Talking to Kids About Gender Identity - Part 2

Our new title I Am A Girl by Catherine Connors launches this Sunday, October 11th. I Am A Girl is a book that banishes labels and stereotypes and helps girls understand and express who they truly are. 

Twigtale thinks this conversation is an important one – it is about about personal identity and about gender equality. 

We're asking people whose insight and expertise we admire to add their voice to this discussion. We'll be featuring their responses to one question: 

How do you talk to your kids about what it means to be a girl, a boy, or any other identity on the gender spectrum?

Anne, preschool teacher for nine years

I would say that at the preschool age, the comment that comes up most is that pink is a girl color (and often purple is mentioned second). A child having the conversation might say that her dad likes pink, or another child will say his best friend likes pink. I usually tell the children there are no boy or girl colors, just colors (a statement frequently met with unconvincing looks).

Just this week, a boy in my class was wearing a pink soccer jersey and other boys in class commented that he was wearing all pink. He simply replied, “Yes, because it’s the color of my favorite team.” It led to a discussion about everyone's favorite colors. Later in the week, several of the boys that had mentioned the pink jersey were saying that purple and pink were their favorite colors. I think having these conversations with children is a great start to having open and honest dialogue.

As a preschool teacher for almost ten years, having the privilege of watching children blossom, grow, and become more of themselves every year feels joyful. 

Whit Honea, author of The Parents’ Phrase Book, co-founder of Dads4Change.com

We talk about labels and stereotypes a lot—why they exist, the damage they can do and how to challenge them. We encounter it all of the time, random comments from one person or another, generalizations from TV shows and outdated clichés from the commercials layered between. It is everywhere, often obvious, which is easier to counter, but also left as the unintended side effects of ignorance, jokes, or lack of context. More often than not, our attempts to foster a better society tend to involve the overcoming of obstacles created by that same society, e.g., toys, games, and sports equipment marketed by gender, and people in positions of influence (teachers, coaches, extended family) saying the things they shouldn't. These are the foundations of our conversation and the questions we ask our children. Luckily, the kids are quick to get it, for they are not the problem—they are the solution. They have some pretty good advice.

Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, author of atypicalfamilia.com, contributor to Parents.com, Disney's Babble, Latinamom.me, Piccolo Universe  

We talk about gender in a very basic way. I want my 9-year-old son, Norrin, to respect girls and to treat them nicely. But we don't apply gender to objects/toys. My son has autism so he's not aware of boys vs girls stuff. A few weeks ago, Norrin put on one of my summer dresses and started twirling around. My husband didn't scold him and I just laughed it off. We both knew it wasn't a big deal. Norrin just liked spinning around and the feel of the fabric. Norrin loves Star Wars and Cars but he also loves Frozen and My Little Pony. He likes what he likes and we've always supported that.