I have a little friend who is celebrating a second birthday about right now. To mark it, I have written and illustrated this story — The day little Lolo took a bite of sunshine. The next step is to take it to the printers, laminate and bind, finally wrap and give, receive … unwrap and enjoy. May this blog post kick me into action!
I hope you like the story too and go away feeling a bit more sunny. If not … or if yes, do what kids do, and read it again, and again, and again! See the end for more ideas about bringing the sunshine in.
The Big Adventures of Little Lolo in this Wee World
The day little Lolo took a bite of sunshine
what do you notice?
What do you notice about the story of Lolo? Readers’ response will vary from ‘nothing’ to lots of stuff I haven’t thought of, or noticed myself. What I invite you to think about is —
Is little Lolo a girl, or boy? And, if you have a sense one way or another, why do you think that? And does it matter whether little Lolo is a girl or boy? I very carefully constructed the story so that it would be fitting for any child, boy, girl or other.
Kids, especially and all of us, need a wider spectrum of play, dress and behaviour than is allowed by dominant society.
The world over, ‘male’ and ‘female’ are constructed as opposing positions, mutually interdependent and attracted to each other. Ideas about appropriate male and female behaviour interact with and change depending on the cultural context, and social categories such as race, age, ability, class, sexual orientation, ethnicity and religious beliefs, and also vary over space and time, but affect and influence all of us our whole lives. Some of these situations will bring out the best in all of us, while at other times, these expectations will limit us. The world around us expects us, and teaches us, to be either boys/men or girls/women, with different standards of behaviour for these two categories. Out of these expectations we learn how to act, feel and think in order to pass as either male or female, and everything else that we are.
‘Sex’ is biological, and ‘gender’ is something we do. We are permanently (re)constructing gender, our own as well as others.
gender awareness in action
In 2013 I was part of a team writing and coordinating the production of a new handbook for nonviolent campaigns published by War Resisters International. Part of our brief for the new book was to ensure there was a thread of gender awareness throughout the book. Chapters were contributed by various people, and while we had a chapter on ‘gender and noviolent campaigning’ we also aimed to invite authors of other chapters to consider their theme and how/when moments of (gender and other) diversity often arise from unwitting expression of stereotypes or sexist or other behaviours. We invited these reflections to be considered in the text throughout and for groups to consider how to bring out the best in each other, not matter whether we are male, female and/or identify in other ways.
I invite you to read the handbook and consider for yourself, I know these ideas are challenging and hard to take in.
I also invite you to consider the use/existence/reality of a gender-neutral pronoun slowly making its way into standard English — (*) Zhe, zher and zhim are gender-neutral pronouns, an alternative to he or she. Zhe (pronounced zee) is the subject pronoun, zher the possessive and zhim the object.
meanwhile, ideas (no matter whether you’re male or female, and something a wee bit more light-hearted) to bring the sunshine in and be your best
Let the Sunshine … Dance wherever you are, as you like and as if no one else were there … movement changes our way of being in the world, and it’s just fun !! And sunshine is everywhere, and sung about by everyone (the Beatles most famously perhaps), and even in Siberia!
drink me! Yum: lemon + water (warm, cold or hot)
We all need water and good physical and mental health to be our best. And thank you (you know who) for turning me on to lemon water in the morning. It works for me! It brings the sun shine and Big Love in.
These ideas are challenging, life and world-changing. Sometimes all we can do is close our eyes and imagine the light at the end of tunnel when everyone is valued for themselves regardless of how we identify or others identify us.
The ground is fertile for change, it will mean some risks and challenges for us, but the potential of feeling the sunshine, being the best we can be, is within us all. Do you feel it? How do you take action for gender equality?
You may distribute, remix, tweak, and build upon my work, as long as you credit me for the original creation and do not use for commercial purposes. You must use the same Creative Commons licence on any derivative works.
want to know more?
Janet Mock, a trans advocate and writer, juxtaposes the personal and the political with a dose of academic theory and pop culture, honestly detailing both the joys and difficulties of her journey in this book ‘Redefining Realness’ or read an interview with her here.
Is loving trans people an act of revolution? asks Quince Mountain. Do transpeople need love or political and civil rights?