Monday, October 31, 2011

Leave the Kids Out of It

Matt Kailey is a transman living in Denver, Colorado, and an author, public speaker, and trainer on transgender issues. He blogs at Tranifesto. In his ideal world, no one would be equal to anyone else – everyone would just be equal.

The religious right, the political right, and the religiously and politically righteous (all pretty much the same thing) can waste hours every day harping on the sins of “gender confusion” (I’m not sure what they mean by this, because trans people aren’t “confused” about our gender – we know what gender we are). But they need to leave the kids out of it.

The latest debacle is a Halloween party in Utah put on by the Mormon Church that specifies “no cross-gender costumes.” Now, I don’t have a particular problem with a private party organized by a private entity making rules for attendance. If I organize a private party, I have every right to decide the parameters of my event, and if folks don’t like it, they don’t have to come.

But I’m an adult and the guests at my party would likely be adults, as well. I don’t throw parties for kids – but churches do. And the problem with organizing a party for children, to be held on a day that children enjoy, and to offer trick-or-treating, with candy and other fun stuff that children like, is that exclusionary rules can spoil the fun for a lot of would-be participants – most of which are not trans.

When you get right down to it, who really cares if a four-year-old girl wants a Batman costume? Who really cares if a four-year-old boy wants to be Sleeping Beauty instead of the prince? Does it really matter what little kids want to dress up as for a holiday when “dress up and pretend to be somebody else” is the norm, rather than the exception?

When my nephew was about three, he became obsessed with pushing his teddy bear around in a stroller. Pretty soon, Teddy wasn’t good enough. He wanted a baby doll. When I told a woman at work about it, she said, “My husband would never allow it.”

Luckily, my brother-in-law did allow it, and my nephew got a baby doll for his birthday. He pushed it around for a couple of months before the poor baby got abandoned entirely in favor of his blossoming Hot Wheels collection. But that was his choice. Nobody panicked. Nobody freaked out. Whatever was going to happen with my nephew took its course. The baby doll was pretend, and so are Halloween costumes. And “pretend” goes away.

There is no research that demonstrates that wearing a “cross-gender” Halloween costume produces “gender confusion,” just as there is no research that demonstrates that wearing a zombie costume makes a child want to eat brains. The costume catastrophe is ridiculous.

If you want to rail against crossdressing or trans people or “gender confusion” in general, fine. Have at it. But leave the kids out of it. Let them have fun. Let them be whoever they want to be for Halloween. Is there nothing safe from the judgmental infiltration of the self-appointed righteousness police? Not even a children’s holiday?

When I was younger, I never thought I’d say this, but I’m old now, so I get to: What’s this world coming to?