I wanted to take a minute to talk more about some of the philosophical underpinnings of this website. To me, it’s about gender. It’s about making the category of gender really big. It’s about making sure people, especially kids, have options. It’s about transgender and gender nonconforming kids AND it’s about cisgender kids. Though it sometimes seems like resources come in two distinct flavors for these groups, to me, there is a whole lot that is similar at the foundation of talking about creating a gender-inclusive and gender-expansive world.
There are increasingly great resources aimed at supporting transgender and gender nonconforming kids - this gets lumped into the LGBTQ resources, even though only the T (and sometimes the Q) have to do with gender. Similarly, there is lots of good stuff on how to raise strong (cisgender) girls (and even very occasionally nods to raising sensitive cisgender boys, but that’s usually an afterthought). A lot of this stuff feels like the messages in “Free to Be You and Me” that I grew up on from the 70s. This favorite picture that is hanging in a friend’s mother’s house sums up what I tend to term as “70’s Feminism.”
But it turns out that the patriarchy affects absolutely everyone. People of all genders feel the negative effects of misogyny. And I see all of the work to make an expansive view of gender as related. Sometimes I draw this Venn diagram to try to explain where this website sits.
As it says on the website already, another key piece is thinking about the impact of language. The language we hear is so important, and it subtly shapes our perceptions of the world. Language is not value-neutral and awareness of the implications of the language we use is key if we want to change the opportunities our kids see for themselves and those around them (grownups too). Similarly, it is so important to see people like you and like you want to be in the world around you -- whether it be in books or conversation.
Here’s an example. Recently, I saw the all-woman Ghostbusters movie. I like action movies and comedies pretty well. It’s one of my dirty little secrets. I have seen the original Ghostbusters many times; I grew up on it. Seeing women in an action/comedy who were kicking ass in a completely non-sexualized way filled a very deep hole that I didn’t even know existed. Obviously the next step is for the one character of color to have a more complex character development and not be the one non-technical one on the team and many other critiques. But also, wow. My inner 9 year old just cried tears of joy to see women scientists on the big screen. Because representation matters. I’m still waiting to see a whole lot of other representation of my other identities and of other people’s identities in media.
For now, this is my little corner to try to make a difference. Books are a big focus because kids read a lot of books. Books are great. And also, books are pretty problematic. There are so many gendered messages in kids’ books and such a predominance of the default male pronouns. Sure, there are books with “girl” characters, some of whom are not signified with bows or “girly” behaviors. And there is a growing niche selection of books with transgender or gender nonconforming characters in books, but they are niche. For now, my family takes a DIY approach to making the books we have more gender-accessible by changing the pronouns. We also buy and check out as many books as we can that show a truly diverse representation of kids and families around gender - as well as race, ability, family structure, class, etc.
What’s my long-term goal for this work? That this becomes the norm. That I don’t have to edit my kids’ books because the selection represents what real people are like. That gender-neutral language is commonplace. My goal is that this website becomes obsolete in a few years. For now, I’m trying to build a bridge between where we are and where I think we are going. I also want to invite people to give feedback, share their own hacks, share their favorite resources, and generally work towards this goal with me. Let’s get to work!