Gender Identity As Explained By A Six-Year-Old

Lego pile
California Governor Jerry Brown's recent decision to sign landmark protections for trans public school students into law has already prompted negative reactions from opponents. Said opponents, when expressing their distaste for the new law, often repeat a line that's existed in the anti-LGBT playbook for years: "How do I explain it to my children?" 

Thanks to Beth Kohm's recent column for HuffPost Gay Voices, we now have an answer to give them, straight from the mouth of her six-year-old son, Joshua. She describes the incident where she was first forced to breach the subject with him: 

"About six months ago… [he] walked into our room while my husband Bob and I were watching a show in which the word "transgender" came up. He asked, "Mom, what is 'transgender'?" For a moment I hesitated over how to respond. In my work persona, I still worry that I might use the wrong pronouns or just generally not get it right on trans issues and unintentionally hurt some great people. Should I quote the American Academy of Pediatrics research? Should I cite resources from PFLAG and Gender Spectrum?"

Of course, Kohm did what any parent is likely to do when cornered with an awkward and potentially uncomfortable question, she did her best to explain the situation in as honest and age-appropriate a manner as possible. She also added, for good measure, that the issue of transgenderism is so complex and nuanced that it even proves difficult for many adults to understand. Joshua's subsequent response took Kohm by surprise: "No, it isn't, Mom. It is just like my Lego Ninjagos when I put the male heads on the female bodies. No biggie. Can I have a cookie?" She says that the entire conversation lasted a grand total of three minutes. 

Lego HeadsJoshua's quick and easy grasp of the concept got her thinking. Perhaps, when people ask the question "how do I explain transgenderism/homosexuality/etc to my kids," they're really wondering how to explain it to themselves. 

"I get it. For most of us grownups, gender identity is new territory — but so are many things these days. It is our responsibility as parents to process all the new that is out there and figure out how to apply our family values to the conversation. For us it was just another way to reinforce the value that we in our home place on respecting the fact that everyone is different."

"We all quickly learn that our kids model our responses; if you make an issue out of something, then they will too," she adds. "In this case, I can't help but think that adults should start learning from kids." 

Perhaps someone could use Joshua's Lego analogy to help explain the concept of transgenderism to the hosts at Fox News, who apparently cannot wrap their minds around the concept


  1. says


    this is the reality: kids are highly adaptable. hatred and fear are learned.

    “how do i explain to my kids that ______?”

    Simple: you tell them the truth. they can handle it.

    only when one learns to be anti-gay or anti-trans does this become a “troubling issue”, and the issue isn’t so much about LGBT people, but about the kid realizing that their family is full of S**t.

    it’s 2013 – there are no excuses to not understand these issues, and each other.

    kudos to this awesome family.

  2. Strepsi says

    @LITTLE KIWI — Exactly. And her comment ” if you make an issue out of something, then they will too,” is exactly right.

    I remember when I got married, my in-law family was FREAKING OUT for months and months over how to explain it, what it meant, etc. They never told their kids our of this BIG DEAL fear.

    Later, my 10-year-old niece saw our bed, and said “Ew, you two sleep together?”
    Me: “Of course, we are married and love each other”.
    Niece: “Oh, ok. Let’s play”

    It really is unbelievably simple.

  3. Serene says

    Welcome to the world of “transgender” – where human beings are like plastic Legos and where public policy should conform to the musings of a 6-year old.

  4. northalabama says

    kids look to their parents, other adults, teachers, and friends, for reactions that end up guiding their own development, opinions, and sometimes prejudices.

    guess we can’t accuse faux news of acting like kindergarteners any longer. they haven’t even aspired to reach that level of insightfulness.

  5. TomNYC says

    Do you like how every day I find new screen names and use them to post anti-Trans comments? It’s because when I told my family I was gay they forced me to cut my penis off because trans activists made them think that gay people are trans because LGBT.

    just kidding. I’m really upset because despite being a gay man, I don’t have any balls whatsoever. Not even metaphoric ones.

    But what you should take from my daily anti-trans posts, under various names, is this: I’m such a wimp of a gay man that hating transpeople is what I need to do to feel like a less-worthless excuse for a human being.

    Sorta how like my anti-gay family has to hate me for being gay so they can forget what gluttonous sacks of cowdung they are.

  6. anon says

    actually what they really mean when they say. “How do I explain it to the children?”…. What they mean is how do I explain to children that IT IS WRONG and SINFUL!!!!!

  7. Francis says

    It’s funny how we see usernames that never show up, ever, on other comments, to post anti-trans/racist/other bigoted tripe. At least be a little bit less predictable with the trolling.

    As for the story, it’s funny how often children “get it” while adults can’t seem to grasp the simplest things. Goes to show a mind that hasn’t been poisoned with hate understands the very things so many adults can’t handle.

  8. Pookie says

    What a sweet article, I have to admire the parent that tried to explain this, when I think back at my own parents inability to speak to us like human beings, I can’t help but get a bit teary.

    The fact that the simplicity of the explanation int eh absence of a dogma that is indefensible by any non-violent measure is also not lost on me.

  9. GregV says

    None of these issues were ever the least bit confusing to me even when I was 6 years old. Indeed, it is adults who grew up hearing false information and remain confused themselves who project their own ignorance onto the “confusable” children.
    My niece understood when she was in kindergarten that most men marry women but dome men marry men. Homosexuality is NOT complicated to any kid who’s not misinformed.
    Likewise, the first time she met a trans kid, her parents had no trouble explaining (“She looks like a boy on the outside but feels like a girl on the inside) and she had no trouble understanding. Her response was similar to this kid’s. “Maybe I’ll see if the boy-girl likes to play checkers; hey, can I have some cranberry juice?”

  10. Hagatha says

    I love these BS little stories the Democratic Underground types like to make up.

    Anybody got a six year old to explain why the Arabs want to kill the Israelis and commit genocide on the Jewish nation?

  11. andrew says

    Six year olds are cute but please keep their “deep” philosophical insights of the left or right out of the debate.

  12. Margaret says

    Children usually understand things just fine in their own age appropriate way unless adults screw it up.

  13. Howard says

    Children are endlessly adaptable and can handle anything put to them in an appropriate manner.

  14. Koskalaka Maricón says

    “Out of the mouth of babes…” RJ, Joshua’s savvy and insightfulness would be totally lost on the stunted, all-face-and-no-brain, on-air crew at Fox News…like “casting pearls before swine.”