For two years, I worked in a bookstore that was aimed primarily at children and teenagers. It was a job I quite enjoyed, but I quickly discovered that when you work near books, people always want to tell you their opinions on said books. That's fine most of the time. But I noticed a pattern when parents or adults would refer to The Hunger Games series. They would express dismay over a child wanting to read the book, wondering what they saw in it, and either implicitly or explicitly stating that they thought the book was not good for youth to be reading.
What struck me about these conversations was that ninety-nine percent of the time, the adult in question had not even read the book they were criticizing. They dismissed it, either as inappropriate trash or as mindless fiction without ever actually seeing what it had to say.
Messages parents or guardians have given our users about gender come up frequently, and often problematically. As feminists and queer activists, we address gender stereotyping often in our content and conversations around women and gender nonconforming people of many stripes (or polka dots, whichever one prefers), and we know the weight of it all too well. But gender stereotyping is not just everybody’s problem, it’s a problem for everybody, and that includes for men, and the problems, for everybody, many gender stereotypes about men create.
Quite a few young people have come to us with this scenario: a parent has told their child that they are open to talking about contraception. But when the young people bring this up with us, they sometimes say that even though that invitation was extended, they don't feel comfortable picking it up and asking for that help, or can't figure out how.
I absolutely see what I am sure are usually the best of intentions with this invitation. But I'd like to suggest an alternative that will probably work better.
Our societies are chock full of norms and ideals of beauty, and we all run up against them eventually. These norms and expectations often have a hand in shaping how we feel about our own bodies. When you're a teen and trying to sort out how to feel comfortable in your changing body, these messages can be very potent indeed.
So, what can you do - and what shouldn't you do - to help teens feel at home in their own skin?
It's a perennial cliché in nearly every coming of age movie, book, and sitcom. An adolescent or emerging adult character brings home a new boyfriend or girlfriend, who is met with dismay or disapproval by parents.
So how do you go about working out whether or not your concerns are valid, and what to do about them if they are?
Many trans or gender non-conforming youth come to us looking for support they're having difficulty finding, or don't feel safe looking for elsewhere. We know from talking with these users that one of the biggest factors in their overall well-being -- and how hard or easy all of this is on them -- is how supported and safe they feel in their identities when around their families.
This piece is created with an eye towards how can you support them while dealing with any emotions you might have.