Things I learned from my kids: It was my chromosomes that decided their genders, not my parenting

“Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly, than to decide the spoil with the proud.” – Proverbs 16:19 (KJV)

As I drove my kids to their mother’s house today, Hannah, my three-year-old, observed that I no longer have a beard. After I explained to her that I had shaved off my characteristic goatee, she stated her intention to have a beard when she grows up.

“Women don’t have beards. Usually,” Daddy said, deftly adding that last word just in case my daughter runs into a Sikh in the near future. (Aren’t I so inclusive?)

“When I’m a man, I’m gonna have a beard.”

“You’re not going to be a man. You’re going to be a—”

I stopped myself. Hannah did not need to be corrected here. She had learned that boys grow up to be men and girls grow up to be women a long time ago. It was Daddy who required correction.

What struck me in this exchange was the generational shift in attitudes about transgender people. In my youthful naivete two decades ago, I saw them as freakish and even crazy, mainly because society at large saw them that way. Today, thanks to my personal spirituality and some wonderful advocacy movements, I’m a socially conscious parent wanting my children to grow up seeing all people as the image of God. Of course, I didn’t expect that I would be delving into the topic of gender identity while my daughter was just entering her preschool phase.

hannah driveway

As far as I know, Hannah still sees herself as a girl.

Does Hannah have a future as a man? Probably not. She certainly has no problem being a girly girl at this point in life, though her mixing and matching decisions indicate that her fashion sense has some room for growth. What I hope to see from both of my kids, though, is a worldview that understands that inherent differences in people are not abnormalities but traits. I pray that they will be there to offer hugs and encouragement if and when a classmate starts questioning his or her existence as a him or a her. It was my X chromosome that made Hannah a girl and my Y chromosome that made my 20-month-old Jacob a boy. (Here comes the science.) But as long as I do it right, my example can help show them how to treat the other Xs and Ys in their lives.

“Hannah, do you want to be a man or a woman when you grow up?”

“A man, so I can have a beard.”

“Would you like me to grow my beard back?”

“Yeah.”

And if she does end up being a man with a beard some day, I’ll steal everyone’s favorite Pope Francis line: “Who am I to judge?”

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One thought on “Things I learned from my kids: It was my chromosomes that decided their genders, not my parenting

  1. I love this! I think it’s fairly common for kids to go through this kind of “exploration” with the gender they will be “when they grow up.” They know that they’ll undergo radical transformation to get from where they are now to what they’ll be someday (I remember adults feeling like an alien species when I was a kid, and being mystified that it would someday hoappen to me), so it’s not too far-fetched to imagine this transformation including sex/gender, too. I remember a male cousin once asking his mom for barettes in the store; she said no, because barettes were for girls. He countered with, “Well, I want them for when I grow up to be a girl.” He had two older sisters, which she thought explained why he imagined he’d also be a girl when he was older. So although I think many parents have a semblance of this conversation, I’m sure that not all of them handle it as well as you did. Nice work!

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