There is a controversial debate going on at the moment online. It’s about Santa.
Graphic Springs, a free logo design company, surveyed approx. 400 people to find out how they’d rebrand Santa, and what they’d do to give the beloved character a more modern image.
Unilad reports that “the new, ‘modern’ Santa has tattoos, a stylishly-trimmed beard (beard oil from Rudolph maybe for a present?), skinny jeans, trainers, and a hoverboard. This new and improved Santa – supposedly – is also said to be tech-savvy and looks like he could easily feature in GQ magazine.”
The survey polled around 400 people from the United States and United Kingdom. They then asked 4,000 people to vote on the most popular version of the Santa they designed from the survey.
Just over 10% of those surveyed said Santa should be female, while nearly 18% said the character should be gender neutral.
With a majority vote, 72% of those asked believe Santa should continue to be classified as a male.
I decided to do my own little experiment.
On LinkedIn NOT ONE person agreed that Santa should be gender neutral.
Now, to put that comment into perspective. I have over 10,000 followers on LinkedIn. The majority identify as LGB, transgender, non-binary, gender fluid, are diversity and inclusion specialists, HR specialists etc. Not one person agreed Santa should be gender neutral.
The same is true of my Facebook experiment.
Pink News reports that “This opposition (…to Santa being gender neutral) hasn’t stopped a host of individuals and companies deciding that Santa can be anything anyone wants them to be. Last week, New Zealand’s Ponsonby Central shopping complex unveiled a gender neutral Santa Claus as its Christmas display.”
So, why do people believe Santa shouldn’t be gender neutral?
Firstly, I want to acknowledge the statistics from the survey. These statistics show that progress is happening around inclusion. People are beginning to think about traditions and challenging their perceptions and childhood conditioning. BRILLIANT. My hesitation is the survey polled only 400 people. What was the make up of that sample group? Did it reflect the demographic of current society? Are these figures an accurate representation?
Secondly, what makes us think WE can decide Santa’s gender? We can’t ask him (I’m assuming Santa uses male pronouns.) He is not here! But if he was…. I would ask him. That is the only way to know. Right?
Thirdly, Santa is a tradition. If we begin questioning Santa’s gender, surely that means we have to go back and question all the other historical characters and traditions. Right?
I feel there is an opportunity to educate kids here about non-binary and transgender identities.
Instead of focusing on existing traditions and attempting to shape them to fit into our society and into today’s narrative, we should begin introducing and creating new characters, stories and histories that fully represent today’s society.
This hotly debated topic is fantastic. It is causing quite a stir and in the process raising the awareness of transgender, non-binary and gender fluidity. Since my comments were published in the BBC Three article, I have been contacted by BBC Five Live and BBC Radio Ulster wanting to explore the issue further and to hear more about LGBT+. It may be a controversial subject for many people, but it is getting LGBT+ issues talked about in the mainstream media.
Now I have your attention, let me give you some pointers on how to support someone that identifies as non-binary and gender fluid. There are people around you that identify in this way, and you have no idea.
Supporting Non-Binary Individuals
- Don’t assume everyone identifies as male or female. They don’t. See gender on a spectrum not as ‘one or the other’.
- Be aware that not everyone will want to ‘come out.’ Why? It could be they may not know what is going on within them but they know something isn’t ‘right’. It could be that they may not fully understand it themselves yet. It could be they are not comfortable with talking about it because of fear, rejection, questioning, judgement etc. It could be that their workplace/social group isn’t fully inclusive to them where they feel they can be themselves. Respect that.
- Congratulate Them. Acknowledge their courage. It is a significant moment for them to have a conversation with you about being LGBT+. Acknowledge that.
- If someone has come out to you, that doesn’t mean they are ready to come out to everyone. Don’t ‘out’ them to others or share information they have told you in confidence. Let them be the one to tell who they choose to tell and when they are ready.
- Be aware that many transgender & non-binary individuals feel uncomfortable asking cisgendered and heterosexual individuals to use they/them pronouns. Support them by using they/them pronouns in conversations.
- Be Normal. There is no need to change your behaviour, the way you talk to them or your work-based requests.
- Don’t assume anything about their private life, such as the sexual preference or gender identity of their partner.
- Be aware of misgendering and using the incorrect pronouns. If you hear it, challenge it. If you do it, correct yourself and move on.
- Be Their Ally. How? Make the effort to educate yourself about LGBT+ issues. If someone is having an inappropriate conversation about them, speak up. If you notice any form of discrimination, report it. If someone is asking them inappropriate questions, tell them. Invite Transgender and Non-Binary individuals along to same sex events. That way they won’t have to feel uncomfortable asking if they can come along. Be tuned into the issues LGBT+ individuals face. Educate yourself about body dysmorphia, substance abuse, mental health etc. Know what to look out for and the steps to take to support them.
- Celebrate with them on international and national LGBT+ holidays, such as International Transgender Day of Visibility, PRIDE, LGBT+ History Month.
Oh and a tip for explaining the Store Santa’s to your kids.
I explain it like this.
“He can’t be everywhere talking to all the little children. So some Santa’s are male, some female, some trans and some we don’t know. They act as Santa’s messengers.”
And when your kids stop believing (hang on, does anyone actually stop believing), here’s a way to explain Santa.
“Santa continues to live in the thoughts and the hearts of everyone who does something selfless for another person. We can all ‘be Santa’ by giving a gift of time, love or a little present.”
Santa for me is a story about kindness and love. Let’s extend this to everyone we meet, everyone we know and everyone that crosses our path as we go about our day.
Let’s take the lessons here and create a more inclusive society where everyone can feel safe to show up as their authentic and real selves. Not just today. Every day.
For that is where the real magic happens.