Princess Movies

 Like a invasive bug in your home. Kids bring it home from preschool, like lice. There’s no chemical treatment, no nit comb. No definitive recovery.

Negative gender stereotyping.

I’ve noticed an insidious motion in Jetpack’s preschool class. As the kids approach five, they are starting to segregate by gender more and more frequently. I don’t know whether it’s encouraged by his teachers (I wouldn’t be surprised, this year) or just a natural age progression.

We were at the library last week, and I was looking for a movie to watch with him. I pulled “Alice in Wonderland” off the shelf. The book is one of my partner’s favorites, and Jetpack has a book of Lewis Carrol’s poetry that he loves.

“I don’t want that. I don’t watch princess movies.”

I was thunderstruck. You what now?

I mean, he doesn’t. He doesn’t watch princess movies—or anyway, he never has. We’ve never offered. He also found Finding Nemo was terrifying, and Earth’s Mightiest Heroes left him shaking after twenty minutes*. So his outright refusal was bizarre. I had never offered a princess movie. Furthermore, I mean, what exactly made him refuse Alice as a princess movie?

 

Alice in Wonderland DVD cover, with Alice, the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat, etc.

 

Here’s the cover. What screams princess about this? There’s no pink dresses, no crowns (well, except on the Red Queen, but she’s itty bitty in the corner and not really indicative of the “Princess” stereotype). So was he actually reacting to the fact that there was a girl on the cover? It’s about the only conclusion I can come to—that we’ve coded “movies about girls” into “princess movies” into “boring movies for boys” and that he’s picked that up from society at large.

Flames. Flames from the side of my face.

Thankfully, my partner swooped in to the rescue, as I stood, mouth agape. “You do too. You like Star Wars, right? That’s a princess movie.” (No, we haven’t shown our 4-year-old Star Wars. He’s played Star Wars Angry Birds a lot, though, and is familiar with the cast and stuff).

“No it isn’t!”

My partner deftly explained who Princess Leia was, and it was settled—we rented Alice in Wonderland, and he loved it (though the Red Queen terrified him). He asked to watch the next episode the next day (if only!) and then we watched the movie again the day after that (he hid trembling behind a chair during all the “off with her head” bits).

I hope that next time he’s more interested in movies with girls on the covers. I may have to rent a bunch more, for since.

Any recommendations?

 

 

*He was concerned because someone was trying to hurt Tony Stark. Cute, but misguided—I mean, come on, it’s Tony.

Mister Mom

A couple of things:

 

 

 

  • Are you reading VillageQ? Because you should be. Because there’s a host of excellence going on there.

 

  • I have a short story published in THEM Lit. If you have any interested in gender and literature, check it out. Everything in the publication is phenomenal—AND I hear they’re coming out with a paper run pretty soon here!

 

On to the proper post:

 

Members of Queen, in drag, looking amazing. From the music video for I Want To Break Free.

Members of Queen, in drag, looking amazing. From the music video for I Want To Break Free.

 

 

I hate that phrase. Mr Mom. It always made me feel uncomfortable when I was a kid—like I wasn’t sure who they were mocking, but I was pretty sure I didn’t like it. Maybe it was personal—my dad does things coded as feminine by the patriarchy—he loves cooking and sewing, for example. Or maybe it was both my parents and their second wave teachings. Either way, I hate the phrase. I’m glad it seems to be going out of style, though a quick search on google’s news page tells me it’s not fully out of vernacular.

But it haunted my thoughts the other day. Our neighbors stopped to talk to Jetpack. They asked what he learned that day at preschool—”nothing.” They suggested he teach it, since he’s so smart. And then they suggested I teach it. I laughed, and Jetpack agreed. “Daddy Levi can teach cooking!”

OWCH. Cooking? I mean. I love cooking. I love feeding my family. But—and I admit this sounds a little ridiculous, but this is how it felt—if I died tomorrow, he’d remember me as that guy that cooked a lot. Not as the guy who writes. Not as a dad who reads with him, or who helps people out, or who gardens—but that guy that cooks.

I don’t think I prepared myself for the little disappointments—the way that kids can sometimes cut at their parents. They have a lot of power! I’m sure there’s a lesson in here somewhere—maybe my own internalized sexism? Maybe not taking things so seriously? Maybe some of both?

Anyway. We’re getting take out for dinner tonight. Gyros. You know you’re jealous.

My Life as a Ghost

I’m a ghost.

Not a real ghost, really (I think I’d just be able to type cryptic messages if that were the case). More like…what exactly are the people from Dead Like Me Called? You remember that show, where Ellen Muth became an undead/grim reaper-type being that worked a normal office job, except when she was instead culling the souls of the recently deceased.

The resemblance is uncanny, though I don’t actually have a desk job, thank goodness.

Well, okay, I haven’t culled any souls yet (though Jetpack was both angry and mournful when I accidentally crushed a grasshopper the other day). But otherwise, life is often like being the same person—in a different body.

Over the summer, Jetpack attended (for a few weeks) a large camp at the local nature center. Once, as the sun beat down on us and the bugs buzzed their merry mindless tunes, the Mister and I dropped Jetpack off together. We stood next to the car as he gathered his things, watching him put on his itty bitty backpack with pride.

From behind us, a voice greeted the Mister. It was a coworker from something like six years previous. She was dropping off her daughter at the same camp. We’d seen her once, shortly after Jetpack was born, and then we all fell out of touch.

She gave me a once over, and then briefly spoke to my partner, and we followed her in to camp. I said a friendly word or two, which she didn’t even respond to, and as we parted ways, I caught her giving me a look again. It was only as we were settling Jetpack in his room that we realized—she saw ours as a broken family. The Mister had dumped his wife for a young, bearded buck, and even the kid was okay with this. The nerve!

A friend (who I’ve known forever, and who transitioned about a hundred years before I did) and I were spending time in a park (with Jetpack). A nanny and two small children were playing on the play equipment as well. He and I leaned toward each other.

“Do we know her?”

“I think so.”

We awkwardly mutter for a few more minutes. At some point in the afternoon the nanny talks to us, introducing herself in that way you do at parks. She’s very friendly, and very much considers herself a stranger.

These moments are flattering, in a way. Pretty nice. And it allowed us to avoid any number of awkward conversations that might come up, and honestly, summer camp, or a beautiful day at the park, is not where I’d prefer to be having trans101. I’d rather be with my kid, my friends and family. And, on the other hand, if you’re actually interested in talking to said person, do you make it abundantly clear who you are, to everyone’s discomfort? Do you miss out on an opportunity?

What do you do when your sister’s friends look at her and say, “I didn’t know you had a brother.” Suddenly, you’ve killed Model01, and replaced them with Model02. How many science fiction stories have used this?

Image

If only transition were as simple as compressing a glowing ball of magical energy…

Of course, I get to be Buffy AND Faith. Ha.

And there’s the HUGE privilege inherent in getting to choose whether to come out. There’s a huge privilege inherent in feeling more or less safe to do so in many situations. I am incredibly lucky that I can choose to be a ghost.

Being trans can be pretty confusing! And being a ghost is pretty awesome. Except when it’s not.

What to Expect When Everyone Else is Expecting

This blog post is about me and my family on our journey to pregnancy. Plenty of people choose to remain childless by choice, and that is as rewarding and valid as the choice to have a child. Check out http://www.childlessbychoiceproject.com for more thoughts about this. We are also well aware of other options of having children, including fostering, adopting, and surrogacy. This piece is not about those options at this time.

My partner and I are trying to get pregnant. Some people know this, and some people do not. Some people know specific details (and text us sweet words the morning of insemination), and some people only know that we’re on this journey.

I don’t know if it’s because I’ve got conception and babies on my mind, but it feels like I’m seeing pregnant people everywhere. Out of the five women on my organization’s board of directors, three are pregnant. Many young people in the drop in center where I work are pregnant. I see pregnant people and women at the co-op, at the park, and at restaurants. I see them at the bus stop, at the movies, and walking past our house; all in various stages of “bump”. Recently, someone was excitedly telling me about a pregnancy in their extended family. “How nice for them.” I said dryly, as I stared at my computer screen and clacked away at an email.

I don’t like them. Ok, let me back up; I’m sure they are all nice people. I don’t even know them. But my partner and I have a challenging and costly journey to pregnancy (if that will be the end result) due to age and egg/sperm viability, and seeing people have “happy accidents” and “perfectly timed bundles of joy” really chaps my ass. To borrow a phrase used around our house from the kid lately: NO FAIR. I can be peaceful and steady minded about a lot of things, but not knowing if this road will lead to a child makes it extremely hard to be happy for others who are meeting egg and sperm in rapid fire succession.

Many years ago, before I met my partner, I had all my reproductive pieces removed from my body. I knew that even if children were in my future, it sure as hell was not going to be me that carried them to term. As I was showering a few nights ago, tiny thoughts crept in before I could stop them. What if I still had my uterus? What if I kept those ovaries? I wonder if I stopped taking testosterone long enough…. But that’s where the thoughts stopped. I was surprised that I was even considering that as an option, but since it’s not possible, I didn’t think much more about it. See what this has done to me? I’m reaching backwards for pieces of myself that don’t even exist anymore in the hopes that we could have a baby.

Once we made this choice to move forward with getting pregnant, I signed up for all sorts of informational websites. I read books and talked to friends about the pregnancy and birth process. That is all good, and has been helpful. But I’ve noticed that lately, with a few unsuccessful tries under our belts, those emails and books have been quiet pokes in my side. “Look at what you’re missing” they all seem to say. One website, “The Bump”, is particularly annoying with frequent emails. Until we have a few weeks of a successful pregnancy behind us, I’ll just keep deleting them:

Actual gif of me deleting the email

and keep my scowling face towards pregnant people in public to a minimum.

Exhaustion Guilt

Today I am exhausted. Little Bear has moved into full on toddler-hood, tantrums and all. She hasn’t been sleeping very well the past two nights. She’s not running a fever or tugging on her ears, just screaming and crying. Both my partner and I are tired and frustrated after several nights of only a few hours of sleep.

Several people I know have been posting that New York Times article “Cheating Ourselves of Sleep” about the long term impacts of insufficient sleep. It just made me mad. Trust me, I know that I am not getting enough sleep and that it is bad for me. I am also frustrated because I think about how people who are more likely to get insufficient sleep are probably working multiple jobs for not enough pay while trying to take care of their families. I’m willing to bet most people with “insufficient sleep” aren’t consistently not getting enough sleep by choice but by circumstance.

I know I tend towards overly mushy posts about how much I love being a dad and how much I love my kid. Today I am giving myself permission to be tired though. It is ok that I am tired and exhausted and maybe can’t give 100% to my job or my kid. It is ok that this morning all I could really do was stare at my partner with glazed eyes and apologize for the shitty sleep we got before I staggered out the door go get croissants from the bakery instead of making breakfast.

Caregiving is hard work. Like so many other parents who want to be more involved in organizing and activism, I am wiped out at the end of the day. When Little Bear goes through one of her bouts of not sleeping well, neither my partner nor I have much time to do anything other than wipe the dinner remains off the table and maybe wash a few dirty dishes. I feel guilty about not getting this blog post up on time, turning down invitations to organizing meetings, not picking up my old volunteer shifts at the shot clinic, still not having gone to a radical families group that has been meeting in my city for over a year, not going to fundraisers and events, and so much of the rest of the activities that made up my life before being a parent. Today I am going to do my best to absolve myself, and let go of that guilt. To use the words of Ethan, my friend and fellow blogger, “let’s take care of ourselves so we can take care of others.”

Book Burnin’, Pearl Clutchin’, and Idea Evolvin’

(Please read title in the voice of Arlo Gutherie, because that’s how it sounds in my head)
These shoes really have nothing to do with the blog, except that they're absolutely fabulous. The toes light up! Rainbows on the sides! Sparkles!

These shoes really have nothing to do with the post, except that they’re absolutely fabulous. The toes light up! Rainbows on the sides! Sparkles!

Last month, I attended a feminism-and-social-justice oriented science fiction convention—specifically, Wiscon. I’ve been going since I was 18.* It’s always been an amazing and thought-provoking experience, and this time was no different. While there, I picked up a copy of Rad Dads: Dispatches From The Frontiers of Parenthood and am looking forward to diving into it soon. I also picked up a picture book for Jetpack. I wasn’t paying attention to the writer (whoops) and discovered, when I sat down to read it to Jetpack for the first time, that we’d picked up a fully innocuous kid’s book written by a rather gross transphobe—Derrick Jensen.

Oops!

Jetpack loved it, but I (when I realized who I’d supported) felt horrible. Taking my feelings to Facebook, where all feelings must go to be shared,** I asked what I should do.

A surprising number of people responded firmly with “burn it.” Those words left me mentally wringing my hands, faced with a possibility that had never crossed my mind.

We teach Jetpack to have respect for books. He is chided when books are left on the floor, or thrown, or their pages are bent. Books are not to be used as the stepping stones over imaginary rivers, are not to be ripped, ended up picking written in, or otherwise maimed. Books are objects to be treated with respect. I would feel hypocritical if I destroyed it, right? That’s not what I want to be teaching him, is it?

I’ve heard this before, once—specifically when talking about the extremely large number of books at my local thrift store by Focus On Family’s anti-queer, anti-woman, good-things hater James Dobson. Then, it took me off guard, but I shrugged it off as a joke.

The book by the transphobe was, as I said, innocuous, and I think the biggest problem (in my mind) was the small bit of financial and emotional support I gave Jensen by buying it. Dobson’s work, conversely—totally offensive.*** (And, being second hand, I could hypothetically buy it without contributing to him at all…).

What do we do with bad books, though? Like, really, what the hell do we do? Suddenly I find myself with real empathy for the used bookstore employees and the thrift store employees. Can you imagine having to shelve all those used (ugh) copies of Fifty Shades of Gray? But what else do you do with them?

Who am I to destroy books? Books are precious, right? Do they deserve to exist simply for the worth of the paper they are printed on? For every Dobson book I may or may not get my fingers (or for that matter, matches) on, LITERALLY millions more exist. When the Library of Alexandria burned, it was a destruction of knowledge—if an entire library were to burn in the US today, it would be a sad financial and emotional loss, but no books would likely be irreplaceable. And then there’s electronic books—book burning may be a radical act, but what about deleting the file off your kindle?

The destruction of books is still a powerful thing. It feels historical–a high school history topic about Nazis, or maybe an English class reading the Bradbury novel. But it’s not all history. Intolerant, narrow-minded jerks still think that burning the Quran is just great (”We had a court process,” said Pastor Terry Jones, who acted as judge, in a phone interview. “We tried to set it up as fair as possible, which you can imagine, of course, is very difficult.” REALLY). They still find the burning of paper with words on it to be a powerful and political act. The protests it spawned among Muslims prove that power as well. But the sacredness of a single, particular copy of a book, has, perhaps, a changing definition.

For the time being, I’m not burning any books. Jensen’s book is hidden. And, for the time being, Jetpack and I will continue to treat books with a high degree of respect—though I won’t be clutching my pearls when someone suggests destroying materials they find offensive. And who knows, maybe, someday, I’ll drop $50 at the thrift store and have a toasty, queer, Dobson-laced bonfire…

 
*This…maybe means that this year was my 10th year oh god I’m getting so old.
**Wait, no, that’s Twitter.
***In Dobson’s world, for example, AIDS is still a punishment for homosexuality and promiscuity. Whoops, I think I’m seeing red again.

Pre-K Microaggressions

 

jetpack, self portrait with plants

jetpack, self portrait with plants

 

Don’t worry, this isn’t a scary post, or a heart-wrenching post (not intentionally anyway!). This is a musing post. (Don’t know what the title refers to? Scroll to the bottom)

Jetpack’s bike is pink. I don’t think any of us consider him a “pink boy,” he just wanted this particular bike. And we don’t worry about gender binaries much around here. He also went to preschool today in jeans and a tutu, so. He’s a unique kid, and we like that about him.

Anyway. His bike gets him some strange looks from confused kids, but most of them don’t mind too much. He’s got two friends who have asked about it a couple times. They’re both girls, a year and two years older than him, and his closest neighbor friends. The most recent time, they were a little more forward about it.

“Jetpack, why do you have a girl’s bike?”

Jetpack, not even faltering in his bike-stride, responded, “It’s not a girl’s bike, it’s my bike!”

I tweeted about this at the time. I was proud of him for standing up for himself, for feeling confident. A few days later, at home, he sat down on his bike and then said, crossly, “[our neighbors] say this is a girl’s bike, and it’s not a girl’s bike, it’s my bike.”

I assured him that it was. We talked about how girls AND boys can like whatever they want. About a day later, we had a similarly-upset conversation about his hair. He likes keeping it longer, but informed me, with sad sniffles, that he didn’t want it to grow any longer because he didn’t want to be a girl.

!

We talked about how hair length doesn’t change gender (well, it was more age appropriate than that) and talked about all of our friends who had different lengths of hair and different genders.* I think it helped things get figured out, especially as Jetpack is still refusing to get his hair cut, so. Obviously his worries about turning into a girl (yes, that was his concern!) have lessened somewhat.

So I’m not saying in any way that our neighbor’s kids were intentionally harmful with their words. They are good kids, and they mean well. But sometimes there is power in our most harmless of words. I was thinking about this, and this HuffPo article, and how awful/scary/wonderful children are. Words have such meaning to them. As adults we like to pretend that so much language is water on our backs, that the only words that really matter are the few that really get beneath our skin. But when a kid is learning a couple new words a day** they seem like they mean something extra.

So the enemy is once again not an enemy at all, not a boogie man at all. I want the source of my child’s pain to be easily visible.

nelson

So I mean, now we’ve talked about this, he and I. I guess I was a little ill-prepared though, for these itty bitty 4-year-old microaggressions. Something about a small and really friendly preschool and a stay-at-home-parent made me hope/believe that it would take longer.

So, it’s not-really bullying, just unintentionally painful words, but it seems like the methods of conceptualizing his reactions and needs are similar to those of a bullied child. Some stuff I’ve found here on the intertubes:

10 Tips For Talking About Bullying. I liked this because it’s not quite as full on, “don’t make eye contact or react to your bullies!” as some of the other stuff out there. The first tip is “Keep your emotions in check. Parents are very protective of their children and it is only natural that you would have strong emotions regarding your child being bullied.” I’m pretty sure I need that as a tattoo across the back of my hand, like when I was in high school and wrote homework assignments on my skin.

Bullying: how to spot it. This is a little stronger, but I appreciated that it breaks stuff down by age. The questions it talks about asking your kids “when you suspect bullying” sound like really excellent questions to ask when your kid comes home from school, like, pretty much every day.

Stopbullying.gov is flipping huge and has a lot of stuff (and, uh, some dead links on the front page? Sheesh, .gov folks, even *I* know better than that…). But it’s worth perusing and keeping in the back of your head if you ever need it.

So who else has some resources? Ideas? Commiserations? Verbal eye-rolling?

 

Vocabulary! (lifted from wikipedia) Microaggression is the idea that specific interactions between those of different races, cultures, or genders can be interpreted as mostly non-physical aggression. Sue et al. (2007) describe microaggressions as, “brief and commonplace daily verbal, behavioral, or environmental indignities, whether intentional or unintentional, that communicate hostile, derogatory, or negative racial slights and insults toward people of color.”

*Which is actually hard when your dear friends are a lot of queers who identify as genderfluid/genderflexible/genderqueer! One in particular has a fab short pompador-esque haircut and is queer-gender identified and female-bodied. I remembered their short hair, and brought it up before thinking the whole thing through. Jetpack’s response, verbatim, was “she’s a boy.” Not useful for that particular conversation (or maybe more useful than I realized?) but awesome, nonetheless.

**I actually got this fact off of Babycenter, which is about as statistically reliable as a real baby. So.