stuff to tell kids: hate crimes suck hard and “queer” isn’t a dirty word

“being a child doesn’t protect you from hate crimes…”  —reneta xian (read original post)

this is a very powerful statement.  most people just “protect” their children from such “grown-up” concepts as sexual orientation and gender identity (including transness).  most people don’t even consider why they think these ideas are too grown-up for their kids— they just instinctively “protect” their offspring.

i mean, i have 5 nephews and 1 niece.  they’re all more awesome than velociraptor astronauts (that’s pretty awesome, right?), but they don’t know much about queer issues— other than what i talk to them about.  their schools won’t touch an issue if it isn’t as straight and as cis as possible— which is pretty fucking lame.

a few months ago, when i first tried to explain to my niece and my two oldest nephews that i’m not female, my niece chimed in with “of course you’re a girl!  you’re in love with uncle d_____!”  ew.  let’s talk about that, o_____.  sometimes, women love women and men love men.  sometimes, a person isn’t even a man or a woman— but they still date and fall in love.

my niece and nephews were kinda bewildered; i don’t think they’d ever really heard of something as simple as real gay people.  let alone people who aren’t male or female and who don’t really care about the gender of their partner.  nobody, not their teachers or their parents or the books in the children’s section at the library had really talked to them about gender and sexual diversity.

and that makes me sad, folks.  this isn’t a “dirty” topic.  i’m not talking about discussing the detailed mechanics of sex between two women or about the details of bottom surgery.  i’m just talking about the existence of people who aren’t heterosexual and/or cisgender.  that’s it.  just that queer people exist and that ALL people, queer or otherwise, deserve respect.  i understand that schools don’t want to upset parents by discussing controversial issues with their kids, but human diversity should NOT be considered controversial.

leaving kids ignorant about gender and sexuality doesn’t result in a bunch of unqueer children— and it doesn’t protect queer children from bullying and erasure.  leaving kids to figure out the truth about human diversity leads to hate crimes, shame, and loneliness.  ignorant queer kids grow up feeling isolated and afraid.  ignorant unqueer kids grow up thinking that queer people aren’t really human and/or don’t really exist.  to me, this totally looks like a great way to keep the brutal pot of hate criminals and their victims perpetually bubbling.

tv shows are including increasing numbers of queer characters.  and in real life, people don’t always lose their jobs and their families as soon as they come out as queer.  things are looking up.  shit is getting better.  but what we’re seeing today in the media and in society at large is increasing tolerance of queerness.  what we need is education from an early age— education promoting basic respect as opposed to half-assed education promoting tolerance.

children can be victims of hate crimes.  children can commit hate crimes.  the adults they will grow into can also be victims or perpetrators of hate crimes.  the only way to protect children is to educate them.

so, yeah. what do you guys think about this?  how soon is too soon to discuss queerness with kids?  what about discussing gender and sex stereotypes with kids?  is that shit too grown-up?  talk to me, peoples!

note: reneta xian pretty much says it all; i just sorta bounced off her sweet post.  go read her stuff.

26 responses to “stuff to tell kids: hate crimes suck hard and “queer” isn’t a dirty word

  1. Thanks for the uber kudos, and I really enjoyed your velociraptor astronaut. I really like your take on things, and just how you word them and the mood of your writing. As for when it’s appropriate to talk with children about queerness, and transness… I’d say around 7 – 11 years of age in their first battery health classes where they are taught about the body before they can start puberty, and again in more formal detail in HS… If I had known there was a way to feel complete as a person back then I would have taken it; which is why educated everyone is so important.

    As for the rest of the world, we do need for people to realize “Queer” isn’t a dirty word, any more than diversity or velociraptor astronauts. It’s ironic, but most health classes don’t even talk about intersexed people either. It seems to be a ridiculous culture taboo to even mention anything that lies outside of the blinkin’ gender binary mutually exclusive fallacy, and I hope that can be abolished. If school curriculum, our family, or our culture really had any effect on our gender identity or sexual orientation we’d not be having this discussion with society at all.

    I think parents protect their children from it out of fear born of ignorance. They have been told and taught to believe that it is bad, nasty even perverse to be different from a very early age. They don’t understand and don’t relate, and accept the stigmas and stereotypes as fact. We have the media to blame for much of this. Only the flamboyant, and twisted transsexuals used to ever get air time, which has begun changing but the damage has been done and it will take a while to fix. Great post by the way! :3

  2. “I think parents protect their children from it out of fear born of ignorance. They have been told and taught to believe that it is bad, nasty even perverse to be different from a very early age. They don’t understand and don’t relate, and accept the stigmas and stereotypes as fact.”

    that’s crazy-true. we have all these harmful taboos that isolate and dehumanize whole groups of people but most of these taboos don’t have any basis in fact! if you ask someone why they don’t want to tell their kids about, say, homosexuality, the answer isn’t always “i hate fags!”. sometimes, people are like, “well, i’m bi and some of my friends are queer, too. i don’t think queer people suck, but i want to protect my children.” um, from what? as a society, we need to rethink a lot of our taboos.

    i’m not sure i think there’s really any minimum age for learning about love. i mean, we tell toddlers that mommy and daddy are in love, right? we don’t usually tell them about mommy and daddy having sex, but we do tell them that mommy and daddy are in love. so why can’t we tell them from the start that some people have 2 mommies or 2 daddies? i don’t know if transness and non-binary gender are simple enough concepts for little kids; they might be confusing topics. but, yeah, kids should be hearing about all this stuff by the time they’re 6 or 7, in my opinion.

    thanks for the thoughts! you rock my think-tank!

  3. Queer Kid's Mom

    If you raise a child in a diverse community that includes all kinds of people then there is never “a right time” to explain, there life is an on-going process of understanding all the awesome people who populate their world.

    I know, I know, I sound too unrealistic, but more kids are growing up in worlds where being gay is just what their friend Jaden’s fathers are or being a woman who looks like a man is just one aspect of their babysitter’s identity.

    Your statement:
    “leaving kids ignorant about gender and sexuality doesn’t result in a bunch of unqueer children— and it doesn’t protect queer children from bullying and erasure. leaving kids to figure out the truth about human diversity leads to hate crimes, shame, and loneliness. ignorant queer kids grow up feeling isolated and afraid. ignorant unqueer kids grow up thinking that queer people aren’t really human and/or don’t really exist. to me, this totally looks like a great way to keep the brutal pot of hate criminals and their victims perpetually bubbling.” is SO RIGHT.

    Get these kids educated! We need even more LGBTQ visibility in the media, in part to force the hands of parents and educators.

    Great post. Thanks!

  4. so glad you enjoyed it! yay!

  5. My vote is it is never too early. Kids are naturally curious, and they ask questions like: “Whats the difference between boys and girls?” “why are boys mean to me?” Etc. Toddlers already have a formed concept of gender. So if you surround kids with people who fall outside binaries, or even just talk to them about their existence, they’ll understand that those folks exist And, even better yet, teach your kids to ask questions as soon as they start talking. “What’s the difference between boys and girls?” can become, “What do you think is the difference, and why?” Using critical thinking skills is novel I know, but I’m willing to bet if kids are taught to question and examine at a young age, they’ll keep up the pesky habit. Can’t you just see this awesome five year old running around telling their fellow kindergardners that some people aren’t ‘boys’ or ‘girls’, and causing all sorts of awesome trouble?
    Kids may not understand the concepts completely, but they understand an awful lot. They may not understand the words gender identity, but if you ask them if they feel like they are a boy/girl/otherawesomeperson, I bet they’d have an answer for you. Kids are smarter than we give them credit for. And sadly “protecting” them from these things only means that they get their information from watching Maury at their friends house in 3rd grade, instead of from an intelligent person who can answer questions.
    “It’s Elementary” was a pretty great documentary on the subject.
    Man, I don’t even have a veliciraptor astronaut, and you have nieces and nephews that are cooler than that? So lucky.

  6. yes! we should all be causing tons of “awesome trouble”! especially kids; i totally agree that they understand more than we give them credit for. i think that treating kids like they actually have brains encourages them to use their brains and to ask pertinent questions throughout their lives.

    yeah, my niece and nephews are way rad.

  7. I think all-inclusive formal education is the first step; to include but not limited to – gender identity, sexual orientation, and intersexed conditions. Our society has a tendency to erase, ignore, or subvert knowledge about anything that doesn’t conform to the exclusive gender binary, especially with children. Some parents will reject it to the bitter end. My initial thoughts were only in line with the formal education side of it. If it weren’t for formal education some teens wouldn’t even know about STDs or contraceptives because their parents aren’t enough comfortable to, aren’t willing to, or feel they lack competency to discuss these subjects because they themselves are not educated on them. However, if we begin teaching awareness young in a formal classroom setting they, as future parents, will be ready to face these issues when they arise.

    We need to allow children to know for themselves about themselves and others without trying to heteronormalize their exposure, and educate them about gender identity, sexuality, and such in formal education (introductory in middle-school/elementary levels, and formal classes in High School levels). It’s present even in medical literature defining the falsehood that all intersexed people as “Happy in their assigned gender” erasing all intersexed people who suffer dysphoria or transition (by extension all trans/non-binary people). Similar erasures exist for homosexuality. There are other problems, but stopping the erasure is the first hurtle. In my opinion our gender and sexuality are not fluid, but our understanding and expression (behaviorally) of them is. The misunderstanding of ‘Fluidity’ scares the ignorant; others can not transform you, only unmask latent potential.

    Human nature is the tree a diversity of patterns grows, on which new things can be grafted and old things trimmed; however, in the end a tree is still a tree (a person is still a person). All people have equal value without erasing their diversely unique properties.

  8. dude, formal education is way vital. yes, parents need to participate in their children’s education, but formal education on the topic of queerness is invaluable. i agree that formally educating children in human diversity (queerness, intersex conditions, race etc.) will prepare them to become better parents. it’s the only way to change the world, man.

    formal education isn’t the only solution, though. i think formal education might be the real beginning, but the kids we educate today will probably educate their own kids from a very early age (as you pointed out). at that point, informal education via parents, peers, media etc. will become the main vehicle of knowledge and respect. huzzah!

    thanks for so much input!

    ps: gender can be fluid. not fluid like, malleable to external influences, but fluid as in naturally fluctuating. just sayin’.

  9. Queer Kid's Mom

    Check out this documentary – I will have to rent it and see for myself, but it suggests that education K-12 can work to educate children and change they way they think about members of the queer community. The selections I have watched thus far haven’t touch upon any trans issues – but it seems this documentary might support the theory that education in the school can make a difference on a broad scale.

    There is a follow up documentary too.

  10. I agree with your description, that our internal sense of self can fluctuate, but I don’t define those things as fluidity per say, because all people fluctuate through the subconscious anima / animus. Its less my opinion, and more my preference not to refer to it with fluidity, but with gender moods which everyone gets. Sometimes you feel like a nut, sometimes you don’t.

    But that statement you just made me wonder if there was any literature that relates to anima/animus in trans, intersexed, and non-binary peoples. How is the dynamic different? Does the dynamic change when you transition, if at all? How does is anima/animus’ role in your perception of gender, or dysphoria? I am afraid I will be researching that all day now.

  11. that’s neon-rad! i had no idea that public schools in north america were touching ANY of these issues; what a wicked surprise! i just assumed that a few pissed off parents would keep queer issues out of public schools.

    even though it’s elementary doesn’t seem to cover intersex issues and trans issues, it’s still a great start. i mean, if 29% of schools included gay and lesbian issues in their curricula in 2007, who knows how many schools are doing it now? such a great start! i’m stoked!

  12. please let me know what you discover! i don’t really know what “anima” means, but my curiosity is piqued! i’m gonna google it…

  13. Their are studies of anima/animus in transgender, non-binary (though very little) but (even less) on intersexed persons as far as I can tell. But anima is the unconscious female self, and animus is the unconscious male self. In Jungian theory all men have an anima, and all women an animus, seems to be a bipolar sense of behavioral potential. It would appear to have a gender expression and sexual orientation linked tolerances. The traits of it are represented by repressed behaviors, but that gets tricky for me.

    Technically I repressed both masculine and feminine behaviors, and divided them into alter egos. However, what I have learned is that I have always had an Animus, because at least in the way I interpreted it anima/animus is gender identity dependent in my experience. Meaning you begin to repress your masculine or feminine traits based on gender identity itself; however, this is just my abstract. Also from what I have learned, I began to develop my animus when I transition.

    I had troubles as a male because while one could assert I hid my feminine side, I was not actually repressing it as I was my masculine side. I used to hate men, and still consider myself a little feminist in that regards though I have grown. I wasn’t able to deal with my animus until I transitioned, and I felt incomplete as I was before. People used to describe me as “too in touch with my feminine side”, but close friends realized that wasn’t the case long before I admitted it.

    The Jungian theories of Psychology are in need of updating with modern psychology; however, I can reasonably assert it is gender identity dependent. This would mean however, that genderqueers and androgynous persons have both an anima and animus to a degree, and would need further clinical study to determine the roles they play. Sort of a mixed interplay of repressed masculine and feminine traits, though one could assert a certain sexist nature in those definitions. Gender Dichotomy bias is a problem still in psychology, so results can be skewed (I.E. Intelligence Attributed to Men, Emotionality to Women).

    Little of this research is public and for obvious reasons, because it can be inflammatory to both sides. However, it’s a slippery slope because it could be used to further pathologize gender variance if it isn’t deterministically gender identity based in ideology. It could also be quite useful to expand this if it is done with sound science, and with the input of real intersexed, transsexual, and non-binary people much in the way I relayed my experience of struggle with my animus. It’s clearly an area that needs more definitive research. I hope you don’t mind my reply to your question being so long. :3

  14. it’s an interesting concept, but it seems reallyreally sexist to me. honestly, my own bit of research made me cringe quite a bit.

    i mean, for example, sensitivity isn’t a feminine trait. it’s just a trait, isn’t it? yes, sensitivity is a stereotypically feminine trait, but the stereotypes are spidershit. i try not to encourage the stereotypes by paying attention to them— like they’re badly-behaved children, or something. lol. so, yeah, i totally agree that “gender dichotomy bias is a problem in psychology”.

    as for anima/animus playing a role in the psychology of non-binary people, many non-binary people don’t identify as some sort of mixture of male and female— many non-binaries identify as something else entirely. i, mx. punk, don’t really feel like a conglomeration of male and female traits. i feel like a person who has to keep peeling sticky labels off their face and who hails from a part of the gender galaxy where the words “male” and “female” have no place. so i would be, um… grumpy if someone started talking about my feminine side versus my masculine side. that’s just me, but i think a few other people would agree with me.

    i really dig your final paragraph (i’m too lazy to quote the whole thing); i concur soundly! this could be a good thing to research, but, as you said, only with proper input from the input of the queer community and with proper respect for gender/sexual diversity.

    very interesting! thanks for all your awesome thoughts; your comments are NEVER too long. :) we have sweet conversations.

  15. With the way you put it, Jungian Psychology could be a core problem perpetuating sexism psychology. Without doubt there is gender binary nonsense in Psychology which is the reason for misclassification of gender variant people. It misses the true nature of gender by viewing it in scope with dichotomous social construct. I experience gender multidimensionally, meaning some dimensions are feminine, some are masculine according to social construct. I am me, it merely a coincidence my equilibrium is more similar to being female than male. But you are right, gender defined by feminine and masculine it is rife with cultural false dichotomies. I am more than a letter, and you’d need at least 5 to codify my gender.

    Our society tries to give gender to things that don’t have one, like intelligence level, and creativity. It’s self fulfilling in that it ‘creates’ the conditions that lead to the conclusion that it is true. My decision to transition had much less to do with me being definitely masculine or feminine, because I am a gender soup, and more to do with finding my own physical equilibrium thus I am reassigning myself to something that more closely mirrors my identity. My experiences aren’t, nor need they be, about my gender; no erasure is required to be me. As you said “i feel like a person who has to keep peeling sticky labels off their face”, because I feel the same.

    I accept myself as I am, without negating what I need, and what I am. I am not a gender in the classical sense, and that is as valid as any others. Without contest, I don’t feel appropriate physically as anything other than female-like, but that doesn’t mean I need a “letter” (f or m) to be validated. I believe that applies to other people as well. I adhere to legal requirements to have a letter, but I don’t believe in it. People forget that masculine/feminine means that which pertains to a man/woman, which is different for each person. Agender roles with their own derivatives and validity, to which are neutrois that masculine and feminine don’t apply to.

    Dichotomy is the oldest form of discrimination, or the separation of things into two distinct categories though they are all independently variable. Only in abstract concept is their absolutes, like in mathematics; all real things are unique from one another. In the end, most people aren’t simply male or female, just mostly male, mostly female occasionally neither or both. Its why I feel human sex and gender are innately bipolar with two dominant alignment with considerable variation (male, female, in between and everywhere else), not binary. Humanity’s need to ‘box’ things will one day give way to real intellectual understanding of gender, or at least I hope it will. Silly humans. :3

  16. silly humans! so true.

    i’ve pretty much had it with having to tick boxes and fit into boxes. fuck that noise, to use technical terms. i mean, i have to have a letter, too (obviously)—and i hate it! if i HAVE to have a legal gender marker, i should get to choose my own letter.

    i, mx. punk, may immigrate to australia in order to be “x” instead of “f” or “m”. huzzah! ok, maybe i’ll go there someday— or maybe other countries will legally recognize non-binary people. if not, i’m not going to renew my passport or id until i reallyreally have to.

  17. I always liked Australia, so maybe I should move too. The boxes are the reason I live in CO, which is bad for my health. CO is the only place that respects me with law (of the places I want to live), and spares me some of the fear of being assaulted or arrested. In order to live where I want in the US and feel safe I have to jump through ginormous hoops like a trained animal to have that right.

    At least such a right exists for FL for my birth certificate. But plain and simple, in our culture in most places I have to undergo prohibitively expensive hard to cover medical procedures to be “valid”. So yeah, I am tired of the weight they put on a letter, which I wasn’t given consent in choosing. I have contemplated getting a passport because of the gender thing though.

    As for everything else, time will tell. I am still me whether they care, want me to, or none of the above. In a culture like ours, I sometimes feel like an alien, though technically I have always been kind of alien like anyways. :3

  18. Unfortunately the X option in Australia is restricted for people who are biologically intersexed, and as a person with a non-binary gender you aren’t allowed to claim it. They won’t quite let us have the pie…which is a shame because I rather like pie…

  19. lame! really? i mean, so i don’t legally exist ANYWHERE? the crash hurts sooooo bad.

  20. Pingback: My big rant about the societal ills that drive me up a wall…Sex Education: Or lack thereof « twobeatsoffplumb

  21. This post inspired me to write my own post, about sex ed and stuff…so I wanted to drop by and say thanks! And invite you to check it out…

  22. Pingback: Ask Reneta: Gender Conversations with Mx. Punk « Reneta Xian

  23. Pingback: » Blog Archive » Reverence of Human values at the Workplace-[Of Queer]

  24. Pingback: Reneta Scian – A little about me from those who want to know. « Reneta Xian

  25. Pingback: The Use of Force |

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