A couple months ago, J Crew touched a nerve among conservatives everywhere with an emailed ad that showed a 5 year old boy having his toenails painted pink by his mother. It even inspired an article by the Culture and Media Institute titled “JCrew Pushes Transgendered Child Propoganda”. Last November, the blog Nerdy Apple Bottom became an overnight sensation as she relayed the story of her son who decided to wear a girl costume for Halloween, the parents who were appalled by the decision, and the school that finally told her it would be best if she just left. And Mom Author Cheryl Kilodavis chronicled the life of her young son who loved to wear jewelry, sparkles, and anything pink by writing the children’s story book “My Princess Boy” – a tale about a 4 year old boy who loved things that are traditionally girly, and the teasing he endured because of it. In doing so, she not only taught others about acceptance and awareness, she also helped many other families come out with their young sons who leaned more towards dresses and make-up than trucks and war games. And she inspired a rampant debate about the appropriateness of little boys dressing as little girls. Even the Jolie-Pitt clan have unconsciously sparked a revolution on “gender-neutral” parenting when consistent photos of their ultra tomboy daughter Shiloh emerged, and the proud parents stated that Shiloh would rather be a boy than a girl – and that is was more than ok with them.
The truth is, while it appears the majority of the population doesn’t even bat an eye when it comes to boys who want to “act like girls”, or girls who want to “act like boys” (especially here in California), there are still many who are very uncomfortable with the idea of gender lines being virtually erased. The schools are no exception. Kids, who are used to a certain mold for people to fit into, might not be so easily accepting of those who are different from them. This includes boys who want to dress like girls, or girls who would rather play with boys, and other behaviors that blur those gender lines – and could get them seriously hurt by someone wishing to teach them a lesson about what’s considered “normal”.
This is what caused an Oakland school to take on a very unique lesson in the classroom to teach about differences in others – specifically about gender characteristics and how it differs in everyone.
Were you aware of animals that can actually change their gender when it proves to be more convenient? How about the fact that some genders of animals actually take on the characteristics of the opposite gender? Redwood Heights Elementary School in Oakland has pioneered a program developed by Gender Spectrum. Using the animal kingdom, as well as a discussion about colors, clothes, toys, and other things that might be dedicated to only boys or only girls, the school is giving lessons in gender identity and expression – and hoping to tackle stereotypes and prejudices. The underlying lesson stressed is that “color is color”, “toys are toys”, and “activities are activities”. This program was introduced at the kindergarten level to help quash future bullying, as well as to help students thrive in an environment they may have been teased in otherwise.
However, some parents are voicing their concern over this, stating that this program is actually creating gender confusion, and even that these lessons are something that should be taught at home – not at school. And many of these parents were outraged that, while sex education requires a permission slip from parents, their children were being taught about these kinds of differences without any kind of permission needed. The Pacific Justice Institute (a law firm that specializes in the defense of religious freedom, parental rights, and other civil liberties) even encouraged parents to keep their kids home on the days these lessons would be taking place in an article they placed on their site, warning that the program was teaching that there are more than two genders, and that the teachings are not in line with the values of most Oakland families. While the school maintains that there are no lessons being given in sexual orientation, it’s insinuated by those opposing that introducing topics of boys wearing girls clothing or playing with dolls appears borderline on discussing transgendered individuals – and moving into topics of homosexuality.
On that note, have you heard about what’s going on over in Tennessee? Students and teachers are prohibited from talking about homosexuality from kindergarten to 8th grade. Dubbed the “Don’t Say Gay” bill, legislators claim that since homosexual unions don’t naturally reproduce children, it’s an inappropriate topic for the classroom and should only be discussed at the family’s discretion. And while I can see that topics on any kind of sexual activity might not be a discussion to introduce to a kindergartener, I still find this rather disturbing. What of the 6 year old who has gay parents? What kind of message is this sending to them if they are not allowed to talk about the fact that they have two mommies or two daddies? What about the 7th grader who knows that it’s unsafe to come to their parents about their curiosity or knowledge that they are in fact gay, and are being told they can’t go to their teacher either?
And what kind of lesson are we giving to kindergarteners when we aren’t teaching them tolerance – that some boys like to wear dresses, that some girls like to cut their hair really short, that boys in ads wearing toenail polish is actually ok? When this world is built on diversity, when we’re doing our damndest to tackle the rising epidemic of bullying that is plaguing our schools, when it’s a major concern that there are students who have killed themselves because of the natural differences that lie inside them – why would any parent fight a program that teaches acceptance of those that are different than you…or that it really is ok to not be cut from the same mold as everyone else.
When did teaching about tolerance become wrong?
Thank god parents like Apple Nerdy Bottom, the mom of the “Princess Boy”, and the mom of the pink toenail polish wearing kid exist – so that they can put the message out there that being unique and unwilling to live by everyone else’s standards isn’t so uncommon after all. Perhaps lessons like the ones being taught at Oakland’s Redwood Heights Elementary School will be deemed normal one day, as well.
Religion is to blame. Religion is why teaching tolerance became wrong. Religion does not allow freedom of expression and thought. You are told what to believe, how to worship properly and what is tolerated and what is not. You are NOT permitted to make up your own mind or follow your own heart. You are ORDERED to accept what they say as the truth. The blindfold you are forced to wear is given a lovely name: FAITH. Want your children to live in a world free of senseless hatred and bigotry? STOP LISTENING TO THE MAGICALLY INVISIBLE MAN IN THE SKY. Start listening to facts. Open your eyes to the (actual) world around you and you’ll notice that the only people having issues with the blurring of gender lines are the so called “saved”. Why is it that the “non-believers” seem to have no issues accepting LGBT/gender-confused and treating them with the love and respect they deserve as fellow human beings??
I think narrow-mindedness is to blame. And that does not exclude athiests. Because whether you’re being judged for believing in God or not believing in God….isn’t that still passing a judgment? From my own experience, our family is a mixed-up bunch of gay people, tall people, heavy-people, macho people and feminine people, Christian people, Jewish people… and we still treat each other with intense love and respect. I read that article today about that family who chose to not disclose their baby’s gender as to not “impose” a choice on their child…but isn’t that action in itself, a choice that the parents made, not the child? Not every single child on this planet wants to stand out as an example for a certain community, and not every child wants to blend in with their own gender…but do we need to make this choice for them from infancy? I’d rather we talk about it….and I don’t really mind if they talk about it in school, because it’s part of our reality.
I have to lean more towards Erica on this one. I am a Christian believer. I am also a whole-hearted supporter of the LGBT community. And I believe that little boys can wear dresses if that’s what they want, and little girls can play war games if that’s what they want. It comes down to how open-minded one should be in understanding that we are a large, vast world of amazing and interesting people – all of whom have very specific things that make them different from their neighbors whether it be religion, color, talents, characteristics, parenting tactics, what we are passionate about…. These are the differences we should be embracing and celebrating, not trying to change. Because if we were all the same, all “normal”, how boring would that be? I can understand the tendency to think that religion ruins everything, as the most vocal are those with messages of hate. And that’s unfortunate. But there is a quieter side of religion that does preach on love. And that’s really the underlying message of most religions.
Except that most religions do not allow you to selectively choose from it’s doctrine the things that you wish to follow and those you don’t. I was raised roman catholic and we were strictly forbidden from picking and choosing. You either agree with the church or you don’t! I wasn’t given the option of saying, “Yes, I’m Roman Catholic, but I disagree with the church’s views on birth control and premarital sex.” When I spoke up and said I thought that marriage should be permitted between ANY two people who love each other I was shown the door. How exactly does one become a christian believer AND support the LGBT community when the bible condemns them? Sounds like having your cake and eating it too! I am not an atheist, I’m actually struggling to find religion again. If someone can point me towards a (christian) faith that accepts everyone for who they are, please show me the way 🙂
I hate people sometimes…on the other hand, I guess that the fact that being transgendered is gaining more mainstream acceptance brings this issue to the fore. 20 years ago, this wasn’t such a public issue, because transgenderism was far more unaccepted and something that those who were would often avoid revealing, but now as many people put their prejudices aside, those who won’t have trouble coming to terms with something that society at large is showing understanding of.