My niece was born! So many thoughts on gender…

My sister-in-law wanted to be surprised by the sex of both of her kids. This morning (a day after my birthday!), she gave birth to a baby girl. She is a gem. Avery and I will probably meet her on Sunday, but my wife is heading to the hospital now. She was born in a flash, as second babies sometimes are.

My sister-in-law and her husband were both really hoping for a girl. I had hoped Avery would be a girl, too, but I had some mixed feelings over having a gender preference, given my understanding of the made-up and sometimes harmful construct that is gender. And now that our new family member is a niece and not a nephew, I find myself worrying about the gender glove she’s going to be expected to perfectly fit. I certainly worry about our nephew’s socialization into toxic masculinity (the world is so hard on men, despite their overall privilege over women).

The gender of this baby has been at the crux of many decisions leading up to her birth. Often it’s around clothing – too bad they can’t reuse any of the baby clothes they already have šŸ™„ (rolling my eyes at society). The kids have also been already deemed appropriate playmates or not based on the then-unknown gender of the new baby. A boy would have the same interests, would play with the same toys, and would be able to physically match his older brother in boisterous play. A girl would need more of her mother’s companionship when playing, would be of less interest to her brother, would need all new toys, and although this wasn’t discussed, I’m pretty sure she’ll be sheltered from any boisterous play.

These maybe aren’t things that will cause my new niece to have any less of a great life. She may fit that gender stereotype like a glove and be perfectly content in the roles given to her. But she might not. I guess the consolation is that she has two gay aunts with a huge range of stereotypically masculine and feminine traits and interests, and a cousin raised to outsmart gender stereotypes, whom she can turn to if she needs a break from the binary.

Anyway, I’m thrilled to have a new baby in the family, regardless of their gender. It’s just hard to be immersed in the world of gender stereotype research in academia, and watch kids being raised in a world so oppressive around gender.

3 thoughts on “My niece was born! So many thoughts on gender…

  1. The world is hard on everyone I am finding! I know what you mean though, how do we honor and accept our children for who they are when society is sending very strict guidelines for who/what they are supposed to be? Aside from gender, there is a tough balance between letting kids be themselves, but also not letting them be spoiled brats who get everything they want and have no discipline. I do feel our world is creeping through progress (sometimes its two steps forward, one step back…) so hopefully these ‘gender norms’ become less and less overbearing through our children’s lives.

    Liked by 1 person

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