Don't Worry If You Misgender My Children (It's Not A Big Deal)

by Sara Farrell Baker
Originally Published: 
Lucian Motatu / Shutterstock

I am the mother of two semi-androgynous children. My son, ever since he was a baby, has been mistaken for a girl. When he was younger, this was mostly because he has the most insane eyelashes and a damn pretty face. Now that he’s a little older, the culprit is his long hair. It is incredibly rare for anyone who doesn’t know him to actually refer to my son as a “him.”

My daughter, having been born second, wears a lot of my son’s hand-me-downs. I’ve filled her wardrobe in with some floral prints and dresses. But a good bit of what she wears is jeans, black hoodies with dinosaur spikes down the back, and gray T-shirts with motorcycles or bears on them. She was not blessed with my son’s luscious locks and has a fairly modest amount of hair. While not as frequent as my son’s case, I still often hear what a cute little boy she is.

Most of the time, I don’t correct anyone. More often than not, my kids aren’t paying enough attention to notice. If my son does notice that someone has called him a girl, he sometimes will do the correcting on his own. I’m fine with that. But for the most part, we let it go because it doesn’t matter. Misgendering my kids isn’t going to ruin their day or mine.

But you wouldn’t know that was the case when I actually do correct people. If we are at a play group or meeting someone I think we may come into contact with again, I will correct them because it’s kind of weird for someone to find out my daughter is a girl after they’ve been calling her “Little Dude” for five months. As soon as I do this initial correction, I am met with profuse apologies.

The poor bastards always look so embarrassed. “Oh, I’m so sorry!”

It’s okay, Person. It’s not like you ran anyone over with a car or assumed my child is a Red Sox fan. You used the wrong pronoun. No harm, no foul. Let’s move on.

I was especially perplexed by how horrified people seemed when they guessed the wrong gender when my children were babies. Who on this planet can look at a baby, swaddled-up in blankets, squishy and giving off that “new baby” smell, and know if they’re cooing over a boy or a girl? Besides, the moment that a baby is freshly out of me and a doctor lets out a loud “It’s a (something),” I don’t need anyone to be sure.

And that’s why I don’t correct complete strangers. It does not matter if you guess wrong in the gender department. It certainly doesn’t matter enough for me to have to then reassure you that I’m not offended.

And why should it offend me? I love that both of my kids are growing up with a less black-and-white view of gender. At 4, my son is only just recently making distinctions between girls and boys. He knows he is a boy. He knows his little sister is a girl. But he has never shown a preference for, or even an awareness of, “boy” and “girl” things.

He doesn’t categorize different toys or colors or activities as being exclusively for girls or boys. They both play with trucks. They both play with dolls. They both love Blaze & the Monster Machines and Shimmer and Shine (though I’d be okay if both liked neither because headache). They also both love puzzles, coloring, playing outside, and seeing who can scream the loudest before I lose my mind and a portion of my hearing. They both like kid stuff.

It has been interesting to see what both of them gravitate toward without me pushing them in either direction. My son is gentle, sweet, loves sitting quietly with a book, and will play with action figures from dusk till dawn if I let him. My daughter is loud, fearless, basically swinging from the ceiling most days, and will play dress up with anything she can get her hands on. My son likes to watch me put on makeup and help his dad work on home improvement projects. My daughter likes to have her hair brushed and climbs to the tallest point on any playground. Every day, they find new ways to surprise me.

So don’t worry so much about guessing where they fall on a scale of pink to blue. You’ve got a 50/50 shot, and it’s not really a game where anyone is going to win or lose. No apologies are necessary.

My kids are kids. They have their whole lives to be a girl and a boy. Right now, I’m content with them being themselves.

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