When we talk about the battle against discrimination, we’re usually referring to a particular legal framework that protects the rights of the oppressed. In tackling discrimination—prejudicial treatment of an individual based on his actual or perceived membership in a particular category or group—we rarely think about the actual foundations of discrimination. We think about punishment, not about solutions.
The constricting nature of how we socialize our youth is the strongest contributor to discrimination—to racism, homophobia, and misogyny. Many contemporary childcare books, even those written by self-proclaimed progressives, view behavioral nonconformity during childhood as problematic because it is linked to homosexuality. When we force our archaic and destructive heteronormative way of life onto our children, we propagate a system that excludes those who are different and that prevents our youth from achieving its full potential. Amongst the outcasts are generally homosexuals, transgender individuals, fat people, and racial minorities.
But it is not our parents alone that reify stereotypes and that buckle us down to a world in which discrimination flourishes. Our institutions, even those that we hold in esteem, are part of the machine that reinforces the binarized gender system. In “Resisting Medicine, Re/Modeling Gender,” Dean Spade makes the case that the medicalization of transgenderism has contributed to the ostracizing of the trans community. Reassessing socialization and institutional positions is imperative if we hope to effectively address discrimination.
Martin, Karin A. “William Wants a Doll. Can He Have One? Feminists, Child Care Advisors, and Gender-Neutral Child Rearing.” Gender and Society 19.4 (2005): 456-79. Print.
Spade, Dean. “Resisting Medicine, Re/modeling Gender.” Berkeley Women’s Law Journal (2003): 15-37. Print.