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Dateline: Austin, TX

I’m smack dab in the middle of Texas at Dad 2.0, a conference organized by and for dad bloggers, who, while a relatively smaller posse compared to mom bloggers, enjoy the benefit right out of the gate of not suffering the diminutive “daddy.”  So I was already in a good mood before I got here.  Also lifting the mood is the fact that most dad bloggers are men who care a lot about pushing at the edges of  modern fatherhood, making space in the discourses of parenthood for men as engaged caregivers rather than stoic providers or bumbling babysitters, thereby making more space for men who aspire to be engaged caregivers rather than stoic providers or bumbling babysitters.  Implicit in this project, for many (though by no means all), is the work of expanding received understandings of masculinity.

In other words, a ton of these guys are up to the exact same things I’ve been up to here at LD for years. Though we’re chipping away from different positions, we’re still at work on the same monolith, trying to carve out a wider understanding of who parents are and can be. For their part, and despite their positions of seeming normativity (most in this community and at this conference are white; haven’t met a gay dad yet psyche! Lazy Dad inna house!) they’re redefining fatherhood.  For my part, I’m chipping away at a bit of fatherhood and a bit of motherhood, and in the process pointing out, through lived experience, the vast overlap to be found between the two when you’re bound by neither designation.  Even if for many of these guys their paternity and legal legitimacy are unquestioned, their credibility as compassionate, even competent caregivers is often not a given. Dad bloggers are changing that, either implicitly or explicitly, and with each blog post and each new reader, most are elbowing out just a little bit more room for people in the next generation such as my full-spectrum boy child, should he chose to be a parent when he grows up, as well as for both of my kids, should they co-parent with a man.

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20+ questions about gender & sexual identity (pt. 2)

Continued from last Saturday: 20+ questions from my special niece for a middle school project she was doing.  Now answered after she began high school half a year later. (Hi, Mickey!)

  • How was your relationship with your father?
Thank the heavens I can use the present tense here. My dad, aka Pops, has, like my mom, always been my champion. And like her, always only to the best of his ability. In some ways I think he has been capable of understanding my gender variance a bit more empathetically than sympathetically, which is the best my mother could get to.  Even then, she was only partway through the process of knowing who I was as an adult before she died.  While my mom was an atypical woman, it wasn’t her gender or sexual identity that made her atypical. I think this is a tad more the case with my dad.

Also, he always has, and continues to invite and delight in lengthy philosophical conversations about society.  He has taken an interest in conversations about gender and sexual identity for as long as I’ve been willing to have them with him, and I think I was a way better Intro Women’s Studies teacher as a result of the hours I’d spent trying to make elemental cases for my dad.  At ninety, in many ways he’s still a very open, curious person. Even if strong and complex feelings confound him.  As they do many.

  • Did you feel different from your peers as a child?
No, but then again, boys in the neighborhood and the occasional scrappy girl were the people I considered peers. I had years and years of youthful refuge in the socially acceptable gender space tomboy. There’s a word for the kind of gal I felt myself to be; people know it; it’s not automatically pejorative. Only hitch was, it was time-dated to expire at the onset of puberty, at which point I was supposed to become a proper girly-girl, interested in boys that way. That’s where I began to feel like a weird imposter. Since I tried to fit in, conventionally, ’til I got to my first year or two into college, where I found a lot more elbow room again.

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20+ questions about my gender & sexual identity (pt. 1)

{Ed. note: As one mechanism for staggering through National Blog Posting Month (did anyone notice I stumbled on Thursday? good! didn’t think so! out sick that day!), I’m going to root around in my COPIOUS  unpublished draft file and try to finish the ones that have withstood the test of time. }

About a million years ago, I received a series of questions for a middle school project from Mickey, one of my special nieces. “Special nieces” being the daughters of my friends, one of whom is one of my oldest continuous friendships, dating back to September 1980, the other of whom is her former spouse and the donor chum and thus special uncle to our children (more on extended familial nomenclature here). The whole family, thanks to the bond we’ve forged with love, trust, and biology, is more than special.

But so! Way back when, I told her I would try to answer them all, and since she is internet-savvy (what person over the age of 12 isn’t these days?), and knows I write here (for better and for worse, I’m sure!), I asked what she thought about my answering via a post, so as to have the whole conversation get wider. She liked the idea, and said she would link to my reply in her Tumblr site. So! Hey, Mickey! Here! Months upon months–indeed, a whole school later, ya big ole high schooler–below are my replies to your questions:

  • Where did you grow up?

The suburbs of the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area.

  • How big was your family as a kid?

Four people: a mother, a father, and a sister. We didn’t see the extended part of it very often during my growing up years, so it felt pretty “nuclear,” for all intents and purposes. Even if I knew there were others of our clan somewhere a few hours or states away.

  • What gender do you identify as?

Female.

  • What is your PGP (Preferred Gender Pronoun)?

“She” is totally fine by me, but I am never disgruntled when people read me as a he, and only “correct” people  if our exchange goes on and on and I figure eventually they’ll get embarassed if they all of a sudden realize they initially got it “wrong.” On a recent trip to New York I counted well over a dozen references to me as “Sir,” and was quite tickled. I consider it a sign I’m dressing smartly.

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A brief gender-nonconforming kid resource roundup

lastyearsprincess

Halloween trick-or-treating peanut, Berkeley, CA (2010).

Visual coda to yesterday’s post, in which I mentioned our boy’s Halloween costume choice of last year. I wrote a few words about it at the time, here.  If I were to have to guess now, I’d say there’ll be a long gap ’til the next such outfit makes a Halloween appearance, though of course I could be wrong. In the intervening year, his haberdashery pace car has shifted from Big Sister to Main Boy Chum at Preschool.  For all the complex reasons that are behind such evolving self-understandings. Advancing years, increased exposure to peer groups, push of culture, pull of self, survival instinct; you name it.

The costume  above met a glowing reception throughout the neighborhood last year, though, and not just because there were blinky red lights underneath the tulle (yes there were).  I mean, really. The kid looks better in that outfit than I ever could.  Also? At least the grown-ups in our neighborhood love kids unconditionally and clearly share our conviction that the best thing we can do for them is clear the runway ahead and help them take flight.

Re: clearing the runway and helping kids take flight (into a world they’re in the process of making) – below, I’ve collected a smattering of nifty resources by and for parents of gender nonconforming kids. Halloween’s pretty much the primo occasion for this, since it’s the one day of the year kids have a wide(r) berth to explore performing different identities.

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