Cisgender ideology

In his July 5th article, published in the Journal de Montréal, Mathieu Bock-Côté warns us against the imposition of trans ideology on society. On a factual level, he is wrong: Kori Doty, the person to whom he is referring, is not attempting to impose any trans ideology on society. The goal, quite simply, is to have the right to raise our kids whichever way we want, so long as it is not abusive. In this case, it entails a refusal to impose a gender onto the child, leaving them free to choose later on.

There is no desire here to impose this way of doing things on others! Kori Doty is satisfied with simply having the right to raise their child this way.

What Bock-Côté calls trans ideology can be summarised as taking seriously the teachings of feminists whom, since the 60s, have been telling us that gender is a social construct and that we should reject the imposition of gender norms. A social construct, of course, is a very real thing. Race is another social construct, and yet the pervasive nature of racism in Quebec and elsewhere reminds me that, social construct or not, its impact is tangible.

Let us make no mistake. When someone like Mathieu Bock-Côté tells us that we mustn’t take the margin as a norm, what he means is that he prefers a society which continues to buy dresses to its children assigned female, and which won’t take the time to ensure that it is the gender and clothing that suits them best. I wouldn’t have thought that, in the Quebec of 2017, I would have to remind people that human nature is not sexed and that this conception of human nature is merely conservatism and sexism packaged in an archaic naturalist exterior.

Though it is true that trans children remain the exception, how many children deny being trans and or force themselves to conform to gender norms because they have learned that they must identify and behave in a certain way to avoid being perceived as abnormal? How can we be surprised that so many children fear expressing their desires to their parents when those parents teach them that their desires are secondary to social norms?

Gendered social norms are everywhere, and the majority of children raised in a gender-neutral way will likely be cisgender. However, we can assuage the fear that those raised this way willb e marginalised in school even when they’re not trans because of it. Gender identity is typically formed around 4 years old, and will be defined, with few exceptions, prior to entering kindergarden.

Even for kids who aren’t trans, this approach has important benefits. It communicates to the child that their wellbeing and autonomy are sufficiently important not to subordinate them to the probability that they will be cisgender. It’s also telling them that it is truly acceptable not to conform to gendered norms, rather than begrudgingly tolerated.

I am not a parent. Not yet. But I intend to have a child in the future, and I intend to raise them in a gender-neutral manner. As a trans person, I know too well how difficult it can be to reject our assigned gender, even with open-minded parents. It is not an experience I accept to impose upon my child. All I ask for is that the state not to impose it in my place.

This piece was originally published in French on June 6th 2017 in the Journal de Montréal.