On 20th April, a story broke that made me think about diversity and inclusion. Before I start, yes – this is one of those posts that might get controversial!
That story was the one about Brighton & Hove Council inviting parents to support the gender that their 4 year old most identifies with when applying for school places. The council asked parents to support their child’s choice on whether they identified as male or female, and the parents were also allowed to leave the form blank if their child didn’t really know.
Cllr. Emma Daniel, head of Brighton’s equalities committee, defended the form, saying that “There are increasing numbers of children and young people nationally identifying as trans.”
LGBTQ organisation Stonewall welcomed the move, saying it backs all efforts to “support children on trans and gender identity issues and ensure that they feel happy, welcome and accepted at school”.
“We believe it is important for children to learn about diversity and inclusion, in an age-appropriate way,” a spokesperson for Stonewall told Mashable.
This all came after Blatchington Mill School in Brighton sent home a survey for senior school pupils in which they were to select their gender from 23 options. That really is encouraging diversity!
There are a few things I don’t get about this move. I don’t have access to many 4 year olds, although I believe that gender dysphoria is becoming increasingly apparent in children as young as 5. I’m a little curious about how a parent would go about that discussion with a 4 year old though, with or without signs of gender dysphoria. How would a parent have a conversation about inclusion and diversity with someone barely able to tie their shoe laces, telling them that it’s OK to be a girl even if they were born with a willy? How would you ask them if they want to wear a dress because they want to be a girl or because they just want to wear a dress? (Obviously all these questions can be changed to apply to a girl, too.)
I have a concern that asking the question could confuse children who had previously been happy identifying as male or female. Can I be something else? Should I be something else? Am I a boy? Am I a girl? Am I gender fluid? Agender? Tri-gender? Non-binary? Genderqueer? Trans boy? Trans girl? Demi-boy? Demi-girl? What do all those even mean? What does all that mean to a 4 year old? If the 4 year old can’t understand that, are we giving authorisation to a parent to define their child’s gender rather than have them be given free choice, maybe even force their child to be something that they’re not?
That’s something I don’t get about diversity and inclusion. Normal, well adjusted individuals don’t have issues with it, I believe, and would generally accept it and support it. Anything society can do to improve this is great, and it’s how that society protects any and all individuals however they self-identify which is important. I’m just not sure that asking a four year old to choose an identity, maybe even a label, is the way to do it. Surely if we want to be inclusive and diverse, we shouldn’t need to identify each other as anything other than human beings?
I’m starting with the man in the mirror,
I’m asking him to change his ways.
And no message could have been any clearer –
If you want to make the world a better place
Take a look at yourself and then make that
Man In The Mirror by Michael Jackson