07 March 2010

So Which One's the Girl and Which One's the Boy?

I don't mind this question from young kids. For one thing, they're still young. I remember being that age, and everything in my life had to fit into neat categories. I was chatting to my boss's son about Harry Potter. He hasn't read book 7 yet, so he doesn't know how it all ends. He wanted to know if Severus Snape is good or evil. I tried to get across the concept that not everyone is all good or all evil. Sure, Voldemort is all evil, but that's just one character. Everyone else is a little of each one. I think he understood it at that point. We talked about how in the first book, Snape saves Harry's life. About how he helps Remus Lupin in third one. And how at the point when Snape killed Dumbledore, he didn't have much of a choice. Unbreakable Vow and all that, y'know?

The point I was trying to get across is that nobody is totally good or totally evil. I think the kiddo understood what I was trying to say, because he came up with his own examples of how some of the "good" characters did some fairly dodgy things. That's how you know the other person sees where you're coming from.

But then he had asked, when he first met my husband, which of us is the boy in the couple, and which is the girl. Again, the kid's in grade school. Not offended. It's when grown adults ask that question that I get slightly (not completely) annoyed. Because in reality, what does that even mean?

For a child of 8 or 9 years old, things have to be clearly defined as one or the other, because that's how they figure out their own roles in life. What I explained to the young 'un was that neither of us is the girl because we're both men. We both share the work around the house, and split them up according to which one we're comfortable or good at doing. So while I tend to do the cooking, Steve tends to do the baking. "Oh. OK. Do you want to see me get to the next level on this game?" It didn't phase him in the least, it seems. I'm often pleasantly surprised at how much children can understand when you give them the chance to understand.

Let me put it out there, once and for all. I am a man. I follow what I feel to be my own version of masculinity. Even when I'm having fun with my clothing or grooming or anything else, there is always no denying that I am a man. This goes for Steve as well. Until one gets him started on showtunes or Broadway, you'd sometimes forget that the man is even gay to begin with, but that's another story for another day.

My point is that for most couples, the story of their gendered roles are re-written. This is abundantly true in the Indian community that lives in the USA. The wife may have the baby, but she's usually the one socialising while she leaves her husband to watch the kids during religious or cultural functions. My mother's pointed it out to me on various occasions. The man may be a talented cook, but he still like to kick back with his buddies to watch the game on the TV. I've seen it many many times, while my parents would take us on visits to friends' houses. I'm just throwing out random examples, but you get the point.

Even in traditionally formed heterosexual homes, even when there is a man and a woman, the gendered roles aren't so clearly divided along biological lines. People create for themselves the roles that work for them. Which, at the end of the day, we have done as well. Only, in our case, there is no assumption that one of us will do a certain task or chore based on our sex. When we come to an agreement about who does what, that's because we've figured out that it's how we want it to be done.

And if the question about who the male is and who the female is asks about which one of us does what in bed, that's a really personal question, which is none of anyone else's business.