Can boys like pink?

I have a (nearly) 2 year old boy. He goes to nursery 5 days a week and is currently learning to talk, use a potty, and drink from a cup (not all at the same time, I might add). That’s all pretty useful stuff to learn, and quite major changes in one’s life. So my question is, whilst expanding his mind and physical capabilities at this incredible rate, shouldn’t we try our hardest not to restrict their areas of development in any way lest we prevent them, through some butterfly effect, from not developing certain areas at all?

Which brings me to Brendan O’Neill. He’s the editor of Spiked and he’s written a column for the Telegraph about Gender Identity Disorder, or specifically about the fact that it doesn’t exist.

Gender Identity Disorder in children (GIDC) is the formal diagnosis used by psychologists and physicians to describe children who experience significant gender dysphoria. It’s a conflict between a person’s actual physical gender and the gender that person identifies himself or herself as, for example, a person identified as a boy may actually feel and act like a girl. Children with GID may feel disgusted by their own genitals, have anxiety or depression or believe they will grow up to be the opposite sex. The exact cause of gender identity disorder is not known, but several theories exist. – These theories suggest that the disorder may be caused by generic (chromosomal) abnormalities.

Brendan makes his point along the lines of ‘it’s crazy talk’ and argues that children this young are not capable of suffering from ‘serious mental anguish’. I have to say that I’m not persuaded either way – specifically I think that serious mental anguish is a relative term, and it certainly seems extremely serious if you are 2 and you’ve lost your favourite cuddly, or your brother is weeing on you in the bath

“Some boys dress in pink, and some girls eat worms, it’s ok”. Yes it’s ok, it’s perfectly fine and we shouldn’t be bothered. I don’t think we should react either way. At one end of the amateur psychologist scale you can view it as the fact that they’re children exploring their place in the world, at the other end, because they are just children playing fancy dress.

It’s ok, but it’s not the norm – as in there are less boys dressed in pink than there are boys dressed in pink. Even if you believe as a parent that you are bringing your child up in a gender neutral environment – one designed not to push pink, dollies, and fairy princesses on your daughter and no cars, guns, fire engines or footballs for the boys, the chances are your son will still like lego and your daughter will like dollies.

Children take on stereotypical personas at that age; they are exposed to influences throughout their daily lives through TV, magazines, childrens’ toys, older siblings, and society at large.

Children model themselves on their parents and people around them, along with figures of admiration; emergency service personnel, teachers, their daddies and their mummies.

Aspiring to be someone they look up to is not something we should be ashamed of just because the person they admire is from the opposite sex. If Mummy is the most important person in his life and the best way he feels he can physically represent that admiration is to dress like a girl… then so be it.

Our daughter reflects her admiration of her parents by calling Daddy ‘my bestest king’ and Mummy is ‘a princess’. Would society view that as ok because she was ‘gender appropriate’, or would they view her as having royalist fantasies?

Do we just believe that there is such a thing as ‘normal’ behaviour and that all children should conform? Really? Are we just getting more vocal in labelling the variations of normal behaviour? Is there a definitive line that divides crazy from sane?

I offer all of this as merely a discussion point, not an op-ed piece. Going back to my original point, I don’t believe we should restrict our children’s development because of our own fears and prejudices. I also believe that Gender Identity Disorder is a real condition. I’m just not sure we should give it much weight in terms of judging our children. In fact I don’t think children should be judged at all.

James Cole

James Cole is the Group Editor for Sailfin Magazines and oversees our titles and content creation. He's literally the person who dots our 'i's and crosses our 't's across our Home and Garden Magazine section, our Family and Parenting Magazine, our Life & Wellbeing Magazine, Our Travel and Tourism Magazine, and our Business and Work sections.