Dillan DiGiovanni

Gender Through a Child's Eyes

Dillan DiGiovanni1 Comment

Aside from the respite my gaycation provided, (no, I didn't spell it incorrectly--we are gay so we took a GAYcation) it also was chock-full of life lessons and insights. Here's one: a child's perception of gender--when do they start reading and interpreting social cues?

I didn't get a picture of these kids--three gorgeous children of German parents who live a couple of towns away from us here in Massachusetts. We met while vacationing for the same exact amount of time on Star Island, a wee island about 10 miles off the coast of NH and Maine. We took the same ferry out. And were booked for the same ferry back. Odds of this? Pretty darn slim.

We spent alot of time with the little'uns. I was a little nervous at first when I saw little Pauline walking along the railing of this gazebo all by herself. But these kids are strong, inside and out, and after getting to know their parents, I understood why Pauline thought it was a great idea to walk along that railing, with her perfectly strong little 4-year-old legs.

Pauline's role model is Pippi Longstocking. At 4, she emulates Pippi's carefree confidence and can-do, "where's the nearest thing I can climb?" attitude. Her brother, Basille, is similar. It might be less of a big deal that he climbed fearlessly and ran on rocks near the water's edge because boys are expected to do those things.

Here's the interesting take-away from spending time with these fearless munchkins: how they perceived Brenda and I with the social cues they were given.

the usual sundress, gold hoops and of course--gold sandals

Here's how Brenda was dressed for our weekend away:

and here's me:

pants, shirt, hoodie, short hair, glowing energy from inner peace.
At some point, both Basille and Pauline decided I was a man and Brenda was my child. Pauline said to Brenda: "where's your Daddy? He's such a silly boy." And Basille said to me, several times, "Hey Mister!" He was almost asking, "did I get that right?" I nodded. Sure.
Not once did their very amazing parents ever correct them and say, "no, no, no. Dillan is a girl." They just left it up to me to either correct them or not. Which I didn't.
It begged the question: what was their cue to determine my gender and my sex? was it my hair? My mannerisms? What were the cues happening that had them both decide (at 4 and 5 years old, respectively) that I was not a woman? Why didn't they make the assumption, as most people do, with those ever-present boobs of mine? As far as Brenda being my child...that we weren't too sure about. ;)
Cooler than the kids calling me my preferred identity (not female) were the parents. These people just live and let live, man. The kids climbed, the kids ate healthy foods (they chose kiwi over cookies at every meal) and the kids asked questions or made decisions and all was well. If they did go a little over the top they were pulled into their parents lap or arms and gently corrected in a low voice...with eye contact.
I want to be this kind of parent. I want to raise these kinds of kids.