are we better with the gender stuff? - Mothering Forums

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Old 10-21-2005, 06:24 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I just have to vent :LOL . Everytime I read something to the effect of "oh I can't put that (supposedly girly) diaper on my little boy, my husband won't let me" I want to just :Puke I was hoping to never have to use that smiley, but it just makes me so . First of all, just the "my husband won't let me" makes me ill, and second, even if you're a freak about gender IT'S A DIAPER, PEOPLE! :

Also my dw is genderqueer, so it's especially near and dear to me, this issue.

Research says that supposedly, on average, queer parents are more flexible with the gender stuff. i.e. we don't have a heart attack if our kid wants to be a little gender-bending. How do you deal with this as a parent? Do you find you're more flexible than your straight peers? My own experience working with gay parents has also shown that for some internalized homophobia leads them to stress even more about gender - i.e. "if we let our son wear a dress what will people think?!? That we're trying to make him gay?!?"

Am I the only one so bothered by this stuff?
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Old 10-21-2005, 09:18 PM
 
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hi! i'm new to the board. my wife is due in January with our 1st and we found out she is a girl. my internalized homophobia breathed a huge sigh of relief when we found out the baby is female. although i am comfortable with the idea of raising a male, and hope to one day have a son , i *know* that we will have an easier time with my conservative in-laws raising a daughter. When we told them we were having kids my BIL didn't congratulate us, he asked us what we were gonna do when our son wanted to join the boy scouts...

i have a lot of queer friends with kids and only know two or three straight families well enough to get a sense of how they treat gender. within the queer families i know there is a huge range of comfort with how their kids display gender. one couple lets their little boy flit around in fairy wings and a tutu (he is 3 and very entertaining!) another couple would freak out if their son, a very sterotypically "boyish" kid, did that. the straight families seem to be less aware of it, as if they didn't have to worry about what the rest of the world thinks about their kids' gender displays. i think it's true that some queer parents might be more worried about criticism from the straight world regarding gender display and the perception that we're "turning our kids gay."

however, one thing I've come to notice is that just because you are lesbian/gay/bi doesn't mean you are necessarily gender savvy. I know plenty of lesbian/gay/bi identified people who don't understand, aren't comfortable with, and don't tolerate behaviors and displays outside of our gender norms. Campy? Totally OK. Butchy? Great.
But genderqueer/genderblending/transgender? Well...that's different...
I heard a lesbian describe herself as "transfriendly" and then use the term "he-she" to describe a trans man... So, I think lesbian, gay and bisexual people are more aware of gender, especially since our lives tend to fall outside of the het norm of gender, but it doesn't mean we understand it or are more open to different displays of gender.

oh yes- and i hate when anyone says "so-and-so won't let me_______" or "you made me___________" no one MAKES you do anything.....


e

Used to be stay at home parent to our two lovely girls, survived nursing school with family intact, about to graduate and looking for a job! I low-supply nursed my bio daughter for 3 years. 

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Old 10-21-2005, 10:00 PM
 
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lunadoula, what a great question.
i know right now i am open to a lot of stuff, and thought it was great that my bestfriend (who's heterosexual & married) put her son in a wrap-around skirt one day when he had a accident at her mother's place. we then went shopping with him in it, and he was totally comfortable, and so were most around us. i know she had a bit of difficulty, seeminly over-explaining to people what happened but also saying, 'i'm ok with him wearing a skirt'.
i think allowing kids to explore and wear whatever they want is great and safe for them, and creating an open/supportive environment for them to do that is so important.
anyways, i am intrigued to know how i will react with my own kids, when that happens.
i know my ideas about gender are very open. my partner usually uses female pronouns, but is questionning FTM stuff, and the fluidity of gender, sexuality, etc is fully acknowledged by us.
but i also soooo understand people being concerned about what others think, especially in areas (of the world) that aren't so accepting of queers raising kids, and having the fear that somehow your kids will get taken from you. This is important stuff!
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Old 10-22-2005, 02:23 AM
 
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I think it is a toss up if we are "better" at it. Some of the gay couples I know definitely are pretty boxed in, some of the straight couples I know appear to be my dream definition of how to raise non gender biased kids.

When I was pregnant, my best friend said, "oh, I know just what to get you if you have a girl. We saw these great combat boots for kids, and I think your daughter could pull it off." My thought, I am ashamed to say, was, hmmm, I don't know if two lesbian moms raising a girl in the south can put her in combats. Like the previous poster said, I DO worry about the powers that be in this fair state of mine, denying gays the right to even foster kids, considering REMOVING children from adoptive homes that were placed in a gay family. It feels like the next step might be to remove bio kids from homes. I am admittedly neurotic.

That being said, now that I have a child, I think I would have let her wear the boots. I have a son, he has a kitchen set up that he loves, he has a dress up box that he has fun with, and I would not hesitate if he should ask to wear some of his pretty stuff out on an errand. But I might look over my shoulders a couple of more times than I would like to. But I am determined to not let my neurosis not affect my child's ability and safe space to explore.

And, I hate to say this, but what is genderqueer? I would venture a guess, but I would rather be well informed.
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Old 10-22-2005, 02:35 AM
 
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Actually,
Having a dd has made me aware of how boxed in the world can be for little boys. My Siblings & I were pretty savvy about Gender issues and letting kids be kids, but the more conventional familes that I know can sometimes be sooo concerned that ther boys are viewed as "manly" boyish, somehow more tough (and these are very small toddlers!). I think it's pretty sad really. They don't get to be seen as individuals with specific emotional needs. Yeah, my dd is pretty petite but she can really be a daredevil, and I love that. If we were blessed with a boy I think our advantage would be to see him as hinself and not fitting into some boxed-in standard of masculinity that rewards boys for being rough and ignores or punishes them for being sad or emotionally vulnerable.
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Old 10-22-2005, 11:12 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks everyone for your honest responses, it's good to see how other people feel about this.

e- you're right, *many* in our community don't get gender, or ethnicity issues, for that matter. I don't assume anything with people, and in our experience it seems especially some of our older sisters in the lesbian community are downright trans-phobic.

Michelle - good to see another new "waiting a few months to conceive" face around here! Sounds like our partners may be in similar places with the gender stuff.

Mobeans - Don't ever be sorry for asking questions! I think Wikipedia actually has a decent definition - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Genderqueer

Quote:
"A genderqueer person is part of a group of people who do not fit into the traditional two-gender or gender-binary system. As with any other groups that may be aligned with transgender identities, the reasons for identifying as genderqueer vary."
That's my wife! As she loves to say "I'm both and neither" (meaning a woman or a man). She does use female pronouns though, about 96% of the time.

Mamimapster - I completely agree with you. I truly feel that the box we put boys in limits them so much, and damages them. Don't we want to raise our boys to be loving, understanding people just like our girls? Can't we just let them be themselves without forcing them to be in this box?
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Old 10-22-2005, 03:05 PM
 
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Old 10-23-2005, 09:44 AM
 
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I don't think queer folk are "better" at it, I think women are.
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Old 10-23-2005, 02:03 PM
 
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Imagine my surprise when my mom (who is gay) questioned me when I was shopping for a lamp for my 8 year old son's room that had some amber beading on it. I said, "You think he's going to freak out over some beads on a lamp shade?" She just thought I should buy something more "masculine." Well I bought the lamp. It's been in his room for 3 months and he hasn't said one word about it.

I try my best to make sure that my son has a balance between the "male" and "female." When he was 3 years old, I walked outside and saw him on the porch, with his baby doll (yes, he was allowed to have one AND his dad bought it for him) was up to his chest with his shirt up. When I asked him what he was doing, he said, "I'm giving the baby mommy milk the way you used to give me mommy milk" (he had just weaned himself a few months prior). I just thought that was soooooooooooooo cute! After that, he went into the house and wanted to play Power Rangers.

Children don't care about any of that stuff. They want to be free and happy. Now he wants to play football ( ) and he remains very nurturing, constantly telling my mom she can't pick up certain things because of her back problem and always offering massages
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Old 10-24-2005, 12:30 PM
 
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Interesting thread. I gotta say, though, I have watched several very progressive, non gender traditional parents (straight and queer) end up with very gender-typical children (i.e. their little girls are crazy about pink and dresses and princesses and their little boys love trucks and getting dirty, etc.) I honestly don't think it's just a matter of social conditioning outside their homes either, because these kids were really little when they started in on this, and didn't have much exposure to television, etc. I really think for a lot of us, there is some "hard wiring" in there about gender.

I'm hoping with our daughter that we can be open and flexible to how she wants to be in the world and keep giving her lots of choices. Lately, she's been on a thing about wanting us to put barrettes and pony-tail holders in her hair. We can't tell yet what that's exactly about, but it's making her two very non-fem mamas laugh a lot. We figure that the universe has probably sent us a girly-girl just to loosen us up a bit!

One last little rant about clothing: it is almost impossible to find clothing for little kids that does not scream gender. Frankly, I think a lot of boys clothing is kind of unattractive, so we mostly dress her in girls stuff, but I do look hard for things in yellow, red, green and blue.
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Old 10-24-2005, 12:36 PM
 
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I am definitely aware of a desire not to perpetuate gender crap with my kid, as is her father to a lesser extent (he's a fag).

But when I think about my friends/acquaintances, the common denominator of coolness in this area is feminist, politically progressive, lefty-ness. The mamas of the Dykes n Tykes group for the most part are not particularly progressive, and not particularly aware about gender stereotyping. They mostly dress their kids in pinks and blues, and refer to their behaviours as a product of their girl- or boy-ness.

It's the lefty altnerna-parents who generally have it going on.
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Old 10-26-2005, 08:42 AM
 
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Yay, I love this thread. This topic is near and dear to my heart. I have a serious issue with society today and gender stereotypes. I can only assume that LGBT folks would be more in tune to this in their children, but I only can tell you about my own thoughts and feelings. Since this was brought up in relation to sexuality, I should probably say that I am a bisexual/pansexual/multisexual/whateversexual female in a relationship with a male. We have a daughter, and I am fully committed to supporting and nurturing her in whatever she wants to play with growing up, however she wants to look, however she wants to identify herself. I fully believe that had we had a boy, I'd have given him just as many dolls as I would have trucks. In fact sometimes I worry that I'm going to deprive my daughter of something she would have enjoyed just because I'm afraid a few girly things here and there would somehow be unfair. Obviously I'm off my rocker. I'll work on that
AND OF COURSE my family has been unsupportive in this, just like everything else I hold dear. I left my daughter with my step-mother for less than an hour to run a few errands that would have been difficult with her with me, and I came back to her in a super pink frilly outfit. It could not have been more girly and frilly. And step-mom says she's taken all kinds of pictures. My daughter hates changing clothes... not a worthwhile candidate for playing dolly.
A few weeks later my step-mom comes by just to show me some new clothes she bought for her. There were three items, and everytime she took one out of the bag she said "okay, I know you're not going to like this, but... [it was so cute/it was on sale/whatever]". And "she knew I wouldn't like them" because they were all really girly. While I don't want to be super anal about everything, I don't see why it's so hard to respect my choices and decisions as a parent. But that's a whole different rant, my entire family is like that about everything I've done as a parent so far. Joyous.

aaaanyway...
One of the things I have found so far (she's only 9 months old) is that taking her into public dressed in the very gender neutral clothes, everyone thinks she's a boy. That's a little aggravating, only because of their assumption that lack of pinks and purples and dresses means boy. Other than that it doesn't bother me-- I never correct them, though they always figure it out once the conversation progresses to asking what her name is (I'll admit, it's quite girly). My partner says next time that happens and he's there, we're going to tell them "HIS NAME IS DICK!" and be done with it. Haha. ANYWAY, I know I'm rambling...

Ultimately I think attitudes are more important than clothing, labels, etc etc etc. Telling a boy to put down a doll, telling a girl that she can't play in the mud with her brothers, etc - THAT is what makes my blood boil

Oh, and here's another idea to chew on... this society seems to think that we're so much better with gender roles than we used to be. That may in some sense be true, but we still perpetuate like mad. My favourite example are television commercials. All household products still use moms in a generally-squeeky clean house with the kids running 'round showing off how great the product works. If they ever use males, it's usually to show how easy and fool-proof the product is. EG: I don't know what it's for, but there's a commercial I've seen in recent days where a child persists to her dad, "that's not how mom does it!" to a variety of things he's trying to do in the house while mom is away. Finally when they come to the product it's advertising, the dad gets it right because it's so easy and foolproof, and then the child is happy. MANY products just feature mom in the house cleaning up after the messy kids using whatever product and it gets all the stains out of the clothes/floor/couch/dishes/whatever.
And better yet- NOBODY ever realises this! I'm sure it happens, but I've never heard anybody else point this out. And this is what we show our children without saying a word about it (I mean that in general, not in an accusatory sort of way).

Hell, I even took issue with Mothering magazine being called Mothering.



OKAY off my soapbox. Hopefully all of it makes sense, I had to take care of/nurse DD who woke up in between my rambles.

Weirdo Mama to amazing Aurelia, age 9 & Ember Roslyn, age 3!
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Old 10-26-2005, 09:15 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by thismama
It's the lefty altnerna-parents who generally have it going on.

Hey, I know you!

I wanted to reply to this particular statement because I agree with this. I'll bet if we took this thread outside of queer parenting, we'd be getting a lot of replies of agreement from fellow MDC'ers. I know just looking through the Trading Post that a lot of people here want gender neutral clothing and other items.


OKAY, gotta stop writing to this thread... I'm going to kill it if I'm not careful.

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Old 11-30-2005, 07:32 AM
 
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bjorker, nope...the thread isn't dead yet (knowing me, I'll probably be the thread killer here) LOL!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Diane B
I'm hoping with our daughter that we can be open and flexible to how she wants to be in the world and keep giving her lots of choices.
That's my basic approach and goal as well with my kids. You pretty much summed it up for me.

Quote:
One last little rant about clothing: it is almost impossible to find clothing for little kids that does not scream gender. Frankly, I think a lot of boys clothing is kind of unattractive, so we mostly dress her in girls stuff, but I do look hard for things in yellow, red, green and blue.
I totally know what you mean about finding "gender-neutral" clothing. We have tried, especially while we were waiting for foster placements, and it is just hard to do.

Also sometimes hard to find is inexpensive, cute clothing without some tv cartoon character, Disney something-or-other, etc. on it...but that's another story entirely.

Oh, and I do have to say, I used to think girls stuff was so cute, but after parenting boys for a bit, and especially with my baby boy now, I think there is some super cute boys clothing that girls' stuff just can't match. Especially at Target LOL. I mean seriously, I go nuts for cute little boys clothes now, and I hardly even notice the girl stuff anymore. When I do notice the girls stuff, it usually makes me want to scream (and I am a pretty darn girly-girl myself). It's just so-- eww!

Okay, that was a bit off the subject. But I guess I did want to say that our baby dfs can wear whatever he wants as he gets old enough to choose, but for now, we pretty much dress him in boy stuff. He's a boy, we like the clothes, and he looks so cute in them. As for his toys and room decor, they are slightly more boyish according to the "traditional" gender lines (cars and stuff), even though we got most of this stuff long before he came along...guess we just found more fun stuff that seems to be traditionally associated with boys. But he does have a few simple dolls and some other stuff that might be seen as girl stuff by the larger world.

Oh, and another interesting observation about ourselves. When we are in the store and getting him, say, pacifiers, we do pick the non-pink ones if there are any available. Not sure how concious that is. But it is what we do. On the other hand, a few times there have only been pink pacifiers, and so we have bought those without a second thought. But we use them less frequently and aren't as likely to bring them with us on outings. Not sure if that has any reasoning behind it. I know that my dw isn't the biggest fan of dressing him in pink. She just feels like it is setting him up somehow in the greater world. But she is also a preschool teacher and is totally cool with whatever ways kids dress and act. And she was a great mom to our older transgender dfs, and very comfortable with expressions of gender variation...even moreso than myself. So I think with the baby it is just a matter of trying to make life comfortable for him, and figuring that having people calling him a girl could just make life more complicated. Especially since he already has two moms (on top of a birth mom as well). But I could be reading more into dw's reasoning than there is.

Oh, and bjorker, I think you hit the nail on the head when you said:
Quote:
Ultimately I think attitudes are more important than clothing, labels, etc etc etc. Telling a boy to put down a doll, telling a girl that she can't play in the mud with her brothers, etc. . .
It is the *attitude* in my opinion, that makes the real difference for kidos.

~Sierra

P.S. Funny story. My dw's mom tries very hard to be accepting. She did a great job being a supportive person in our older dfs's life. But when our baby dfs was about a month or so, a person from my church gave dfs these onesies that had pink flowers all over them. dw wasn't a big fan (of course, she's neither girly nor butchy-- just your average woman, but she *hates* most fabrics with flowers printed on them because she doesn't like the way they look), so she said to me, "Oh, we'll just use them as PJs." Then dw's mom came to visit, found them, and said, "You've got to take these back to the store and get something he can use." And she kept pushing for it and pushing for it. It was sort of amusing.

P.P.S. A few people have commented to us about dfs, "He is all boy" because he is so active. It makes me think of my neices too, some of whom are equally active. I do tend to find that type of phrase rather irritating, and I try to redirect the conversation.

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Old 11-30-2005, 07:52 AM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Diane B
I honestly don't think it's just a matter of social conditioning outside their homes either, because these kids were really little when they started in on this, and didn't have much exposure to television, etc. I really think for a lot of us, there is some "hard wiring" in there about gender.
After my post a minute ago, I got to thinking about this...

I think it is impossible to sort out "hard wiring" vs. social conditioning when it comes to gender behavior. I remember once in a sociology class I took in college, we looked at this research in which parents were observed with their babies in the hours right after birth through the infancy period. Even parents who thought of themselves as being liberal about gender and who had as a parenting goal to be neutral about gender expression, came out with these results: parents of baby girls talked to their babies far more than parents of baby boys talked to their babies...in terms of sheer minutes spent talking and vocalizing with the baby. And the parents had no idea that this was happening!

Some of this stuff is conditioned into even the most well-intentioned parents. We're so immersed in it that it would be impossible to truly and fully step outside the norms of our society that shape gender-expression.

So I guess on this subject, I don't think we can ever truly know the results of the nature vs. nurture entaglements.

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Old 12-05-2005, 04:22 AM
 
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Yay! I didn't completely kill the thread after all! I am so happy somebody came back and posted! Again, this subject is very near & dear to my heart-- it just seems so unfair how much gender differences are pushed in this society without a second thought.

I may come back and comment a little more about what you said, but so far I am finding this to be amazing...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sierra
Even parents who thought of themselves as being liberal about gender and who had as a parenting goal to be neutral about gender expression, came out with these results: parents of baby girls talked to their babies far more than parents of baby boys talked to their babies...in terms of sheer minutes spent talking and vocalizing with the baby. And the parents had no idea that this was happening!
That is very interesting. I wouldn't have thought about vocalizing to a baby as a difference based on gender. Wow. Another one to think about. Only having a girl, I can't even try and think back on anything I would have done differently. I cannot imagine talking to a boy baby or a girl baby more or less just because of its gender-- but I do know that I have always talked to my daughter a lot. I just can't imagine what would provoke the difference. You have certainly given me something to think about.

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Old 12-28-2005, 12:55 PM
 
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I think that parents who have an awareness of gender issues are more likely to be "better with the gender stuff" than parents who don't think about gender issues. I would guess that lesbian and gay parents generally have more of an awareness than straight parents, but of course there are plenty of straight parents who are quite aware, and plenty of queer parents who are totally clueless.

I have twin sons who are nearly three. We have tried from the start to be very gender neutral with them. Their favorite colors are pink (for Luke) and purple (for Jasper), and they know that Mom and Mama both like blue best. For about three months, Luke was obsessed with wearing some funky pink mary janes that he found at the consignment store and simply HAD to have. Both of them wore tank-top style dresses all summer by request. I wouldn't have let them wear frilly dresses, but I doubt I would let a little girl wear frilly dresses either (though we do have a couple of frilly princess costumes that they wear around the house and I would probably allow them to wear in public if they asked--but these are obviouly costumes). Most of their clothing is from the "girl" section, just because I like it better and it's easier to find gender neutral "girl" clothing than it is to find GN "boy" clothing. Also, they love wearing leggings, and I don't think they ever have leggings in the "boy" section. I really like www.babystyle.com for clothing because it is funky and even the stuff that is labeled "girl" is totally acceptable for boys (IMO, of course!), and a lot of the "boy" stuff isn't stereotypically BOY (though some of it is). Luke cares very much about what he wears and wants everything to match. He loves gifts of clothing just as much as he loves new toys. I can't relate at all! Jasper doesn't care at all about what he wears, though he enjoys having pockets to put his little animals into.

All of our toys are gender neutral, and these days the favorites are the little wooden animals, and the kitchen and wooden play food. Luke wants to be "a mama" when he grows up, and Jasper wants to be "a fireman princess and a daddy." When they were babies, they were often mistaken for girls, but I think that was just because they were pretty and had hair, not because of what they were wearing. We still often get asked if they are boys or girls, which I think is a good sign. . . they're pulling off "gender neutral" pretty well so far.

It drives me crazy when I hear other moms saying, "it's so hard to find cute boys' clothes!" Or, "I just hate all the toys for boys that are out there these days, I never know what to get." What?! I think it can be hard to find simple, easy, cute, comfortable clothes period, but I don't think it's any easier to find cute girls' clothes than it is to find cute boys' clothes. And most of the toys that are out there right now are totally hideous, but I would never say that it's a boy/girl thing, it's just a horrible plastic toy thing. Wooden toys are generally completely gender neutral.

Anyway, I hope my kids are growing up with a healthy sense of gender, and I think that our awareness of gender issues can only be an asset to Luke and Jaz as they grow up.

Lex

Mindfully mothering SIX kids (ages 5, 6, 8, 9, 11 & 11) in a small house with a lot of love.
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