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The challenge of changing times and changing attitudes

(62 Posts)
Imperfect27 Mon 11-Sep-17 11:14:02

I have been troubled today to learn of the 'issue' of a year one boy sent to school in a dress and the fall-out from this with Christian parents who have removed their own child from his class. Interesting that it is a C of E school who have also been very supportive of an eight year old transgender child and I think there must be much to learn here about kindness and acceptance.

The different views around this have been given an airing on Victoria Derbyshire's programme today. no doubt the papers will have a field day and I do think the 'Christian' element will be derided and exploited as a key element of this story.

I feel uneasy about several things.

I wonder if the young boy's parents have been deliberately challenging / controversial to forward their own views, rather than thinking about the possible - and at this moment in time it would seem, sadly inevitable negative responses their child will have to navigate. I really don't know if this is simply a brave or naïve/ foolish move on their part. They may be pioneers in forwarding understanding - may have decided that it is in fact a big 'so what' at the tender age of 6. But it has reaped a media whirlwind. But then, how do attitudes change without challenge?

I am also very aware of the challenge that must bring with it a sense of bewilderment to many. I think many parents - Christian or not - will be as perplexed and worried about how their own children will react and make sense of this challenge to stereotypical behaviour and thinking. And they may feel resentful at being forced to face and work through their own confusion, ignorance or fear to address the gender questions / sexual identity queries that this raises.

If I were a parent of a 6-7 year old, I would need to ponder how/when to introduce the subject of sexual identity - whether to go very lightly and treat it as a big 'so what' and 'Weall need to be able to be ourselves'. What language do we use? I imagine there will be a great variety of responses.

I am very perplexed by this myself because I honestly don't know - do any of us (?) how sexual identity is fixed - if it is wholly biological, or also somewhat nurture based. And could we possibly be in danger of confusing sexual identity for some children by striving to be politically correct and all inclusive?

Striving to be 'gender neutral' to the nth degree seems to be a growing trend at present.

I don't like the word 'tolerance' as it is not the same as acceptance and suggests 'putting up with' rather than truly being at peace about ... I know for myself I am trying to play 'catch up' with very fast-moving, media driven, challenging ideas. I know that if my reactions are fear-based, that is not good enough. I need to work on learning more and questioning my own responses. But phew, it is hard work!

paddyann Mon 11-Sep-17 11:37:30

I think children know from a very early age what they were "meant" to be,I personally know two young people transgendering/transitioning from female to male.Its NOT a phase and its a very brave thing to openly confront at a young age.The thing is children are accepting ..its the adults who make a big deal of it,the young people I know have had great support from their fellow pupils, teachers ,staff and the community the main issue they have is with older relatives who think its somehow shameful.I think we just need to be open to new things that life throws at us ...these young people are the ones going through it not us ,we should offer our support (and keep our opinions to ourselves if we disagree)

Kacee Mon 11-Sep-17 12:01:25

We had the same thing in our local Catholic school in year 5. I believe a lot went on behind the scenes between the school and the parents to help the child as much as possible. Other children had it explained to them and they just accepted it and moved on.

Eloethan Mon 11-Sep-17 12:22:35

Children are, in my view, generally less concerned about things of this nature than adults - unless they pick up negative vibes from adults.

As it was a C of E church which these complaining parents' child attended, it would seem that the church had no issues about it. It's a shame that these people, who defined themselves as Christians, don't follow the example of Jesus who, I think I'm right in saying, did not advocate or practise this sort of prejudice.

I remember there was a big hoo hah on CBBC when a new presenter, one of whose arms ended just above the elbow and who did not cover it up, joined the channel. Some parents complained, saying their children were frightened by it and the young lady should have been made to cover it. I thought it was ridiculous - my grandchildren never even mentioned it.

Christinefrance Mon 11-Sep-17 13:10:12

Yes that is true Eloethan children are much more prosaic about these things. Their reaction will be governed by that of the adults around them though.
What sort of people don't explain disability etc to their children and encourage them to see it as a shameful thing. Beyond belief, in reference to the CBBBC presenter.

Welshwife Mon 11-Sep-17 13:12:06

It is interesting watching and listening to the pairs of children being asked to give differences between themselves and their friend. None of them mention the most obvious difference - such as skin colour, being in a wheelchair, hair colour etc. Wonderful what children see as a difference and things they just accept.

Anniebach Mon 11-Sep-17 13:20:27

When my grandson was small he spoke of George - the next door neighbour - and the person he spoke to said - who is George , reply - the tall man with lot of teeth,
And drives a blue car, George was from St.Kitts

Imperfect27 Mon 11-Sep-17 14:05:57

Yes, children are beautifully open and simply inherit the values / prejudices we impose ... They don't see the same 'differences' as adults.

I spent ages picking over language to try to express 'something' in my OP today - and that 'something' is really about how us 'older' grown ups might have to undo prejudices we have grown up with. Attitudes have changed so very much in the past couple of decades - and I think that is a very good thing - but I am also aware that the 'pace' of change and the shift in what is acceptable public opinion is harder on those who have comfortably lived with once widely accepted 'norms' that are now no longer acceptable.

Sometimes we are simply ignorant - I have only very recently been 'sensitised' to the reality for some that use of the 'he /she' pronoun can be deeply painful - just wasn't within my experience to even have to think about it.

I suspect the Christian couple who went on the Victoria Derbyshire programme today will encounter a fair amount of negative abuse and derision and some of the scorn will be simply because they are Christians.

Sometimes people's views cannot change overnight. Sometimes we think we have made a significant change but it isn't enough to be 'in step' with latest developments, but the small steps can be massive changes for people who have held views through faith and / or as a matter of conscience.

So, after all that waffle - what I am really trying to say is that for such value-laden subjects as acceptance of transgender, homosexuality, abortion, religious beliefs - to name but a few that have come up on GN in the past week - it can take time to process information, see the other side and be open to it.

illtellhim Mon 11-Sep-17 14:31:00

We Want Pictures.
We Want Pictures.
We Want Pictures.
We Want Pictures.
We Want Pictures.
We Want Pictures.
We Want Pictures.

This is a bit pointless, In my humble opinion.

Imperfect27 Mon 11-Sep-17 14:37:05


lemongrove Mon 11-Sep-17 14:40:10

Quite ridiculous for parents to take their children away from school.However, it does need explaing by the teacher to the class of children, if what appears to look like a boy comes to school wearing a dress.But all that can be addressed and an answer found.
Sometimes babies are born and doctors are not at all sure if which sex, so one is assigned, either rightly or wrongly.
This may be the case here?
My heart goes out to all children who are confused by their feelings and think they are in the wrong body.

paddyann Mon 11-Sep-17 14:40:41

Maybe ,Imperfect27 the derision will be because many of us who were raised "christians" ,in my case catholic,were brought up to believe that it was an inclusive religion ,not judgemental and supportive when others had isssues or probelms to deal with.My first run in with a "christian" was man we were friends with who became "born again" ...I dont understand the phrase or the concept...but it changed him from a nice easy going man into an angry man ..opposed to all sorts of things he'd previously accepted eg.gays .I find that hard to understand ,aren't we supposed to love our neighbour regardless of who or what they are and didn't his god create gays too....or was it someone else?And what possible difference would it make to his life that the man he was once a friend of and who he always knew was gay ,sleeps with another man and has done for decades or that they want to get married .Closed minds cause real problems .Its always much better to be open minded about whats happening around may not like it for whatever reason but being accepting will cause you less stress.

gillybob Mon 11-Sep-17 14:47:03

I had the exact opposite experience with my DGD Anniebach when she was around 2.5 years old. She attended a nursery (not attached to school) where a new boy had recently started. The little boy had very dark skin and I don't think DGD had ever seen anyone like this before. Seriously.

Anyway one day I had her out for a walk, she was pushing a little toy buggy when a very tall, dark gentleman approached us. My DGD then shouted " look grandma, its Rubens daddy" Puzzled I asked who Ruben was and she said (very loudly) "he's my best friend and that's his daddy" The man clearly amused winked at me and said "I'm sorry little one but I think you must have me mixed up as I don't have a little boy" blush

gillybob Mon 11-Sep-17 14:48:57

Anyway back to the subject, I heard the interview on radio 4 this morning and i was more concerned about the fact that the child in question chops and changes on a daily basis between girls/boys clothes. I wonder if the parents are using the poor child as some kind of statement.

Imperfect27 Mon 11-Sep-17 14:49:05

Couldn't agree more paddyann.

lemongrove Mon 11-Sep-17 15:15:27

There was a couple in the news last year who allowed their son to attend nursery in a sparkly princess dress whenever the mood took him.Hope this isn't the same couple!

lemongrove Mon 11-Sep-17 15:16:25

He didn't have any gender issues at all, it was the Mother,
Excercising her 'rights'.

malabar Mon 11-Sep-17 15:40:36

my 8 year old granddaughter has a friend with two fathers (same sex marriage) and neither she nor any of their other friends have batted an eyelid about it. There has been the occasional question (how did she get born) but all of the children at the school have simply accepted this as perfectly normal and there has been no hoo ha, no discrimination at all. I think that these things are easier for all concerned if they are presented without fanfare. I think that had the child's parents made a massive thing about it it would all have been much harder

illtellhim Mon 11-Sep-17 16:02:33

I went to school back in the 1960's and I can remember a boy, called on to the stage in assembly, because he had long hair, he was given a letter and told to go home and not come back until he had his hair cut.

So, I ask, what's next, children bringing their pets to school because they can't bear to be away from them.

The sad thing is, I'm 67, so I've got at least another 10 to 15 years left, and I'm just wondering, that's all, whats next ?

MargaretX Mon 11-Sep-17 16:11:28

I agree leave it to the children who accept all races and colours. My GDs loved a little doll I brought home from the charity shop. I had knitted her a lot of clothes. After losing an arm which neither DH nor I could mend we put the doll away considering it broken.
The GCs asked where she was and I said we will have throw her away because she has no arm and her clothes don't fit.

Oh NO! She is only disabled, we like her, so I sewed up the sides of the tiny jumpers I'd knitted and felt ashamed.

We also have soft toys which wear boys and girl's clothes but I still wouldn't have sent a 'boy' to school in a dress. And not removed my children either.

Eloethan Mon 11-Sep-17 17:20:10

Imperfect You said "I suspect the Christian couple who went on the Victoria Derbyshire programme today will encounter a fair amount of negative abuse and derision and some of the scorn will be simply because they are Christians."

As I pointed out, since it is a C of E school, it can hardly be said that Christians en masse are closed-minded and
intolerant. I expect there are some people of all religions and of none who would create a fuss. But since this couple made a point of saying they were Christians, implying that this justified their stance, it made me - and perhaps other people - question what part of Jesus's teachings they believed gave them grounds for this sort of judgmental behaviour.

I don't see why it would be necessary to have long discussions about sexual identity, etc., with children on this issue. Why not, if asked, just say "he likes wearing a dress"? After all, girls wear trousers so why shouldn't boys wear dresses if they feel so inclined?

trisher Mon 11-Sep-17 17:33:51

My youngestDS when he was about 7 loved dressing up as anything and did an excellent portrayal of his teacher in the Christmas Concert, wearing a long skirt and a cream blouse. When he was 11 he once accepted a dare and went into the classroom in a school skirt instead of trousers (He really got into trouble.) He is a perfectly normal young man and dresses like all the others now.
My DGS was wearing a pair of underpants and fairy wings the other day. It's just a stage, they grow out of it!

norose4 Mon 11-Sep-17 17:46:43

My Grandson is happy in his Cubs outfit , his school uniform, his swimming trunks & his Pyjams his 'boys clothes' his Elsa dress complete with crown & wig. But so far no longing to wear one type or the other to a disassociated place.

annsixty Mon 11-Sep-17 17:53:15

I am showing my age now.
I would have said to my son, I am happy for you to dress how you like when at home or out with us, but rules are made for a reason and boys go to school dressed as boys.
Children are allowed to do as they please far too much and are brought up as if they are the centre of the universe.
They need to learn they are not.

lemongrove Mon 11-Sep-17 17:53:36

How sweet trisher ( pants and fairy wings) that would really have made me smile ( as long as he isn't 15 )😆