The Gender Bender!

Posted: March 21, 2012 in Uncategorized


Last week I tackled you are what you wear and I guess this is a broadining of that topic.

reading psychodynamic Alec’s Blog last week I decided to investigate the area of gender a bit myself to see if raising children in a non-gender specific environment could work. Alec raised several interesting and disturbing facts such as ” 41% of male transsexual’s reported previous suicide attempts (Maguena & Shipherdb, 2010).” and that 73% of teenagers who claimed to have gender dysmorphia felt they were comfortable in themselves in a follow up study as adults. But where does this all begin?

According to Taylor et al. (2009) in their article Boys will be boys; Cows will be cows, they lay out evidence that suggests children have regimented a strict preconceptions about what is feminine and masculine. This viewpoint can be augmented by several other studies.

HOWEVER!!! Shiny new evidence has emerged that suggests children are more open minded than we give them credit for. Children as young as four have been shown to have flexible view on what is gender specific and that overall preferences are down to the individual and whether or not they obey gender norms (For more on this read the BPS digest on the 21/3/12.)

Cunry-Murray & Turiel’s (2011) study which utilized computer games to distinguish children’s perception on gender.  The two statements from their article that caught my eye were…

“The ‘coolest boys’ are expected to spend time playing electronic games.”


Approximately three fourths of the boys and girls in both grades
agreed with the statement, “Most boys prefer the fighting games.”


“A majority of the sample agreed that it is acceptable for girls to play electronic games whenever they want.”

(Ellislee15 will be happy to hear this considering she has spent the last 2 weeks of her life playing Mass Effect, and it’s not even the new one.)

      So where has all this Blue for boys and Pink for girls originated from? Believe it or not originally in 1914 it was suggested that boy should wear pink as it is a strong colour and girls should wear light blue as it is delicate. On a darker note the Nazi’s used pink uniforms to identify homosexuals. On a nicer note, red dye is cheaper that blue dye and in china a baby boy is dressed in blue a when they marry it will bring a dowry to the family. So its all swings and round-a-bouts. My suggestion is that this is a faze and our children will dress our grandchildren in neon or something.

      I’ve supplied some contrasting evidence and tried to avoid going down the route of “Money Gender Reassignment” bit. I can see why someone might want to raise their child in a non-gender specific environment and by all means go for it but I want to know a couple of things. If the child is not he or she then you must call it “It” which is slightly devaluing and are you still going to be mummy and daddy? Boys and Girls are biologically/anatomically different this and our long evolutionary history has shape society in a way that these differences are celebrated and governed. It would be great if children didn’t have gender bias, but the ones in the real world do and sending a gender unaware child out into the big bad world of primary school just sounds like one step toward therapy sessions.

  • I’m unsure if this is an interesting topic area or whether I’m secretly still bitter about being made to wear a dress at my christening.

Boys will be boys…  DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2009.01272.x
Computer games…  DOI: 10.1111/j.1467-8624.2011.01696.x

  1. suuzblog says:

    Loved your blog, really engaging and interesting! and I completely see what you meant about the whole ‘boys used to wear pink and girls used to wear blue’, I heard that on QI :D
    The whole gender thing’s really intriguing, I don’t know if you remember the case of the boy Bruce Reimer whose penis was destroyed during a circumcision and he was brought up as a girl? Bruce had an identical twin brother, Brian, so there is an obvious comparison that can be made; as their genes would be identical, so the gender difference in their behaviour (if there was found to be one) could possibly be ruled out as genetical. Bruce (re-named Brenda) was encouraged to wear dresses, play with dolls, etc, but this made no difference to how she felt. In every characteristic, from the way she sat to the way she acted and toys she chose to play with, there was nothing feminine about her. When told the truth at the age of 15, “Brenda” was relieved and re-named himself David. He eventually settled down, married and adopted 3 children, but unfortunately commited suicide in May 2004 at the age of 38. The point of this example is the fact that it appears that gender identity is genetic, indeed many homosexual people claim they have always felt the way they do, and in some cases even videos of individuals as young toddlers appear to show traits not considered the norm, for example young girls acting and sitting in a more masculine way. However, in my opinion what makes you you is 50% nature and 50% nurture, but I won’t dive into this argument or we’ll be here all day!
    However, it occurred to me that in a society where half of their children are in skirts and encouraged not to be as boisterous, and the other half are put in jeans and encouraged to climb trees; and if later in life the half who wear skirts and totter around in high heels are told by the media to watch their figure, while the other half wear trainers and are told to eat up as they are growing lads, of course they are going to be different. Not only have these ‘norms’ been encouraged of them all of their lives, their muscles will be different (from differing activities, food and clothes) and their attitudes will no doubt differ as well.
    So what I’m saying is that Bruce Reimer’s unfortunate circumstances, but also what I said in the paragraph above, both make sense to me, so I’m divided! From Reimer’s example, it looks like gender identity is biological, but common sense also makes sense that the way we raise our children in society will also make a difference….

    • psucc3 says:

      I deliberatly left out the Bruce Reimer buisness mainly because we had that lecture where we watched a two hour video on it but I’m glad you broubght it up because it raise some difficult and interesting points (including why doctors thought high powerd lasers and circumsion was a good idea in the first place). The obvious critisism of that case study is that is an rare and unusually specific case and one person however powerful the case study is, is not proof. What srtike me most is how largely it effected the brother Brian, who died on an over dose of schizoprnia medicine. We dont have enough evidence to support that the gender reassinment caused this but the change in the family dynamic and the realiseation that thier parents had been lying to them muts have had a powerful influence. This case study makes it clear that gender is not entierly controlled by culture and learning.

  2. ellislee15 says:

    I tried to find an example of a case where a child had been brought up without any gender specifics, I came across a news article about a couple who had brought their son up as gender neutral. If he wanted to dress in pink and wear skirts and fairy wings he was allowed to, even when he started primary school he would sometimes wear the boys uniform and sometimes wear the girls uniform.
    Personally I don’t believe this is right because in our society we are either male or female you can’t be gender neutral because it goes against society’s norms, and therefore it means that this child is more than likely going to get bullied.
    In the article the following is said –
    ‘When children are born, they’re not a blank slate. We do have male brains and female brains. There’s a reason why boys do more rough and tumble play; there’s a reason why girls have better language development skills.’ – Dr Harold Koplewicz
    Gender dysphoria is the case where a person feels that they are trapped in the body of the wrong gender, therefore I believe that we should all be stereotypically be brought up as the gender that we are unless this occurs. In which case gender reassignment surgery and other options can be taken in order to make the person happy.

    • psucc3 says:

      If a boy turned up at my school in girls uniform they wouldn’t have lasted long. Parents that believe that this is an ok thing to do really anger me. Frankly the damage they are going to do to thoose chidrens lives is pratically child abuse.
      In regards to a sex change thing, whats confused me is how we categorie gender in this decade. Bacause if you are a male that is attracted to males you don’t necisasrrly wish you were a woman or even have to act femine in any way. But surely there must be people who don’t consider themselves as having gender dysmorphia but do feel that way. Just hope that there are thing in place to stop greedy plastic sugeons coercing people in to having sex change operations they did’t really want.

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