If you are a 90s child, youll know that gender sensitivity was not one of the strong feats of the audio-visual entertainment we had at our disposal. Today, as many of us have grown to unlearn things, revisiting some of that content astonishes us. How on earth did we find that to be okay back then? When YouTubers Kannan Gill and Biswa Kalyan Rath hilariously reviewed Prem Aggan, a movie that was so bad that it was...well, just bad, we came across a scene in which the lead actress bullies and shames a person of the LGBTQIA+ community. Many such scenes in the history of cinema, not just in India, but globally were seen as humour. Most of us didnt grow up in a culture that was sensitive to gendersirrespective of which. The work culture, the stereotypes and gender script that has been taught to us come from a place of bias, and often a lack of understanding and empathy. Why is menstruation and motherhood a female issue when it is part of the human biology that is also largely responsible for the survival and growth of our species? When I was a teen, I remember how hiding your sanitary napkin was normalised. Of course, it still is, but like many women, I refuse to conform to such norms. If it makes some people uncomfortable, its because they are not gender sensitive. But does that mean we dont even challenge the situation? No change is brought by being in your comfort zone. Today, many of us have developed a more inclusive perspective of people of all genders. But even then, sometimes, we need to help each other out to unlearn age old gender expectations. Wouldnt it be nice, if instead of having to change after growing up, our kids could learn to be sensitive to all genders right from their formative years?Why children need to be raised in a gender-sensitive environment They will feel comfortable with their gender identityIf a child feels like they have to do certain things, behave a certain way because of what society dictates and not what they choose and identify with, it can cause issues such as gender dysmorphia[SG1]. It can have a negative impact on a childs psychological wellbeing, which is often worsened by being bullied by other children. Raising kids with gender sensitisation will ensure they not only feel comfortable in their own skin but also protect them from harassment by people who seem to take it upon themselves to define normal. It will promote diversity and inclusionA thriving society is one where people, irrespective of their gender, caste, colour and choices can feel included. By excluding people, we inhibit growth and realisation of full potential of individuals. It is a human right to have equal opportunities and raising our kids to be aware of this can foster a culture that respects diversity, in all spheres. It fosters a culture of tolerance Gender sensitisation is not just about understanding your own gender but also those of others. It means knowing that you may or may not be able to exactly empathise with the struggles of others but you still have to respect them. For instance, a man may never be able to experience the pain of childbirth but they should be sensitive to it and accommodate the needs of the women who go through it. It will blur gender stereotypesStudies show that by the age of two, children start developing gender identities. Often, we are told how a girl and a boy should behave, like and choose. In fact, according to a 2001 study titled Gender and the Career Choice Process: The Role of Biased Self‐Assessments published in American Journal of Sociology, gender roles can bias individuals' perceptions of their competence at various career‐relevant tasks, controlling for actual ability. To the extent that individuals then act on gender‐differentiated perceptions when making career decisions, cultural beliefs about gender channel men and women in substantially different career directions. By encouraging children to be gender sensitive, these cultural norms may not influence their behaviours, thus expanding their scope of opportunities and growth. In fact, many men tend to have difficulty processing emotions and expressing them since they are told thats a womans department. Gender sensitisation can free our children from the chains of stereotypes that inhibits a persons overall development.How to raise a gender sensitive child Do not assign gender roles When it comes to gender roles, the stereotypes are so deeply embedded in our society that sometimes, even when we dont want to, we end up adhering to those. For instance, so many parents will ask their male child to not cry by telling them Boys dont cry, thus assigning the act of expressing vulnerability to femininity. Similarly, building your girl a wardrobe that is so pink, it looks like one giant candy floss, is unfair. She should not feel forced to wear a tutu dress, when all she wants is to be comfortable in a pair of jeans and a tee. Instead, let your child choose their preferences, be it in games, activities, clothing and everything else. Do not assign gender roles to traits. Educate them on gender identity First, read up on gender identity and talk to several people who may help you understand diversity better. Second, teach your child to learn about the same. This will help start a conversation and destigmatise anything that goes beyond being heteronormative. Offer them a safe space to express Sometimes, as parents, many people feel their biases influence their behaviour with their children. You may feel the urge to scold, judge or restrict their freedom of expression because of your own beliefs. But taking that safe space away from your children will only make them more insecurely attached and at risk of psychological ill-health. If your son feels vulnerable, let them be expressive. If your daughter feels confused about gender identity, let them be expressive too. Encouraging open dialogue will help your child feel more positively about gender identities. Let them play with gender-neutral toys According to a 2005 study titled Characteristics of Boys and Girls Toys published in the journal Sex Roles, the toys for boys have been associated with aggression and those for girls are more about nurturing and grooming. However, research says that when children get to play with gender-neutral toys, they are more likely to grow in an all-round manner. Detaching gender from toys will encourage more inclusive engagement and activities in children, thus fostering more gender sensitivity among them. Practice + preach Sometimes, we end up letting our biases impact our behaviour. When it comes to gender sensitivity, we may be on our way to understanding it better. However, your children learn from you and adopt your behaviours. It is easy to tell someone what they should ideally do, but difficult to practice yourself. Hence, put the effort to learn, unlearn and continue to grow when it comes to gender sensitivity.