Middle has been at the same preschool since she was sixteen months old. Everyone there knew her as a boy, saw her as a boy dressed as a girl, and now knows her as a girl. At school, the only bathroom option is co-ed, without any stalls. There is no hiding the fact that Middle is a girl with a penis. Initially, I worried about that this exposure would make it hard for Middle’s classmates to accept her as a girl or that Middle herself might feel embarrassed about the parts that she was born with. Much to my surprise this hasn’t been the case and the kids in Middle’s class are getting a firsthand education in accepting multiple variations of gender identity. What we, and the teachers, struggle with with, however, is how to quickly explain the situation to the kids. A friend sent me a link to this article, “Mama, Ella has a Penis!“, and the author’s short explanation of gender identity for kids is so simple that I wanted to share it far and wide. From the article:
How to Talk to Your Kids About Gender Identity
Most people have either a penis or a vagina. Some people have both, but that’s pretty rare.
Most people with penises feel like boys.
Most people with vaginas feel like girls.
Some people feel like boys but they really like “girl stuff.”
Some people feel like girls but they really like “boy stuff.”
Some people with penises feel like girls. They are girls with penises. (My child falls squarely into this category.)
Some people with vaginas feel like boys. They are boys with vaginas.
Some people are sort of “in between” and don’t feel like a boy or a girl.
All these people are normal. All these people need to be loved and treated well, and we should respect what they tell us they are.
The “parts” that are covered up by our underpants are private. It’s no one’s business to ask about them or talk about them. (That goes for the parents, too!) If someone tells you she is a girl, she’s a girl. If he tells you he’s a boy, he’s a boy. If they say they’re both, they’re both!
I would argue that this is perfect explanation for adults as well. It is the adults who are the ones who ask us about our child’s genitalia. Rarely do other children care. We should trust that people, including children, know themselves well enough to be honest about who they are. A person who says they are a girl, is a girl…period. A person who says they are a boy, is a boy, period. And unless you are going to have a sexual relationship with the person or are their physician, then what’s in their pants (or skirt) is their business only.