gender recognition

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gender recognition

Post by melsbells » Tue Aug 29, 13:39 2017

A couple weeks ago, my three year old asked, "Am I a boy?" So we had a short chat about what he thought and how he felt. He thinks he's a boy, so he's a boy. What makes me less than comfortable with this revelation was that it was really obvious this idea about himself came from outside himself, what other people have told him. Part of his answer included "[so and so] says I'm a boy". I've been really conscious of not reinforcing a societally assigned gender, though in no way flawless. But it feels impossible to stay free from the societal assignment. Everything gets gendered. Once, in the waiting room of a doctor's office years ago, the person next to me was looking at a magazine with their child, asking if the babies were boys or girls, and the toddler answered based on the color the baby was wearing (pink on girls, blue on boys) and it just doesn't make sense to me for a baby to have a gender. Gender seems to take a higher level of self-awareness.

Can anyone recommend any sources on kids and gender, like when kids generally start recognizing gender and gender norms? I've browsed a couple things, like NIH, but don't have a good idea of what's worth looking into further.

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Re: gender recognition

Post by Nech » Wed Aug 30, 7:22 2017

I have nothing helpful to contribute unfortunately. But whenever I think about having kids this situation is like, in my top 5 fears of things I really don't want to deal with. :( Interweb thought supports your way!
Where there's smoke, there's fire. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. So just shut up, and bring some water.

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Re: gender recognition

Post by rowan » Sat Sep 2, 13:28 2017

There's really no way to get around kids picking up societal gender norms, but what you can do is continually reinforce that things are socially constructed, continually change, and generally just bullshit. ;) Not in those words of course. ;)

In terms of identity of "AM I a boy / girl", I think if they say they're a boy just go with it, probably not worth either worrying about or making a big deal about one way or the other. I think you handled it just fine asking what he thought about it, which shows him that 1) you recognize there are other options to just "yes" and 2) gives him agency in defining himself. This I think is super important for kids in general but here for example the fact that you asked him shows him he can decide things about himself for himself (not just on this topic but many things.)

You could say there's not really much difference between boys and girls, I know we talked about that when kiddo was young. I don't have any resources, exactly, but what we've done is had continual conversations about gender and gender norms. This has evolved from just flat out saying "that's wrong, boys can like dolls" when kiddo came back from preschool saying someone said otherwise (and also talking to teachers so they could also intervene, and having teachers on the same page as us there). Now at an older age we have more conversations about it. In some ways public school has been harder since the gender norms are much more reinforced there. In other ways kiddo is older and has more tools to use when we talk to her about it. We have also always tried to encourage her to speak up with other students, something I think she does do. Here in the US (and I know you're not, but speaking from what I hear of friends with boys) it's harder to fight against cultural boys-don't-like-dolls things because it's more acceptable for girls to like science than the other way. That said I have friends who have been doing a great job. It just takes continual talking about it.

I have talked about some of my friends who have transitioned, but probably when kiddo was a later age than that. Most of the time it just comes out in conversation, really, any time something prescriptivist gets brought up I have enough examples of more fluid ways people can be. Just talking about things like they are part of normal everyday life. I think that basically paves the way for any later thoughts about gender and who they are, not only in letting the kids know other possibilities exist but also that you think they are normal. Even if your kid winds up being cishet, I think it just makes for better citizens. (Of course once kids are old enough it's also important to discuss issues LGBTIQA+ face but that's probably not at three...)

I think we had the conversation of girls can marry girls around age 5? I think maybe transgender concepts didn't really come up (for us, all kids different) around age 7 or so. I would say now at 9 we are having FAR more nuanced and thoughtful conversations about things than we did last year.
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Re: gender recognition

Post by melsbells » Tue Sep 19, 5:05 2017

MOD NOTE: This thread was split into this thread. I wanted to pull the resources responding to the question in the OP that were in posts split into the other thread.
Sonic# wrote:Mels, I know Cordelia Fine's books on gender and neuroscience address little kids and the infleunces they receive at certain points. To my memory, her work was mainly demonstrative - hey, yes, kids are externally exposed to gender at very early points, and we can see kids beginning to internalize these ideas about gender.

Looking at Wikipedia, I know I've read one of the cited articles before and found it interesting (Martin, C. L. (1990). "Attitudes and Expectations about Children with Nontraditional and Traditional Gender Roles". Sex Roles. 22 (3-4): 151–66.) The gist is that understandings of gender begin to emerge by ages 2 or 3, and they continue to develop over the course of years, which includes some stigma (esp. for boys) when people step outside of understood roles. Then this article is more recent than that (2017), by the same author, and (based on my skim) seems to have pretty decent coverage in the articles it uses (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3747736/).
Sonic# wrote:one expert says this:
Dr. Elizabeth Sweet wrote:Those concerned that removing gender labels from toys will “cause the collapse of the gender order,” as Sweet put it, are whipping themselves into a frenzy for nothing.
(Note to mels - seems an interesting article actually on target!)
melsbells wrote:It took me a few days to get through the NIH article that Sonic recommended. It's not actually that long, I just didn't have enough time available to read it all in one go. There were a lot of interesting things in there, that I hope I don't botch as I try to relate them back.
The first thing that surprised me was that my kid is late on the spectrum of verbally identifying his gender. Kids usually start to identify as a boy or a girl as soon as they can talk. This identification generally mimics stereotypes, for example: "I'm a boy/girl because I like this boy/girl thing." that soundly answered one of my questions. The article focused a bit more on gender performance than identity, so while not exactly what I was looking for, was a worth while read.
I was then surprised that the most policing about gender performance happens from peers of the opposite assigned gender. So if a boy is playing with dolls a girl in the group is most likely to tease him. Or if a girl is playing with cars, a boy in the group is most likely to tease her.
Other things that were of interest was the question of how persistent gender identity was. This was looked at along of the lines of how much a person felt they conformed to their gender. People were more likely to identify a strong connection to their gender when in a setting with the opposite gender and as an outcast from their gender when in a setting with their gender. The kids who most strongly identified with their assigned gender, not only had the most stable gender performance, but their presentation and identity tended to become more extreme over time, though I think the longest studies only followed kids from preschool through first grade.

I really wish I lived somewhere that I could just go to a library and start reading up on child development. There's this fledgling person in my life and every time something new happens, I want to learn more about it. My history of thinking about this sort of thing is primarily via phenomenology and Rousseau's Émile, and with no persistent small person for me to notice and be intrigued by such minute developments. Thanks again.

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Re: gender recognition

Post by Ileen Kotter » Thu Nov 2, 2:04 2017

You can continue discussing with him the difference of a boy and a girl. Have him socialize too with the same gender. There's nothing wrong if you have go with opposite sex as long as he understands what/who he is.

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Re: gender recognition

Post by Nech » Thu Nov 2, 7:03 2017

Ileen Kotter wrote:
Thu Nov 2, 2:04 2017
You can continue discussing with him the difference of a boy and a girl. Have him socialize too with the same gender. There's nothing wrong if you have go with opposite sex as long as he understands what/who he is.
So do you feel hanging out with the opposite gender at a young age can confuse a person's gender identity?
Where there's smoke, there's fire. Just because you can't see it doesn't mean it doesn't exist. So just shut up, and bring some water.

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