How To Talk To Your Kids About Gender
They say knowledge is power and this is especially true when it comes to parenting. Today gender isn’t just about being male or female. So it’s time to arm ourselves with some information so we can help our kids by teaching them the correct concepts from a young age.
Kids by nature are curious. They will ask questions and it’s our responsibility as parents to provide them with answers. But what happens when we don’t have those answers? I don’t know about you, but having teenagers these days means I have to be familiar with terms such as gender fluidity, non-binary and transgender. All terms that our kids are growing up with that perhaps we as adults are still educating ourselves on.
It’s unfair to our children to shut them down when we don’t know the answer or because the topic makes us uncomfortable. Silencing a child tells them that the thing they are asking about is somehow shameful, wrong and not to be discussed.
So how do we teach our kids about gender in a respectful and informative way? Here are some starting points that may help generate an open discussion with your child and answer some questions they may have.
EXPLAINING NONBINARY TO KIDS
While our gender at birth is based on our sexual anatomy: either male or female, not everyone identifies with what they were born with. Although most people – including most transgender people – are either male or female some don’t automatically fit into the categories of “man” or “woman,” or “male” or “female.” For example, some people have a gender that blends elements of being a man or a woman, or a gender that is different than either male or female. Some people don’t identify with any gender at all while some people’s gender changes over time.
Those who don’t identify as male or female use many different terms to describe themselves, with non-binary being one of the most common.
It’s important to understand that a person who does not identify as the gender they were assigned at birth is described as transgender. And some transgender folks don’t identify as male or female but instead, feel a mix of both or neither genders. This is where the use of the correct pronouns is so important. If you’re not sure, always ask a person how they like to be referred to. We shouldn’t be restricted to gendered pronouns like “he” and “him” or “she” and “her.” Most nonbinary people use “they” and “them” pronouns.
* Basic Facts about Non-Binary People
Non-binary people are nothing new. Non-binary people aren’t confused about their gender identity or following a new fad – non-binary identities have been recognized for millennia by cultures and societies around the world.
Some, but not all, non-binary people undergo medical procedures to make their bodies more congruent with their gender identity.While not all non-binary people need medical care to live a fulfilling life, it’s critical and even life-saving for many.
Most transgender people are not non-binary. While some transgender people are non-binary, most transgender people have a gender identity that is either male or female, and should be treated like any other man or woman.
Being non-binary is not the same thing as being intersex. Intersex people have anatomy or genes that don’t fit typical definitions of male and female. Most intersex people identify as either men or women. Non-binary people are usually not intersex: they’re usually born with bodies that may fit typical definitions of male and female, but their innate gender identity is something other than male or female.” *Information courtesy of the National Centre For Transgender Equality.
TEACH CHILDREN TO CELEBRATE THEIR DIFFERENCES
Some of the most important attributes we can instil in our children are having empathy and tolerance for others. We must teach them to accept each other’s differences and celebrate them rather than letting them divide us. We’re already living in a more gender-equal and neutral society. Clothing lines, toymakers, and stores are rebranding their spaces to be more inclusive. Daughters are being raised to know they have a voice and that being smart is a sought after attribute. Boys are being taught the importance of showing emotion and not resorting to toxic solutions and violence or being ashamed of mental illness.
The same is being done with the acceptance of LGBTQIA+ folks. It’s important to teach our children that there is no shame in being different. That if they are questioning their own gender or sexuality they have a safe place to discuss it without fear of judgment. We need to be the safe place for our kids.
USE THOUGHTFUL AND GENDER NEUTRAL LANGUAGE
If your child asks whether someone is a boy or girl don’t assume to know. Instead use thoughtful and gender-neutral language, such as “they” and “them” pronouns. Tell your child that this is the right way to refer to someone until that person self identifies. This shows empathy and teaches children that we should approach each person with kindness and that not assuming a person’s identity or pronouns is incredibly respectful.
At the end of the day it’s ok to be uncomfortable while learning about gender, but it’s not ok to deny someone else’s safety or existence. We all deserve to feel safe and to be seen for who we are.
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Images: TSER & Pixabay