Paige Schilt

Stilettos, Sissy Boys, and the Limits of "Gender-Neutral" Parenting Advice

Filed By Paige Schilt | December 09, 2009 2:30 PM | comments

Filed in: Living, The Movement, Transgender & Intersex
Tags: feminism, gender nonconformity, Karin A. Martin, Letty Cottin Pogrebin, parenting, queer, transgender

Last week, PBS Parents featured a blog titled "Gender Appropriate Toys." It begins promisingly enough with a critique of parents who enforce binary gender norms in their children's toys and activities. The author (Kristen of Supersisters) suggests that boys should be free to engage in nurturing and domestic activities as preparation for becoming well-rounded men. Next, she shifts into a discussion of childhood cross-dressing:

So why are we so concerned about our sons wearing our shoes? If wearing women's shoes as a small child causes any sort of issue when a boy gets older, nearly every man in the world would now be a cross-dresser.

As I read this, I tried not to get too hung up on what "any sort of issue" might cover or what she might mean by "cross-dresser." After all, the article was normalizing childhood cross-dressing. These are ideas that might be new to the readers of PBS Parents. Cut the lady some slack, I told myself.

Then I read the last line of the article.

And let's be honest. It's either stilettos now or stilettos later.

The assumptions embedded in that cautionary closing line are so familiar that the author needn't bother to unpack them. Because raising an adult cross-dresser (or a drag queen or a transsexual or a homo)--those would be self-evidently negative outcomes, right?

Sadly, this PBS Parents article is only the most recent example of parenting advice that champions gender-neutral parenting as a means to avoid raising gay or trans kids. In 2005, sociologist Karin A. Martin examined the legacy of second wave feminism's project of gender-neutral parenting. In "William Wants a Doll. Can He Have One? Feminists, Child Care Advisors, and Gender-Neutral Child Rearing," Martin finds a "stalled revolution." She argues that the movement's child rearing agenda has stalled, in part, because liberal feminist calls for gender-neutral parenting did not "fully eradicate heterosexism and homophobia from its writings about gender socialization."

Martin cites Ms. founder Letty Cottin Pogrebin's 1980 book Growing Up Free, which warned against the "erroneous" assumption that "homosexuality is one of the worst things that can happen to anyone," but then went on to re-stigmatize homosexuality with comments like these:

"Don't try to prevent homosexuality. It won't work and it may backfire."

"Don't make children feel they are the 'wrong' sex as this too can result in homosexuality."

"Don't use sex stereotypes as a vaccine against homosexuality. Trying to mold children to match stereotypes sometimes inspires just what parents meant to avoid."

As Martin notes, Pogrebin and her peers used the prevention of homosexuality as a kind of an advertising strategy for gender-neutral parenting: "these arguments stop just short of saying that gender-neutral child rearing is good for children because it prevents homosexuality."

Martin goes on to examine contemporary parenting advice from the late 90's and early 00's. She finds that, when it comes to childhood gender nonconformity, little has changed:

About 60 percent of the sources can be described as giving (at least) one of three types of advice. Two of these types have long been stereotypic responses to homosexuality" (1) Don't make it worse and (2) recode the behavior. The third response explicitly addresses the link between gender and sexuality: (3) Don't worry; it doesn't lead to homosexuality.

The assumption, once again, is that adult homosexuality is a self-evidently negative outcome, one that parents would naturally want to avoid.

In sorting through all of this, I find myself returning to Eve Sedgwick's famous, provocative essay, "How to Bring Your Kids Up Gay" from 1991:

There are many people in the worlds we inhabit...who have a strong interest in the dignified treatment of any gay people who happen already to exist. But the number of persons or institutions by whom the existence of gay people is treated as a precious desideratum, a needed condition of life, is small. The presiding asymmetry of value assignment between hetero and homo goes unchallenged everywhere: advice on how to help your kids turn out gay, not to mention your students, your parishioners, your therapy clients, or your military subordinates, is less ubiquitous than you might think. On the other hand, the scope of institutions whose programmatic undertaking is to prevent the development of gay people is unimaginably large.

Using Sedgwick's insight as a starting point, I pose this question to myself and other parents: if we believe that queer and gender-nonconforming people are a "precious desideratum," a gift to the world, an "outcome" to be cherished equally with other gender and sexuality outcomes, then how do we live that belief in our parenting?

Recently, I've sensed the need for a new paradigm to replace "gender-neutral" parenting, which is usually heteronormative (boys can play with dolls because they will become husbands and fathers) and sometimes (as I've shown above) homophobic and transphobic. In its place, I suggest "gendery" parenting.

Rather than conceiving of gender as a binary that can be cautiously "crossed," the gendery parenting paradigm would enjoin us to introduce our children to a wide variety of different gender identities and expressions. At our house, that means that our son, Waylon, spends time with his football coach grandpa and his urbane gay grandpa. Our chosen family includes a butch "tia" who probably irons her boxer shorts and an "uncle" who is a working-class straight guy. Waylon is comfortable hanging with the queens in the church choir and the sensitive skater dudes who teach at his school. Last Christmas, he asked Santa for a pair of black tights so he could dress like his high-femme auntie. This year he's been haranguing his FTM uncle to please, please sew him some more handmade stuffed animals. Whatever Waylon wants to do or be in the future, I'm confident that he knows there are many ways to live his gender and sexuality.

Rather than just begrudgingly allowing our children to play with "opposite gender" toys, the gendery parenting paradigm would encourage us to give children the language to think critically about gender binaries and gendered hierarchies. If we provide the tools, young children are quite capable of sussing out inequalities and analyzing gendered messages--as evidenced by a conversation I had with Waylon the other day:

Waylon: Mom, I think Power Rangers is kind of injustice to girls.

Me: Really, how so?

Waylon: Well, the girl Power Rangers always have to be pink or yellow, but the boy Power Rangers can be blue or red or green. It's not fair that they have more colors.

Me: Don't you think it's injustice to the boys too, since they never get to be pink?

Waylon: Well yeah, but the girl action figures are always really skinny too. They don't look like they could even fight very good. Why do they make them like that?

Finally, and most importantly, the gendery parenting paradigm would instill in children the belief that they will be loved and celebrated in all the complexity of their gender and sexual identities.

And that includes stilettos--now or later.


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Great article! I especially loved the stories about Waylon. :)

Fascinating insight. Over the past six months or so I've been realizing that my parents fell into that trap to some degree as well. I was raised incredibly "gender neutral" but my parents bought into an idea espoused by some of the less-trans-friendly feminists that in a world without sexist oppression trans people would not exist, and they thought that as long as they offered me gender options then I could be as gender bending as I wanted and I wouldn't need to transition. Then when I did come out as trans, for a while they worried it was because they had not been gender neutral enough.

Absolutely. I remember my mom saying something similar when I was a kid, that back when she was young allowing a boy like me to help in the kitchen would have been interpreted as trying to turn me gay, but she thought that was poppycock, that I wouldn't turn out gay either way. Well, I turned out plenty gay, but it's not because I helped my mom cook all those years. My pallet, though, probably is the result of being a young and encouraged foodie.

with the mode of thinking to which you refer, that perhaps is the reason why I am Trans. I helped my mom cook and clean, and in the evenings I helped dad with the yard,home repairs and mechanics on the car. little of both worlds which i still do today. this past summer shingled my house during the day and cooked dinner at night.

When I was five we moved and when we arrived my teddy bear and dolls were not there. They had been disposed of. My adoptive mother always kept my hair cut short though I always wanted it long. She hated that I looked so much like a girl when I was young.
My kids always played with whatever they wanted to without regard for gender appropriateness ideas. They have grown up around a wide variety of gender expressions and sexualities and have no hang ups about it.
I wouldn't call the approach gender neutral so much as I would call it gender aware and gender full. We never tried to make gender go away in the play and the toys but no gender identities were seen as negative.

Wonderful post, Paige. Thank you especially for proposing a term for your concept of gender-full parenting. It is hard to make change without the proper language.

Waymon is one insightful kid.

Like lots of the commenters above, I am a product of the second wave feminist parenting project. As a child, I listened to Free to Be You and Me until the needle on my record player wore out. Just a few weeks ago, I played some of Free to Be for my Feminist Studies students (none of whom had ever heard it), and I almost started to cry when heard it. But all the same, even though it moves me, I don't play most of it for Waylon--because it's too heteronormative for these times and I'm afraid it will reify more myths than it dispels.

Rob, I think your term "gender-full" might be more catchy than my term: "gendery parenting." (Was it Eve Sedgwick who said "some people are more gendery than others"? Queer theory student of the day award to any one who remembers.)

In animal studies exclusively gay animals are rarely found. OTOH bisexuality is common. With a more gender-full upbringing my guess is bisexuality would become the norm.

We're already seeing this with many young women most of whom were allowed to be much more traditionally masculine in behavior than women of earlier generations. Once boys are allowed to openly behave more traditionally feminine they'll also grow up to mostly be bisexual.

OTOH gender orientation does tend to be bimodal by nature so I doubt if nurture would make much difference other than trans inclined people would transition much, much earlier on average.

Finally my guess is cross-dressing for men would die on the vine if allowed openly. Most CDs like being special so-to-speak and if it was no big deal to dress fem they'd soon tire of it as do most women today.

battybattybats battybattybats | December 10, 2009 11:30 AM

Most CDs are deeply closeted cause it's not accepted. 5% of the population or more are crossdressers.

No they won't dissapear. After coming to self acceptance many CDs say there is less of a rush and less of a pressure to crossdress... cause the fear is taken out as well as the self repression which previously would bottle up till they were ready to go crazy.

But they don't quit or go androgynous 24/7, they just find self acceptance and personal balance.

Most crossdressers in my experience, including myself and my girl/boyfriend (a FtM crossdresser) have a bi-gender gender identity. Something i think gendery parenting would enable to flourish rather than cause not to occur.

Nerissa,

I'm not a crossdresser so I can't speak from personal experience, but your theory about crossdressing for men disappearing if it were more accepted seems very much falling into the same kind of thinking Paige was writing about where "need for a specific kind of gender expression are mostly in reaction to social morays". It's also suggesting (as Julia Serrano wrote about in Whipping Girl) that femme presentations are somehow less natural or real than masculine ones. There might be some crossdressers who are excited by its surreptitious aspect but I suspect there are many more who would love to be out in the open (part of the reason some of the gender conferences have been so popular with that community). Most women might not dress "fem" because of the expense, time it involves, practical aspects and also how they are often made to feel negatively about their bodies by media. Which doesn't mean "most" women aren't excited by that kind of presentation in certain circumstances.

The comment that the "need for a specific kind of gender expression [is] mostly in reaction to social morays" is correct. Imagine being stuck on an island with no-one around. Few people would wear heels, makeup or other feminine accoutrements. Femme presentations are less natural than male ones and I say this as a MTF TS who loves to dress femme.

All people role play if they wish to play traditional gender roles well and people in the female role have to work harder at it than men. Not only in the effort to get dressed but on hair and skin care, makeup, nails, weight control and more.

I do not see these things as problems. For example, it takes more effort to become a doctor than a street person yet most of us admire doctors more and most of us would rather be doctors than street people. Additionally people in the female role are as free as men to become out-of-shape and to make little effort in how they dress and otherwise present themselves.

As for the gender conferences I agree many men attend for the freedom of cross-dressing in safety. And yes, there would be a small number of men who would follow the typical female pattern of dressing femme for special occasions as do many gender benders in the gay community today if cross-dressing by men was more accepted.

Hmm, I have several thoughts on this thread. My sister, the super smart sociologist Dr. Kristen Schilt, is always complaining about a certain kind of feminist argument that goes something like this: "if we could just get rid of gender, then trans people wouldn't have to exist." Yuck! Who would want that? Not me. I would like for gender to be less binary and hierarchical and ridden with inequalities, but that doesn't mean that I want it to go away. I'm deeply invested in loving gender nonconforming people and, in a certain way, loving gender.

That is to say, we need to remember the pleasures of gender as well as the pains.

And, as a lo-femme who's married to a genderqueer more on the FTM end of the spectrum, I have to dispute the idea that masculine gender expression takes less work or is more "natural." Just come over to our house on the night when my sweetie is getting dressed to perform--you'll see!

Finally my guess is cross-dressing for men would die on the vine if allowed openly. Most CDs like being special so-to-speak and if it was no big deal to dress fem they'd soon tire of it as do most women today.

I think that greatly depends on what you define crossdressing as. If everyone was allowed to wear any gender clothing -- if clothing ceased to have a gender -- then what would crossdressing mean? We might cease to have a cultural understanding of "crossdressing" but as far as men wearing dresses and other femme acoutrements, I don't see it. There is no way that a social norm that says "men are allowed to wear dresses now" would result in less men wearing dresses. Take my hometown for examples. The inundation of hippie culture has resulted in men wearing dresses or skirts to public events much more often then other places. They don't think of it as "crossdressing" but they still do it.

As for the desert island example, would you wear men's dress shoes and cuff links? You're example points more to the infeasability of dressing up then it does of masculinity and femininity? Would it really be more natural to wear pants then a skirt? More natural to wear men's cut jean's then women's cut? A thick bulky watch rather than a thin one?

It's not just the point that femininity has natural aspects to it as well, but that masculinity can be unnatural too. While patriarchy has dictated that women should spend hours on grooming and beauty, not every woman does. Plenty of women can do femininity with minimal effort, while some men put hours into cultivating their masculine image.

I personally can't wait until the word "cross-dressing" is recognized to be as meaningless as it always has been. In my opinion there are two kinds of clothing: the kind I like and the kind I don't! Gender has nothing to do with it.

battybattybats battybattybats | December 10, 2009 11:08 PM

Jamie that may be your experience but it sure aint mine.

I have to express my bi-gender identity somehow. Being able to use gender-associated clothing to match my needs on any given day is both useful and important to me. I agree it is the association that is the main reason clothing is gendered, a tiny amount is based on anatomy but the main of course is just association.

So some days I express myself with an androgyny and other days full femininity. Rare days a fair amount of masculinity. If clothing had no gender assiciation I'd need some other way to symbolise and express what i feel within, my bi-gender/genderqueer identity.

Even if we changed the term and removed the association of gender from clothes nevertheless crossdressers would still exist by another name and with whatever other ways of gender expression that existed.

I haven't heard much about the bi-gendered experience, thanks for sharing.

I haven't raised children, so my comment may be wrong, but I wonder if genderless parenting isn't a bit like sweeping back a lake with a broom? Our culture is gendered and gender roles will be presented (and pushed) by the child's friends, teachers and just about everyone else. Its impossible to stop.

Making a child's life rich with a variety of gender role models seems a very good solution: gender-full parenting, not gender-less. Thank you, Paige, for writing this article. Waylon is lucky to have you, and Katy, as moms.

As an older Lady who bloomed late, I think we have become so sensitive to letting or not letting children play with clothes and toys of the opposite sex. When we strongly tell boys that they can't wear stilettos--now, or girl clothes, we are giving those pieces of women's clothing some sort of mysterious, fantasy meaning; which only drives the child sexual attachments and feelings underground. Playing dress-up is very much different than taking a knife or other sharp instrument in one's hands to cut off the undesirable piece of flesh. Why is it so bad to teach a young boy, how to cook, how to clean, how to wash the family clothes properly. The more skill they learn growing up which de-mystify the tasks that girls do and the clothes they wear might just make that young man a more sensitive and caring father and husband who won't think women are objects to abuse and rape.
As parents we should be able to distinguish the difference between just 'dress-up' and behaviors which indicate a problem with gender identity.

"As parents we should be able to distinguish the difference between just 'dress-up' and behaviors which indicate a problem with gender identity."

What "problem" would that be, exactly? The main problem transgender and gender-variant children face comes from the harsh judgment and arbitrary gender rules of society.

So is it ok for a boy to play "dress up" in feminine clothing, but when it's time to dress "for real" he has to wear masculine clothing? I fail to see how that's any different from what the OP is critiquing.

battybattybats battybattybats | December 10, 2009 11:34 PM

Jamie's right theres a lot of problematic things you said just there.

Firstly while there is a sexual component in crossdressing for many crossdressers while they are struggling with self acceptance this is as far as I can tell merely the way the repression forces itself to the surface as its something that goes as they get self acceptance.

And there's plenty of anecdotal evidence that crossdressing can be herditary even though it's totally closeted with the father or grandfathers CDing only found after their death. While needing to be further explored this suggests it to be a result of a more common milder partial form of the phenomenon that causes transsexuals, just as Autism comes in a wide range of degrees.

As for rape your forgetting that men also rape men, women also rape women and women even rape men. You think that comes from some mystification of women? Surely thats just not feasible.

Cut the lady some slack, I told myself.

I'll admit, I thought that too until I read on. But I had to laugh at that little, tiny sentence because we were on the same brainwave there for a second. As I thought it, I read it.

Angela Brightfeather | December 10, 2009 10:12 AM

A very interesting discussion indeed.

This discussion borders on the outlines of about a thousand different ideas that I have experienced over the years about crossdressers, bisexuals and gender expression, along with interesting points of view about more modern nurturing of gender ideas and children.

I was born and raised in a time, a few months right after WWII, where gender expression in uniform was very important and gender expression on a tank assembly line was far less important. The aftermath of that was that genetic women were rushing back to anything femme and pretty and genetic males were heavy into companion activities like fishing and hunting. Genetic males who may have wanted to express themselves as femme or just pretty, had no place inside the ropes of that reparative time and only after many years and perhaps the hippie era, did anyone even think that much openly about gender expression, or bisexuality.

Raising children today is a whole lot different than in that time and to a great extent what we are doing today is trying to revise and repair the actions of the past, brought on by circumstances that necessitated gender verification, sexuality and indoctrination at an early age back then.

As someone who has participated and observed all these changes over that time period, I find that CD's today and their need to develop their female or male expression as the case may be, are only different in the fact that today there are many more things around to help them do that. More people who have have established a positive and personal dual identity. More people who are accepting and understanding of a person's need to express themselves as femme or butch. More means to buy those things that help them to be more passable and for the most part, CD's today are much more willing to explore their gender expression openly and in public. If there is one lament among my own peers, it is that we were born to soon.

The one thing that makes CD's very special in our society is that they emphatically point out forms of bigotry and inequality that were and still are based on sex and gender. The same kind of bigotry that was addressed, in part, by the feminist movement of the 70's and 80's. I think that is very important and I think that if ENDA passes, people are going to see a whole new industry pop up a few years after, catering to males who wish to express themselves in a more femminine way and more openly and a different concept of gender. I do not however think, that the need or enjoyment experienced by CD's will ever be diminished by it being more acceptable to cross gender express. It may be safer, but the desire to express themselves that way is just as much a thing of birth for them as is the need to change physicially is for any Transexual. A fact that is either lost, forgotten or reputed far to often by those who think that cross dressing is a choice and not a search for a person's balance in a duality based gender society.

The challenge of raising a gender diverse child today is not so much about the parenting, if the parents are willing to allow their child to explore openly and at any time as they mature. It is with the people and social structures that the child has to deal with on a daily basis and who say that their children are "to distracting to others in schools" or "are not normal" or "if they act like this now then they will grow up to be gay." We seem to be in a very pivotal period of time right now, when awareness, acceptance of gender diversity in our children and grandchildren, is at a point that makes things like hate crimes and ENDA more necessary to insure their future and success.

People may talk and ruminate all they want about raising children who are gender diverse in one way or the other. But the bottom line is that the most valuable gift that any parent can give a gender diverse child today, is not how they can dress or what toys they can play with today. It is how free will that child be to express themself openly and without fear tomorrow. Perhaps that might be another reason why GLBT people seem to be fighting many of the same battles and need to do it as one community.

I should point out, in the context of this discussion, the brand new book for middle-schoolers by David Walliams, The Boy in the Dress. (It came out last year in the UK, but it's new to the US.) Twelve-year-old Dennis isn't transgender or gay--he just likes fashion and wearing dresses. When his friend Lisa convinces him to wear one to school, complete with wig and makeup, he enjoys the experience, until he is found out and kicked off the soccer team right before the big game. Can he and Lisa right this wrong? The denouement stretches credibility a little, but one can’t argue with the warm-hearted message of this fable about difference, acceptance, and gender expression. (And Quentin Blake, who illustrated Roald Dahl's works, did fun illustrations for this book as well.)

My only concern about the story is that I'm afraid some people will read it and not understand the difference between cross-dressing and being transgender. They might interpret the straight Dennis' cross-dressing as evidence that being trans simply means "dressing up" as the other gender. That's not at all the author's intent, but I worry that some will think it so, especially given the publication this year of 10,000 Dresses by Marcus Ewert, a picture book about a transgender child. The titles are similar, and in each, the protagonist has a female friend who encourages his or her love of dresses. One is about gender identity, though, and the other about gender expression.

I suppose it's a good thing that children's books are tackling both of these topics, though, right? They offer plenty of opportunities for us to educate.

Paige, thank both you and your sister Kristen. I have mistrust of the "if only... then this wouldn't need to exist" arguments as well. I don't believe in large degrees of birth gender determinism but neither do I do I put faith in any concept which states we're born as blank slates--no other species is. Yes, much of gender expression is culturally steered (and sometimes fiercely policed as with boy's clothes) but gender expression has a strong interaction with one's gender identity and gender attribute (how others experience you). We bring ourselves onto any 'desert islands' and would almost certainly create subtly gendered clothing wherever we go. Role playing is not just part of "traditional" gender roles, it existed just as absolutely in eras like the 60s when there were huge shifts in gender expression. We all wear uniforms, but often modified by our gender identities and filtered through how our need for gender expression interacts with our society. I strongly disagree one uniform is somehow more 'natural' than others. They're all organic, stylized and artificial to much the same degree.

I'm a parent (and have been a elementary school teacher) and am also a woman who is trans. I agree with the OP and Angela's statement about permitting children to express themselves fully and creatively and listening to the child as much as possible for guidance and clues. In my experience, many kids are heavily gendered in one direction or another (at very young ages), but many also pick and choose, especially around the ages of 4-5. I used to teach second grade, and that's an age where strong peer pressure starts to exert itself.

The vast majority of parenting (and even teaching) is through modeling--not lecturing or reasoning. A parent who is highly binary gender expressive telling their child to 'be themselves' is sending very mixed messages which, likely, won't be heard or processed. Such a high percentage of our subconscious behaviors are gendered there's no way we're going to filter it to somehow expose our children to a "more diverse parent" but if we respect our children's impulses with a minimum of judgement at least we allow them to explore. Most importantly, we have to really accept the outcome of who that child becomes, not try to make them into a matching set of luggage.

Paige, thank both you and your sister Kristen. I have mistrust of the "if only... then this wouldn't need to exist" arguments as well. I don't believe in large degrees of birth gender determinism but neither do I do I put faith in any concept which states we're born as blank slates--no other species is. Yes, much of gender expression is culturally steered (and sometimes fiercely policed as with boy's clothes) but gender expression has a strong interaction with one's gender identity and gender attribute (how others experience you). We bring ourselves onto any 'desert islands' and would almost certainly create subtly gendered clothing wherever we go. Role playing is not just part of "traditional" gender roles, it existed just as absolutely in eras like the 60s when there were huge shifts in gender expression. We all wear uniforms, but often modified by our gender identities and filtered through how our need for gender expression interacts with our society. I strongly disagree one uniform is somehow more 'natural' than others. They're all organic, stylized and artificial to much the same degree.

I'm a parent (and have been a elementary school teacher) and am also a woman who is trans. I agree with the OP and Angela's statement about permitting children to express themselves fully and creatively and listening to the child as much as possible for guidance and clues. In my experience, many kids are heavily gendered in one direction or another (at very young ages), but many also pick and choose, especially around the ages of 4-5. I used to teach second grade, and that's an age where strong peer pressure starts to exert itself.

The vast majority of parenting (and even teaching) is through modeling--not lecturing or reasoning. A parent who is highly binary gender expressive telling their child to 'be themselves' is sending very mixed messages which, likely, won't be heard or processed. Such a high percentage of our subconscious behaviors are gendered there's no way we're going to filter it to somehow expose our children to a "more diverse parent" but if we respect our children's impulses with a minimum of judgement at least we allow them to explore. Most importantly, we have to really accept the outcome of who that child becomes, not try to make them into a matching set of luggage.

Thank you so much for your article and great analysis - I read the article last week and was so hurt/taken aback by the author's transphobia. I appreciate your willingness to speak up.

All of this is enlightening and mind-stretching for some of us who haven't spent much time nor effort thinking about the nuances. But I believe, sincerely and firmly, that NOBODY who values healthy feet should wear stilettoes at any point in life or on any identity continuum.

When it comes to expression through clothes and fashion society has to remember clothes and fashion change all the time.
At the beginning of our country men wore the wigs,make-up and carried what now is considered a purse.
Men did not abondon these things until women started to wear more of it more often.Thus changing what they considered to be masculine attire,wanting to differentiate themselves from women.
Clothing is fashion,many people like to dress to what is considered fashionable for the time and season.Younger generations of men nowadays will pierce both ears and wear mascara and other things expressing their individualism.
It doesn't mean they are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity,their simply living their lives in their generational age.Understanding clothes don't make the person,knowledge and understanding of oneself does.
Society seems to live and depend upon it's visual perception more then it's reasoning and intellect.
I believe this is one of the factors why society has such a hard time accepting differences in humanity.It would rather judge and come to conclusions based on what it sees rather then stop to gain knowledge and understanding of that which it doesn't.

This made me smile so much. Thank you for posting it!

WOW! way to go wifey! What a brilliant discussion. damn i married up! love you.
katy

Sue Lefkowitz | December 16, 2009 8:45 AM

I grew up in the Fifties when this stuff wasn't even a known topic. If you were a "sissy", you either retreated into geekdom, or found a training program so you could become "a lean mean fighting machine". Although I am a post-op M/f who has lived and worked as a woman for over ten years, as a young boy I longed to be "The Creature" or "Dracula" so I could obliterate the relentless bullies. Not being a science person or am athlete, I discovered beatniks and spent my life as a gender rebel and probably ruined my chances of any promotions into management. I finally reached low level management after transition. There was zero guidance in the Fifties.