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How to explain to children what gender is?

Gender is a concept with which each person lives from the first days of life, even before birth, and even many people form expectations of how that baby should be according to their sex. Our learnings are shaped by this word and all the meanings that form around it; this is why it is essential to be able to address the issue with the smallest people in the house. It is not about including a strange subject in your life, rather it is about giving a name to everything you have seen and internalized. Here we tell you how you can explain to the little ones what gender is, taking into account fundamental issues.

1. Ask him what does he know?

Once you ask him what he knows about the subject, you’ll learn a lot about everything around him, including what he’s learned from you or the family. You can start by asking him what difference there is between a man and a woman, what each of them does, if he knows the difference with gender.

Approach this as any question.

Also if the topic was introduced by your son or daughter, you can take advantage of their questions to address little by little. Try not to overwhelm and go topic by topic. It can be difficult because although we always live with it, many times we do not know how to express ourselves.

The most important thing is that when they address it, avoid any value judgment towards people’s decisions or identity. As long as you follow the path of respect, there is no need to worry.

2. Gender, Sex and Identity.

In order for your child to understand what gender is, it is essential to address the definition of these concepts; you can search for literature with authors who have dedicated their lives to this subject, such as Judith Butler or Marta Lamas. In general, we can say that Sex is this biological part, that is, those who are born with a vagina and those who are born with a penis, although we must remember that there are also those who are born with both reproductive devices, due to genetic issues.

Gender, according to Lamas, was conceptualized as the set of practices, beliefs, representations and social prescriptions that arise among the members of
a human group based on a symbolization of anatomical difference. That is, from the biology with which one is born, expectations are produced and it is intended that the person behaves in one way or another, and is built the “proper” of men (the masculine) and the “proper” of women (the feminine). Everything has to do with a social and cultural issue, where these types of phrases come from such as “men do not cry” or “women are more delicate”, etc., which are not real but are myths that have been built, they are Stereotypes.

As for identity, it is the decision that people make at any given time to identify as male, female or none of these, which is the case of the LGBTTTIQ community. Also from here is born what we call the expression of gender, practically the way in which we expose ourselves to the world; how we talk, walk, what we use, etc.

Be very careful with the issue of sexual orientation, which we can postpone a little if we are talking to a very young child, unless you ask. This is not an otherworldly thing either, but it may be a more difficult issue for us as parents to address than for them as children. So it is necessary that if we want to address it, we avoid all kinds of stereotypes or personal judgments, we must work on that first; but quickly you can explain that the sexual orientation, practically defined from who you like or why you do it, before which there are countless variants, from people who can be attracted to any gender, to those who like their opposite sex, etc.

It may be complex to explain these concepts but you can start by explaining that it is on the one hand meanings, attitudes, behaviors that people expect from someone because they were born with a certain biology, either penis or vagina, but that these demands are modified over time, and that in the end this it is subjective, because for some to wear pink color will be for women, but for others not, they will even feel that this color makes men look more handsome. It is important to know that the idea is always to respect people who dare to get out of these stereotypes; do not lose sight of the fact that everything is related to the social imaginary.

3. Categorization.

Probably one of the questions that will arise from your son or daughter will be why do people ask them to behave according to their sex? This is when the explanation about categorization could emerge. You can tell him that people normally have the need to categorize everything, think about it, a large part of the words you know have categories such as colors, dog breeds, beauty, food, games, everything.

This categorization allows us to have answers, such as being sure of what we see; it gives us some security or control over what happens around us, it also helps us to communicate, and to put a certain order. However, much of that categorization does not always do well, especially if we talk about gender. Many people do not feel comfortable and there are others who, due to the discomfort caused by people leaving this imaginary order, can be rude to them; but those who are not acting correctly are them, not those who decide to feel comfortable with themselves.

It is best to think that it does not matter if someone is male, female or none of those, but that it is a person who feels comfortable wearing such clothes or expressing himself in a certain way, as long as it does not affect or offend you, there is no need to get angry if you do not allow yourself to be categorized. On the contrary, they can teach us a lot. The value of people goes further.

4. Respect.

This point is essential and is linked to all the previous ones. Show your little one that they can exist many ways of being and being in this world. Even if you feel comfortable and prepared, you can tell them about the types of families, where there is no one who is right or wrong, as long as their families have love and emotional responsibilities, which neither is more than the other.

Accompany him in this discovery not so much of gender but of how difficult these impositions can be, which in the end can also affect him, perhaps not even at the time of choosing his gender identity, but from now, where he has stopped doing or doing things that he does not like just because he has this or that sex, such as wearing a skirt at school when it is very cold, etc. Gender is a topic that touches us all and the important thing is to start raising awareness of the issue by forming critical and respectful beings from a young age.

We hope that these points will be very useful to address a topic that although it is everyday and very necessary, still has many taboos.

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