Do infants need teaching about gender issues? - Argus Friday 18th March 2016

Posted Monday 21st March 2016   By Ericka Waller

A school in Sussex is planning a transgender awareness day, for children as young as four. Some parents are so disgusted they are refusing to let their kids attend the event. Headteacher, Emma Maltby has defended her diverse decision, saying "It is important to raise gender issues.. which will help children to become responsible independent people able to respect others. I was not told that I might be androgynous, pangender, agender, thirdgender or bigender when I was four, and I still somehow came out independent and respectful, of those who deserve it of course. Some of these terms have been created for women who wear trousers and men who wear earrings. My daughter struggles to differentiate between needing a wee or a poo, lord knows how she would interpret the above.

What is pangender anyway? Boys who never wanted to grow up? And 'bigender' can easily be read out loud wrong (especially by a four year old).

Don’t get me wrong. I was fascinated by the article about a couple who chose to raise their child gender-neutral, to avoid stereotyping. The Mother, Bex Laxton was inspired to do so having been raised by a 'sporty' mum and an 'emotional' dad, who cried watching the Wizard of Oz. He must have seen Dorothy as a real friend.

Anyway, Beck decided to bring up her child, referred to as ‘The Infant’, with gender neutral toys in a TV-free home, and dressed her/him in alternating boy/girl outfits.

‘The Infant’s’ gender had to be revealed when ‘The Infant’ started primary school. Sasha, a boy, wears ruched girl's blouses to school with combat trousers, and he likes to play with Lego and dolls. Gasp!

Sounds a lot like any boy who was passed hand-me-downs from an older sibling. Based on this shocking revelation, my mother was a revolutionary, she made me wear my brothers pants to ballet and gave me a easily convertible name, nicknaming me ‘Eric’ from a young age, so I'd answer to both. In fact, I even answer to my brother’s pet name, Derrick.

Dr Daragh McDermott, Psychologist said "The effect of raising a gender neutral child is not yet known."

The effect of exposing children as young as four to such unnecessary confusion is also not yet known.

My daughters all have vivid imaginations. The tree outside their window is often mistaken for a 'big monster with prickle-hands'. Our headteacher dressed very convincingly as Miss Trunchball on World Book Day a couple of years back. Some children found it hilarious; my eldest was so perturbed she cried. Now when she sees him, she still asks which one it is.

I loved David Walliams book, The Boy in The Dress. A story, about a boy, who liked to wear girl's clothes. It did not focus on gender labelling, or sexuality. It merely touched on the idea that we are not all cut from the same cloth, and that we should be able to wear whatever cloth we want. Perhaps showing the BBC adaption of the book in school would be enough at this stage. David Walliams plays the best camp football referee ever, well worth a watch.

As a mother of three daughters I am all for gender neutral child-rearing. Not to such an extent I refer to them as ‘Infants’ and refuse to tell anyone whether they have a winkle or a woo-woo, but enough that they do ballet and Karate, crafts and boulder climbing. They also play with dolls and Lego.

And finally,
 
SO the latest budget has been announced. The headline news is that there will be a tax on fizzy drinks, or ‘wobbly juice’ as we refer to it in our house.

Ridiculously, this tax only applies to sugar, not aspartame, which is linked to as many health conditions as it’s maligned non-artificial big brother. Seems we will all be reaching for the diet drinks now.

I suppose the Government think this pathetic attempt at curing obesity will negate the damage that slashing the school sports budgets will cause.
 
I don’t think adding 10p onto a can of Coke quite makes up for not providing essential access and facilities for children. School fields are being sold for housing. How on earth can this be happening? My best memories of school involve play-times, sports-days and fetes. Now children will be penned into playgrounds like sheep.

There was so much optimism around sports during and after the 2012 Olympics. We were so proud, so inspired, and now, after all the millions squandered on the event and venue, look at what we have left.

I guess the gold post-boxes will have to be sponsored by a sports drink to remain.

Shadow home secretary Andy Burnham warned these cuts would be “the final nail hammered into the coffin of the legacy of London 2012”.
 
I can’t help but agree with him.

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