November 10, 2014

How My Five Year Old Understands Gender Fluidity

When I was 4-5 years old, I thought people changed races growing up. That explained why there were different races. I just figured we were born one colour and could decide which ever one we wanted to be when we were older. I went and told my (white) mother that I wanted to be white like her when I grew up. She explained to me that I was black like my daddy and would always be black.  OK, fair enough, I thought. No biggie.

My son has not really spoken about race. He has pointed out that people are different colours, but he hasn't really expressed much interest in it. It helps (I suppose) that we've always been open about the fact different people look different and so it's not a confusing concept to him.

However, gender might be more abstract for him. I have quite a few trans* friends. I also have homosexual friends. Because I want my son to understand all sorts of people can make up a family, I have always explained that some people have two mommies or two daddies (or more!). I have also explained that some people are born female and then change to male (or vice-versa). This is where it starts to get more complicated.

Since my son is apraxic, one common habit is to call everyone by the same pronoun - "he." Every once and a while, a "she" might make it out, but pretty much everyone is "he" for him, and that has nothing to do with appearance. However, some people can get offended and I have to explain that everyone is "he" to him.

preferred gender pronoun someecard on
"You had me at your ask of my preferred gender pronoun"
Following the same logic I did as a child, my son seems to think that when he gets to my height, he will become female and black. Then when he gets to his father's height, he will be male and white. This sounds pretty cool to me, but I don't think that will happen.

Even more interesting is when we asked him which sex he preferred for a sibling, he said, "a girl baby that will turn into a boy when it gets older." I'm just not sure the adoption agency can swing that!

It's pretty cool to me how my five year old understands gender fluidity - at least to a very basic extent. I want him to have that freedom to feel like gender is mostly flexible.

While I wish it were easier for people to transition as they please, I'm having a hard time getting him to understand it's just not that easy! But maybe his generation will be cool. Maybe his generation won't see it as such a big deal, and that's promising.

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