Penny's Story

A cute little drummer living her dream.

Gender Assumptions and Kids

I was at Arisia this past weekend with the Darling Boyfriend. It’s a sci/fi convention, with geeks and nerds and brains all over the place. I’ll blog about the con in a separate post, but something struck me that I wanted to mention in its own post.

There are lots of kids at Arisia (geeks procreate too). Because the Darling Boyfriend has gotten me playing Munchkin, I actually spent some time in the game room this year. There were lots of kids in the game room. A couple kids played in the Munchkin game that I played. And lots of these kids looked either androgynous or completely like the “other” gender. There were a couple little boys that I would have sworn were cute little girls. In fact, without their name-tags I totally would have misgendered them. And I watched other people misgender them several times.

The obvious “answer” is for parents to insist that their children conform to our societal stereotypes of how each gender is supposed to look.

Of course, I don’t think much of that “answer.” (That’s why “answer” is in scare-quotes.)

You could tell that these kids were used to having people make the wrong assumptions about who they are, and they generally handled the mistakes with aplomb. And most of the folks who misgendered these kids instantly turned into teaching and caring and empathic moments (one man even told a little boy about how he had a high voice when he was younger and was often mistake for a girl and how he hated it). It was an interesting thing to watch, all these kids breaking norms and being strong enough to just gently correct people when they made mistakes.

And I wondered if any of these kids were doing more than just breaking societal gender norms. I wondered if any of these kids were expressing something that didn’t have words for yet. I wondered how I could reach out to any of these kids and find answers to those questions. And I realized that I couldn’t. But I did take to these kids instantly. And I know all I can do is be me and live like me and maybe present a positive role-model for any of those kids that are more than just challenging gender-norms, but have deeper issues with their gender. I suffered due to a lack of visible people like me when I was younger, and I’d really like to be available as a role model for kids like I was.

Anyway, the punch-line is…

I leaned over to the Darling Boyfriend at one point and told him that I’m never going to make an assumption about a kid’s gender ever again. I know I will, but this weekend was a powerful reminder for me that people come in all shapes and sizes. We ~glance~ at each other and instantly start to make assumptions. It’s important to slow down and take individuals as just that – individuals.

Oh, and playing games with all those geeky kids just tweaked my “I want a baby” button like mad. Those kids were so frickin’ cute. I want one.


  Priscilla wrote @

I went to the panel on gender in SF/F, and one of the panelists said that there had been research that showed that when one is handed a baby one will hold it differently depending on whether one is told it is biologically female or male. Our socialization goes that deep and far. 😦

  I Sang! « Penny's Story wrote @

[…] – lol. Anyway, last time I told a story about Arisia and read the blog post I wrote about kids who break gender stereotypes. This time, for whatever reason, I decided to finally sing. This requires some explanation. I […]

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