Interviewed by Rachel Wild
Read Charlotte Gullick’s nonfiction piece, A Word for the Future
Rachel: A Word for the Future’ is a really impressive piece of writing where you discuss different issues concerning gender, gender norms, and transgender identities. What made you decide to write it?
Charlotte: I am a parent and an educator who feels that I learn as much from my child and my students as I teach them. And I recognized a pattern of push back concerning gender expectations, and I wanted to explore that in writing because that’s where some of my best growth as a person happens.
You talk about the shame of being insulted by a man you were at school with when he says ‘are you a dude?’ but also the criticism you received from your father for being too feminine. Do you think young women still face these attitudes, or have we moved on in any way from men feeling it is their right to criticize women like this?
I do think women still face these attitudes, from both men and women – maybe not as often or overtly, but this sentiment is still a driving force in American society.
The ‘dead names’ and the new names list of your daughter’s friends you kept is illuminating. And the fact at school some of the girls go by their new names is encouraging. How was this negotiated, or is it down to the individual teacher?
This one I don’t feel fully qualified to answer – I do know I asked a Vice Principal about their commitment to transgender students and she said back, “If the student made a commitment to the school, the school makes a commitment to the student.” However, I don’t know how the names within the schools are negotiated.
I think this line is key to your piece. ‘My child’s mind has a flexibility concerning gender I long for.’ Do you think educators like yourself have a role to play in increasing this flexibility?
We play a critical role increasing in flexibility in all the ways. We need to understand that there is more than one way of learning, of processing information, of expressing and understanding yourself. Educators should be as supportive as possible when it comes to these issues rather than gatekeepers.