This blog has sat on the shelf since June 2017 as I was digesting the sight of an 8-year-old boy who feels that he is a drag queen who should be called, “Lactatia”
Re: a version of the original story: Is this child abuse?
Next – my thoughts as they relate to the bigger picture for why clothing and personna are so important for being able to “pass” safely in society based on being who you are by how you choose to represent yourself. While I’m all for the parent’s being supportive of a child’s stated choices, I also feel that someone 8 years old would not be this well-versed in drag queen mannerisms / his own exhibitionism if it weren’t for early conditioning by his parents.
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Society tells little boys and little girls EXACTLY what it expects from them in terms of gender identity and social personality modeling from the minute they are born. We cheer little girls in Mom’s heels and experimenting with makeup, and we enjoy letting little boys “shave” with Daddy, among some of the most basic intimacy exchanges and shared experiences between parent and child.
The rituals and choices the parents and immediate social settings make regarding a child’s gender displays are a community issue and modeled to children from the moment they are born, with the cut, colors and choices of clothing reinforcing their Society’s expectations of ones gender role, and how the parents dress the child also indicating support or disenchantment with that stereotype. Whether ones parent(s) is “pro” the larger society preferences, or “anti” the gender-assigned role that Society demands in the form of dress also dictate much of what Aunts, Uncles, Grandparents and extended family gift to the child to welcome it into the world.
Kids are going to be who they are, regardless of their age and social conditioning. As members of various social, economic, race and religious communities, plus the added nuances of their regional differences world wide when comparing the same categories over time and space. We, “the village”, are going to do our best to use a child’s biological gender to teach them about Society’s expectations of their role in life as a way to keep them safe.
Whether we are hostile or receptive to a parent’s and/or a child’s choices colors a child’s experiences in everything they think or do while their characters and ethics are being molded into the adult versions of what “Society” (their family, culture, economic and social status) will tolerate with the least amount of pushback or challenge to the intelligence behind the physical gender.
Gender identity is both a physical fact (we seek instant identity as a boy or girl / man or woman for determining a person or crowd’s potential threat level as an atavistic, reptilian response in the back of the brain) as well as a social form of currency.
If others can quickly stereotype who a person is, it determines THEIR OWN hostility or threat response for flight or fight reactions in any social situation based on the assessor’s own need for physical safety.
While this is a tough concept for many people to accept, that we care because of our history in terms of caveman mentality and tribal warfare, the reality is that it’s impossible to separate our expectations of others based on their gender cues. It takes hard work at “deconditioning” ourselves in order to see the person vs. the socially trained potential threat.
Once we understand that we’re not going to want to be able to continue the species with every person we meet, on a 1:1 level for being physically / biologically able to accomplish that goal, and stop expecting that species survival initiative to be our first subconscious priority to “resolve” when meeting others, we can then move on to determining what we choose to prioritize as individuals establishing our own rituals and Social mores.
Once a peaceful Society is able to intellectually accept that war / tribal warfare risk in a peaceful society that considers itself “civilized” means that it should work hard to ensure it’s 2nd subconscious expectation of an immediate answer to protect ourselves when meeting others causes lots of unnecessary violence in the world, we can then step back and realize that every facet of our lives is a mental construct for the social and cultural safety of ourselves and others.
This kid and his or her supportive parents harm no one in how this child is being raised as we, generally, don’t live in a war-like society in the USA.
NOTE: If we were in a tribal warfare area (say, Afghanistan) where gender identity is critical for determining to continuation of the species, we’d dress much differently than we do in the USA. Women are in burkhas or other movement-hampering garments (for easier to capture by men), and such so called visually “protective” garments, are immediately singled out by threat assessment cues in their clothing as less likely to fight, so that the men can be the focus of the majority of the genocidal warfare attacks.
When one adds in their relative economic status for determining racial or cultural “freedom” for stepping outside the social “norms” or mainstream for expectations based on gender, it also makes a huge difference in whether or not that child is seen as prey (girls) or defenders / aggressors (boys) if one lives in a generally more tolerant, non-warfare environment.