Part Nine of an interview with Ren - Talking to kids

I like to ask you...along those lines of parenting, you said that when you were living in Australia that you worked with kids.


That was actually...did I do any of that in Australia? Most of that was when I had a brief stint in the States between being here and Canada and going to Australia.


Oh! Okay. Sorry.


That’s alright. I’ve lived in four countries so getting the geography down can be complicated.


It can be. In that respect, how is your philosophy with explaining gender to children at that time compared to now? How do you-I guess I’m just curious what you like at that time, or what restrictions were you under compared to if you met a child now and you had the freedom to be like, “let me explain gender to you”?


That’s a good question...and I know it’s good because I don’t have a good answer for it.


I stumped you!


I mean the thing is I just don’t know. I’ve had children in my life the whole time and I have many young people in my life to whom I am sort of like a-I got sort of like a Godson in a way, but I don’t like being called a Godmother because that feels like an uncomfortable term for me. So I call myself their Fairy Raccoon, because I like racoons and I’m magical.


I mean, it’s just a name just like Godmother.


Yeah! Or their spirit guardian or something. Something sort of neutral. I am really excited to see them grow up and although we are using the parents for the sake of simplicity we are going with assigned male pronouns, etc. I’m always whispering to this baby, “but I know who you really are, and you’re everything.” That might be a bit subversive in a way because I suppose I’m sort of- I know that society is ultimately way more powerful that me to impact this child and being who they are. I will always be there as a reminder of one person that they get to choose in many respects what fits for them. They are the masters of knowing what’s the best path for them. None of us can know that. Now when parents say, “Oh, little boys do this. Little girls do that.” I’m just kinda like, “Well maybe...but maybe not.” And maybe they’re not even boys or girls, but parents get really irritated when I do that sort of thing so I just kinda go, “Oh really, is that’s what you think is going to happen?” And I sort of leave it open-ended. I’ve seen little boys and girls be the opposite of what they’re expected and they don’t actually care two wits about gender until someone teaches it to them. You can kind of see the subtle molding that happens by teachers and young child care workers when they’re making space for young boys to be more aggressive or whatever and excusing it just a little bit more. Even in a hyper-progressive-I worked in a fairly progressive child care space that is now probably is making space for any gender variance that they might notice-but parents aren’t really keen to lead that space. Even if they say, “Yeah, we’re really open. If there’s a kid acting, they can do whatever they like. The boys dress up in girls clothes at dress-up time and vice-versa. We don’t care.” They’re not quite as aware as I am now about the more subtle messages that they tell children regardless of that and there is certainly out in the world. I think that the biggest change between then and now is-the children really taught me. The children taught me about gender in a lot of ways and how little it matters to them.


How so?


You can tell that the main things that they say about boys that are friends and girls that are friends only really arrives when they get to five and above and they sound like adult words coming out of a child’s mouth. Honestly. Honestly. So little kids and old people-like, people above seventy and eighty, I think-we know from neurobiology that male and female brains beyond being an individual mosaic for each of them are most androgynous and hard to tell apart in early years and in the later years. The biggest gender variance occurs in those mating years and it kind of fizzles out a little after that and before then. Now I think I’m just more conscientious. If I were to have a child-I know that this really sounds, “Ah, really? Really you would do that?” I would raise them gender neutral. I would! I feel like they get enough from the world already. I know that’s super controversial but I feel that’s, to me, the responsible thing to do now.

I do know some families that wanted to raise their kids not in any gender stereotypes. I’m thinking of one family in particular. They had a young assigned female at birth girl. They said, “Oh, we’re going to put her in all kinds of clothers not just pink and stuff. Then she got to be age five or six and she’s like the prettiest peach princess, pink loving, everything has to be pink and red and purple and all these things. And they said, “Oh, that’s just who she is.” I kinda have two responses for that. One: regardless of what you do as parenting, society is going to play a role. Especailly television. Television is gonna tell that kid, “Here’s a girl’s Lego set.” You can’t undo that part unless you completely shelter them. They need to know that out there-the world is kind of insane about gender still and patriarchy is a real thing and it’s very gender essentialist. If you want to read about that, look up Judith Butler. The second thing I say to that is: I was a pretty pink princess between the ages of, I dunno, maybe five and ten? At ten, I did a complete, “All the pink had to go!” I refused to wear that or ruffles or lace or anything and was very stereotypical tomboyish until the age of maybe...twenty. Then I went through another hyper-femme couple of years. Now I’m more trans-masculine. You can’t predict an entire person’s trejectory based on even their obsessive girliness or boyishness at a young age. For me, it’s all been gender play. It’s all been costuming. If you’re really truly genderqueer they’re equally costumes. Then you’re just like, “Oh well. There’s the girls suit, and the boys suit, and the middle suit. What do I feel like playing with today?” It doesn’t change who you are; whether you’re wearing a bra or a binder. I guess that’s the changes now with kids and my philosophy.