A few weeks ago, I came across a children’s book called, “Jack (NOT Jackie).” This book told the story of a little girl who was so excited to have a baby sister, Jackie. As Jackie grows older, it becomes clear that she doesn’t like the same girlish things that her older sister likes which is very disappointing. Their parents, however, are understanding and supportive of Jackie’s choices. One day, Jackie insists on being called, “Jack,” instead of Jackie and announces, “I AM a BOY!” Their mom responds by saying, “Well, Jackie’s been trying to tell us that for a long time.” Eventually, big sister comes around to see the joys that can come from having a little brother. It’s a very sweet and well-done story.
As I read this story to my six-year-old, he asked a LOT of questions. It made me realize that this is a very touchy topic and I wouldn’t blame parents for wanting to avoid it out of fear of saying the wrong thing. Here are some of the questions my son asked and comments he made:
“Haha! She’s so weird!”
“She CAN’T be a BOY!”
“Wait. She IS a boy?”
“Why did his parents think he was a girl?”
Does reading that make you cringe a bit? Me too! Here’s how I responded:
“Sometimes when people are born, their outside parts don’t match their inside parts. That’s why it’s so important that we listen to people and let them tell us who they are.”
Now, I understand this is a VERY simplistic explanation of gender identity but I think that it’s sufficient for a 6-year-old. We did get into specific body parts. I explained that sometimes people are born with both girl and boy parts and sometimes people are born with parts on the outside that don’t match who they are on the inside. We don’t need to overcomplicate things but just let them know that sometimes, things aren’t always what they seem. The idea is to take away the natural fear of people who are different. When we demystify things, we take away the fear.
Using stories and metaphors can be very helpful for children as they tend to see things as very black and white. Other examples of things/people that aren’t as they appear on the outside?
I hope you find this helpful! Please feel free to comment with any questions you may have or contact me via email: Jaclyn@queerthriving.co
Creating a better world for our kids together,