The Short of It
In a SheKnows video, kids were shown two photos: One of Caitlyn Jenner as a man competing in the Olympics in 1976 as Bruce; the other of her depicted in the latest issue of Vanity Fair, sitting in a red dress in a sports car. Then they were asked what they would say if they found out those two photos were of the same person.
The kids were understandably shocked. "How could a boy turn into a girl? That's impossible," said one kid.
But they were also empathetic. "Who she wants to be is who she should be," said another child.
Then the kids were read tweets about Caitlyn. When asked what people who wrote positive messages about Caitlyn were thinking, they responded, "Like what if this was happening to me? What if I was the one that was going through this?"
When they were read negative messages—ones saying Caitlyn is sick or has a mental disorder—some of the kids winced. But they didn't think the naysayers were bad people.
"I think they're just afraid of change. I think they just want everything to stay the same because they just don't know how to handle it," said one kid.
"Maybe they're just a little overwhelmed, and they're like, 'Oh my gosh. This person is taking such a big step in life' and they don't understand what it feels like," said one child.
Talking to kids about transgender issues can be tricky. Gender is ingrained from Day 1, when hospital visitors bring you and your newborn either pink balloons or blue, and deviating from the common delineation is a tough thing to understand. But transgender and gender nonconformists are nine times more likely to attempt suicide than the national average. If everyone could be as accepting and thoughtful as the kids in the video, it could be lifesaving.
My kids are too little to know who Caitlyn Jenner is just yet, but I'm taking notes on how to communicate with them about gender roles and about sexual orientation. And to me, this video is inspiring. The best way to talk to kids is to ask questions, and to ask them to see things from others' perspectives, instead of simply telling them what's what.
If we can do this, maybe we can help our kids accept their own differences, prevent them from bullying others and be confident in who they are.
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