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The Debate Over Gender Education in Malta: Should our Children Be Taught About Gender Fluidity at Age 8?

A children’s arts and performance festival that explores gender fluidity is scheduled to take place from March 16-19, 2023. The festival is open to 8 to 10-year-olds, with two performances for schools and three for the general public.

Gender fluid refers to a person who identifies beyond traditional male or female gender roles, and their gender identity may evolve over time. The festival’s website describes ‘Gender Boss’ as a multidisciplinary performance that aims to educate young people about gender fluidity, with the message that gender is flexible, playful, and not pre-determined.

The upcoming performance has made a lot of noise. Many parents are concerned. Julie Zahra, Nationalist MP, publicly stated her opinion on social media, implying that the performance will negatively impact “children of such a tender age”. She has since been criticized by LGBTIQ+ activists, the Malta Gay Rights Movement (MGRM), political candidates, and artists.

Benefits of Gender Education

Gender education promotes inclusivity and understanding of diverse gender identities, reduces discrimination and bullying, and provides accurate and helpful information for children and teenagers questioning their gender. Such education creates a safer and more accepting environment for all students to discover who they are at an early age.

Unfortunately, recent data indicates that 82% of transgender individuals have considered killing themselves, and 40% have attempted suicide, with suicidal ideology highest among transgender youth. Lack of belonging, emotional neglect by family, and internalized self-stigma can significantly affect children’s mental health.

By giving children the tools and language to understand their own feelings, we can help create a safer and more accepting environment for all students. Teaching children about the many ways people can identify can help break down harmful stereotypes and promote acceptance of all gender expressions. Through gender education, we can reduce the anxiety, confusion and alienation that can come along with questioning one’s gender.

Disadvantages of Gender Education

It is important to acknowledge that while gender education has numerous benefits, there are also potential disadvantages to consider. One concern is that discussing topics such as gender transitions and sex-changes with young children may distress them. Some argue that children are not equipped to understand complex gender identity concepts and that introducing these ideas too early could lead to unnecessary stress or uncertainty.

Another potential disadvantage is that gender education may be seen as promoting a particular ideology or agenda. Some parents and educators are uncomfortable with the idea of discussing gender identity in the classroom, particularly if they feel that it conflicts with their personal beliefs or values. There may also be concerns that such discussions could be divisive, leading to disagreements and conflicts within schools and communities.

Finally, there is the question of how gender education should be implemented. Some worry that without careful planning and preparation, such education could be delivered in a way that is unhelpful or even harmful. For example, if teachers lack training or expertise in the subject of gender identity, they may struggle to provide accurate or helpful information to students. It is therefore important to ensure that any gender education is delivered in a thoughtful, sensitive, and informed manner.

What’s the Consensus? Here are a few opinions from Maltese parents:

“I think we’re still a long way from acknowledging that transgender and gay people are born this way and do not become such because they are influenced by a play. Children should acknowledge that everyone is unique and different. This is the only way through which we can stop bullying.”

“When my kids are sad, it is my duty as a parent to cheer them up and not leave it up to them to find happiness. If my kids are hungry, I feed them and not tell them to go get food themselves. If my kid is confused about his orientation, it is my DUTY to guide him through it and not throw him to the wolves or sending him to such “events” and figuring it out himself. This is all down to the parents. We have a tougher job to do in this woke age, but no matter, we will push through it just the same. It’s not an easy topic, and everyone should draw their own conclusions.”

“Why are we discussing gender issues for children between 8 – 10? This is a new form of indoctrination. At a later stage, when children really start questioning the subject, makes sense, but at 8 -10??? Whoever is promoting this approach is doing a disservice to society.”

“Why is it so difficult for us adults to just trust that if a child or young person feels like this, this is their truth and their life and it is up to us as a society to support them. Teaching acceptance in schools takes away from some of the suffering and shaming that evidence shows results in mental health issues in these children. We are supposed to be advancing as a society.”

What do you think about teaching children about gender?


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