One afternoon in Ithaca, N.Y., my kids were playing on the swing sets in the park when a little tike wearing a football jersey ran into my daughter’s path. I lunged for the swing — I jerked the chain so abruptly that I feared whiplash — and shared a “wow, that was close” exchange with the kid’s mom.
“How old is he?” I asked. The lady looked at me with no trace of irony as she placed her kid on the swing and said, “His name is Jill, and she’s three.”
As I tried to match the pronouns and antecedents, she explained that she belonged to a group of parents who rebelled against gender stereotypes, allowing their children to decide their genders after they’d been exposed to both options. I’d learned of this in a philosophy class at NYU. My professor argued that children are born with “sex” but taught “gender.” They claimed children unwittingly learn certain gender signifiers that dictate their behavior. Little boys, they claim, don’t naturally want to play with trucks, and little girls aren’t naturally drawn to dolls, if unsullied by eager parents who try to indoctrinate their children with heterosexist ideas about “gender.” According to my professor, gender roles cause people to live according to the very limited ideas of others. The ultimate goal, of course, is androgyny, where no differences between males and females exist.
“I’m going to raise her as gender-neutrally as possible and let him decide which gender she prefers at the age of eight.” (Oh, eight . . . that’s when my son dug up our yard one square foot at a time, because he was convinced he’d find buried treasure.)
The pronoun confusion alone is enough to cause rational parents to abandon this gender neutrality. However, the Swedes have come up with an original solution. At the taxpayer-funded school called Egalia, the teachers encourage little boys to play with kitchen sets and the little girls to play with trucks. But they have taken it even a step further, by eliminating the words “he” and “she,” replacing those words with “friend.”
Why worry about the deviant sexual philosophies of liberals in New York and Sweden? Because it’s also coming to a neighborhood near you. This Good Morning America segment, for example, about an Ohio boy named Jack, who preferred to be called Jackie:
When Jackie was just ten years old, she went to her mom, crying. “I’m a girl and I can’t do this anymore,” Jackie said. Without hesitation, Jennifer said, “It’s gonna be okay.” There was no judgment or disappointment. Jackie’s family abandoned the pronoun “he.” At first, they only let her wear girls clothing at home, but eventually allowed her to live as a girl full-time, at school and elsewhere. When asked, Jackie’s father John says he has two daughters.
The Huffington Post lauds the parents’ decision in its article about the child, which begins, “Turns out there are parents in the news who do the right thing.” In fact, only his grandfather showed concern about allowing the boy to indulge in his feminine side. “I can not accept that a nine- or ten-year-old can make decisions for himself that will be life lasting,” he told GMA.
When I was at the park in Ithaca, I made small talk with the mom and searched for clues to her child’s actual gender. But polite conversation was hard to come by, as I realized we’ve reached a point in society where we actually have to defend the immutability of gender and sex. With so much being challenged, I was a little surprised — when the kids kept swinging back and forth — that gravity still worked.
At least for now.