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My Child Gets Mis-Gendered a Lot (and How I Handle It)

Natalie is a mum of one, bringing him up vegan and without society's gender boundaries.

I Make No Assumptions About My Son and Who He Is

I'm bringing my son up vegan and without society's gender boundaries. He is not yet 3, but he is already exactly who he is supposed to be.

My Child Gets Mis-Gendered a Lot (and How I Handle It)

My Child Gets Mis-Gendered a Lot (and How I Handle It)

Pronouns: He, Her, or They?

We made the decision to refer to him as he/him until he tells us otherwise. I personally don’t believe society is ready for non-gendered children, and I didn’t want to put the weight of that on his shoulders. But I will make it abundantly clear that he can make that decision for himself when he wants to.

I Won't Cut His Hair. . . Unless He Asks Me

He has beautiful, long, curly blond hair and I can’t imagine him any other way. I’m sure he will want to cut it at some point, and I honestly dread that day. But for now, his long locks are just. . . him. It really suits him, and a part of me hopes he keeps it long. I will certainly never cut it just to fit society’s standards.

I Don't Buy Only One Gender of Clothing

I shop for his clothes in both aisles. I buy some things from the boys' section, and some from the girls'. It infuriates me that retailers think boys don’t want comfy leggings in fun prints or t-shirts in bright colours. Boys' clothes so often feature a small palette of blues, greens, and greys.

Pink Is His Favorite Colour

My son loves pink. It’s his favourite colour. He also loves glitter, rainbows, and pastels. I do try not to buy anything with added ruffles or tulle (though I would with pleasure if he asked for them), but I find the items in the girls' section often fit his aesthetic better.

I shop for his clothes in both aisles. I buy some things from the boys' section, and some from the girls'.

I shop for his clothes in both aisles. I buy some things from the boys' section, and some from the girls'.

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I Won't Censor What He Enjoys

His favourite characters are Frozen’s Elsa and Spiderman. He pretends to be either of them, or sometimes both. He also loves cars, unicorns, trains, mermaids, action figures, and Barbie dolls. His two favourite games are ‘superheroes’ where he runs about fighting evil, and ‘mermaids’ where he wafts around in a glittery bath, swishing his hair and his tail.

None of his interests have been forced on him by us. If he wants to watch or play something ‘girly’ then he does; if he wants to watch monster trucks and motorbikes then he does, because toys and tv shows don’t have a gender. I’m a woman who appreciates a good train and a comfortable flat shoe—we just like what we like.

If we’re at the shop and he asks for a magazine, it will invariably be for one that comes with free kiddie makeup or jewelry. I always say yes, despite the fact that the magazine itself always goes straight into the recycling. He loves his growing collection of ‘make-ups’ and likes me to paint his nails for him. I will never suggest that he chooses something with a ‘boy’ toy on the front.

Colorful, comfortable clothing can be worn by any gender.

Colorful, comfortable clothing can be worn by any gender.

I Will Always Support Him

We as his parents need him to know that he can be himself with us, whoever that might be. And while that might not seem important until he gets older, he needs a solid foundation of trust and love. He needs to feel validated, and loved for exactly who he is. If he does need to come to us to talk about his identity or sexuality, he has to know he can.

What do I say when people assume he's a girl?

Passers-by will often comment on his hair or outfit, saying ‘hasn’t she got such lovely hair!’ or ‘oh I like your glittery nails!’—it’s a compliment, and it comes from a place of love. Sometimes I don’t say anything, but often I will just quietly correct them and say "thank you! Yes, he does." The worst comments come from people who think they can have an opinion on my child. I regularly get asked ‘why are you letting him have that?’ and it’s obvious they aren’t just questioning why I’m buying him things. If I reply at all, it’s just to say that I buy him whichever toy/magazine/outfit he has chosen, with a shrug.

Will he grow up to be a woman or a man?

We have no idea who he will turn out to be, what kind of support he will need, what kind of decisions he will make.

Why It's Important

While society is definitely moving in the right direction, I don’t trust that he will find the same acceptance outside of his family unit. In supporting him now, we’re not just allowing him to experiment and find out what he likes. We’re showing him that who he is, is acceptable. We are giving him confidence in his own decisions, and the knowledge that we’re behind him no matter what.

© 2022 Natalie Parker-Jones

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