How to create a non-sexist environment for our children |
Gender reveal evenings. Boys don’t cry. This color is for girls. This bathroom is for boys. This sport is reserved for “real” girls. This is the wrong section of clothing, toys, partner, door, major, work or life for you.
We are taught even before we are born that there are strict rules in life depending on whether you fall into the blue bucket or the pink bucket.
This mission governs each of our awakening moments. It dictates our hobbies, our professional activities, our earning potential, our safety and the expectations of others for love and life, until our last breath.
If you don’t fit perfectly into one of those two limited compartments – and a growing number of people don’t, with 6 in 10 Gen Zs saying there should be more than two gender options on forms, according to the Pew Research Center – the potential challenges are many.
You may have a hard time being your real self. You can be rejected by those close to you, or even kicked out of your home. You may have difficulty accessing healthcare, finding a job, and navigating safely in public spaces. The list goes on and on, according to a recent study conducted by Movement Advancement Project and GLSEN in partnership with the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Education Association.
Pride Month is almost over, and while we can create a space to celebrate the gains we’ve made, we also need to recognize the work that lies ahead to create a truly safe, gender-neutral world.
The truth is, embracing diversity in the way our children identify, express and explore their gender is a beautiful thing. This is how they learn who they are and how we create a freer and fairer world.
What do we do next?
We need to stop controlling gender.
As a society, we’ve been controlling the genre for far too long, experts say, forcing people into boxes they might not fit.
“Transgender and non-binary youth continue to face an incredibly hostile political climate. On the first day of Pride Month this year, Florida became the ninth state in the country to ban trans students from playing school sports – and several other anti-LGBTQ bills are still being pushed across the country, ”he said. said Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth.
In addition to being denied equal access to sports and other aspects of civic life, transgender children are more likely to face bullying, depression, and suicidal ideation due to rejection of sexuality. society, according to several studies, including a 2016 study by Professor Kristina Olson, a psychology professor at Princeton, published in the Journal of Pediatrics.
There have also been a record number of street attacks this year against LGBTQ people and transgender children in particular, according to the Human Rights Campaign.
Gender policing is not limited to the halls of the Legislature or the rules of the classroom or pews.
We control the sex of our children when we deny them clothes or toys because we believe it does not match their assigned sex. We reinforce these tropes when we attribute gender to their behaviors – running away from boys to show their emotions or girls to be tough, with girls signing up by default for ballet and boys for baseball. This locks them into permanent roles of subjugation, repression or worse if they end up becoming transgender or non-binary.
“Gender diverse identities are an integral part of the human experience, and young people increasingly have the insight, language and bravery to express their identity,” said Dr. Kacie Kidd, pediatrician and medical researcher for adolescents and UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
“Creating an environment that promotes gender equality is essential for the health and well-being of our children. We know that young people of various genders thrive when they are supported by their parents, schools and communities, ”she said.
Create a more gender inclusive environment
One of the most powerful things we can all do – whether we identify as LGBTQ or not or have a child who does – is to actively engage in fostering an environment in which we dismantle gender norms. obsolete binaries.
The good news, experts say, is that we can have a real and significant impact if we take a few simple steps.
According to Kidd, a good place to start is to use affirmative nouns and pronouns.
“It’s up to all of us to listen to our children and know that they are the experts in their own lived experience so that they can feel safe and explore who they are,” she said.
This means letting them tell you what their gender is, without assuming or even prying. It means understanding the difference between gender identity and gender expression, and how these are distinct from what is assigned to you at birth – and entirely different from what you might be attracted to. It means recognizing that kids (and hey, some adults too) are self-exploring, and the way they feel or express themselves can change from day to day and year to year. to the other.
The Gender Unicorn is a useful starting point for these discussions.
Look at your tongue and your clothes
Actively advocate for all spaces our children live in – our homes and those of friends and relatives, schools, medical facilities and other social arenas – to be gender affirmative and inclusive.
It means letting go of assumptions about gender in our language and practices and creating safe spaces for children to express themselves, breaking down the walls that dictate or reinforce activities, expectations and treatment based on assigned or perceived gender. of the child.
Speak up if you hear someone controlling the sex of a child, and encourage children around you to feel free to express and explore their own identity by playing and dressing up. Don’t limit the toys, books, or clothing they can access based on their assigned or perceived gender.
We need to support children in their freedom to try on different things for size, including toys and books and games and sports and clothes, regardless of whether we think it meets our expectations of who they are. or should be.
The Trevor Project’s Guide to Being an Ally with Transgender and Non-Binary Youth offers excellent primer and tangible advice on how to support transgender and non-binary children, and indeed all children, including gender basics, address forms that show respect and common mistakes and what to do if you made one.
Sometimes being supportive doesn’t mean doing more than just providing a loving and supportive place for children to express themselves, including “reminding trans youth that they are beautiful and amazing,” said Susan Maasch, director of Trans. Youth Equality Foundation, a Maine-based nonprofit organization that provides education, advocacy, and support to trans children, youth, and their families.
“It can be difficult at times,” she said, speaking directly to children who feel they don’t fit their assigned gender, “but it’s a beautiful journey on love, solidarity, hope, diversity, difference, friendship and inclusion! You deserve love. “
Allison Hope is a writer and native of New York City who prefers humor to sadness, trips to television, and coffee to sleep.