A New Perspective: When to talk about transgender to your kids


Whether you agree with the transgender lifestyle or not, it's something that adults are hearing about more and more - specifically with transgender bathrooms.

And if we're hearing more about it, our kids are too.

So, when it the right time to talk to them about the topic and when you do, what do you say?

Holly and Geoff Streit have six kids and they recently sat them down and talked about the subject of transgender bathrooms.

"None of the kids knew anything about it," said Holly Streit, Mother of Six & Traverse Bay Children's Advocacy Center Board Member. "Even when I asked and said the word 'transgender' -- not one of them really knew what that word meant. So it was an interesting discussion just because there has been so much in the media about it and to find out how unaware they were of it or what effect it would have on themselves in schools."

It's been roughly a month since the federal government issued guidance to all public schools in the country over this topic. The guidance allows transgender students to use locker rooms and bathrooms consistent with the gender they identify with.

7 & 4's Courtney Curtis: "How does it make you feel? Do you feel like it makes you comfortable or uncomfortable?
"It makes me feel a little uncomfortable," said Xavier Hack, Holly's 13-year-old son. "Like if a girl just suddenly walked in like 'what is she doing here' unless it happened to be one of those both boy and girl bathrooms."

So, how do we talk to our kids about transgender?

"One of the best places to start is going to be when our children ask us questions," said Jill Kimball, Licensed Clinical Social Worker. "We want to find like those natural talking moments when they ask us things like, why are they saying transgender on the news? Or, what does it mean when someone says transgender?"

Kimball says there's going to be an age-appropriate direction for each conversation.

"I'll see what kind of information they have and so I would want to prepare them to say, so you know that if a male has begun to identify as a female that they have the right to use the girls bathroom and that I want you to be tolerant and respectful," said Kimball. "That does not mean be uncomfortable. If you're uncomfortable with a situation you can always use another bathroom too because this is about everyone being comfortable."

And Kimball says our kids are sophisticated. She says if your child can spell the word 'transgender' they can look it up on the internet too.

"Our kids want information," said Kimball. "I mean, children can be anxious too and when they don't have enough information they will scramble for bits of information and it's scary if they don't have the right information."

Holly and Geoff say it's good to talk to your kids about transgender issues but they both agree there are bigger issues to address.

"Most children that are victimized are victimized within their own social circles," said Holly. "You know, it's not the random person in the bathroom it's, who's in your home? Who's watching your kid?... the coaches on our teams. There are so many more areas, to me, to have those conversations about body safety."

"I think realistically it's -- be safe in the bathroom, be safe in public- if your parents are around, when they're not around," said Geoff Streit, Holly's Husband. "The rest of it is just not as big of a deal as I think people want to make it."

Jill says if your child asks you questions about transgender, try not responding with the "oh my goodness" factor.

She says our children are really in tune with our emotional reactions so if we seem shocked or upset, that could cause them to pull back from us.

Jill Kimball says parents can sometimes think their children carry the same level of anxiety they do and she says that's just not true.

She also says, it's okay to not have all the answers to your kid's questions. She says you can tell your child that you don't know but you can find out.

If you haven't spoken with your children about the topic of transgender, she says be prepared to answer questions they may have knowing it's Up North Pride Week.