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Philip N. Cohen

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Was FDR Born That Way?

Posted: 04/23/11 03:23 AM ET

I can't wait to see historian Jo B. Paoletti's forthcoming book "Pink and Blue: Telling the Girls from the Boys in America." Her work is profiled in a new Smithsonian.com article my friend Scott showed me. I used an article of hers to write about historical changes in the social construction of gender for children, which got me into the whole gender-color thing.

The Smithsonian article has this great portrait of Franklin Roosevelt at about age 2, dressed -- as children typically were at that time -- in a gender-neutral outfit of frilly white dress, patent-leather shoes, feathery hat and long hair:


I recommend the article.

It reminds me of the Born This Way blog, which features pictures of kids that, in the view of their adult selves, express their true nature. The site is "a statement in sociology. As you'll see -- time after time -- their sexual orientation was simply NOT a choice." Here's one:


The text says:

In 1968, I was "The Flying Nun" for Halloween, as I was obsessed with her TV show. Everyone had a big laugh over the boy in a dress! But being so young, I really didn't understand what all the fuss was about. I kept wearing my magical dress for playtime, all the way through here, in the summer of '69. I started to sense that I was different from anyone I knew. By the time I was 12, it dawned on me that I was gay.

So, what would a gay 5-year-old in 1884 have done?

Cross posted from the Family Inequality blog.