August 23, 2012

Clearing Space for Children To Explore Gender {featured resource}

In We Can Give Them Words: Clearing Space for Children To Explore Gender, Anna Cook of The Feminist Librarian offers her own positive advice and an overview over further resources for parents to normalize gender, sex, and sexuality variance for their children. Excerpt: "Don’t conflate gender expression with sexual preference. Our culture does this constantly, whether in the assumption that princess boys will grow up to be gay or that women who are butch sleep exclusively with lipstick lesbians. [...]

Sexuality in the adult sense is something we grow into. It’s a process. And presuming adult sexual preferences for a child — whether it’s teasing them about a playground “boyfriend” or assuming their gender non-conformity will lead to same-sex desire — is unfairly boxing them into predetermined categories. [...]

Queer kids aren’t the only ones who need better tools and models than the ones our culture currently provides. So your own assumptions about your child’s gender or sexual identity aside, these suggestions apply to parenting all children. [...]

Communicate openness while also respecting your child’s autonomy and privacy. Best case scenario, you’ve been doing your darndest to communicate (in age-appropriate ways) your own lack of anxiety about your kids meeting heteronormative expectations; you’ve been explicitly voicing your support for a wide variety of gender expression and sexual desires. Pre-emptively expressing confidence in, and unconditional love for, your child is going to make it more possible for them to voice their wonderings about gender and sexuality as they grow into themselves.

The other side of this coin, though, is expressing interest in your child’s experience while not demanding information or taking over their process. [...]

Don’t become invested in your daughter-the-lesbian or your son-the-fey pansexual. Communicate acceptance of whomever she is and then clear the space. Give her privacy to listen and learn and grow. [...]

What your kid needs is an ally: someone they can trust to believe they can be themselves in the world. Someone to root for them, to be there when they need an adult advocate, and to back away and let them fly when they’re ready. Find a place to sort out your lingering fears and prejudices so you’ll be free to be there for them when they need you."

Check out the entire post with all its practical and positive advice, as well as the extensive well-described resources at In Our Words: A Salon for Queers & Co.

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