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  • Danielle Aubin, LCSW

How To Talk To Young Kids About Gender


I frequently get asked this question a lot: "I am so confused about how to speak to my young child about gender. I don't want to confuse them. You're a therapist, how do you do it?"


Compared to other topics (e.g. god, death, etc), discussions about gender have not seemed to cause confusion in my household. I decided early on to not filter the reality of the many genders and expressions of gender out there in the world for my children.


I know many people believe this will cause confusion for their children and they avoid media and books that are too explicit on the particulars but we jumped right in. I figured if they are old enough to be exposed to heteronormative gender norms day in and day out, they are old enough to learn about what else is out there.


My children are taught that all genders and gender expressions are valid. My children know that boys can wear dresses and that being any certain gender doesn't necessarily mean you have a certain type of anatomy or you look a certain way. They both are taught that gender is a social construct just like race and that much about gender depends on the culture and society you live in.


So do I have a really confused 5-year-old walking around? Not that I can see. She told me straight up she's a girl and there is no confusion there. She's the first to point out to her friends that boys can wear dresses or be princesses. She doesn't automatically assume gender if it isn't clear. She also understands that some people identify as neither.


When I walk into a library and see all the expressions of gender being represented, I think it's awesome. Just like I think it's awesome to see religious minorities, ethnic minorities, etc represented in books. I wouldn't shield my children from learning about other religions or ethnicities even though it can prompt them to ask me tons of questions. I want them to see the world as it is, full of diversity and differing points of view. I want them to have a broad understanding of what is "normal"/typical or, ideally, reject the idea that there is "normal" altogether because being normal in a toxic culture is not a sign of health (hat tip to Dr. Gabor Mate and Jiddu Krishnamurti)

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