I was asked this last weekend a good question regarding Caitlyn Jenner’s very public announcement of her transition: how do I think this will affect pre-teens and children growing up who see people of different Gender Identities and Sexualities on TV? Will there be confused kids or kids just following a trend?
I tried to explain this to the asker at the time, but I have a hard time answering big questions like that without some time to think. I’ve been asked in the past why I think my generation has so many people coming out with different Gender Identities when they used to just be “kind of a sissy” or “a tomboy.”
The fact is that our generation and the couple generations before us have had the gender binary shoved down our throats since birth. Marketers want to segment us into as many valid groups as possible to sell us more stuff. They want our money and they can tell themselves that they know us by drawing lines between genders, races, locations, and age groups. These things have been so saturated into our lives that it’s impossible not to see the box you’re expected to fit into and it’s impossible not to notice when you don’t fit in there.
So here’s the thing: kids are gonna notice that they don’t fit in the box whether they see different Genders on TV or not. The difference is that they’ll have words for what they’re feeling and they’ll know they aren’t alone in feeling that way. That’s it. That’s the danger of having representation: kids knowing how to question their expressions of identity.
And yeah, there may be some kids who want to be like their trans friends or they hear some asshole say “cis-scum” and think they need to be some other gender. There may even be kids who want to pretend to be something they’re not. But I would rather validate a million posers than invalidate a single kid trying to find themselves.
Because you have to find yourself somehow and it’s not always an easy path. There is nothing to be lost by making the journey a little less lonely.