Saturday, February 28, 2015

Pronouns are Important

Sophie of Assigned Male posted this comic today: 

I posted it forward on Raising Allies' facebook wall because it represents how life often is for non-binary people. They are rarely represented in the media, they are often discounted or dismissed, and they want to feel seen and validated as individuals just like everyone else.

Because this was a comic that related to a topic that is near and dear to me, as the parent of a non-binary kid, I shared it on my own personal facebook wall as well. Six hours later and only one person has liked that post on my wall. I remind myself that it may have gotten pushed down on people's walls due to other posts. I tell myself that it's Saturday and, at least where I live, it's sunny so many people are probably outside or otherwise occupied and not hanging out on facebook. But deep down it bothers me. That's because so few people ever like or comment when I post something that relates to being transgender, using gender neutral pronouns, or gender being a spectrum and not binary.

Two years ago I wrote a blog post over at With The Family titled "If It's Important to You, It's Important To Me." That's what I want, I want to know that this topic that is important to me and my family is important to those who say they are my friend, are my relatives, or who say they care about me. And that's really what I'm trying to express about pronoun usage: when talking to or about a non-binary person, when you use the pronouns they have asked you to use it shows them that who they are is important to you. 

If you have questions or concerns about gender neutral pronouns here are some resources:

Gender Neutral Pronouns: They're Here, Get Used To Them

How using "They" as a singular pronoun can change the world

And Please consider supporting Sophie Labelle who creates Assigned Male comics and art through her Patrion Account. 

You can get pronoun buttons at nerdcore crafts on etsy. 

Friday, February 20, 2015

Children's Books on Gender Creativity

My kids all teenagers now and I'll admit that I miss the days of going to the children's section of the library and selecting a huge pile of pictures books to bring home to enjoy reading together. After seeing lists of recommended books that relate to transgender children I decided it was time to check out a few books for myself. Happily, my local public library has 5 to 6 copies of each of the books pictured above.

I Am Jazz directly addresses the experience of being transgender. It is the first person account of Jazz Jennings' experience as a young child. The pictures are cute and support not only the story but also extending the conversation about what Jazz is feeling. This is a great book for helping all kids, and adults, understand in simple terms what it means to be transgender.

Jacob's New Dress says "There are lots of different ways to be a boy." This makes it a book not so much about being transgender as being gender creative or perhaps gender fluid. Jacob pretends to be a princess at school, he was a witch for Halloween, and he wants a dress to wear to school. This book shows the mental processes that many parents go through as they come to understand and support their gender nonconforming child. This clear illustration of parents working through to their own place of being able to support their child could be helpful to parents who are struggling with how to respond to their own child's requests that are stretching their parental comfort zone.

Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress has delightful illustrations that take us into the world of a little boy with an awesome imagination who likes to wear a brightly colored dress from the dress up clothes at school. As with Jacob's New Dress, this book is about a boy who wears dresses. However, in this book you have a mother who is shown fully supporting her child's gender expression. For example, Morris' mother paints his fingernails. This book focuses on Morris figuring out how to create a place for himself, how to draw other children into his world, how to fit in on his own terms.

My biggest hesitation in recommending each of these books is that all three portray children who go to school and who are teased or face challenges because they are gender creative or gender nonconforming. While these books may be helpful to the child who shares that experience, that is one of going to school and experiencing negative reactions from their peers, I might be cautious about sharing these books with a young child who is exploring their gender identity who has never been to school or who has only had people react positively to their self expression. Over all the books are positive and empowering, but I would hate for a child to be discouraged from expressing or exploring their gender identity due to worries that come from reading a book. This would, of course, depend upon the child and their level of sensitivity.

It would be wonderful to have more books on library shelves that show kids exploring gender without any negative commentary. Books that support kids in the exploration with joy and without the sense that it's odd, abnormal, or unexpected. I'm hoping there are books out there already that I don't know about. If you know of any please share them in the comments.

All three of the books focus on children who were assigned male at birth. Are there books for kids who are assigned female at birth who identify as boys? There are books with main characters portrayed as tomboys, but what about transgender boys who like what society generally considers "boy things" and whose affirmed gender is boy. There are also transgender boys who have more traditionally female interests. And what about transgender girls who don't like pink. If you know of any books that fill these need please share them in the comments as well.

The main character each of the books is portrayed as an assigned male at birth child, with light colored skin, who goes to school. It's wonderful to see an ever increasing variety of books becoming available that explore gender identity and gender expression for younger children, however, there continues to be a need for more books that provide for greater diversity.

Learn more about the books:

I Am Jazz 

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Pink, Not Just For Girls

It shocks me when I hear a parent tell a child that they can't have something because "that toy is for boys" or "that toy is for girls." Until we get to a place where stores no longer divide toys by stereotypical gender norms, take your kid down the "pink aisle" and down the Lego aisle, Marvel aisle, and toy car aisle. Explore all the options and see what your child is drawn to, see what they enjoy. Don't let stereotypes and social constructs determine what your child *should* like, go with what your child *really* likes. 

The same goes for books, clothes, and activities. Support your child in discovering what they like, don't tell them what they are supposed to like. Following your child's lead helps you learn more about your child and your child to learn more about who they are and who they want to become. 

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Think *Before* You Speak

While rereading Sylvia Boorstein’s book, It’s Easier Than You Think: The Buddhist Way to Happiness, I found myself reflecting on Right Speech. Everything we say should not only be truthful, but also be helpful. If we feel the need to correct someone our words should be “timely, truthful, gentle, kind, and helpful.” 

Yesterday one of my kids said something snarky about someone and then said, half-seriously, “I’m a terrible person.” I responded jokingly with, “You get it from me!” 

But it’s not a joke, it’s the truth, and it’s not just from the genetic material I passed down. My kids have learned a whole lot about life from watching and listening to me, and that includes how I talk about other people when those people aren't around. It’s sobering to realize how directly my lack of right speech influences my kids

After watching Russell Brand’s awesome video that calls out the media, particularly TMZ, for their completely disrespectful and crass coverage of the speculation about Bruce Jenner, my thoughts went to how the media influences what we think is acceptable to say. It’s time for the media to take responsibility for what they say and to be educated in how to talk, write, and portray transgender people. Perhaps starting by reading this article: It’s time to learn how to write about transgender people. But also by giving trans people the opportunity to tell their own story when they are ready, as Inside Edition did for Zoey Tur

Speculating about someone’s gender is not right speech. It’s not respectful and it is often just plain mean. I remember the Bones episode where a visiting scientist from Japan gives no indication of their gender identity. Many of the characters spend the entire episode trying to get the scientist to slip up or out themself. It was disrespectful and it bothered me. (Season 4, Episode 22.) We don’t get to decide someone else’s gender, but we also don’t get to out people, or decide when Or If someone should be out. It should go without saying that we don’t get to decide how anyone else expresses their gender identity. However, the media seems to have missed that memo and feels it is their place to comment on how long a man’s hair or fingernails should be, and what clothes and makeup a man can wear. As in, guyliner is o.k. and getting madeup to be on camera is fine, but don’t you dare go wearing lipstick on a daily basis, unless it’s black and matches your guyliner. 

When someone does come out we can offer our acceptance and support as their ally. If people choose not to be out we can avoid stealth shaming and speculation. There may be people you talk to everyday who are transgender and you don’t know it. You don’t need to know. Remember, those people are listening to what you say and they hear what jokes you laugh at. What we say says a whole lot about who we are and what we support. If you’re like me, it’s time to focus more on thinking before you speak. Now if only the media would do the same. 

The links from above in case you missed them: 

Stealth Shaming, What it is, why you shouldn't do it, and how not to.

Bruce Jenner's Gender Identity: What Should We Think, Russell Brand

Chopper Bob (Zoey Tur) discusses transition from man to woman

It's time to learn to write about transgender people

Ducky Barnes encourages you to think 
you speak.