When children are very young, they know what their physical sex is. They refer to themselves as boys and/or girls. Recent research shows that four and five year old children know which activities belong to which sex. They have already learned that boys play with trucks and girls play with dolls. They may laugh when asked if a boy is supposed to wear a dress and say, 'no'.
Our society has ingrained differentiating rules for the sexes and children absorb societal expectations, whether parents want them to or not.
The reality is that physically and behaviorally, humans don't always fit nicely into the two categories of boy/girl. Some girls have facial hair and deep voices, some boys have soft voices and swing their hips when they walk. Some boys feel lmore like girls inside and some girls feel like boys inside. We don't fit in the boxes.
As a society we have gone about dealing with gender non-conformers in the following manner: We outcast the individual. We tell them (both explicitly and implicitly) that they have to follow the rules of whichever category their genitals dictate, and if they don't, we won't accept them. If they break the rules in a manner we see as excessive, we won't employ them, we won't house them, we harrass them, and we compare them to criminals. We believe them to be a dangerous threat to the very fabric of our society.
For centuries, our society has prescribed rigid gender assignments based on the physical reproductive organs an individual is born with. Division of gender was set up for specific and economic purposes. Gender divisions were answers to owning property, running households, making profits. Our ancestors were doing what they knew to do at the time. Leslie Feinberg discusses the roots of gender history in the book 'Transgender Warriors':
“We have not always been forced to pass, to go underground, in order to work and live. We have a right to live openly and proudly...when our lives are suppressed, everyone is denied an understanding of the rich diversity of sex and gender expression and experience that exist in human society.”
As a society, we are in the process of rethinking the social paradigm we were brought up with. A shift in our thinking will result in greater individual freedom, diversity, and a more peaceful society. In the new mindset, we can trust individuals to tell us who they are. We, in turn, can reevaluate how we think about our current constructs of gender and sexuality.
What if we allowed ourselves the freedom to think the following:
'Children are called boys and girls depending on which genital set they happen to have. Boys and girls may like to play with dolls and trucks, or one or the other. Similarly, men and women may stay home and raise children and they may go to work to earn money. Men and women may like to play sports or the violin. Some boys feel more like girls inside and some girls feel more like boys inside. What's important is for people to be good to themselves and others, and contribute to society.
When we provide more gender options for our children, the bullying in schools will decrease. The reason children are so rigid about gender is because we are so rigid about gender. If we want to stop the bullying and the suicides of our young people, it is imperative to educate about and respect gender fluidity from the time our children start addressing their own gender.