Earlier this week, the right-wring conservative political magazine The Spectator published an article entitled ‘it’s dangerous and wrong to tell all children they’re ‘gender fluid’, in which the writer – Melanie Philips – argues that introducing education on gender fluidity to help tackle transphobia and encourage greater self-expression despite gender is ‘bizarre’. Yet, Philips’ attitude encapsulates outdated beliefs that should be shunned to the past. Despite making grand statements about how encouraging gender fluidity and breaking down the ‘boy’/’girl’ binary is ‘dangerous’ and ‘cruel’, she fails to state who exactly this encouragement to disregard societal pressures are dangerous for.
‘What is on the cards [by introducing encouraging gender fluidity] is oppression, socially engineered dysfunction and the loss of individual freedom’, Philips states, as if educating young people on oppression and encouraging them to express themselves despite typical gender expectations of is somehow a bad thing. Education is the most powerful tool against oppression, ignorance and bigotry, and we should be doing all we can to help our minorities. Despite trans people only making up a ‘minute’ proportion of the population as Philips describes, to disregard the views of the minorities as unimportant because they lack in size is to reinforce the dominant social structures of society that, throughout history, have proved to enforce institutionalise sexism, homophobia, racism and transphobia.
Women do not come out of the womb wearing skirts. They are not born with perfectly winged-eyeliner or straightened hair, and nor are men born wearing suits. The binary opposition we think of as existing between men and women is therefore totally socially constructed, and one is left questioning how many more people would chose to break through this gender barrier if we were not brought up in a world where masculinity equalled machoness and femininity equally delicacy.
To introduce the idea of gender fluidity into schools is thus not ‘dangerous’, but a liberation. Education on these ideas is not ‘indoctrination’, but raises awareness about the rigid and limiting nature of society. Indeed, awareness on these issues would not force children into transgenderism, nor would it ‘bully them into accepting the prescribed orthodoxy’; it simply draws their attention to superficiality of how there are things we shouldn’t do, purely because the activity doesn’t suit the expectations of our gender.
An education on gender fluidity would allow children to explore who they really are, free from the expectations of social pressures. And, if they decide they ‘belong’ to the gender that aligns with their birth sex, so what? Society has granted them the opportunity to explore who they are without discrimination.
Liberation from the gender binary opposition would not only be beneficial to trans people who would experience less transphobic abuse, but to everyone. It would help break the final obstacles of sexism and prove that patriarchy is a power structure based on purely socially constructed values. If educating the public on gender fluidity is ‘dangerous’, it is dangerous to only one thing: to modern social structures as we know it. And when these social structures give middle class, white, heterosexual men a disproportionate social privilege, this threat can only be a good thing.
Words by Juliette Rowsell