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Boys Will Be Pink Boys: Unconventional Gender Identity

This sort of thing tends to confuse the public and parents alike, and has been known to elicit a sort of gay panic among parents who assume this behavior is the harbinger of some serious outing to come. But as mentioned in the same article, researchers say, the behavior of very young children may not be a strong predictor of their adult sexual orientation. “Even when the child has extremely gender variant behavior at 4, it doesn’t necessarily mean the child will be gender variant at 10 or 15,” said Dr. Edgardo J. Menvielle, who directs the Gender and Sexuality Psychosocial Programs at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. “It’s possible they will remain who they are and they may also change in a variety of ways.”

So the message to parents is to relax if you can, and display a certain amount of confidence, resolve and fortitude for the benefit of your child and the wider community. This might be best represented by author James Braly’s monologue about his son Oliver’s desire for a pink bicycle (listen here). We have much to learn from our children’s innocence and curiosity, and trying to shield them from ridicule and move them swiftly toward conformity might not be the best path. What has your experience been with this issue of unconventional gender behavior? Do you have a gut reaction to it? How can our society realistically become more accepting of such exploration?

Related:
5 Myths about Gender Differences
A Boy Named Sue: Gender Shaming and Stereotypes with Boys

Read more: Children, Family, Love, Parenting at the Crossroads, Sex, , , , , , , , ,

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Eric Steinman

Eric Steinman is a freelance writer based in Rhinebeck, NY. He regularly writes about food, music, art, architecture, and culture and is a regular contributor to Bon Appétit among other publications.

64 comments

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11:44AM PDT on Mar 19, 2013

Pink is just a color. During Victorian times it was a Man's color. This changed in the late 1900's as Marketing people developed clothing for children.

Little kids try out everything moving from stage to stage. As long as the child feels accepted and loved they will flourish. The problem arises when the kid goes to school and is teased about the color and hopefully parents will keep tuned in if that happens.

The gender thing is an old sore for me. My best friend was Donnie and we played all day everyday for a year. Then we went to kindergarten and he dumped me for the boys and they wouldn't play with me because I was a girl. I was hurt and resentful.

I wonder why it always seems more important to deal with the boys and color thing than with girls being tom boys.

7:10AM PDT on Mar 19, 2013

I'd never seen that video before. I did not appreciate the "your a girl" limiting remarks growing up & it crept into everything. Perhaps adult insecurities are drawing boundaries at young ages. I think it unneeded and unrelated. A higher concern should be bullies and raising responsible citizens.

I want to tell you what I see where I live now (Hong Kong). Both little girls/boys push mini strollers w/ toys in them. There doesn't seem to be the color issue. Adult men care for children, I witness active parenting even when the mother is present. I often see fathers out with children including doing homework or doctor visit. Men will carry a woman's purse, usually his partners. The color boundary isn't an issue with adults. Are we sure it hasn't become a marketing scheme?

3:21AM PDT on Mar 19, 2013

Thanks

3:28AM PST on Jan 21, 2013

OK

6:07AM PST on Jan 17, 2013

Makes interesting reading.

12:11PM PST on Jan 14, 2013

Thank you.

11:39AM PST on Jan 14, 2013

wish parents could be more accepting and supportive of their children's individuality

4:11AM PST on Jan 14, 2013

All gender stereotypes are related to culture and upbringing, not to nature. For example, a few years ago there was a large-scale study on girls and boys' mathematical abilities. It showed that in countries where there was equal education for girls and boys (in Western Europe, especially in Scandinavia) the results were equal or even girls were better, whereas girls were poorer at maths in Muslim countries, just because no one cares about their education there.

4:02AM PST on Jan 14, 2013

Thanks for all the information.

5:03PM PDT on Apr 16, 2012

All this ridiculous emphasis on gender junk! Androgyny.

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