Monthly Archives: April 2015

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Gender in the New Millennium: A conceptual proposal for LGBT identity and understanding

Editor’s note: This guest blog post is written by a friend of mine whom I have had the pleasure of sharing several excellent conversations with over cups of coffee. His books are fun reads and would be a great addition to your summer read-list. I remember the afternoon that we discussed the topic of this blog post. With my head spinning, I said, “Jeff, I need pictures!” And he has so kindly provided them. Thank you, Jeff. I hope this leads to a new thinking of how we classify gender. If you are hoping to download this article, it can be found at Gender Understanding in the New Millennium: A conceptual proposal for LGBT identity and understanding

Jeff Spence is a novelist and nonfiction writer (www.spencewriting.com) originally from Canada. He holds a B.Ed. (CUC), an M.A. (TWU), and an M.Sc. (Keller) as well as post graduate studies from the university of Oxford. He has traveled to more than thirty countries, studying and teaching, or just seeing the sights. Jeff is widely published in a variety of fields, including Religion, Psychology, English Literature, and has four novels published to date under the name “J. L. Spence.” He currently resides in Jupiter, Florida.

Background

Gender, in the modern world, is generally presented as consisting of two designations, at polar extremes from one another (fig. 1). “Male” and “Female” are widely used as if they are the only designations in existence and, although “LGBT” strives to be inclusive, inclusion of transgender people is still inhibited by a lack of an accurate understanding, and effective visual representation of the nature of a transgender person. This may be a result of the polar frame of mind to which we were all (or nearly all) exposed during our childhoods. Likewise, bisexual orientation is sometimes considered invalid even among gays and lesbians, as well as by other segments of society. What is needed, is the development of a conceptual framework into which all of the LGBT communities could be placed, as well as the heterosexual, non-transgender communities. There are some difficulties to be overcome.

Terms such as ‘the opposite sex’ are so familiar that few pause to reflect on the implications of such phrases. In this short article, I’ll take a brief and superficial tour through the development of the concept of gender, look at the more recent modern view of it (at least outside of the more right wing, or fundamentalist circles), and then present a new way of looking at it that goes beyond this and approaches, in my opinion, an effective representation of the reality of this complex aspect of human life.

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Figure 1: Bipolar concept of gender

One of the earliest, and perhaps most interesting concepts of gender comes from Plato’s Symposium, in which he cites Greek mythology (which would have been ancient history even in his time) as the source for a creative (and non-pejorative) explanation of homosexuality and heterosexuality. The idea is that people were once creatures with four arms, four legs, and two faces – basically, each creature was comprised of two persons. Some of these beings had male and female genitalia, others had two male, and others two female. They were considered very powerful, so much so in fact that Zeus, fearing their power, split them into two, condemning them to spend the rest of time searching for their lost halves. A male half that was originally created with a female half, would spend life seeking female companionship. A male half that had been created with another male half, would seek out companionship with another male. Likewise, a female half would seek either male or female companionship based on which genitalia their original form was coupled with (1).

Though fantastic and strange to the modern ear and mode of thinking, the knowledge of this extremely ancient proposition tells us two things. The first is that human kind has been struggling to understand gender and sexuality for a very long time, perhaps from the very beginning. Secondly, it implies that the ancients viewed homosexuality as an inborn trait, much as it is viewed outside of fundamentalist circles today.

Through to the late 19th century, the concept of “Homosexuality” in the Western world was understood differently than it is today — and “Transgender” had not even been coined, though “Transexual” was coined by Karl Ulrichs to describe an early, and rather confused, understanding of the phenomenon (2). From sometime after the writing of the Greek mythology mentioned above (and probably well before the time of Plato, based on his attitudes to male-with-male sexual relations), until perhaps the early nineteen hundreds, popular opinion held that, though a person could “commit” homosexual acts, there was no identification as “homosexual” as such — though the frequent or exclusive habit of homosexual relations could earn a person one or more of the various pejorative nicknames or titles associated with the practice in those times. It was considered a behavior rather than an attribute; a tendency rather than an identification.

In our own time, those who do not feel a religious compulsion or duty to categorize or understand LGBT along biblical lines (i.e. Romans 1:26), tend to see homosexuality as a trait with which a person is born — a part of who they are, before it is a part of what they do. Though transgenderism is much less understood by the general public, awareness is growing (in part thanks to groundbreaking programs like Transparent, which seems to avoid the easy caricatures so prevalent in early portrayals of homosexuality on mainstream television).

With that growth in awareness, the concept of gender as something other than a bipolar attribute has become mainstream as well. In this model, gender is seen as a continuum, with some at the extreme male end of the spectrum, and others at the extreme female end, but with far more individuals peopling the line somewhere between these two (fig. 2). This was a great leap forward in understanding gender as it broke the perception of gender identity as a black and white issue, a this-or-that designation.

pic2jeffFigure 2: Bipolar concept of gender

The shortfall of this representation is that it does not differentiate between physicality and self-identity (therefore it does not include transgender individuals). It also fails to represent sexual orientation, therefore (at best) implying that being nearer the center of the line indicates bisexuality. At worst it discounts the importance of this facet of human sexuality completely.

It is time, therefore, for a further step forward. Something must happen to our perception of gender in order to bring the “T” portion of “LGBT” onto the visual representation, and to represent sexuality as separate from male/ female self identity, just as it was separated from male/female physicality some time ago.

The Two Spectrum Model

The first step is to expand on the concept of the “spectrum.” I do not believe that a one dimensional spectrum is an accurate representation of gender (or sexuality) because it represents only one facet. It can refer to one’s genitalia, degree of body hair perhaps, musculature, size, pitch of voice, etc. — but then cannot simultaneously represent one’s feeling of masculinity or femininity. Likewise, a spectrum that represented masculinity and femininity would not represent anything regarding the physicality of the individual (I will leave out sexuality until the following section). What is needed, then, is an expansion into a second dimension; the model must be two-dimensional.

The Two Spectrum model looks like this (fig.3) and I have included an explanation below.

photo3jeffFigure 3: The Two Spectrum model

The Physicality (P) Spectrum

The P Spectrum measures the degree to which the individual represents exclusively male or female physicality. The more toward the left an individual is placed, the more “male” the body is. The center (horizontally) would indicate an androgynous or hermaphroditic physicality – the genitalia would be present as either not distinguishable as more male than female(or vice versa), or else both male and female genitalia would be present. Placement on the far right would indicate a very female physicality.

The Self-Identification (SI) Spectrum

The SI spectrum reflects self-identification with femininity or masculinity – the inward self concept of oneself as female, or male, regardless of the outward physical traits. Placement farther left would reflect feminine self concept – the inward self concept of oneself as female, regardless of outward physicality. Placement farther to the right would indicate a greater degree of self-identification as male. Placement near the center would indicate no strong self-identification with either male or female self-concept.

The Grid

Consider the following image, which combines the two spectrums in the form of a Grid.

photo4jeffFigure 4: The Grid model

Horizontally, there is the Physicality (P) spectrum, and vertically is the Self- Identification (SI) spectrum, tipped on end. By combining the two spectrums, we are able to represent an individual’s physicality and self- identification with one point on the graph. Let’s look at a few examples below:

photo5jeffFigure 5: Nine individuals on the Grid representation

Position 1
Very male in her physicality – a penis and testicles, (perhaps) male musculature and size, deep voice, etc – but would strongly identify as a female, perhaps also exhibiting very (so-called) effeminate mannerisms. If the same individual were represented on the two separate spectrums separately, the result would be something like this:

jeff6Figure 6: Position 1 on the Two Spectrum model

(The Grid model simply combines the these two spectrums into one.)

Position 2
Strongly identifies as a female, would perhaps exhibit mannerisms associated with femininity, but would have the physicality of a female – vagina, mammary glands, musculature, etc.

Position 3
The physicality of a male (just as in position 1), but would strongly identify as a male.

Position 4
The physicality of a female (as in position 2), but the strong self- identification as very male (as in position 3).

Position 5
Male, but would have some attributes more associated with female physicality. Penis and testicles would be present, but finer musculature, facial features, more pronounced breast tissue, or other attributes would shift to the right of extreme male physicality. This person would identify as female, but with a lesser degree of femininity, perhaps feeling a little closer to androgyny, but still identifying her inward self as a woman.

Position 6
Asexual or hermaphroditic physicality, the maleness indistinguishable from the femaleness. Inwardly though, this person would identify as a female, but toward the androgynous end of the femininity spectrum.

Position 7
Physically male (penis, testicles), but with some female-like traits (like position 5). The inner concept, however, would be androgynous, or asexual. This person does not identify internal identity as either male or female.

Position 8

In the physical middle ground, neither male nor female, or perhaps both; asexual or hermaphroditic. Likewise, the self identification is neither male nor female (or perhaps both).

Position 9
An individual with a physicality slightly more female than male, but with a very masculine self-identification.

It is my opinion that this kind of representation, though necessarily more complex than the simple spectrum, is a much more accurate reflection of the human condition. It is not, however, quite complete when we consider sexuality as an important part of our human experience and individual identity.

The Third Spectrum

As many already know, masculinity and femininity do not necessarily correspond to sexual orientation. An individual who is very male in physicality, but very feminine in self-identity, may yet be “hetero” in physical sexual preference. That is to say, a physical male who identifies as a woman, may yet be attracted to women. Such is the case for Martine Rothblatt (formerly Martin Rothblatt), the CEO of United Therapeutics, who is still with the woman she married prior to coming out as a transgender person (3). To better understand and represent the LGBT community as a whole, then, especially as a part of humanity as a whole, a third dimension must be added. I will call the two ends of this third spectrum male-yearning (MY) and female-yearning (FY) as an homage to the Greek mythology referred to by Plato, and briefly described above (1).

jeff7Figure 7: The Three Spectrum model

This representation still requires three points of reference, which is not prohibitive to understanding the complex reality of human sexuality, but which might imply a fragmented nature. Combining these three spectrums into a three-dimensional model, however, allows us to place a single point in three dimensional space in order to represent all three major aspects of an individual — as a coherent, unified identity.

The Cube

I will first explain the image (the “Cube”) without any numbers in it, as the placement of such numbers in a flat drawing can be unclear and confusing. In another medium, I will present the 3D digital model which includes them. For the purpose of this article, I think it is easiest for the reader to follow a brief explanation without them, at least to begin with. The Cube is a combination of three spectrums of human attributes: The Physicality (P) Spectrum and the Self-Identification (SI) Spectrum, both discussed above, and the Sexual Orientation (SO) Spectrum, included here.

A male with a position close to MY would be considered homosexual; but if he had a position closer to the FY, he would be considered heterosexual. A position in or near middle indicates no strong preference (either no desire for either: asexuality — or a desire for either one: bisexuality). Conversely, a female with a position close to the MY end would be considered heterosexual, or if more toward the FY end, homosexual. Likewise, if near the middle, asexuality or bisexuality is indicated. If we combine these three spectrums into the Cube, it looks like this:

cubejeffFigure 8: The Cube

An individual who has male physicality, but identifies strongly as a female (someone near Position 1 on the two-dimensional chart) would be in the same place on the Cube shown here. The only difference is that she would be placed on the blue spectrum, either farther toward the background (if her sexual orientation is toward females) or farther toward the foreground (if her sexual orientation is toward males). That same individual, as a bisexual, would fall somewhere near the middle ground, about half way from the front (or back) of the Cube. (Don’t worry, there are some practice examples below that will help make this clear.)

A female heterosexual might be represented by a point near number two on the 2D chart, and would be near the foreground in the Cube. This would indicate a female physicality, an identification as a female, and an orientation toward a male partner.

Thus, each individual’s attributes indicate placement at single a point within the Cube that would represent sexual physicality, gender, and orientation.

Your Turn

Want to give it a try? Have a look at this diagram and decipher each individual’s attributes before reading the explanations below. Each number represents a separate person.

cube2jeffFigure 9: Four individuals represented using the Cube

Consider position 1:
This individual is deeply in the male end of the P spectrum — obviously and easily identified as a physical male. She is, however, also quite high in the Cube, toward a female SI. As the smaller size of the number is meant to indicate (above), she is toward the background of the Cube, to the female-yearning (FY) end of the sexual orientation spectrum. Therefore she is a transgender female with a strong sexual preference for a female partner.

Consider Position 2:
This individual is also deeply in the male end of the P spectrum. She is also high up on the SI spectrum, so she self-identifies as female. She is, however, strongly toward the foreground on the SO spectrum, well into MY territory. She is therefore a physical male, self-identifying as a female, with a strong preference for a male partner.

Consider position 3:
This individual is androgynous or hermaphroditic, sitting right on the center of the P spectrum. Likewise, this individual is in the center of the SI spectrum, and so identifies with either both masculinity and femininity, or neither of them. This person is also at the center point of the SO spectrum, and so is either asexual, or bisexual. In either case, there is no preference for one sex over the other.

Consider position 4:
This individual is quite far into female physicality. He or she is obviously a physical female, with very few, if any male traits. He/she is about half way up the SI spectrum, so there is no strong identification with either a male or female self-identity. Slightly nearer to the foreground (the MY end of the SO spectrum), this individual would exhibit a stronger attraction toward males in general, but may feel attraction to some females as well.

An Alternative Notation, for Ease of Use

Finally, though this method of creating a visual representation of human sexuality as a point on a three dimensional graph — the Cube — should be helpful in understanding and explaining the stunning diversity and nuance in human kind, it is nonetheless a bit difficult to create or explain. As an alternative, one can represent the three spectrums with position letters, like this:

3smjeffFigure 10: The Three Spectrum model, with letters

Each individual then, can indicate his or her position using a simple set of capital letters. Thus, this representation for a female with a self-identity as a female, but toward the more masculine end of femininity, with a strong attraction to females:

11jeffFigure 11: An individual represented on the Three Spectrum model

This woman might be noted in this way: FCG    (P spectrum=F, SI spectrum=C, SO spectrum=G).
Likewise, the heterosexual male shown below would be: AGG:

aggjeffFigure 12: A heterosexual male represented on the Three Spectrum model

This may seem a bit cumbersome at first, but with some familiarity, it becomes very intuitive. A BAA, for example, is a physical male with very strong female self-identification and a strong attraction to females. A CGB would be a fairly androgynous male with a strong self-identification as male, and a fairly strong attraction to other males.

Conclusion

This method of classifying the complex attributes of human gender and sexuality is imperfect, as all such attempts will be. The Cube model allows an individual’s complexity to be represented by a unified single point, whereas the Three Spectrum model allows for greater ease of use and clearer representation in two-dimensional media, such as print. The use of this method is also inclusive, not only of transgender individuals, but of the full range of human sexuality, including heterosexuals. This provides a more unified and inclusive method, avoiding the creation of “us” and “them” thinking when discussing our variation as human beings.

It is my hope that it is a step in the direction of greater understanding (and subsequent tolerance and acceptance) of the LGBT communities and individuals by other segments of society, and that it might also lead to greater self understanding within LGBT communities themselves.

Note: By placing the various categorizations in the form of a Cube, I have attempted to avoid a sense of hierarchy or preference for any type of individual. Where it was necessary to place labels first, or higher, I have tried to do so with an even division of male- and female-associated labels as much as possible. In the 3D digital model, the Cube can be rolled around in three dimensional space and, while the numbers maintain their relative position in the Cube, and remain upright for easy reading, the labels and spectrum lined roll with the Cube, allowing the viewed to determine the placement of each label according to preference and ease of use.

Note: I would like to state an opinion that the placement of oneself on the representations above is not likely fixed. What I mean to say is that our position on the charts changes – probably not very much in most cases – but we should be open to the probably reality that, like nearly everything about us, there will be small shifts and migrations throughout our lives, as our biology and psyche are affected by age and experience. The tools above are not meant to be static, iron-clad designations, but rather a means by which everyone – LGBT community or not – might better understand both human gender and sexuality in relation to other individuals of our species.

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This isn’t the same thing as pretending your child is a dog

I want to address some common questions or arguments that I see frequently when the topic of transgender children gets brought up.  There’s been a lot of media coverage this week on transgender children and while I know better than to read the comments, I sometimes can’t help myself. I was really happy to see a lot of supportive comments but I saw several versions of the same few questions being brought up and thought I’d give our response.

My child tells me they are a dog. Does that mean I should start letting them eat out of a dog food bowl and go to the bathroom outside?

I actually see this kind of thing with my 4 year-old nephew all the time. Except, he’s a Transformer. Or a rock. I love it when he decides to be a rock. Even better is when he transforms into a rock. And, sometimes I’ll call him Optimus Prime or Bumblebee. My own child also went through a phase where she wanted to be Mater from the Cars movie. She also wanted to be Dora the Explorer for awhile. My son was Superman, Batman, Captain America, and a Mighty Morphin Power Ranger. Hell, my husband tells me he’s a ninja on a near-weekly basis. These were fun little exchanges that passed in a reasonable amount of time (except my husband really is convinced that he’s a ninja).  It never caused distress, and my kids seemed to understand that they weren’t actually these characters.

There were several differences between my daughter telling me she was Mater, and my daughter telling me she was really a girl. Looking back, we saw evidence from about 18 months of age that Conner identified as a girl. At the time, we just thought she loved pretty sparkly things. At two years old and in daycare, I remember the teacher laughing because Conner ALWAYS wore the mommy costumes in dress-up. At three, when Conner realized that girls and boys had different body parts, she quizzed everyone for months about what pieces and parts they had that distinguished them into the categories of “boy” and “girl.” Then, EVERYDAY, for MONTHS, Conner asked when her penis would go away and she would wake up and be a girl. As we explained day after day that she was a boy, she became more and more withdrawn, more distressed, more anxious. When she decided to try to cut her penis off, we knew we had to intervene. This was not a quick decision based off of a few days of fantasy on Conner’s part. She had consistently told us that she was a girl. She was very persistent despite our multiple (MULTIPLE) conversations that she wasn’t a girl. And, over time, she developed a significant amount of distress at being told she was a boy. When we started the process of allowing her to transition, it was either put her on medication, or put her in a dress. We did it under the direction of a therapist and with the support of our pediatrician.

Isn’t 4 years of age too young to make these kinds of decisions?

My child didn’t make a decision to be a girl any more than you are making a decision to be a man or a woman. Could I convince you that you were a different gender? Even if I told you every day for months that you were a different gender, you would argue and tell me that you weren’t.

Gender identity is formed by around the age of 3 and concrete before the age of 5. Our society strongly conforms to a gender of either boy or girl, and our kids are bombarded with those messages from the moment they are out of the womb and placed in pink or blue onesies.

Gender_differences_male_female

There are still many social taboos that steer our children away from enjoying opposite gender items. Just take a stroll down the pink aisle at your nearest toy store. Give a boy a doll when he’s standing with a bunch of dads and see what happens. If a child is telling you persistently over a span of time that they are a different gender, then you should listen because that child is overcoming countless social values that have taught them that it’s not okay to like opposite gendered items.

I also strongly believe that every family needs to evaluate their particular set of circumstances. As I discussed in an earlier post, we follow guidelines established by a mental health professional. Again, they are:

1. First, do no harm.
2. Everyone has the right to be who they are.
3. Make as small of changes as possible to bring your child out of distress

For us, that meant a full transition because our child was in extreme distress. We started with the occasional girl’s t-shirt and telling her that it was okay for boys to like dresses. When that wasn’t enough, we slowly added articles of clothing until she made it clear that we needed to change the pronouns we used to address her. We went as slowly as we could to evaluate how she was responding. Just because one family on NBC Nightly News needed to transition their child doesn’t mean another child will need a full transition. It’s an intervention that needs to be individualized to the child. I am fully supportive of transitioning a child as early as necessary if they are showing signs of distress or discomfort. I give my child Tylenol for pain, and when the pain stemmed from gender dysphoria, then I gave her the appropriate intervention as dictated by medical professionals.

Another important point is that none of the interventions done for a young child are permanent. Hair can be cut or grown out, clothes can be donated and purchased. Hormone blockers aren’t brought into the equation until puberty (Tanner Stage 2 for my medical professional friends) and all they do is halt puberty. If a child’s brain and body become aligned, then medication is stopped and natural puberty takes over. There is NOTHING irreversible until the individual is well into their teenage years.

What if they change their mind later?

This is a valid concern because it does happen.  If a child changes their mind, then they go back to appearing as their biological gender. It’s as simple as that. And, if their gender identity and biological sex match up, then you simply explain that to questioning friends and family. “Hey, everything aligned. Phew. Guess I won’t have to buy him boobs for his high school graduation present.” Sometimes the body and brain do seem to connect and then life goes on. And, by allowing your child to express themselves naturally, you’ve shown them unconditional love and acceptance. How can that be bad?

Some children are gender fluid and may want to wear traditionally accepted boy’s clothes one day, girl’s clothes the next, or a combination of those items daily. I think it’s much harder to be a gender fluid individual (and that child’s parent) because our American culture is so focused on binary gender roles, meaning either a boy or a girl. Our society gets uncomfortable when we can’t figure it out, as evidenced by the Saturday Night Live skit with Pat, the androgynous office worker. If that’s you or your child, then I’m sending you an extra ounce of love and courage because your skin certainly does have to be thicker. Might I recommend the blog, Accepting Dad, to you where he talks about his gender-variant child with grace and humor.

Why would I allow my child to transition now? Shouldn’t I wait until they are older?

That depends on your specific situation as I mentioned above. Maybe you can get away with telling your child that it’s okay to be a boy and like dresses. I’d definitely start with that. Maybe your daughter looks cute with a super short haircut and it’s enough to satisfy her. You’ll have to work with your therapist and pediatrician to evaluate if your child’s level of distress is enough to warrant making more changes. I want a happy healthy child. If that means dresses, then so be it. Again, we measured transition based on level of distress. We got away with baby steps for a few days, maybe a week, and then we had to move to the next stage of transition.

God doesn’t make mistakes. Your child was born a boy and he will always be a boy.

I’m not religious. I was raised religious and I’ve read the bible probably more than most Christians I know. I’ve even taken a Comparative Religions course because it was important to me to understand the history of Christianity. I occasionally go to my parent’s church because I love the beautiful community of believer’s there who love and support us. Religious beliefs should be something that gives you comfort.  I’m not sure why some people get so offended by transgender or gender-variant children and believe that they are an affront to God or that their parents are doing something wrong. Religious beliefs shouldn’t be used as a weapon against others, and certainly not against children. I’m not sure what I believe about God, but I don’t believe he made a mistake in the case of my daughter. I believe she is beautifully made just as she is: transgender.

Clearly, these parents aren’t setting any kinds of boundaries with their children.

My kids wish! We have rules just like any other family. My kids have been trying to talk us out of the “no screen time until the weekend” rule since they started school. They’ve gotten off easy as we’re homeschooling the rest of the year due to a recent move. But, I fully expect the usual freak out in late August when that rule goes back into effect. Even with the transition, we didn’t let our daughter change her name to Lisa Tinkerbell. We have very strict rules about play dates, sleepovers, and personal behavior. Why in the world do people think we don’t set boundaries? With twins? Are you crazy??

A child wouldn’t come up with this on their own. The parent is telling them they are a different gender.

I almost didn’t put this one on here because it irritates me the most, it’s clearly written by people without children, and it’s almost too ridiculous to warrant a response.

I have pretty much been fruitless in my endeavors to convince my children of anything. Here’s a list of things I can’t convince them of:

1. Deodorant is a necessary part of personal hygiene
2. Vegetables taste great
3. Underwear should be changed daily
4. Bathing should occur multiple times a week
5. Swords aren’t to be played with in the house
6. Getting caught playing Minecraft after bedtime is not worth getting grounded over
7. Asking me a million times to get a cell phone is not a good way to change my mind
8. That child you met for 30 seconds at the park is not your best friend
9. That stranger we met at McDonald’s does not want to hear about when I had my gallbladder removed
10. Hot dogs are not a health food

Do you really think I could convince my child to change genders? Really?

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Book Review: You are You by Lindsay Morris

It’s a big transgender week in our household. We just hosted a get-together to meet some of the other families of transgender children close to us.  NBC Nightly News is running a two-night series on transgender children, Bruce Jenner has an interview with Diane Sawyer later this week, and the Mister and I received our copy of You Are You by Lindsay Morris. We happily funded the Kickstarter campaign for this project and now that we have the book in front of us, we couldn’t be more impressed.

I haven’t had the opportunity to go to the weekend camp that brings transgender families together, but looking through the photographs in You Are You made me wish that we’d gotten our act together and made the trip. My initial reaction is to tell you that You Are You is filled with pictures of children. And it is. These kids are playing in fields, gathering flowers, showing off in front of friends, getting ready for a show, holding hands with each other, and making memories.

But this book is so much more.

It starts with a beautiful poem, Bedecked, by Victoria Redel that somehow manages to capture the beauty of a boy loving a sparkly world, the struggle a mother faces in wondering if it’s prudent to allow him these pleasures, and a challenge to society that would tell him that it’s wrong. I was immediately all goosebumps and ugly crying. Now, I want to sit in a bookstore with her and drink coffee and chat about the world. I’m running to the library tomorrow to get one of her books.

I could devote an entire blog post to the foreward from Dr. Norman Spack  to discuss his point about the need to include gender fluid children in our conversations. He encourages readers and our culture at-large to take into consideration the individuals who fall outside the gender binary of male and female. Many children are somewhere along a spectrum and what Dr. Spack discusses in his forward, Lindsay Morris is able to capture with her camera.

Jennifer Finney Boylan writes about her experiences in summer camp as a young boy and her wish that the feathers she earned for camp achievements would stamp out her heart’s desire to be a girl. Her words, aching but without bitterness, reveal to me the thoughts deep in the hearts of so many transgender children.

But the photographs. Have you ever looked at a rainbow and tried to pull out the ROY G BIV that you learned in school? I’ve tried so many times as a child and as an adult to find the line that distinguishes the red from the orange, the orange from the yellow, and so forth. I can see the red and I can see the violet. But, there’s this beautiful tapestry of colors in between that I can’t always distinguish.

That’s what you’ll find between the covers of the book. There are girls and there are boys. But, the point being made, is that these are children being children. I feel that it would be a huge disservice to Lindsay Morris to try and put words to the images on the page. It would be like trying to describe all the colors in that rainbow. There are so many shades of gender on the pages. Shades that are loud and outspoken, others that are subtle and layered. Some are colors waiting to blossom.  I can only encourage you to take the link to see the webpage. There were photographs that made me smile and laugh, others brought me to immediate sobs. I found myself wondering about the children on the pages, their families, their experiences, what they went through outside of the protective bubble of camp. It made me feel ALL the feels. It made me feel like we weren’t alone.

The book is full of words from parents. There is so much wisdom in one book whether it is done with a pen or the look in a child’s eyes. I hope you’ll consider buying the book but do yourself and the world a favor and go look at the website. There’s a letter “To the Unicorn’s Dad” written by fellow blog writer Bedford Hope (Accepting Dad) that makes me smile and cry and want to high-five him. The forewords from the book are there as well as some of the photos. There’s a place to donate to Camp You Are You if you feel led.

I’ve gotten the chance to share the book with most of the people who have come into my house over the past few days. I’m excited to be able to share it with you as well. I’d love to hear your comments about the book.

-Melissa