Opinion: How a $ 5.95 Dress Can Change a Child’s Life
Although my kid is likely to be a cisgender (non-trans) boy who just likes to try on new things for the size, whether it’s a pink dress or a giant shovel or the cool car that her friend has, as a gender sensitive parent. inclusion, I work actively at all times so that he can feel free to explore his identity and outward expression. It is also important for my child to understand that toys, clothing, activities and behaviors are not inherently gendered or need to be controlled. I want him to know that a boy can wear a dress and a girl can dig in the dirt and it is quite possible that someone is sometimes more masculine and sometimes more feminine, or neither the neither.
I teach these things to my child because I know that it is not just for my child to feel secure in his identity. It is also about raising him to support and defend the other children so that they feel safe in theirs. If we want children to be able to truly explore and get to know each other, we need all the adults who influence them to realize the ways – some obvious, some subtle – that our society imposes rigid gender binaries and limited forms of identity and self-expression.
June is pride month. This is a time when those of us who identify as LGBTQ can move further away from the shame, exclusion, worry and self-awareness that we constantly struggle against a world that does not. makes us no room, let alone who celebrates us. For me, it is also a time when I am grateful for the ability of my family to raise our son with the freedom of gender expression that all children deserve. It makes me want all children to have the extended community of family, teachers and caregivers supporting us – and other children – in this endeavor.
If only all grandmothers could be like my mother-in-law, who corrected her husband when he told her grandson that “boys don’t cry.” “Yes, the boys are crying,” she said. “It’s OK if you have to cry.”
If only all teachers could be like my child’s. They actively encourage preschoolers to alternate who they play with, so children are less likely to feel excluded and have time to play with children of different genders. If only all the parents could be like the parents in my child’s class, who are not LGBTQ like us but who proactively ask teachers to diversify activities so that the child who only wanted to play with the trucks and blocks are also encouraged to craft and play with dolls and vice versa.
If only all religious leaders could be like the pastor of the LGBTQ affirming church where our child goes to school, who reads books, sings and talks to children about things like being who you are and loving each other and who has welcomed our LGBTQ family with open arms and without judgment.
If only all friends and family could be allies like the ones I’m so grateful to have in my orbit, who plant signs for LGBTQ pride, organize fundraisers to support LGBTQ youth, light up their social media with rainbows.
If only all of our elected officials could be like those I have been privileged to have, who actively fight against the nefarious measures that aim to strip LGBTQ people, and transgender children in particular, of what rights and freedoms we hold, including those whom we have long and hard fought for and who are under constant threat.
Those of us who are LGBTQ adults have grown up in an even more hostile world than the one children face today.
It’s not hard. But it is necessary. We all have a role to play.