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Friday, May 22, 2009

Pet peeve

One of my biggest pet peeves as the parent of a gender fluid child is the well meaning, very femme group of moms who kindly reassure me that Anneke will "grow out" of her Tom-boy phase. The conversation often goes something like this.

"So Anneke, doesn't ever wear dresses?"
"Nope," I reply "ever since she could rip it off her body she has boycotted dresses."
"Such a Tom-boy. I was like that as a kid, played with boys; didn't like dresses but don't worry she'll grow out of it." says the couture corporate mom as she checks her hair in the daycare mirror.
Up until a few years ago my reply was, "We'll see."
Now I say, "I certainly hope not. She is amazing just the way she is."

One of the most offensive questions I've gotten has been "Aren't you worried she might grow up to be a lesbian?"
I remember replying, "I hope she does. Men can be a lot of work." You homophobic b*#@#!

That last part is what I wish I'd said.

The reality seems to be, kids are quite accepting. At her daycare in Toronto the kids who knew her from toddlerhood just accepted that that's the way s/he is. It was the parents who felt the need to probe and console me, that eventually she would conform and be 'normal' like the rest of us.

When Anneke would overhear some of these conversations I'd let her know that I hoped she would never change just to fit in with the other kids. "Those other girls are boring," I'd say "just look at them, they dress alike, talk alike and play the same things all the time... you are much more interesting. It is much better to be different that be like everyone else."
"I guess so," Anneke would reply with a serious face. Her sad face often broke my heart.

I am happy, however, to report to all those moms that in her 12+ years of life, s/he shows no signs of "growing out" of her gender-fluid ways.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Molly

This is Molly. Anneke's little sister. Up until she entered our lives I was under a bit of a delusion that my cool, feminist mom'ness contributed to raising a tough, butch, non-girly girl. I was deeply proud of this fact and often took credit for having such a unique little girl. I have hairy legs, don't wear make-up, never bought Barbie's and steered clear of most things pink. Well Molly has taught me that I have nothing to do with it. It is clearly nature, not nurture.

Much to her sister's horror, Molly is a princess. If she could cover herself in sparkles and dress like a drag queen every day she would. She is my mother incarnated - anyone who has met my mother will understand.

Despite the four and a half year age difference and the clear differences in gender identity, they love eachother deeply. We moved a couple years ago so that each kid could have their own bedroom. Within two nights they were moving furnature so that they could sleep in the same room, often in the same bed. Anneke even tollerates the pink room to be with her sister. She has covered her side of the room with posters of Sidney Crosby, Mats Sundin and numerous Sports Illustrated cut-outs.

Last September when Anneke and I returned from the Gender Spectrum Families Conference (www.genderspectrumfamily.org) we both learned how important siblings are to the journey of a transgendered child. Anneke came home and asked Molly how she would feel if s/he decided to transition from female to male. Molly just shrugged, and said "It would be fine. You're already a boy - you're just Anneke." We laughed as a family. To Molly it was simple. She spoke of pure acceptance and love. Nothing to her would really change. It was a short conversation. "Can I finish watching Hannah Montanna now?"
"Sure." I said.
Molly is a gift to us all.

Anneke's Birth

I love to tell the story of Anneke’s birth, and as a midwife I tell it often. I had an uneventful planned pregnancy. Unlike many pregnant women I chose not to have any genetic screening or an ultrasound. “Don’t you want to know if it’s a boy or a girl?” everyone would ask. No, I’d always reply. As I often say even today, life doesn’t give us too many pleasant surprises, this would be one of them.

As any expectant parent knows, however, this is a choice that comes with challenges. Finding “gender neutral” baby clothes is not easy. The indoctrination of gender starts at birth. We had a wardrobe of green, yellow, purple and cream. We lived in a one bedroom apartment at the time so “decorating the nursery” really wasn’t on our radar.

I went into early labour on Tuesday and by Wednesday evening, I called my midwife insisting she help me get things going or stop, so I could get some sleep. I had planned a homebirth, and wanted to avoid any intervention that would bring me to the hospital – unless necessary of course. My midwife brought over an herbal labour tincture which rocked me into active labour my midnight Wednesday.

I thought I’d be one of those stoic labouring women, rocking, and moaning with the rhythm of my body. I thought I’d relish in massage, touch and words of encouragement. I was loud, borderline rude to all my helpers (especially my partner) and no one could touch me. In the bath I remember my doula saying ‘that contraction is gone, just breathe and think about your baby.” My head spun around like a scene from the Exorcist and I barked, “I don’t care about my baby! Just make this stop.” I was in transition.

By 7:30am Thursday I was ready to push. My partner supported me from behind as I squatted on the birth stool. I used to re-enact this scene with A. when she was a toddler, and she would laugh and giggle as I acted it out. I pushed, and pushed, and pushed and out came my beautiful baby.

The midwives quickly wrapped her and Ben and I gazed at this amazing bright eyed creature before us. We kept saying “look at you! You’re here.” There was a quiet hush in the room as we greeted our new baby. No one, except us, uttered a word. Finally, about 5 minutes later, as we were waiting for my placenta to birth, the back-up midwife quietly asked “Is it a boy or a girl?” Oh my goodness, all this time wondering, waiting and guessing, and we didn’t think to look! It occurred to me at that moment that it really didn’t matter. My baby was beautiful and the love I felt was overwhelming. How inconsequential this piece of information was and yet given such importance. We gently unwrapped the blanket and looked. “It’s a girl” we announced, “its Anneke.”
And so began our journey 12+ years ago….