A conversation with my six-year-old son:
“Mama, why do you have hair under your arms?”
“Why do you think I might have hair under my arms?”
“Oh, because you’re trans.”
“Nope. I have hair under my arms because hair grows under my arms.”
“You didn’t have it before.”
“That’s because for most of my life I was trying to fit into what other people thought I should look like. In our culture most people believe that women shouldn’t have hair on their bodies. But hair grows on women’s bodies, just like on men’s bodies. So, if it grows there, why shouldn’t it belong there?”
“Oh, we have hair to keep us warm! Like winter foxes, and bears!”
“I mean, sure.”
For the record, I have never told my son that I am trans. I’m not trans. He knows about it because of my former partner, who is non-binary, and because of a character in one of his favorite graphic novel series, The Backstagers (which you should all read regardless of if you have kids or not). He knows his grandpa wears women’s clothing sometimes, but I think he thinks it’s because Grandpa “likes to disguise himself as a woman sometimes.” I think Monty understands “trans” more than “crossdresser.” Now that I think about it, he’s not alone there. As unaccepting as our culture is of transgender people, I think it’s an easier concept to grasp than crossdressing. GENERALLY SPEAKING, transgender people tend fit more neatly within the gender binary than cis-gender or gender-fluid people who choose to wear clothing more typical of the “opposite” sex, or who don’t bind their chests, or shave their beards, or mask whatever secondary sex characteristics they might have. As for gender-fluid people, I don’t even know how my son tries to fit that in his head. It’s easier for him to understand that someone might have been born with the wrong body parts than it is for him to understand that someone might be comfortable with their body parts and also not fully identify with the gender assigned to them at birth, or even just refuse to accept the gender norms placed on them by our puritanical culture. Even I have trouble with that concept, and I am one of those people.
I’m very proud that my six-year-old has a concept of what “trans” means, but I also know it would never occur to him to ask his dad why he has hair under his arms. And he’s being raised in a household with a parent who is gender nonconforming, who has friends and family who are gender nonconforming, and who make sure that the media he consumes includes gender nonconforming and trans people. This is how absolutely insidious misogyny and sexism are.
Just a quick thought on a very complex subject. Happy Thursday!