Silently teaching children about gender

By Kyra Skylark
Flapjack staff

From the moment a child is born, they begin learning about gender. 

Claire Knox is a professor on child development at Humboldt State. Prof. Knox focuses primarily on early childhood development, and possesses a wealth of information on the cognitive development of children in relation to gender.

“You don’t really teach about gender, Knox said. “What happens is that through their interactions with the people around them, children begin to form some ideas about gender. Then because of the way that environments get structured and the ways that we refer to children with language, they begin to construct their own understanding.”

Children construct their views on gender by viewing how those around them act.

“Rather than setting out to teach children topics, which is something that we’ve gone overboard on, we need to back off; in those very early years, what we really are, is support for interpreting experiences,” said Knox.

Adults are supposed to help them understand their world, and we do this by reacting and explaining situations. Over analyzing topics and overemphasizing opinions can confuse children and stunt their own exploratory process.    

Emma Lebell is a student at Humboldt State who identifies as a non-binary trans individual. Lebell strongly believes, that we need to reevaluate how we portray our own views on gender.  

“It’s not really just about changing how you speak to kids, it’s changing how you speak in general conversation about the world,” said Lebell. “Cause kids, they notice shit, they notice how you talk about people and how you talk about things.”

And beyond noticing how you react, they are also learning how they should act. Children mold themselves after what they are exposed to.

“They pigeon stuff. They see it, so they do that, that’s how they learn. You just have to make sure kids have something else to model themselves for,” said Lebell. “So that they don’t just get stuck forcing themselves into the same position because that’s all they know exists.”

Children are aware of how you react, so you should be too.

Erica Siepker, a wildlife major here at HSU, who has worked in the on campus aftercare classrooms agrees that how we react in front of children can greatly influence them.

“Don’t make a big deal about it,” said Siepker.

That was one of the most important things she learned working with the kids. The moment they see something affect you, good or bad, they internalize your response and process your reaction so that they know how they should be reacting. 

“I think the biggest thing is making to big of a deal about it, because that’s when it gets ingrained, that it IS a big deal, the divide between male versus female,” said Siepker. “If they grow up in an environment where nobody is making a big deal about whether a girl does things that boys do, or girls do things that boys do, they’re not going to grow up with the thought that it is a big deal at all.

Gender is not an easy topic to understand even as an adult. There are many different viewpoints on gender which can cause confusion. This confusion translates over when we expose children to our own understanding of gender.

“Basically you really gotta be aware of how you see gender before you can start teaching your kid about that kind of thing. So much of it is unconscious, that you have to force it to be conscious so that you can choose to change it, cause there’s always going to be toxic elements to it, said Lebell.

If a child is curious about gender, if they ask questions or experiment how they present themselves, don’t over analyze their actions. Children are inquisitive about the world and the individuals in it, if they are curious about gender and gendered individuals, let them be curious.

“You need to be willing to talk to them about it and answer questions, kids are curious,” said Lebell. “And if you don’t know the answer, don’t be afraid to say you don’t know, don’t make something up or say, ‘oh it’s not important’.”

If a child has questions about gender, answer their questions, but don’t just give them the your answer. A child is exposed to many different kinds of people and beliefs, accounting for these differences is vital. 

“To be able to talk to kids about-‘you know, people have lots of different ideas about these things, and that’s that person’s idea about it. It doesn’t have to be your idea about it, and it’s not necessarily wrong that it’s their idea but it’s their idea. It’s just an idea about this and we have lots of different ideas,’-and really leaving that door open for children to be able to explore what their ideas about it are,” said Knox.

Presenting multiple ways to think about a topic will help the child to understand it. Beyond simply understanding the ideas we have about gender, providing numerous viewpoints allows for your child to grow into their own opinions on it. As they grow, a child will begin to discover where they feel they fit within, or without the labels we have constructed.

“There’s no reason you can’t talk to kids about gender outright, you might have to simplify your language a little bit, but they can understand it,” said Lebell. “Especially when it is so pervasive in society.”

You can talk to a child of any age about gender, if they are curious about their gender, or gender itself, just talk to them. Everyone has different ideas about gender, and to a certain extent so do they. If they are asking questions, they’ve thought about the topic, so don’t dismiss it with a simply explaining your the anatomy or your own opinion.

What would Knox say to a child, who felt conflicted about their own identity and came to her?

“I would basically say, ‘What does this mean to you? Let’s talk about what this means to you’,” she said. “That might include how people they care about are reacting to them. I don’t think you ever tell someone else about their identity. You reflect. You act as a mirror. You might ask questions to create an interpretive base.”

Allow them to be curious, and explain the different ideas and beliefs relating to gender so that they may find where they feel the most like themselves.

“If gender is something where we’re embracing variety, the idea that it takes time for people to be able to explore and understand, and that there are lots of different ways of expressing who you are, then they’re gonna follow that lead,” said Knox.

The way adults deal with gender in a child’s early development can affect not only how someone interacts with people for the rest of their life, but how comfortable they feel expressing themselves.
“Be very, very aware of how you speak to them and how you speak to others in front of them,” said Lebell. “Always be aware of what possible effects, gender and perceived gender is having on them, because, monkey see monkey do. If your kid sees you talking differently because of someone’s gender than that’s, even without thinking about it maybe, then that’s how they’re going to think and talk about it and that’s going to shape them as a person. So just be aware, and don’t ever shame a child for curiosity.”


Bridging the gender, race gap in computer science

By Izzi Beer
Flapjack staff

Justin Williams, 19, is a freshman at HSU and a computer science major. Having always had a lifelong interest in computers especially coding and computer graphics, Williams said it was simply logic for him to enroll in HSU’s program.

“I’ve always been obsessed with anything relating to that stuff,” Williams said. “I built my first computer in 8th grade, and have been coding since around that time. It just is so much fun because it combines a sort of engineering aspect as well as a techy one.” However, it hasn’t always been so easy for him. Having attended a high school that didn’t have a very developed computer programming class, a lot of the skills that he know has weren’t very accessible to him.

“There was one period of computer graphics that I took all four years of high school,” Williams said. “I kinda learned on my own though and didn’t really stick to the curriculum since it was so repetitive. I took a lot of online courses, which really helped my coding literacy.”

When asked about the diversity in his classes, Williams painted a pretty bleak picture.

“I was the only black kid taking these classes,” he said. “And I think there was one or two girls. In a classroom of at least 20 kids each year.”

However, he conceded that recently there have been improvements.

“While it’s still not great, there are a few more girls in my classes here at Humboldt, which I think is awesome,” Williams said. “I have a feeling it’s because people’s attention has been drawn to it. Things like Girls who Code or like An Hour of Code, have really improved our numbers because people are starting to realize just how important computer literacy is in the job force now.”

In fact, programs like Girls who Code have helped exponentially increase the number of women in the field.

HSU computer science major Kayleigh Migdoll, 18, has also observed a gender discrepancy in computer-related fields.

“For the longest time, I was one of the only girls in any of my computer classes,” Migdoll said. “I remember in elementary school, we were required to go to the computer lab at least once a week, but as soon as middle school rolled around that didn’t happen anymore!” Migdoll is new to the computer science community, but said she has always expressed interest in the subject.

“My dad is a computer engineer,” Migdoll said. “So I’ve kinda always been around that stuff, but college is really the first time I’ve really been devoted to it.”

Women in these fields are much more likely to face workplace discrimination, unequal pay, and have a much harder time advancing their position. When asked about the adversary, Migdoll stated that it was simply part of progress.

“While it is really unfortunate that I will knowingly be a part of this inequality, I kinda view it as a challenge,” Migdoll said. “I just need to work to also improve this discrepancy and this treatment as well as do my job. Its super difficult, but I think that the direction this field is headed in is a good one. Women will get their chance to succeed just as well as men.”

Computer science is not just a field regulated to those who are skilled at coding, or can build computers out of scratch. The field has a plethora of sub-categories and attracts those who do not intend to become computer programmers or app designers. Bella Colleta, 20, is an art major here at HSU, and has become increasingly interested in the field because of its flexibility.

“As an art major, it’s super difficult for us to get jobs out of college,” Colleta said. “A lot of us just end up becoming graphic designers or something like that to make ends meet. So I thought that taking a few computer classes would help me get on track and kinda figure out what I could be doing with my art major.”

Many art majors actually end up taking a multitude of computer classes including basic coding classes, computer graphics classes, and – in Colleta’s case – animation classes.

“I really like my animation classes because they really help involve my love for art with the skills I’ve picked up in taking computer classes,” Colleta said. “It’s super useful for me, because now I can also add animator to my resume.”

Transgender author Boylan informs through comedy, poetry

By Jordan Colombo
Flapjack staff

Jennifer Finney Boylan is a 58-year-old trans woman, professor at Barnard College Columbia University, author of many books, and activist. On Feb. 2, Boylan came to Humboldt State University to speak about her life experiences through poetry that she has written and comedy.

She started her show by reading some of her poetry that talked about her life being a boy and knowing from a young age that she was not born in the body that she was meant to be in. Then, she transitioned into poems that talked about her mustering up the courage to admit to herself what was going on because the entire time she lived in a fantasy that she was a women and finally decided to make that fantasy into a reality. She was very sure of herself that she wanted to be a women and gained all this confidence and security by being able to love herself, as well as accepting love from others.

Boylan then went into talking about what we as a people can do to help others going through a similar experience

“We have to be allies to the trans people,” Boylan said. “Sometimes they can’t speak for themselves, especially trans women of color because they are so marginalized and victimize that they need the most support.”

She also understood plight of most trans people’s experience. Boylan grew up in a supportive both emotionally and financially, upper class family, and most trans people do not get such an opportunity, and so they have to turn to selling their bodies just so they can go through with their transition.

Boylan mentioned how her transition was not hard

“My secret was no longer a secret,” she said. However, she was scared that people were going to judge her mom. She had a conversation with her mom one day where her mother reassured Boylan. Her mother knew she was going to be judged because people don’t talk about this kind of thing where they are from. But her mother could handle the judgment.

Paloma Sky, a 22-year-old philosophy major, said she didn’t know much about this topic.

“I just don’t know the proper terminologies,” Sky said. “I was moved by the way she composed her show, and how she was very informative.”

Gladys Anderson, 56, an Arcata resident, had read Boylan’s book.

“I was glad that she touched basis on the privilege that she came from, but upset that she didn’t mention the struggle that her wife went through during the transition,” Anderson said.

Mary Bockover, a philosophy teacher at HSU, was excited about the show.

“This is an amazing woman,” Bockover said, “who is able to talk about her life through comedy and poetry.”

LGBTQ activist Jenny Finney Boylan urges free-thinking, acceptance

By Sally Gammie
Flapjack Staff

Jenny Finney Boylan, author of 15 books, and political activist well known in the LGBTQ community came to speak at the Van Duzer Theatre Thursday night on Feb. 2. Her talk focused on her journey through the process of transitioning from male to female, which she didn’t undergo until she was already married, and in her forties. She also spoke about the importance of accepting people for who they are, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, or race.

Mary Bockover was the organizer of the event. She said it was not difficult to get Jenny Boylan to come to Humboldt State.

“Not at all! She responded right away,” said Bockover. “She’s unbelievably personable, really a fantastic person.”

Bockover is a part of the Philosophy Forum here at HSU, as such she is passionate about giving students on campus a feeling of being able to think freely and critically.

“LGBTQ rights are so important, and they need to be approached very carefully,” Bockover said. “It’s so important to be able to pursue avenues of sound evidence. My desire was to create a forum for allowing this to happen in a public context.”

This idea of bringing reputable, well known individuals that will inspire this kind of thinking is what led Bockover to book Jenny Boylan. The audience consisted of an array of people including students, faculty, and local Arcata civilians alike. It wasn’t the largest crowd, but everyone there was undoubtedly engaged and moved by the words of Jenny Boylan.

As casual, conversational and at times humorous as Boylan’s talk was, that had no effect on the emotional impact her content had on the audience. At one point in her talk she shared a story about her life as a college student.

“In those days I lived a double life, female out of the classroom, male when I was on campus,” said Boylan. “There was a girl we’ll call Scarlet, who had a very dissatisfying relationship with me.”

One night when Boylan was out on the town, dressed as a women, she ran into Scarlet at a club. Because she was dressed as a women, Scarlet didn’t recognize her. They had a moment in the bathroom where Scarlet was crying, she was crying over “some boy.” That boy was Jenny Boylan. While they were in the bathroom, Boylan gave Scarlet a tissue under the divider of the stall where their fingers touched for a fraction of a second.

“It was complexified equilibrium, all right,” said  Boylan.

The term “complexified equilibrium” was brought up throughout Boylan’s talk. It’s a term she defined as being when things have to continuously change and grow in order to reach a sense of equilibrium. Life isn’t simple, life isn’t stagnant, and we must be willing to accept an inevitably ever changing world in order to maintain what she defines as a sense of equilibrium.

There was a short Q and A after the talk. Abby Hamburg, a 21-year-old HSU communications major, was anxious to meet one of his idols and get the chance to ask her a question.

“Do you still dream of going to space?” Hamburg asked. “And what advice do you have to those of us still stuck in the forest playing our version of ‘girl planet’?”

This question was in reference to one of Boylan’s books She’s Not There, where she shared her childhood fantasy of being an astronaut.

“There’s a chapter in my book, where I talk about when I was a kid how I would pretend I’d crash landed on a distant planet where the atmosphere turned me into a girl,” Boylan said. She went on to address a little about her dreams of going to space and how it’s always been a fantasy for her. Boylan was clearly touched by the personal question.

Boylan reassured Hamburg to follow his dreams, and to never stop being true to yourself. Ultimately the message of her talk boiled down to this, to keep an open mind and unapologetically love yourself and everyone around you.



Humboldt Pride: torn in two

By Belen Flores
Flapjack staff

Humboldt Pride is held every September and it was torn in two this year. Not only did were there marchers but there was also protesters at the end of the parade in Halvorsen Park. One of the most memorable posters read “ Humboldt Pride Is Not Here To Serve The Community Or The LGBTQ+ Liberation (They Are An Over-Aged Prom Committee).”

Neesh Wells, 19, student at HSU appreciated people that had voiced their opinion on how the parade can better improve and make it a safe space for everyone.

“I think it is important to have a safe space like pride in order to come together and celebrate the diversity in the queer community,”Wells said. “I feel as though those protesting should be more mindful of taking that into consideration.”

Although marchers knew about the protest they still kept a joyful outlook on the day they are able to proudly celebrate a community they are part of. Kelsey Young, 22, an Arcata resident, has been to many pride parades but this year was her first year marching in the parade.

“Marching in the parade was so positive,” Young said. “It was such a big turn out and seeing everyone that understand or at least support LGBTQ+ issues was uplifting.”

Once everyone had finished the parade and had made it to Halvorsen Park, people were able to join the festivities. From drag shows to musical performances the event was filled with positives vibes people had come to expect. There was a variety of booths that were available for everyone to see. The Queer Resource Center and the Eric Rofes Multicultural Queer Resource Center from Humboldt State made an appearance in hopes of making people more aware that HSU has many queer resources on campus.

The planning of the parade seemed like a difficult and stressful task to coordinate.
Nicki Viso, Mike Kirakoysan and Sierra Farmer were the organizers of the parade this year. They were able to split up tasks and have a successful event.

“Many hands make light work!” Kirakoysan said. “It was stressful at times though, but the end result was worth the effort.”

CAt the end of the event Viso said she felt really accomplished and had expressed.

“I felt really awesome afterwards, knowing I had a hand in the parade’s success,” Viso said.