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  • Maia Dunphy

The M Word: Unapologetic Tractors

Updated: Nov 20

I’ve lost count of the number of times baby Tom has been mistaken for a girl, despite the fact that I shamelessly don’t adhere in anyway whatsoever to gender neutral baby dressing. I have his insanely thick hair cut into a “boys’ cut” (whatever that is), and I dress him in boys gear. In small blue trousers, blue t-shirts, blue jackets, blue PJs with dinosaurs and tiny trucks on them (with just the occasional rainbow because we love them)….you get the idea. It’s all very “traditional” so I’m told. And to be clear, it doesn’t bother me in the SLIGHTEST when someone mistakes him for a girl. I get it – babies all look like babies. Tom isn’t asking for a Scotch on the rocks in a deep voice in a Gentlemen’s Club somewhere, and so it’s understandable that someone might be unsure of his gender despite his mother’s archaic attitude to dressing him.

But what’s funny about the gender mix up is not that it happens, or even my reaction (which I think is pretty casual), but the reaction of the person who has made the mistake. Nine times out of ten, instead of chuckling too and saying “Ohsorryboutthat”, they always try and defend their blunder. The last such incident went something like this:

Random lady on train: Oh what an adorable baby! What’s her name?

Me: Tom.

RLOT: Tom? Is she not a girl?

Me: No, “she’s” a boy called Tom.

RLOT: Then why did you just say she?

Me: Sorry. I was just trying to be funny. He’s called Tom. A boy called Tom.

RLOT: You just never know these days.

Me: You never do.

RLOT: Even though you’ve dressed him in blue. Lots of people dress girls in blue.

Me: They might. But he’s a boy dressed in blue.

RLOT: I mean, he really, really looks like a girl.

Me: Ok, but trust me, he’s a boy.

RLOT: I do trust you. Why would you lie?

Me: I wouldn’t. I’m just making a point,

RLOT: Have I offended you?

Me: Not in the slightest.

RLOT: Because he really could be a girl. It’s not my fault.

And so it continued until she got off the train.

Another woman I met on a plane made the same mistake but then berated ME for “being so old fashioned” by dressing him in blue.

“You never know who he might want to be” she told me.

Um, what?! He can be whoever he wants to be lady, but I don’t think me dressing him at 14 months in a blue all-in-one with a picture of a tractor on it is going to force him to deny his sexuality in years to come.

There is a lot of gender neutrality out there and that’s fine. There are little boys with cascading curls and girls with crew cuts, boys in pink dungarees and girls who love trucks. And that’s ALL OK! But whereas initially there was a mild backlash against such gender neutral attitudes, now it feels the ire is being directed towards parents who choose to stick to a “traditional palate” for want of a better description. And don’t get me started on parents whose children genuinely choose “gender specific” toys (more on that another).

Gender is not a black and white thing – we finally know that, and are learning more with every day. For some people it’s fluid and changeable, or not what other people might think. But for now, in my son’s case, it’s just a blue onesie with a tractor on it.

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©2020 Maia Dunphy.