May 22, 2014

Gender Creativity

Those of you who know me know that I live my life out loud.  I share a lot of photos and activities that I do with my family.  I do this for a couple reasons: 1)I generally love my life and have a tendency to share and gush about things that float my boat 2)I live in a fairly isolated part of the world (unless you count bears and the occasional porcupine?) I like to share my days and children with family and friends in an effort to stay connected to them.  I love that my in-laws can share in my children’s lives even when they can’t be right here.  It is the wonderful side of using social media.

DSC_0486See what I mean about the porcupine??


I have realized that there is one aspect of my life that I haven’t particularly addressed and that is Tanner’s gender creativity.  We obviously aren’t hiding it, a fact that is quite evident in the 650 photos I post annually to Facebook.  As he gets older and continues with his non-conformist ways, I find myself fielding more questions or WORSE encountering well-intentioned moms and friends who decide to not broach the subject for fear of offending me or not saying “the right” thing.  I’m here to answer ALL your questions, in one handy dandy blog post.


*Side note:  I’d like to preface my Q&A with the fact that I FIRMLY believe we live in a society that misguidedly forces gender roles on to their children.  I don’t think we are doing it with ill-intention.  However, I feel that promoting the individual by listening to and promoting likes and desires will get you MUCH, MUCH farther than putting our children into either a pink or blue box and ALL that entails.**


Let’s start with the doozey I get asked: Why does he wear dresses, leggings, “girl clothes”?

I don’t know.  Why are you wearing jeans?  It’s really just that simple. He likes them.  They are comfortable him and make him happy, which is the general purpose of fashion isn’t it?


What does Paul think?

Have any of you met Paul??  He has been bending the rules of what is “normal” for YEARS.  From his long hair, to his speedo um….I mean choice of swimwear, Paul is a born rule-breaker.  He asks the question why not?  He follows his heart and speaks his mind in gentle, respectful way that I can’t help but be in awe of his charisma.  So, in short, I can’t speak for him but I can guess that Paul would say something fabulously simple to convey his unconditional love and support for all 3 of our children.


Does he dress himself?

(This seems silly but I have gotten asked this.) Yes, both Emmy Lu and Tanner get to pick their own clothes and get dressed themselves EVERY day. (And I have started practicing with Hattie too) If we have a place to go, I might make a couple suggestions but the final choice and task of getting dressed is left to them. (With minor help from me with buttons, ties, etc)  It is an important part of development for children that fosters independence and creativity so yes, I don’t only “let him” dress himself, I basically make him.


Are you a boy or a girl?

Tanner just got asked this on the playground yesterday by another child. “Girl,” he said.  “Ok,” said the child and they continued off playing.  Right now Tanner identifies more with being female, he calls himself a girl.  While pretending, he prefers to be the princess (mainly Elsa), or mommy vs. being the prince or daddy.  Again, we don’t tell him that either is right or wrong, only that he can be whoever he wants to be.


Are you raising all of your children without gender?

No we aren’t. Rather than having all gendered or all non-gendered activities/toys/etc, I just try to focus my attention on individuality.  Each person is unique with a set of likes/dislikes, interests and passions.  Each of my children express their own interests that I try to cultivate.  None of us fit into just one predetermined category, which is why I am a juxtaposition of happy housewife circa 1950 and raging feminist. 


Is he gay?

He’s 4.  His sexual preference is not even on our radar yet.  Our main goal is to raise happy, loving, well-adjusted people.  However, if in the future, any of our children feel in their heart that loving a person of the same sex is important to them then they will have a family who still loves, supports and encourages them.  Again, it’s really that simple.


What do you (Heidi) think about it?

As a mama bear, I can’t help but want to shield all of my children from hurt and harm.  I realize that individuality isn’t always valued and celebrated by others as it is in our home.  I worry about him encountering unkind or ignorant children and adults. However, I find comfort in the fact that I can build my children’s self-esteem and give them tools to deal with any of the struggles they may face in their lives.  It is why I pour so much of myself into parenting.  I am not raising children, I am raising future adults (hopefully REALLY cool and likeable adults).


Is this why you decided to homeschool?

I’m not going to lie and say this had ZERO influence our decision to homeschool but it actually had very little.  I want to homeschool for a variety of different reasons and because it resonates with my heart and soul as the right direction for us to try right now.  You can read about that here.


Lastly, How should we treat him?

Obviously, people don’t ask this question but I can tell that some people are uncomfortable or unsure with how to react when he talks about being a girl, etc.  My advice is to treat him like the smart, articulate child he is.  He is very special, but not because he wears dresses.  He is special for a million other reasons.  He has ability to read people and situations like no other.  He is kind and sweet.  He is easy to laugh and tells ridiculously confusing “knock-knock” jokes. He has taught me so much about myself and smiles every single time I tell him that he was the first one to teach me how to be a mommy.  As my sister said, “I think Tanner is just so special.  He is going to teach all of us so much about life.  He already has, and he’s only 4!”

He’s just a boy (or girl) who likes to wear dresses (or not).  It’s just that simple.


If you have any questions please feel free to ask or e-mail me @


Also, there are TONS of resources out there for gender creative kids or gender non-conformist kids.  It’s easy to individualize an issue to a particular family or child but there are literally THOUSANDS of families with little boys and girls who don’t fit in the gender boxes assigned to them by society.


  1. I would like to think I would be as acceptable to a wonderful child like Tanner as you. He is very lucky to have support and love in his life. One day he will read this post and be so very proud of you as a mom. I think we could all take a page out of your book and be a little more accepting of one another. Great post Heidi!

  2. Something I noticed with Joelle is that when she would want to play with trucks or something a BOY item, people were proud of her, like it was proof she was smart. Now when I carry Marcel around in pink blankets and let him play with GIRL toys they freak out. What's the big deal people?
    I am glad Tanner has a family like you. It's what he needs, it's what EVERY child needs. Parent's that accept them and nurture their curiosity in a safe environment without negative judgment.
    Honestly I never noticed anything 'off' about your pictures, all I saw was a happy Mama and Happy kids. That's what I see :)