It all started with a subway poster. “Dad. Why is that man wearing a dress?” The answer was easy for my then six year old son. For the money!
That was a poster advertising for the RuPaul Drag Race, when it was first released. It was also the first introduction my child had to learning that not everyone dressed in the gender role that they were born into. As a typical child, he took in the information and then never asked about it again, and in fact would watch some episodes with us in later years!
And then we visited San Francisco and had lunch with my old swim team buddy from High School. He had a daughter who had transitioned to being their son. This was an opportunity for me to expand upon my conversation of a few years earlier with my son, and explain that sometimes people feel very strongly about the fact that they are born into a body that does not match their gender. We had seen a boy in our elementary school who always seemed our of place, or out of sorts, or just different, so my son was already aware that not everyone had the same feelings as to their gender identity.
As a gay dad, I had also talked about defending anyone he knew that he saw was being bullied for any reason. In a way he was defending me, when I was younger, from the bullies I grew up with. My son has two dads and he is adopted, and the greatest thing about living in New York City is that many families in our community are different than what used to be the “Norm,” so thankfully we do not see a lot of bullying. We discuss how we fit in because we are different. By extension we have always taught our son to respect everyone else he meets who is different.
My son is a city kid and has seen many things that folks who grow up in rural areas might never see, even on TV. Union Square is just down the block, and every imaginable group of people, from every walk of life, meet in groups in that park at one point or another. My son is growing up used to all different kinds of people living all around hm. I am thrilled for this heterogeneous area we live in!
We also discuss the day’s relevant issues, and that includes transgenderism. I am especially proud of the fact that he has no feelings about the issue either way, he just accepts it as a part of the world we live in. I am confident that he would never disrespect someone who had made these life choices. In fact, amongst his friends, he would joke about this as they would about everything else. They are irreverent, but not disrespectful, they sometimes make fun of everything, including themselves. They are equal opportunity, and they do it playfully, not meanly. I think this helps them to accept themselves and others by using humor.
My son is in eighth grade at our local middle school and I volunteer there on a regular basis. I see his friends often, and love to be the parent that hosts his friends as often as they want to hang out. No one cares that Paul has two dads, and no one cares that one of the boys in their group is “a little different.” We purposely raised our son in New York City because we felt there would be more acceptance for our family, and we are grateful that he is growing up to be open minded and accepting of all types of people. The same goes for his group of friends, from what I can see (because I am also nosy!). In this regard I am one proud dad.
There are a host of Youtube videos that might help you to explain these various topics to your kids:
And then Mother’s Day happened and the subject of transgenderism came up in the less accepting borough of Staten Island. Two family members mentioned that people on their jobs were transitioning. I was in shock. Gender reassignment had gotten more commonplace than I had imagined! It was also very interesting to discuss the subject with these adults: one handled it better than the other. And the one who had issue with it was male, while the female was less stressed. I found that interesting, perhaps men are more threatened by this topic?
In the olden days being gay was the oddity, whereas today gay people are more mainstream. I think society is moving forward, in regards to trans folks, but it will take some time before greater acceptance is gained. I was happy that the subject had actually come up, while the whole family was around, so that all the teenagers in the room could begin to hear the conversation and start to be more aware of the topic, because then the fear of the unknown can lessen, because it is no longer unknown.
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AMAZE is a collaboration between experts in the field of sex education: Advocates for Youth, Answer, and Youth Tech Health that produces engaging, age-appropriate sex education videos for 10-14 year olds.
AMAZE videos are educational and designed to serve as conversation starters, spanning the “mechanics” (e.g., puberty) and also the more complex topics (relationships, gender identity, consent, etc.)
Sexuality is a natural, healthy part of being human. AMAZE is all about more info, less weird. AMAZE wants to help empower parents to be the primary sexuality educators of their kids, we cannot always rely on our schools to do the full job.