Sex Mistakes


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.