When I first started looking at the topic of gender in our society, I was seeing it mainly from the perspective of our ability to change gender identity through our appearance (whether it's through aesthetic changes or through surgical intervention). I was exploring the idea of the future where people will have the ability to change gender easily, making it part of their self-expression, thus eliminating the stigma behind not confining to the traditional binary gender. But as I was learning more about the whys behind people's decisions to associate themselves with non-traditional (or opposite) gender, I've noticed that a lot of people's choices were not based just on their physiological appearance, but rather because they felt they did not fit into the stereotypes and ideals associated with their biological sex. And the more transition stories I read, the more I've realized the impact of gender stereotypes, gender roles, and gender inequality has played in these people's lives. So I decided to take a step back and figure out how, when and why this happens.
Almost immediately I have realized that the reinforcement of the gender split starts as soon as a child is born. A lot of studies have confirmed that up until the age of 3-4 children do not see the difference between the two genders, however, most parents approach raising boys and girls very differently. From the kind of toys and games the children get exposed to, what clothes and accessories they are surrounded by, to the way parents and families talk to them. So when a little boy wants to wear a skirt and play with dolls, it's immediately perceived as abnormal because it's not what "boys should do". And growing up, these stereotypes will become more and more prominent, creating a lot of anxiety for the child who just simply doesn't fit into what society perceives to be a gender norm.
So for my potential future, I decided I wanted to design not just for making it easier to change gender as adults, but rather imagine how different the world would be if from the beginning humans were not raised based on these stereotypes and “norms” (I even wonder whether gender procedures would be as prevalent if people were allowed to express themselves whichever way they feel most comfortable since the young age).
I believe designers have always played a crucial role in our perception of gender, and they have an ability to make a significant impact in this potential future. From small things like toy packaging and bathroom signs, to large (and wicked) topics like pay gap, gender inequality and sexism in our society, there is so much room for designers to intervene in. And while small, I believe that the idea of raising children gender-neutrally is one way to create a more equal and open world. By raising kids without the preconception of what roles they should take on solely based on their biological sex, or what interests they should have, or what they should wear and how they should act, I think we could potentially eliminate the biases and make the world more accepting.