Guest post: Having burst upon this world trailing clouds of gender

Originally a comment by Sastra on Define “suitable”.

… there’s an exercise at the end. It’s a Gender Comparison Activity. Children are asked to write down things which make them feel like the gender they are – like the way they dress, their favourite colours, the way they act, the games and toys they like to play with. Then they’re asked to make a separate list of things which are associated with the opposite gender – like if they are a boy but they like to play with dolls (that is the actual example given).

Then the children are asked to think whether those lists make them feel any differently about their gender.

If they weren’t thinking about themselves and what they like in terms of conforming to gender stereotypes before, they will be now.

Earlier in the book there’s a section on how it’s fine for men and women to break gender stereotypes ( man wearing make up, woman with toolbox) and if all the other stuff about transgender identities was eliminated, I could see the above exercise helping drive home the point about non-conformity. That is, I could see it helping if it didn’t mention how these things make us “feel the gender we are.” And I could imagine it being useful if we weren’t talking about young children at a stage of development which makes them much more likely to be impressed by the lists of What Boys Are Like and What Girls Are Like than a follow-up mention that oh, hey, no, they’re not… always.

Add in the trans stuff and it absolutely reinforces gender stereotypes. Even adults can’t describe what makes a trans person who doesn’t conform to the socially constructed beliefs about gender nevertheless identify as trans. It’s like describing God — if you haven’t experienced it, you can’t understand it. What’s concrete and comprehensible, on the other hand, is stereotypes.

The steadfast belief that children and teens simply could not be influenced into thinking they’re trans if they’re not really trans reminds me of the similar conviction regarding children and sexual molestation during the Satanic Panic and similar panics on child abuse. No matter what leading questions were asked or what coercive techniques were used over what amount of time, a five year old would never say someone touched them inappropriately if it didn’t happen. Never — it’s like a special gift of clarity and purity that rises above the massive evidence we have on psychological influence under social pressure.

Thus, kids who aren’t trans absolutely know their gender with the unerring accuracy of those who know their true gender doesn’t match up to what others see. Perhaps that’s why the book skips over defining critical terms. The kids already know, having burst upon this world trailing clouds of gender. The lesson is only to jog their memory.

Very Romantic.

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