Cognitive Psychology

The Girl Who Taught Me About Gender Identity and Ambiguity Tolerance


I first met Peou last year when I was subbing in the elementary school. Both my wife and I were both offered contracts at the school we are currently working at in the winter of 2020 just before the #COVID19 pandemic broke. We had to get certification from a certain government agency back home in order to work here attesting to our qualifications as a teacher. Ma Belle Femme sailed through. I, of course, procrastinated — thanks, pathological demand avoidance — and couldn’t get my until July because the lockdowns stopped many government offices from being able to access their records or just work more slowly from home. It didn’t help that I had to get records from three countries sent to them and had to deal with three different lockdown schedules. I know poor little old me. But, that happened.

Anywho, my certification arrived so late that they couldn’t offer me a regular position that year, so I was subbing when school was meeting, which wasn’t actually a lot, but it was long enough for me to sub a few days in the elementary and spy Peou on the playground during recess and remark upon the child’s striking hairstyle — dyed a deep dark almost black purple, shaved on one side, shoulder length on the other.

As this school year approached, I was offered a contract to teach sixth grade — A job I LOVE, by the way; that age group is really just fun — and Peou was in my class. A smart engaging capable child always willing to try and offer up answers and risk being wrong where many of my students won’t since the student population was made up mostly of Cambodians, Chinese, and Koreans who came to us from their more traditional educational systems, i.e. ones that require rote memorization of the “correct” answers that the teacher gave and where asking a question was an insult to the teacher because your not knowing reflected badly on their teaching ability and answering a question wrong meant corporal punishment and parents put incredible pressure on their children to succeed in school.

Peou was a refreshing child to have in class.

One of the things I like to do as a teacher is write up positive behavior reports on my students when they things well in class. Being the parent of a “special needs” neurodivergent child means I hear lots of negative comments from school, so the power of the positive ones really stands out to me. I go out of my way to make positive comments on every child, especially the ones who find school more difficult to cope with.

Peou was an especially easy student to make such comments about.

Apparently, partway through the comment I switched gender pronouns going from “he” to “she,” which prompted a concerned email from a colleague. My colleague, a Mr. Z, was concerned about Peou’s gender orientation because of my switch. It seems that in the school’s electronic records Peou was recorded as female!

Was Peou born with a male phenotype, but really identifying as female? Should he be calling her, he or he, she? How could we know for sure? It is all just so confusing! What is the right thing to do?

Ha! I responded. Peou is a boy. I know this. I had met him last year when he was in fifth grade. I’ve been teaching him for two months now, albeit mostly via Zoom, but on occasion he’d come to class when the rules allowed.

He is a boy.

The next chance I got, I assured Mr. Z, I’d clear it all up because Peou and I had a relationship that could withstand such a question.

That opportunity came the other day. So, I showed him the electronic record and explained that the question had come up concerning whether the “F” under gender was correct. Peou said it was.

I tried not to let my chin rest for too long on the floor lest Peou realize what had just happened. I quickly thanked her and moved on to other topics.

This revelation set off a firestorm of self-searching, questioning, and… what? Curiosity, maybe? Just exactly how do we determine the gender of those we meet? Does it really matter what those genders are any more? Why did I find this whole situation to be so disturbing other than the humiliation of being wrong?

Then it occurred to me that this could be similar to what conservatives feel when they are told that they have to accept transgender people. Could I really be that similar to those god awful bigots? Might there be the smallest bit of humanity in their discomfort?

I’m not saying — let’s be really clear here — I’m not saying that trans discrimination is in any way, shape, or form acceptable or tolerable. It isn’t. But, it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t take some work and effort to get from bigotry to acceptance. If our goal is to build an accepting society where our differences are unimportant, then understanding what makes that acceptance difficult is an important part of overcoming it.

Be sure to read my analysis of the psychological factors that contribute to transphobia.

If you’ve enjoyed this amusing little anecdote, the existential angst it caused me, and deep soul searching that resulted, then consider doing one or more of the following:

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Image Attribution

“Khmer children, Soctrang, Vietnam. January 27, 2014” by CiaoHo is licensed under CC BY 2.0

70 replies »

  1. Those who live in a world of essentially digital categories ( 0 or 1, + or -, Black or White, Male or Female, True or False, American or Foreigner, etc) do have low tolerance for ambiguity and whatever falls in their excluded middle. For some, the idea that a person’s gender can change, be indeterminate, or be fluid figuratively (and perhaps literally) makes their brain hurt, and so does the idea of non-gendered personal pronouns. Many such folks have similar problems with mixed race individuals, insisting that they be classified as one or another (usually, the less privileged one, unless they really don’t look the part, in which case they don’t want to know).

    Such people have the same kind of problem when the CDC keeps changing its advice about COVID. The incremental progress of science may be tolerable to them if it is spread over centuries of history, but not in weeks or months. They need one final answer, the revealed TRUTH, and they will go with whoever or whatever book claims to have that.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Howdy Bob!

      One of my god given gifts is that of empathy. I’ve always posited that if there were people who were genetically predisposed to being low on empathy, there should be those who were hgh on empathy. A corollary to this is the desire to know what it is like for other people to live their lives. I’ve always thought of this as being part of my autism. I have a limited theory of mind and don’t quite get the social communication that others seem to experience.

      It’s been hard for me to develop empathy for some of the folks in MAGA Nation who seem to be so willing to deny others what seem to be a sincere and honest expression of their inner experience. Mental health, sexual orientation, and trans folks come quickly to mind. We have to rely on them to honestly communicate their inner experience and though it is completely foreign to me, I just have to do my best to accept it as true.

      Lately, I’ve focused on ways to be more empathetic with individuals in MAGA Nation. Their behavior and experience seems to just defy everything I ever thought was true about human beings and the world. Psychological findings can be similar. They really are just under circumstance X a majority of participants responded with Y. Sometimes you recognize yourself in them, sometimes you don’t, but you accept that it is true.

      When this happened with Peou, I was struck by how similar it must be to the reaction that many have towards the trans community.

      It reinforces, though, the need for the cognitive work necessary to reach a point of accepting that someone else’s experience no matter how alien to your own, is true for them.

      I can’t imagine being so intolerant, though, not to accept the incremental nature of science and as frustrating and confusing it is to have contradictory findings, you just have to wait until the science gets to be more settled.

      Anyway. I’m grateful to have had this experience because it gives some insight into what I’ve found baffling. I hope it can for others as well.

      Huzzah!
      Jack

      Liked by 1 person

      • Empathy can be a strange experience when we encounter behavior or report of experience that we don’t understand, for which we don’t have a similar internal experience. In that case, the first step has to be to accept that the other person is telling the their truth as they know it. Then, the question is, “How must someone be thinking/feeling to do or say that?”, and, if the statement or behavior includes anger, “What’s the fear?”. The alternative to that process is to dismiss the baffling report as lying, insane, or stupid.

        Another area that comes to mind is the frequent male (and, therefore, institutional) response to female claims of sexual harassment, abuse, assault. We see denial, accusation of being overly emotional (“Women are just crazy.”), etc.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Howdy Bob!

          We all know how I feel about sexual harassment. Men do not take the time to consider the experience that women are having, and we all would be better served if men would. I think the best thing any man can do is ask the women in his life about their personal experiences with harassment. It is always an eye opener.

          On the other hand, I think there is some ground to be tilled in considering the motivations and emotional experiences of the men who are committing the harassment. That is even more taboo. Men and women do not want to consider the possibility that those men are human, too, and are having understandable human reactions to their environments and lives.

          It takes real cognitive strength and control to slow your emotional reactions to the point where you can consider the question, How must someone be thinking or feeling when they did or said that? and What’s their fear about? That’s the advantage of having experienced and well trained therapists in our midsts.

          A recent Hidden Brains’ episode was about being kind to ourselves, meaning turning these ideas of empathy towards ourselves, which may be the hardest person of all to empathize with.

          Huzzah!
          Jack

          https://hiddenbrain.org/podcast/being-kind-to-yourself/

          Liked by 1 person

          • I think some of the most intense teaching I’ve had was working with schizophrenics and needing to work to understand the world they were responding to and the fears, and sometimes to find the message in “word salad” or what seemed like nonsense. Just dismissing something as delusion, loose associations, flight of ideas, etc, doesn’t lead to a way to help other than medication. I don’t think we have any chance of treating a mass psychosis with Thorazine or some other anti-psychotic (even is somebody somewhere seems to think massive quantities of Fentanyl will work and be profitable.)

            Liked by 1 person

        • Howdy Bob!

          That was a moment of real insight for me when someone somewhere, likely a therapist, remarked that your parents were doing their best with what they had. It really hit home and helped me realize that we all are doing our best with what we have. No one sets out to fail. Just about everyone wants to live a constructive life and will do what they can do make it so. When we see the worst atrocities, we know that someone has felt painted into a corner and this is the last gasp.

          I remember someone also pointing out that the insanity of the individual reflects the values and priorities of the society. People act out in the ways that their society deems important.

          Huzzah!
          Jack

          Liked by 1 person

            • Howdy Bob!

              Something that is interesting and under reported on is the affect the arrest and prosecution has had on the insurrectionists. Just from the odd story, you know that some of the insurrectionists have doubled down and some have renounced the movement. I’d love to see more definitive numbers on it. I would guess that as the number and intensity of the dark tetrad characteristics diminish, the more likely that the insurrectionist will severe ties with the movement, and the more dark tetrad characteristics there are, the more likely they are to double down. But, it should be separating the wheat from the chaffed, as they say.

              Either way, understanding the motivations of the individuals involved gives us an avenue for helping them back from the brink. I think we’ve gotten a lot of the independent voters to be against the insurrection and their voter suppression and social conservatism — if the GQP can obfuscate the authoritarian evidence, then they could get a few back.

              Peeling away members of the base should be one of the goals or strategies for winning the 2022 elections.

              Huzzah!
              Jack

              Liked by 1 person

              • And, that peeling away potential is why the GOP are dead set on stopping the Democrats big spending and tax the super rich goals, not to mention election and voting bills.

                It seems that the Dems will be able to get Joe Manchin on board with some more or less reasonable version of the big bill, but I increasingly worry about Krysten Sinema. Her opaque approach to public comment is suspicious. She has already voted against things she ran on (Is the candidate they voted for actually the Senator they got?), and she is beholden to some big money. She strikes me as someone who could agree privately to a deal and then vote “no” when the time came. Then, she could either change party (giving the majority to Mitch), or resign (I don’t remember whether AZ would have to have have a quick special election, or the Governor would appoint a replacement.) and take a very well paid job already promised.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Howdy Bob!

                  That is one thing about Manchin, he is true to his word. He’s working hard to not say out loud that he is against the climate change provisions because of his coal company holdings and is giving lip service to “entitlements” as illusory explanation. It’s duplicitous but not a direct lie. Sinema, on the other hand, is clearly in the pocket of big money donors, has gone against everything she once seemed to stand for, and is playing cat-and-mouse with her positions. Clearly, she’s much further down the in the dark tetrad hole than Manchin is. She’s not to be trusted in the least.

                  I don’t know what real difference it would make if either of them left the Democratic party to become independents or Republicans, though. We wouldn’t get any more done. We’re not really going to change the filibuster rule. We’d lose the illusion or delusion of being able to get some of these things done. No more legislation would pass, either.

                  The only real difference would be the approval of judges appointed. Of course, as soon as McConnell is back as majority leader, Bryer will resign SCOTUS.

                  Huzzah!
                  Jack

                  Liked by 1 person

                  • I agree about Manchin. If he says he will or won’t vote for something, that’s what he will do. Sinema can’t be trusted, I think, even by her paymasters. When she is on a narcissistic roll she will do whatever she thinks will be the biggest hit of dopamine in the moment, and if feeling a narcissistic wound, she will turn on whomever. Still, Mitch would welcome her into the GOP caucus with open arms, trusting her or not (probably not).

                    Here’s an interesting thing I found, courtesy of a discussion on On The Media:

                    https://www.openculture.com/2014/02/kurt-vonnegut-masters-thesis-rejected-by-u-chicago.html

                    https://www.wnycstudios.org/podcasts/otm/segments/kurt-vonnegut-and-shape-pandemic

                    Liked by 1 person

                    • Mitch being ever the Real Politik opportunist that he is would be happy for her to caucus with them. He would never rely on her for a vote, though, recognizing her for the contranian that she is. She’d just be a wart on the GQP’s senate’s ass.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • LOL – yes — Which brings the thought that Pepe The Frog was the wrong species – picturing the GOP as a toad, rather like the invasive and poisonous Cane Toad in Australia. Since nothing else there can eat them, they eat each other.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • The Cane Toads: An Unnatural History is a 1988 documentary. It’s as if Monty Python had a terrible accident involving National Geographic. Everything you need to know about cane toads right there. Certainly the most suitable mascot for the modern Republican Party.

                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Might be enough. I also had the thought that she should be made to sit, not across the isle, but in the isle until she makes up her mind whether she’s a Democrat or a Republican – can’t happen, but it is a pleasing image.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Assuming that they do manage to pass the resolution package, the Democrats need to stop talking about what is not in it and get out clear messaging of what IS in it, who did it, and who it is for, and drive that home hard and continuously by every means available.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Howdy Bob!

                      I’m afraid we’re all moving at the speed of Twitter and the government and DoJ is moving at a much slower pace. Unfortunately, we get caught up in the hoopla and forget that we’re supposed to take steps towards solving problems that affect us all. And, Dems too often let their messaging get overwhelmed by the Zeitgeist instead of being having talking point discipline.

                      Someone I’ve started listening to a lot is Rep. Jayapal. She’s been rock solid throughout and focused on getting it done. As long as she’s optimistic and satisfied, I am, too. I don’t have the time to evaluate everything in the bill and keep up with all the back and forth in the news. She’s been saying all along that they’d come to an agreement. They’re going to pass both bills.

                      Now, the rest of us need to find the same certainty that she has and let that be our message.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Yes. Sometimes I long for the old days of Huntley and Brinkley and the Evening News that everybody watched. The 24/7 chatter and blather of cable news does not, I think, serve democracy well.

                      Regardless of what may not get included, the message has to be about the huge difference whatever does will make for real people, even MAGAs. I think the focus on the total price tag has been harmful. Even in the original version of 6T over 10 years doesn’t sound so scary stated as 600B/year. When the total number is used, people tend to think the whole thing gets spent at once (Joe Manchin clearly does).

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Our expectation wasn’t as heightened. Our concerns were more local. It was fundamentally better. Nowadays we are distressed by our impatience, which makes us vulnerable to mass psychosis and divisive politics.

                      Joe Manchin knows better, he just acts like he doesn’t. He’s been in government too long not to reflexively know. He’s just blowing smoke to cover for his corporate pay masters and fool the constituents.

                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I just can’t believe how much stress we live with nowadays. Most of it is our own doing, though. It is the desire to be the first to know, the first to social media something, the constant need to check every possible updated app for anything new at all. I remember smokers saying they would wake up in the middle of the night craving a cigarette and couldn’t go back to sleep until they smoked. I know people who wake up in the middle of the night and check their social media and then get caught up in responding. It seems like it is so similar as to lack any practical difference.

                      Huzzah!
                      jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • It’s why the death penalty doesn’t act as a deterrent: no one thinks about getting caught. Zuckerberg certainly never thinks about whether he is right or wrong; he just assumes he’s right because it is what is best for him. He’s lost in his own little world of self-serving justifications.

                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • People who assume there is a greater than 50% chance they will be caught rarely do the crime except out of desperation. And, for Zuckerberg and his like, when something does go wrong, there is always somebody or something else to blame, if only for the plan being poorly implemented.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I guess in crime there is crime of passion, in the heat of the moment committed without thought. One assumes most murders fall into this category. And, less passionate crimes, those done with a little more conscious commitment and planning. Perhaps most robberies. I think with Zuckerberg and his ilk there is the crime of commission. Crimes that they commit because they are in the process of doing something else and they crime is the result whether they knew or intended to commit it or not. Crimes of commission might be committed by the naive, narcissistic, or psychopathic. The naive feel remorse and maybe take responsibility for their actions and face the music. The narcissists and psychopaths find ways to blame others or the system.

                      In complex systems, though, they can fool you into not realizing all the implications of what is happening and just how directly responsible the people making the systems are for the outcomes. Kind of like a Rube Goldberg Machine in which the first action through a long chain of unlikely events results in something, in the case of Facebook, serious damage being done.

                      The Facebook papers strongly suggest that eventually the folks running Facebook knew about the damage they were causing and were looking for ways to continue the income stream at the level they were accustomed, limit the damage done somewhat, and keep it from ever coming out. I think that was the point of pouring resources into what was happening in the US but ignoring the rest of the world. It’s that American-centric bias that says it’s only the things that are happening in America and to English-speaking peoples that are important, no one of any importance, i.e. English-speaking Americans, will notice or care about what is happening to the non-English-speaking world.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • And we wonder and scratch our collective head when people in other parts of the world complain of cultural imperialism. It isn’t just the social media industry. They are late comers well behind Hollywood and the popular music industry. The movie people do seem to have realized that they can sell a lot of tickets in China, but the music industry seems somewhat befuddled by K-Pop (which took our model of boy bands and girl bands and took it to the max).

                      It is said that all we learn from success is to do more of the same. That is clearly true of business models, whatever the business. When the profits are high, some way will be found to deny, hide, or justify any damage being done. That is all much easier when the damage is happening to people in “unimportant” places that don’t get time or column inches in the news here.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • I remember students in Korea asking me about running gun battles in the malls and streets of the US. They were certain that the violence portrayed in movies was a realistic depiction of what was actually happening.

                      The problem with cultural imperialism is that it doesn’t completely replace the cultural values and practices that it displaces. It leaves a terrible void where those traditions used to be. It is the export of surface culture that ends up eroding deep culture. Looking at the kids in South Korea, Viet Nam, and China, you could see the problems that it was causing in terms of emotional and cultural security. The sense of attachment to their traditional culture. Cambodia is a different case all together because of the huge deep hole that the Khmer Rouge blew into the country’s history and culture. There is a real void left by the dead people who are no longer able to pass the traditions along and the survivors who are too traumatized to do it accurately.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Our entertainment industry does send a weirdly split image of America. It tends to be either I Love Lucy – Happy Days – Friends — Middle American, prosperous White Bread; Or some sort of dystopian, flying bullets everywhere Hell. And it is that contradictory vision that we export … Ozzie and Harriet or Grand Theft Auto.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • And perhaps the entertainment industry is just mirroring the fractured American psyche. You know, we can never make it across the rainbow bridge to Nirvana unless we repent of our original sin of slavery and racism. We just ain’t willing to do it. Until then it is Jungs Light and Shadow for us.

                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • No doubt, it does reflect that. During WW2, Meade, Bateson, and others worked in a project run by either Military Intelligence or the OSS ( I forget which) doing things like analyzing German movies and interviewing German and Japanese expats, studying culture at a distance (couldn’t very well run public opinion surveys in those countries) with a view towadr effecting psychological warfare. That project is briefly mentioned in this introduction to a book, The Study Of Culture At A Distance, by Margaret Meade and others: https://anthrosource.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/pdf/10.1525/aa.1980.82.2.02a00090

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Howdy Bob!

                      World War II was truly a watershed moment in human history. After the war, it touched off a degree of social research that has been unequaled since. I think it largely succeeded in determining the psychological roots of the Holocaust. Unfortunately, using those findings to prevent future atrocities has proven more elusive than the researchers had thought.

                      However, it proved the value of studying culture and the power that culture has in our daily lives, however difficult it is to describe, define, or delineate. It seems the lessons of WWII were not put to good use in our recent wars, though. We failed to study the cultures of those we fought whether from a distance or up close and paid a terrible price for it.

                      I guess we would do well to study the culture of the white supremacists that we are struggling against now to try and determine if there is some small chink in the cultural armor that could sway them. I don’t know how we can convince them to give up their inner racists, though. It just takes plain hard work that most people are unwilling to do without some explicit reward or cause.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • One description of the war in Afghanistan that I think applies to Vietnam and Iraq a well is that it was not one 20 year war, but 20 one year wars, due to the rotation of all levels of command, and those returning on multiple deployments no going back to the same communities.

                      Is there either an identity or a necessity that could take precedence or priority over White Male? I don’t know, but if it is found it needs to be exploited.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Right now, I don’t think there is. The conservative world is built around the lionization of white men.

                      We need to work together to overcome a superordinate goal, but if #COVID19 didn’t provide the superordinate problem to solve together, then I don’t think there is anything short of transnational disaster on a scale of nuclear war or alien invasion.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • How about a super volcano eruption? Some geologists are getting worried about Toba, the one in Indonesia that may have nearly wiped H. Sapiens in Africa 75,000 years ago. Yellowstone isn’t ominously rumbling yet, and neither are the the others.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Yeah, a super volcano eruption gets your attention pretty fast. It’s a favorite subject of middle school geography. What seventh grader doesn’t love him some erupting volcanoes and then you add the super volcano and those kids are just captivated by the idea.

                      I’m guessing that plunging the world into a mini ice age for a few years might could get folks to work together at least on a regional level. But, I wouldn’t bet on it.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Thanks for the Vonnegut links. I saw him speak once at a university. He did talk about the shape of stories, our dismal education system, and tips on being a successful writer (Spoiler: inherit money or marry money). He also had just withering contempt for the poor kid who introduced him because he was such a simpering idolizer.

                      I’m getting my 6th grade ELA students to plot stories on the plot diagram, so it could be a useful extension to that. That the anthropology committee rejected it as a viable way of evaluating a culture seems really odd to me… though, it may not result in any useful classifiable differences between cultures. You won’t know until you try it. It seems to me you could use it describe the development of children as well or their journey in storytelling. Most children tell terrible stories until they either figure it out on their own or someone makes them do it better.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Reading helps build so many skills from grammar and sustained attention to storytelling and use of imagination. It is indispensable; unfortunately, we have dispensed it like we have so many other valued contributions from our past.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • and, you don’t have the time to stop, contemplate, discuss… at least until everything moved to streaming. Even then, though, the kids are all in a hurry nowadays and don’t want to take time with anything. It’s pretty awful what has happened to our sustained attention.

                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • 😦 If the business model is to maximize views and clicks and shares, the goal is to keep them scrolling, clicking, and sharing, not taking time to think and ponder.

                      As for Zukerberg’s “META”, there is already a book about that, Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson.
                      “Wait a minute, Juanita. Make up your mind. This Snow Crash thing—is it a virus, a drug, or a religion?” Juanita shrugs. “What’s the difference?” – Neal Stephenson

                      He does dystopia very well.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • That’s the dopamine of more. Man, it is a vicious thing. I was thinking about one of my more ADHD kids and the frustration his father has with him. Of course, he complained about all the time he spends on his various electronic and Internet capable devices. It occurred to me that kids like him were some of the ones who got up to some mischief when we were younger. They would get bored and look for something to do that something would often be things they ought not ta. At least the Internet keeps them outta trouble. On the other hand, watching La Petite Fille idle her days away on the Internet leaves me of mind of a vegetative state. I spend nearly as much time on the Internet, but I’m productive, you see the difference, right?

                      I know she’s actually being somewhat productive with her art and role playing and what not. Then again, I have students who are afraid of butterflies. I don’t know. Kids need to get outside more.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • “Boredom: the desire for desires.” ― Leo Tolstoy

                      Bored kids do combine the urge to be doing something, anything, with poor risk assessment. I’m guessing that you, like me, was pretty much a “free range” kid, out and about weather permitting when not sitting in school. Now days, letting a child be out of direct supervision and structure in public can get a parent in serious trouble, even walking or riding a bike to school. Maybe it is no wonder that kids escape into the digital world.

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • Howdy Bob!

                      We had some very large drainage ditches that ran through our neighborhood and a rock quarry not far away. We were always out catching crawdads or just going through things that we found there. The best though was the car graveyard across the street from my grandmother’s house in Appalachia. We were in all them junked vehicles all the time or going through the woods behind her house. Nothing was better than finding a snake or a frog or very large insect, though.

                      Like I said. I have students who are afraid of butterflies. It makes me very sad.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

                    • The junkyard was pretty cool. At least we were within shouting distance of my grandma. I read that you could pay a fee to a company in the UK and allow your kid to play in their junkyard. They just filled a fenced in urban tract with tires, construction cast offs, old cars, and other junk. It was monitored and supervised but kids could do most anything they could think of there. It sounded like a decent compromise.

                      Huzzah!
                      Jack

                      Liked by 1 person

  2. When I was a little girl, I was often mistaken for a boy. I was really tough & I was a tomboy. I wore my older brother’s cast-offs & I hated dresses … unless I wanted to play “dress-ups” & pretend to be a queen. Some of the pictures of me as a child, I really do look like a boy more than a girl.

    I played trombone in band & some of the concert flyers listed my name as “Billy” … I guess the women who typed up the names of the band members couldn’t imagine a girl playing trombone. But I ran with that ball … I had an alter-ego named “Billy” for years. Years later, I met a man named Billy who was my true soul mate … too bad he was an abusive asshole when he drank too much, which was most of the time.

    I think a lot of kids are like me. We live in a terrible time when gender roles are very rigid … things used to be much more fluid. There’s a myth that before … say, the 90s? … that things were much more rigid … especially in the 50s & 60s & before then, but that’s a myth. Now everything is locked into pink=girl & blue=boy & if you like to play with this toy, you’re a girl & if you like guns, you’re a boy & yadda yadda yadda. It’s so fucking stupid.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Howdy Silver!

      I have a similar experience. As a teen and young man, many people would eventually get around to asking if I were gay. I never understood why and can only conjecture as to why. I think it is related to my autism. And, of course, as an autistic person growing up before autism was a well known thing, I’ve never felt understood or accepted. It has made me much more sensitive to the individuals who for whatever reason fall into that same category of being misunderstood and poorly accepted.

      While children do get that early training in gender roles seemingly by osmosis, they also get that some of it is very arbitrary. Girls have been permitted wider latitude than boys in crossing those gender lines. Tomboy is not as much of a pejorative as sissy is. Pink didn’t become gendered until recently in fact it used to be considered masculine back at the turn of the last century. Nowadays, gendering products is done as a marketing ploy. You get to sell two if you can sell some for boys and some for girls.

      We would benefit from having weaker and looser gender roles. I think we’re living through the angry backlash against the changing technology forcing changes to our culture, namely gender roles. There is no justification for gendering professions any more. For some people that kind of fundamental change engenders a violent furious reaction, especially when it is stoked and encouraged.

      Huzzah!
      Jack

      Liked by 1 person

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