On A Gender Bender


The culture war pileup over a J.Crew ad in which a designer paints her son's toenails pink could use a strong dose of history. Jeanne Maglaty explains how baby colors evolved in America. From a Ladies’ Home Journal article in June 1918:

The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl.

My mum recounts how she learned of my gender. The midwife – me and my two siblings were all delivered at home in the same bed – uttered the words: "Well, he doesn't have blue booties on, but he's definitely a boy!" Not to brag or anything.

The fooferaw about painting an infant boy's toe-nails neon pink struck me as the usual panic about any sort of childhood influence that might somehow lead your son or daughter to be gay. I'm not sure there's much to be done about this, but I was struck by this comment:

J.Crew, a popular preppy woman's clothing brand and favorite affordable line of first lady Michelle Obama, is targeting a new demographic – mothers of gender-confused young boys. At least, that's the impression given by a new marketing piece that features blatant propaganda celebrating transgendered children.

Well, what would be the right approach to transgendered children? Shaming and stigmatizing them?

Just think of the parallels. The paragraph above accepts, as one must, the reality of children with gender confusion or transgendered identity. We know this is real, and sometimes goes nowhere, sometimes leads to kids being gay, and sometimes means a child is indeed transgendered. The child is obviously not making some kind of choice, just expressing his or her nature. So think of a paragraph dealing with another simple reality for some babies and children: Down Syndrome. And let's imagine that a rather brave and admirable clothes catalogue featured a child with Down Syndrome in their ads.

Does anyone believe that anyone would bemoan this fact as being "blatant propaganda celebrating children with Down Syndrome"? Every now and again, you see how acceptable cruelty and approved stigma is uniquely reserved for LGBT children. Yes, children. Often in the name of Christianity!

As Woody Allen memorably noted, "If Jesus came back and saw what was being done in his name, he'd never stop throwing up."

(Photo: Baby boy in a dress, wearing a bullet around his neck, by Flickr user clotho98)