By Leane Pupo
I was watching my two youngest children playing today and began thinking about tolerance. Not about, “Hey, mom, be tolerant of our misbehavior,” but of a tolerance and blurring of gender lines. I am the mother of three very different children. They are in smart in their own right, special in their own way, and loving. My oldest son is 8, my middle son is 4, and my daughter is 1.
When our oldest was born, everything was blue. Toys cars, trains, planes, skateboards, balls, bikes… Anything “boy” we could get our hands on, we introduced it to him. He never cared for imagination and superheroes. He turned out to be our “logical artist”. He draws a lot, doesn’t read much fiction, and builds anything he can with Legos. I remember asking my husband if he thought we should get him a baby doll before his brother arrived. The answer was a simple “no,” and that was the end of it.
When our second was born, I was so tired of blue, I turned to green. I knew he would get his exposure from anything his brother had and anything new. He, on the other hand, is a ball of energetic imagination. He is our “fearless cape-crusader”. He is pure creativity and “fun”. He will play with anyone and anything. All his older brother’s discarded superhero toys, the little one claimed. He is also the messy dirty sticky Oscar to big brother’s rigid Felix personality.
Our youngest is our unexpected little girl. We planned her, but never thought we would actually have a daughter. Here she is and she is a “nerdy girlie girl”; drawn to dolls, purses, ponies, and books. When she was born, and “girlie” things made their way into our home, something interesting happened. My super, crime fighting, train-loving, gross, ninja, wanted to play with her toys. Her dolls? Awesome! Her pink purse? Great for storing superheroes! And so on.
Today, our four year old sat with his baby sister on the floor and they played with her small doll-house. Inside, Peter Rabbit and my little ponies did some laundry. He knows all their names and personalities. His Ninja-Turtles, also joined in the action. His voice and characterization changing as each one spoke.
With the holidays approaching, it occurred to me to buy them all a big wooden doll-house with a family and furniture. I told my husband, and he agreed without hesitation. Regardless, we decided on gender neutral. It is amazing how many pink houses there are; yet, I was still able to find some that are primary colors. As I continued to look, I noted that the previously pink kitchens, easy-bakes, tea sets, and so on are becoming more realistic or colored in primary. And cars, are pink and purple. I love it. Seeing how gender lines are blurring is something strangely fascinating. Guys are more sensitive and girls are tougher than I remember.
My grandparents once implied to take the “girl toys” away from our son or he would become “effeminate.” I ignore the old-timer ignorance. I know they mean well, but they are from a generation that still believes you can make someone gay, or even “take it out.” I know better. And I told them so. As a psychologist that has spent years studying gender and sexuality, I know and they respect my choices and knowledge. We do not make someone have a sexual preference, but we can show them compassion and tolerance. My boys are boys that happen to automatically lean towards typical masculine toys. My girl is a girl. However, you will never find me, or my husband, impose what they should like or dislike based on their sex. If our middle son wants to kick-butt and fight crime, all while still giving a baby doll a kiss, and our oldest boy admits he likes My Little Pony, and my daughter wants to put Spiderman on Pinkie-Pie’s back… No problem.
I want my children to love who they are and never be ashamed of their likes. I see other families moving towards “gender disintegration” and applaud it. Many cultures around the world have no idea what it means to have two genders. Please teach the rest of us to love the individual and breed tolerance, not ignorance.