17 August 2017

Why this radical lefty is against Safe Schools

Like all of us who see ourselves as on the side of sweetness and light, I was a big supporter of the Safe Schools program. A school based program to reduce bullying and teach children the importance safety, respect and of people being who they are and loving who they love sounded pretty good to me. Also, the politicians and media types who opposed Safe Schools were the usual  massive  pack  of  moron  flavoured  bigot  biscuits. Their criticisms of Safe Schools - that it was a recruiting campaign for gays, that heterosexual children are being bullied as a result of the program - were and are ridiculous.

I still support the message that love is love and families come in many shapes and sizes. We still need to make marriage equality a reality and break down heteronormativity. But I was looking through the Safe Schools lesson plans, saw this, and recoiled.

This lesson plan is part of a program featured on the Safe Schools website as "Our teaching and learning resource, titled All Of Us, is designed for use by school teachers with Years 7 and 8 students". It has, the site goes on, been developed with a group of education experts and approved as age appropriate. But it raised my hackles.

Because it's teaching that gender is not related to your genitals, but actually a set of behaviours. That, in fact, it's whether you act like society's view of a girl or a boy that makes you a girl or a boy. And that is wrong. That is BS.   

Back in the 1950s, people believed strongly in traditional gender roles - which we analogous with one's biological sex. Put simply, boys were expected to play with boy toys - cars, trucks, building blocks - and girls with girls toys, meaning dolls, prams and tea sets. Little girls who showed an interest in cars, or boys who wanted to play with dolls, were steered away, told what they should be playing with, and if that didn't work, were mocked and bullied until they behaved according to how girls and boys should act.

But then in the 1970s, with second wave feminism and the sexual revolution, things began to change. We began to challenge the idea that the toys children played with should be coordinated with their genitals. Gender neutral toys and clothing became more common; the idea that a girl could play with toys without a hint of pink anywhere became the norm, like this Lego ad from 1981:

Unfortunately, this levity is a thing of the past. In recent years, companies have begun aggressively marketing to females with an explosion of pink, from liquour stores to cars to pens. It's extended to children's toys, and now we have toy manufacturers and retailers sharply dividing toys along gender lines. These trucks and dinosaurs and things that go roar and bang are for boys; and you, girls, this pink pink pink pink pink is for you.

And what do we do if the little girl wants the trucks or the boy wants to wear a tutu and nail polish? We've returned to the ideology fifties, in a way. Toys are either for boys or girls. So if a little boy likes dolls and sparkles, the ideology runs now that he might well actually be a girl. Because behaviour and interests are correlated with gender, and not simply seen as part of one's personality. This is dangerous for two reasons.

First of all, it maintains gender stereotypes. In the 1950s we said you must play with trucks because you're a boy. Now the ideology runs that if you play with dolls, you must be a girl.

And so being female is no longer a matter of biology, but a personality, a feeling; a liking of things society has deemed "feminine" (I'll have a bit more to say on these aspects of trans ideology in another post coming up soon).

It's also terribly dangerous for the kids involved. Because when we decide biology must align with personality after all we try to change these kids bodies. The race is against the clock, we are urged, to get these kids on puberty blocking hormones before they commence puberty. There may medical consequences such as permanent loss of bone density and changes to neurological development that a child cannot possibly understand when they give "consent" at the age of 12.

Also I am not talking about bodily dysphoria here, which is a very separate matter. What I am concerned about is saying toys, hobbies etc are "male" and "female", the push to label kids as trans based on their interests and hobbies as young children.

Biologically, there are male, female and a number of intersex people - the Safe Schools lesson gets that right. But there are not male and female behaviours, interests, clothes or feelings. That is rubbish. You cannot have a female brain in a male body, because there is no such thing as a female brain.

You can be a boy who wears pigtails and tutus and make up. You can be a girl who has short hair and combat boots and likes mechanics and calculus. I want kids to be taught that that is okay.

None of that has any bearing on sexual orientation, either.

For adults who experience dysphoria, they are free to make the own discoveries and choices. But we need to question our own concepts of gender roles, and stop foisting them on children - especially if that means giving children the idea that their behaviour is wrong for their gender so there gender has to change.

There is some progress being made in this direction, with an upcoming BBC documentary looking at issues surrounding raising children in a gender free environment (and raising the ever pertinent question, "Is the way we treat boys and girls the real reason we haven’t achieved equality between men and women?"

Unfortunately, there is too much pull in the other direction, with some parents in a rush to show their progressive chops by declaring their child transgender for being interested in clothes and toys not in accordance with what society deems are the appropriate playthings and garments to coordinate with the genitals. (I was all too ready to be one of them).

And professionals and journalists who speak out against the current standard practice of gender affirmation for non-conforming children find themselves targeted for harassment - especially when they're women (funny, that).

Anyway I guess I'm not against Safe Schools per se. I'm all for kids being taught acceptance, and those who think it's recruiting kids to be gay can go to hell. I am in fact in favour of kids being allowed to be who they are, and so I'm against kids being told they must be something else, the other sex, for liking the toys and clothes they like.

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