Gender Benders

I saw two cute kids this week. Two girls. Or maybe boys. Or one of each? I’m not sure! So the question on my mind now, which I’m sharing with you, is: Does it matter?

Kid Specimen #1: I’m in the elevator going to work. A woman gets on with her little girl, who looks to be about five years old. The pony-tailed child has on shorts, sneakers and socks. She’s sure not shy, says “hello!” to me in a very confident voice, with a wide smile to match. I respond in kind. She repeats this, and so do I. I’m tempted to say something to the mom, something complimentary about her cute little girl, as I usually do in my elevator building – we’re all kind of friendly even though we don’t necessarily know each other – but I’m stuck… for a pronoun. I can’t say, “She’s so cute,” or “How old is she?” or “What’s her name” or any such thing, because as I’ve been looking at her, “she” morphs into a “he”…and back again… and then back again. Y’see, “her” (I’ll stick with “her” for expediency) clothes looked distinctly masculine. Dark-coloured shirt buttoning on the “guy” side; dark-coloured shorts with a zillion pockets, like the ones little boys wear; navy socks and black shoes. Dark, heavy clothing, in other words, that we tend to associate with masculinity. So I thought to myself, “Hmm, could be a cute little… boy. But ‘he’ has a pony tail, which looks girly on ‘him.’” So I shut up and just smiled and waved at the little gender-nonspecific child as they got off the elevator a floor before me.

Kid Specimen #2: Today. I’m walking to my car after work. Half a block away I see a high-school girl, wearing the local high school’s uniform of white blouse and plaid skirt, black socks and shoes, crossing the street. Her skirt is very short, scandalously so, I think! Doesn’t leave much to the imag- Wait a sec, hold on. As I get closer, I notice her hair is cut and styled like a boy’s. Short. Very short. Extremely short hair along with extremely short skirt? Does. Not. Compute. So now I’m thinking, maybe she is a he, and maybe his lenient, progressive school lets him wear a skirt. Or: maybe he’s a she, and just likes short hair. Or wants to be a boy. Who knows? Maybe he or she cut his hair in sympathy with someone who has cancer. And then I’m thinking…

Does it matter? Does it really? Why should a kid (or anyone of any age, for that matter) have to be pigeon-holed into one gender or another? Just so we’re sure of what pronoun to use, when addressing the parent? So we know which side of the divide to peg the kid for his/her whole future? Whose business is it, anyway?

This all reminds me of a synopsis I wrote years ago for a sci-fi film, featuring a gender-free society of the future, in which the fascist (aren’t they all) government fights determined ‘backward’ subversives who try to buck the system.

Hmm… maybe I would be one of those subversives…

7 thoughts on “Gender Benders

  1. Oh for sure. Sounds kinda stilted, though… so… formal? But that’s beside the point, which was *does gender classification matter*? If so, why? And if not, why not? And to whom, exactly? Discuss among yourselves. 😉


  2. I usually say something like “cute kid” and wait for the parent or caregiver to respond. Or, I say “What’s your name?” and hope for a clue, though I think there’s a trend toward unisex names (e.g. “Dresden,” “Madison,” and so on). Also, I’d love to see your sci-fi film. I’m not a fan of strict gender roles either! I say this as the former advisor (I’m retired) of my school’s “Women’s Issues Club,” which had both male and female members who volunteered at a shelter for survivors of domestic abuse and sex trafficking, raised money for breast cancer research, investigated sex discrimination and gender stereotypes, and so forth. It was a wonderful group! We had many interesting conversations about when gender does and does not matter (including pronouns!).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha, right, today’s trendy genderless names don’t help, eh? Re “my” sci-fi film – unfortunately I never pursued it beyond the lengthy synopsis. Actually the first 2/3 of what I wrote is background/setup; the last third reads like the last ‘act’ of a thriller screenplay, I must say! I must dig it up, now that we mention it! I wrote it years ago, I wonder if it still holds up…

      Your school’s club sounds fantastic!!! How wonderful; way beyond just discussion, though that’s great too, but all the great work you did outside of that, wow!!! Kudos to you!!


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