I had an epiphany this afternoon as I was thinking about hand-me-down baby clothes from my daughter to my son. My train of thought went a little something like this:
It’s too bad we have these adorable girl clothes that my son won’t be wearing.
Well who cares if he wears “girl clothes?”
What do I care if someone in a store calls him a girl?
I just have to correct them.
But why do people feel the need to determine a baby’s sex based on their clothes?
Why does boy=blue and girl=pink? (I know the answer to that but for the sake of this personal discussion I had with myself let’s move on.)
So if my son wears clothes that are mainly pink, someone will say “Oh she’s so cute!” (This happened to my daughter numerous times when she was in blue (and even sometimes while in pink so who knows…).)
And what does it matter to them to say she or he?
And that’s when the lightbulb went off.
In this world where we are trying to promote more understanding and tolerance for those who may fit into a different “category” than we do, it is important for people to know the proper gender pronoun to use when referring to someone so they can be sure they are respecting that other person in one of the most base ways you can. Obviously the best thing you can do is respectfully ask what pronoun(s) they prefer you use, however you can’t really do that with babies, can you?
Even I, as a cisgender female who receives the proper pronoun 100% of the time, find it important for me to understand what someone else wants to be called. I have never been in that situation where I have been uncomfortable with someone calling me by the incorrect pronoun, but I try to make an effort to be as understanding as I can in any given situation. And this is no different.
So why, then, do I get upset when someone wants to refer to my child with a proper gender pronoun based on one of the only obvious visual clues they have – clothing? Because let’s face it – even if we think our daughter is the most beautiful little girl we’ve ever seen, to someone who isn’t familiar with babies they may not be able to tell if she is a she or if she is perhaps a he. So they look to the clothing to help them.
Maybe instead of being annoyed I can simply look at it as a learning experience for both sides – I’m learning patience and understanding and the other person (if incorrect) is learning that perhaps you can’t judge a book by its cover.