As a parent, I have to say that while I’m extremely tolerant and understanding of the overall concept, I think insisting on raising a child gender neutral without giving that child a choice is a bit over the top. There, I’ve said it. Now I apologise if I’ve upset any of my lovely readers who may, (like UK parents Jake England-Johns and Hobbit Humphrey), have decided to keep their kids’ genders a secret in order to protect them from “the gender bias that society places on children”.
Look, I salute these parents, and fully respect their right to raise their children in this way, but…have they taken society’s gender bias issues a bit too far? I only ask because I’m personally at odds with the whole coercive parenting trend, and I do wonder if this couple and those of their ilk are simply buying into some fashionable fad. If this is the case, isn’t it possible that this brand of parenting may create a heap of awkward predicaments and confusion for their child(ren) down the line?
To be honest, when my girls were small, I suppose I took a pragmatic approach to parenting by eliminating the stereotypical gender-specific items. That’s to say, when it came to toys, I was just as happy buying them so-called male-associated train sets or trucks and dressing them in blue dungarees and shirts, as I was buying them Barbie dolls and prams and slipping them into pink princess dresses. Like most parents, I encouraged my girls to play football and enrolled them in the local GAA team just as quickly as I enrolled them in ballet and drama classes. And, had I given birth to two boys, I’d have done the same with them. Yes, if any son of mine wanted to play with a doll I’d have bought him one – and God help anyone who sneered or made a negative comment.
However, unlike the England-Johns-Humphrey family, I would never have denied my kids the right to know or to embrace their specific genders, because to my way of thinking, a person’s gender is defined by the assignment of their sex organs. It is the state of being either a male or a female.
But I also understand and fully accept that for many, gender is not a case of simple biology. Therefore, thankfully, due to changes in society’s shifts and mindsets, those who have been living in turmoil and are at odds with their gender and who wish to choose it for themselves can now do so without fear of isolation or exclusion.
In fact, if my granddaughter came to me tomorrow and said I want to identify as gender neutral nana, I’d be delighted for her. I’d hug her, tell her how much I adore and love her and congratulate her on making her decision. I’d encourage and support her to explore her choices without fear of restrictions. And you know why, readers? Because it would be her decision, not her mother’s, and not anybody else’s…hers and hers alone. She’s 12 years’ old, she’s well into puberty, and because we’re an all-inclusive, compassionate family, she knows the full facts of life, (not the ‘babies are a gift from the stork’ Disney version). And I’d feel that we, as her supportive family, had done a good job of raising an independent child who can and who does, (because she’s allowed to), make her own choices.
I’m enormously respectful and I fully embrace gender neutrality, and gender non-conforming. I see it as a person’s right to choose. What I don’t embrace, and what I will never support, is a parent(s) who believes it’s their right to coercively raise a child as if he/she were some form of experimental clone used to stick their own two fingers up to society. No parent, and I don’t care how fashionable they think they are, has a right to refer to their child, (who is a human being), by the pronouns ‘they’, ‘them’, or in some instances as an ‘it’, as is now trendy.
In fact, I found it very difficult to roll my eyes back into the forward position and keep my big mouth shut when I overheard a woman in my daughter’s salon say she was expecting a ‘theybie’. Yes, apparently that’s a label some supercool parents are placing on their unborn/new-born, clearly forgetting that there’s an innocent little individual human at the centre of their pregnancy…a beautiful individual whose mental wellbeing, and whose physical and emotional needs must, whether they decide to identify as male, female or as gender neutral, be treated as a priority and not as some chic novelty fad.
On yer bike…and support Western Alzheimer’s Roscommon!
When a family member is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s or dementia, their condition can have a major impact not just on the patient themselves but on their entire family, causing emotional and financial stress, as well as care issues, to name but a few. Indeed, as a dementia diagnosis can be both devastating and heartbreaking, having someone who can provide our families with sensitive and social support as well as being able to offer assistance regarding the range of services available within our communities is vital.
With that in mind readers, I’d like to ask any bikers among you if you’d be so kind as to support a local Motorcycle Run taking place on behalf on the Western Alzheimer’s Society’s Roscommon voluntary committee organised by the lovely, caring Roscommon bikers. Now, despite the fact I’m considered a woman who never misses an opportunity to get her leg over, (my bike…calm down), I’m annoyed that on this occasion, due to being incapacitated in a surgical boot, I’m unable to take part!
However, for those of you who are available, the charity run leaves Hannon’s Hotel on the Athlone Road this Sunday (29th) at 11 am sharp. Registration starts at 10 am; it’ll be €20 per bike, and your route will take you through the lovely counties of Roscommon, Mayo, Galway and back home to Roscommon.
All funds raised are in aid of the wonderful angels who are part of the Western Alzheimer’s Roscommon Voluntary Committee, with organisers assuring me that “everyone will be fed!”