We're Indoctrinating Our Kids To The Cisgender Heteronormative Binary -- And It's Not Okay

by Cassie Brighter
Originally Published: 
A girl in a white dress and a boy in a suit sitting on the grass who are indoctrinated to the cisgen...
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The stance of “you can’t talk about gender with children” is so deeply hypocritical. Adults speak gender to children ALL THE DAMN TIME.

“Trucks are for boys.”

“She’s such a pretty young lady.”

“I bet he’s gonna be a heart breaker!”

“I’ll have a boy toy for my son please.”

“You can’t wear pink, you’re a boy.”

“Let’s find a dress for this young lady.”

“I bought you a pink Cinderella backpack.”

“He’s a handsome young man, isn’t he?”

“We’re having a boy!!!”

“Congratulations, it’s a girl.”

Bitch please.

Related: Why Gender Neutral Clothing Can Be Problematic

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You’ve been indoctrinating gender, gender presentation, gender norms to the child since they were born. You’ve been enforcing binary cisgender identity on this child since they were born.

You’ve never stopped to consider why you (and all the other parents) do this. You do this to steer the child toward cis-normative, hetero-normative behavior.

You’ve been terrified that some TV show, some movie, some toy would make your son gay, would make your daughter a lesbian.

You’ve been terrified your child would grow up to be a sissy (tomboys are more permissible, as long as they grow out of it).

You’ve been pushing an agenda.

It’s been proven that conversion therapy doesn’t work. That means even torture won’t make a gay man straight. You think a doll might make your straight son gay?

Your heterosexual child will remain heterosexual. Your cisgender child will not catch trans cooties. And all the indoctrination, all the cajoling, all the punishing, all the praying and church-going, even the beatings and beltings won’t make your gay son straight, your transgender daughter a boy.

Nothing you do will change the way they were born. What you can do is scare them enough, oppress them enough that they’ll learn to hide who they are. So that they learn to fake their whole identity, create a puppet persona and play a role instead of engaging authentically with life. You can push gender and sexuality expectations so damn hard on the child that you’ll traumatize them for life.

Even the words you use.

The word for heterosexual is “straight.” “Straight” is good.

“Stand up straight.”

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“Let’s get something straight.”

“Don’t lie. Be straight with me.”

The word is used to mean honest, correct, health, normal.

The words for homosexual have not been so kind.

Do you know what the word “faggot” means? Centuries ago, parents routinely disciplined their children by beating them. I don’t mean spanking, I’m talking beatings. This was commonly done with a bundle of sticks tied together ,  which was called a “faggot.” But alas, the child of a nobleman, the child of a royal, can’t be beaten. So it was tradition for the royal, the noble family to take in a ward, a peasant boy who’d grow up in the palace, be the rich boy’s best friend, keep him company. This was a high honor in a peasant family.

This child would be the one to receive the beatings when the rich kid misbehaved. He’d be known as the “faggot boy.”

“Faggot boy” is a male person of low value who endures pain for the sake of a male person of high value.

The implication is that a homosexual is a vassal, a subject, an owned thing. The implication is that being at the receiving sex is painful, and done for the sake of another (misogyny much? sex-negative much?). And of course the assumption is that anal sex is painful, and of course the assumption is that all gay men have anal sex.

Other words used have been:

– Bent

– Queer

– Deviant

– Pervert

Other words for transgender have been:

– Sissy

– Nancy boy

– Mary

– Degenerate

Even with their choice of words adults enforce enforce sexuality and gender expectations.

You talk gender and sexuality to your children all the time. And adults do it around your children. The men tell homophobic, transphobic jokes around the barbecue. The kids hear. The father tells the child “Don’t be such a pussy,” and “What are you, a girl?” and “You throw like a girl,” and “Man up.”

So don’t tell me kids are too young to understand gender. Be honest. What you mean is that you don’t want your children to have any say in the matter. You don’t want your children to consider they have freedom to express gender or sexuality divergence.

You want your children to be “normal.”

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And why? What are you afraid of?

Maybe you’re afraid that they’ll be bullied. You’re afraid that they’ll suffer.

But you’re bullying them yourself! That’s like pushing the china off the table to prevent the accidental drop.

Even worse, you’re afraid they might embarrass you. You’re afraid they’ll bring shame upon your family. That your friends and neighbors consider you a bad parent, a failed parent.

You can push gender and sexuality expectations so damn hard on the child that you’ll traumatize them for life.

Thousands and thousands of teens end up homeless, sleeping on park benches, exposed to sexual predators because parents kick them out into the streets and disown them for being “queer.” No roof over their heads. No access to healthcare or an education. Many of them end up in prison, convicted of a petty crime.

All because parents are too prejudiced, too ignorant, too damn chicken to consider allowing their children to simply BE.

If you told me “my kids are too young to understand gender” and therefore raised them free of gender expectations, with no pink or blue, with gender-neutral clothing, gender-neutral names, I would disagree with your premise, but I would consider it honest, genuine.

But you don’t, do you? You push gender on children all the damn time.

So don’t tell me kids are too young to understand gender or sexuality.

Don’t you fucking dare.


A parent wrote me on Facebook, arguing that, while she understood my point, she believed at some point the child is too young to know, and the parent needs to make decisions for them. Here is my response:

That’s not at all my experience.

I have three children. They manifested their true gender somewhere between three and five.

My first daughter expressed it clearly in drawings, in the way she spoke about herself. In the clothes she chose. In the things she wanted in her room. None of this was directed by parental interference.

My son manifested it by the characters he chose in video games. In the comic book characters he emulated. In the way he spoke about himself.

My second daughter showed it through the movie characters she loved. Through the books she picked for me to read to her. In the songs she liked.

With my two younger kids, my daughter at five, six would ONLY drink from the pink Cinderella cup. My 11-year-old son would refuse to touch that cup, even to pass it to her sister. None of this came from me. In fact, I encouraged them to relax about gender — I told my daughter she could defy gender norms, I told my son he could wear pink if he wanted to. They were definite and adamant in their choices.

Courtesy of Cassie Brighter

My oldest daughter watched The Little Mermaid a thousand times. My son was Buzz Lightyear and Super Mario. My youngest was Merida (Brave), Elsa (Frozen), Moana.

All three of my children are cisgender.

I have spoken with dozens upon dozens of parents of transgender children. I’ve heard their stories. Children as young as four years old talking about suicide because they hate being in the wrong body. (“Mommy, when will God take me to heaven?”) A six-year-old trans boy caught about to leap from a second story window. A four-year-old trans girl caught in her room with scissors, about to cut off her genitals.

Children ask for the cowboy hat or the princess dress. Children ask for a crew cut or long curls. One trans girl refused to start first grade unless she could attend as a girl. A five-year old trans boy chopped off all his hair and begged for a boy cut. The clues are anywhere from subtle to glaringly obvious.

These are real stories, and they happen all the time.

And these are the more extreme manifestations.

Leela Acorn showed her true gender very early. But her parents rejected it. At sixteen, she killed herself. What we as parents look for are gender identity signs which are insistent, persistent, and consistent.

If you open your heart and listen to the child, you know.

If you dare, you can ask any child, “If you had the choice, would you grow up to be a prince or a princess?”

Parents are just too afraid to ask, too afraid to look.

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