The other morning, Dr L was at the breakfast table applying her war paint in anticipation of a presentation she was giving for work that afternoon, when J-Bone began to ask her something.
His speech still isn’t always very clear (no Cs or Gs or Sts as yet) but it gradually dawned on us that he wanted her to put some eye shadow on him.
J has often asked for his toes to be painted and Dr L has always been very happy to oblige. He will often spend the next few hours looking at them appreciatively and telling people he meets how ‘pretty’ his ‘painted toes’ are. This makes us very happy.
Firstly, because it is something that obviously makes him happy. That is pretty straightforward.
But secondly, we are glad that he feels able to try things out that aren’t ‘for little boys’, things that might be seen as too ‘girly’.
This probably isn’t something that’s happened in a vacuum, as we’ve been keen to keep J’s appreciation of gender as fluid as possible. This has paradoxically meant being quite rigid in the application of some ideas about gender with him.
J-Bone’s dearest companion is a stuffed lion (one that is supposed to release warm, lavender smells after being heated in a microwave) called ‘Lavvi’ (short for ‘Lavender’, as you might have guessed). And Lavvi is a she.
We’ve been quite determined to buck the automatic assumption that toys (unless marked by obvious feminine markers like dresses and so on) are male. Robots, ship’s captains, various animals have all been called ‘she’ in a symbolic attempt to reach some balance.
When we realised, not long after deciding that Lavvi was a she, that she had a mane (and might therefore normally be considered male), we stuck with the ‘she’-thoughts on the basis that these markers are not decisive. That there are many people who might have beards and identify themselves as ‘she’: Noel Edmonds, perhaps? Conchita Würst, almost certainly.
So we stuck at it. It’s interesting to note though (and not a little disheartening) that J-Bone still fairly resolutely sticks to ‘he’, ‘his’ and ‘him’: not only for Lavvi (and we correct him every time that she is a she) but also for Dr L and any ‘boys’ (that are actually women and girls) that he meets.
It seems his default pronoun (and indeed noun) is masculine.
But it is not over, not yet, my friends and friendesses.
We’re very aware that (CBeebies aside – and there’s plenty to chew on gender-wise in their output) we are providing the bulk of his information on gender and sexuality and after thing else. When he starts in nursery in January and then school and onwards, he will be spending a lot more of his time with very different voices. The ideas that we’ve tried to give him about gender fluidity might face some very robust challenges.
But that doesn’t seem a reason to steer him away from pink or nail polish or eye shadow or she-lions with manes for now. Especially if they are *his* likes and choices.
That morning, however, there wasn’t enough time to paint his eyes and we were concerned that the make up could be bad for his skin. But we will source an alternative and he’ll get himself painted up some time in the future.
If he still wants to, which we sincerely hope he does.