How Do I Talk To My Kids About Gender?

Cathy: With everything in the news and all the information going out to children today, how do you talk to your kids about gender?
I’m here with J.D Jen Devine from and I’m Cathy Vartuli from and you teach this all the time. I’d love to hear how….how do you teach talk to children and sometimes hard to talk to adults. So how do you talk to children about gender?

Jen: Well, I find that kids actually have a very open mind

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: inherently, about the gender being a big spectrum, a big fluid possibly shifting definitely shifting experience.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: So, I try to ensure that in a classroom I’m not saying things that are binary and by that I mean dividing into just two groups which is how

Cathy: Male and female

Jen: Right.

Cathy: everybody must fit or you’re not okay somehow.

Jen: Right. So I always….I’m saying there are many genders or there’s lots of ways people can be and I try not to use language that divides people up into two and I also honor that children may be fluid in how they express their gender and that can be sometimes that’s a part of exploring what their…..they are as transgender kids but sometimes it’s just a natural kind of exploration just who they are as any human being.

Cathy: Just

Jen: My explore gender.

Cathy: Yeah, I’ve….I’ve…I’ve very…..I’m cisgendered. I’m female by birth and by inclination but like I went through a period where I was very tomboyish and then there were times when I was like very Femi like I wanted to dress up more and more makeup and stuff and it’s just different parts of my life and there’s I think it’s wonderful to allow people to… explore who they are.

Jen: And it’s not even an….allow, it’s like an inherent thing and you know I know that probably in your world cisgender is a term most people know. Cisgender

Cathy: Oh, yeah.

Jen: probably?

Cathy: Could you define

Jen: But I’m guessing it’s because many people are cisgendered meaning that they kind of they fit the category they were given when they were born.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: So folks said “oh, look a person with a vulva. Hey little girl.”

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: And that person’s like “yup, I have a vulva and when I grow up I’ll be a girl and live like a girl. I’m a girl. Yup, I’m a girl.” So, if you fit the category that you were given as a child then that we call that cisgender and folks that maybe don’t fit that category either transgender, gender fluid, gender vary and gender creative all those other ways

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: that folks can be would be not a cisgender. Some

Cathy: Yeah. Thanks

Jen: wonderful term made by the transgender community. Yay!

Cathy: Yeah. Yeah. So….so you just try to role model, do you actually talk about gender per se? Like do

Jen: Oh, yeah.

Cathy: you go into detail with….with kids?

Jen: Yeah, definitely you know in our puberty classes where people who are gender variant often feel left out

Cathy: There’s a huge amount of depression and suicides and

Jen: Yeah. Even though we might look at how you know what’s changing with anatomy and how anatomy commonly can show up? We don’t want to leave out that there’s ways that anatomy can commonly be and we also include intersex people. It’s a whole another story.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: But we also say you know just because this we could say this person we’re looking at a vulva. We never say that vulva person is always a girl. We’re always like the person with a vulva who’s bleeding and I used many examples. I might say there’s a trans guy goes to the store and gets his tampons and you know has to take care of that or some people with a vulva might identify as women. So always amusing multiple types of examples to ensure that maybe different people with different identities can relate to the anatomy they might have.

Cathy: I love that role modeling because when I was coming up there wasn’t even discussion of…of gay and lesbian except that I held a friend’s hand when she was upset and everyone called me gay and I was like I don’t even know what that means.

Jen: Right.

Cathy: I knew it was bad the way they said it but I didn’t there was no discussion of it and the pictures we saw in school were vulva-woman, penis-man.

Jen: Well and…and I think it’s an interesting segue that just happened in that we were talking about gender.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: How people deeply inherent sense of who they are and their self-understanding we often conflate or mix-up with sexual orientation

Cathy: Right

Jen: Who we like and both of those things end up with shame and stigma

Cathy: Definitely.

Jen: if they’re not in the sort of cultural norm.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: But I mean I think for children they get it pretty quickly if you say things like “oh, who you are?” Like that’s what your gender stuff is like who are you and your gender who are you inside yourself? Who do you know yourself to be and then who you like we call that as a grownup you know sexual orientation but as kids I use often say like attractional orientation or even like who you think is cool?

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: Right? And there’s lots of ways you can relate to people as friends eventually maybe partners or some people are asexual also important to remind kids

Cathy: Yes.

Jen: on that too.

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: So

Cathy: I love you normalizing that for all of them and letting them know that it’s all okay and I think we can do that as parents as well like you or with children. I’m an aunt just talking about it in a way that doesn’t make everything binary with let kids go “oh, maybe I don’t have to fit in a box ‘coz”

Jen: Yeah.

Cathy: because it can be really confusing. Teenage is…’s a very confusing time in general.

Jen: Yeah, I mean even the box for what is considered culturally normative isn’t….is a tough box like the box that women get pushed into it’s like “oh you’re too…you’re too fat, you’re too skinny

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: you’re too tall, you’re too short, you’re too loud, you’re too quiet, you’re too mousy, you’re too much makeup you’re too much” like even that box is impossible

Cathy: Yeah.

Jen: to fit the and for boys it’s also difficult. The boxes that they get put into where they’re forced to code to only being tough.

Cathy: Yeah. Not having

Jen: Only being

Cathy: soft….soft emotions.

Jen: Yeah not having…they have a full range of emotions. So you know the more we can make room for all the ways that people get to express themselves, the healthier, happier people will be. Then they would watch YouTube channels later trying to figure it out but wait oh no wait. It’s good to watch YouTube channels

Cathy: Yeah, YouTube channels

Jen: later trying to figure it out.

Cathy: If you like this, please like and subscribe and we’d love to hear your comments below. What do you think? What questions do you have?

Jen: Excellent