Talking Gender Identity With Neva
Gender stereotypes are all around us. No matter how hard we try to not push them onto our children, society finds a way to get the job done regardless. When Neva was born we tried hard not to present her with only gender specific toys. As she grew it became obvious that her tastes gravitated towards traditionally girly items. Princesses, dolls, unicorns etc. Much to Joe’s dismay, the more glitter the better. Over the last year Neva became more interested in putting things into boy and girl categories. She would say things like, “that’s for boys" “or that’s a girls toy”. On a daily basis it seemed like I was explaining to her that there is no such thing as a toy for just boys or girls, that everyone likes different things.
A few weeks ago when I was driving, Neva saw a man with long hair and the following exchange ensued:
Neva: That boy has hair like a girl.
Me: Why do you say that?
Neva: Because it’s long and boys don’t have long hair.
Me: Some boys have long hair just like some girls have short hair.
Neva: But boys don’t paint their nails, that’s just for girls.
Me: Well some boys do and some don’t.
I went on to remind her of her Uncle Fran. Fran is my best friend from high school and just happens to be a fabulous Drag Queen in San Francisco. I pulled up a picture of Fran dressed as Miss Belle Bottoms. When Neva saw the photo her jaw dropped and she exclaimed “wow she is really pretty!”
I explained to her that some boys wear makeup or paint their nails just like some girls don’t wear makeup and don’t paint their nails. Every boy and girl is different and likes different things. Something in her sweet little mind clicked that day and I’m happy to say it’s been 3 weeks and she hasn’t mentioned something as being only “for a girl.”
It may be hard to know where to start the conversations with your own kids so I thought I’d share some children’s books that we love to open the discussion more.
I believe that letting kids be who they want to be and like the things they like will lead to a happier and more fulfilled life.