Surrounded by old mothers, new mothers, and mothers-to-be this Mother’s Day weekend, I found myself pretty much locked in to talk of babies and children. Since my younger sister, due in under five weeks, won’t know her baby’s sex until it’s born, that was also a common topic of conversation.
“I can’t even buy clothes at a rummage sale, because everything is so gender-specific,” she said as we passed by an unusually large number of rummage sales last Saturday in my home town.
She’s convinced with a new-mother instinct that the baby will be a boy, but my mom warned her not to get attached to that idea, lest she be disappointed at having a girl. My sister assured us that she’s happy with a boy or a girl, of course, as long as it’s a healthy baby. The San Francisco swelled up in me, and I couldn’t help but pose the question, “What if you have a boy who wants to be a girl?”
“Oh, I don’t think Dad will allow that,” she said of her husband, a Wisconsin hunter, fisher, Marine, man-of-the-house type.
A 20-year-old Dana could not have let this pass with the quiet smile and shrug of the shoulders that the 26-year-old Dana did this weekend. A 20-year-old Dana would have ripped into a long-winded, well-intentioned but likely ill-informed lecture about gender identity and acceptance, spitting words like “transgender” into the faces of my relatives who would rather not talk about it. No one would have listened, and nothing would be changed.
The 26-year-old Dana withheld the lecture. The issue boiled in my mind no less, but I understand much better now that screaming at unwilling ears — tempting as it may be — is no way to change the world.
I understand, in fact, that nothing I do can change the world, no matter how much my 20-year-old self hoped I would. What I can do, though, is make myself available to my future niece or nephew (or niece->nephew) as someone to talk to should questions about gender identity, sexuality, or anything else touchy, political, and otherwise uncomfortable arise.
Instead of trying to Change The World by being an evangelist for Peace and Love, I can just mind the world around me and be Aunt Dana — the one with the place in California that you can flee to when you’re 20 and feeling like it’s time to do that sort of thing. (The one who will pay for your flight a year later when you’re ready to go home and apologize.)
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Image credit: Doriana S (stock xchng)