“I’m a boy in my brain” she said.
Whoa, this kid is gonna drive us right through gender normative town into a rainbow parade of fluidity and individuation, I thought to myself as her Mum. I stared at her a moment longer.
“My brain tells my voice” she continued to explain.
Red has an uncanny ability to articulate complicated feelings in part because she’s one hell of a complicated kid both medically in that she has a rare disease and socially, in that she embodies a melody of girl and boyhood notes simultaneously. I believe we all do.
Just before Red turned 2, I knew she was more than she.
She entered toddlerhood with a BAM!, swoop, and pow! of superheros. She saw life in gradients of blue and wore only clothes that hung loosely on her body.
All cute and feministic until she asked for a penis for Christmas. That’s when folks really had an opinion about how I should reign her in and stop ‘indulging’ her self expression.
Instantly, I knew I was alone in protecting her sense of self. I was the sole guardian to the radiant identity she was beginning to carve out. At 4 Red has a sense of self stronger than I do at 36.
During imaginary play she’s the brother. She’s not interested in girly or traditional. She wants to look handsome like Daddy and get a buzz cut. One of my strongest memories of Red is her marching up to me topless, g-tube tucked into her swim trunks and legs covered in bruises: “no more tops in the pool so you better put sunscreen on my chest”. Say no to that fierceness. I dare you.
Kids tease her and ask her why she dresses like a boy or plays ‘boyish’. Know what she says? “I like boy stuff, so what?” She’s 24 pounds, looks like a 2 year-old and packs one mean upper cut to social fuckery. She schools me every. single. day.
Red is built exactly the way she needs to and her older sister, is the Scully to her Mulder:
Are you a boy? –Gwyneth
I’m a girl but I want to be a boy — Red
Then be my brother — Gwyneth
*all illuminated Red says, OK.
Children are malleable, empathic and don’t give a shit what you are or who you want to be. Conversely, adults try to change, restore, and fit her into the normative box because her birthday wish to be called ‘the brother’ and wanting a penis for Christmas are deemed pathological.
I’m taking Red’s lead and following her down the harder roads she’s no more chosen than the curl in her hair. It’s who she is, my girl-boy child. She’s one part girl, two parts boy.
She’s presenting to the world a gender-expression-Rubik’s cube that is entirely her own creation. The peppering of girl:boyhood is incredibly dense, equivalent to hundreds of pixie sticks in all flavours dumped into one bowl of sweet heaven: always beautiful and never the same.
You are just magical to parent, my darling girl-boy child. May you change for no-one and evolve the way you were meant to.