As we sat together, I tried to imagine this child’s confusion as she wrestled with her playmate’s morphing from a girl to a boy…and worrying, could it happen to her?
“How can we tell if we’re girls, do you think?” I continued coloring the chameleon on the page thinking of the irony. “How can we tell baby boys from baby girls?”
She ducked her head and giggled, unwilling to say the words.
“Are girls and boys made differently on the outside?”
Relieved, she returned to her coloring and said, “Yeah.” Not daring to say more. I didn’t want to make this harder on her than it already was.
“Yes, boy people and girl people are made differently, boy cows and girl cows, boy dogs and girl dogs. Also girl dogs have puppies and not boy dogs.”
“Yeah! My dog Molly is going to have pups soon!” She was relieved to be on benign territory again.
“Did you know there is another way to tell if someone is a boy or a girl?”
Stopping mid stroke, she turned to me surprised, “Really! How?”
“Scientists and doctors can take cells from our bones or our skin and look very closely at the tiny parts of them and they are actually different. You’ll hear about DNA…”
“I know about DNA! They talk about it in my science books at school!” she interrupted.
“Good! Then you know that our DNA tells us all about our bodies. In fact, our DNA always tells us whether we’re girls or boys. And that doesn’t change in our bodies.”
“Then how did Chrissy change into a boy?” She realized the inconsistency between thought and scientific fact. She was beginning to see the reason for the confusion.
“I have a picture of a lady who decided she’s a cat. She acts like a cat, meows like a cat, and wants to do what cats do. Do you think she’s changed into a cat?”
She giggled and said, “No….but she looks funny.”
“Sometimes girls like to do things boys do, like play ball, climb trees, wear boots, or collect bugs. But they can still be girls and grow up and go to the Olympics, or be scientists or game rangers or mommies. Sometimes boys like to cook or sew or play music or read rather than get dirty or wrestle. But they can still be boys who grow up to be chefs or tailors, teachers or orchestra conductors or maybe even artists or authors.”
“Have you heard the story of Jacob and Esau in the Bible?” I asked.
“Is he the one with the coat with many colors?”
“Well, that was Joseph. Jacob was his daddy and Esau was his uncle.” As I explained, she bobbed her head up and down, proud she was in the ballpark at least. “Esau liked to hunt and be outside and even go off on camping trips. But guess what!”
She stopped coloring and faced me. “What?!”
“His brother didn’t. In fact, Jacob–who gave Joseph that beautiful coat–didn’t like to hunt at all. He stayed inside and was a good cook. In fact, the Bible says Jacob was his mother’s favorite and Esau was his daddy’s favorite. Some people would say Jacob must have been gay. But he wasn’t anythingbad. He was just the way God made him. A boy doesn’t have to hunt or be tough or be afraid to sew or cook if that’s what he’s good at. Do you see what I’m saying?”
“But Chrissy wants to be a boy!” she argued.
“Maybe Chrissy thought because she would rather play outside and climb trees and run races than play with dolls or fix her hair like the other girls, that she had to change into a boy so she could do what she liked.”
Now my little friend’s coloring intensified. I could tell she was wishing all this wasn’t so complicated.
“And maybe Chrissy feels that way because somebody told her she had to act like they wanted her to instead of being just who God made her.”
She continued coloring, lowering her head a little, contemplating whether to speak. “I liked racing with Chrissy. Her daddy built her a tree-house and I like that, too.” She whispered, looking at me as though she was revealing a long-kept secret.
I whispered in return, “I think that sounds like fun.” She stopped for a second and looked up at me smiling. Then, continuing my story, I wanted to tell her more about God’s people who didn’t fit our Western mold of manhood or womanhood. “There is a story of the most wonderful woman in the Bible.” Then I found Proverbs 31 on my smart phone and pointed to verses 16-17. “It says right here that she bought a field and planted a vineyard and she worked hardoutside. It said she had strong arms, too. She also sewed and cooked and dressed pretty. But working outside and being strong was a good thing.”
“Yeah!” Again nodding her head. We both returned to our project.
“I’m sad that some people have made Chrissy think that being a girl wasn’t as good as being a boy. And I’m sorry that some people have told her that. And I’m sorry that other people are mad at her and being mean to her. I wish she could know that God made her and likes her just like she is. And I bet she’d really like to hear the stories about God’s women who liked being outside and became judges and travelled with Jesus and camped out and cooked fish! I think that would be really cool”
We’d both finished our coloring, mine a chameleon and hers a kitten. She turned to me then with a look of resolve and said words that surprised me and challenged me as well. She said simply, “I’ll tell her.”
There was still more to consider. But for now, time to eat.