As the attack on transgender rights and gender-affirming healthcare grows in our country, I am feeling a particular sense of huntedness. When Ron DeSantis, author and promulgator of the “Don’t Say Gay” bill says that “schools are for education, not indoctrination,” I can’t think of a statement that is further from the truth. When he says that we have to stop the dangers of gender affirming care because healthcare providers are “castrating teenage boys” and “giving mastectomies to 15-year old girls,” it’s nothing more than fear-mongering. Gender-affirming care for teenagers is not about irreversible surgeries and castration. I don’t know if Ron DeSantis knows this, but he really should and so should every legislator and healthcare provider who is supporting his policies and others like them in other states.
School is one of the primary places where we are indoctrinated into gender roles. We’re not taught about gender or its deeply nuanced and ever-changing nature in school. We are blatantly indoctrinated into what it means to be a "boy" or what is means to be a "girl." Full stop. Ron's concern about what will happen to kids who are allowed to explore and become who they really feel they are is based in his own discomfort. He shares a very common, but half-formed concept of gender and humanity. The comfort he enjoys as a “culturally appropriate man” feels at risk when he contemplates a world where people are allowed to be who they are within the boundlessness of a gorgeously undefinable, alive, and ever-changing spectrum. So he hates and he harms…to keep himself and others like him feeling safe. The saddest part is that cisgendered people are not endangered by the existence of trans people, non-binary people or others who don't fit the either/or that has been normalized.
It's time to get seriously honest in this country about the incredible gender indoctrination that’s going on everyday. We are being taught how to be either boy or girl constantly. Every moment. Every interaction. That is indoctrination.
If we’re going to make gender-affirming care illegal and ban the use of non-binary pronouns in schools because they “give kids ideas about gender that they wouldn’t otherwise have,” then we also need to ban the common practice of piercing the ears of children who are assigned female at birth. And it’s time to stop holding events like cotillion, pageants, prom, probably homecoming and variety of other heteronormative, gender-binary events that we like to call the normal trappings of “coming of age.”
Stores should no longer be allowed to separate clothing into sections for “boys” and “girls.” Magazines like Teen Vogue, Elle, Girls’ Life and their counterpart publications whose target audience is children who are assigned male at birth should also be banned.
“That’s not ladylike,” we say to our children whom we were told are girls. “That’s my little man,” we crow proudly about the feats of strength our children with penises display. When a child who was assigned female at birth puts on a toolbelt, we normalize it by calling this child a tomboy. “She’s still a girl,” we say to ourselves and to anyone who will listen. “She just likes…some things that aren’t really ‘for’ girls.” When our child whom we’ve been told is a boy comes out in their mom’s high heels, we laugh nervously and try to play it off. It never occurs to most of us to say, “You are fabulous!” or “Wow! You look like mommy! Amazing!” Our world begins to tell us how to “stay safe,” “be successful,” “be popular” and how to stay small and fit into these completely fabricated categories from the very beginning.
THAT is indoctrination.
We could be in this together if we wanted to be. This world of “either/or” is neither liberating nor real for very many of us. Most of us would benefit from a world that allowed and even celebrated our ongoing evolution and invited and welcomed our questions about who to be and how.
We can stop it. We can change it. But we have to start noticing it first.