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People are more important than labels

PUBLISHED: 10:15 16 November 2017

Dressing-up is a part of every child's exploration of the world around them and who they are.

Dressing-up is a part of every child's exploration of the world around them and who they are.

Choreograph

Opinion: The C of E blundered - in a well-meaning way - into the gender debate this week, says Rachel Moore.

There was a spell when my small sons would only go out dressed as Thunderbirds.

Every day, they insisted on putting on the sky blue uniform and triangle hat, answered only to the names of Virgil and Alan and insisted they lived on Tracey Island.

Their friend dressed as Spiderman, another as Mulan, his hair in a top knot, another liked to wear his sister’s ballet tutu while she spent all day “mending things” in as Bob the Builder hat and tool belt. They all ran around in a tiara at some point.

It’s what children do; play dress up. It’s called imaginative play and is an essential part of growing up and nurturing a creative mind.

It’s why nursery schools, infant schools and most homes have dressing-up boxes.

The Church of England this week blundered, in a well-meaning we’re-getting-with-the-modern-world type of way, into the gender debate by stating the obvious.

But, rather than garnering understanding, compassion and empathy for those trans children and adults enduring bullying, inflicting self-harm and struggling with isolation, mental health problems and underachievement because other people make them too scared to be who they really are, it has fuelled more angry tirades.

Children should never be ashamed of who they are and explore gender identity, the C of E rightly says.

“Pupils need to be able to play with the many cloaks of identity (sometimes quite literally with the dressing-up box). Children should be at liberty to explore the possibilities of who they might be without judgement or derision,” the report, In Valuing All God’s Children, says

“For example, a child may choose the tutu, princess’s tiara and heels and/or the fireman’s helmet, tool belt and superhero cloak, without expectation or comment.”

The church’s aim was to challenge the homophobic, transphobic, biphobic bullying, but it has invited further bigotry, bile and discomfort fuelled by how society insists everyone fits neatly into tight well-defined boxes.

Too many people who never haven’t “fitted” have lived miserable lives, trying to be who others want them to be, feeling compelled to conform to a label, living a lie because they are too scared of losing who they love by being who they truly are, because society doesn’t let them be who they feel they are.

But it’s not really society; it’s the minority of loud bigots and the small-minded who can’t tolerate what they don’t understand because it scares them.

Reports like the Church of England’s causes more polarisation, fuels the ignorant and makes life even harder for those trapped in bodies they don’t understand and loathe.

Anyone feeling they can never be themselves goes through hell. A life-long living nightmare, trapped, claustrophobic and deeply unhappy.

The complexity of human wiring means everyone can never fit snuggly into one of the few sorting columns.

Those with the courage to live outside the boxes face hideous ridicule, nastiness and condemnation.

How has anyone the right to prevent anyone from being who they are? Where is the harm?

I don’t give a flying fig if the terms ‘men’ and ‘women’ are banned and replaced by a generic ‘person’. Who does it hurt? We are all human beings who think and act very differently.

Supporting everyone to be comfortable with who they are and accepted is what really matters.

The gender issue has nothing to do political correctness, it’s about kindness, acceptance and support of the individual.

But the nasty undercurrent is spilling over into very public condemnation.

Anyone who chooses to bring up their children gender-neutral is labelled a nutty loon by those so hung up on labels.

I used to feel rage wheeling my boys in toy store aisles, separated into blue for boys and pink for girls, promoting conditioning and stereotyping from birth.

I loathe the terms “tomboy’ and ”girly”, which immediately makes that girl and boy feel uncomfortable about who they are and where they fit.

Ask me for my ‘title’ and I’ll be up for a row. My name should be enough. Who cares if I’m a Miss, Mrs, Ms or even Mr? I don’t want to be any of them. It’s unnecessary.

People everywhere are struggling with mental health issues, are ending their own lives or courageously fronting out the bigots to be true to themselves.

Allowing every individual to fulfil their potential to grow into happy adults must be the priority rather than which toilets they use and what they’re called.

But every time a body like the Church of England speaks, there’s a frightening eruption of more hate, bile and bullying.

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