Kids have strong opinions about my gender

Yesterday, my partner and I met up with my childhood best friend and her family; they were in town for the holidays.  They have two kids, ages 6 and 3, and the three year old was overwhelmingly interested in me.  I’ve never had this experience before – usually kids stay their distance, giving me sideways glances or staring and staring and staring.  I’ve been interacting with kids more at school (while I’m working) a little more lately, realizing that although I’m a janitor, I am also an authority figure they see regularly, who can help point them to preferable behaviors.  (No running, no going down steps sideways, no slamming and throwing your garbage in the general area of the garbage barrel at lunch, etc.)

This was a very different dynamic though.  We were hanging out at a nearby public greenhouse and plant conservatory, and the three-year-old daughter took any opportunity to climb all over me, instruct me to pick her up and throw her up in the air, and get right in my face.  She was overhearing everyone use male pronouns for me, and she yelled, 2 inches away from my face, “you’re a girl!”  And then again.  And again.  “You’re a girl!”  We all laughed.  It was funny.  Because she’s three.  It was also the most jarring thing I have experienced in a very long time.  Her mom went ahead and explained very simply and directly that I get to say who I am, not her, and everyone has their own feelings about who they are, and only they get to say.  She tested this with, “you’re a boy!” but then went on to state, “I’ve never seen a boy who sounds like a girl.”  “I’ve never seen a boy who looks like a girl.”  And again.  And again.  Holy cow, kids love repetition!!!

She also declared many times that I am her mama.  Whoa.  (She later clarified that she was making a joke.)  Again, all of this is funny and easy to let slide because she is a three year old, but I gotta admit it was actually hitting my psyche a little bit. It helped that her mom (my friend), let us know she often does this.  She’s super outgoing, and she’ll hone in on one adult of a group she’s with, and that person is 9 times out of 10 the most handsome adult male of the group.  I’ll take it!

I have been considering what might happen if I increased my testosterone levels.  And these exchanges really sunk in, as one more thing, in a way that makes me feel motivated to move in that direction where I appear and sound more masculine.  I am still positive that I do not want to live my life as a visible male, but how cool would it be if people had some serious trouble knowing?  I would love that (as long as they were respectful in the not-knowing).

This kid’s reaction was interesting, because usually it’s kids more than anyone else, who are not quite sure whether I am a girl or a boy.  If I am asked this question, it’s coming from a child.  I’m usually not told, strongly and forcefully, by someone making eye contact, two inches away from my face!  Haha.

7 Comments on “Kids have strong opinions about my gender”

  1. Lesboi says:

    This! This is one of my worst nightmares! I have a friend who has a 5 yr old daughter who is a lot like your friend’s 3 yr old and will say whatever thing pops into her little head. She scares the crap out of me whenever I see her. I’m waiting for the day she looks at me and asks if I’m a boy or a girl in a very loud voice in a very public place. Right now she just gives me those weird sideways looks you mentioned and then smiles and says something silly to me. I can tell she’s trying to figure me out and I can’t believe this hasn’t happened yet. Anyway, I completely get how this hit your psyche. It’s good that your friend helped out by explaining things to her daughter and that you’re able to see the humor in it but still it’s got to be very unnerving. Kids say the stuff adults are afraid to say and that is what terrifies me about them. Hopefully I will come up with some witty and humorous way to handle it if it ever happens. Thanks for sharing this.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. karen says:

    I had a similar experience with another three year old. We were at choir rehearsal, andI was sitting with her aunt, a very close friend of mine, during a break when I noticed I was being fixed with that direct and unselfconscious stare that three year olds have. Without taking her eyes off me, she said softly to her aunt, “I see a boy.” Her poor aunt was mortified, but I laughed.

    “That’s because I used to be one,” I said.

    “Oh,” she said, and went back to playing with her My Little Pony. That was that. Oddness explained. Problem solved.

    As for me, I was somewhat shaken, but puzzled, too. How was it that I was read so easily by a three year old, but not by the adults around us? Though I am fairly open about being trans, many in the choir did not know, and apparently never suspected. I recall one choir member being absolutely astounded when I told her. She didn’t know, but the three year old spotted me right off. Go figure.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Kasey Weird says:

    Oh my. Yeah, kids reactions to me are endlessly fascinating, but I also find that kids are generally the most forthright about being unsure how to categorize me. My boyfriend’s kid straight-up asked her parents whether I was a boy or a girl shortly after she met me. And I get asked occasionally by kids when I’m at work (public library). The parents are usually *super* uncomfortable about it 😛

    I did recently spend time with a super precocious kid who absolutely just says whatever the heck she’s thinking. I don’t know what she thought my gender was, I guess it didn’t come up. But she was really surprised to learn I had a job, because she had apparently read me as a teenager (yikes! Also particularly awkward/hilarious because she had also accused my boyfriend of being “really old” and going through a mid-life crisis earlier that day). Kids are weird, basically.


  4. Kids tend to have less preconceptions of the world, and, find it easier to adjust their view of the world around them (cause they do that all the time: learning). Sure, it is very hard to escape the binary gendered toys, and also most kids have opposite sex & heterosexual carers. But when faced with anything “different”, it is normally met with mundane curiosity.
    It is worse if a child is scolded for asking about someone’s gender or sexual identity. The associated negative emotion of the scolding with the inquiry has much more a lasting impression on how the child will react in future situations of different expressions of gender and sexual identity.
    Young kids aren’t really out there to hurt feelings. Sometimes it is not what gender you are that’s important, but rather if you like the same toppings on pancakes as them.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. micah says:

    Remember that a lot of these things we take for granted are very new to kids, and sometimes a kid’s way of making “figuring things out” is saying it out loud. I think the fact that she kept repeating “you’re a girl” means she still didn’t believe it too much – by repeating it, maybe it would be true or make sense. It could be a number of things she was figuring out all at once: that someone can look both like a boy and a girl (but she picked one and had to remind/convince herself) or that a girl can look like a boy, or that you have really different hair.

    I for one am still surprised adults read me either way: how can you see a girl when I’m clearly not? and at the same time, how can you believe I’m an adult cis male? We are a paradox and neither answer is correct, yet getting a mix of both is ironically more validating than being seen as just one over the other.


  6. The Little Butch That Could (TLBTC) says:

    Toddlers are great! Our twin nieces are finally at an age where they are fun to be with. . . but they still get confused with me, We see them only a few times a year plus when we are all together, I’m the only white person in the room. Sometimes they just get stuck on trying to work out why I come with their Tita, my partner, who is Tita R, that’s me, and why Daddy’s (male) co-worker is at their house, me again in their opinion. They’ll get it eventually.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. That’s what I love about kids – they say things that adults won’t (to your face) and they ask questions, which makes it easier to have a conversation, rather than having people assume (incorrect) things. I’m genderqueer, not on T. I had an experience at the local pool where the kids asked each other, in Zulu, which I happened to understand – is that a boy or a girl? I answered: I’m both. This allowed some dialogue and an opening of awareness of gender diversity on their parts. As opposed to last night when we had a gathering of friends where someone asked what pansexuality is, and when answered that it was being attracted to all genders, the response: “But there are only two genders.” As difficult as kids’ reactions can be, at least it starts a dialogue, rather than adults who just make assumptions and try to define you according to their worldview.


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