I recently realized how obsessed I am when it comes to baby boys and baby girls and the need to associate each with blue and pink, respectively. My father’s cousin has a 5-month old daughter, his first child. He and his wife talk about how they want more children, which is why they have purchased neutral clothing. Each time I see their baby, she’s dressed in gray, white, or pale yellow. Nothing distinguishes her as “girl” because they want to utilize the clothing for their future children. Each time I see the baby I always want to comment on the fact that she looks like she’s dressed as a prisoner. She is typically dressed in a gray and white, striped onesie. How neutral!
Perhaps the reason why this shocks me is because her parents are spitting images of Disney characters Belle and Gaston from Beauty and the Beast. The mother is incredibly girly and the father is incredibly manly. I cannot understand why that baby does not come dressed in pink and frills. Beyond that, I cannot understand why it bothers me so much.
I bring up gender-neutral baby clothing because it was really the first thing I thought of when thinking about trans and cis gendered individuals’ self-categorization. The readings discussed how children can determine this about themselves early on in development. Gender-neutral baby clothes have been a topic of discussion in recent years. Some parents are aware and want their children to be able to categorize gender on their own terms. Despite this awareness, it seems impossible to shed the blue and pink for good. Just look at all of these ideas for gender reveal parties (side note: since when is that a thing?). ALL of them indicate girl as pink and boy as blue. Even before the child is born, we have cast this binary system on them. Some of those ideas poke at “he or she?” We have even decided their pronouns. These tiny humans have so much picked out for them before they have a real chance to experience life and categorize themselves.
I never even considered the idea of genderqueer, which Tate, Youssef, and Bettergarcia (2014) described as either blending gender or outside the male-female binary (p. 308). In my daily practice, I feel as though I would have been accepting of this idea. But I have not given much thought into how someone may not feel either of those. I am a cisgendered individual. The cis experience appears to be valued more in our society than the trans experience, which is part of the reason why I may hold the views that I do about blue and pink. I’m sure it’s not the only reason, but I am understanding in how it plays a role in my identity and the way that my experiences in this society shape my understanding of the world.
I am obviously guilty of placing individuals into this blue-and-pink binary system. I need to be more aware of how it is not my job to identify people, particularly babies, in that way; rather, it is my job to identify the opportunities for inclusion, making sure that I do not call anyone out on their gender or assume their pronouns. I think that the article by Dean Spade (2011) was helpful in recognizing ways to go about being more inclusive to trans and cis experiences.
Though, I am leaving this post with a handful of questions regarding the way that we predetermine the gender of tiny humans. Even the way that we react to a gender reveal, which isn’t even revealing of one’s gender, is biased. I wonder if finding out the sex of a baby is part of the problem in perpetuating the binary. I’ll just leave this here for now.