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At some point during the parenting experience, a child is going to ask, “Is that a boy or a girl?” It’s a valid question for a young child. They’re realizing that the world is larger than their immediate surroundings and are starting to crave details. That’s a red car, the ball is round, the cookie is sweet. It’s all a natural progression in a kid’s learning experience.

“Is that a boy or a girl?”

In 2017, that’s a tough question to answer. People are now more connected to and expressive of what they feel inside. We’re in an era of gender exploration and identification. While it has freed many people from the constraints of social conforms, I don’t believe we’ve figured it all out yet. The list of gender identifiers is incredibly extensive and at most times confusing, unless you’re part of the community that uses it.

The messed up part is that we’re also in a time of instant everything so everyone is expected to know and use every gender identifier correctly overnight. That or face the backlash of being seen as homophobic, transphobic, etc. This causes dissension between advocates and allies and everyone sticks fingers in their ears and screams “La, la, la, I can’t hear you” to the other.

“Daddy, is that a boy or a girl?”

I’ve asked a few friends what’s the best way to answer that in a way that a young child can understand. Most of the responses were “I don’t know.” The “I don’t know” response often opens an honest and factual conversation on gender identification.

We don’t have to go into what is cisgender, genderqueer or other terms yet. A kid may not be looking for that much detail and depending on the age, they’re not even going to be able to pronounce it, much less wrap their minds around the complexity of it all.

Great, let’s say we’ve had the discussion and determined that we don’t know if the little boy or girl who walked past identifies with their assigned gender. What do we then teach our kids as far as interacting? I don’t think it’s that deep, actually. Kids are curious, but the cool thing is they don’t have a clue about established gender roles outside of what we teach them.

For the most part, they play with kids they like and that’s the extent of it. It’s when we adults download our own biases and prejudices onto them that they develop an enhanced sense of treating each other in f***ed up ways.

Unless of course your kid is a natural jerk and treats everyone like crap, it has nothing to do with gender ID. In the event they do get out of line, it’s a matter of correction. Don’t allow your kid to pick on little Derrick because he wants to be a princess even if other kids do it. No one is going to stop your son from being a knight. so don’t trip over someone else being what they want. This is simple human decency. folks, not some hippie, liberal succotash.

“Am I a boy or girl?”

On the same token, I don’t think we should be so caught up on identifying our kid’s gender for the sake of being progressive. A girl playing with trucks doesn’t mean that she wants to be the next Chaz Bono. Your daughter may just think trucks are cool. It’s more important to know your kid and listen to what they have to say. Be open to questions and remember that you’re helping to navigate them into a happy and successful future.

They don’t need to be a playground billboard for your personal beliefs. I don’t believe there’s any harm in calling a child by their assigned gender until they let you know otherwise. Ultimately, it’s going to be up to them to communicate what’s going on inside.

A parent’s job is to make them feel comfortable enough to discuss it, not mandate their own preference. Sure, you may think you’re protecting your son or daughter from a tougher life, but living a lie according to either extreme does way more damage to your child’s happiness than anything else. And that’s exactly what we don’t want.

PHOTO: Thinkstock

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Almost Cool Dad: Boy Or Girl? How To Explain Gender To Your Child  was originally published on