Sex v. Gender: Why my boys wear nail polish

I encountered it time and time again with Amos. You see I have a thing about cutting your baby’s hair anyway. I think as soon as you cut their hair they’re not your baby anymore. Suddenly, they look so grownup and then everyone starts telling them what a big boy they are and then before you know it they’re in college.

No, thank you.

Plus, Amos just got cuter and cuter the longer his hair got and it got pretty dang long.

Over and over again, people would ask, “Don’t people think he’s a girl!?!” Or family and friends who jokingly call him girl names and tell him what a pretty girl he was.

Apparently, the mere idea that someone would confuse my little boy for a little girl was supposed to scare me into cutting it all off immediately.

I hear a similar thread of conversation among my friend’s with newborns. There is great concern with the perceived gender of outfits and bows and headbands and preventing confusion at all costs.

I just don’t get it.

Now, I’m not a doctor. However, as far as I know, other people’s perception of your child’s sex has absolutely no effect on what resides between their chubby little legs. People can confuse your precious baby girl for a boy all day long and she will still be a girl. People can call your adorable baby boy a beautiful girl all day long and he will remain a boy.

Trust me. Amos was confused for a girl on multiple occasions and yet he remains a boy -completely and totally unaffected by being called a girl so many times.

My question is if it doesn’t change the sex of your child then why does it matter?

Well, I would argue because people aren’t really concerned about the SEX of a child which (for the most part) is set at birth. Sex is defined as the biological and physiological characteristics that define men and women. What people get all riled up about is GENDER and that is a WHOLE other ball game.

Gender as defined by the World Health Organization is “the socially constructed roles, behaviors, activities, and attributes that a given society considers appropriate for men and women.” In many ways, gender is defined from birth as well. In a million subtle ways, we treat boys and girls differently from the moment they exit the womb.

Now, we can debate whether or not the ways we treat boys and girls differently define those gender roles or whether these roles are found deep within our DNA. Truthfully, I don’t think it really matters. What is not up for debate is that some little boys and girls don’t fall within those predefined roles.

Some boys really love dolls and dress-up and the color pink. Some girls love football and cars and the color blue. My husband likes to cook for his family. I like to drink bourbon and argue about politics.


What is NOT ok is when someone is made to feel shame because who they are or what they enjoy does not line up with society’s predefined roles for them.

People say they just want their kids to be happy but sometimes I wonder if they mean it. What if your little boy wants to stay home and raise kids? What if your little girl wants to join the Air Force? Our children are individuals wholly and completely separate from the baggage we carry about what’s “right” or “appropriate.” 

And that is why I try to get out of the way when my sons show an interest in just about anything and, let me tell you, everyone else better get out of the way as well. You want to see me go all mama bear in zero to 60? Say something about Amos’s fingernail polish or Griffin’s pink fuzzy socks. I dare you.

Gender roles are an ongoing discussion in our house because it is incredibly important to me that THEY define what’s important to them – not society.

At Griffin’s four-year-old checkup, our pediatrician looked at him and exclaimed, “Griffin you’re such a pretty girl!”

Griffin responded, “I’m not a girl!”

“Well, how do you know?”

“Because I don’t have a vagina!”

The doctor burst out laughing and told me he’d never gotten that response before. I was so confused. “What do they usually say?” I asked. He told me most boys would say they weren’t a girl because they didn’t wear dresses or have long hair. (Seriously, with the hair again!?! Is anyone really debating that J-Law and her new pixie cut is not longer female? Or Ted Nugent is anything but male?!?)

I was incredulous. I told him gender is an ongoing discussion in our house. That we spend a lot of time talking about the physical differences between boys and girls and what other people think about what boys should do and what girls should do. However, ask Griffin the truth and this is what he’ll tell you.

“The only thing girls can do that boys can’t do is have babies. Everything else is up for grabs.”

What about you? How do you feel about traditional gender roles as they're applied to our kids?