Gay Dad Life

How to Talk About Gender and Trans People With Your Kids

When I was pregnant with Birdie, people surprised me with their acceptance of our family. Some people took some time to come around, but for the most part, by the time Birdie was born our community of family and friends were excited for her arrival. But, everything wasn't all rainbows and sunshine either; I lost people very close to me because they couldn't/wouldn't/didn't know how to tell their kids, who I was very close with for a very long time, that I was pregnant.


The loss of those kids from my life is painful to talk about and I usually avoid writing about it, but there it is. These folks, who are part of the GLBTQ community themselves, just couldn't tell the kids I was having a baby. Now I have an almost 2-year-old daughter and she has never met the two young people who helped shape me into the parent I get to be today. They don't get to be a part of this, the best part of my life, and to be honest, it is heartbreaking.

It just doesn't seem like such a big deal to me to talk to kids about gender. But I am transgender myself so maybe I am biased because I have no choice but to have these conversations, especially with my child. So, I decided to ask other people in my life how they talked to their children about our family. The children ranged in age from 18 months to 18 years and while the range in reaction and content of the discussion varied, the response was overwhelmingly positive. Some kids had questions, some questions led to bigger conversations about gender and reproduction, some kids took it completely in stride, but all of them were excited that their uncle/godfather/nanny/friend/neighbor was going to have a baby. Because babies are generally something to celebrate and children tend to understand that.

Birdie reading, "A is For Activist by: Innosanto Nagara"

I nannied full time for a family of a 2-year-old during my pregnancy. As my pregnant belly grew and we told her, “Stephen is growing a baby in his belly and when the baby is born you will have a new friend," she was largely unfazed. When she snuggled up to me for a book or fell asleep on me at nap, Birdie would kick her through my belly. My goddaughter, who was 7 when we told her we were having a baby, had some questions about how it was biologically possible, which her moms answered in an age-appropriate way. They also extended the conversation to talk about "more of the nuance of gender and how that can be different from sex. How we need to respect people's choice of how they identify regardless of what they look like on the outside and how we never ask people about their genitals and we respect pronouns." My neighbor's son was 7 too when his mom told him that we were having a baby; he said, “How can he have a baby in his belly; can boys do that? (Poor guy, I think he got a little excited.) His mom told him, "Stephen was born a girl but knew he was a boy and so that's what he is now. But he still has the uterus inside him that can carry a baby." He smiled and said, “I'm really happy for Stephen."

I understand that it may seem daunting to talk to your child about transgender people, especially if you don't have any transgender people in your circle of friends, but you should talk about it anyway. And honestly, you can, at any age, shift the way you talk to a child about gender, you can examine your own internalized beliefs about sex and gender roles, you can embrace your own gender expression and encourage your child[ren] to do the same. I am by no means an expert on how to talk about gender with kids, but I am transgender, I am a parent, and I have been a nanny for 15 years, and my advice comes from these lived experiences.

Where to begin? You have a gender; you may identify as cisgender or transgender or gender-fluid or gender-variant or male or female or neither or both. You express your gender; you may have been assigned female at birth, feel solid in your gender identity as female and feel comfortable and powerful expressing your femininity. You may have been assigned male at birth and feel comfortable as a male but do not feel comfortable with the expectations put on you because you are a man. We all have a gender, we all express our genders differently, so we should all be talking about gender; not just as it pertains to the trans community. Your child has a gender too, one that is developing along with everything else as they grow, learn and change. If you believe that children should have the right to autonomy and self expression it would be wise to encourage them to express their gender however they see fit. Firefighting super princess? Sure. Boy children wearing baby dolls and hosting tea parties? Why not. You hoped to raise your child free of gender norms but you ended up with a daughter who loves all the things girls are expected to love? That's ok too. Some girls are just fancy; ask a femme about it.

Watch your gendered language. I find it surprising how often I hear other queer parents using heteronormative and unnecessarily gendered language. For example; your 2-year-old male child is not “all boy" because he likes trucks and dirt. Lots of toddlers like trucks and dirt and it has nothing to do with their gender expression. It's not cute to ask a 5-year-old girl if she has a boyfriend. Why would you assume she will grow up to like boys? Why are you asking a 5-year-old if she is dating; instead, ask her what books she likes to read. Don't dress your baby in sexist onesies that reinforce gender stereotypes. (Seriously, google “sexist onesies." There are some pretty terrible ones out there.) When you are reading your child a book, try replacing the pronouns with the singular pronoun “they." When you talk about someone you don't know, don't make assumptions about their gender; use gender-neutral terms instead, "Yes, that person is wearing a hat. That kid is riding a bike. The grownup is taking care of their baby." I am not advocating that you always and only use gender-neutral language, but I am advocating that you use it more often and especially when you don't know someone's gender. Words can have a lot of weight and changing your language is a very small thing to do.

Tell your children about trans people. You probably already have started talking about gender, like when little ones start to notice differences. Instead of saying, “Boys have these parts and girls have those parts," try, some/most/many girls have these parts or some/most/many boys have these parts. Tell them some people are born assigned male at birth but as they grow up to feel like a girl and visa versa. Tell them that some people don't feel like either boys or girls or a little of both. Tell them that gender really comes from within even though some people like to think gender is about playing with certain toys or wearing certain kinds of clothes. Tell them that you can be a boy who likes to wear dresses and still be a boy, or you can be a girl who wants to play football and still be a girl. Tell them gender expression is a choice, their choice, and then support their choices.

When you do talk to your kids about trans people, don't use your trans friends as an example unless you explicitly have their permission. I am comfortable with people talking to their kids about me and our family because I am open about my gender. Not all trans people are comfortable being out to everyone, or out at all. And even is someone is out to you that doesn't necessarily mean they want to be out to your children. Let's be honest, kids aren't known for being able to keep information private. If you want to give your child real-life examples of trans people in their life, talk to your trans friends first and don't get upset if they say no; it is your job as an ally to be respectful. There are books, websites, and celebrities out there about their trans identity now, so if you don't have someone in your life who wants to be out to your child, you can look elsewhere for examples.

Lighten up about gender. As a kid I ran around shirtless in the woods with a baby doll strapped to my back. I did things boys like to do and I did things girls like to do. I turned out to be transgender because that's who I am, not because I liked blue more than pink or trucks more than dolls. Recently I was shopping at a store and an employee came up to us to say hello to Birdie. As Birdie was sitting in the cart looking at some pants, the employee [who assumed Birdie was a boy because of the outfit she was wearing] informed Birdie, “Oh, those pants are for girls. Those are girl's pants. For girls!" As she walked away Birdie touched the pants and said, “Girls?" And I said, “Birdie, those are pants. And anyone of any gender can wear those pants as long as they feel good in them. There aren't really just boy and just girl clothes, it's just clothes and clothes are for anybody." She nodded, ate more crackers and then said, "Not girls! Not girls. Hahaha." Yes Birdie, not just for girls. In fact, the pants in question were some rainbow striped leggings and I know plenty of boys who could rock those pants. Sometimes pants are just pants and toys are just toys and we should just let kids be kids.

When we start to break it down, the easiest way to talk to your children about trans people is just to make space to talk about gender, early and often. The more we as a community normalize openness and honesty around gender and trans experience, the more space we make in the world for families like mine to feel safe, welcome, and celebrated.

Check out and purchase some of these children's books as a way to start gender conversations in your home:













To see more examples of S. Bear Bergman's books visit his website Flamingo Rampant here, and to read a Gays With Kids article on the author, click here.

Check out our list of children's books about surrogacy.

See our list of children's books about adoptive families.

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Gay Dad Life

How Canada's 'Gay Dollar' Helped This Gay Man Reflect on His Biggest Regret—Not Having Kids

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Earlier this year, Canada unveiled a rainbow-stripped coin dollar to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the country's decision to decriminalize homosexuality. With the coins now firmly in circulation, Gregory Walters, who lives in Vancouver, wrote a moving essay for the Globe and Mail, expressing joy for how far Canada has come on the issue of gay rights, but how the coin is also a symbolic representation of the "greatest regret" of his life—his decision not to adopt children.

Gregory writes that he had hoped to adopt a child ever since his early career working with persons with developmental disabilities. "Several children I worked with were wards of the State of Texas," he wrote. "Their parents having relinquished all rights either owing to egregious acts of abuse or a lack of desire to raise someone with so many needs. There were days when I felt, 'If I could just take you home and raise you.' I knew there was a need for adopting persons with special needs but my own internalized homophobia got in the way yet again. Despite what is probably my own gift in working with children, I never felt worthy enough to be a parent. I always felt that if I were a gay dad it would create more of a liability for the child."

Gregory decision to forgo having children, he says, is his "greatest regret." While he takes responsibility for some of this decision, he also adds: "society's view of homosexuals and its opinions regarding gay adoptions also played a major part."

To critics of Canada's coin, some of who have said its a cheap political pander to the LGBTQ community, Gregory concludes with this thought:

"I don't care if the indulged majority who never had to question marriage or raising children or being secure in a job may feel the coin is frivolous. The coin isn't for them in the first place. It's an acknowledgment for those of us who repressed our true selves and felt oppressed. It is for gays who never lived to see rights and protections enshrined in law. It is for younger LGBTQ people to learn more about how far we've come and to gain a deeper sense of gay pride. For these reasons, the coin has value so much greater than any monetary designation. The coin represents both empowerment and normalization."

Read Gregory's full essay here.

Gay Dad Life

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Here's some pics of Ricky Martin being an adorable dad because we've ALL had a long week and deserve this don't we??

Earlier this year, in January 2019, superstar Ricky Martin and his husband Jwan Yosef shared a post via Instagram announcing that they'd welcomed a baby girl named Lucia into their family. With twin 9-year-old sons in the house as well, Ricky and Jwan now have a very full casa. Fortunately, the dads are giving us a little glimpse into their chaotic but fun-filled home lives via Instagram. We rounded up 8 of our fav recent parenting pics by the popstar because we've all had long weeks and we deserve this don't we??

Enjoy!

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Gay Dad Life

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The 2019-2020 TV season will soon be upon us! In recent years, gay dad characters have been all the rage... will we see more representation this fall? We sure hope so! But in the meantime, we'll be content reviewing this list of 17 shows that have (somewhat) prominently featured gay dad characters!

Also we KNOW we're missing some, so drop us a line in the comments to tell us what we should add!

1. Grace & Frankie

In this Netflix original series, Martin Sheen and Sam Waterston play gay dads who come out to their wives and children well past their primes. Lily Tomlin and Jane Fonda play the ex-wives, rounding out the star-studded cast. Now in its fourth season, the show has been well received and sheds an interesting light on the complications involved with fathers who come out later in life.

Entertainment

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British diver Tom Daley, and new-ish gay dad, is looking to qualify for the 2020 Olympics in South Korea.

British diver Tom Daley is currently in the running to qualify for the Tokyo 2020 Olympics in South Korea, his fourth if he competes, at the young age of just 26.

But he also has another concern that most young gay men his age couldn't fathom—fatherhood. He and his husband, filmmaker Dustin Lance Black, recently welcomed Robbie Ray via surrogacy in June 2018.

In an interview with the Independent, Daley explained how fatherhood has changed his routine and training, which he says is often for the better.

"It has changed my life completely in all of the best ways possible," Daley said. "It has changed my perspective, the way I think about things. [My son] is the most important thing in my life, everything I do is for him, everything I think about he is at the forefront of everything."

With respect to his diving career, Daley continued, "if you have a bad day at training, or a good day, you are grounded immediately when you get home through the door because you are having cuddles or you are having to change a dirty nappy. It is the first time that I have been able to leave diving at the diving board and not think about what I need to the next day in the pool."

Whatever the challenges he faces while training, he said, "I can leave it there because you don't have time to think about diving when you are looking after a kid under one."

The strategy seems to be working in Daley's favor. He recently enjoyed his most successful FINA Diving World Series ever this past Spring in Canada, winning 12 medals across five events. And barring any major catastrophe, he is overwhelmingly expected to qualify for South Korea 2020.

And we can't wait to cheer the young dad on!

Change the World

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Millie B. Photography

Guest post written by Brian Splater

No one ever should feel they will have a very lonely and secluded life as a child. But that is something me and many other gay kids believe as they are growing up.

The truth of the matter is there are people who will try everything in their power to have our rights go back in time instead of forward. It is very disheartening when these people are elected officials, or they are people who use their place of employment to spread their disgust and hate.

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Politics

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"While we should never gloss over the things that divide us, there is a lot more that unites us," Polis said. "When we close ourselves off from discussion or debate, and we reject the possibility of hearing and understanding other perspectives, it threatens the fabric of our democracy."

If he was hoping for a Kumbaya moment, he didn't exactly get it. As he was called to the stage, he was greeted with a smattering of applause—while others booed and shouted for a "recall" of the Governor.

"It was almost unbearable for me to sit there to listen to his talk," Abby Johnson, one of the event's attendees, told the Denver Post. "And I'm going to tell you why. He kept talking about equality for all persons, yet we live in a society where 60 million innocent human beings have been slaughtered in the name of choice. Where is their justice? Where is their equal rights?"

Polis was also criticized from his left flank for attending the same event that refuses to let the Log Cabin Republicans, a group of gay GOP members, participate—and that featured Donald Trump Jr. as a speaker the same day. "To me it feels like vanity," Katie Farnan, a staffer with progressive group Indivisible, told the Denver Post. "He can go and be a hip Democratic governor who isn't afraid to go into GOP sanctuary. Or maybe it's recall insurance. But unless he was there to hold them accountable for their support for fascist and racist policies, what's the point?"

In response to the criticism from both sides of the political aisle, Polis told the Colorado Sun: "I think it's very important that Coloradans of different ideologies, different races, different geographies, different orientations and gender identities all really celebrate that we're all part of what makes Colorado great."

The event is hosted each year by Colorado Christian University to bring together conservatives from around the state, and the larger West.

What do you think, dads? Was Polis's decision to speak at the event a savvy political move or mere pandering?

Entertainment

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One Million Moms, which is affiliated with the anti-LGBTQ American Family Association, recently called for a boycott of Toy Story 4 for (very, very briefly) featuring (interracial!) lesbian moms in the animated film. The angry, hateful moms affiliated with this group must have watched the film VERY closely because you could easily blink and miss the moment that apparently "blindsided" viewers.

The Internet reacted with a collective facepalm to the ridiculous boycott. Here are some of our favorite hilarious Twitter reactions to the hateful group:

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Fatherhood, the gay way

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