Now you are making me think....
Ok, let me see if I can clarify.
First of all, I agree with what you say in your post - dresscode is outdated and kids (and adults for that matter) should be able to wear whatever they see fit from a gender point of view.
The reservations I'd have (maybe unreasonably) are as follows.
- [1.] I was bullied mercilessly as a kid for being a nerd and not having much in the way of social skills. Although I think this is something that maybe can be managed at a younger age, I'm not sure that parents will be able to keep a lid on all things bullying as the children get older - and a kid dressing outside of social norms is going to be a prime bullying candidate. Saying that, I do though wonder whether kids will get bullied regardless of what they wear and maybe a 'non-standard' clothing style will be akin to naming their son Sue (to quote a famous tune)
- [2.] Although I think school and work dresscode should be gender neutral, I think that for the foreseeable future there will be no-go areas. This could be incredibly infuriating for someone who has got to the age of, say, 16-18 wearing the clothes of their choice. HASAW aside, I'd imagine that many UK government roles would probably be tolerant of dress, but I'd expect the private sector to be less forgiving. As a sweeping generalisation, maybe white collar jobs would offer more scope than blue collar jobs. I'd imagine that non-conforming dresscode in the US would be problematic full stop in most situations
- [3.] Kids shouldn't be given carte blanche to wear what they like - wearing a Frozen dress might be fine for a birthday or Halloween party, but not for a wedding for example. So if I had a child in this situation their choice of clothing would still have to be appropriate to the event that they were attending
- [4.] Parental / 'expert' interference. The Times of London has covered child 'transitioning' in some depth over recent weeks. It is behind a paywall, so pointless me linking - but one article is entitled "The tangled case of the brothers who became girls aged seven and three". I do wonder whether there are instances when kids are overly encouraged into this sort of situation (in fact, it has been pointed out that our own family member who I mentioned above desperately wanted a daughter, but has been told that she cannot have any more kids on medical grounds). The Times recently interviewed lady of the moment, Phoebe Waller-Bridge, who stated that she was such a tomboy up to her teens that if any sort of gender reassignment had been offered to her she probably would have grabbed it with both hands. [5.] I don't think kids should be making such decisions until they are at least 16. Here is an article in the Mirror (not one of my preferred sources of information, but it gives you an idea of what the Times reported).
Many thanks for your considered and comprehensive reply! You raise several important points:
Bullying at school. Yes, this is potentially a problem for a gender-nonconforming child because they are perceived by their peers as 'different'. But the solution lies almost entirely with the school and its obligation to create a safe environment where bullying is not tolerated at all, and also educating and instilling issues of gender variance acceptance among everyone at a very early age. Some schools will undoubtedly be better at this than others, and also the some countries seem to be more progressive than others. Thankfully, I think we have largely got through the times where children are bullied because of their skin colour. Now acceptance of gender-nonconfomity needs to catch up. Unfortunately we do have pockets of nasty manufactured outrage stirred up by certain sections of society, some of whom justify their actions by their archaic religious dogma. The recent protests against the progressive teaching of LGBT issues in Birmingham primary schools is a case in point.
Dress codes. I think I agree with everything you say here. I was well into my working career as a professional geologist before I was in a situation where dress codes were so relaxed that I could wear what I wanted. In my last few years, working at the British Geological Survey, I was able to wear skirts in an office environment whenever I wanted. There were sometimes the odd raised eyebrow and genuine curious question, but it was never, ever, a problem. Field work was something else of course; you dressed appropriately for the outdoor conditions and locations, and health & safety requirements.
Sensible and sensitive parenting includes setting appropriate boundaries for children in terms of acceptable behaviour and that includes clothing choices. Negotiation and discussion should form part of that; it's how children learn what is and is not acceptable. A gender-nonconforming child with understanding and supportive parents and other family members will probably be able to navigate the rough and tumble of life fairly well. I am slightly puzzled by your reference to the 'Frozen' dress being appropriate for a wedding. When I was a child in the 1950s and 1960s, the marriage of my numerous older cousins were regular family events and it was an opportunity for all the pre-teenage girls to dress in their pretty party clothes which often resembled this Frozen-style dress
. Although I kept my feelings to myself, I was very envious of them and would have worn this in a flash.
As you hint at, we have to be very careful indeed of how gender-nonconformity or transitioning is reported in the media. Without exception the media exists simply to sell copy and make money for the owners. If it can drum up a bit of sensationalism to bring in more revenue, it will do so, whether it be the Times or Guardian, or the populist reprehensible tabloid rags. From personal/family experience, the reality is that there are many safeguards in place to protect children and their parents from making hasty decisions regarding gender transitioning. If anything, it is almost too strict. But mostly you have to trust the child that they really, really do feel genuine gender dysphoric distress and that it's not 'just a phase' or a trendy fashion thing of the moment. I knew I was 'different' from what was expected of me at the age of three.
"I don't think kids should be making such decisions until they are at least 16." That's too late in some cases, especially for male to female transition. Puberty will have kicked in and changes especially to voice (largely irreversible) and body hair will have occurred, causing distress to those youngsters for whom those changes are the last thing they need. The answer is to prescribe puberty blockers at an earlier age to give the child and their parents a breathing space to allow them time to find out what they really want. The medication is safe and temporary in its effects; stopping the blockers allows puberty to restart normally. As adults we have to learn to listen to, and trust, our children's feelings. They are real.