This is the story of a birl. And the mother of a birl. Who live in a Jewish modern orthodox community. Together we are navigating the challenges of being and raising a gender non conforming child in an orthodox community.
Noah is my son, the second child of three. He started calling himself a birl when he was old enough to question his own gender, and didn’t know how to classify himself. Although he vacillates frequently between wanting to be a girl, and being a boy who just likes girl stuff, he is currently very much a boy who just doesn’t conform to the preconceived notions of his gender. I don’t know what the future holds for him, but the word birl, to me, perfectly sums up who he is today.
When Noah was about 18 months old, just around the time when children become aware that they have a gender, he started showing a strong preference for all things girl. This was simultaneously, cute, strange and slightly embarrassing. My older son was pure boy through and through. Superheros, sports, Pokemon, the colors blue and green. When Noah completely rejected all his brothers toys, started wearing my clothes and shoes, and stealing dolls from neighbors, it was just so… odd.
I’ve always thought of myself as an open minded accepting person. I’ve had friends from all walks of life. But I’ll admit, I would roll my eyes when I read about parents fighting for their “daughter” to use the girls bathroom at school. It’s easy to dismiss something you don’t understand.
People told us it was a stage.
While Noah was rummaging through friends dress up boxes for princess gowns, friends would tell us how their son used to love dressing up in girl clothes. But reassure us that their son grew out of it.
While Noah was amassing a large collection of other peoples dolls and playhouses, our friends would tell of their son who used to love playing with dolls. But not to worry, their son grew out of it.
When Noah started wearing his blanket on his head and calling it his hair, and wearing a shirt around his waist and calling it his skirt, my husband and I realized, this might be more than a stage.
Thus began what has become a six year journey of discovery and acceptance along with our creative, artistic, bright, loving, gender non conforming son.
Even though the last six years have been full of experiences that have altered the way I view people and the world around me, this is an ongoing journey. One I expect will last a lifetime.
This is a place for me to share my thoughts, insights and experiences both past and present, as the mother of a boy who doesn’t fit the conventional norms of his assigned sex.
There are so many children just like Noah. Sweet and sincere souls who only want to be free to express themselves as they are.
I am writing this blog for several reasons. Selfishly I am writing for myself. I believe writing has many therapeutic benefits and a blog is a perfect outlet to reap those benefits.
I am making this public, as I know there are many parents just like me. Who worry if their child is happy, what other people think, what the future holds. I don’t have the answers but maybe I can inspire or be a support to others through sharing my own experiences.
Finally, I know that seven short years ago I was completely ignorant as to what gender really means. I never heard the terms gender non conforming, gender fluid, gender variant. Sadly I have discovered that gender dysphoria is a very real condition, one that can cause severe distress, depression, impair ones ability to function and even lead to suicide. It is my hope that perhaps through my thoughts and experiences I can educate and inform others who have never had any experience with gender fluidity, and possibly don’t even belive it to be real.
Lastly, if you have experiences to share, I’d love to hear them. Please feel free to email me and I’d be happy to feature your story here.
If this is your first time visiting my blog, welcome! You may find the following posts helpful to read first: