There’s been a lot in the news lately about who can use which restrooms. A recent federal mandate requires schools to permit students to use the restroom that matches their gender identity, even if that’s not the sex on their birth certificate. Whatever your views on the subject, it’s a great opener for talking with teens about gender and identity. The key is to be curious about your kid’s perspective, regardless of your own feelings.
What does your teen know about what’s been in the news? Is she aware of the different views being expressed? Have administrators or teachers at her school been talking about it? What provisions, if any, does her school make for students who are trans or otherwise gender-nonconforming?
More important, what does he think about all that? Does he know kids at school who are transgender? Are there kids who use other terms to describe a gender identity other than male or female (for instance, “gender fluid,” “queer,” “gender queer,” “agender”)? Is this something kids at school talk about much? How comfortable are students with gender variants? Do different social groups accept gender nonconformity to different degrees? How big a deal is gender variance compared with sexual orientation? How does his friend group see all this?
What does she think about the bathroom controversy? Is she concerned about having people in the “wrong” bathroom, or does she think the adults are making a bigger deal about this than they need to? What does she think is the best way to handle things?
If your teen engages on this topic, you’ll learn about his social world and his thought process. (If he doesn’t engage, don’t push it, of course.) Well into the conversation you can add your own perspective. But mostly, just listen and stay curious. That way, not only will you have a meaningful talk with your teen on a hot cultural topic, you’ll also demonstrate that you’re open to hearing different views on a sex-related subject—which keeps the door open for future conversations about sexuality.