Parent/activist Carmela Hill-Burke grew up in Santa Fe, and after stints in Oregon and Tennessee, returned to give birth to their kid, Ever. Finding a decided lack of event options and safe spaces for the gender creative, Hill-Burke founded one of their own. Boiled down, the monthly Gender Creative Playgroup (2-4 pm Sunday Jan 5. Free. Santa Fe Public Library Southside, 6599 Jaguar Drive, 955-2820) is a space for kids and their parents and caretakers to meet like-minded folks, be themselves and maybe learn (or teach) a thing or two about progressive gender ideals and politics. We caught up with Hill-Burke who, full disclosure, co-parents with SFR music columnist Aedra Burke, to hear more.
What was the impetus behind forming the playgroup?
I've been an activist for most of my life, and when I got pregnant, I started noticing the intense gendering that happens to kids before they're even born. The kinds of stereotypes, the kinds of gender policing happening before birth … I wanted to create a space where kids can be free from all that. A space where kids could be affirmed in whoever they say they are, including using the right pronouns for them, affirming their gender identity or expression, but also a space where we question and interrupt assumptions made about gender, especially by adults. Parents and caregivers often harbor stereotypes without even realizing it. We're committed to trying to bring to light a lot of the stuff we've internalized about gender and interrupting that in ourselves and the way we view and treat our kids. It's a space for kids to explore gender if they want to.
I'd assume you're seeing people who are very excited to have a space for the gender creative ethos, particularly as it applies to kids. Has that been the case?
I think there is excitement on behalf of the parents of trans and gender-nonconforming kids as well as parents who are trans or gender-nonconforming. It's a space where we don't assume everyone has a mommy or a daddy. When we read books, instead of saying 'We all have moms or dads,' I add in things like Zazas and Mos. Kids see themselves reflected back in books and games, and that reflects in their families, and everyone can get exposed to a variety of gender options.
What would you say to those who are maybe on the fence about attending or who don't understand what you're trying to do?
It doesn't look different than any kind of playgroup. We hang out, read books, we color, the kids play games, we're about to build a giant blanket fort this month—it's not like you would even notice if you didn't know what it was called. It's just a playgroup, it's really fun and everyone's welcome, not just LGBTQ families. It's free. In other words, no one is going to indoctrinate you or force beliefs on you, it's about respecting each other, calling each other by language that makes us feel respected. We're committed to questioning gender stereotypes. It's really low-stakes and fun, and it's also really cool to see kids of all ages playing together.