I’m constantly banging on about acceptance, tolerance and understanding.
I also try to have an open mind at all times, so I do hope no-one misreads this slightly controversial post!
Sadly, I was born in the era when boys were boys, girls were girls, and if you deviated from ‘the norm’ you were, at best, ostracised, and at worst, bullied, beaten and tormented.
It’s stating the obvious to declare my abhorrence at such unacceptable discrimination, but, unfortunately, it still persists in many areas within religious beliefs, communities and, more importantly, in people’s personal beliefs.
Has it already gone too far?
It will be many more generations before we reach a point of genuine love and acceptance of all people (if we ever reach that point), but the times we live in now are a very far cry from, say, 50 years ago. We continue to grow and the human race continues to learn, and long may it continue!
But we’re human beings, and we’re renowned, as a species, for taking things too far the other way, almost as a form of rebellion, and so it is becoming with gender neutralisation.
It’s great that we want to allow people to be who they are without judgement but, how far do we take it?
And nor should we!
I hear the term ‘gender neutral’ constantly now, especially from ‘parents to be’ who are declaring they want to dress their newborns in ‘gender neutral’ clothes etc… Absolutely no problem with that as the baby won’t give a jot about what colour their nursery is or what they’re wearing as long it’s comfortable. And the only challenge the rest of the population will have is when they first meet your offspring and have to mutter the words, “Oh isn’t….errrrrr….aren’t they beautiful!?” as they try to discern whether it’s a boy or a girl. I’m guessing if we take ‘gender neutral’ to it’s natural conclusion the baby will just be ‘it’, we don’t want to impose either gender on them after all!
I jest, but where does it end? What if your ‘gender neutral’ girl wants to wear pink fluffy princess dresses when she’s 3? Or your ‘gender neutral’ boy wants to play with trucks and cars at a similar age? Do we give girls Action Man and boys Barbies and make them play with them – or should we give them the choice to play with whichever they want?
‘Gender neutral’ wasn’t a thing when I was bringing my lot up, so I did put the girls in dresses and Osborn in rugby shirts and trousers, it didn’t occur to me to do anything else.
Osborn preferred playing with Lego and cars and the girls loved playing ‘dress up’, having tea parties, and nurturing their dolls. I had no problem with this! Osborn mostly grew up with seven women and very few males in sight – people frequently postulated that he may become gay because of it!
Spot the ‘Osborn’!
Herein lies one of the problems I believe. One doesn’t ‘become gay’; one either is or isn’t. On a couple of occasions when he was very young, Osborn was subjected to the (in his mind) indignity of being put in a dress and having make up slapped on his face. I guess with so many sisters it was inevitable that it would happen, but it hasn’t ‘turned him gay’, he is very much himself and happily heterosexual.
One’s sexual preference isn’t a choice one makes, it just is. What concerns me slightly is that if we take the neutrality too far we’ll end up with people who worry about ‘coming out’ as being heterosexual. Sounds far fetched? My lot already talk about feeling slightly uneasy about admitting their sexual preferences although a couple of my girls have questioned their sexuality and worried about telling me. But why would I care? They’re still the same amazing people I already adore and respect and their sexual preference is right at the bottom of the list of things that I worry about.
Maybe I have a vision of the future where everyone wears baggy boiler suits and hides their gender as best they can for fear of judgement either way. Both extremes are unacceptable, so is it time we stopped and paused for thought? Maybe we need to take a breath and consider both sides of the coin and reach a logical, balanced approach that leaves people feeling free to be whatever they want to be. No pushing, no leading, just acceptance of what is and who we are.
My children have each turned out to be very much their own person, in spite of dresses and long hair for the girls, and cars, Lego and short hair for Osborn. We had boys’ toys and we had girls’ toys, and they were left to choose which they wanted to play with, the fact that the girls naturally leaned towards more traditionally girls toys didn’t bother me one iota. The fact that Osborn had no interest in wearing dresses and make-up didn’t concern me either. I neither pushed nor led, I just let them be who they wanted to be, I have to say I’m very proud and happy with the way they all turned out.
Long live difference? As long as it’s tempered with acceptance I say…….
My TED Talk:-
My book, ‘Unravelled’:-