We're talking about gender roles this week (as if you couldn't guess that). My experience with gender roles is about hazy. Growing up, my parents weren't all that concerned with exactly what boys and girls were supposed to do most of the time. I played with barbie dolls (my mom even bought a Ken doll for us boys, but I still wanted to play with the girl barbie dolls because they had more clothes to dress them up in). I loved playing with toy cars, Transformers, dinosaurs, blocks to build my cities and fortresses and spaceships. I loved movies about Disney princesses and Star Wars. I used to dress up in dresses, wigs, and earrings and dance and role play with my sister. There are still pictures from when I was a little boy dressed as girl (no, I will not show anyone that. That's left for blackmailing purposes by my parents to show whoever the man is that I marry, ha ha!). I was forced to play sports as a child but never showed any interest. I took part in theater and loved to sing in the Primary children's choirs. I don't do either now but have a love for choir, musicals, theater, and dance.
Gender roles is something that never mattered. My only experience with it growing up was that boys have the Priesthood and girls don't; boys do outside work and girls do inside work when it's time for chores around the house. My dad taught my mom how to cook, my older brother was an old woman and a middle aged woman for two different Halloweens.
Growing up in California and Washington state, this idea of a fluidity of gender roles was further influenced. The idea that girls and boys were supposed to be or do certain things was alien or foreign to me. I found it funny and still do that gays and lesbians are supposed to have reverse gender roles. It's funny to me cause I never bought into the idea that straight people had gender roles. Why worry about making somebody act like something? I want to be great at gardening, I enjoy cooking, I love musicals, I love to watch action movies, I love comic books, I think aggression is normal for boys and girls and that fighting is sometimes the only way to work things out, and so on. Girls can wear dresses, so can boys. I think a guy is hot in a kilt and have never cared when a boy wears dresses.
It was only in coming to Utah and going to BYU that I started to see that gender roles really do matter. Girls and boys here have a bizarre need to segregate themselves and define their roles. It's a bizarre obsession to me. A friend of mine won't wear or do certain things if it makes him appear gay or not masculine. Such a strange idea to me. Why worry? Sexual orientation, gender identity, and such are all not important. You like who you like and you are what you are (as in identify). If you're attracted to the male body, great. If you identify as "butch" or "effeminate" or "lipstick" or what not, that's fine to.
Just be who you are, in my view. I think the obsession in Utah, and other parts of the country, with the need to reinforce and shore up American ideas of gender roles is a response to the growing visibility of gays in society. I have met plenty of "femi" straight guys. I have met plenty of "butch" gay boys. I have met every shade of women straight and gay. Why worry? You are who you are. Embrace that. Someone out there will be attracted to it.
My upbringing and mental and social development have all taught me that gender roles are fluid, social constructs, and nothing to worry about. I am absolutely confident that if I had a daughter and she wanted to play sports and kick the asses of annoying boys on the playground, she'd still have as much a chance of being straight (or gay) as any girl that grew up playing dolls, serving tea, and dressing in frilly pink dresses.
To all those caught up in fearing their children will be gay (or straight), I have advice for you: calm down and let your children grow up as they will. Help them develop their interests and be there for them. Don't worry if your son likes playing with Barbie dolls or babies. It won't make him gay or straight. It will make him more sensitive to the needs of babies and even what looks good on the human form. Don't worry if your daughter wants to play sports. Just worry if you can scream loud enough in cheering for them so that you can embarrass them with your enthusiasm and support for them. This is what counts. Love will always matter. Gender roles won't ever.