How does gender stereotyping really affect children?

 

Authors Ros Ball and James Millar co-run the popular Twitter account @GenderDiary, which they set up in 2011 to record all the ways their young son and daughter were treated differently by friends, family and even strangers in the street. Adapted from the account, their new book, The Gender Agenda, explores how this inherent gendering can affect the formation of children’s identities and provides gender non-specific resources for parents keen to challenge the stereotypical status quo. We caught up with Ros and James for a chat, ahead of the book’s release. 

We wouldn’t have The Gender Agenda without the @GenderDiary Twitter account, which chronicles the everyday examples of gendering that you encountered while raising your young son and daughter. What was it that triggered you to set up the @GenderDiary account in the first place?

When our son was born, nearly three years after we had a daughter we picked up that they were being treated differently in little ways. Not just the obvious pink cards and blue cards but the presents we received for them when they were born – our daughter was given a little fluffy white bear in a pink hat, our son received a green dinosaur baring its teeth. The subliminal message from the off was that aggression is for boys.

We were both paid up feminists long before we even met, hence James was reading Living Dolls by Natascha Walter, which was the big feminist book at the time, and that was the trigger for the project in that it mentioned ‘There’s a Good Girl’ – a 1981 book by German lawyer Marianne Grabrucker. James tracked down a copy on eBay and gave it to Ros for Christmas (probably the best present he’s ever given her in nearly 20 years.) Ros read ‘There’s a Good Girl’ and was totally overwhelmed by a feeling of “YES. This is how I feel. This explains so much of my ANGER.” It then seemed a really natural outlet to start writing it down, and since we were both fairly avid fans of Twitter already that seemed the obvious place to put it as you could share your thoughts, experiences and feelings fairly instantaneously and, as we were to discover, get feedback too.

Continue reading

“I stopped to buy chewing gum and I was getting called ‘sir’ when I opened my mouth”

“When I was 35, when I went full time and was working in my office as a woman, I was acutely aware of the maleness in my voice. That’s when I thought ‘I need to do
something about it.'” – Natasha

Authors Matthew Mills and Gillie Stoneham are leading speech and language therapists. They work with trans and non-binary people who are keen to find and develop a voice that feels more authentic and true to their identity. ‘The Voice Book for Trans and Non-Binary People’ is a comprehensive guide to vocal change and communication that can be used by speech therapists and by trans and non-binary people.  Each chapter features narratives of individuals transitioning, giving an account of their experience transferring voice and communication skills from the clinic to the real world. In this extract, we hear from Natasha, as she describes her journey to find her true voice.

Read Natasha’s story of migration and identity here.

For more information and to buy this book, click here. Want more exclusive content from our books and authors? Why not follow @JKPGenderDiversity or join our mailing list here.

Read an exclusive extract from “Straight Expectations: The Story of a Family in Transition”

 

Read an exclusive extract from Straight Expectations

Chapter 13: The Transition (2004—2006)

“I did my own research to get clear about what we were dealing with. I wanted to understand the process of transitioning. I realized we needed professional help. There weren’t a lot of resources at that time. The only one who seemed perfectly clear was Julia herself. She was completely confident. She knew who she was now and insisted we had to figure out what to do so she could be the person she knew she was inside. It wasn’t about sexual preference. She was transgender and wanted her brain to be congruent with her body.”

Click here to read the full extract

 

Ever since they were young, Peggy Cryden noticed her children’s gender expression did not correspond with society’s expectations of their biological gender. In this moving and honest memoir, Peggy details the experiences and challenges of raising both a gay son and a gay, transgender son and shares her family’s journey of adversity and growth, which has helped inform her work as a psychotherapist.

Beginning with her own unconventional upbringing and personal relationships, the second half of the book follows her children from birth to adulthood and through their numerous experiences including coming out, depression, hate crime, relationships, school and various aspects to do with transitioning (legal, physical, medical, social) as well as their appearances in the media as a family. This book is insightful, charming and thought-provoking, and through levity and humor, offers a positive approach to parenting outside of convention.

 

To learn more about Straight Expectations or to purchase a copy, click here. You can also view the full range of JKP’s gender diversity books here, join our mailing list, or follow us on Facebook.

A Message To My 10 Year Old Self – from Fox Fisher

Fox Fisher is an illustrator, non-binary Trans campaigner, co-founder of Trans Pride Brighton and runs the My Genderation film project. He is the co-author of children’s book, Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl. 

Click here to watch Fox’s message to his younger self.

Fox Fisher

Trans Day of Visibility is an important day to raise awareness that not all trans people have the opportunity to be out and proud about who they are. Trans people still have to hide away parts of their identity out of fear, because of stigma and because discrimination. This day serves as a reminder that everyone should be able to be themselves, regardless of gender identity. We cannot truly live in an equal and just society if certain people have to hide away parts of themselves and do not have the freedom to be who they are. 

When I was growing up there was no visibility of trans people and I had no one to look up. I didn’t know of anyone who was trans and I think that if representation and visibility had been at the same point it is now, I would have come out much sooner and saved myself from years of self-hate and depression. Thankfully, today things have taken a huge shift and trans people are able to come out sooner and live as their true selves. 

This is why I felt it so important to co-create a children’s book where we never find out if the central character, Tiny, is a girl or a boy, because it shouldn’t matter and everyone should be treated with respect regardless of their gender.

Fox’s new book, Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl, is out in May. Click here to find out more.

Follow Fox on Twitter and YouTube.

How to Find Your Authentic Voice – Top Tips from Leading Speech & Language Therapists

Speech and Language Therapists Matthew Mills and Gillie Stoneham work at the Charing Cross Gender Identity Clinic in London. They help transgender and non-binary clients to find and maintain their authentic voice. Here, they share some useful tips on how to develop the voice that feels true to you. 

Your voice is a totally unique and personal expression of your whole self. It enables you to express your thoughts, feelings and ideas, to form meaningful relationships and tell your story. We cannot hide our voice and when we speak it reveals something about our age, gender, emotional state, culture, education. It is a very human experience to feel vulnerable when we speak, especially in front of a group or where we feel the stakes are high. Whilst the unique quality of your voice is partly determined by your body, voice is something which we do. It is an activity that can be crafted and developed. With exploration and practice, you can find and sustain the voice which fits with you. Everyone will have different and highly individual goals.

Continue reading

“I don’t feel bad about who I am anymore” – Wenn Lawson reflects on the positive experiences of his transition

Wendy, pre-transition

I began my transition of physically moving from my cis-gender (assigned female at birth) to the man I am now seen to be, only 4 years ago. Although it has taken a very long time to recognize my gender dysphoria (I was 61 when the penny dropped) inside my very being I thought and felt very male ever since I can remember. I’m saying ‘male’ because it seemed to be the very opposite of female! I know gender is a spectrum of varying experience, and being female can vary from being ‘very girly’ along a line to being ‘Tom boy,’ but still happy to be female. I lived as a ‘Tom boy’ all of my life, but it wasn’t enough. Since knowing my true gender is male and letting go of all the physical female parts of me, I have never felt so much at home. I didn’t know I wasn’t home until I got here. Why did it take so long? Perhaps because of my autism which causes delays for me in building connections.

Being and feeling connected to my male self is now a reality. Some trans individuals decide they don’t need to change their body in order to feel complete in their trans identity. For me though, my dysphoria meant I couldn’t look in a mirror or allow my wife access to parts of myself during times of affection. My female body was alien and didn’t belong to me. Now, the alien has gone and I’m complete again. Living with such a dis-jointed self was literally tearing me apart. Now, those torn and wounded places that were so foreign are in harmony again and I look in the mirror and see the full reflection of all that I am.

The journey has (still is) been long, painful, exhausting and costly. But, the view from the top of this mountain has meant all the effort is worthwhile. If you asked me would I do this again, of course I won’t have to, but, my answer would be ‘yes.’ I cannot emphasize enough the joy of feeling so connected! All my senses and even my cognitive processing is more in line and less fragmented than before. I make decisions with less fear, doubt and indecisiveness. I have autonomy in ways I never thought possible. My autism hasn’t changed and I still have lots of sensory issues that I need to attend to and cater for, but, I don’t feel bad about who I am anymore.

Wenn

To read more about Wenn’s experience of transition, follow this link to his new book, Transitioning Together.

“There’s no going back now!” CJ Atkinson on what Trans Day of Visibility means to them

We asked author CJ Atkinson what Trans Day of Visibility means to them personally. 

International Trans Day of Visibility was founded in 2009 as a reaction to the lack of LGBT holidays celebrating transgender people’s successes, and is dedicated to celebrating the accomplishments and victories of transgender and gender non-conforming people, and raising awareness of the essential work that is needed not just to save trans lives, but to make the world a little bit more accommodating.

Trans Day of Visibility 2015 was a tipping point – an explosion of trans people taking to Twitter, Tumblr, Instagram and Facebook to show their beautiful, hopeful faces, intending to demonstrate one important thing: trans people exist. For me, TDoV 2015 was a personal victory: it was one of my first public “there’s no going back now!” coming out moments as, with strep throat and feeling rough as anything, I posted a selfie and whispered ‘here I am’ into the void.

Continue reading

What happens when your female partner of 20 years transitions to become male?

‘Transitioning Together’ is the story of Wenn and Beatrice Lawson, an eye-opening account of a couple’s experience of gender transition. After 20 years together, Wenn decided to transition from female to male. This book explores the emotional, psychological and physical challenges that come with transition, told from both Wenn and Beatrice’s perspectives. We asked Wenn a few questions about the couples’ journey.

 Why did you decide to tell your story from both perspectives?

We decided to tell our story from both perspectives because we are a couple and whatever happens for one of us has repercussions for both of us. Also, as we began our journey it would have been great to chat with other couples to get some insights into what to expect. But, we couldn’t find any other couples who were available to share with in person. The only ones we found were over the internet and not accessible to chat to in person. Although we each had a counsellor to share with, a person who most definitely was committed to our best, they were not experienced either. We and they are learning on the job!

You and Beatrice were together for many years before you decided to transition. How do you think this influenced both of your experiences of transitioning?

In many ways it’s much harder on Beatrice because she loved a woman and was never primed for me to be male. Her love and commitment to me has won out over the gender barrier but she grieves for her loss each day. It’s only been 4 years since the decision on that day, but, to her it feels like an eternity. I get what and who I’m designed to be, she loses what she always had. I know she had a man (inside that’s who I’ve always been) but neither of us knew that then. She was used to the rounder, softer contours of my body. These have been replaced with a squarer form and one that is hairier, bonier and has a much lower voice. So, although the male me is growing on Beatrice, she still looks for the smile she knew, or the tilt of my head, symbolic of the old me she knew, and for other things that let her know I’m still me. Whereas I look for the evidence that the old form is gone and I rejoice in the release of the person I really am.

What has been the biggest challenge for you during your transition?

For me the biggest challenge has been defending the man I’m becoming to my wife who has lost the woman she once had. At times it seemed that the ‘male’ me was being blamed for everything. I didn’t want to be defending myself all the time but learning to separate out ‘relational’ issues from ‘the gender’ ones has been quite a challenge.

And for Beatrice?

The biggest challenge for Beatrice has been seeing the Wenn she loves while not being side tracked by the male image Wenn is projected through. Beatrice’s experiences of the males in her life were not positive and this coloured her perceptions. The more Wenn grew in confidence and seemed to need Beatrice less, the more Beatrice felt unimportant and this was an echo of her past. Learning to trust in Wenn’s love is the biggest challenge.

In the book you describe the turmoil you felt as a Christian who had fallen in love with another woman, and the reaction of the Church and Church members to your relationship with Beatrice. Did your relationship with your faith change when you refused to deny your feelings for Beatrice?

I can honestly say that my faith hasn’t changed. My Heavenly Father is the same and I know He loves and accepts me, just the way I am. What has changed is I can no longer share and rejoice with the community of others that I was once part of. The church family were everything to me. That has gone now and I miss them.

Both you and Beatrice are on the autism spectrum. Do you think your autism has affected how you’ve responded to the challenges that come with transitioning?

Oh most definitely. I have a number of sensory issues that I live with. Some of these have increased. For example, if you sit to pee the urine smell probably isn’t overwhelming. But, when you stand to pee the urine smell gets right up your nose. I very much enjoy standing to pee but I dislike the way it smells. It’s a similar story with body odour. Mine became stronger as a male, but, it seems to have calmed down now. I coped well with the changes to my physical body and can look in the mirror now… I avoided this before. My whole body is now available to Beatrice whereas there were parts that were out of bounds before. We also think that being autistic has helped us in other ways because we tend to be literal, black & white in our thinking. That was then, this is now, kind of stuff. Our loyalty to one another probably has its roots in autism too.

Was there an ‘aha!’ moment when you realised that you were transgender? Or is it something you have always been aware of?

For me there definitely was an ‘aha’ moment when the light went on. I really was surprised and shocked when this happened. I did not know I was transgender before…. I knew I always liked ‘boys’ stuff growing up and was much more at home in the male world, so to speak. My mates were male more than female and I didn’t think or act like females do. However, I’m very maternal and loved being Mum to my kids. Joining the dots has probably been delayed due to our autism, but, once that light went on, there was no turning back.

You have three grown-up children, and grandchildren too. How did they react when you told them about transitioning?

My children were not at all surprised and, even though I’m sure it’s tough on them, they are with me 100%. My kids are very accepting of difference, despite their own autism, and we just get on with the job of being a family. It’s the same with the grand-kids. They love us for who we are… not Nanna anymore but Grandpa Wenn.

Transitioning Together is out now – click here for more information.

Why not join our gender diversity mailing list for more exclusive content from authors and information on upcoming books? You can unsubscribe at any time. Click here to sign up. 

Follow us on Facebook @JKPGenderDiversity.

Join our Gender Diversity mailing list

JKP’s pioneering gender diversity list publishes practical resources and personal stories that encourage greater understanding of gender identity and gender expression. From informative guides for professionals and parents, to children’s storybooks and texts for the general reader, the publications provide inspiration and support to a range of readers and promote wider discussion about the diversity and complexity of gender and identity.

Sign up to our mailing list to receive information on our forthcoming titles. You may unsubscribe from our mailing list at any time.













Can I Tell You About…LGBT History Month?

LGBT

CJ Atkinson, author of ‘Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity?’, shares their thoughts on a series of important topics in the trans world. February is this year’s LGBT History Month, so we asked CJ why they thought we should take note of this annual observance. 

February is LGBT history month, and for everybody who’s ever asked “What’s the point of history months?”, I’d like to indulge you in a story that might explain a little bit about what we call erasure, and a little bit more about why talking about these things is so important.

There’s this photo from the 1930s of a Nazi burning books, and it’s a photograph that I remember from my school history days. It’s so famous, in fact, that on the Wikipedia Page it’s there on the top right hand side, a Nazi watching a pile of books go up in flames. Every once in a while it appears, and it’s a familiar and horrible image that is indelibly scorched into my memory. Given the current political climate, and the conversations about Nazism that have been taking place in the world, this powerful image has occurred to me more than once. A symbol of fear, and of what fear can do to conversation. That’s the thing about a legacy – whether you lived it or not there are things that you carry with you in a sort of cultural memory.

Imagine my surprise to then learn, about a week ago, that these weren’t university books, or a general library of books being burned. Rather, they were very specific, carefully and triumphantly selected books whose loss can still be felt in the transgender community today. The books burned were from Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, the first gender clinic, opened in 1919 by Magnus Hirschfeld, a Jewish-German doctor who was an outspoken advocate for gay and transgender rights. When the Nazis seized power, this was one of the first places they ransacked – burning the books but making sure to take the list of patients, something I learned from my friend, the critic and publisher Cheryl Morgan, who then said something that I still can’t shake: Our history is always being hidden. Realising this, the careful details that have been scrubbed out of history is a startling reminder that the history we think we know isn’t necessarily the same as what happened.

Whether intentional or not, the subtext to asking why we need history months is as oppressive as the reason that we need them in the first place: it suggests that there are some people who are somehow outside of history, who only live in the present; humans who are so strange, so unusual that we cannot be found in any books, or stories. It suggests that silence – the silence that has been legislated throughout our past, which has turned our bodies into politics and made our freedoms a question of ‘debate’ – is somehow better for everybody else, and that in itself becomes some kind of truth. The act of saying something – or saying nothing – enough times makes it so.

The need for history has always been important – we use it to map out where we’re going, as much as to document where it is that we’ve been. This is what history should be: a patchwork quilt of bodies and experiences, all of which have been given the chance to be commemorated in a way that honours all of their parts. Millions of beautiful people on this earth who have lived their lives in some way considered to be ‘other than’. People who lived incredibly accomplished, difficult, brave lives; who were artists, and scientists, and heroes, and advocates, and geniuses, and were also lesbian or gay or bisexual, or transgender.

And it’s that which is the beating heart of LGBT History Month – the chance to acknowledge and pay respects to the people who lived, and breathed, and fought, and to challenge the history that would see them made invisible. And to allies who are wondering how to mark this, have these conversations. Talk about the fact that people have been people for as long as they’ve roamed this earth. Instead of looking to debate the existence of, or to ‘play devil’s advocate’ or ‘refuse to be politically correct’, ask yourself this: why is it easier to challenge the idea that types of people ever existed on earth, rather than that you may have been taught an abridged history? Then go forth, and find the answers for yourselves. They’re out there, just peeking round the corners, hidden but still very real.

CJ tweets at @Cjandmiles.

To read other blog posts from CJ, please follow this link.

For more information on Can I Tell You About Gender Diversity? or to buy a copy of the book, please follow this link.