Last week, we read and discussed Ruth Padawer’s article What’s So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?, and it had me thinking about how intense parents can get when it comes to enforcing gender norms with their children. The article discussed various cases of gender variant children and how those children’s parents approached their child’s outlook on gender. While parts of the article were heart warming when it came to parental support, others were disheartening. Why is it that so many parents prioritize their own preconceptions over their child’s happiness?
I understand that no one wants their child to be seen as an outcast, but instead of trying to force your child to act or carry themselves in a certain way, wouldn’t it be more productive to function as a support system rather than an entity that shares the same views of potential tormenters?
At one point in the article, Padawer mentions a mother that consulted a psychiatrist because of her son’s gender variant behavior. That psychiatrist told her to encourage her son to be more aggressive, hoping that it would “help” him develop a more masculine personality. I found this frustrating. It’s baffling to me that people would rather teach their children that aggression should be rewarded. In this mother’s case, it led to advocacy, but I can’t help but think about all the children that were taught to be aggressive for the sake of masculinity that eventually grew up and brought harm to others as a result.
I’m a firm believer in teaching children to be the best they can be. Perhaps that’s a bit Hallmark-y, but I think it’s a lot better than trying to mold a child into an identical, gendered copy of myself or others. I care more about passing on skills like compassion and kindness onto my potential children than what kind of clothes they wear, and I hope that someday, other parents will feel the same.