Last week, I posted on Facebook a link to a blog post by a mom whose son wore a crossdressing costume for Halloween. She wrote how happy she was for him, and how disappointed she was about the other moms at the preschool who bullied her about it. Her post has been incredibly widely read, so much so that she appeared on the Today show this morning to discuss it.
The conversation was mostly positive, but I found myself really struck by the use of the phrase “gender confusion.” Dr. Harold Koplewicz of the Child Mind Institute talks about how if a child refuses to wear clothing that matches the child’s sex beyond the age of 5 (i.e. when it’s no longer play), it could mean “something significant for a child’s sexuality later on or gender confusion.” His message is positive, so I’m not too worked up about it, but that language seems troublesome.
Wouldn’t gender confusion refer to people who are unsure of their gender? He uses it in the context of children who very clearly decide they are a different gender, not that they are confused. Confused people need to be guided, reoriented. To refer to a gender identity or gender presentation that is moving from cis to trans as confusion seems both inappropriate, inaccurate, and subtly demonizing.
I’m not a member of the trans community, so I don’t want to pretend I fully understand the personal impact of this language, but this just strikes me as wrong. Gender exploration, gender variance, transgender… these terms I think would be more appropriate.