With the combination of our generation’s socially aware stance and the power of social media, it means that sometimes we forget that these liberal spaces we live and co-exist in, are a ‘bubble’. It’s a sad truth, and something that Brexit and the general election sorely reminded us of, our opinions, unfortunately, aren’t the consensus of most people roaming the earth.
Gender and sexuality are something that our generation en masse are incredibly aware of, and are constantly enriched by the information and stories that LGBTQIA+ people share on social media. When we find people that are not educated or are ignorant to trans/gender non-conforming narratives, we inform and discuss this with them, ignoring the so-called ‘cancel culture’ that many social justice speakers have adopted. However, something that is forgotten about in this conversation regularly is the discussion around children’s reactions to trans people, and the responsibility that parents have to inform and educate their children at whatever age they feel appropriate.
Walking through the world as a non-binary femme person, I don’t need to go into all the nitty gritty of the transphobia and transmisogyny that exists, and I am subject to, although, some instances do catch me off guard, and that’s mainly the reaction of families and small children to my exterior. My appearance is colourful and extrovert, which I understand can draw attention. However, parents often use my existence and visibility as almost an entertainment tool for their children. And let me assure you, I’m not going to be as distracting and engaging as Peppa Pig on the iPad. It’s a narrative that can appear as harmless or appear as something that doesn’t actually have malicious intentions, but like most people on the streets who stare, admire and gawk at me, it doesn’t matter what the intentions are, they are harmful acts.
The media’s anti-trans narrative has taken new heights in the past few months. With full-page adverts in the Metro discussing Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminist (TERFs) ideology, to public debates on national TV, such as Piers Morgan spouting his usual ‘anti-snowflake’ drivel on Good Morning Britain and recently after the Girl Guides were accused of ‘endangering young women’ by implementing a trans-inclusive policy.
"My appearance is colourful and extrovert, which I understand can draw attention. However, parents often use my existence and visibility as almost an entertainment tool for their children."
We are in a time where the discussion and conversation around trans people is literally making us look like the enemy. Allowing these conversations to continue in the mainstream media has meant that right-wing ideology has crept into the minds of the ‘average white woman’ that can easily be passed down to their families and children. What trans and gender non-conforming people need from parents and carers now, is the ability to understand what’s happening around gender and sexuality in society and educate their children in a way that’s appropriate for them as carers.
The misconception behind this idea of gender and sexuality is that it’s all too X-Rated or inappropriate for children to be told about incredibly basic and incredibly important information that actually benefits their worldview, rather than skewing it. There are plenty of resources out there, such as Stonewall’s Education Champions scheme, or gender-inclusive kids books, that offer education on topics such as gender diversity, sexual orientation and coming out, and initial allyship steps in guess what — a non-intrusive and non-exploitative manner. This will then result in, not only less staring and physical objectification on the streets, but an initial standing of gender exploration and a potential understanding that gender norms and roles are not rigid and restrictive for young children.
What’s also important to remember is not only the fact that it can make young people understand other gender diverse people better, but also allows them to explore things for themselves if they’re questioning their gender identity or sexuality. The LGBTQIA+ sex education system in the UK is incredibly poor, a report by The Terrence Higgins Trust, an LGBTQIA+ sexual health charity, found that 97% of respondents in education said that they thought sex and relationships education should be LGBTQIA+ inclusive.
The inclusion of same-sex couples and trans and non-binary people in no way puts children in danger; it just allows them to explore gender and diversity differently and begin to look at the world in a less restrictive way. The notion that by suddenly teachers and sexual health/gender identity professionals coming into schools is in some way ‘indoctrinating children’ is inherently homophobic and transphobic attitudes disguised as concern.
Something to end on is that if you’re with children in public, and they’re staring, pointing or laughing at trans/non-binary/gender non-conforming person, call them out on it in a friendly and loving manner and just inform them that all people are different, and this person is choosing to present however they want to present, and that their response may be rude or offensive. Maybe even tell them to wave, or smile, or say hello. This narrative of trans people being dangerous or something to be fearful of is seen in the ways that some parents monitor their children when trans or gender non-conforming people are in the same spaces as them. They shield their child’s eyes, or move them away, or in some instances encourage them to laugh and point, and that’s what needs to change.
Embrace us, say hello, and allow seeing us on the streets as a conversation starter to begin to educate and inform your children about the wonderful ways in which gender and sexuality can be explored in society.