By: Grace Cascone
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology
In discussing gender, the majority of modern society (e.g., media, education, medical science) thinks of gender as binary (Kilman, 2013). There are two extremes, either male or female, and everything in between is seen as not “standard,” and is not often discussed or addressed. Some individuals are born with genitalia that do not fit into this binary classification, and they are often used as entertainment (Hillman, 2008). As a science that subscribes to an idiosyncratic understanding of our population, people are all different and individualized. Thus, gender is a spectrum and not two extremes.
Gender is constructed by culture and society, and certain roles and “stereotypes” go along with gender categorization (Kerr & Multon, 2013). At the same time, O’Connell (2001) states that considering gender to be exclusively culturally constructed “constitutes a form of violence” (pp. 76). The author emphasizes the fact that gender as purely a social construct may affect individual’s behaviors and personal identity. Finally, the author emphasizes that gender and personal identity may vary across an individual’s lifespan. Similarly, Ekins and King (2006) address the cultural influence upon gender. They define the term “gender culture” and how it is used to create categorization and rules to help members of the culture to predict others’ behavior.
In children between the ages of 15 and 36 months, as the children approached three years old, their understanding of the relation between genitals and gender were not completely salient (de Marneffe, 1997). The author found the children would correctly tact which doll was like them based on genital characteristics. However, the experimenter stated the participants’ understanding of which dolls were boy/girls was easily changed and the children seemed confused. The author concluded that the participants’ understanding of the relationship between genitals and gender is unclear and easily influenced.
Strict categorization of gender and gender roles may lead to a future decrease in certain behaviors based on gender (Kerr & Multon, 2013). In Kerr & Multon’s (2013) examination of giftedness and its relation to gender, certain stereotypes have correlative effects with certain individuals’ behavior. The authors examined gender identity and gender roles as they related to gifted students. They went on to find gender culture might negatively influence parent behavior toward their children.
Recently, more parents are accepting their children’s gender variance (Sansfaçon, Robichaud, & Dumais-Michaud, 2015). In this study, the authors recruited supportive parents of children with gender variance. Each week the parents and researchers would meet and discuss certain topics and how certain topics related to the parents and narrative data were collected. The data were coded into different themes and categories and then analyzed. The experimenters’ results found the participants accepted the gender variance in the best interest of their children. Additionally, the parents were aware of the difficulties of differing from the current gender culture.
The experimenter works with typically developing children, some of which engage in inappropriate bullying behavior, especially toward gender-variant individuals. For purposes of this paper, the author created an instructional design to address certain “non-standard” topics in an age-appropriate way. Additionally, the instructional materials may be adapted and modified for different populations and different topics. Based on previous research, culture and parents may have an impact on shaping a child’s understanding of gender culture. If an instructional design program can be created for children and implemented in a school setting, might there be an impact on gender culture and decrease bullying of children who are gender-variant?
The experimenter will recruit all assenting students in all 5th – 8th grade classrooms (approximately 20-60 students). An informed consent form for parents will be sent home two weeks prior explaining the instructional material, which will need to be signed in order for the child to also participate. Additionally, the presentation will begin with the presenter asking if any student would like not to participate, they have the option to leave at any time during the presentation. After that, the students will be given the pre-assessment quiz (see Appendix A) consisting of five questions. Participants will be given 10 minutes to take the assessment. The experimenter will then collect all assessments and begin the presentation. The presentation will take approximately 45 minutes, and will begin with age-appropriate descriptions of gender culture, pronouns, various terminologies (e.g., cisgender, intersex, etc.), and interactive activities (i.e., the students will be asked to answer a series of questions pinpointing individuals’ gender and they will complete a portion of The Gender Unicorn (Pan)). All questions presented in the pre-assessment will be covered in the presentation, which will conclude with tools and phrases for future utilization. This is to provide the participants with phrases and verbal behavior to appropriately and respectfully discuss gender and gender variance with peers. The presenter should periodically ask if there are any questions. Following the end of the presentation, the children will be given a post-assessment (which is the same as the pre-assessment).
The assessments will be compared to measure the targeted behavior of increasing participants’ understanding of gender, by teaching that gender is a spectrum and not binary. The participants will show an understanding of this concept by increasing their post-assessment scores to 100% accuracy. The instructional short-term objective will be considered met when all of the participants increase their post-assessment scores to 100%.
The instructional design also has a long-term objective to decrease bullying behavior toward gender-variant children. Due to the nature of the topic and gender culture, the experimenter might run into several problems with this instructional design. Gender may be a difficult concept for some students to understand, especially with a predominantly accepted binary gender culture. To minimize the likelihood of these problems, the presenter will use anatomically correct language (if needed) and frequently ask if participants have questions on the discussed material. Additionally, older and younger children may require different verbal behavior (e.g., simpler words and more/different examples). If mastery criteria are not met, the experimenter will modify the verbal behavior for each of the grades and represent the modified presentation to the individual grades (as opposed to all in one group).
De Marneffe, D. (1997). Bodies and words: A study of young children’s genital and gender knowledge. Gender and Psychoanalysis 2(1), 3-31.
Ekins, R. & King, D. (2006). The transgender phenomenon. London, UK: SAGE Publications.
Hillman, T. (2008). Intersex (For lack of a better word). San Francisco, CA: Manic D Press.
Kerr, B. A. & Multon, K. D. (2013). The development of gender identity, gender roles, and gender relations in gifted students. Journal of Counseling and Development (93), 183-191.
Kilman, C. (2013). The gender spectrum. [Blog]. Retrieved from http://www.tolerance.org/gender-spectrum
O’Connell, S. P. (2001). Outspeak: Narrating identities that matter. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press.
Sansfaçon, A. P., Robichaud, M., & Dumais-Michaud, A. (2015). The experience of parents who support their children’s gender variance. Journal of LGBT Youth 12(1), 39-63.
This piece was originally published as a part of the Summer 2015 SBRP SIG Newsletter.