Children are the most inquisitive souls in the universe.
No topic or concept is off-limits, but sometimes, you may find yourself struggling to know how to answer – whether it’s something mundane or complex, kids want to know it all.
As a responsible adult, it’s your responsibility to answer your children’s questions as openly as possible.
Conversations about gender and sexual identity are SO important, and knowing how to explain these concepts to your children (the right way) can significantly shape their worldview and help them to become the fun, loving, and open-minded people they deserve to be.
If you’re wondering how to explain exactly what it means to be transgender to a child, we’ve put together an honest list of pointers to get you there. Keep reading to find out more.
Explaining The Meaning Of Gender
The best way to start this conversation is to take things back a step and pull apart the meaning of gender.
Gender can be a confusing concept for children, but there’s one important factor that must be reiterated: gender is NOT about body parts.
When our children are born, we often assign them a gender that corresponds with their genitalia.
However, gender is subject to change, and some people may feel like their gender doesn’t correspond with their assigned sex.
It’s important to remember that gender is predominantly about societal roles and perception. It also has nothing to do with sexuality.
Some parents are deterred from talking about transgender people with their children because they think this conversation has to be inherently sexual.
It doesn’t. Gender has nothing to do with sexuality, and it’s a concept that can be discussed with children of any age.
Gender is an expression and identity, and it’s what we feel most closely relates to how we feel on the inside. For many people, our gender and sex feel aligned.
However, not everyone feels this way – and that’s okay.
Transgender people challenge the notion that gender and sex need to align (which they don’t), and you may be surprised to know that you’ve probably already taught your kids a thing or two about gender diversity.
If you’ve encouraged your daughter to play with trucks and toy soldiers or reassured your son that it’s fine to play around with dolls and makeup… you’re halfway there.
Transgender people don’t feel that their sex and their gender align, so they may struggle to put on this ‘act’ to society.
Feeling this way can be incredibly distressing, and the pressure to appear a certain way can feel performative and isolating.
This is why it’s so important that we encourage children to be loving and open-minded, so we can continue to help all transgender people feel safe in society.
It’s accepting and loving kids like yours that make the world a better place for trans people, and explaining this to them will play a significant role in how they develop and express themselves in the future.
If you can explain the difference between sex and gender to your children, you’ll have a great starting point for this conversation.
Understand That Your Kids Already Understand Gender
They may not have the vocabulary to express it, but you can almost guarantee that your children already understand gender expression and the differences between men and women.
Most children already have this knowledge by the age of two or three, and at this age, they’ll have an idea of how they want to express themselves, too.
Even if their understanding of gender fluctuates, they’ll usually have a solid understanding of gender roles and expression by the age of five.
For example, your son may refuse to wear a pink, glittery tutu because it’s ‘for girls; and your daughter may not want to play with race cars because they’re for ‘boys’.
Because gender identity is formed so early in life, leaving this discussion until your children are older will be too late.
Making your kids aware of transgender people when they’re younger, and encouraging them to understand and accept them at a young age, is the best way to approach the situation.
If your children grow up in an environment where you avoid the conversation or pretend that trans people don’t exist, they may grow up to assume that there is something ‘wrong’ with the conversation.
Ultimately, you’ll risk teaching your children that being transgender is a bad thing, even if that wasn’t your intention. Being open and honest is integral to your children’s development.
Don’t ignore the conversation and risk ingraining a negative perception of the transgender community by omission.
Keep It Simple
Teaching your kids about transgender people doesn’t have to be difficult. Here’s another important thing to remember – you don’t need to talk about a transgender person’s body.
Not all transgender people have surgeries to change their bodies, and you’re simply teaching your children to address people in a way they wish to be addressed. Discerning what their genitalia are is irrelevant.
If you want a simple way to answer the question, try something like this:
“Not all children feel like they are a girl or a boy. Some kids may want to use a different label or no label at all! You may also hear someone say that they are non-binary. This means that they don’t fit into either the boy or the girl box. You just have to ask them what they’d like to be called”.
It really is as simple as that. You just need to reiterate that being transgender is a decision that someone makes because they want to feel comfortable in their own skin.
Not everyone feels like their sex and gender align – so transgender people are simply doing what makes them feel comfortable.
Children want to know everything: fact.
Some topics of conversation are inherently more complex than others, and if your child has ever asked you what it means to be transgender, you may have found yourself feeling overwhelmed and unsure of how to break the ice.
The truth is, this conversation couldn’t be any simpler. In just a few sentences, you can explain this concept to your child in a simple, straight-to-the-point way that encourages honesty, love, and open-mindedness.
We have a lot to learn from our children. Remember that no child is born prejudiced; their environment and experiences shape their beliefs.
By having these open conversations and encouraging them to be accepting and loving, you’ll help make the world a little brighter for all trans people and your children!