As marginal as my domestic skills are, I have tried my best to teach my sons some of the things my mother taught me. I have explained the proper way to set a table. I have instructed them on the exact way to iron a dress shirt.
There was no home ec course at Kents Hill, the school my sons recently graduated from here in Maine. But there was woodworking, a course that was very popular with boys and girls alike. My older son made a beautiful coffee table in that class; my younger one made a chessboard. And they have other skills as well, some of them “gendered,” some of them not: My boys can chop wood with a maul, fence with a saber and play the music of Gustav Holst on French horn.
But they don’t know how to sew a button on.
When I embarked upon the difficult business of gender transition, back in 2001, my mother struggled for a while, as might be expected. And yet, when she did come around to accepting me as her daughter, she knew exactly what ritual she wanted to share with me, in order to welcome me to the female sex. She sat me down and taught me how to knit.