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I have twin 6-year-old cousins (a boy and a girl) who I usually see about once a week or so, when the locally-resident segment of my family get together for dinner on Friday evenings. Yesterday, when the twins and I were playing together while waiting for dinner to be ready, the girl looked at me, smiling, and said "You're a girl.". There's a good chance she was joking (for instance, she loves to call me her daddy1), but it might also (or instead) have been because I was wearing a skirt at the time (I'm male-assigned, but at the time considered myself bigender, and now consider myself trans female; the wearing of skirts was, at the time, a recently-started thing).

I ended up just saying "Maybe" in response, but I don't know if I'd have known how to answer if she'd asked me directly if I were a girl or a boy (something which, as stated earlier, I'm not exactly sure about myself):

  • If I simply said, without qualification, that I was a boy, I would've been lying to her, which is something that I do not want to have to do.
  • On the other hand, if I told her that I was a girl, that would likely have merely served to confuse her (given that I [currently] have a guy body, and that all of this has only come up very recently).
  • Finally, if I told her about identifying as both a boy and a girl at the same time, or as somewhere between the two, or that I'm not entirely sure what I am, I'm certain that that would only have served to bewilder her.

What should I tell her if she outright asks, given that I'm not sure of the answer myself (except that it almost certainly is not as simple as she probably thinks)?


1: Don't worry, she has no issues with her actual father (my uncle); she just likes messing with us (it's something that runs strongly in our family).


EDIT: Turns out I'm pretty sure I am a girl.

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    While Joe pretty much said what is important when dealing with the children in question, I recommend you also talk to their parents (and other adults possibly involved) - there is a good chance that the topic will come up at some point and it could be helpful if you are somewhat aligned in your responses.
    – Stephie
    Feb 9 '20 at 15:20
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    Would their parents be a help or would they make things difficult for you if you took your 3rd (open but bewildering) approach?
    – Chris H
    Feb 9 '20 at 17:17
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    @ChrisH: The former, thankfully enough.
    – Vikki
    Feb 10 '20 at 2:19
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    Could you try a silly answer? "No, I'm me!"
    – user253751
    Feb 10 '20 at 11:31
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    Kids understand "in between", or "kinda both", or "kinda neither" pretty well. You could expand their knowledge by cluing them in that the are people that fit each of those three descriptions, and tell them which one you think you fit in best, as a real life example. (IOW, no need for "big words" like non-binary, non-gender-conforming, etc.)
    – Jeff Y
    Feb 10 '20 at 17:19
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A six year old is too young to have developed strong prejudices, and young enough to be confronted with new things every day.

Therefore you should talk to the parents to make sure you don't step onto their toes, and unless they are strictly against it, you tell the kids the truth. So if you are a transgender woman, you would say that you are a woman. If they have seen you looking male, you can tell them that you used to dress more like a male, but you are not doing that anymore. If you don't (yet) look 100% like a stereotypical woman, you can tell them that you are working on looking more like a woman. A six year old can handle the truth, and in the end, the truth is the least confusing for them.

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Six years old is old enough to understand gender in a general sense, and it’s definitely old enough to have an intelligent conversation about the complexities of gender.

So my answer is to be honest with them and tell them how you feel. If you know, then tell them. If you’re not sure, then say so- and explain why, and what is going on in your head. Say what you feel comfortable with saying of course - don’t feel you need to share things you are uncomfortable with.

My six year old knows children who are non-traditional in this sense (I don’t know if they’re trans or non-binary or just like wearing non traditional clothes), and we’ve talked about it with them. It’s important to do so by that age, so they know how to process their feelings when they are talking to children who do not conform to traditional gender roles. You can be a positive influence in this way.

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    Agree, with the caveat that I would not advise saying anything that would break up the family, i.e., making your uncle angry at you for what you said to his children.
    – WGroleau
    Feb 9 '20 at 23:36
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    @WGroleau: Don't worry, he isn't the kind of person to get mad about stuff like that.
    – Vikki
    Feb 10 '20 at 2:20
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    I considered addressing this in my answer, but I decided not to. I am not sure I agree that considering the uncle's wishes is relevant. I don't know that I think it's not, but I'm just not sure either way what is the right answer - so I leave that to others. Please feel free to post an answer covering this element if you feel strongly that it is important!
    – Joe
    Feb 10 '20 at 18:36
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    I have intelligent conversations on a daily basis with my six year old. I cannot count the number of times my six year old has surprised me with insights I would not expect out of an adult! And on this topic we have takes numerous times since they were four.
    – Joe
    Feb 11 '20 at 12:44
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    @DavidHedlund as a scientist myself, I wouldn't want to claim someone doesn't understand something if they can't explain it to a 5 year old. Stuff is just complicated. There is a lot of things we hide from our children because it is too complicated, scary or not age appropriate. If I saw my nieces and nephews grow up, there is a lot of things that is just too complicated to tell them before they had a solid understanding of the basics. You could of course dumb it down enough, but do they really understand the real issue, or just the simple version you tell them(which is not correct).
    – Dr_Bunsen
    Feb 17 '20 at 13:54
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A decent approach may be to keep it simple: "I'm still figuring that out", which sounds like a decent summary of where you are at the moment.

Most kids are pretty chill about adults admitting we don't know everything, and if they'd like more information, they generally have no problem asking follow-up questions.

If that's the case, it might be worth bringing their parents into the conversation, if for no other reason that they'll probably have the best understanding of how much detail would be useful. The follow up questions should also be easier to answer, as they're likely to be about more specific things.

Unfortunately, while a six year old probably has a decent grasp on the idea that gender is a thing, how much detail they will find useful will vary wildly (depending on their interests).

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The answer is incredibly simple: You ask their parents. Period.

You're not their parent, so you don't need to get into complex discussions or judge their ability to participate in those discussions.

Besides, why stress-out about it. If you're worried the question will arise, simple ask their mum or dad how they want the question answered.

And another besides, you're massively over complicating this (and some of the other posters are simply completely wrong.) Children's views of the world are much simpler than ours, so a simple answer will usually suffice. And be accepted, and the kids will move on.
Ultimately you may find that it's easier to answer their question, than your own.

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    What do you mean by "Uhm no", when the question is "What should I tell (...)?"? I.e., it wasn't a yes/no question.
    – phresnel
    Feb 11 '20 at 13:46
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    @phresnel I assume Floyd was trying to say "you're asking the wrong question" which in Stack Exchange terminology is known as a Frame Challenge. meta.stackexchange.com/questions/263661/…
    – arp
    Feb 11 '20 at 16:05
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    Frame challenges are not considered appropriate on Parenting, just to be clear, though this answer answers the question as asked in my opinion.
    – Joe
    Feb 11 '20 at 16:20
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    I think this is the most appropriate answer. This is a topic that for such a young child, it is in the parents' sole discretion to decide what to talk about and how deep to go. The parents also know the child(ren) best and how to talk about this. Sean did an excellent job in how they reacted in the moment and this answer by Floyd is the right long term solution (talk to the parents).
    – Lan
    Feb 12 '20 at 14:51
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Having a LGBT+ family memeber, I can tell you that the people who care most aren't children. My brother is gay, and he'll never introduce himself as such especially to children. He'll just say "I'm a man" or "I'm a girl", so the child doesn't get confused/bewilded by unknown pronouns. Also originality can be something valuable for a child.

Basically:

  • Either he'll get scared of your mental condition, as with any autism or social-based affliction.
  • Or he'll get into it, in order to display originality/weirdness as a trait.

I did this as a child by having very long hair. Forced myself into this to feel more original/special.

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    Ummm, as a family member you should know that “mental condition” is a - at best - misleading, possibly demeaning description for anyone in the LBGT+ context. And for the record, also for others. And I don’t know of a reliable source that claims that “you get into it” (apart from some fluidity that is often part of developing and discovering an own identity). If you are LBGT+ you are. Like you are plain old mainstream heterosexual Cis . You don’t choose. Maybe you could edit your post, especially the second half. The first part is valuable, IMHO.
    – Stephie
    Feb 11 '20 at 18:40
  • @Stephie Perhaps this is too profound a discussion for SO. I like the example Alexander the Great, who happily introduced his boyfriend to his mum, but I doubt very much considered himself as 'being' anything other than leader of an Empire. So we have to frame these perceptions of ourselves within the context of our times and current social attitudes.
    – Strawberry
    Feb 12 '20 at 11:21
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    I thought the gender bread man displayed ones identity in the brain. Isnt it by self definition mental? I dont see any reason to be giving warnings when a person describes someting that takes place in the mind as mental...
    – Adam Heeg
    Feb 24 '20 at 2:38
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    to further clarify, if you see implied negativity in the term mental I believe that is your past experience and not necessarily the author's intent. Basically, don't assume some one else's negative intent, rather ask for clarification or just assume good intentions until there is reason not to.
    – Adam Heeg
    Feb 24 '20 at 15:54
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    @Stephie: But I'm really shocked that you want me to bend my comment to your interpretation of it even asking me to edit it. Though I get the mislead you had. I'm non-native speaker, and in French, "Condition mentale" isn't demeaning, but "Santé mentale" which is "Mental health" is. So considering that gender expression is a fully mental and/or physiological phenomenon, I don't know what to say to describe it, if all the words given to me are badly connotated. By getting into it I meant "Identifying as such" because they didn't even know it exists before meeting OP. Mar 3 '20 at 14:07

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