As many of y’all know I’m working on my teaching degree. As it’s the second semester of my Junior year, I’ve got classroom observation throughout the semester. I just finished last week with first grade, and while the six-and-seven-year-olds were tremendous fun, I am not in the physical and mental state to teach them every day. I understand why so many young women go into early grades. This isn’t about me, although I felt like I really connected with some of the kids in the classrooms I attended.
One of those children was a kid I’ll call “A.” Now, this child had a given name (starting with A) that sounded gender neutral to a white, cis-straight male like me. This kid, who was smart, funny, and outgoing, was also more masculine in appearance than the girls in the class - short hair, Chuck Taylors and Vans, and khaki uniform pants with the 3-button polo. The girls in class wore button-less polo/golf uniform shirts. Because this child would line up with “gentlemen,” when the teacher called them, I just assumed A was a boy.
During one activity, A told me that he couldn’t use his “real,” name in school. He said his dad called him “dude,” but really wanted people to call him Andrew. The kids in the class just accepted A as one of their own, and fortunately there was a single restroom inside the class. With the animosity toward the trans community in general, and in North Carolina in particular, the class placement was probably intentional. It’s a good thing that A’s teacher was really good at teaching. It wasn’t until the second visit to this class that I realized that A was born a girl. The teacher referred to the child as “She,” repeatedly.
My point in talking about this child is that A has already established a gender identity at six years old. He was consciously aware of feeling like a boy despite having female on a birth certificate and medical records. What does this mean?
Gender is a cultural construct. It’s related to culture more than biology, and that can be seen in how other cultures treat gender roles. For example, the Aka Pygmy of central Africa have men who care for children - even breastfeeding - while women gather food. The famous photo of a Nazi book burning from the mid-1930s was actually research from Institut für Sexualwissenschaft - or “Institute for the Science of Sexuality,” and it destroyed thousands of pages of data on human sexuality including trans people living in society in the 20s.