Gender Switchers Enforce Older Stereotypes

In some of my recent posts I have explored the strange phenomenon of gender neutrality. For example, see my posts,

Despite this feverish push gender neutrality under the banner of gender equality, the older binary notions still persist very strong, and emerge in some unexpected places. Some VERY unexpected places.

In February 2012, the UK paper The Telegraph reported that a five-year-old boy named Zach is being raised as a girl. After his parents came across Zach pretending to be girl, his parents took him to a controversial doctor who specializes in ‘gender, identity issues.’ Sure enough, little Zach was diagnosed as being a girl trapped in the wrong body. His parents now dress him in pink and approach him (her?) as a girl. Zach’s mother, Theresa, commented: “Experts told us that although he had a male body, his brain was telling him he was girl. He just wants to be like a little girl and he’s very happy with his long blonde hair, pink and red bedroom, and a wardrobe full of girl’s clothes…” Nor is this merely an isolated case. In 2011 the Tavistock Clinic, Britain’s the national body for Gender Identity Disorder, diagnosed 139 children as having the condition, seven under the age of five.

Given the plasticity of children’s brains, it is inescapable that this behavior on the part of the parents will cement in the child’s mind what might otherwise have been simply a passing phase. But what interests me more, however, is what this tells us about gender stereotypes. Notice that as soon as the parents were told “Your five-year-old son is actually a girl trapped in a man’s body”, out came all the old gender stereotypes: long hair, pink bedroom, etc. Why are these older gender typecasts deliberately invoked in cases like that of Zach where they can function to subvert a child’s birth-gender, yet vigorously denied in cases like that of little Sasha Laxton, who lives in a gender-free home? Perhaps it would help if Zach went and spent some time living in the gender free household of Sasha.

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