Number two on children’s author Kim Norman’s 5 Things I’ve Learned about Doing School Visits:
2. Even if the child posing a question has long, curly locks and a pink hair bow, I NEVER assume gender. Long-lashed boys with collar-length hair and pixie-haired tomboys in jeans can make gender a real guessing game. When I repeat a child’s question, (which I always do, to make sure everyone hears it) I no longer say, “He/she asked…” Now, I always say, “The question was…”
I just love this. So often people left guessing about gender get defensively angry at the person or family who put them in the position of uncertainty. We’ve been yelled at, “How was I supposed to know?!” as though we were trying to trick people; because in our culture it’s considered an insult to mistake someone’s gender, there has been a societal imperative to mark gender clearly (sparking a whole industry of elastic band hair bows for bald baby girls). But in this case the situation was not framed as a problem, particularly not a problem caused by the children. Instead, it’s a strategy for dealing with a common situation. Can we hope that this is the beginning of a new normal — one more expansive and with more acceptance for the diversity of space between the old polarities?