When we think about the emergence of our true selves, we often think of a timeline of sorts. We make predictions about our own children yet we truly have no idea as to what sexual identities will emerge or when they will emerge. Our sexual identity is not pre-formatted in the way we might want to believe. We cannot cause a child to be female if he is born into a female body nor can we prevent a male from being female if she is born into a male body.
Even a child has an internal, deeply-held sense of their gender. For transgender people, their gender identity does not match the sex they were assigned at birth. Most people have a gender identity of man or woman (or boy or girl). For some people, their gender identity does not fit neatly into one of those two choices, the non-binary. Unlike gender expression gender identity is not visible to others. I’m still learning about all of this. I hope you are, too. Our children are going to change everything we believe about everything. And, let me just say now: Thank God for this!
At my son’s Navajo language school, I met this kindergartener who seems to be determining her own gender identity. It’s big language for a small child who dresses in traditional Navajo male attire. I was so intrigued by this child’s strong sense of self as well as impressed with her mother for creating this safe space for her child. An identity is emerging, and questioning such a thing at such an early age is courageous. My hat is off to this family for loving and accepting this exploration. I also appreciate the school for being a safe space. (Permission was granted by her mother to share her story and her photo.)
When we rush to judgment about what sexual identity we think our child may have, we preclude their right to be who they truly are. Serious psychological difficulties arise when we don’t allow our children to freely choose who and how they are. I choose to view my own children’s identities through a process of free association. I encourage them to try on as many identities as they want. I don’t sway them in any way.
There’s a strange pressure on LGBTQIA people to present their lives as overwhelmingly positive: a reaction against past portrayals of us as self-destructive, sinful or unhappy. My concern is that we have transferred this need to be ‘overwhelmingly positive’ onto our children. The truth is that things aren’t always overwhelmingly positive. However, if we can step back and allow our children the freedom to be whatever the moment makes them, then we will give them a fighting chance for true evolution.
As a community we need to be vigilant of our self-assessment. We must stop trying to justify anything to anyone about the freedom we are giving to our children. We must let go of the strains of worrying about how people will respond to our children’s shifting identities and appearances. If we don’t make changes now, then the safety of all children is at risk. As a community, it is our responsibility to continue to create safe spaces for our children, for all children.