Transgender ‘Muffin’ Challenge Receives Pushback For Promoting ‘Troubling’ Message

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Grace Carr Reporter
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An exercise meant to explore how cultural and social norms affect gender non-binary individuals has come under criticism not only for its use of muffins as a teaching tool, but also for its “confused and contradictory” message.

Cardiff University professor Emma Renold spearheaded the “mixed-muffin gender berry challenge” that has since come under fire. The challenge directs participants to stand by pink or blue balloons according to the muffins they’ve been given randomly by a group leader. Participants with blueberry muffins stand by a collection of blue balloons while those with raspberry muffins stand by pink balloons. Those with mixed muffins stand in the middle of the room without any balloons.

“After this activity, we asked how they felt being categorised according to a muffin they did not choose, what it felt like to go to a gender-coded corner that they might not identify with, and what it felt like not to have a corner at all,” the guide writes, according to The Times. The exercise is part of an online toolkit reaching more than 1,400 young people in Wales. 

The activity was meant to make participants understand how it feels to be a gender they did not choose and to feel like there is no place for them at all. The muffin exercise also intended to show participants that gender cannot be assumed merely based on looks.

“The materials are troubling because they effectively encourage young people, and particularly gender non-conforming girls and young lesbians, to conclude that their distressing feelings aren’t just a sign that the world is sexist, but rather a sign that they themselves need fixing,” University of Sussex director of teaching and learning Kathleen Stock said. She called the activity “confused and contradictory,” even saying that it seemed almost satirical. (RELATED: Australia Releases First Comprehensive Guide On Best Health Care Practices For Transgender Youth)

Renold defended the exercise and accused critics of basing their arguments on a selective reading of the guide rather than looking at it as a holistic educational program.

“The aim of the muffin challenge was to explore how social and cultural gender norms shape and inform how school policies and practices categorise students using assumed sex/gender identities,” Renold said, The Times reported.

The World Health Organization (WHO) announced on June 19 that it won’t classify gender dysphoria as a mental disorder in its upcoming 11th edition of its International Classification of Diseases. WHO previously listed gender dysphoria as a mental disorder, and many doctors still maintain this belief.

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