Talking to my 10-year-old about why people are transgender

Talking to my 10-year-old about why people are transgender
Vanity Fair's glamour photos of transgender Caitlyn Jenner, formerly known as Bruce.

Transgender talk is in the news, and therefore, a major topic of conversation in our household, thanks to former Olympian/Mr. Kardashian/actor Bruce Jenner becoming ‘Caitlyn.’

Our Rosie, at 10 years old, is a very inquisitive child. “I was born asking ‘why,’ she told me. “That’s funny….I was too!” I said.

So, when Jenner announced he would transition to become ‘Caitlyn,’ Rosie, of course, asked me about it.

“Why would a guy want to become a girl?” Rosie asked, incredulously. “Why would anyone change their sex? I like being a girl.”

“Well, here’s how Nana explained it to me,” I said.  “When I was your age, I read about Renee Richards, who played on the pro tennis circuit at the time. “Like Bruce, ‘he’ became a ‘she.’ I couldn’t understand it, either. But what Nana said made sense:

“When you’re born, some are perfect, like you (big eye roll from me)

Some children, however, are born with male and female parts

The doctors and their parents have to make a decision about the sex of their baby

Sometimes, they choose wrong, and the baby is really more of the other sex

When they’re older, they need to correct that

So their outside can reflect their insides”

To my 10-year old brain, that made sense. It also made sense to my 10-year-old.

“Okay. So, it’s a chemical thing?”

“In many cases, it is.” I said. “Sometimes, though, it’s just a feeling someone has inside, that they were born into the wrong body. There is no explanation, except that they’re uncomfortable. People need to respect that.”, says this:

What Causes People to Be Transgender?

“Many health experts believe that being transgender isn’t caused by any one thing. What makes a person comfortable or uncomfortable with his or her anatomy is unclear, but they believe it’s the result of a complex mixture of biology, psychology, and environmental factors — and not simply a matter of choice.

 Since gender identity is not a choice, trying to force a child to change his or her gender identity is not helpful and can lead to problems”.

“I have friends going through this now,” I told Rosie. “Some have children about your age. Maybe you’ll meet them someday.”

She nodded. “But what do I say?”

“Just like you would any one else you meet. You say hi. You talk about their interests, your interests. The weather. Like any other friend.”

She wrinkled her nose. “Then why do people say it’s wrong?”

“Because everyone is raised with different versions of what ‘normal’ is in their communities. When someone is different from this ‘normal,’ it’s uncomfortable and hard for them to accept.” I said.

“Oh, like you were telling me about you wanting to be in Little League before that ruling?”

Yeah, Title IX, sweetheart,” I said.  “People thought I was crazy. And they just didn’t want to accept me. It wasn’t until a few years later we found out a lot of little girls felt the same way I did. That’s when the rules changed.”

“Will this change, too?” Rosie asked.

“I think it will, honey.” I said. “Give it time.”

Rosie and me.

Rosie’s question about why people are transgender opened up a dialogue for us about acceptance.


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