Bois and Grrls

Genderqueer: Straight or gay, these kids refuse to play dress-up by the rules

If little Billy reaches for Barbie or little Sally likes her GI Joe, parents should treat it "as a cry for help," he wrote. And sometimes it's even worse than Barbie. Sometimes it's Disney.

Fitzgibbons writes: "While doll play for healthy girls includes mother/baby play and fashion/ dress-up play, boys with gender identity problems focus almost exclusively on fashion/dress-up. Some may be fixated on characters such as the Disney villainesses -- the wicked stepmother in Snow White or Cruella de Vil from 101 Dalmatians."

So far, research supporting the notion that homosexuality and gender identity require warped minds belongs mostly to religious fundamentalists. For one thing, NARTH-supported research labels most gender-bending as gender identity disorder. However, the clinical definition of GID is a person's persistent belief that they are actually the opposite sex, and has little to do with challenging gender stereotypes.

And according to Eli Coleman of the University of Minnesota School of Medicine, "For the vast majority of people with gender identity disorder, they have no more incidence of child abuse in their histories than people who have a clear gender identity that is concordant with their biological sex."

Coleman heads the university's 35-year-old Program in Human Sexuality, where experts research everything from sexual compulsions to transgender health to HIV prevention.

"Now, are there individuals who become confused about their gender identity as a result of some sort of abuse and trauma? That's certainly possible," he says. "But to make it a generalization that most of these people [are traumatized] is simply not supported by the evidence."

Coleman doesn't see a biological impetus for genderqueer; he says it might just be a transitional phase until a person finds the gender role he or she is comfortable with.

LeClair says that might be part of it. And that's what makes it so great.

"Maybe later on they'll decide that they're gay or that they're transsexuals or that they're cross-dressers," she says. "Or that they're straight and this is just something that they like to do every once in a while."


I'm out here on my journey, trying to make the most of it
I'm a puzzle, I must figure out where all my pieces fit
Like a poor wayfaring stranger that they speak about in song
I'm just a weary pilgrim trying to find what feels like home

-- Dolly Parton

A little while ago, Jamail joined a female-to-male transsexual organization.

She's feeling things out. She's always admired the form of the upper male body. She'd like to have pecs instead of breasts. But she's not sure she wants to be a man.

For a while, she says, "I thought, 'Maybe I'm going to be one of those tranny bois...' I'm still not sure about that, which kind of makes me think that's not exactly it...So then we go with what's left. Somewhere in the middle."

That somewhere, genderqueer, works for now. Jamail has learned to trust herself. She's learned that confidence comes from comfort with who she is, no matter what that looks like on the outside.

One of the best things she ever did was shave her head. She even tells a self-described cheesy story about it. It was four or five years ago when she finally decided to do it. She had always changed hair styles, and often cut it close, but never thatclose. But something told her to do it, that it would be all right.

Afterward, she stepped outside, and it started to rain. It was the first time she felt rain on her bare scalp; it felt so good that she started to cry. After a moment, she went back inside to look at herself in the mirror again. It was like seeing herself for the first time. She hasn't grown her hair out since.

"I see my face," she says, "with nothing in the way."

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