Gender Policing Children

I’m writing this becuase I am sick of the constant gender policing my daughter goes through. She has an Avengers lunch box. She got it for her fourth birthday. It’s one of her favorite possessions, but every few days she comes home from school sad because people keep telling her she likes “boy things”. She gets the same type of comments when she wears her Batman jacket. The conversation usually goes like this:

TJ: I’m not going to take my lunch box to school anymore. Everybody tells me I like boy things.
Me: Do you like the Avengers? Are you a boy?
TJ: Yes. No, I’m not.
Me: Alright then. You’re just someone who likes those things.
TJ: They’re what makes me, me.

We have a similar conversation every few weeks. It gets exhausting.
TJ also loves a lot of feminine coded stuff, like Barbies and My Little Pony. Her favorite Disney movie is Frozen. She prefers dresses and skirts over pants. On days when she’s completely femme, there are people who are surprised becuase they’ve seen her with “boy things” in the past. These people seem to forget that children are actual people, and just like people have varied goddamned tastes.

I went with her on a field trip and the amount of gender policing that went on was mind boggling.Some girl classmates were playing and a little boy came by and asked if he could get a turn. One girl told him no because it wasn’t a boys’ game. I told him he could play. The game? Wizard of Oz match three.

wizard-of-oz-magic-match-3
Screenshot of a board from The Wizard of Oz Match 3 game

 

Another boy said he didn’t like flowers because they’re for girls. At one point I was sitting on a blanket with a bunch of girl classmates and one another boy sat down with us. His mom came along, grabbed him while saying, “why are you here with all these girls. They’re all playing girl games. Go play with the boys”. The girls were telling me about school.

I’m constantly told not to judge parents who restrict their children’s play based on perceived gender. Frankly, I’m going to judge you. You’re raising your child to believe in harmful stereotypes. Stereotypes which lead to trans and gender non-conforming people getting harassed and killed. We have states trying to ban trans people from using public restrooms. All because we reduce people to their genitalia. Then your children spread these bigoted thoughts and make children like mine afraid to express who they are.

If gender is so innate why are cis people so afraid of a boy who plays with dolls? Of a girl who loves trucks?

I’ve seen a lot of cis parents claim that Target making their toy aisles gender neutral is silly because gender isn’t a big deal and the people asking for these things are overly sensitive babies.

You wanna know who are the overly sensitive ones?
Cis people who can’t handle their son wanting a Barbie. Cis people freaking out about which bathroom trans people use.

Apparently gender while being so innate is also very fucking fragile and anything could make children go into gender questioning chaos. And if that child tells their parents and the world they are trans, they can get killed for it. But yeah, keep making it sound like people asking to pee in peace and gender neutrality in media are the bullies in this.

Two fucked up sides of the same sexist coin

TW/CN: descriptions of childhood verbal and physical abuse, sexist and misogynistic, homophobic, fatphobic, ableist language, domestic violence, rape

I grew up in a pretty fucked up environment. It was macho, and sexist. The people in charge of raising me and the other people who came in contact with me, did a number on me. My self-esteem was so bad, I hated myself just for the fact that I was born. I was constantly told I was too fat, too ugly, too stupid to live. That I would never be as smart as my brothers. That I would be so much prettier if I wasn’t so fat. That no man would ever love me. My plans for going to school and having a career were belittled. I wouldn’t do any of that because I had a duty to get married and have kids. That all my plans would go down the drain once a man “dominated me”. I was called a whore and a slut because I refused to clean up after my brothers. I was seven. I was called a lesbian because I preferred to play with the boys and I didn’t like dresses. I was called a whore and a slut because I only hung out with boys. I used to draw a lot and make new dresses for my dolls. I was told it was a waste of time. I wasn’t’ creative. I was being silly. No, girls don’t play video games. Go clean. No, it doesn’t matter that you did it yesterday, it doesn’t matter that your brothers haven’t. Why are you talking back? Then the beatings would come.

I excelled in school. But nobody ever told me they were proud of me. My teachers praised my work but at home all I heard was how I wasn’t good enough.

I grew up into an insecure, scared, unsure teen. A new country would help me, I thought. I can be a new person. No one will know how horrible I am because I won’t let them see what my family saw. But the bullying happened anyway. It bothered me but I was so used to it, it didn’t make much of an impact. No one would ever be as cruel as my family.

I ended up with an abusive boyfriend at 19. Everything I ever heard from my family; I heard from him. It was just confirmation that, yeah, I was too ugly and stupid to live. That my family had been right all along. I didn’t deserve happiness or respect. He abused me, he raped me, he broke down what ever little bit of self-esteem there was left.

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(I have two brothers, but I’ll talk about the youngest one since he was the one I was closest to)

My brother grew up in a pretty fucked up environment. It was macho, and sexist. The people in charge of raising him and the other people who came in contact with him, did a number on him. His arrogance was so high, he thought he could get away with anything. He was constantly told how smart and handsome he was. That his older sister wasn’t worth looking up to, but his older brother was. That he had the choice of any woman he wanted. It was OK that he didn’t have any plans for his future. Just make sure you got a wife that cooks for you!  You don’t want someone lazy like your sister. He was seven. He’d risked being called a f*g if he showed any emotion. He’d risked being called sissy if he touched his sister’s dolls. Play video games! But make sure your sister doesn’t play. She needs to clean all the windows. No, don’t worry about it being your chore, she’ll do it.  Don’t interfere when your sister is getting beat with the belt buckle.

He did well in school. If only your sister was as intelligent.

He grew up into an insecure, scared, unsure teen. A new country would help him, he thought. He can be a new person. He won’t have to hear the horrible way they treat his sister. But the bullying happened anyway. It bothered him. It ate him up; left a huge impact. He wasn’t used to being targeted for being himself. Wasn’t he perfect? No one would ever be as cruel as my family.

So he became cruel, and people left him alone. He became a bully. He ended up being an abusive man. Everything he ever heard from my family towards me, he directed towards others, and I too, became a target of his abuse. And no one said anything. It was just confirmation that, yeah, he could do what he wanted and there would be no consequences. If there were, it was time to change the people around him but not himself. So he continued to hurt with his words and his fists. He had been broken down.

I’ve had to learn how to undo all the damage done by my family and by the abusive ex. It’s been a long and painful process. I’ve had to “re-wire” how my brain works so that the first thing that pops in my head about me is NOT something negative.

I am a good person. I have friends who love and respect me. I deserve respect. I have a child who loves me and needs me at my best. I deserve happiness. I’m not that little girl anymore. I’m an adult and I define who I am.

My brother hasn’t had that chance. Well, he’s had the chances but he lacks the insight to take them. He has friends that care about him, he has children that love him. He has family that loves him. I love him. But he doesn’t see that. He just sees that he must never break down. Must never show his emotions. He must never be anything other than “a man”.