School bags packed, lunches made, uniforms ready. Yes, it’s the start of a new school year. It’s also the end of eight weeks in our summer holiday bubble, and we’re back in the social world of school again.
At the end of the holidays, we watched No More Boys And Girls as a family – my partner, me and our two primary-school daughters.
We were shocked, but not really surprised, by the programme’s findings about the differences in expectations and treatment of girls and boys. And, it’s hard to deny its conclusion: that these stereotypes affect how our children grow up – from the jobs they choose to the way in which they are able to express their emotions.
When I became a lesbian parent, my hope was that families like mine, ones with LGBT parents, would be at the forefront of challenging these assumptions. That we would be able to model new ways of bringing up both boys and girls to be the people they want to be. It would be easier for us – because we would know instinctively, and from our own experience growing up, that gender norms are there be challenged, not policed.
There are many LGBT families who do this. Having two parents of the same gender, or a single LGBT parent, can help children to see that their options are not limited by gender.
When writing Pride and Joy: A guide for LGBT parents, I interviewed Poppy, a lesbian mum with a young son; and Jacob, now an adult, who grew up with his lesbian single mum. They both explained how being in LGBT families has influenced their understandings of gender roles.
“Just by being together as a lesbian couple we’ve fucked up the reasoning that you need a man to do DIY and a woman to cook,” says Poppy. “Sometimes she cooks, sometimes I cook, sometimes she cleans, sometimes I clean, sometimes she puts up shelves and changes light bulbs and sometimes I do. We show my son that you don’t need a man to put up flat-pack furniture. I can do it all, my girlfriend can do it all, it doesn’t matter who does what.”
“I think my family structure intrinsically challenges gender…