Have you ever been told you were too boyish or too girlish? Has anyone ever suggested the clothes you wear, or the music you listen to, are not masculine or feminine enough? Have you ever been advised not to let your child play certain sports or with different toys because others might think badly of them?
In research I conducted in the Durham Region with approximately 600 students (ages eight-18), many reported hearing such judgments about gender in their homes, schools and communities. One Grade 8 student wrote, “My little cousin is two and he gets teased a lot because he likes to dress up like a princess.”
Some, however, felt accepted by family members, teachers or friends in how they expressed gender. One Grade 11 student responded, “I hunt and fish regularly with my Dad, but everyone has accepted it and never cared.”
Such findings tell me there’s still a lot of work to do to convince people to stop bugging other people about their gender. But also, that it is possible to raise your child to feel pride and confidence in their gender.
When presenting on my research findings, one teacher candidate raised his hand in class and asked, “Why is it that I’m 25 years old, and nobody ever asked me to think about what kind of man I want to be.” He was too old to have benefitted from the 2015 Health and Physical Education Curriculum: Grades 1-8 that explicitly asked teachers to explore such topics, but his question is more important than ever in the age of #MeToo.
While it is unfortunate the new provincial government has eliminated some truly loving curriculum expectations, it’s good to know that the 2010 version of the Health and Physical Education Curriculum: Grades 1-8 did emphasize the importance of creating accepting environments for students of all gender identities and expressions. Teachers and school boards can rest assured they have the law on their side when they affirm a child’s feeling of being a girl, a boy, or both, or neither, or trans. And our young people can have the opportunity to experience the strength and beauty in their bodies that can come from such affirmation.
This story was published as a contributed piece in Metroland Durham on November 8.