Raising Kindness


My five-year-old is full of questions.  I often turn into a monotone, robotic, answering machine.


“Where is the tallest mountain?”

“Himalayas.  Mount Everest”.

“How big is space?”

“Infinite.  Space is a function of time”.

“Why does our cat fart when I pick her up?”

“Self defense”.


A week or so ago, he asked me a question that threw me for a loop.

“Mommy, how do I tell if someone is a boy or a girl?”


We talk a lot about creating safe and accepting spaces for our LGBTQ2A+ community.   As adults, it’s often easy to think of this process as a regulatory one.  We see a problem.  We demand change.  We ensure it’s written down in the rule books.  After all, that is a large part of the process.  Many of the changes that were needed for the LGBTQ2A+ community to gain acceptance were regulatory in nature.  We had to make it legal for gay people to exist.  We had to make it legal for gay people to marry a person they loved.  We had to make it legal for trans people to identify as their authentic gender.  We had to make it legal for birth certificate genders to be changed.  We had to make it legal for kids to form friendship clubs in their school (an ongoing fight, I will add).  What we don’t talk a lot about is the subtlety of changing perceptions.

I grew up in a binary world.  As a kid, you were either a boy or a girl, and it was dictated by the bits you were born with.  Those bits also determined what types of clothing you could wear, haircuts you could have, toys you could own, and movies you should like.  Everything in my world was gendered.  There were no other options.  You were one or the other.  Boy or girl.  End of story.

So when my kiddo asked me, “How do I tell if someone is a boy or a girl?” it gave me pause.  My automatic response would be, “Well, what do they look like?”   That’s the response of the world I was raised in.  But I know some fantastic trans people, and non binary people, and people who are gender creative, and two-spirited.  I’ll be honest, I don’t always understand it.  It’s hard for me to wrap my binary brain around the idea that there are more things than just male or female.  Learning about the term non-binary made me stop and physically sit still and think about what that means for the way I speak, and the way I have historically seen the world.  The way I automatically say, “Yes, sir” or “Yes, ma’am” to all sorts of people I’ve never really met.  The way I bought my friends’ unborn children all the pink because the ultrasound indicated the person had a vagina.

So in the moment my kiddo asked me that question, even though it was about the five hundredth question that day, I had a very important choice to make.  Do I pass that binary world onto my child?


“Mommy, how do I tell if someone is a boy or a girl?”

“Well, I’m glad you asked.  Sometimes, what you see on the outside isn’t the same as what the person is on the inside, and it’s important that we treat everyone with respect and try to honour their identity.  So if you’re ever confused, you can simply say, ‘Would you like me to call you a boy, a girl, or something else?'”


<3 Kayla