April 2018

Saturday, October 2, 2010

P.S. 2 A pink and a blue or two pinks or two blues?

I didn't come out to myself as a lesbian until I was 30 years old, so I'm not sure what it's like to come out as a school-child. When I did come out, I remembered unintended insults from the past, so now that I'm a grown-up (sort of), I think a lot about younger persons who may be GLBTQ (gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgendered, queer/questioning) and what they experience. Friends who came out when they were school-age have told me how hard that was.

I read an article a few years back that said that young children often may perceive themselves as GLBTQ before they start school, but quickly learn from their schoolmates that being GLBTQ is not okay, and they go underground for a while. According to this article, those children who start to imagine themselves as GLBTQ may start asking questions and struggling again around fourth, fifth, or sixth grade. I was thinking of things that might have helped me as a child, and I thought I'd share them with you in case you have young ones in your life.

As a child, I believe I would  have been interested in open images of myself in the future: language of a partner instead of a husband or wife and images of a "wedding" or "ceremony" that go beyond male/female. My siblings and several friends brought their children to Ann's and my wedding. What an amazing experience that would have been for me. One of my younger nieces is still trying to understand it all: "You're getting married? But you're girls!" Years ago, Ann and I were playing the game of Life with my sister's four children at the beach one day. When Willie landed on "Get Married", Isabella asked if he wanted two pinks, two blues, or a pink and a blue. She was proud of herself and so were we. And amused. I can't imagine having imagined that option as a child.

I rebelled against pink at an early age. Perhaps that was my subconscious way of claiming my difference. My parents were partially open to new gender roles. My sister and I played sports and were required to cut the grass, for example. I don't think my brother, however, was required to take on traditionally female roles. Well, once Sister Jennifer made him wash and put away the dishes, but he didn't rinse them, so Mom had to rewash all of the dishes. (No, neither Jennifer nor Matthew took that on, and I certainly didn't. I think I might have watched.) Last summer, my little brother (now old enough for a colonoscopy), put away dishes from the dishwasher, which would have been helpful except that the dishes were still dirty. Clearly,  he needed more guidance at a young age.

Similarly, I always believed I could have any occupation I sought (doctor, lawyer, engineer, etc.), but I'm not sure my brother believed he could have a traditionally female occupation, say a nurse or a kindergarten teacher.

In addition to chores and occupations, openness to style or fashion that goes against the gender-code: (pink for girls, blue or red for boys, dolls just for girls, math for boys, etc.) might have been helpful. I was in general not amused by dolls: only by one that was my size and would startle my mom when mom walked in the room and mistook the doll for her child. She would kind of jump and roll her eyes. I loved that. My brother loved dolls and our toy kitchen, but he had to trade them in for toy guns and holsters to ride on his rocking horse. He cried, terrified, the first day he rode that horse. Perhaps I should clarify here that as far as I know my brother is straight.

There was plenty of humor everywhere about gay people. In the seventies, we wore oxford shirts with "fag tags" on the back. We played "smear the queer." When our neighbor, Dr. King, came out as a gay man I heard him called, "Dr. Queen." I laughed. It was funny. But when I came out, I remembered the jokes and felt angry.

My friends and I make jokes still, but now we're explicitly on the inside together. Giving directions in the car, we avoid, "Go straight," and opt insted for "Go forward." When a male/ and female couple shows affection publically, we might say to one another, "It's okay for them to love each other, but do they have to put it in our faces?" At a poker game the other night, we decided that the best hand, beyond a royal flush, is a queer royal flush, one that wraps around from the Ace to the two.

For young ones though, whether they're GLBTQ or not, helping them find a safe place in the world for each person to be the one created for this world is serious. The struggles of GLBTQ youth, their likelihood to be bulllied or homeless or suicidal is well-documented, and these struggles are too serious for humor that might be misinterpreted.

No joke. Mary


  1. Hi Mary!!! Glad you're back in the blog-o-sphere. I missed you. I like this one alot. I'll try to remember it everyday as I work with children. Love, May

  2. This reminds me of when my nephew was struggling with the gender of his OTHER androgynous (great) Aunt:

    Ryan: "Mommy? How many boys and how many girls are in the room right now?"

    My sister: "Well, let's count them. Auntie Pam is a girl. Uncle Mike is a boy ...."


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