Once upon a time in a land not so long and far away author and mother Cheryl Kilodavis wrote a book titled My Princess Boy: A Mom's Story About a Young Boy Who Loves to Dress Up. The book, which was inspired by her five-year old son Dyson's desire to dress as a princess, is now being used in schools as an gender diversity positive educational, anti-bullying tool.
I first learned about the interview from a featured news story highlighted on the Advocates.com's online edition. “I'm a princess boy and I love wearing dresses, and I love the colors of pink and red...it makes me feel happy”, says five-year-old Dyson Kilodavis during an interview with Meredith Vieira on MSNBC's Today show in July of 2010.
On the same topic, a separate interview by Vieira on MSNBC aired later in the year on November 8, featuring another young five year old boy, nicknamed “Boo”, who elected to chose the costume “Daphne” from the Scooby-Doo movie for his upcoming Halloween Kindergarten party. To protect the family's privacy Boo's mother Sarah has chosen not to reveal her surname, but, unabashed, she supports his choice. In response to the negative reactions she received from other mothers she replied, “If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Halloween is somehow going to make him “gay” then you are an idiot ….. I'm not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja, so back off.” Boo's mom outlines her personal dilemma as she comments: I'm torn between the fact that I don't want my children to be teased, but at the same time I don't want my children to feel that they always have to give in to what the world expects of them”. Further, she stated, “No matter what he turns out to be as a grown-up, if he's left handed, right handed, these things do not matter to me, because he is my son”.
After many thousands of years of binary gender role evolution and ascendancy, has the arc finally reached its apex? Is its tide finally turning to meet the crucial point where issues of social justice and equality intersect? Is the inevitable showdown between the two finally at hand?
From the perspective of one such as myself who has struggled throughout 57+ years of life wrangling with the gender conformity issue, this certainly seems to be the case. Can you give me a Hallelujah!? I was born in September of 1953, into a cultural climate struggling with concurrent social concerns of race and emerging civil rights issues. While the focus was not yet on gender diversion, following the Civil Rights Movement, the topic of sexual orientation began to occupy the interests of the scientific community, and eventually in 1973 homosexuality was removed from the Diagnostic Statistical Manual as a mental disorder. Too late however, since the navy had already discharged me from the service for being gay.
Like those young boys, Dyson and Boo, I identify as biologically male. Likely, we share the commonality of transgender nature; me in the sense that I have no strong affiliation to either of the usual binary cultural choices, and them, in that they are too young as yet to have been fully indoctrinated in masculine culture. I too liked to dress up in girl things and play with girls toys, even prior to the stage of development where boys were 'normally' pressured to participate in more male appropriate activities. After a certain age, to express curiosity about the characteristics of the opposite sex was suspect. Indeed to go so far as to emulate their particular culture was anathema.
In chapter One (The Animal With the Weirdest Sex Life) of his 1997 book The Evolution of Human Sexuality Dr. Jared Diamond compares various aspects of sexuality between species. In the chapter he states “Increasingly today, we consider it narrow-minded and despicably prejudiced to denigrate those who do not conform to our own standards.” And while not intentionally mixing sex and gender as metaphors, in the case of these two boys the statement could apply equally as well. True, at age five, they were not yet sexually developed as were the subjects of Dr. Diamond's research, however, his thesis that "human identification with sexual anatomy, physiology and behavior has diverged from our closest relative" is applicable to this particular situation. And, as Boo's mom Sarah attests, not only does it raise a lot of eyebrows; it raises a lot of objections as well.
Why does such an elevation of blood pressure accompany the mention of boys expressing interest in girl things? Even today, the culture war continues to bolster prevailing prejudicial attitudes regarding stereotypical expectations that boys gravitate toward masculine traits in the course of personal development, as it expects girls to gravitate toward feminine traits, in spite of the strides made along the lines of women's rights, particularly in the workforce. One would think we would have learned that lesson and moved on to issues of greater concern, such as poverty, domestic violence etc. Be that as it may, the idea 'Boys being boys and girls being girls' historically has come to be thought of as the 'natural' way for the species to develop. But according to whose perspective?
Emily Martin, author of “The Egg and the Sperm: How Science Has Constructed a Romance Based on Stereotypical Male-Female Roles” apparently would agree that ideas about femininity and masculinity are entrenched in the manner biologists use language to construct imagery for describing the human reproductive process. The usual lexicon used to characterize masculinity insinuates an implication of power differential between masculine and feminine polarities, in like manner to other polarities such as darkness (evil) and light (good). In reproductive terms the male reproductive process (dominance) is evaluated positively, ie, in terms of its productivity (spermatogenesis). On the other hand, the female reproductive process (submission) is evaluated negatively in terms of its disintegration and necrosis (menstruation). The act itself implies that primary control of the process belongs to the male who, with pelvic thrusting initiatives, does the 'hard work' of 'penetration', while women behave as passive 'receptacle' for the 'transport' of the ejaculation of sperm. According to Martin, biological scientists are responsible for reinforcing perspectives which portray the entire reproductive act as being male dominant instead of characterizing it as the true process of mutuality that it is, with both participants equally responsible for the ultimate coital result.
The inclinations of both the scientific and academic communities to evaluate distinctions between male-female human Sexuality and Gender in terms of a binary model is being challenged as a cultural norm by groups that advocate to deconstruct the gender codes which have arisen over time through continuous articulation, reiteration and reinforcement of ideas that grew out of the concept of dualism inherent in the pair-bonding habits of our earlier relatives. From an evolutionary perspective it would seem to make good sense to acknowledge evidence supporting the facts that each individual organism exists as the result of reproduction, thus supporting the idea that the species needs males to be men, and females to be women in order to ensure that reproduction habits remain intact so that the species avoids extinction. However, reproduction has not always been, and does not necessarily occur only as a result of a pair bonding sexual experience. Even single cells of certain organisms reproduce themselves asexually without the participation of another individual of the same species. Plants also have the ability to reproduce asexually. So life, within the aegis of the proper environmental circumstances, reproduces, adapts and survives autonomically, without the interference and even in spite of well-intended biological engineers.
That being the case, the tendency to impose a biased set of arbitrary constraints upon an individual's otherwise naturally occurring sexual/gender orientation, may interfere with the natural ecological intention of providential creativity. It's been said that it's not nice to fool with mother nature. When people argue in favor of the binary model, they usually do so out of blindness and ignorance as a result of inducement through cultural conditioning, their objections being raised within the narrow confines of their own liminal condition. In that regard, the human species across the globe revels in identification with binary perspective, and there it remains, stuck, enamored, ever peering like narcissus into the mirror of its own reflection. It has forgotten to remember that it was once one before it became two, and thus it remains caught up in the fairy tale myth of its own lingual narrative.
As little girls synthesize the culturally based gender polarities and absorb into themselves the nature of boys, and as boys do the same, the resulting encoded genetics will rewrite the evolutionary script for the next generation. As this occurs the social DNA will evolve us (at least on the spiritual level) into a less dichotomous and thus more integrated species. Our generativity may then become less focused on the physical manifestations of our existence, and more in tune with who we are at the essential core; perhaps more angelic, like the innocent Princess Boys of the world, or better still, like we were when we were a single cell. Perhaps along the way we may learn to honor the innate tendencies, feelings, and inclinations of others; to allow them their uniqueness, without attempting to pathologize them by applying some theoretical context in which to justify biases hidden in one's personal subjectivity.