...into a fabulous place where everyone is welcome and allowed to be themselves.
There's something in this list for EVERYONE, so listen up.
1. Start when they're young.
Some people think that young children shouldn't be taught about the spectrums of gender, attraction, etc. until they are older. But they learn anyway - whatever they're exposed to at a young age becomes their foundation of beliefs and morals as they mature. By being visible if you're queer, reading books to kids about diverse people, relationships, and friendships, and being open and honest about how everything is fluid, children will easily accept that people can be whomever they want to be. In the past, if a white child never saw an interracial couple (or didn't ever see them in a positive light), they may assume and therefore learn that marrying interracially is not good, or even an option. So, too, is it with gender and queerness, ability and creed. With queerness, it doesn't even come down to sex (the main reason that people don't want children to know about LGBTQ+ people and relationships). Children know about relationships from day one because they see their parents. By spending time with kids talking about, reading about, and getting to know diverse people and couples (race, gender, sexuality, ability, etc.), we can raise a more tolerant, accepting, loving generation.
2. Stop needlessly gendering things!
Pink is for girls, blue is for boys. Girls like dolls, boys like tossing the old football around. Boys can't wear makeup, and girls can't be strong. Not only are these incredibly outdated stereotypes, they also support the "need" for a gender binary when in reality, gender is a fluid spectrum. When someone chooses to associate themselves with something that is "for" a gender that is not their own, there is shame associated with it. Too often, young people are made fun of for liking something that isn't "meant" for them. Just because a majority of female identifying people like makeup doesn't mean that people of any other gender identity shouldn't have the right to wear it without people batting an eye. If we hadn't gendered these things in the first place, allowing everyone to have access to everything, I think people would be shocked to see how evenly interests fall across the spectrum of gender.
3. Normalize fluidity and change within identity.
Except for some cisgender/straight people, I don't really know anyone who has spent their entire life with the same gender/sexual identity. Even if someone figures out they are queer or trans at a very young age, they still spent those first few years being pigeonholed by society into the gender/sexuality assigned to them at birth. I'm not saying that every baby should be assumed genderless until proven otherwise. Assigning a gender to a newborn based on genitalia isn't really the root of the issue; it can be necessary for medical reasons early in life. The actual issue is assuming that the child must be the gender that matches their genitalia until the child officially declares something different in their teens or later. Children and young adults (and people of any age, for that matter) need to be able to try out different genders without judgement or forced commitment.
Sexuality is similar. Cooing over a baby boy exclaiming about how he's so good with the ladies or joking with your young daughter telling her that she can't kiss a boy until she's 30 is not only sexualizing children, which is weird, but also teaching them what gender(s) they are expected to be attracted to later on. By acknowledging from the start that the child's gender expression and attraction will be fluid their entire lives, as well as implementing #2 on this list, children will be able to freely express themselves however they see fit; they'll have fewer barriers between themselves and becoming who they truly are down the road. Let children experiment with identity, pronouns, and puppy-love attraction. No one is getting hurt by a child deciding they want to try being a different gender. No one is getting hurt by a child saying they have crushes on both a girl and a boy at school. Our reactions as adults teach them very early on what is possible for their futures and what is deemed wrong.
4. EQUAL FREAKING RIGHTS.
This goes for between men and women (and everything in between), as well as LGBTQ+ people, people with differing abilities, etc. Pay gaps and the glass ceiling, rights to marriage and government benefits, and the right to not be discriminated against or hurt because of gender/sexuality/race/religion/ability should be inherent parts of every government. It blows my mind that this isn't a reality. I don't know how to explain to people why they should always have empathy for others.
I will, however, say this - no amount of free speech, equal rights, or religious liberty should protect ANYONE from consequences if they are hateful and discriminatory.
In fact, scratch out #4. I don't want equality. We all deserve more. Which brings me to number 5.
5. I'm just gonna leave this here:
Disclaimer, as is always necessary for a post like this: this is my opinion, based on my beliefs and experiences as a queer person with many queer and variously gendered friends who have shared their stories with me. I am not an official expert on sexuality or gender. I am only an expert on my sexuality and gender. Although this piece focuses mainly on those two topics, I mention other ability-based, racial, and religious minorities. I'm definitely not an expert on those, either. But I felt it was necessary to include them, since the lack of representation and acceptance is so similar. I am never done learning, especially since I am white and cis. I try to be intersectional as I can, but I know I will never be close to perfect. If you're reading this and have information that can help me (and others) be even better about acceptance and intersectionality (and you have the emotional labor available), please message me! I'd be happy to learn and share.