Does Gender Expression have an Age Requirement?

There have been a few highly visible media stories over the past few months about children younger and younger expressing their genders as other than assigned at birth.  These children have been paraded and talked about on morning “News” programs, magazine programs and syndicated talk shows.  You see little children in pretty dresses, cute shoes and hair done just right.  Almost as if they’re ready to compete in a pageant.

I find it very sexist that it is only children assigned as boys who express as girls that are the ones talked about, never children assigned as girls who express as boys.   I believe that it is the cis-world’s view that anyone who doesn’t want to be male is just plain weird.  It, of course, is quite understandable why girls would want to be boys.  Boys are cooler, right?

If one were to follow these programs online comments and follow-up segments, they always seem to fall into two camps.  The first camp praises the parents for their acceptance and the second vilifies them for giving into the child’s whim.  The later camp would encourage the parents to exert a little more discipline to the child’s expression.

Even though they pay lip service, they never seem to focus on the child.  Growing up non-cis-sexual or non-cis-gendered (take your pick), I can relate to these children, and my heart is with them in their daily struggle.  I will never understand how hard or how easy it would be to just wake up, jump out of bed, grab my Spider-man or Little Mermaid t-shirt and run out the door for school.  I was told what to wear and how to act.

It would seem that the good hearted advisers on the these programs believe that these children are too young to be able to make decision about gender expression and attitude.  I disagree whole heartily.  Every child, teen or adult knows their gender and how to express themselves, and given the opportunity they will gravitate to their comfort zone.  These advisers, both cis and trans, would rather the children who express themselves other than assign at birth to wait until they are old enough to make the correct decision.  I would ask these people advising the parents a couple of questions.  Correct for whom?  Will they ever be old enough?  Does gender expression have an age requirement?

In my mind, gender expression is more than just the clothes we choose to wear.  It is also language usage, body movements, toy selections and playmate compatibility.   The combination of these factors lead to a unique personality and allows others a peek into how we perceive ourselves.  One only has to look at the varied people walking around your local shopping mall to grasp how ingrained gender expression displays their whole person.

Gender expression starts very early in a child’s development and there are many studies and theories that attempt to explain and categorize how we become who we are.  From Freud’s “Anatomy is Destiny,” Sandra Bem’s “Gender Schema Theory” to every religious scripture thumping evangelist, the one thing that I can conclude is that everyone has a gender expression, and we express it very early in life.  The vast majority of us are lucky enough to want to express ourselves that align with our assignment at birth.  Those of us unlucky want to express ourselves in ways that are different to our assignment at birth.  I say unlucky because it will be a long uphill battle to gain the right to our expression.

If you consider yourself a cis-gendered person, please ask yourself and reply to this article, when did you decide to express yourself as a little boy or girl.  At what age did you look into your closet and say, “I’m never going to wear a dress, or I’m never going to wear the Superman underwear.”  I believe you will discover that you have always had a gender expression and that it didn’t have an age requirement.

I do have a problem with the parents of these children exploiting them for gain.  These are evil bad people.  I don’t care how educational they claim to be.  Their actions are wrong.  Let the children be children, and let them do this without the world watching.  It never seems to be the children making a big deal about this, it is the parents trying to show everyone that they are accepting.