Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Kids & Gender

Lindsay Morris (NYT)
On Sunday,  NYT magazine published a longish article : "What's So Bad About A Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress? on kids who defy traditional "gender boxes" and claim a middle space -- boy and girl, neither boy nor girl -- and the social challenges that come with new identities.  I thought the article was a compassionate picture of families who are trying to understand how to support kids "true selves" in a society that is largely organized as if sex/gender binaries are real, natural, important and self-evident.  The author (Ruth Padawer) did not, however, really push on those structural pieces -- how does our society create and reproduce gender categories and for what purpose? 

Delusions of Gender: How Our Minds, Society, and Neurosexism Create DifferenceI am currently reading Cordelia Fine's examination of neuroscience's claims of innate and natural differences between male and female brains.  Called "Delusions of Gender" she pretty quickly tears apart the idea that there is a strong biological link between sex and gender, and she debunks ideas that gender differences are inherent and all-inclusive.  That is, there are huge differences within categories (women can be as different from each other as from men) and we are never creating entirely non-sexist spaces for kids to grow up in, so we will never be able to fully entangle  nurture-from-nature.   It is a readable book and a fun one to just balance the enormous amount of "Men are from Mars" we consume in regular media.

Anyway, thinking about gender and kids takes us to so many places, from the unique individual experiences that kids have -- an interesting comment from the NYT piece suggested that as we become increasingly individualistic and inhabit more fragmented identities we experience more freedom but less security... curious how that resonates?  -- to questions about what kind of society we want for our children.  Maine is unique in having a law guaranteeing freedom from discrimination based on gender, not just sex, and as schools begin to comply with the law, the ways that we assume a gender binary as real will become more and more visible to us. 

If all this raises your interest -- in how to support your own child, in how to support creating a just and caring community for all kids -- come hear Jennifer Bryan on October 24th!  As part of our Parenting for Peace series, Bryan will address this topic, as it intersects with child development and with other issues relating to gender justice.   More info soon!

And, some resources:

Jennifer Bryan:  From the Dress Up Corner to the Prom: Navigating Gender and Sexual Identity Development (in NAIS magazine) 

John Peterman : When Chris Becomes Courtney : Preparing a Pre-K–8 School Community for a Transgendering Student (NAIS magazine) 

Welcoming Schools :  A resource from the Human Rights Campaign 

Trans Youth Equality Foundation (Maine)

Gender Spectrum (National) - vocabulary, definitions, advocacy