In the seven years since his birth, Alex has taught me more about myself and humanity than all my 41 years, self-help books, and overseas volunteer experience combined. He continues to help everyone around him discover the inner beauty and unlimited potential when one is nurtured, loved, accepted, and allowed to freely express him or herself.
The acceptance of his expression that we give Alex comes easy to us. It has never been a struggle. From the moment he took an interest and fascination with objects of the opposite gender at the tender age of 2.5, we enabled him the freedom to explore the spectrum. Allowing him to “find” himself has, so far, been an incredibly captivating journey. Like a book you can’t put down, or the potato chips you can’t stop eating, I find myself evermore excited to see what will unfold at the next bend in the path. “Where will he take us next? What is the next step in this adventure of gender non-conformity? Are there even “levels” or stages to this journey?” I regularly ask myself.
Little did I know back in May that the next curve in the road would hold something entirely unexpected: gender conformity.
You could have knocked me over with a feather the day Alex informed us that he would “present as a boy” during the summer at day camp. We had offered him a choice: either continue to express himself freely wearing girls’ clothes and ask the camp director for access to a private locked bathroom each and every time he needed to go to the bathroom, OR go to camp as a boy.
The options had been reviewed, discussed, and weighed heavily. I did my best at keeping my thoughts to myself; although, I had hoped he would opt for the latter for several reasons, most importantly safety. I rationalized that he would be attending a camp with kids who didn’t know him in a community with entirely different demographics; therefore, we had no way of knowing how or if he would be accepted. Would he be safe wearing a dress to camp? Would the City Slickers pummel and berate him, or would they accept and embrace his creative soul?
Used to living in the suburbs, he would be attending camp in a very urban setting. He would be thrust out of the safety of his cocoon at school and home and into The Great Unknown. As dedicated to high fashion as he is, even he realized the challenges he would be faced with. I think that in the end what helped his decision was giving him all the information and then letting him make the call.
Perhaps we did have a foreshadowing that something along these lines was a-brewing. When Alex started ballet at the age of 5 and a half, his sole interest was in wearing a tutu and point shoes. However, since that time, whether it was the repeated messages from the ballet school or his observations of the other boys there, somehow, Alex has found peace with a gender conforming role in ballet.
Which lead me to wonder where this newfound interest in “practicing” at being a boy was coming from. In the past several years, he had not spent any time participating in stereotypical boy activities. And yet, there he was – bonding with the other boys in the ballet school over video games on the iPod and Nintendo DS in the backstage boys’ dressing room, and presenting exclusively as a boy at summer camp. What was that about anyway? What had him switching teams, so to speak?
I’m not Alex so I can’t say for certain, but as his mom, I can speculate. Notwithstanding GirlyBoyPapa’s theory that he’s really a double-agent whose main mission is to figure out what makes each gender tick, it is with my many years of learning about the gender spectrum, experience with Alex and understanding what I do about it all, that I believe this latest exploration is sure to become the foundation for yet another pillar of experience for him. I envision that someday the collection of all his experiences will be woven together to form a colorful tapestry that offers the world his story, and defines who he is and his potential for amazing contributions to our community.