Trans for kids…

The boy. All five-and-a-half years of fiercely gendered preconception and gloriously tactless views. Pink? Its not even worth the argument. Girls wear pink. Boys don’t.

For him, that is as axiomatic as the sun rising in the morning and vinegar on chips.

Trans, though. That hasn’t exactly upset him, so much as introduced a smidgeon of doubt into his absolutist world view. We had the initial bra tantrum: “if daddy is going to wear a skirt, he should wear one of THESE too!”

We’ve had the trans/gay argument. Wearing girl’s clothes is GAY. No its not, said andrea: its “trans”.

Gay! Trans. Gay! Trans. Mother and son have such deep and intellectual arguments at times. 🙂

We think that one has sunk in. “Gay” is a word in use amongst older children. Those under ten have not yet learned to go (as their older sibs have): “look at the tranny”.

We’re not exactly going for the heavy-handed indoctrination. The boy does not get sat down and lectured. But we do try, occasionally, to introduce world views that will challenge his traditionalist certainties.

Step forward Enid Blyton. Whilst the Gay Movement was fighting to introduce a slightly less standard view of family life with such horridly correct confections as “Jenny lives with Eric and Martin”, Enid Blyton had already done it – many years previously – for the trans movement.

(As an aside, i have never understood why it was necessary to CREATE gay icons for children when children’s literature already abounds with potential, from the story of Achilles and Patroclus, through to their modern counterparts, Batman and Robin).

Because what else is George (aka – but not to her face – Georgina) in the “Famous Five”, other than early days gender-bending role model? Here, from last night’s story time, is one line (there are many more) that pretty much sums her up.

“She won’t answer if you call her Georgina”, explained Anne. “She’s awfully queer, I think”.

Hmmm. The boy was intrigued. “But…George is a boy’s name. Only she’s a girl?”

“Yes”, andrea explained. “Some girls like to be more like boys. Some boys like to be more like girls. Like daddy.”

A degree of deep thinking followed.

Anyway we’re not looking for a reading programme that is full-on, in his face, indoctrination. But anything that challenges. Anything that makes him ask questions – and possibly realise that gender is not quite as fixed as he imagines. That would be nice. Suggestions, anyone?


P.S. Although i maintained – i suspect erroneously – for a long time that i had little interest in “girly things”, my favourite Enid Blyton was always the Girl’s School stories. “Mallory Towers” and the like.


7 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Jenny Alto said,

    And to think, for years we’ve been told Enid Blyton was beyond the Pale in PC terms because of the Noddy books!

    Now, who do I horrify first, my right-on friends by suggesting a PC angle on the Famous Five, or my more conservative friends by suggesting that one of the Five might be trans?

    • 2

      janefae said,

      Oh. Go for both. Famous Five was always a brilliant source for dodgy quotes. I also remember something along the lines of:

      “I love you Timmy”, said George. “But I wish you would be less rough with your tongue”.

      • 3

        Stace said,

        Oh I used to love those books, I think I managed to collect all of them during my youth.

        They did get cleaned up over time though. I had a couple of earlier editions that I got second hand, and an omnibus three in 1 book where I already had one of the three.

        There were lines in the book that were cleaned up to remove some of the less PC references…

        I have to say that I always thought about Goerge ‘why on earth would you ever *want* to be a boy’. That was my first introduction to the fact thans transness goes both ways.


  2. 4

    lucy said,

    Ah, your little one just needs to hang out with my son some more for some first hand gender challenging ideas! Today’s outfit of choice included pink leggings and pink shoes but he’s still definitely a boy even in dresses but says he doesn’t like things that are ‘too girly’ – apparently his new pink and purple Tweetie pie pyjamas with the heart, flowers and frills don’t fall into that category – neither do Barbie dolls, but he has a definite preference for more boyish things. We are loving Enid Blyton here too at the moment. Our Enchanted Wood one is good because Jo often wears pink. 🙂

  3. 5

    Julian said,

    Oohh, a favourite topic! (I collect old children’s books.) Enid Blyton is brilliant for that sort of stuff – there’s a budding transboy in every story – George in the Famous Five; Bobby in the St. Clare’s series; Bill in the Malory Towers set (Bill, incidentally, develops a fierce passion for her form-mistress Miss Peters who is described in similarly masculine terms). OTOH, you might not want the boy collecting quite such a stubborn set of gender stereotypes. Although there are boyish girls in Enid Blyton’s books, there is no doubt left at all about what constitutes ‘masculine’ and ‘feminine’ traits.

    That does seem to be something of a meme for the era, when girls played cricket at boarding school and were encouraged to be as boyish as possible (spurning tears and homesickness in favour of a game of lacrosse and wild adventure). Jo of the Chalet School begins life as such although softens into a much more ladylike type as she grows older. Lots of the books have a girl who can’t bear to be called by a girl’s name and is described as very male (from the Chalet School books, Ted and Tom spring to mind).

    Examples of feminine or female-presenting boys are more difficult to come by. Being a boyish girl seems to be much more acceptable, in fiction as sadly in reality, than being a girlish boy. However, I’d definitely recommend Bill’s New Frock by Anne Fine for a good way to introduce kids to the sheer arbitrariness of gender boundaries.

    I’ve heard good things about “10,000 dresses” by Marcus Ewert but I’ve not read that myself.

  4. 7

    spirifer said,

    Bloody hell, Enid Blyton. I soooo wanted to be at Malory Towers when I was younger. Even the main protagonist had a boy’s name – Darrell.

    My favourites were the Five Find Outers – no tomboys there, but Fatty wouldn’t be very much in favour these days, even with his myriad talents.

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