Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Clothing: What WEARS Us

First Example: Sunday morning two of my nieces and their daughters picked me up to participate in the Michigan Kidney Foundation's annual Detroit Zoo Walk. I'm all of a hop, skip and a jump from the Detroit Zoo. We arrive, park then walk towards the Zoo "in" gates. As we're  walking, Rachel (age 7) says to me, loud enough for the other kids to over hear "aunt Lynn, Madison (age 6) was talking about you and called you a "he". Madison embarrassed grabs my hand and arm and says in her defense "I know you're a girl, but you where boy clothes so I get mixed up sometimes. If you start wearing girl clothes I wouldnt ever mess up".

Second Example: Later that day after we're through with our Kidney money raising duties, my nieces drop me back off, but all come in for a quick visit and to let the kids use the bathroom before they head back home. Rachel brings up to Madison that I have a Petville pet cat online and of course Madison wants to see the thing, so I log on and go to Petville. I show Madison the various rooms to my Pets house, then Rachel who is one of my neighbors wants me to visit her so Madison can see her Pet's home. I tell them I have a Petville pet for our dead aunt Terry too (dont ask-and no I am no longer bitter because she's dead and has more friends than I). At any rate, Madison then wants to see Terry's pet and home. Before I even visit Terry, Madison says to me "aunt Terry is a girl", which she says seemingly to remind me. I visit Terry and once Terry and her house emerge Madison says "AWWW" at how I have Terry dressed (pink blouse/white skirt/pink shoes). Madison then wants to see Terry's bedroom, I go to the bedroom, Madison looks it over, sees the pink and white wall paper, the baby pink heart shaped bed, the matching pink night stands along with various stuffed animals placed around the room then looks from the computer to me and says approvingly "aunt Lynn you did so good"! And by "good" she clearly meant all the externals; clothes/colours etc. were in her already conditioned young mind gender appropriate for the spoon fed notions of what a female should look like.

In a less gender ignorant world it would be easy to pass Madison's cut and dry restrictive notions of gender as merely coming from the mind of a child, but sadly we do not live in such a world. The very criteria Madison was using to reprimand and reward me regarding gender appropriateness is in fact the very same criteria the medical professionals are using and implementing to determine if a child (as well as adults) is "transgendered" currently, but more succinctly in the latest version of the DSM (2013). In other words a five year old child could diagnose "transgenderism" with the same precision and accuracy as the adult professionals!

When we're too young to understand we struggle to no avail trying to fit square pegs into round holes and visa versa. But fortunately we have adult hands guiding our tiny hands; square/square-round/round, insisting, instilling in us the square peg belongs only in the square hole, the round peg into the round hole. This is a universal truth except for where gender is concerned, then by all means if a hatchet must be employed, hack, hack and hack some more until by golly that square fucking peg fits bloodily perhaps but oh so neatly now into that round hole!

What kind of world are we living when a five year old is as qualified as the fucking professionals to position a hatchet in the hands of the medical community and a healthy body on the butcher's block? How much flesh, bone and blood will be shed before the gender hatchet used to carve people like Thanksgiving turkeys into consumables that fit squarely into prefigured gender rounds is finally "dulled to a halt"?



  1. let's get the labryises out and do our OWN chopping..of those that shame us(meaning the menz, the psychiatrists and the doctors).

    Sorry to hear niece had a hard time 'getting' me too, when she was age 8, saying I was "weird weird" because I was a Lesbian and Butch, as she was taking Catholic catechism classes(something like that then) she's probably gonna come out as one herself...being she's been in gay/straight alliance and rebelled against the Catholic indoctrination of earlier years..or maybe not....since it's o.k. to be 'queer' and never declare. I just hope to Goddess she never wants to transition!

  2. It's funny - I've never fit neatly into the "man/woman" category - I prefer men's clothes - they fit better, look better and are made better (why they are that way is another story).

    I see myself as a woman 100% - we all have qualities that are neither/nor and find all this queer bullshit very limiting. I more "queer" because I am a woman but buck the patriarchy instead of caving to look exactly like everyone else.

    Post-modernist "Queerness" comes down to more rules, more terms, more definitions of who I can be and who I can't. Even terms of address are now being defined by the language police - to "hir/zir", woe be to all the lesser beings who were not fortunate enough to sit around reading queer theory on someone else's dime.

  3. I'm not exactly shocked that so many children have naive views of female and male.

    I didn't know what the differences were at that age, although I knew that the bodies are different, and I knew that the different clothing, expectations, etc. were arbitrary.

    I AM worried by the fact that the psychs trying to decide who is transsexual and who isn't have naive views of female and male.

    One of my friends, a femme, has internalized a lot of shame about her gender. It's certainly not transsexualism, but it is some other kind of gender issue. I keep wanting to know what I can do for her: she knows she is a woman, but she alternates between happiness and shame about it. My understanding of gender is enough for my life, but it really doesn't help me help her to take pride in her womanhood.