AI: Coming Out to Kids


I am not out to the kid I’m helping to raise. He will be 5 this month, he’s a bit gender non-conforming himself (although not more so than many kindergarten aged kids), and he is FIRMLY in the “why?” stage of life.

He has the general sense that my relationship with his father is close and he knows I’m family. I am not worried about how we will tell him about polyamory because in many ways he already gets it.

My gender situation is much more complicated. I have presented male for much longer than he’s known me (more than half his life), and he’s old enough to understand the ideas involved but I haven’t found a way to bring it up yet. His father (my boyfriend) would prefer I wait until he’s 10 or older, but his mother and I agree that he should be told sooner. I want him to grow up with the idea that gender is fluid and complex – and that means discussing it now.

Have you ever come out to a child? Have you discussed something complex and important with a kid? How did it go? Did you wait until a good moment, or just sit them down and talk? What, in your experience, works?

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  1. I have “come out” to children, but only if they asked. Be prepared for any kind of reaction. Some kids don’t bat an eye and others will say things like “that’s silly” or “that’s gross.” Most of the kids I’m around have rather progressive parents who have already talked to them about gender and sexuality, though. The ones I was around last summer when I was teaching at an enrichment program, however, were a whole other story (it was in rural south-central Texas).

  2. Understanding alternate genders/sexualities is not beyond children. I owe a lot to my mother, ( an excellent parent, but not someone I would expect to take a special interest in these things, ) explaining very plainly what gay people were or what a sex-change was when a young me heard those terms used and asked what they meant. I found it harder to understand why people would be angry about this than anything.

    My mother’s attitude helped me in two ways:
    1) While at that age, it was very comforting to learn that one could avoid girl germs for life.

    2) While I’ve never considered myself beyond prejudice or error. It left me with an automatic initial reaction that any unusual social phenomenon I’d never heard of before was probably ‘just a thing that happens’ and nothing worth any particular angst.

  3. More than once I’ve had kids/teenagers ask me if I’m a girl or a boy. My preferred answer is “I’m both!” Said of course, in a happy voice while smiling like there’s nothing at all unusual about that answer.

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