Language matters

Already before I knew the sex of my baby I knew I would avoid the words ‘son’ or ‘daughter’, ‘boy’ or ‘girl’ as much as possible. I don’t want my child’s sense of self and personality to rest on a stereotype and how the world expects a boy and a girl to behave and what they are supposed to like. And I didn’t want to encourage him or her to view him- or herself as a gender first and a human and child second.

Becky Albertalli once wrote a twitter thread (I can’t find the original so the link is just to her Twitter profile) about her kid, a little shy boy, and a visit at the doctor. I don’t remember it word for word but basically the doctor thought he could get the kid to talk by saying that he was a little girl. The boy didn’t care because it wasn’t an insult to him and he felt no need to correct the doctor. He could be a girl. Whatever.

That struck a cord in me. That’s the kind of child I want to raise. A child who is secure in being a human, who will play with girls and boys, and who knows that boys and girls can be cool and awesome to play with, that both can be clever, fun and that both have feelings. That boys can cry and girls can be tough. That both can cry AND be tough at the same time. I will not be holding boys-only birthday parties (because seriously wtf? If your house isn’t big enough you bundle those kids up in warm clothes if it’s cold and have the party at a park) and I will not support or tolerate separate girls and boys activities in his daycare. I will not use gendered words negatively or say harmful sentences that teaches him that he is better than a girl or that he can do whatever he wants because that’s just how he is: Don’t be such a girl, you throw like girl, man up, boys will be boys… I will not talk about every girl-friend he gets like they are going to get married or date. They can just be friends. And who says he’ll even like girls?

And it also got me thinking. What other language do adults use that put children in predefined boxes? You can’t change the world all at once but you can change your own habits, especially when you’re also working with children.

What do you as a parent or just grown up think about saying or not saying?

And if you yourself is gay, transgender or bi, pan or asexual, what do you wish adults, both parents, teachers, librarians, everybody stopped saying to children or did say to children?

I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts. You can also write me a private message on Instagram if you prefer to be anonymous.

And as a warning anyone being rude or calling LGBTPA+ people unnatural or worse will be blocked and removed. I do not tolerate bullying. And if you find this stupid, okay. I don’t need to know. 

4 thoughts on “Language matters

  1. My son will be 2 in a week and only a few days ago, he decided his lovey is female. He’s had his penguin blanket since birth. It goes every where with him. We’ve been very mindful of adding any gendered pronouns when speaking of “nin” and now “nin” is a she.
    Along with gender, we work to be mindful of our projections upon our son’s experiences only remarking on what is seen and what he is saying. “You’re looking at the leaf and twisting it between your fingers.” “You’re saying big truck. I hear you thinking about the big truck. I see it, too.”

    We’ve followed a RIE philosophy upbringing from the start and it’s compelling how much he has agency over within his universe.

    Aside from this, I’ve found language follows: movement, thought, shared verbal experience.

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  2. Language really is so important. I love your point that you want them to be human first. It’s SUCH a good point. We often put other things up higher than being good and kind humans, and that’s ridiculous. I want to raise my children to realize that they both have strength and courage and they are both able to do whatever it is they want to do, no matter if they’re boys or girls. And that either one is a wonderful thing to be, and it’s never an insult to be called by another gender.

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    • Precisely.It really breaks my heart to hear little children using especially girl (since the traits perceived as feminine are loaded with negativity: weak, emotionel etc) as an insult. And it is so hard to control when they are sent out into the world in daycare or school. You can only give them a solid background and self esteem enough to speak up when they experience injustice. It’s pretty terrifying actually.

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