Talking to Kids About Gender Identity - Part 6

 

Our new title I Am A Girl by Catherine Connors launched on 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 gender equality. We're asking people whose insight and expertise we admire to add their voice to this discussion. We're 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?

Sarah Manley is a writer that happens to also be a mother of 3 and married to a cop. She has a bleeding heart and live in Kansas City, home of the World Series bound Royals. You can read more at http://nerdyapple.com

Things My Children Are Not

Tomboy

Sissy

Girly Girl

Man’s Man

Lady Man

Things My Children Are

Loving

Funny

Clever

Open Minded

Fair (mostly)

While watching the Royals play in the ALCS Game 6, Squirt asked where the ladies were. I asked what he meant, while keeping a close eye on Bautista. He wanted to know why there weren’t any women playing ball. Before I had a chance to form a thoughtful response, Boo answered for me. He told Squirt that “it isn’t that girls aren’t allowed to play; there just hasn’t been one yet. Like President. There hasn’t been one yet, but there will be.”

I have three children. A 16 yo daughter, a 10 yo son, and an 8 yo son. None of which fits into a specific box. My eldest is an athlete and honors student. She’d rather get covered in sweat and mud at a soccer game than sit pretty on the sidelines. My middle child dressed as Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween a few years ago and couldn’t have been happier. But his greatest joys are coding, video games, and hanging out with the elderly. My youngest carried a pink and lavender backpack until this school year when it literally fell apart. He spends most of his time climbing trees and testing my patience.

We honestly don’t have many family discussions about gender and societal norms. We discuss lots of things, but not that. For my family, we never taught them that sports are for boys, pink is for girls, that a man is in charge. We’ve tried to teach equality. Life and the media often contradict us, and that’s when we have a discussion. Like during baseball games. (Which they usually watch with me, the female mom that was and always has been a girl!)

No one has ever said something can't be done because of gender. Girls can play ball and fix cars and boys can sew and dance. Just because society has deemed certain things to be gender specific, doesn't make it canon. Physicality doesn't determine hobbies. Personaility and interest does. If you have a curiosity about something, look into it. Don't balk because the package is pink or the book features male characters.

We’ve tried not to assume anything about our kids. I’ve no idea if any or all of them will grow up to be a cisgendered adult married to the opposite gender with 2.5 kids, a puppy, and a white picket fence. That wasn’t necessarily my dream as a child. Why would I assume it is theirs? They are kids. Navigating a world that is a generation beyond me. They change their minds about something almost every day. Who am I to push them on something they may not even consider?

I want them to be happy, healthy, loved. And safe. That’s the part I have little if any control over. I don’t know who or what is out there. I don’t know who or what will love them or hurt them or break their hearts. My job is not to force them to be a certain way. My job is to love them enough that they are comfortable in their own skin and making their own life choices. My job is to parent. Which is often the hardest job there is.

I will never tell my kids they can’t do something because they outwardly present as a boy or a girl. A vulva or a penis externally does not determine your hopes, your dreams, your future.

When my children learn about topics like slavery or voting rights violations, they are appalled. It makes no sense to them at all that a color or a gender should collectively bar you from being a full person. They are boggled that women don’t make as much as men. They are flabbergasted that there aren’t more people of color on TV or movies. They think it must be some sort of joke that gays and lesbians weren’t allowed to marry until recently. They look at it as a mistake and a failing on the parts of us old people. And for the most part, it is.

We owe ourselves more. And we sure as hell owe our children more.

If your child wants to take Tae Kwon Do, sign up. We need more people standing up for themselves and others. And if your child wants a doll to nurture, buy it. We need more love in the world. Let it start at home. Who cares if that happens to be a son or a daughter or somewhere on the giant spectrum in between.

 

 

Talking to Kids About Gender Identity - Part 6 was originally published on November 4, 2015. Modifications to style, arrangement, and linked sources were made on January 8, 2016.