Saturday, February 22, 2014

It Is Hard Not To See This As Child Abuse

An article over at Mommyish:
When I got pregnant, my partner and I knew we wanted to be thoughtful about the ways we helped our kids construct their gender and the way they viewed gender in general. Whatever sex our baby was born, we had every intentions of gender-bending the hell out of it.
Yeah, great idea.  Many years ago, my wife and I attended a class on identifying child sexual abuse in Southern California.  Over lunch, we talked with a woman whose husband was raised by a woman who really had wanted a daughter.  So when her son was growing up, she dressed her son in girl's clothes, bought him girl toys (like Barbies), and painted his nails.  Dad was a macho Marine, and had no idea why hsi son was such a little pansy.  (I think he was away a lot of deployments.)

Now, her husband had decided that he really would be more comfortable as a woman.  His pastor, of course, thought that this was a good idea. 

Gee, do you think the mother's gender-bending might have done him some harm?


  1. Almost certainly.

    My hope is that if he went to a competent counselor, and reported his life history, the counselor would see that he was messed with, and is not genuinely transgendered, and help him straighten out.

    (My view on this is that there is hysteresis - a very small number of people have to do this, and they really should do it, but everyone else really shouldn't.)

  2. "Gee, do you think the mother's gender-bending might have done him some harm?"

    What of the reverse, which is WAY more common than your anecdote?

    What of the naturally gender non-conforming child of parents who think it their duty instill tradition gender conforming norms into their child and shame and humiliate him or her for not conforming during their developmental period.

    Isn't that also child abuse?

  3. What is a "gender non-conforming child"? A boy that likes art? A boy that likes to play with dolls? A girl that used to be called a "tomboy"? When I was growing up, these were all common, and the culture in which I grew up accepted that not every child fit into the stereotyped gender roles. (Practically no one fits perfectly into any stereotype, unless they are trying very hard to do so.)

    I am not sure that many boys or girls actually fit those stereotyped gender roles that perfectly when I was growing up. There were girls I went to school with who wanted to be engineers when they grew up, did not go for frilly, girly stuff, but were still straight. No one seemed to be bothered by that. Where I live now, my son had friends that wanted to be actors when they grew up, and were not traditionally masculine sorts. But they were still straight. It did not seem to cause any family conflict that I could see.

  4. An artistic boy who naturally likes to play with dolls as opposed to smash toy dump trucks is indeed a statistical deviation. But it's more common than a similarly situated boy who gets "dressed" by his mother "in girl's clothes" who "paint[s] his nails."

    The question is, when confronted with such a gender non-conforming child, what to do about it?

    The personal libertarian approach is to let it be. A strong majority of your sons will naturally gender conform, that is, smash dump trucks. A minority will not. There are plenty of parents committed to traditional gender norms who won't let the naturally feminine boy be and will attempt to emotionally pressure him to conform to traditional gender standards. There are far more of these than the mothers who dress their otherwise normal boy children in dresses.

  5. There must be parents committed to stereotyped traditional gender norms, but I have yet to see a family so committed to it that they would let it determine how they raised their kids, unless it was way off the norms, like the little boy who wants to wear dresses.

  6. There have been plenty of parents who have sent their gender non-conforming children to gay conversion therapy. California even passed a law (big surprise) to prohibit such therapy. I generally believe that life isn't fair. Not every child has parents who monitor how much television they watch, ask whether they are using illegal drugs, encourage them to excel, etc. Some parents are better than others. At what point do you want the state stepping in? With freedom comes choice, including the right to choose poorly. And, yes, I pity the child.

  7. "The question is, when confronted with such a gender non-conforming child, what to do about it?,

    That was not the question in the article, though. In the article, the mother was going through gender contortions at the moment of birth, even before birth in fact. And she was holding up her mothering as something to emulate.

  8. asdf: Thank you. I don't know anyone that would regard it as okay or sensible to try to force their thoughtful and artistic son, or their tomboyish daughter, into a false macho boy or lace and satin little girl. But this sicko from before birth was intent on using her child as a pawn in a culture war.

  9. I wonder if someone who actually recognizes innate gender differences ever initiated a study to determine if those differences stay intact in transgenders. I suspect that they do, that any identification with the opposite gender translates into a parody of the opposite gender, and that (using males as example) adult male transgenders are more like juvenile males than they are like adult women.