So what happens if your son or daughter is gender-variant? How do you raise them? How do you interact with your child when she tells you that she hates dresses and wants more than anything to be a football player one day? Or what do you say when your kid asks you if he could try on your makeup, or bring princess dolls to school?

It’s easy enough, particularly for liberal-minded folk, to say that they’d support their kid, tell them they’re great and that they can do and become anything. But what happens when teachers or other parents tell your kid something differently, like that boys don’t play with dolls or that all girls look beautiful in dresses? What happens when the babysitter tells you that your kid isn’t making friends at the park because the other boys don’t want to talk about makeup and unicorns? Do you confront each and every parent, teacher or other person in your child’s life that imposes these traditional pressures of gender conformity on your child? Do you sit other parents’ kids down and explain to them that boys can wear makeup just like girls can, and then see how their parents react?

It’s not so easy. Gendery-minded people everywhere say it’s awful to tell a boy or girl that their varied gendered behaviors are wrong, but what do you do about literally every other person other than you that has a strong social and emotional influence on your kid’s life, on your kid’s ultimate decision-making process regarding gender and self-concept?

Do you instead take a more practical approach, and try to tacitly communicate to your kid that they can be gender-variant in private but recognize that the world is a harsh place? Do you put your kid through gender boot camp at the age of 3 or 4 (when gendered behaviors are most rapidly developing) and teach them to pathologize the expression of their interests, thoughts, desires, to suppress physical movements that could be interpreted as effeminate or too masculine? Or do you teach them to just stave off just the behaviors that are more inflammatory to our society’s gender order?

Raising children in this world is a battle when you start to see things from this angle. Most parents don’t realize what they’re in for until they have a gender-variant kid, because they effectively are pointed at and called on by parents, teachers, and the rest to provide an answer about how they feel about their kid’s actions on a daily basis: Oh, are you sending him to soccer practice with my boys? Does your daughter want to come over and play house with my girls? Look at him playing with all those girls – he’s going to be a heartbreaker!

Not to mention all the moments that some adults purposely ignore your kid when he says something gender incongruent. Sometimes there’s nothing more grating than disapproval through silence. And we all know the trouble that silence can cause.

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