Guest post: If you heard a two-year-old meow like a cat

Originally a comment by tigger_the_wing on Would she be able to think critically?

If you heard a two-year-old meow like a cat (they do that, and make other animal noises; it’s fun) and told her or him that the reason s/he liked particular toys, games and clothes was because s/he was really a cat, and that there are lovely doctors who can give her/him fur and a tail when s/he’s old enough, by the time s/he were four they’d be desperate to be turned into a cat. That is what ‘affirmation’ does.

The correct response to a small girl saying “I’m really a boy” is “Wow, really? Well, I’m really an elephant! Shall we go shopping for bananas?”

Of course, if you don’t keep telling little girls that only boys get to like, do, wear, and play with certain things, then you won’t get little girls thinking that you must be mistaken about their sex. If you don’t tell little boys that they aren’t allowed to play with dolls, or experiment with makeup, or get to prance around in their mum’s high heels with one of her skirts over their shoulders as a cape because only girls do that, you won’t have little boys thinking that they must really be girls.

There was no epidemic of ‘trans kids’ in the eighties. Have you seen adverts aimed at eighties’ kids? All the children, boys and girls, wore T-shirts, dungarees and trainers. All the children played with all the toys. My sons as well as my daughter had My Little Ponies (which actually looked like ponies back then, and not weird big-eyed, muzzle-less anime characters, and came in both sexes); my daughter, as well as my sons, had action figures, toy vehicles, train set elements (they each owned enough train set stuff that, when they combined their pieces, they could fill the ground floor. It was fun), bicycles, footballs, skipping ropes, jigsaw puzzles, books, etc., etc., etc., ad infinitum.

I never told any of them that they couldn’t do something because they weren’t members of the opposite sex, and no-one else was telling them that, either. And they’re raising their kids the same way.

This is also why I don’t believe in the labelling of generations. My parents (born early thirties) were comparatively progressive, so my generation was (born mid to late fifties) and so are my eighties children; but the ‘in-between’ generations? The parents who were about ten years older than mine (born in the early 1920s) were often very strict about gender roles, and so, in their turn, were their forties’ children (the ones about ten years older than me). Their children, about ten years older than mine, are the ones transing their teens for being gender non-conforming, and the parents in their twenties are the ones transing their toddlers.

Of course, there isn’t anything definitive about the above. But I sometimes think that the resentment against Baby Boomers is fed by the behaviour of those in the first half of my generation who spent their early childhood in austerity in the form of rationing (which ended in 1954) and surrounded by bomb sites (which had mostly been cleared and re-built with shiny new housing, shopping centres and offices by the time I was old enough to take notice), and with fathers who were either dead from the war, or traumatised (my grandparents were too old to be sent to fight). These early Baby Boomers often responded to the comparative misery of their childhoods by becoming greedy and selfish, in case it was all taken away again. My parents, who were old enough to live through the horrors of WWII but not old enough to fight, were relieved by the end of the war so the fact of continued rationing and the existence of devastated cities was nothing compared to hiding in bomb shelters and listening to the bombardment. They grew up with a sense of hope that things could always be better (because they had been so much worse) and that the best way to accomplish that was to fight for equality for all.

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