The Mother Company—dedicated to social and emotional learning for parents and kids—recently posted a two-part series on childhood gender expression. I was honored to be asked to contribute an essay for the first part of the series, about the first time Sam went to school in a dress.
The second part in the series, an interview with Gender Spectrum founder Stephanie Brill (author of The Transgender Child), did a fantastic job of articulating best practices for parents of gender-nonconforming and transgender kids.
As I read the readers’ comments on the series I felt how sad and angry I am that Sam has to do the work to change society, every time he comes up against one of the limits of “acceptable” gender expression. I hate it each and every time he has to tell another kid it’s okay for him to be in the boys’ bathroom, or put up with teasing by classmates over his long hair, or think about whether he will have a hard time at school for the color of his pencil case. I hate that my child has to push society’s boundaries, that he can’t just relax into the work that previous generations have done (as I do, as my daughter does). I wish that he could simply be himself, the way a girl in jeans heading out to soccer practice can just be herself.
But I also felt immensely proud. Sam may be doing incredibly hard work just to be himself, but the extraordinary byproduct of his work is that he’s changing the world.
I imagine the first girls who wore pants to school. I imagine the first women who took “men’s” jobs. I imagine the first African Americans who didn’t toe the color line, and the first gay people who married. My son is one of these pioneers. He is paving the way for future pink boys to be who they are without ridicule. I wish that it was not so hard for him. But given that it is, I could not be a prouder mom.