sugar & spice & so on

June 9, 2006 at 3:30 pm | Posted in AdoptThis! | 20 Comments

I started writing about this in the comments over at j’s, and then realized a) I was totally hijacking her comments, and b) I wanted some feedback on this myself!

A decisive cntrl-x, cntrl-v later, here I am:

J. was writing about gender, and her anxieties and preferences about the gender of her as-yet unconceived child. I think there’s some kind of lesbian blogging rule that requires all adopting/ttc-ing/baby contemplating dykes to have at least one of these posts in which they despair over their own uncontrollable biases. (I’m totally not making fun of J. here – she’s smart and articulate and honest and big smooches J.) So I guess it’s time for my own obligatory lesbian gender angst (OLGA) post.

See, the bizarre thing about adopting from Guatemala is that you essentially get to pick the gender of your child. Which is not to say that your child will not have his or her own opinions about that gender down the road, but that’s an entirely different post.

There tends to be a preference for girls among parents adopting from Guatemala. I’m not sure what this is about, and I’m sure everyone has their own good reasons for the choices they make, but I can’t ignore the fact that it sure makes my little racism antennae stand up on end. Susan over at Holding Pattern promised to blog about this a long time ago and never got to it… hint hint hint Susan. Foreign women = exotic and demure, foreign men = dark and threatening? The waiting list is longer for girls, which means that if you do request either and try to leave it up to fate, as is the case with pregnancy, you will in all likelihood get a boy. So you’re not really leaving it up to fate at all. And there’s creepy ethical stuff too – intermediaries are apparently asking for more money for girl babies? I do not like that one bit, and it’s one of the reasons we choose the agency we did.

Um. So. Yeah. Did I mention that I am really really tempted to request a girl?

This probably doesn’t come as a big surprise to anyone who knows me. On the outside, I’m a girly girl. I like funky skirts and cute shoes and silly barrettes for my hair. And I love to work in my garden and get my hands really dirty. I can change a flat tire and deal with rodents and insects, no problem. Before we moved, I was close to getting my black belt in karate. And I love the idea of raising a little girl who will be fierce and sweet and fuck with people’s expectations. I know the crap that girls do to each other, and I have some ideas about what I can say when my daughter encounters that.

I have some really good male friends, but I don’t know what it’s like to grow up as a boy. I can’t visualize my life with a son the way I can visualize my life with a daughter.

Pili, of course, feels similarly. Except reversed. Oy.

What do you think, my beloved computer friends?

ETA: Thank you for all your wonderful comments. Just to fine tune my freak out a little πŸ˜‰ I know we’ll love whatever we get. I like the idea of not having control. The problem is that WE HAVE TO CHOOSE. How in the name of all that’s holy do we do that? And while I hope we’ll get to enlarge our family further, I don’t want to assume that’s going to happen… Also interested to know what you all in the computer think about this preference for brown girls vs. brown boys in adoption – are my antennae over-sensitive? Sue/Life Postponed (not linking b/c it’s passworded), I’ll bet my right ass cheek you have an opinion about this…

P.S. This all makes me think of the wonderful Dar Williams song, “When I was a Boy”I won’t forget when Peter Pan
Came to my house, took my hand
I said I was a boy, I’m glad he didn’t check
I learned to fly, I learned to fight
I lived a whole life in one night
We saved each other’s lives out on the pirate’s deck

And I remember that night
When I’m leaving a late night with some friends
And I hear somebody tell me it’s not safe
Someone should help me
I need to find a nice man to walk me home

When I was a boy, I scared the pants off of my mom
Climbed what I could climb upon
And I don’t know how I survived
I guess I knew the tricks that all boys knew
And you can walk me home, but I was a boy, too

I was a kid that you would like
Just a small boy on her bike
Riding topless, yeah, I never cared who saw
My neighbor come outside to say
“Get your shirt,” I said “No way
It’s the last time I’m not breaking any law”

And now I’m in a clothing store
And the sign says, “Less is More”
More that’s tight means more to see
More for them, not more for me
That can’t help me climb a tree in ten seconds flat

When I was a boy, see that picture, that was me
Grass-stained shirt and dusty knees
And I know things have gotta change
They got pills to sell, they’ve got implants to put in
They’ve got implants to remove
But I am not forgetting
That I was a boy too

And like the woods where I would creep
It’s a secret I can keep
Except when I’m tired, except when I’m being caught off guard
I’ve had a lonesome awful day
The conversation finds its way
To catching fire-flies out in the backyard

And I tell the man I’m with
About the other life I lived
And I say now you’re top gun
I have lost and you have won
And he says, “Oh no, no, can’t you see

When I was a girl, my mom and I we always talked
And I picked flowers everywhere that I walked
And I could always cry, now even when I’m alone I seldom do
And I have lost some kindness
But I was a girl too
And you were just like me, and I was just like you”


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  1. I don’t know if I’m giving useful info, but my daughter goes to preschool with a boy who was adopted from Guatemala, and not too long ago, his parents adopted another from Guatemala…a girl. Cutest baby with fat cheeks and big, brite, eyes.

    So maybe consider adopting a boy now (or a girl), and then the other gender in a couple of years.

  2. I can only offer my experience with a boy and two girls. When I was pregnant with my first several doctors said she was a boy and I kept thinking, I know nothing about boys I want a girl. I got a girl. Later when I had Daniel I was scared to death because, again, I knew nothing about boys. Both genders are special. Girls for the obvious things you mention but they also challenge you and as they get older WILL butt heads with you. My boy has always been my calm in the storm. I still don’t know much about boys but so far so good he has won my heart. I guess what I am trying to say is it does not matter if they are a girl or a boy, you will love them and it will be all good. Good Luck.

  3. interestingly, i always think it’s easier to work on bending gender stereotypes for girls than for boys. i mean, it’s one thing to dress a girl in blue and give her trucks to play with… it’s another thing to dress a boy in pink and give him dolls to play with, when you don’t even believe in girly girlyness for girls! right?

    i also think it’s interesting that my son will grow up a white male– part of the majority. weird because so much of my identity is being a jewish woman, so a minority on two counts.

    once upon a time, basically until our ability to have children at all was called into question, i really wanted a girl. there’s no way i could have comprehended how happy i was to have a baby, my baby, who happens to be a boy, and how unimportant his gender is to the way i feel about him.

    it’s such a cliche but it’s so true that healthy is all that matters.

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  5. I REALLY wanted a girl. YOu may want to hit me for talking about my pregnancy here, so forgive me in advance if this is shmucky. I wanted a girl so badly that I cried, yes cried, when I found out he was a “he”. I have thought a great deal about this and there are layers of reasons for my desire, but I must say that when he arrived in my arms I was so happy that he was himself I just had to weep with joy. Now I totally love having a boy. But my point is that whatever baby you get will be the right one, BUT FOR FUCKS SAKE IF YOU WANT A GIRL, AND YOU CAN HAVE SOME TINY MORSEL OF CONTROL OVER ONE THING IN THIS G-DAMNED PROCESS…GO FOR IT.


  6. Oh a bit of Dar in the morning is never a bad thing. I heart Dar in a big way. Sigh.

    I think whatever gender child you adopt you will do fine with. I always wanted a daughter, and I still do, but I’ve seen my friends with sons and they’ve had an amazing time. It’s just different.

    Have you read the short piece by Leslea Newman about babysitting for the very femme toddler daughter of two of her very butch dyke friends? Hysterically funny…

  7. First, thanks for saying that I’m smart and articulate. There’s nothing quite like a good ego boost in the morning.

    Second – I know the story that Thalia is refering too, and it’s hysterical, and can be found in L.N.’s book, “Out of the Closet and Nothing to Wear.” I know this because I picked it off the bookshelf for some light reading. last night. Weird.

    You already know my struggle with the gender issue, and it was nice to read that while different, the struggle is a common thread between ttc/adopting women.

    It also makes me happy to see that women (mostly queer, but I don’t want to pull a judgment on that) seem to understand how fluid gender is. Or at least the ones who’ve commented on our (yours/mine) blogs about this subject. You could easily get a trans/genderqueer kid and there’s pretty much nothing you can do about it, except be as supportive as possible.

    That all said – yeah, you have a choice. However, noting that P wants a boy….it seems like some more discussions need to be had, etc. Maybe, if you “blind choose,” there is a chance that you might get a girl. Maybe that’s the “fairest” way to go??

    Who knows, this could start a rash of “OLGA” posts…perhaps someone will enlighten me with a new perspective. Until then, I’m hoping that the boy sperms stay true to their tendancies, and swim fast and hard, hopefully, this weekend.

  8. For ages I always thought I wanted a girl. When I daydreamed about my life with a child it was always the same: me & a sassy little girl. Then one of my best friends found out that she was preggers with a boy & she got SO upset. She was terrified of having some horrible frat boy for a son. So we came up with WWGD (What would Gloria Do?) & created a fun list of how my friend could still raise a feminist even if he was a boy. Helping my friend get excited about her son created a little shift in me where I started thinking, in my baby day dreams, “hmmm…maybe I could have a cool feminist son too!”

    of course I still totally want a girl…

  9. I really wanted a girl and couldn’t even imagine having a boy. What would I DO with a boy, I kept asking my husband. I was stunned when the u/s showed a boy. Now I can’t imagine anything else. I think you love the child you have no matter what the gender. If given the choice I would have undoubtedly choosen a girl so I am glad I wasn’t given the choice.

  10. We just took my 15 year old stepson and his very close female friend to have manicures and pedicures with Wes and me.

    It all works out just fine. While it is in the realm of the possible, you really probably won’t get some women-hating frat boy when you are people like… well, like all of us, I guess I mean. Those kinds of things aren’t about sex/gender or genetics. That stuff is just all about upbringing. Our kid rocks because we have rocked at raising him as open-minded and cool. And keep in mind – our kid has a whole other set of far less cool parents and he still rocks just from rocking with us 1/4 of the year.

  11. Yeah I got an opinion. πŸ™‚

    Since I have been aware, I have noticed that about every six months, a gender amiguous child becomes available for adoption domestically or internationally. Finding out about them is a matter of being in the right place at the right time. The internet helps!

    It is remarkable but a previously unwelcoming system will open their arms to T adoptive parents of I kids. That’s how it played out for us anyway.

    (I am intentionally not using searchable words so you’ll have to email if you are reading this comment and wondering WTF I am getting at.)

    IME, what happens in this very bigendered world is that boy, girl or somewhere in between– they know very quickly which side they want to be on . If you hoped for a princess you could get a tomboy. If you hoped for an athletic boy you could get one who prefers to be a princess. But in my anecdotal observations, for the most part, kids are willing to conform to their expectations–oftenly rigidly so.

    I am not even sure how much biology has affected my daughter. Because of the monopoly freaking Disney has on her definition of girlness, she consideres herself a Princess. She says she doesn’t like boys but she plays like a boy, even with girls.

    (I would have challenged myself on making such distinctive generalizations until I watched preschool boys and girls playing and sorting themselves out for two years, and until other moms said things like “She sure can hold her own with the boys.”)

    Her favorite cartoons are about bratty boys and she imitates them more often in play than she does princesses. She gets bored quickly watching princesses be princesses because after all what is their biggest talent? Dancing backwards? Being on the bottom of a kiss? Having good manners? Yawn.

    I admit that I give my inner-princess a thrill when I dress her in girlie-girlie clothes or do her hair. She loves girl toys but hates having her hair done and can go either way with her clothes.

    The world does indeed judge brown boys more harshly than brown girls, but you have to be ready for harsh judgments with brown kids, period. So I wouldn’t use that as a criteria.

    Having said that, I personally think that it’s totally OK to have a gender preference in adoption because you can. As anothe comment said, there is little else you can control, i.e., you may say you don’t want a severe special need but the kids don’t come with warranties; you may say you want a certain age, but the kids sometimes get older while you wait…etc.

    This may sound clichΓ© but after all is said and done, ultimately you fall in love with the child who lands in your lap.

  12. I wish you could just say “oh, just surprise me.” I have one of each, and each child (and gender) carries so many wonderful things. But if you’re really set on a girl, then by golly, go for it. Who’s to say you can’t adopt a boy later on? You’re gonna fall in love with whatever you get the minute you lay eyes on her/him. Good luck!

  13. I agree with everything everyone else said.

    Two things to add: 1) I always worried about having a boy. (I mean, we haven’t actively started TTC, but from the time I was a little kid I have wanted kids myself, and I would actually worry, but what if I have a boy? Yeah. I’m a bit of a worrywart.) Now that I’ve been teaching for some time, and gotten to know both girls and boys pretty well (and at various ages) a lot of that anxiety has dissipated. I really do love different things about different genders. I still have feelings about wanting at least one girl, but I no longer have the fear of boys I once did.

    2) I think you’re absolutely right to have your racist antennae up. However, I still think you should do whatever makes you feel the best. It is not your job to solve the world’s problems with one adoption; merely admirable that at least you notice them. As someone else said, just sounds like you and Pili need to hash it out….

  14. Delurking to say hello and weigh in. πŸ™‚

    I’m a white queer femme adoptive momma to a black/mixed toddler son.

    Since the idea of motherhood crystalized for me, I’ve always asumed I’d parent a girl/girls. I had never really even entertained the idea that I’d parent a son — particularly since we went straight to adoption as our family building method.

    All that cahnged when James’ (my babe) birthmom wrote us, inquiring if we wanted to build an adoption plan with her. I don’t know why but I just knew that James was the kiddo I was supposed to parent. πŸ™‚

    I miss the femmetastic world of hip dresses and accessories and tiny baby girls with Betty Page bangs, but other than the trappings, raising James has been fabulous. Life changing. Super.

    I’ve read the statistic that about 70% of adoptive parents in programs that allow gender choice choose girls. And I do think that there are racist and sexist reasons behind this. Still, with adoption you do get to choose, and I certainly don’t begrudge you that opportunity.

    As for us, who knows… we’ll be gearing up for sproglet number two next year sometime and I’m conflicted too. I’m learning toward wanting a girl right now, but I’m loving parenting my son… and lord knows there’s a need for adoptive parents excited to parent black boys. We’ll likely leave it to fate, knowing that by being open to a fully AA boy, we’ll probably be presented with more AA boy situations. And for us, that’s great — as hippy-dippy as it sounds, the kid who’s supposed to round out our family will find his or her way to us. πŸ™‚

    Annnyway, Hi! Good luck. πŸ™‚ I’ll be psyched to follow your journey to your little one.

    xo Erin

  15. Wow. What a trip, to really, truly, be able to select the gender — at least the childhood original presenting gender. (I suppose that’s generally true about adopting, I just never really thought about that part, because I never had to think about it.)

    For me, given that you two have different inclinations, I’d probably go for a boy because the demand is less and so I’d think you’d get a baby faster. But maybe you’re more patient than I am.

    I hoped for a girl and was scared about having a boy. And I’ve been surprised about the fact that absolutely no one has given us moderately girly things for him, ie a baby doll or any pink or purple clothing or toys. I’m pretty sure if I’d had a girl, someone would have given me a truck or something sportual.

    I have to admit, there is part of me that’s relieved to not have to face the fear of being the parents of a teenage girl. Of course we’ll be teaching him respect and appropriate behavior, but I know I’ll worry less about date rape or teen pregnancy having a boy.

    And as much cute girl stuff as there is out there, some of it is seriously trampy, and clearly for little girls. Yucko!!! Boy clothing may be more boring, but at least it doesn’t sexualize him at a ridiculously early age.

  16. I’ve always wanted a girl first… Just from MY experience, boy-girl siblings tend to be closer if the girl is the older one, and I always wanted at least one girl. I have a brother about 2 1/2 years younger than me, and we’ve always gotten along very well. We’d switch between Barbies, He-Man, digging in the dirt, and playing dress-up. It doesn’t seem that older brothers are as likely to want to play with their younger sisters. But hey, this is only what I’ve witnessed.

    Now, for thinking I have this all planned out, the gods will probably send me kids who can’t stand each other. But at least I’ll have someone to put in little dresses πŸ˜‰

  17. Oy, hon, I hear ya… I’m going anon here because I wanna protect your anonymity here in blogland, but this is yer male friend from hs who recently got engaged to his same-sex other half, so you know who this is.

    In short, more commentary in person, but I will comment: Frijole and I, having had tentative discussions on the kids topic, are in pretty much serious agreement that we want boys. Why? Without going into it too much: the fears about raising boys (like them being women-hating frat boy a**hole types) are ones I can manage: I *know* how to build a boy that’s right on those issues, because my momma raised me that way. The types of attributes that some girls pick up along the way that I don’t wanna make? Not so sure I know how to do that…

  18. I don’t know how I’d chose which to get first or which to have more of. I hope to have three kids either through pregnancies or adoption, but I don’t know if I want two girls and a boy or vice versa. But who knows if their birth sex will match their gender expression anyway.

    I don’t think either sex will be easy to raise. Maybe there will be some sign or gut reaction that will help you realize which kid is meant to be yours, like Erin who posted?

    Totally random thought: I wonder if people choose girls to adopt because of the grandkids. There are some hetero women in my office who don’t feel as close to their sons’ kids because they don’t feel as close to their daughter-in-laws.

  19. Thought you’d be interested in this if you haven’t seen it already: Wealthy couples traveling to the U.S. to choose their babies sex. Here’s the link to the Boston Globe:
    A little Kurt Vonnegut-esque.

  20. I always wanted a girl too. I decided that, for me, this desire was somehow linked to the fact that generic babydolls are usually girls, and in my desire for a baby, my mind defaulted to the generic babydoll image. That was the longest run-on sentence ever, but you get the point. I was disappointed when my baby had a penis. We had already adopted our daughter. Much to our consternation, she is the most girly, pink-wearing thing you will ever see. Hmph. My son turned out to be very sweet, loving and sensitive, while climbing anything tall. They are both awesome.

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