Boys will be boys good humans. Girls rule. Daddy’s little feminist. While these seemingly positive messages are frequently displayed on kids’ t-shirts, I often doubt how progressive they truly are. We can raise our boys to respect women, ask for consent, and speak up for equal rights. We can teach our girls that being smart is something to be proud of and that their bodies are not shameful or for anyone’s consumption. Parents can, and should, raise their kids without gender bias while preaching the importance of equity between genders.
But gender equality often comes with an asterisk. Your little feminist may be homophobic or transphobic, if you don’t include all genders and sexualities during your lectures on women’s lib.
A study published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine showed that teenage boys who are taught more progressive views on gender equality are less violent toward women. Their likelihood of harassing or abusing women went down by half, specifically with the women they were dating, when they had attitudes that expressed equitable gender beliefs. Also, the less violence they saw in general reduced their risk to be violent toward other boys and men as well. The study found an exception, though: “Gender equitable attitudes were not associated with nonpartner sexual violence and homophobic teasing.”
Elizabeth Miller from the University of Pittsburg, who was the lead author of the study said, “You would anticipate that the more progressive your beliefs, the less likely you would be to engage in homophobic teasing. We did not find that.”
I am not at all surprised. Homophobia and transphobia is so rooted in our culture, media, and is seen as a form of entertainment. Queer characters are often the brunt of the joke and the gay tropes used in movies and sitcoms have become completely predictable and play too much into laughable or sad stereotypes. Queer representation is often not an accurate one. This feeds into the idea that homophobic bullying and the claim of “gay/trans panic” as a defense or justification for assaulting a queer person is socially acceptable. One of the study researchers, Alison Culyba, said teens may see homophobic behavior as a “pro-social interaction with their peers.”
Is daddy’s little feminist being taught to love, accept, and stand up for gay and transgender people? Can boys be boys queer? Do girls still rule if they are transgender?
There have been rumors for years about J.K. Rowling’s discriminatory views against transgender folks, specifically transgender women. I, like so many other fans of hers and lover of all things Hogwarts, had hoped they were just that—misinterpreted and misinformed statements that fueled accusations that Rowling is transphobic. But then a tweet (among many that have been scrutinized for years) revealed her alliance to another bigoted woman.
Rowling tweeted, “Dress however you please. Call yourself whatever you like. Sleep with any consenting adult who’ll have you. Live your best life in peace and security. But force women out of their jobs for stating that sex is real? #IStandWithMaya #ThisIsNotADrill.” In her support of a woman who was fired for stating biological sex is unchangeable and binary, Rowling made it clear she was not an ally to the queer community, but a TERF.
A TERF is a trans exclusionary radical feminist and, yes, an oxymoron. One has no right to call themself a feminist and supporter of gender equality, women’s rights, and women’s safety if they don’t include all women. Transgender women are women, and anyone who doesn’t think so is wrong, and also a narrow-minded and disappointing human being. Sex does not determine gender. Sex is changeable and many people know that biological sex is a spectrum; sex is not binary.
People, Rowling included, often forget the transgender, nonbinary, and intersex folks when they pledge their allegiance to the Pride flag. It doesn’t do much good for Rowling to accept same-sex love and marriage if she doesn’t recognize that sex doesn’t determine the gender of the person who is falling in love. That’s not how allyship works. It’s not how feminism works.
It’s hard to look at people we love or admire through a skeptical lens. It’s hard to admit that the people we follow and trust have qualities that make them unacceptable to the values we hold. These people become unsafe to us and a liability to the respect we deserve.
A parent is not open-minded and progressive if they are not including positive talk about gender nonconforming, gay, and trans people into the conversation.
Politicians are not for all the people if they support laws or people who vote against LGBTQIA+ folks.
Christianity, or any religious group, is not a good one if it openly turns away LGBTQIA+ people. And the message “love the sinner, hate the sin” as a way of showing acceptance of the LGBTQIA+ community is just as bad. It’s not a sin to be queer and no religion has any sway in my judgement from a higher power, if there is one. Religion talks out of the side of its mouth. Be kind to all, except the queers.
And stop praising the God-fearing, Jesus-loving dads who teach their sons to treat women with equality but who disown them for being gay. Raising strong girls and women under the eye of God means raising strong women who may love another woman or who may realize they never were the girl they were assigned at birth. Jesus and queer acceptance does not need to be mutually exclusive.
Feminism, equality, religion, kindness is all bullshit if the roots of each neglect and diminish trans and queer folks.
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