When you think about the incredible, miraculous outcome from two people coming together — that perfect tiny specimen of a human being, it is truly remarkable that more often than not everything goes exactly as it should. When you think about all the things that have to go just exactly right versus the opportunity for things to go horribly wrong, it is awe-inspiring. Cells divide and multiply millions of times to create our likenesses in miniature form.As we know, there are times when the chromosomes collide and stuff goes awry. There are numerous birth defects, genetic abnormalities, physical deformities, cognitive impairments and more. And sometimes, individuals are just born into the wrong body.
I was recently asked if I had some advice for parents who want to have an open dialogue with their children about transgenderism. How do you explain the idea that a classmate who just happens to have female parts, is really a boy? It was an interesting question for me. Up until now all the feedback through the lens of kids and teens has been accepting, understanding and non-questioning.
The idea that gender is between the ears, not between the legs, is a succinct way to explain how a transgender individual can identify as male or female even though their parts don’t match up. Sometimes, we are just born into the wrong body. Being a man or a woman is NOT solely identified because of physicality.
So what if that explanation doesn’t help clarify? Well, sometimes your biological sex (if you have a penis or a vagina) doesn’t align with your gender identity (whether you feel male or female). Even if you don’t fully understand this, I hope you can agree that it is important to accept and acknowledge that we don’t live in a binary world. Being a man or a woman is not so black and white.
There are some who most likely would argue that it is less about being born into the wrong body and more about how we feel versus how we physically look. For sure, this is complicated. Actually, I’ve struggled for days trying to write something that would make sense and not sound like I was spitting out a bunch of trans propaganda.
I’ve joined a couple of transgender Facebook groups as a way to connect with other parents of trans children and as an honest, authentic way to hear from a community that I really know very little about. Here are a few things I’ve learned.
Trans men and women want to be accepted for who they are. They want to be loved. They want to love. They want friends and family connections. They don’t want their choices questioned. They want privacy.
It is not okay to ask about body parts. So, if you meet a guy (FTM) and want to know about his journey, there are lots of questions that you can ask. However, do NOT ask about his body parts. That is private. Would you want someone to ask you about your parts? Do not ask an adult trans man or woman about their sex life. Do you want people to get all up in your business about how you “do it?”
Here are a couple of links that I hope you find interesting, informative and helpful.
Keep in mind, that just as you would teach your child about someone with a physical disability, a cognitive deficit or a chronic disease, you should teach your child about gender differences. Embrace diversity.
My son’s school sent home a worksheet for the summer to complete that reinforces not only the gender binary, but sex essentialism. (This is a worksheet for kids going into the first grade this fall.) I put a note on there for the teacher to read, that not all men identify as “he”, women as “she”. I was creaking horrified. If they don’t mind teaching kids the differences about boys from girls, they certainly shouldn’t mind teaching about transgenderism and transsexuality, too. And for kids that young, it’s easy to explain, at least for me: I explained that the doctor was wrong in calling me a girl when I was younger; I’m going to soon see a doctor about getting some “medicine” (testosterone, in my case), and eventually go to the hospital to get some more work done to make me “all better” (again, dealing with young kids).
You sound like a great dad!
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I grew up in a small town with moderate to very racist and xenophobic attitudes. I don’t want my son growing up sexist, racist, or hate someone because of a different belief system, orientation, how they dress, their body size, or whatever.
Being trans, I will have to explain it’s not that women are weaker or less capable, but it’s not how I identify. I am encouraging him to watch cartoons in Spanish, because I think it will be an important skill as more Spanish speakers move into our country (whatever helps a business make the sale, makes the profit). His godfathers are queer. I am raising him with the teachings of Siddartha (aka “the Buddha”), but I am encouraging to always test him out (just as the Dhamma teaches, too); we come from a family of agnostics, atheists, Jews, Catholics, Lutherans, and even a Satanist, so he is already exposed to a religious diversity. And his best friend is Filipina.
So, as you can, I am showing him hand-on the beauty of diversity, not just teaching him in a classroom setting. Yes, diversity requires a lot more communication, and it can occasional hamper production in a capitalist setting, but there are perks. If one solution doesn’t work, you can more easily find another. And the best part is, it helps you you on your journey to seeking truth, and whatever goals it may be. 🙂
You just made my day! Thank you.
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