Note: This article is not intended to advise or educate broadly on the topic of children and gender. This is a recap of an intimate conversation I recently had with two moms, each with a trans and/or queer child, sharing their own personal experiences.
I knew when I chose to dive into the topic of Kids and Gender on WGT that there would be a response to this topic; I just wasn’t sure what it would be, positive or negative.
The fact is, this is a topic that can make a parent uncomfortable. Why? Because having a trans or queer child—especially as a parent who was not raised with those terms or concepts—disrupts the binary “norm” that society has long told us we must adhere to.
But because this issue is so packed with misinformation and big feelings, I had to dedicate some time to it on the show and podcast.
Here’s how it went down:
As parent/child coach Vanessa Baker and writer and actress Dahn Ballard discussed, the idea that someone can “feel” they are something different than his or her expressed biological sex can be, simply put, confusing.
But Dahn and Vanessa were here this week to share what their experiences as parents of trans and/or queer children are like, so that we can help lift up this discussion and hopefully, in turn, make some children feel seen and heard.
All that being said, let’s dive into three quick takeaways from this week that further illuminate the complexities of Kids and Gender.
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So many people already know this one, but it’s worth another mention.
“Sex” defines the biological organs that a person is born with, and gender is how the feel inside. When these match up, for example when you’re born biologically female and also “feel” traditionally feminine in your brain/heart/soul, then you’re what’s called cisgender. To put it into simple terms, the inside matches the outside.
Here’s a good primer on some LGBTQIA+ terminology.
This tip came from Dahn Ballard, who I interviewed earlier this week, whose transgender son just came out over the past several years.
Since the concern I hear mostly when talking to other parents about transgender kids is, “How do I explain it to my child? He/She feels too young to try to understand this!” That’s exactly the question I posed to Dahn. Here’s what she had to say:
“The best thing you’re saying is, this exists.
“I don’t need to explain all the religions of the world, I need to let them know that they exist. So there’s going to be somebody in your class that could wear you know, different garb that is, you know, to their practice, there are people that will have a yarmulke, they are Jewish, they exist. I don’t have to explain to you and it’s not like you are going to turn out being Jewish one day, and maybe you will! Who knows.
So these are the things that are not inflicting on their safety, to explain that there are different people and different ways they express—period.”
Okay, so we knew this one already too, right? I mean, has any child ever turned out exactly how his or her parents expected? (No. The answer is no.)
But here’s the thing—that’s ok! We aren’t programmers, we’re parents. We don’t get to choose, we get to guide.
And while the issue of kids and gender is a bigger issue to accept than an issue like, say, what sports they want to play, it still falls firmly under the category of Things We Can’t Control as Parents. Vanessa explains it best:
“I think that the thing with parents is that we get that movie in our head, we were talking about that earlier, we get that picture in our head about what it’s going to be like, and God bless us. We’re just doing the best we can we’re trying to prepare.”
And Dahn rounds it out beautifully:
“The big challenge in parenthood honestly is not that we are afraid to love our kids for who they are. It’s the fact that we have to relearn the lessons in the meantime.
“And we never get the kids we think we’re going to get and it could be in regards to their development. It could be regards to their personality, it could be in regards to their abilities with sports. You know the dads who want their sons that are jocks.
Like … there are so many things we have to accept about our kids as being different. But this just, this is one that feels different to some people. But I guess when you … put it into perspective, it is the same thing. It’s your you have a child that you didn’t expect, and then you you have to relearn.”
As a great add-on to this info-packed week, I also interviewed Natasha Beck, who has a doctorate in pediatric neuropsychology, on IGTV discussing how to talk with your kids about big issues. It’s definitely worth a watch, and is full of great info!