We’ve been in Finland for a month now. A month of anonymity. Except for a small handful of people, no one is aware of my child’s gender fluidity. Is that the correct term? Even I’m not sure…
When we go to the store, they ask “What would you girls like?” and none of us bat an eye. No corrections are forthcoming. It doesn’t even seem strange anymore, where once it used to make me feel a little squirmy. Now it just makes me smile inwardly, knowing how it pleases Ryder to hear it.
Even in my own speech (and typing), I am loathe to call Ryder a him. I refer to Ryder as “my big child” rather than “my big boy”, which sounds much more natural in Finnish. It’s possible that it has become easier simply because the pronouns are genderless here in Finland. It’s not “she looks nice”, it’s “(genderless they) looks nice.” Still, when someone says “your girls are so beautiful!” I smile and say “thank you.” Because truly, THANK YOU!!! Thanks for seeing my 6 year old child’s true self.
But what would happen if they found out? Would their opinion/actions/words change? Would their attitude be different? Would they shrink back in horror? Squint and stare at the abomination? Would they make excuses and scurry away to tell their neighbours?
Hah! I have come to realize that I just. don’t. care.
All that matters is what Ryder thinks of Ryder. All that matters is that Ryder knows we accept Ryder for who Ryder is. And the reason I keep using Ryder’s name is because we don’t have a genderless pronoun, so I’m not really sure how else to say it!
Why can’t I just say “her” and “she”? Well, because. Because we aren’t there yet. Ryder hasn’t asked us to change pronouns (YET!) and I’m not even sure we’re going to go that route. Ryder doesn’t display any gender dysphoria at this point (ie. disgust at having a penis) and actually may even ENJOY having one. The two kids laugh about the things it can do and there seems to be a general acceptance of the whole dangly situation.
So when my own Mother refers to Ryder as a boy, and says “our little man” when referring to Ryder, I kind of cringe inwardly. It sounds so… weird!!! Ryder is so far from boyish, it doesn’t make any sense in my brain to hear someone say ” little boy” or ” little guy.” But she doesn’t do it in a malicious way, she says it in the most endearing terms. And I have no urge to correct her. What would I correct it to? “No, no, Ryder isn’t a little boy, Ryder’s our little sweetie!”
When a neighbour said to us “oh, I thought your youngest was a boy”, my Mother and I replied at the exact same time. She said “Of course HE is!” and I said “my youngest lives as a girl, but just a girl with a penis.” The woman just nodded and said “ah” knowingly. No judgement, just “ah”. She understood completely, because it’s no longer such an anomaly in this day and age.
It’s been really lovely to have this androgynous freedom for the summer. No male or female pronouns, no labels, just free to be whoever. It’s going to be strange to start speaking English again and have to choose my words carefully. Will we be changing pronouns? DAMN, I wish that wasn’t even an issue! I don’t wish Ryder was one or the other, I just mean I wish we didn’t have to CHOOSE when referring to children. I seem to recall something about introducing a new gender-unspecific pronoun – was it “zhe”?? I can now see how handy that would be…
It’s so hard to describe to people this strange and wonderful situation we find ourselves in – looking at our child and not seeing gender. How odd that I can see my own child as simply a child and not male or female. Just… a child. A happy, joyous child who is often emotional, always gentle, incredibly loving, thoughtful, and caring.
Knowing that this will change in the coming years terrifies me, but I try not to think about it. I try to just enjoy who Ryder is right now, in this childish freedom offered by our protective parental wings.
If you call Ryder a “she”, I won’t correct you. If you call Ryder “he”, I won’t correct you. I will follow Ryder’s lead and let Ryder correct you, if that’s what Ryder wants to do. Until we have to make that decision, I’m going to hang on to my little sweetie as tightly as I can, for as long as I can!
Until they’re 18, because that’s when I’ve always said my kids would get the boot. Male, female, or other – you’re OUTTA my house! Fly! Be free! Fend for yourselves! Get a job. Get a tattoo. Do whatever you want! But always come for dinner on Sundays, and bring your boyfriend. Or girlfriend. And your laundry.