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Nurturing Children's Gender Identity: Is Avoidance Really The Solution?


"Children's blue overalls with smiling fox graphic, bold image text stating, 'Let's give them the choice'"

What does colour have to do with it


Gender identity is an ever-growing topic of study. It can be overwhelming, especially as a parent or guardian to a young child. There is a lot more awareness now of how choices made for a child can repress or confuse them as they develop their sense of self. So, I decided to break it down to one of the most basic choices a parent can make for their child; what colour should they wear?


When I think of the correlation between colour and gender, I think of pink and blue. Parents who choose to conform their children to gender stereotypes often overpower them with one of these colours depending on their born sex. This, however, is not a new concept. What I wish to create a discussion around is what happens when parents, trying to avoid subjecting their child to gender stereotypes, restricts access to any colour connected with gender bias. 


Does avoiding a colour solve the problem?


A growing trend that parents are implementing is gender-neutral clothing. This concept incorporates only colours that aren't associated with gender, such as yellow, green, brown, etc. The theory is that their child's clothing will not clearly define what gender they identify as, allowing them to grow and develop their authentic self as they get older.


One personal example of this comes from my cousin and his wife. They are blessed with a wonderful and healthy baby girl. They chose to combat society’s definition of the accepted female gender identity. To fight the daily pressures, they decided to ban relatives and friends from buying anything pink or too girlie. I commend them on their commitment to allowing their daughter to define her own gender identity. However, does this take away future options to choose what colours she is confident wearing? Isn't this just the original issue in reverse? Furthermore, does taking away this choice of clothing colour impress upon her that some options are not available to her?


How to find balance in a spectrum of colour


Essentially both these decisions may just be two sides of the same coin with each missing the point of healthy development for a child’s identity; no limitations. A fascinating study on gender identity in children's clothing further examined the practice of using gender-neutral clothing. Stating that; 

“...all participants concluded that gender-neutral products or labels were not necessary for children due to the extensive availability and variety of clothing.”

This highlights, instead of avoiding certain colours, it's all about providing variety. It may take some time for traditionally gendered colours to become more normalised across all gender types. However, by giving your child access to any and all colours you create a headspace for your child to find themselves naturally and feel proud of what works for them. Gender identity goes far deeper than the colour of the blanket the hospital wrapped you in the day you were born. However, it’s a first step in creating a liberated individuality within your child.

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