Are you a Boy or Girl? Why does it matter?
Guess what! It doesn’t matter!
It only matters when we separate into categories based on sex or compare based on sex. I do not believe in the gender binary. I believe there is more than one gender. There is a spectrum. This spectrum to which I am referring has the socially constructed female on one end, often called the ‘Barbie’ and the socially constructed male, commonly referred to as ‘G.I. Joe.’ The binary suggests that is all that exists where as the spectrum allows for variations, more masculine women, more feminine men, and all those in between.
Gender, so we are all on the same page, is a social constructed concept whereas sex is based on ones anatomy.
This week, I had to confront an issue with a younger child who is biologically male but was mistaken as a girl. This individual has more androgynous features. The incident occurred when their teacher lined them up and asked them to get in two lines, boys and girls; first problem. His classmates said it was the third time that it had happened; second problem.
Problem 1: Just because it may be easier at the time to group based on gender, does not mean it is the best way. When you group based on gender you are distinguishing the difference. Making it a daily reminder that you have to be separate. The little things matter because it adds on to the issues of women getting paid less than men or not as strong as men. You may be thinking I am making this into something bigger than it is but in reality this is where it starts.
Solution 1: Teachers in every capacity need to be taught grouping techniques that sets an equal playing field and don’t group on identities. This can include birthday month, counting off, favorite color, Fall birthdays in one line, Spring birthdays in the other. Or doing every other child red, blue then having a red line and a blue line. Having these techniques could have avoided mistaking this student as being in the wrong line.
Problem 2: This student now is self-conscious about their gender because people can’t get it right and relying on assumptions instead of 1. asking of how the student identifies and 2. using gender neutral terms to refer to the student if they are unsure. What you say affects people, especially if that person is 11 years old, is going through puberty, is already having a tough time as it is, and doesn’t understand why that is happening.
Solution 2: DON’T ASSUME! Boy or girl is not the question, how do you identify is. If you are unsure of how to approach the question, ask for help, until you are able to get help or confirm their identify, use gender neutral terms.