Gender neutral. Have you heard that phrase lately? It's a hot topic right now. It’s all I am hearing on social media and the internet in general. Everyone has an opinion. So much so that recently a boy who decided to wear a dress to school has 'forced' two parents to take their son out of that school for allowing it and they are SUING them!
I do sometimes wonder, have we gone absolutely PC mad through fear of offending anyone and everyone about anything and everything? Or is this topic so massively important because figures from Stonewall show that nearly half (48 per cent) of trans people under 26 said they had attempted suicide. This isn't acceptable. Acceptance and understanding starts from the get go. So does banishing gender specific bathrooms and clothing help the situation?
I'm a gay man and some may think i would be the first to stand up and say my piece or get offended by the topic. But i am fairly relaxed about it all. I genuinely believe in doing what makes you happy, love who you want to love and just be a nice person. If you're not hurting anyone, that's all that matters. But as a gay man and a dad I am very conscious about the words and what we say around our children to make sure they don’t feel excluded in anyway. Purely from a place of feeling that exclusion growing up. An example: recently a neighbour’s kid wanted to come in our house to play with my son. This boy is almost nine, my son is three so they are years apart in age, but it was sweet nonetheless. However, I can’t have a child come in the house without the parents knowing. So I politely said “Oh I think you’ll need to speak to your parents and ask them”.
Let me ask you, what would you say? Is it “You’ll have to ask your mum”? If it is do you think I’m offended by that? Well no, i'm not really. I happen to know this boy has two parents, a mum and a dad. But I would still say “parents” over “mum” because i am pretty much conditioned to be mindful of differences being a gay dad. I don’t judge anyone who isn’t because they haven’t had to be. Others however do get very offended at these kind of things. We're all different. Again, i just accept that.
But when it comes to the debate of what children wear, how they should be referred to and what toys they should play with…. This all gets a little intense. So intense that I don’t even really want to go into that too much through fear of being hunted down with pitchforks by either side. I kind of just want to say “Do you!” Whatever works for you and what you feel comfortable is right for your kids is best. That intuition is key. Isn’t that what we always say to parents? We’re all different, we all believe different things and most the time we will always think we’re right. For the first couple years of life with my son we were often asked when at the park "What's her name?". It just made me laugh...
My son is a boy. It in no way means he should only wear blue and play with building blocks and diggers. In fact, I don’t think he owns a blue item of clothing. Yes, he has diggers because he chose them and he also has a dolly because he was asking for a baby. I genuinely couldn’t care less what he plays with as long as he is safe and happy.
Growing up I played with My Little Pony’s and She-Ra (He-Mans sassy sister!). I also loved ThunderCats and Ninja Turtles. What I was subjected to through toys, cartoons and clothes no way ‘made’ me who I am. I was born gay. Children that may be transgender will have been born that way too. I don’t believe you choose these things. No scrap that, I KNOW you don’t choose these things. So the clothes they wear and toys they play with won't play a part in that. What does have an impact is the way you are spoken to and the things you are taught whilst growing up. If you’re taught ‘boys should play football and girls play with make-up’ then… well, I think you’ll know how I feel about that.
I think it's terrible how some stores have such blatant pink princesses for girls and blue colours and diggers for boys… that definitely needs to change. There are children quite possibly battling with their identity from such a young age, we should support them and this type of blatant stereotype doesn't help matters. But getting rid of boys and girls sections altogether? I don’t think that’s necessarily essential, but again, if they did do that then it wouldn’t upset me in the slightest, as I dress my boy in anything I think looks nice. He’s had hand me down leggings from his girl friends. They’re nice, cream coloured and had foxes on them. Let’s not waste decent clothes!
One thing I won’t do is ask my son that innocent question we all ask youngsters, "Do you have a girlfriend yet?" Because I was asked that when I was little, and it felt weird to me knowing I didn’t want a girlfriend but at that age I also didn’t’ know why I didn’t want one. But when it comes to not acknowledging he is a boy? I don’t know about that. He’s three and a half, he’s going to know the anatomical difference soon enough. Will him being referred to as a boy damage him? I don’t personally think so… I'm guessing that means I can't call him my son, then? If he grows up and is transgender, we’ll be there 110% to support him. I like to think I am raising him in a family where he can tell me anything at any age.
I thought I’d test the whole thing and see what he thinks. I asked him a question today…
“Bubba, can you tell me, are you a boy or a girl…?”
He replied “I’m good, Daddy”. And carried on eating his lunch.
Then so am I.