202: Becoming a Woman: Exploration of Gender

by | Jul 22, 2021 | Mama Thursday | 0 comments

Welcome, Mamma Crew, to another chaotic, exciting, but always beautiful day of an older mom like you!

There is no question that the pandemic has been hard on us all. But I think it’s probably harder on our teens. They get to be cut off from friends and family at a time when they need to be surrounded by people who support them and love them. And of course, they got to spend countless hours online because they were homeschooling online, schooling online, whatever you want to call it. And, of course, the depression that came with losing our lives. Let’s face it. Human beings are social animals, and we like being with our friends and family, and it was really, really hard. It was not a good time to become a woman or be defining feminism as mine wanted to do. It was not a good time to be defining yourself.

And of course, at this time, this challenging time, gender has become a really hot topic online. You see discussions on Discord, Facebook, and Instagram. Everywhere that the kids are chatting. You see all of these discussions about gender. On the positive side, this time away did allow people to delve deeper into the concept of gender and experiment with the way that they wanted to express their own identities.

Of course, one of the main ways kids have been doing this has been by finding support on their specific niche in the online space. On the other hand, this niche has become hyper-focused, and there is an unnecessary fixation on labels. Labels are very important online. But when you label something, you stop exploring. Right? You think by labeling it, you define it, and perhaps you feel you’ve defined yourself. You’re no longer really exploring that concept, and you’re not using a real-world application when you’re online.

Don’t get me wrong. I think this year, online friendship was a necessary evil. I don’t know about your kids, but my kids were super depressed. It was a really, really hard year. As we leave the worst of the pandemic behind, I’m really refocusing my kids on person-to-person friendships outside of the internet.

I’m doing this for a variety of reasons. Friendships are essential to a person’s emotional development. They help us build trust with people outside our family. They help us learn how to compromise, share, to manage conflict. And when we’re growing up, our friends are an incredible source of support which allows us to experiment outside of our homes, who we are, who we might become.  They give us feedback. Friends give us a lot of feedback that helps shape our behavior, which helps determine what behavior we adopt and helps us become better people. Right? 

My personal perspective is that exploration is good. Adolescence is a good time to go out there and explore the many facets of who we could be, not who we are, because we’re not fully developed. But who we could be so that we develop that self-identity. We explore definitions of family, how we should behave in a family, whether or not we want to have a family or think we want to have a family. My girls are always shocked when I tell them that I didn’t really want to have children for the longest time. 

I Will Always Support My Daughters in their Exploration of Who They Are and Who They Will Become!

Culture. One of my daughters is really embracing her Hispanic background. My other daughter is really embracing the fact that, through my husband, she’s related to P.T. Barnum. She really loves that!

Race and ethnicity. One of my daughters is using my Hispanic last name. I didn’t hyphenate it on her birth certificate. Still, she’s really identifying with that component of my experience, and she’s turning it into her own experience. 

Sexuality. Which they’re not allowed to explore that much at the age of fourteen.

Faith. Do I believe in God? How do I believe in God? What religion do I want to practice? Should I practice the religion that I’m practicing just because my parents belong to it? Where do I go with all of this? 

Social. Where do I fit in society? What happens once my parents are no longer supporting me? How does that change who I am in society? How do my choices in what I study and who I become change my position in society? 

But the really popular one right now is gender. As the kids are going through this exploration, I’m finding it really challenging balancing setting healthy boundaries with empowering them to develop their own set of values and sense of self. That identity as an individual. There’s no question that we tend to use our bodies as a form of self-expression during the teen years.  How we chose to dress, what kind of makeup we wear, hairstyle, the color of hair, jewelry, accessories, piercings, tattoos! Mine are not allowed to have piercings or tattoos other than their little ears. That’s it.  But there’s no question whatsoever that our kids really challenge our family’s social perception in some cases. I think it’s essential that, as adults, we support teens’ development.  We need to help them create a positive sense of self by encouraging an ongoing discussion and providing consistent support as they explore who they are and who they will become. 

And after all of that, I come back to where I started—gender. Sex is biological—male, female, intersex. But gender is a social construct. In other words, gender is how society tells you to behave based on your sex at birth. As a social construct, gender exists, not in objective reality, but as a result of human interaction. And so, the definitions and the parameters have changed a lot. I mean, I used to teach sociology of sex and gender just seven years ago. And already, things in society have changed so much in seven years. It’s incredible! 

One of my kids said the other day, “I don’t want to be a boring cis woman.” 

I was like, “a what?!”  

Of course, I looked it up. It means heterosexual women. So, I’ve had to brush up on my definitions. Right? 

Cisgender. A word used to describe people whose gender agrees with their body, sex, or assigned sex.

Transgender. A general word used to describe a broad range of non-traditional gender identities. It will often be used to describe somebody’s identified gender or expression, such as transgender women or transmasculine people.

This one was new to me too. Gender diverse/Non-binary/ Genderqueer, or other gender diverse people. Some of them also identify as transgender, have a gender identity that isn’t simply men or women. Instead, they choose to identify with a range of gender characteristics that feel comfortable for them.

Wow! That’s a mouthful. So, here I have twelve-year-olds going into age thirteen, the pandemic hits, and are so eager to begin labeling themselves. I had one of them announce, “Mom. I’m asexual.” 

Good for you, honey! Even better for me. Less to worry about. Right? But, next thing you know, the same kid comes over goes, “Mom. I’m pansexual.”

And of course, I was like, “Say what again?”

They’re like, “Oh… Mom!”

Yes, I had heard the word pansexual before. But I just didn’t remember. I’m fifty-four. So, pansexual—not limited in sexual choice about biological sex, gender, or gender identity. Okay? Good for you, honey! 

Another one, “Mom, I think I might be gay.”

That’s nice.

“Are you okay with that?”

Sure!

Next thing she comes back, “Mom. I think I like boys.”

That’s nice, Dear.

“Are you okay with that?”

Sure!

Of course, the one that’s given us the most trouble is, “Mom, I want to be non-binary, and I want to change my name to a gender-neutral name.”

Okay. No problem, baby. What does that mean? 

Well, she gives us her new name. And, yes, it’s gender-neutral. And yes, we’re okay with it. But we’ve been calling our child by a certain name for the last twelve years, and it’s hard! It’s hard to remember to call them by the new name that they just chose. And, of course, the way that she spells the name has changed several times. But at least she was nice about it. She did come to me, and she said at one point, “Mom, I don’t want you to feel bad. I do appreciate the name you gave me. I just feel that it’s more important for me at this stage in my life to identify as non-binary.”

Okay, baby.

“Are your feelings hurt?”

No. You go be who you need to be, who you want to be, who you are. 

Were my feelings hurt? Honestly, they were not. I feel privileged that my children are in my life, and I get to love them and that they love me. Now, that being said, I have a hell of a time using the gender-neutral pronouns “them” and “they.” I just do. To me, they’re plural. They’re plural. And so, I constantly brought fall back to “she” and “he.” I’m trying very hard to be respectful. I really am. But it’s hard for me. It’s so hard. The nice thing about it is that my kids are understanding. They know that I’m trying, and I’m doing my best to respect their boundaries. 

At the same time, I accept that it’s healthy for them to constantly label themselves, including changing gender labels. I understand that through their explorations, they might be able to make choices that back twenty years ago, thirty years ago, forty years ago, would not be socially acceptable to make. I respect the fact that they’re entitled to make those choices. They’re entitled to redefine themselves as many times as they want, or they feel they need to. Maybe they’ll become strong independent women, strong independent men, or strong independent non-binary people, or they might be gay, or pansexual, or asexual or however, they define themselves. 

What I see every time they introduce a new label to me, I see my child exploring the world. I accept it, and I’m okay with it. And they can be fully confident no matter where it is that they land after this crazy adolescence. I’m going to love them, and I will always feel privileged to be part of their lives.

For parents out there, I know some of my friends say that I make it sound easy. It doesn’t feel easy. Sometimes they come up with some singers, and I don’t quite know how to respond to that. So what can I say to a parent that’s in my position? 

Don’t get alarmed over changes in appearances. Hair? We grow it to cut it, cut it to grow it. That’s what my friend Rick says, and I agree with him! Unusual hair colors? They’ll grow out of the fad. Same thing as clothing. Right? I had a daughter who only wanted to wear pink. I had another daughter who only wanted to wear purple. Now, one of them only wants to wear black. It’s just a color! Who cares? It comes, and it goes. 

Pick your battles, and keep these issues in perspective. I mean, wearing black clothing is not that big of a deal. It’s really interesting because one of my kids thinks that she is so avant-garde that she’s wearing all this black and stuff, and she said something to me about it, “You wouldn’t understand, mom.” 

I just nodded and smiled. I went through that phase in my twenties back then. We call that being “mod.” Now, they go by a different name, but it’s the same fashion. 

And when your teen gets stuck doing something that really goes against your values, encourage your teens to pursue their other interests through activities such as sport, music, and hobbies. Don’t hyper-focus on what it is that’s upsetting you or what’s tripping your trigger because it’s your trigger. It’s not your child’s trigger. The most important thing is to help our teens identify their strengths and choose their activities, so they feel like they shine and develop into confident adults. 

And here’s the bottom line. And I know some parents have a challenging time with this. I have many friends who have adult kids, and I’ve seen them struggle through this phase. You have to trust that you’ve given them a strong foundation that even if they don’t make the choices you would make for them, they’re making the right choices for themselves.

And ultimately, you really need to ask yourself, “Do I want my adult child in my life?”

Because here’s the thing. In the teen years, you will be answering that question. “What kind of a relationship are you setting up for the adult years? Do you want to be part of your children’s lives in their adult years?” 

I know many adult children who choose not to be part of their parents’ lives, not to share their lives with their parents. I’m one of them. For many, many years, I didn’t share my life with my mother. For even more, I didn’t share my life with my father. And it all went back to those teen years. Now, if you’ve heard my podcast before, seeing my videos, read the blog. You know that I come from a very abusive background. 

I’m Going to Love My Kids No Matter Where They Land After This Crazy Adolescence!

Nevertheless, the teen years were still hard on all of us. A lot of what happened there really guided the rest of my life and not necessarily in a positive way. I had to work through a lot of that.

So, I really focus on making sure that my children are making good choices. Maybe not the choices I said I would make for them, but they’re making good choices. They’re trying their best to be good people. They’re trying their best to become better people. Because I think ultimately that is what’s most important. That as parents, we teach them to be good people.

So hey, if you’re just as confused about gender and gender labels today as I am and you enjoyed this episode, please let me know! Review and rate the podcast, write a comment below on YouTube, send us an email, or write a comment on the blog. We would really love to hear from you! And by we, I mean, my team and me!

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Dr B.

I began my journey into motherhood at the age of 40 when I became a mother of twins! Today I am a mother of 4! Being an older mom might be a growing trend, but we are still a minority with our own unique blessings and challenges. Join me in this journey! To contact me directly, email me at oldermoms@entrepreneurialdreamers.com