We get asked that a lot, “Boy or girl?”
I was getting tired of it, and had come to a resolution:
I’m done answering people when they ask if Emma is a girl or a boy. I am just going to shrug. If they press me, I am going to accuse them of being a pervert. We’ll see how far that gets me.
I didn’t call anyone a pervert, but I did try shrugging. I figured that was a polite reaction to something I deem culturally unacceptable. I got away with it a couple of times. The person seemed to either understand the inappropriateness of their inquery, or much more likely, they understood that I wasn’t going to answer.
It wasn’t long, of course, before someone started pushing.
“You don’t know if it is a girl or a boy, and you are holding it?”
What an odd question, on many levels. “This is my baby, it is okay”, was all I could think to reply.
“You don’t know?”
I replied honestly, “I do know, it just isn’t something that…”
“You’re an asshole!”
So, there is that. It was unfortuante, and it bothered me. Not because I was particularly offended or hurt by it. I just like solving problems, and I see this as one.
This comes up because we believe, “[that] the whole world must know what is between the baby’s legs is unhealthy, unsafe, and voyeuristic“.
If the phrase “baby gentitals” doesn’t sound like a polite topic of discussion to you, then you are getting a sense of what parents with a new child deal with non-stop while in public. I amuse myself by wondering if those same people would ask about gentitals of a person that didn’t exude gender identity (as per their hetero-normative definition of such).
I don’t have to quote the research that shows how people treat babies differently based on their sex; it is apparent to anyone listening to adults talk about how pretty a little princess will be, or how strong and good at sports a little boy will be.
My basic issue with such musings is that it limits the potential of a sentient being, while reinforcing, by means of communicative media (culture, language, etc.) role assignment that is not based on the actual circumstances of humans. We do not need to be pretty or good at sports; we need to be self-reflective and good communicators, unburdened by assumptions.
Switching up tactics
On the way home from a cafe just now, a neighborhood person walked by as we were waiting for a crosswalk signal to turn in our favor.
“Is that a boy or a girl?”
Smiling, I turned to em and replied, “It is just our baby.”
“Sheesh, I just asked if it was a boy or a girl.”
“I’m not offended by the question, everything is cool.”
“Whatever dude!”, came the over-the-shoulder reply.
I yelled after em (across the street), “Wait! Why are you offended?”
I didn’t get a reply to that, so I am still perplexed. I think it is not so much the challenging of that particular assumption, but rather just because it is a challenge. Susan believes that people think of themselves as going out of their way to be polite, and are thusly offended at the response that diverts their attention. At any rate, until I get to the bottom of the cause(s), I need new tactics to deal with these interactions.
One thought is to pretend they are just asking , “How’s it going?”
“Fine. Thanks for asking!” Smile.
“No, I said is it a boy or a girl.”
“Oh, nothing much, same old same old. And you?”
Another idea is to explain that in my culture we avoid such topics of conversation. If asked which culture that is, I would just deflect it with, “oh, it is kinda hard to explain.”
My preferred method would be to explain to them how I feel about gender, sex, role assignment and language, but despite how wonderful that is, it also seems to piss people off the most, as well.
Any ideas on this?