nor girl.
Mika is just Mika
Neither boy
Dresses on the floor, Lego cars on the shelf. Clips in the hair and mud on the hands. In Mika's life it is Mika who decides everything from hair length to hobby. Because even if one is born with a penis you can be/come what you want. Mika has chosen to be 'hen', to be non-binary.

By Andreas Merrald

On the forest floor at Fritids (the after school play place) a baby toad is jumping around on the covered autumn leaves. A bunch of girls spot it and call out to Mika. They stay at a distance while looking at the frog but Mika bows down and gathers it, curiously. The girl flock approaches gently and form the circle of Mika's outstretched hands. Suddenly the frog jumps and lands hard on the ground as a cry from one of the girls penetrates the air of the quiet forest. The girl flock spreads out fast. Mika does not honor the scream or movement, but quickly kneels to catch the seed again. They are not afraid.

7-year-old Mika was assigned male at birth but this assignment seems to have had very little influence on Mika's development. Every morning when the wardrobe is opened Mika points to the day's outfit. Unless Mika's choice is too impractical, they say no, but otherwise Mika is the one who decides. All shades of pink are very popular at the moment. The hair is long and braided, usually by Mapa, because this is what Mika wants. Tractors, drawings and tulle skirts adorn the room which contains all the colors of the rainbow.
A Daddy Longlegs crawls around on Mika. They collected it on the roadside.
"Come friends, let's play"

In 1998, Sweden introduced some legislative changes that oblige schools and kindergartens to counteract traditional gender roles. Boys and girls must have the same opportunities to try things and develop interests without restrictions from traditional gender roles.

Over time, it has changed the pedagogical practice of many Swedish institutions, including Mika's former kindergarten. Here it is no longer the practice to encourage the boys to be wild and climb trees and the girls to be sweet and play quietly. Here you just say, "Come friends, let's play". The books on the shelves are not about strong princes who save vulnerable princesses and the activities are not for boys or girls but for everyone.
7-year-old Mika lives in Örebro in Sweden with their sibling, Nico, and their parents Matilda and Del.
Mika's younger sibling Nico has chosen the Batman pants today, so Del helps him getting them on.
A queer family

Mika lives in an apartment building in the Swedish town of Örebro with their parents Del LaGrace Volcano and Matilda Wurm and younger sibling, Nico. Mika is in the first grade at the local Rudolf Steiner school and plays mostly with the girls from the class, provided they want to do something active or creative. Because otherwise it will be boring. Thursdays Mika goes to a dance class with their friends Vintra and Bonnie and like many other children Mika loves to turn upside down, draw and dress up.

Neither of Mika and Nico's parents identified with the classical gender division they were brought up with. They are both non-binary, which is a term for people who do not identify entirely as men or quite like women, but exist somewhere within the vast spectrum of human gender diversity.

Matilda is from Germany and teaches psychology, including a course in LGBTQI psychology at Örebro university. Del is from the USA, an artist and activist and identifies as queer, non-binary and intersex. Intersex is a term that describes a person who is born with a body that does not correspond to traditional definitions of male and female. Variations in sex hormones, chromosome compositions and genitals may occur. In some instances it can be seen from birth and in others only comes into effect during puberty. An accurate estimate is hard to obtain but at least 1-1000 live births are identified as intersex because of what are called 'ambiguous genitals'.
Del grew up as Debbie, and in the first 13 years was perceived as an energetic girl with too much confidence. The body began to change during puberty but not as expected.

"I only had one breast that grew, and at the same time I started to get a beard that I secretly plucked out. My genitals were also slightly different", says Del, explaining that it was a very difficult period.

In the family, Del is "Mapa", and together with Mama, Matilda aka Matt, their objective is that their children will be free from the stereotypical socially gendered expectations they both found to be limiting.
Nico and Mika cycle around the brown ground course, which forms the local, homemade BMX track. Some young people from the city have nailed a tall wooden structure together consisting of Euro pallets, chipboard and recycled timber. It towers on top of a tuber and serves as a ramp to the BMXs.

Mika rushes down one of the ramps with direction towards the tower. They jump off the bike and grab the wooden steps on the vertical ladder, built on the side of the tower. Del stands on the ground next to it and stares stiffly at Mika's hair, which swings from side to side as each step is taken.

"Be careful now," says Mapa.

Mika crawls on without commenting on the comment. The last step is taken and Mika now stands about nine feet above the ground and holds onto the fence that is nailed to the side of the tower. They gently release and proudly extend both arms over their head.

"Wuhu," they cry with exultation.

Del's eyes still have not left Mika. On the way down, the purple boots are moving on one of the last steps, and Mika falls into the grass and is startled. They run towards Mapa while crying and Del blows gently on the dirty hands. After a loving hug, Mika is ready again. They dry the tears away from the dirty cheeks and rise back up to the ramps.

Every Thursday Mika goes to showtime dance with their friends Vintra and Bonnie.
Mika mostly sleeps in their Wonderwoman pajamas.
He She They or Hon Han eller Hen

Since Del can't produce semen, they got help from a good friend who they all have regular contact with, including two half siblings. Matilda and Del they didn't want to be told what the sex of their child would be and to choose from only gender free names. Mika was the top choice, because they had friends of all genders named Mika and for Mika Venhola, a Finnish paediatric surgeon who refuses to perform medically unnecessary surgery on children born with intersex traits.

Even before Mika was born they decided they would be proactive and avoid associating colours and behaviours with any specific gender. They also refrained from describing other people in terms of their perceived gender. So rather than describe people as girls-boys, men-women, they would say that person over there, or that parent, that friend. They inherited clothes from female and male cousins in all different colours, and when Mika was able to make their own choices they were encouraged to choose what they liked best, free from any judgment. In the beginning, the yellow was favourite but once Mika became best friends with Eila it changed to pink.

"We think it is essential to teach our children that choices have consequences and Mika is aware that being a person with a penis and wearing pink clothes or dresses and skirts can potentially have negative consequences. Mika is aware of this and still chooses to be who they feel they are.
"You're a turtle, you're a giraffe, you're a horse, and you're a lion," says Mika, pointing around in the group. They have a break in 1st class, and now they are playing animals. Mika is a rabbit.
In the first years, Del and the Matilda used the pronoun "he" because they didn't want Mika to ever think that there was anything wrong with being a boy. Once Mika's hair became long and Mika wore a lot of colours people would simply assume that Mika must be a girl or if they knew Mika's assigned sex they would assume Mika was a trans child.

"We don't want to make it a big deal. So if people used "he" or "she" for Mika we would just go with it and so would Mika.

When Mika was 5 ½ Mika decided that they were both a girl AND a boy and wanted us to use 'hen' for them. But for some people, it can be difficult to remember.

"I don't get annoyed if people call me 'she' or 'he' I just prefer 'hen'." says Mika, jumping from stone to stone through the forest on their way to school.

The First Grade teacher Sophia talked to the students about using 'hen' for Mika and found that it was nothing special for them. They still say it wrong sometimes and sometimes Mika corrects them.

At school there are no boys and girls toilets, only toilets. In two years, the class will begin to shower after sports and Mika would rather not shower with the boys. So they are planning to create a shower for non-binary children at the school.
Mika and some girls from the Fritids (after school play place) have gone out into the spruce forest. They sit restlessly on a large rock stone and draw with chalk on the stone surface. They don't know what to do. Two punctured bicycle wheels and a broomstick have been left on the forest floor and Mika climbs down from the stone to look more closely at it. With some rope, the bicycle wheels begin to attach to each end of the broom. Mika lifts it up over their head with their chest pushed forward, as if it were a heavy lever.

"Shouldn't we make a circus?" Asks the others. They look down at Mika who says, "Then I can be the world's strongest person".

The girls like the idea and stand up. "Then I'll be Harry Potter," one of them says, standing on the edge of the stone.

She takes a big jump and pretends she is flying with a broomstick between her legs. Half a meter after, she lands in the forest floor. The others are following and they are now running towards the SFO to find remedies for their circus, led by Mika who still has the barbell over their head.

Mika's Will or Del's Will?

Del is often asked whether Mika really has a choice about how to dress, or whether Mika is only allowed to choose from the things that Del likes.

Some people think that Del projects their own conflict with the normative world on to their children. It is a question that tends to irritate Del.

"The question itself does not respect a child's integrity, free will and ability to choose for themselves. If Mika's objective was to imitate us, Mika would look and dress like us, but this is not the case. When I try to introduce unisex or more masculine styles of clothing to Mika it is not well received and Mika refuses to wear them." says Del. I don't want to raise a people pleaser, that is, a child who feels they need to please others. It can be more difficult to let a child choose but it pays off in the end. However constantly having to defend a child's right and ability to choose for themselves in stressful and exhausting.

"I do not ask heterosexual couples why their son follows the father's football interest or why their daughter has exactly the same hair as the mother. But many feel that they can afford to question us and our children. Some even have an underlying fear that Matilda and I are harming our children just by being ourselves," says Del.

The clock rings on the Rudolf Steiner School, and a bunch of students run up the hill in the schoolyard. They have to play animals, and today it is Mika who decides which animals they should be.

"You're a turtle, you're a giraffe, you're a horse, and you're a lion," says Mika, pointing around at the herd.

The other children nod in agreement and start living in the roles. The game begins, they run one after the other and jump wildly around the schoolyard. Mika is a rabbit.

Mika at the Halloween party at the local Rudolf Steiner school. They're dressed up as a witch.
"Sniff Sniff Sniff. Time after Time. The Dog Detective solves crime after crime." For Del and Matilda, stories are an important way to counteract gender stereotypes. They often read stories about animals as they have no sex.