At the blog Together for Jackson County Kids, one elementary school teacher wrote a beautiful story about teaching young children about gender. “Ms. Melissa” had a student who was gender variant, and in thinking about how to make that student more comfortable in her classroom, she realized that all her students needed to be taught about gender.
I taped up two large pieces of paper and wrote “Boys” on one and “Girls” on the other. “Students,” I said, “what are some toys that are for boys?” Eagerly, the students began to shout out their answers: “Legos!” “Hot Wheels!” “Skateboards!” “Bikes!” The list grew quite long. “OK,” I said, “now tell me some toys that are for girls.” “Baby dolls!” “Nail polish!” “Barbies!” “Makeup!”When we had two extensive lists, I read both lists out loud to the class and then studied them carefully.
“Hmm,” I said. “Here it says that Legos are for boys. Can girls play with Legos?”
“Yes!” most of them replied without hesitation.
“I wonder if any of the girls in our class like to play with Hot Wheels?”
“I do! I do!” blurted out some of the girls. We continued with the rest of the items on our “Boys” list, making a check mark next to each one as it was declared acceptable for girls.
Then we went on to the “Girls” list. We started with baby dolls. Because we had just read and discussed William’s Doll, the children were OK with boys playing with dolls. “It’s great practice for boys who want to be daddies when they grow up,” I mentioned.
But when we got to nail polish and makeup the children were unsure. “There are some very famous rock ’n’ roll bands,” I said, “and the men in those bands wear a lot of makeup.” Some of the children gasped.
It’s touching, and funny, and full of great ideas for those of us who think about the best way to explain how gender works to people who have never given it a second thought. Read the whole thing here.