Gender Fender Bender

If children can doubt their own anatomy, then what can they hold as true?

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Pop Culture

A few weeks ago I was completing the online registration forms for our local Little League. I grabbed my laptop, had my calendar, insurance information, doctor’s address, and a cup of coffee. Despite my preparation, I didn’t get far before being totally shocked. They wanted my child’s name, date of birth, and gender. The shocker? The drop-down list for gender had only two options: male or female.  

I can’t recall the last time I saw only two options for gender. At the very least there is always an “other” or “decline to state” option. Depending on the organization requesting the information there can be more than five options, including a fill-in-the-blank.  

It wasn’t until this moment that I realized that, despite my best efforts, the concept of gender as a spectrum has become my new normal. The push for gender fluidity and experimentation is just about everywhere, so much so that I have become blind to it — whether through bombardment or exhaustion. 

Take, for example, the recent craft fair at our local middle school. Student and adult participants had tables with various handmade items: scarves, pottery, jewelry, slime, and so on. While surveying the goods I saw a student who had a table of pins and stickers. The most popular ones, that all the kids were crowding around, were simple round pins that said “They/Them.” Kids were fondling, purchasing, and wearing them all day long.  

This is the same middle school that my daughter attends — a daughter who is herself exasperated at the confusion wrought by the continuous ebb and flow of her peers’ gender fluidity. She and her friends had a check-in at the beginning of the school year to see if anyone had changed gender or pronouns over the summer. Meanwhile, there are kids who announce their daily gender selection using specific shirt colors or one of an assortment of hats. As if middle school wasn’t confusing enough! 

Every parent, everyone who has been a teenager, understands that children go through phases. Through a certain developmental process each slowly and painstakingly figures out his or her true identity. It used to be that these phases, and often rebellions, would focus on music, clothes and hairstyles, food choices, religion, or politics. Teens would find music to express their feelings; pick clothing and hairstyles to push the boundaries of decency, discomfort, or hygiene; try to express political views through protest, social media, and even food; and question religion and tradition in a search for truth. The beauty of these types of rebellion is that they allow for progression and development. With each there is a true fluidity as kids work their way from confusion and rebellion to discovery of core values and principles.

But there is nothing fluid or fleeting about giving a pre-pubescent child hormones as gender therapy. There is nothing passing about notifying principals, teachers, and classmates that your child is switching pronouns — that your “she/her” is a “they/them” or “he/him.” These changes are imposing in their finality, making them so much more than just a phase, unlike a shaved head or vegetarian diet. And in middle school we are talking about children, most not even teenagers yet, who are navigating unforgiving terrain. To expect that they can make such complex decisions is simply unrealistic. 

Give the kids their music, outrageous clothing, and disdain for the politics of their parents. But not this. We mustn’t allow children to doubt their own anatomy. If children believe that their gender is malleable, then what isn’t? If there is nothing unshakeable, then we are left in ruins.

 

Magdalena Moreno is a wife, mother of four, and Assistant Managing Editor for the NOR: opening mail, answering the phones and sending out renewals -- and now blogging, too!

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