforming” doesn’t assume everyone else is conforming. Feminism is non conforming, equal rights is non conforming, princess boys and beautiful fey men, and gorgeous butch women are all non conforming. Maybe most of us are non conforming. And resisting conforming to an arbitrary set of rules is something to be proud of. But no need to cetre it as a “gender identity” because the construct of “gender identity” is half the problem.

  25. oopster74 says:

    Transgender is an umbrella that encompasses so many different things under it. I’d personally put your son in the transgender camp, but that doesn’t automatically assume that one day he might transition. The people you mentioned in the above are transgender, but they are transsexual, some people want to get rid of “old fashioned” terms like that, but lumping everyone who’s gender variant under the same word meaning the same thing is just silly. You say you’re son is “gender creative”, you also say you’re son is a happy little boy who likes to wear a pink tutu every now and again, The important thing in that sentence is that you son is happy, and it doesn’t matter what anyone else thinks or says, and you’ll get people on both sides of the argument telling you what you should and shouldn’t do, when they only people who should be doing that are this little boys parents. He seems more clued up than I was at that age, and he’s got a wonderful supportive parent(s), and at his age, that’s all he needs.

    • amym440 says:

      I look at Transgender as academic fraud and a major violation of professional ethics and the law. The LGBT acronym nonsense is stripping people of their individual rights and doing them long term harm. True transsexuals don’t identify as trans anything. They identify as the man or woman they fought hard to become. Transgender activist hate them because most want nothing to do with either Transgender or the LGBT. Parents would be wise to get smart to Transgender as really a very inaccurate, sex discriminatory, and illegal human experimentation word you’ve been tricked into using.

      • mdaniels4 says:

        I don’t think that to be completely correct either. The word Trans is primarily used by the opinionated cis world to describe another who has more strongly expressed to be with the opposite gender than they were born with. . It’s an outside think looking in, not inside looking out perspective. To the individual involved of course they are complete, not Trans.

  26. cjchappell21 says:

    I randomly came across your site through a Huff Post article and I saw a link to your article ‘Gender Noncomformity: My Advice to Parents of Girly Boys’ and I feel in love INSTANTLY! We have very so many similarities and I finally feel like I have a place that I can come and learn and feel support. My son sounds identical to CJ and this whole time I thought he must be transgender. Of course, this is due to what you point out as the new binary: cisgender vs. transgender. Not understanding what gender nonconformity was, I thought he had to be placed in a neat little box that society prefers. Thank you for educating me and helping me to understand what the difference is. I love my son more that life and would do anything to help him feel comfortable expressing himself with who he feels he is. I’m still looking for support and would love to speak with you further if possible. Thank you for being a voice that I needed to hear.

    • jvoor says:

      I would recommend looking into the organization “Gender Spectrum” in LA, as they have lots of resources for parents of kids who are gender-creative and transgender. My blog jvoor.wordpress.com also has a lot of resources that might be helpful–including links to support groups, and to the group that Lori started called “rainbows at play” which connects families across the US who have gender-creative kids. I am not a parent, but would also be happy to talk with you.

  27. lsawyer713 says:

    Lori,
    It is all about HIS identity and in my humble opinion, you are not dishonor in that in anyway. From my transgender friends and in education it is all about what pronouns each person is comfortable with.
    Thank you for all you have shared with the world. I have followed your blog for a long time. I have not been shy about sharing your stories with my wife and 9 yr old. It’s important to educate in all kinds of normal!
    Thank you for helping me do that!

  28. Dane Wilkinson says:

    I grew up knowing that I was different. Long story short, I cam out as bisexual. From then I started to become a bit of an activist. I went to local LGBT social groups and helped to peer mentor. I became an LGBT Officer at my college. I started working with LGBT charities and became a decision-maker at my local pride. Since I came out, I did what I could to fight for the rights of the LGB community. But then I met more and more members of the trans community and learned the minefield that can come with it. With all the best intentions in the world, you can still massively offend a member of the LGBT community with one single word accidently out of place. I have been working with the LGBT community for a few years now and I still am willing to admit that I don’t know everything and that I can put my foot in it due to a lack of knowledge. Every week there seems to be a new turn of events within the LGBT community, and within the past couple of years this has been especially so for the trans community. So much is changing, some of the best, some not so much. So when I read something like this then I have mixed emotions. Is it somebody trying to make something out of nothing? Is it somebody who knows perfectly well that they fit into a category but they don’t like labels, or they don’t want to be associated with others who have the same descriptive. However, sometimes it really is something that causes food for thought. It is something that really does spark some interest. This is indeed one of the latter. When I know something, I will fight for it. I will fight for the rights of those who are bi like myself. I will fight for the rights of those who are lesbian or gay. I will fight for the rights of somebody who identifies as trans. This is what I am passionate about. However, I am no expert. I deal with each aspect of LGBT on a daily basis and learn something new every day. I offer advice to those who are LGBT and those who seek advice on the community. But I do not and will never know everything. This is a story that I will continue to look at and take as much as I can from. I have worked with so many LGBT, who question their sexuality, their sex, their sanity….but they all fit into a category. Transvestite, gay trans male, straight trans female, cisgendered….but this boy’s story is not one of them. My mind keeps trying to find a category. It is what people come to me for. I try to guide them, to help them find where they fit and to understand themselves. I would not say that he is transgender. He is happy with his born sex. All I could say would be transvestite. They are happy in their born sex, they enjoy having the possessions of the opposite sex and to be treat as the opposite sex however still keeping the descriptive of their born sex. Please educate me if this doesn’t fit. I’m always happy to learn more.

  29. Friend says:

    Ok, look…I’m sorry…you’ve gone WAY too far this time…
    Princesses and Superheroes would NEVER oppose each other. 😉
    (Excellent post, once again.)

  30. Jodie says:

    As always I am struck by the similarities in our sons and their journeys. I think if we were not on opposite coasts, our boys would be the best of friends.
    I’m encouraged by the huge progress society is making but agree that there is more to be made. Thanks for continuing to share your story.

  31. Stephanie Longden says:

    Hi Lori, I’m afraid I was one of those people who at first thought you were using the wrong pronouns. But I resisted the temptation to tell you so, perhaps I’m not arrogant enough to tell a loving and supportive mother that I know more than she does about her own son. CJ’s behaviour certainly made it seem that he was transsexual and as a transsexual myself I felt concern for him. I eagerly read your book and everything became clear. I was so glad I hadn’t written to you and added to your burden of defending CJ. I have loved reading about his gender nonconforming adventures and his loving and supportive family. You are all doing amazing work to bust the gender binary lie. You and your family are so strong and brave to support CJ in being who he is. There are millions of cowards who force their children to conform to the gender binary simply because they fear ridicule and oppression. It’s so sad that they do not love their own child enough to stand up for and by them. This is why it is remarkable that you and increasing numbers of families are supporting your children to be who they really are. I hope the rest of the world takes inspiration and throws off the chains to be free to be who they really are.

  32. Kate Kuvalanka says:

    Thank you for this (and for all the work you do on this topic)! Just shared via Facebook! 🙂

  33. K. L. Romo says:

    I volunteered at an LGBTQ outreach center the other day. I’m an active advocate for LQBTQ equality, but had never met transgender youth before. I must admit I was a little nervous because I wasn’t sure which pronouns to use, and was even uncomfortable to ask. It bothers me that I was uncomfortable but I was so nervous I wouldn’t be honoring their gender identity I just didn’t use any sort of pronoun. And of course that further removed me from connecting. Something I’m going to have to work on, and learn more about. Thanks for your post Lori!

    • K. L. Romo says:

      And actually I was also unsure if whether the kids were transgender or like CJ, just enjoying wearing girls’ clothing. I was totally unsure of how to handle the situation, and was terrified of offending.

    • mdaniels4 says:

      Personally I wouldn’t beat myself up too badly. In today’s world of nice people really trying to be culturally sensitive it can be somewhat difficult. If I’m speaking directly to a fluid person I’d generally have no need for specific pronouns. If I’m talking about them then I’d use the pronoun most closely identified with their current presentation. If they presented primarily female I’d use she, until corrected. And when corrected wouldn’t be embarrassed for the mistake. How was I supposed to know what the person was thinking inside? I could only go on the expression presented to me. After that I’d merely use the preferred pronoun and move on. I wouldn’t though be putting myself into a damned if you do, damned if you don’t position.

    • ettinacat says:

      In my experience in LGTB settings it’s completely fine to ask. I generally say “my pronouns are she/her, what are your pronouns?” (I’m cis female.)

  34. K. L. Romo says:

    Reblogged this on K. L. Romo and commented:
    Bust the binary!

  35. My son is very much like CJ. He is quite sure that he is a boy and that he is not transgender and that he prefers male pronouns. He has worn trousers to school exactly once since the academic year began in September, wearing a skirt or a dress every other day. He rarely wears trousers at home and has pink shoes and a pink coat, flowers and butterflies in his hair bands and so on.

    I think the problem you describe is that people like to put others into neat boxes. Accepting transgender people is relatively easy, because a transgender person is (frequently) completely gender-conforming. Accepting Caitlin Jenner as a woman is (relatively) easy because she says “I am a woman”. She fits into the neat “woman” box. Previously, we’d had her in the neat “man” box. Flipping her from one to the other is simply a recognition that we’d had her in the wrong box initially.

    Your CJ and my D do not comfortably fit into either box, which makes people uncomfortable because they are forced to admit that their entire system of classification is invalid. Cailtin, Jazz and Laverne are blips that do not really challenge the system, and can be accommodated by allowing for a person to switch boxes. People who refuse to sit in either box undermine the whole structure, and people don’t like having the structure undermined. Because it makes their lives easy. Few people enjoy the discovery that their worldview is incomplete and will usually challenge the world to conform to their view than accept that their view is wrong.

    And this, I think, is the challenge you describe here.

    Be well.

    EtF

  36. Such an interesting read. I am sharing this post on my FB page. India as a country is (in)tolerant to a lot of things. The issue of transgender is yet another. I just hope things get better for us (parents in general) and really soon!

  37. redmingum says:

    As a new binary transgender vrs cigender often redefine transgender to include gender non-conforming. I’d argue the problem with this is as a post modern critic of gender is often the basis it leaves a gap for those who define their gender clearly as male or female but who break the social constructions of gender. Where their is no confusion about gender only breaking of socially constrictive ideas of the right clothing, behaviour etc. Technically that would make your son cis gendered – they identify as the gender they were assigned at birth and if society changes what the rules of being a boy/man are then their is no problem from society at large.
    However for many Transgender is becoming something they are considered part of but don’t associate with, it’s a big think for many cross dressers that they are being labeled transgender for example.
    I prefer the term trans* which includes a greater variety of identities and bodies (iie it includes intersex persons). I have to say personally I identify as genderqueer and wouldn’t accept transgender but would trans*.
    The danger is that it becomes as rigid a system as the one it replaces leaving many new losers who don’t identify with the new labels and thus oppresses them. To some degree because it has failed to make itself clear about transgender being redefined to inculde a larger amount of persons. It is reminiscent of the gay movement post stonewall. Everyone is expected to fight for something that excludes many of the most vocal fighters.

  38. Bennett Schneider says:

    This is the real gift people who live in the middle* bring to broader humanity. As Harry Hay always said, the alternate and open ways of behaving of gay (and gender non-conforming) people open the door for everyone to consider other ways of operating. Like artists offer the opportunity to transcend normative thought, the middle people by our mere appearance and behavior in their midst suggest an open minded approach. It is an honored position now asking for respect in a society that has long forgotten its value. I am joyful about its natural return.

    *(queer or two spirit or non-normative, or creative, or gender non-conforming, or many other appellations)

  39. Robin says:

    You are so right. I have a trans daughter and I found you first Shen she was first transitioning. And I found a parent group of trans kids abs they were mad at you and I was confused. Because I got the “spectrum” thing right away. And my daughter when I opened the door chose to walk all the way through. But I remember commenting to my husband that your son wasn’t exactly trans. He was just very free and fluid. And how beautiful that is. As adults and parents we love our children with all our hearts but it confuses us when there is no road (let alone a road map) and we are in the all terrain vehicle of life. At any rate kudos to you. You are amazing and your son at the very least has already changed our lives for the better just by sharing your story. I’m sure we are not the only ones.

  40. Isabelle says:

    Yes!!!! This rings very true to our experience! Thanks for writing this!

  41. NH says:

    I am sitting here in tears… How have I just now found your site?! I have even heard the name before at some point, but I guess it didn’t click somehow.

    I am a single mom, raising a boy much like C.J. who also has a supportive older brother. I have struggled to understand (while supporting) my son and his future. He maintains that he is a boy, yet he loves to wear “girl’s” clothing and often prefers toys of the same category.

    Will he be transgender, a drag queen, etc.? I am a planner…. I am ok with any option he chooses. I just needed to know what it was, so I knew how to prepare those around him. Gender non-conforming satisfies that need completely! Thank you.

    I needed a label for family… Family who already doesn’t understand his allergies and sensory processing disorder… Things that are far more concrete even.

  42. Brandy says:

    I agree. My son loves both Disney princesses and the marvel characters. Why can’t he like both!

  43. Charlie says:

    This is the catastrophe of listening to psychologists. They have no historical background. There is no binary whatsoever going on. There is nothing in male or female nature that automatically causes the person to wish to dress a certain way. It’s upbringing, and people ignorantly attribute boys wanting “female” attire to a “binary” condition. Nonsense. Not so long ago, women coast to coast were banned from museums, theaters, restaurants, hotels, resorts, cruise ships, churches, schools and social occasions unless they wore skirts and dresses. However by the late 1960’s widespread acknowledgement was achieved that there were no recognized sex differences in apparel that would be allowed to restrict women, even if couched in pathetic psychological jargon. We have yet to realize as a culture that both genders should be raised with their OWN choices in clothes—not those their parents impose on them. Have any of you had a LOOK at what the King of England was wearing in 1611 when the King James Bible was finalized? I doubt it. Get yourself some historical background and stop sex typing apparel besides bras and athletic supporters. I see so much ignorance prevailing I’ll consider it a miracle if this post is allowed to stand. Style preference must be placed on an entirely personal basis and not regimented as to gender. We’ve been doing it for women for several generations. Time to include men also. Stop raving about a binary that in fact, does not exist. You’re attributing something to biology (pants and plain clothing) on men that was caused by a conflux of social forces, about which psychologists have no education whatsoever.

    • mdaniels4 says:

      Sorry. But psychology did not categorize human sexuality as binary as the day all to be all, firmly casting that into cultural stone. In the beginning of psychological examination in the 1880s they took what they had, plus strict social order and tried to explain the why of what they considered deviant (from the norm) behavior. Which in general biologists never went past the obvious either, just the binary. Other cultures took the same biology but did allow for alternate behaviors without questioning further on why. They also had no tools to do so even if they wanted to.

      Psychology did however come up with descriptions of these deviant behaviors so they could identify the social problems these folks had and develop theories of treatment to alleviate the social failings and distress. Much like medicine trying to alleviate physical distress without being able to understand viruses or why a disease was presentpresent, vs for example witchcraft.

      Over time of course, scientific tools and education allowed a different view to be considered, which when uncovered affected psychological thought to change. Which is why now gender dysphoria is NOT a psychological deviance, but is a means to aid the individual in understanding themselves and seek medical treatment if so desired. If not wanted, then a treatment of psychological acceptance and ways of coping with others can be started to alleviate the social problems the individual might experience.

  44. bestpi says:

    I think since people think linear that they tend to forget or fail to understand there are any other possibilities. If anything it needs to be a trinary. Cis / non-conforming /trans
    But that still doesn’t reflect the diversity in the possibilities. People also still consider sex and sexuality to be the same thing. In the same way that many think that one can not be gay unless they are sexually active. They don’t realize that being gay or lesbian has nothing to do with sex until it does. And that is generally long after self awareness and identification occur.

    In short, we have just begun to fight and to relearn. So we teach our kids and wait for them to grow up and change society by becoming it. We just have to try and educate them of old ways and how they were incorrect and how it should be. THIS is how the government changes society. If you doubt that look at smoking. They taught the kids and waited for them to grow and become the consensus. Don’t give up. Your youngster will be an educator.

    PS I hope you will post the article here in its entirety. Many, like myself, have turned away from Huffpost because of their arbitrary name change to “queer” instead of “Gay” voices. A highly derogatory term to most of us. A term that by definition means not normal or unnatural.

    • mdaniels4 says:

      I agree on huff posturing derogatory with the queer business. It’s a different normal but certainly not queer. Interesting but not queer.

      • bestpi says:

        Thank you. I think the most infuriating part is they didn’t poll the readers to get the opinion of those who read there. I think it was a very poor business decision. THIS article is the first time I have been back since they did it. It’s a shame too, I really enjoyed the site and their collection of writers. I just can’t abide being slandered by my own. I think that hurts worse then the bigots who used to sling it at me. So it’s purely a principal that will keep me away. But away it will be. Thank you again.

    • The full post is now published above. 😉

    • Bennett Schneider says:

      I agree with bespi that HuffPo should have polled readers about the new name. I also support anyone’s right to not be called Queer if they do not identify with it. But I want to tell you that a large number of us in the LGBT community definitely love the term and go by it with joy and relish. Like the Pink Triangle was turned into a badge of independence and pride, the term queer is no longer an insult to a huge portion of our community and rather has come to stand for how we are unique and out of the norm, qualities which we cherish. It is because we occupy the liminal spaces that we were traditionally assigned spiritual functions in ancient society. The position of the weird, the other, the queer is an honored archetype we embrace fully. But, as you say, iit may not suit everyone. We must speak for our selves and ask others to respect our self determination, as CJ’s mom says.

      • bestpi says:

        I can appreciate you thoughts on this. Mine is a generation who could never be who we really were. Most of us hammered ourselves into a straight life while fighting in the shadows for the LGBTQ community’s future with money, social media, writing and the ballot box. This, to us, is like the ones we’ve helped to set free, using that to wipe their feet on us too. And it’s a slap and a step backwards. If our goal is to someday have LGBTQ seen as completely normal, then that will not happen if we are using language that affirms to the bigots of the world that we ourselves think that we are unnatural or not normal. Words mean things. And this is not a step forward for our kids futures. Claiming to be weird or unique is normal. Being Queer by definition is anything but flattering or helpful to the cause.

        I’m gay. That means I am happy to be uniquely me. I am not queer because I am not unnatural and I AM normal.

        Just my thoughts

  45. Whitney says:

    I have felt the tug of cisgender vs transgender, too. I have been put in situations where…. The others were trying to make me feel bad about being born with the gender I fully identify with. I have worked with and lived with transitioning folk, folk like CJ, folk like myself, yet, no matter how much of an ally I am, no matter how much I love, respect and support my friends and family in all gender and sexual identity spectrums, I feel more and more that I should be ashamed for being born with the body I desire. Gender, anatomy, skin colour, and sexual orientation, I am COMFORTABLE with all of it pertaining to me and what I was born with, but I am not fitting into distinct boxes, and my society wants me to be in these clean-cut categories that in reality, never are a complete fit. I feel the pressure, and I feel the awkwardness. I support CJ and Chase and your family. Thank you for always being so open and being the best parent, friend, spouse, sister, daughter, and lover you know how to be.

  46. julie42a says:

    Your comments about your son liking girly things but also liking the fact that he’s a boy made me think of Eddie Izzard, in his first HBO special talking about being both an “executive transvestite” and an “action transvestite”. I know that the term transvestite fallen out of favor, but that comedy show had a lot of truth in it.

  47. mdaniels4 says:

    And what is even more disconcerting and even maddening is the fervor and vehemence these people cling to their nonsense. You try to discuss this rationally and logically but there will be none of that returned. Many responses derogatorially question my sexuality and crudely are so sure of the activities they’re sure I would love to engage in. The women are just as bad as the men. Disheartening at best. But I keep trucking on, supporting those few that do get this so they know they’re not alone in being aware

    • You’re definitely not alone. There are many of us gender critical people out there and our numbers are increasing as far as I can tell because more and more, we’re recognizing the rigidity of gender roles as entrenched by the theory of gender identity. Just recently a transwoman who won the national transgender beauty pageant in the UK was stripped of her title because the event organizer saw a photo of her wearing boxer shorts and a t-shirt! The reason provided? The underwear that transwomen wear is very important because “it makes us feel like we are finally a woman” (source: https://t.co/9Pbk2WfIFg). Not to be flippant, but I’m a woman and today I’m wearing boxer briefs and running shoes. What significance does that have? None. Women aren’t any less ‘womanly’ when we don’t wear make-up or present in other stereotypically feminine ways. I thought we were making progress. Clearly we’ve regressed. We need to find a way to accord everyone respect and rights without slapping a new label on sexism and selling it to the public as liberatory. Maybe for some people it feels that way but it does nothing but perpetuate sex-based structures of power. We have to do better.

      • oopster74 says:

        I heard a slightly different reporting of this story. They’re alleged to have said she was a drag queen rather than trans, but I’d like to take a look at those rules and entry requirements. No one who’s commented on it has been happy with what’s happened, but it’s not been widely reported, so getting to the truth of the story will be a little tricky.

  48. mdaniels4 says:

    Great basic point Lori. I support this view so many times on article comments. But man it does seem like an uphill battle. Forgive me. I’m preaching to the choir here. The seems to be just so much rigidity of what boys/men can do, especially around clothes. Its really weird. The claims by both men and women are that boys are boys because and if you want a girl you should have another child. Totally not girls. Like God made them to be. So newly minted human pops out a boy, and the clouds part and a God voice reverberates through the universe, “I have given you a son, and he shall wear pants!” I totally am not getting this. The world’s didn’t explode in apocalyptic flames when girls started wearing trousers so why in the world would one expect it to happen when the reverse occurs. Of course part of it is the 2nd class status still of women. And that women accept this because they get other privilege as a result of that attitude not realizing what more important things they’re giving up on because of it. But I suspect they don’t think they can get that stuff anyway so they take what they can and hence support the status quo.

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