Friday, October 7, 2011

Addressing gender and sexuality with kids

With school in full swing and many of my friends involved in Diversity Programming at the college level, Ive spent a fair amount of time discussing various issues in relation to gender and sexuality recently. (I also spend way too much time watching documentaries on Netflix these days!) But these are subject very close to my heart. My own struggle with gender identity has been a big part of my life in the past year. As a child I was very tomboy-ish. I did have a few girly tendencies, but they were few and far between. As I grew older I became more "masculine". I came out as a lesbian between ages 11 and 13. I had very short hair that I wore in a mohawk and only wore boys clothes for almost ten years. Ive always liked girls clothes and shoes, just not so much on me. the then earlier this spring I went through a bit of a personal revelation and experimenting time. I bought and wore a couple skirts and grew my hair out. I still have the skirts, but dont wear them often. I really enjoy them, its just harder for me to move. My hair is long, and the back is dreaded. I miss my short hair at times, but im excited to see how the dreads turn out.
I really enjoy attending functions in larger cities or at the college and experience gender in all of its wonderful fluidity. Because gender IS fluid. Theres no reason why I cant wear a dress one day and a suit the next. Gender and sexuality can interact with each other, and they can also be completely different entities. (I wont even go into biological sex and psychological gender right now!)
Anyways. All this has me thinking about kids and gender. Josie is as pretty much as girly as girly can get. Now she WILL wear jeans/pants, but its always in a feminine outfit. She doesnt like to play with "boy" toys, or read books or watch tv shows that are too "boyish". She nags Michelle and I on occasion for not being girly enough. Alex definatley has many stereotypical boy behaviors. He is always filthy, always running and playing hard. Very accident prone. He loves to build things and break things. But hes also willing, on many occasions, to dress up and play barbies with his sister.
Recently Egalia Preschool in Sweden was the focus of many news programs and gender activists around the world. The program at Egalia encourages gender neutrality. They do not use gender describing pronouns such as HE or SHE. All of the children are instead referred to as "friends". The barbies and blocks are intermixed for play. They do not read books about fairytale princesses, but focus on strong family books the frequently highlight gay couples, single parents, and other types of families. The goal is for kids to reach their highest potential without any barriers presented by gender. I really love and value this idea. Its a wonderful way to raise children.
But how do you approach the subject of gender to children that are older and set in their ways? I give J the example of her mom, who wears womens clothing but the femininity is fairly muted. I also use myself as an example, 90% of my clothing is mens. We always encourage A to play dress up and that its okay. I have to wonder though, if there is something more we could be doing to educate them?

No comments:

Post a Comment