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Explaining Non-Binary to my Daughter

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I had a very challenging conversation with my daughter yesterday. I decided it was time to tell her that I'm changing my name to Lily. She said, "Isn't that kind of a girl's name. Oh yeah... you're into girl stuff." Now she's only 5, so it's quite a challenge to correct her. I almost didn't bother, but I decided it was important to explain it to her. I want to be understood as someone who might have traits resembling male or female but is something else entirely. I used child-friendly analogies, and she says she gets it, but I sense that she may not. During the conversation, she asked, "Why are you not a boy or a girl?" Something about that was heartbreaking; maybe because I'm just in a dark place right now. I told her, "If boys are dogs and girls are cats, I was born a fox. I have fluffy fur like a cat but I can bite like a dog, but that doesn't mean I'm either." And such similar examples. Is there a resource somewhere like "Kermit the frog meets a non-binary?" Lol. Maybe even besides a resource, I'm looking for someone who may have had to go through the same thing with their child. Thank you in advance.

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At her age, the best thing you can do is to NOT try too hard.  Other people she relates to will steer her into the binary concept because they do not understand it and are afraid of it.  There are a couple of children's books available that you could get and read to her, and help her to learn to read them by herself.  One book I would recommend is Red, A Crayon's Story which simply gets the idea of diversity and problems of labeling put in a way young people can understand.  Do not over-talk about it with her or she will pick up on "something is wrong" and she will start to fear it.  She is safe and has you as a loving parent who will provide for her and who will support and accept her unconditionally.  "Let's go get some ice cream" will mean more to her than a lot of stories and analogies you will think of.  I am about 70% binary female, and the other 30% is spread over several other possibilities and my grand children actually see where other people who would insist they are 100% binary are really NOT that way.  Slow, easy, just life with a bunch of hugs and she will be fine on her own.  It is going to be other adults who are the problem, and they are you and her other parent's problem, not hers.

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I have not had to go through this yet, but I have at least some advice that’s come from both my therapist and my sons as well. 

I have 3&12 year old sons. And I was ready to tell the older one a couple weeks back. So I talked to my therapist. Her first thought was why. Why tell either of them. They aren’t really old enough to understand the conversation which you kind of see too. Even the 12 year old. He would kind of understand the premise of transgender sure, but how would it help him to know?

So what we eventually came to was it’s best to be open with kids. Not lie to them. And slowly show who you are. When THEY ask you then you tell them. But only what they ask about. I kept saying no that’s wrong until my sons therapist told us why it’s not a good idea. Who will your kids talk to about it? Their friends their teachers. The neighborhood kids. Etc....And that creates more issues. More people that you may have to explain things too. Chances that other kids parents will not understand and keep their kids away from yours. And so many other things. 

I know how you feel though with the wanting them to know. I am sick of lying to everyone in my life about who I am. Especially my older son. But it’s important to think about them too. Ultimately it’s your decision. And I wish you the best of luck with whatever you decide. 


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Oh and I have a great book that’s age appropriate. It’s called Rory’s Rainbow. It’s about a dinosaur in a toy store that likes the girls stuff. It’s very cute and tells a bit of the story. You can find it on amazon. 

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Guest Rachel Gia

I sense the children and young people of today are far more accepting of the gender spectrum than before.

As far as telling my kids , I told them that I was transgender and that the only thing is different is that they know more about me than they did before.

Their acceptance of who I was , turned out more than I imagined and in some ways they were more accepting of me than I was. Telling them I was going to transition was another hurdle but not a big one and their love helped me to do so.

As was mentioned, spending time with them is more important than whether you button your shirts and sweaters on the other side.


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Great post Rachel!

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Thanks. That all makes sense and gives me something to think about. I guess with her response to me, I felt concerned that she was going to misunderstand me and that's how she was going to start building her understanding moving forward. You're right though; she probably doesn't really care. She had some thoughtful questions that surprised me.


As suggested, I think I'll not make it a habit of drawing attention to it, then if she comes to me with the topic I'll give her some answers.


I'm going to make a note of those books. :) It's tough to figure out how you want to be understood by each group of people in your life, and even tougher trying to extend that understanding.

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