The Toxicity of Gender Relationship Indoctrination

How we as parents are inadvertently teaching our kids that girls and boys can’t be friends

As adults we’ve grown up with “how it is” for so long we don’t even notice certain toxic aspects of every day life that are so embedded into our brain and the culture that surrounds us that they become transparent or mindless conversation. However, sometimes some event happens that snaps us out of that reality and we see something in a totally different perspective. An epiphany, if you will.

Today I discovered as parents how we subconsciously teach our kids who their friends can be based on their gender, or as I call it “inadvertent gender relationship indoctrination”.

A few days ago my son turned 5. He understands male and female as a sex but he has no real gender understanding. He plays with his boy and girl friends the same. Today he was playing with one boy and one girl for most of the time at his birthday chasing them around laughing and giggling like 5 year olds do.

Some parents harmlessly mentioned they see he has a “crush” and gave that playful elbow nudge. They seemed to only notice the girl he was playing with and totally missed the boy. They implied the fact he was smiling so much and laughing wasn’t because my son and his friend, who happened to be a girl, were just old pals, but because they were boy and girl.

At the time it honestly meant nothing to me. I laughed and remarked how it was cute. Then as I watched more and realized he was playing with her and the boy in the identical way it was us parents who are inadvertently indoctrinating our kids to a culture where boys can’t be just friends with girls even at the age of 4 or 5.

This is a toxic mentality for many reasons. First of all it teaches kids to create divisions by genders. Boys are going to start trying to decipher why the girls they are playing with are special but the boys they’re playing with are not.

Secondly it teaches them you can’t just be friends with other genders. If each time you get close to someone of another gender it’s considered a “crush” and not really friends you’re going to separate friends by the same gender and crushes by other genders. This makes for incredibly confusing feelings as you begin to go through puberty and actually get real romantic feelings for people. If you’re cis you start to merge together friends with actual crushes and you assume those other girls who are friends are actually crushes too.

It also creates a world where girls assume all boys are dogs just trying to “get some” when they’re being friendly because boys can’t just be friends. We then have a culture where friend-zoned is a negative concept for boys so they feel obligated to get out of the friend-zone. They have to sleep with their girls that are friends or else they’re “losing” and boyhood.

Lastly, if you’re not cis this is all a whole ‘nother level of confusing because it teaches kids that boy + girl = normal. Any other combination is incorrect. You’re confused and weirded out of yourself enough as a teenager going through puberty. You don’t need the past 10 years of your life telling you the feelings you feel toward the same gender are wrong.

This is why I’m going to be extra careful not to mention “crushes” to my kids. When the crushes like that come, and if those crushes are boy or girl, my son and I will have another conversation. But, until then, I’m going to let him be an ignorant, blissful kid who likes to chase girls and boys the same.