Pink Boys – Why Not?

The energy that is often being expressed in human behavior has its origin in fear. Fear of what? We are fundamentally, if unconsciously afraid of chaos, afraid that the hard-won order and semblance of rationality we are experiencing will descend into chaos if we do not remain disciplined and vigilant. This includes not only the chaos of human behavior that we see around us and the chaos in our imaginations but the chaos that seems to exist in nature. Specifically, the energy that we access to allay our fears comes from the power and control center of the false-self survival strategy which gives us the illusion that control is possible.

History shows that we will even trade personal freedom to avoid chaos. In the 11th century a Muslim legal scholar, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali, pioneered the “concept of obedience to a Muslim ruler, even if that ruler is corrupt. The larger welfare of society demanded that believers submit to an unjust ruler, he argued, because ‘tyranny was better than anarchy.’”  

The illusion of control is reinforced by our attempts to impose a matrix of our own creation on nature itself. Instead of being content to just experience Reality, we attempt to define it. The pseudo-reality that we create results in self-destructive behaviors because it puts us in conflict with the natural world including our own fundamental human nature.

We can illustrate the futility of these attempts at controlling the uncontrollable by using a specific example relating to sexual orientation. To impose order on human behavior, the human intellect has come up with typologies or classifications of human behavior. Imposing the simplest typology upon human sexual behavior we have selected the two “acceptable” types of human sexuality, namely heterosexual males and heterosexual females. A good deal of human suffering has resulted in forcing people to conform to that artificially imposed and overly simplistic model. Perhaps a typology of human sexuality that would more accurately reflect Reality would be that of a continuum rather than the “bi-polar” matrix that we have been unsuccessfully attempting to impose on the population of the global village.

 “‘People rely on gender to help understand the world, to make order out of chaos,’ says Jean Malpas, who heads the Gender and Family Project at the Ackerman Institute in Manhattan. The social categories of man/woman, boy/girl are fundamental, and when an individual challenges that by blurring the lines, it’s very disorienting at first. It’s as though they’re questioning the laws of gravity.”  In truth, this rigidity and the fear surrounding human sexuality helps explain a major source of human suffering. Our inner wisdom would guide us to experience Simple Reality and embrace what is happening rather than to try to define and control that which we cannot control and in truth have no need to control.

Take 4-year-old Alex. In the eyes of “nature” the Implicate Order or “field” from which Alex emerged, he is perfectly normal. In the eyes of the American cultural context, he is problematic because he does not easily fit into the bi-polar typology. “When Alex was 4, he pronounced himself ‘a boy and a girl.’”  Now at age six he considers himself a boy but his behavior remains ambiguous, especially at home.  “Some days at home he wears dresses, paints his fingernails and plays with dolls; other days, he roughhouses, rams his toys together or pretends to be Spider-Man. Even his movements ricochet between parodies of gender: on days he puts on a dress, he is graceful, almost dancer-like, and his sentences rise in pitch at the end. On days he opts for only “boy” wear, he heads off with a little swagger.”

So what’s the problem—that’s just Alex—right? Noooooo! Alex isn’t fitting into our pre-defined typology and the consequences for the “Alex’s” in past societies would range from banishment from the human community to death. Even today, boys like Alex face being ostracized and are labeled “flawed” even by some mental health professionals. Good grief, we wouldn’t want to let children like Alex drag our whole society into chaos would we? Perhaps we “normal” people don’t want to admit it but let’s be honest. It’s those of us who are clearly identifiable heterosexuals who are causing all the chaos.

Returning to those aforementioned health professionals, remember, these are the people who have spent their careers becoming the most knowledgeable about human sexuality. Compassion, as we shall see was not one of the pre-requisites for majoring in psychology or studying to become a psychiatrist. “The fact that there is still substantial disagreement among prominent psychological professionals about whether to squelch unconventional behavior or support it makes those decisions even more wrenching.” 

We will see who gets “wrenched” and how in a moment. Unconventional behavior is something that a child does. Living as a perfect human being and deserving our unconditional love and support, that’s what a child is. It’s what we all are. Not categories of observed behavior in a typological construct which is only a crude guess about causes of human behavior full of contradictions and based on observations of the ego-driven, fear-driven and insubstantial false self. The intellect is not capable of creating viable or even rational human communities without the guidance of the human heart.

Moriko, a mother in New York, whose 7-year-old son had been exhibiting “middle space” behavior, took him to a New York City psychologist hoping for some guidance. “Instead, the therapist blamed them for their son’s femininity, saying Moriko was emotionally detached and her husband too absent.”   The whole family ended up being damaged by the ignorant and callous therapist who advised them to find their son male friends and throw away all his girlish clothes and toys. Luckily, Moriko’s intuition and compassion eventually guided her to start a support group, something the therapist should have recommended. The family is working their way through the process and it’s challenging—but they are more self-reliant and are all supporting each other—and most of all they express love and support for one another, not blame and recrimination.

Ruth Padawer who wrote the piece entitled “boygirl” for TheNew York Times adds to our historical context and continues as our companion on this critical look at how the human intellect driven by fear attempts to impose order but instead only adds to the very chaos humanity is attempting to flee from. We won’t go into the biological causes of “middle space” children which are not well understood anyway. It is clear, however, that expressions of masculinity and femininity are culturally and historically specific.

We have all seen the photographs. In the 19th century, both boys and girls often wore dresses and long hair until around age 7. Children’s clothes for both sexes included lace, ruffles, flowers and kittens. Colors weren’t specifically associated with gender as they are today. Pink at times was considered a strong, masculine color while blue was considered delicate and feminine. The change began in the 20th century and by the 1940s clothes changed to differentiate boys from their mothers and from girls in general. Today it is far easier to be a blue girl than a pink boy.

Girls, it turns out, had much more freedom and raised fewer alarms as they expressed themselves as “tomboys” as they passed through the “middle space.” A 1998 study in the journal Sex Roles found that 46 percent of senior citizens, 69 percent of boomers and 77 percent of Gen-X women reported having been tomboys. Our society expresses its bias regarding the sexes by being more tolerant if girls want to explore less conventional sex roles. “That’s because girls gain status by moving into “boy” space, while boys are tainted by the slightest whiff of femininity.” 

“‘There’s a lot more privilege to being a man in our society,’ says Diane Ehrensaft, a psychologist at the University of California, San Francisco, who supports allowing children to be what she calls gender creative. ‘When a boy wants to act like a girl, it subconsciously shakes our foundation, because why would someone want to be the lesser gender?’”   That’s why, in part at least, boys are seven times more likely as girls to be referred to gender clinics for psychological evaluations.

Given that we adults generally hold radically mistaken beliefs about our own identity, we shouldn’t project those handicaps onto our children. Rather than trying to pound a square peg into a round hole as we rigidly label our children either pink or blue, we would do well to breathe, relax and allow them to express the colors of the rainbow, or the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) colors or any color in between.

A healthy relationship between a parent and a child in P-A would be based on the recognition of deeper truths than prevail in our P-B narrative. In allowing our children to have their own identity, we would find support in the words of Lebanese-American, poet/prophet/mystic, Kahlil Gibran.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
               and though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
               for they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
               for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
               which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
                                                 Kahlil Gibran (1883-1931)

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References and notes are available for this essay.  Find a much more in-depth discussion in books by Roy Charles Henry: Where Am I?  The First Great Question Concerning the Nature of Reality Simple Reality: The Key to Serenity and Survival 

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2 Responses to Pink Boys – Why Not?

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