Via Pam's House Blend, I found this 60 Minutes special, about homosexuality and gender. The most interesting clip I think is the one on the twins Adam and Jared, that claims that one of these 9-year old boys has a problem with his gender. The interviewer asks, if you were to tell a stranger what kind of person you are, what would you say? and Adam answers, "I would say.... I'm like.. a girl." and shrugs. It's evident that he's been told by adults in his life that he should think about himself in a certain way. The video includes a clip of his mother mentioning, with a very stressed affect, that she first noticed that something was 'different' when her son was 18 months old and he asked for Barbie dolls instead of GI Joe dolls. Other evidence that Adam has a problem: he plays with Neopets, stuffed animals, and likes pink and purple. Jared, on the other hand, is suitably male with firetrucks and toy soldiers and a Marines poster.
Now, its possible that this kid really is a homosexual and that his mother really did know that when he was 18 months old. I guess its a sign of social progress when a mother who suspects that her son is a homosexual buys him stuffed horses and Barbies instead of freaking out and beating him bloody, no matter how distressed she might be. I can't help but think that confining children to strict gender roles from very early ages isn't be all that beneficial, though. It's not as though a preference for firetrucks is something that is genetically male, or a preference for pink and purple is something that is genetically female. Firetrucks have only been around for 100 years or so, and back in the day purple was the color of privilege, more often worn by men than women. Forcing kids to think that they're stuck in the wrong body because of a "nontraditional" toy preference is something that comes very close to abuse, in my opinion.
Kids at play shouldn't have to fight these silly cultural battles. When I was nine, I wanted to be a knight errant. Not because I wanted to be male, but because I wanted to be a hero. I had read a lot of fairy tales, so I knew that knights got to do all the really neat stuff, like travel and be champion fighters and rescue people and make hugely important decisions about good and evil and so on. I did have some vague desire to be a princess as well, but my favorite princesses were the ones who rebelled against their pampered life, ran away dressed up as boys and became knights. My father made my brother and me swords out of wood scraps spray painted silver, and my mother made us stick horses out of broom handles and felt, and we ran around the yard hitting each other and no one ever told me that the joy I took in playing meant I was a lesbian.
Which is probably a good thing, because if I couldn't be a knight, what I wanted most was to be a dragon. Dragons had all the positives of knights- they were strong and wise, they featured prominently in interesting adventures, they sometimes even had magical powers- and on top of that, they could fly. Flight has always fascinated me, the pure freedom of it. When I gave up on being a dragon, because after all dragons are completely imaginary in a way that knights and princesses aren't, I decided that I wanted to be a bird. I daydreamed about it, about being small and light and flying over the tops of everything, able to go anywhere and see anything. I even went to the library and checked out those topical illustrated encyclopedias they make for children, to learn about flight and birds' skeletal structure and muscle systems and feathers. For a while I was mildly obsessed.
I managed to make it to adulthood without thinking that I'm a bird, though. I can't honestly say I love my body, but that probably has more to do with the relentless grinding pain and defeating exhaustion I've carried for the past four years than with any sort of body dysmorphia. I did get a tattoo of a dragon on my hip as soon as I turned 18, and I've been considering getting a tattoo of a crow if I ever have the money for it. It took me longer to give up on my dream of being a knight; I joined the Army with the intent of becoming a warrior, and there is still a part of me that hungers for it in spite of everything. I do think I'm lucky to have had parents who encouraged me to be whatever I could dream of instead of telling me who I was. It makes me sad for poor Adam, that there are no adults in his life willing to accept that he can be gentle and creative and still find his own way as the person he is.