I have a hard time understanding why people have such a difficult time talking to or explaining things to children. I do not have kids and who knows if I ever will, but I do understand that they are little people who are part of our sometimes confusing, a lot of the time messy but wonderful world. In these anti-child discussions, one thing I occasionally stumble upon is allegedly open-minded, cis-gendered people arguing that it is too difficult to introduce or talk about non-binary or transgender people to children. And I tell them this: My first memory of such a person required no such explanation, she just simply was.
I was maybe eight years old when my grandmother introduced my brother and me to Miss Pearl. She was the largest person I had ever seen, and she stood out larger than life with short, blown-out hair and her bulky shoulders holding up blue jean coveralls and a delicate, lace shawl. I thought her earrings were pretty and admired her lipstick because I was not allowed to wear it. She commented in a deep, gentle voice how well behaved and cute my brother and I were and we said thank you and then Miss Pearl, Grandma, my little brother, and I went on about our day. That was it.
Even with coming from a religious background in the middle of Ohio, my brother and I did not need further explanation; I might not have been permitted to wear shorts, my hair down, or spaghetti straps but we knew people come in all shapes, sizes, and sounds because God made them that way. I never cared for going to church, but I do not remember our pastor in our small, red-county city ever teaching hatred; he always reminded us to love one another. I am not saying there weren’t other issues, like the aforementioned patriarchal fashion standards, but I do not recall seeing hatred and condemnation for LGBTQ people, eccentrics, and artists within Christianity until we moved to Columbus.
My family was invited to one of the largest mega-churches in the Midwest by a family friend who was performing in a theatrical production there. I do not remember the name of the show but it was infamous and gory and what I now recognize as a really bad, high budget morality play: we were to be scared straight through a sneak peek of the horrors of Hell.
There are only a few parts of the work I can remember– the car crash at the beginning because it sounded exactly like the accident I had recently been in that nearly blinded me, and the torment of dancers, singers, and people who, to my ten-year-old eyes, were just being affectionate to one another while calling for Love and Equality. I could not understand why they put people singing of peace and unity along with people who had always been kind to me and my family in their Hell, a beautiful rainbow of souls buried in pyrotechnic horror. Watching John Lennon sing “Imagine” before being engulfed in hellfire is one of my most upsetting, conflicting theatrical memories, and probably when I truly lost faith in the popular church as a Christian establishment for the Good of humanity. Between the spectacle and the damning of those for simply existing, I could see it was all money and fear. I was ten.
Regardless of beliefs or background, if you teach your kids to Love others by words & actions, people will just be people to them. Children learn right from wrong from us and there is nothing wrong with being who you are, be it cis, non-binary, trans, or exploring. There may be questions, (like I really wanted to know where Miss Pearl got her pretty lipstick but did not ask because I was shy) but curiosity is a part of being human, and rather than discourage it, give kids the tools to express it with compassion– and there are far more tools and widely used vocabulary available than when I was growing up in the middle of nowhere. There should be no need for an overly complicated, stress-inducing explanation that overshadows the person, sometimes it is just as simple as using and introducing someone with their pronouns, like my grandmother and Miss Pearl, who is now departed but who I remember as one of the sweetest, prettiest, and biggest people I’ve ever met. Use simple compassion, that’s it.
If you like this article, check out:https://www.harnessmagazine.com/for-the-girl-whos-reality-doesnt-match-her-expectation/