Growing up in a time when parents, teachers, and society in general presented gender as binary, I’ve had to challenge myself to learn about gender fluidity and teach my preschoolers to embrace those who do not conform to gender norms.
I’ve learned that gender stereotypes start young.
As early as ten months, “infants are able to form stereotypic associations between faces of women and men and gender-typed objects (e.g., a scarf, a hammer).” By age three, most children have developed basic gender stereotypes.*
Societal expectations of gender conformity can harm transgender children. While boys who care for dolls and wear frilly dress-up clothes and girls who play with trucks and trains most often grow up identifying with their gender of birth, those whose gender dysphoria persists (they feel distress as a result of the sex they were assigned at birth), are “more likely to experience psychological, physical or sexual abuse during childhood, and will go on to suffer post-traumatic stress.” **
If we want a world where being different from the norm does not necessitate pain and suffering, we need to start now to help our children understand and accept gender non-conforming peers and people in the community.
To start this conversation with your child or the children in your classroom, download a couple of free coloring pages from the Gender Now Coloring Book by Maya Gonzalez.
If you can afford it ($14.95 on Amazon), get the book itself. It’s a great resource and helps give you the words when you’re stuck about how to talk with your child about gender fluidity. For example:
… there are lots and lots of different ways to feel like a girl or a boy or simply a person on the inside of your body.
As you color together, start to normalize gender differences. You can say something like, “Some kids look like girls, but feel like boys. Some kids look like boys, but feel like girls. They feel happy when they can dress and play the way they feel. We can be their friends.”
That’s a simplified explanation of gender fluidity, but one a preschooler can understand.
Let me know how this goes - I’d love to engage in a conversation about gender nonconformity and preschoolers. Comment below and/or go on over to the Parenting for Change Facebook page to participate.
Photo credit: <a href='https://jooinn.com/daddyamp039s-little-boy.html?ref=11962'>Daddy's Little Boy</a> by <a href='https://jooinn.com/user/836/'>jayne shives</a>