Since Alex is under 12 with long hair, many passersby believe he is a girl. I used to correct them but in the last year, I stopped doing it. Initially I stopped because it seemed like a silly waste of time to correct someone whom we saw for less than five minutes over our lifetime. So what if the clerk in a store we'll never go into again said "Have a nice day, ladies" instead of realizing Alex is a boy?
I've continued because I've noticed something else. When people assume he is a girl, they are much more compassionate and understanding than when they assume he is a boy. He gets sympathy instead of anger when he acts out. He is much less likely to attract the attention of someone looking to dole out physical discipline.
With all of the media attention for Caitlyn Jenner, transgender experiences have been more widely available. Interestingly, a number of female to male transgender persons have said they experienced the same thing. As a girl or woman, they were given more latitude. When they became boys or men, they would suddenly find themselves getting in trouble or being confronted much more often for "aggressive" behavior which had been permitted or even encouraged when they were female.
I find myself wondering where I should draw the line. Should I correct the people at Tim Horton's since we go there frequently? Should I even be allowing this to continue as he's going to start puberty soon and then there will be no mistaking him for female? Is the transition going to be even harder because of the greater contrast?
My thought right now is that this is a bit of a sanctuary for him. Instead of disapproving frowns, he's getting a lot more smiles. Maybe this is building a foundation which will help him to ignore the ignorance and intolerance he's likely to face. Studies have shown that the kids who do best with bullying are the ones who have lots of confidence instilled in their daily experience. They know that they're great and are able to dismiss the mean-spirited insults as having nothing to do with them. The kids who do the worst are the ones who are constantly corrected and/or belittled because it's easy for them to believe strangers will find fault with them.
For now, I'm just enjoying the relative peace.