Sex Mistakes

by doodaddy on May 31, 2008

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Even scowling and in her boy shirt, I don’t think she looks like a boy. But I’ve known her for a while, so maybe I’m a biased judge.

Boobaby is hairy. She was born with a mop and we haven’t ever cut it, so I never faced that most singular of parental experiences: the gender confused stranger. (Actually, this being San Francisco, we’ve met several gender confused strangers: what I mean to say is that I don’t remember anyone ever calling Boobaby a boy.)

Not that long hair necessarily denotes girl — you may have met Greeblemonkey’s boy kin of the flowing locks? — but people will, of course, assume, as I did with Aimee. (Sorry again, A!)

So I got a little zonked when two different people asked me if our friend EJ was Boo’s brother when she came to music class with us. She’s never looked anything like a boy to me, but then again, I’ve known her since nearly birth.

I suppose this happens to everyone occasionally, but I lack the resources to know how to respond. The first questioner asked, “Is this Boobaby’s brother?”

My immediate reaction was to wonder why they’d assume I was hiding Boo’s same-aged brother at home while we came to music class. Maybe we can only afford day care for one? The sex mistake dawned on me in a second wave of surprise, but I was already so overwhelmed that I could only stammer, “No — friend — good — friend.” I sounded a bit like Frankenstein’s monster.

When the question came the second time, it was worded exactly the same way — “Is this Boobaby’s brother?” — but I was better prepared. But only a little: I spat out the response: “No, sister!”

At least I’d finally made it clear that EJ is a girl. But I had to quickly stammer amendments. “I mean, girl. They’re just friends. She’s Boobaby’s friend. She’s a girl.”

The rational section of my sectioned-up brain is telling me that this is not a big deal: at 2 and a third, kids don’t really care much if some random adult makes a mistake in their gender, if they even notice. But other brain chunks chime in to point out that kids they certainly know that there are “boys” and there are “girls” and in Boo’s case, at least, she seems to ascribe some importance to which tribe each of her peeps belong to. I, for example, am a boy, and if I imply otherwise, she giggles and corrects me.

Pretty soon — by age 3? 4? — her gender identity is going to be a big deal to her, and since I’ve never had to defend it to misinformed strangers, I fear the issue may take me by surprise.

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tagged as in community,raising a girl ·

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Xbox4NappyRash June 1, 2008 at 2:47 am

She’s definitely a girl!

That scrunched up nose and look of disapproval in the photo couldn’t come from a non-female.

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MyMaGo June 1, 2008 at 8:19 am

I just asked my 3 year old daughter if she was a boy. She said “Nooooooooooooo!” I asked what she was and she said “I just I-nana” (her word for her name). She seemed quite offended to be called a boy lol. Not sure when that started.

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Michele Shores June 1, 2008 at 9:07 am

Both of my girls got mistaken for boys as babies because they did not have much hair but you would think the pink and purple I always dressed them in would be a give a way. I had Sarah decked out in pink from head to toe and still had someone say oh what a cute little boy. I replied back, ” She is a girl.” Under my breath I said,hello, she’s in pink.

I think boobaby looks like a girl. If I am not sure I usually say oh what a cute baby or oh what a cute child. THe parent will usually give a way gender at that point if not I did not offend.

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Dawn June 4, 2008 at 7:47 pm

um. this is so not what I thought this post was going to be about from the title..

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doodaddy June 4, 2008 at 8:57 pm

OK, I’ll admit it… that was kinda the point. :)

Madeja look!

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mom, again July 16, 2008 at 10:35 am

I was always told that in the ‘old days’ (pre-WWII?) the color thing was the other way around. Usually, by an older person who’d thought my bald until 3 yrs olda daughter was a boy. Despite, the ruffled skirt, the cute kitties with sparkles andaa bows on the t-shirt. I mean, it was a blue-based outfit*, but still.

*back in the not quite so old days of the mid-80’s when little girls clothing was still available in colors other than pink or lavender.

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