I played with trucks in the dirt when I was a little girl. I also had dolls. My son liked to walk around in my high heeled shoes when he was 3 and has a Barbie because he’s a huge Toy Story fan and he wanted all of the characters. We had to search high and low for Tour Guide Barbie because she was only sold in Japan. He does not turn her into a gun. I did not force anything on him. I just allowed him to be who he wanted to be without making him wrong for it. Allowing someone to go outside of gender norms is not forcing them to — it’s letting the child have personal freedom and self-expression. And from the research I’ve seen, nearly all gender identification is acquired (socialized in) rather than innate. The instances of people “forcing” a child out of their gender are so few as to be a moot statistic.

As I’ve repeatedly stated, it’s fine for boys to be rough and tumble and want to play cowboy or whatever, even if it is socialized in. What isn’t OK is not allowing girls who also want to do that to be who they want to be. It’s also wrong and extremely psychologically damaging to shame boys who would rather do arts and crafts or some other “feminine” activity. And it’s not OK to try to shame a man who writes about the very real issue of toxic (as distinct from healthy) masculinity around the world because that doesn’t fit into your box of what a real man should do.

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Dispelling cultural myths with research-driven stories. My favorite word is “specious.” Not fragile like a flower; fragile like a bomb! Twitter @ElleBeau

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