I switched the radio on his morning and found myself listening to a Radio 4 discussion about transgender children. There was a transgender person called Lily talking about her experiences at school, about not being accepted as a girl and how hard this was. There was also a former school teacher. Because I tuned in half way through I have no idea who she was but she was mostly talking sense. Her argument was that many children and young people go through identity crises, unsure about who and what they are. It needs dealing with sensibly and sensitively and with tolerance. And we need to teach our children tolerance and sensitivity. However, she said, we are in danger of going to an extreme and almost planting the idea in children's heads that they should be questioning their gender.
Well said, that unidentified lady! I can remember deciding I was a boy called Andy. Our daughter was determined to be a boy called Elliott. In both cases the idea was accepted without fuss, tolerated and then largely ignored. Both of us grew up to be women without significant bother. While I applaud shops which no longer categorise clothing and toys as specifically for girls or boys, I think parents and carers should be careful about putting the transgender label on a child too soon. Let children be children as long as possible without too mcuh interference.
Here's more about gender-equality. Amelia Hill wrote this in yesterday's Guardian:
"My pre-school son and I were snuggled up, reading, when it happened for the third time. I had mentioned that our new book was written by the same author as one of his old favourites. The author was a woman and my son frowned: “But that’s not usual, is it?” he asked. “I mean, for a woman to write books?”"
Where do pre-school children pick up these notions?
She went on to talk about the fact that books now exist reinforcing for girls the idea that they can do anything - although there are still fewer heroines than heroes - but there are few that reminding boys that this is the case. Here is a link to her article.
How complicated life is these days! How hard to be a child of the 21st century. Time was that Heidi and Jo from Jo's Boys were role-models enough for us.
Still on the feminist tack, I learnt a new word this morning: grossophobia. This is apparently the French for sizeism. I suspect that the actual French word is "grossophobie" but that might just be me being picky. A lot of people go on quite a bit about how all French women are slim and elegant and manage to remain so effortlessly. I have long had serious doubts about that but as I have not spent much time in France lately I can't even comment on what you see on the streets of that fair country. But an article about a woman called Gabrielle Deydier, who has written a book about her very negative experience of being fat in France says that obesity has doubled in the last ten years.
"In France, she says (and all the facts of her experience seem to bear this out), being fat is considered to be a grotesque self-inflicted disability. At any given time, 80% of Frenchwomen are thought to be on a diet. In the south of the country, there’s a lively gastric-band industry (50,000 operations a year)."
That's a prodigious amount of concern about weight!
I have read statistics about how being overweight can impede women (much more so than is the case for men) in the UK from gaining promotion, getting top positions in their profession or in some cases getting a job at all. Gabrielle Deydier's experience, actually being fired from a teaching post, bears that out.
So both the UK and France need to sort that out!