Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Girl/Boy And Unpacking Gender

Parenting continues to be a difficult task.  Each day the unhusband and I must labour to ensure that our children are not internalizing inappropriate ideas that construct oppressed bodies as other.  As per our usual super conversation, last night we asked Destruction how his day was and he began to regale us with the tale of a “girl/boy” who is in his class.   As I listened to his over enthusiastic story my mind began to work on how to delve into the fact that he was repeatedly saying “girl/boy” while viewing my obvious discomfort. 

As a parent deeply committed to equality on all fronts one of the greatest challenges I face is undoing the work that the education system and his peers teach him on a daily basis.  For Destruction, though we have continually spoken about the fluidity of gender, he clearly still views it as a binary.  At times we have been encouraged when he will state that there is no activity that is specifically for girls or boys and yet with just a little encouragement from his peers he returns to the understanding that if one does something that slightly deviates from gender norms suddenly you are a “girl/boy”.

I find the “girl/boy” label that he has adopted to be both transphobic as well as sexist.  We began again from scratch, to have a discussion about why it is inappropriate to refer to someone by a pronoun to which they do not identify, as well as reminding him that there is no specific activity that is male or female. When I speak about parenting being a radical act it is these conversations that we engage in to which I am referring.  I wonder in how many households a term like “girl/boy” would have been ignored or treated as perfectly acceptable?  When we refuse to teach children to respect all people all we are doing is allowing the perpetuation of idea that our harmful to our society.

As a concerned and engaged parent I am constantly looking for ways to reinforce the messages of social equality that we are trying to impart.  I have been held up to ridicule for this.  “You are taking this thing to far”, I have been told.  My question is why should there ever be a limitation to justice?  Why do we get to decide that some people get to be marginalized and others celebrated? We continually behave as though these systems of intolerance are natural when in fact we actively teach this to our children.  We would not allow a child to smoke and therefore I cannot understand why we continually infect them with a cancerous hatred of others to promote our imbalanced system.

If any of you are negotiating these issues with your children please share in the comment thread.  If you have any suggestions on teaching children social justice please share. This is something we must all commit to if we are ever going to socially progress.  I may not get everything right but I am determined that my child grow with a fundamental respect for all peoples.

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