Talking with kids about being transgender
This interview is from A Kids Book About: The Podcast, with host Matthew Winner and author of A Kids Book About Being Transgender, Gia Parr. It has been lightly edited for clarity.
What does being transgender mean?
I mean, I think it is like a pretty big label, I guess? I mean, like in simple terms, I would say it's how someone identifies. For example, coming out as a trans person or a trans woman, trans man, stuff like that. I think that's the most simple term for it.
But I think that all trans people are different. Like so many other people and everything. Like no two people are the same.
So I think that being transgender, on the outside, it's more of like an identity, but inside it can mean so many different things. I mean, for me, it's just one small part of me. I identify in so many more ways with [things] like my hobbies, my passion, schoolwork, stuff like that.
Those are ways that I identify myself and how I like [to] present myself in the world. Being transgender is just one small part of that.
So for me, it's simply my identity.
Gia comes to us from the GenderCool Project, a youth-led movement bringing positive change to the world. The Champions, as the involved youth are called, are helping replace misinformed opinions with positive experiences meeting transgender and non-binary youth who are thriving.
The word “transgender” may be new to you, and that’s okay.
It can mean so many different things for so many different people.
Mostly though it means you don't identify with the gender you were born with. And I would say for most people, that's kind of the common theme. They feel uncomfortable like in their body or the way they're presenting to the world.
You may also hear individuals use the term “cisgender.” Though, how individuals use “cisgender” can also vary.
I think that's also a word for people who aren't out yet or whatever, and like, or just identify as the gender they're born with.
So I think in simple terms, it is the word cisgender.
I think it’s important we come back to something Gia said a moment ago. She said that the term transgender can mean so many different things for so many different people.
But also that, in her opinion, most people have experienced feeling uncomfortable in their body or the way they are presenting to the world.
Not feeling like you dress the way the world expects you to dress… or wear your hair the way the world expects you to wear your hair… or love certain colors or shows or hobbies? That’s something I bet each and every one of you have experienced.
Have you heard people use the word “norm” before? It sounds like the beginning of another word you’ve heard a lot: normal. A norm is something that’s usual or typical or standard. It’s what you expect to see or to feel.
Being nervous on your first day at a new school is a norm.
Growing taller year after year of childhood is a norm.
And even the expectations for how you and your classmates behave in school? Those are norms.
There are also norms around gender.
I would say gender roles are kind of the roles that society creates, like for certain genders or whatever. And I don't think that anyone has to follow those specific gender roles, but for example, you would say, oh, girls play with Barbies and stuff when they're younger [and] boys play football.
I feel like those can be seen as gender roles in society and stuff. And like, personally for me, I identified with more female gender roles and I would say it's pretty simple. I mean, gender roles—it's kind of the more like male-dominated interest or female-dominated interest, stuff like that.
Gender roles are what you gravitate to.
It can be frustrating, can’t it? Our world seems to revolve around two choices. Two boxes. And if you’re not all-in on one box or the other box, it confuses people. Like… they just don’t know what to do because you’re going against all the things they’ve been used to for years and years.
You are going against their norms.
Yeah. I think gender has a huge part in who we are and everything. And I think on a daily basis, like if you just walk around the mall, for example. You can see that there’s a lot of stores that are more female-centered or male-centered. A lot of friend groups will be all male or all female.
And that way, gender roles are very prominent in our lives. They're constantly there.
And I would say things are definitely changing a lot, but those gender roles are still present. Like there's normally a men's and women's side to things, like in a clothing store or something, going to the bathroom…
And for me, I would say those gender roles kind of made me uncomfortable before I came out, because it felt incorrect for me. I wanted to do those things that other females did, stuff like that. I wanted to hang out with the girls and everything. And like those more female gender roles made me happy.
And that's like, kind of like what I was getting towards, like when I came out.
I mean, I feel like I knew since the age of two, but a real defining moment for me was when we had to draw our self portraits.
And I know I mentioned this in the book, when the boys in our class drew self portraits of themselves as boys and the girls through girls. And for me, I didn't want to draw a boy. I've never liked drawing boys. I'm like, “I only like [drawing] girls”. So I was like, “You know what? I want to draw myself as a girl.”
And I remember getting made fun of that day, like by my other classmates and people were kind of questioning it in a way. I think people were overall just very confused, like, oh, why is this person doing this?
And for me, I think that was a real defining point, realizing like, oh, I'm presenting as a boy right now. [And] these things that I want to do, and the way that I want to present is just not seen as acceptable. It’s not as common for a boy to want to draw girls, a self portrait, stuff like that. And I think from that point on, I really felt like I had to hide myself because I was trying to present in a more male way. I would say by like, not showing my interest in like girly toys and stuff like that.
I'm sorry to hear that you were in a position where you were expressing your true self and other people [and] they took it differently. Right. They didn't know what to do with it. They were confused or kids….kids are kids. Their questions don't always come from a place of hate. But rather as you said, beautifully from a place of confusion.
And I would say that was kinda like a common theme, like throughout my childhood and everything, people kind of being confused, like, is that a girly boy? Like what's going on kind of thing.
And I'm writing this book, I'm really hoping that it can educate you kids who are listening to this podcast and everything, just so you don't have to feel as confused. So you don't feel like you need to ask those questions and everything.
I'm really hoping this book can answer some of those questions that they wanted to ask, but they might feel a little uncomfortable about stuff.
I asked Gia how being transgender makes her feel.
I mean, it's definitely—I'm not going to live like a hard journey overall.
I mean, like when you're not born in the right body and you feel like you have to hide yourself for so many years, it can be such a struggle, but being able to come out as transgender and identifying as that has made me feel so much better about myself. I mean, I feel like my world has transformed and opened up.
In my book I talk about how I felt trapped by four walls and a door. And my room was kind of just collapsing in on me. And when I did come out in eighth grade, oh my gosh, my world totally changed. It felt like I could go to the mall and shop for whatever I wanted. And it just felt so nice to finally be myself.
And my parents do say, [I] have a spending problem, but I'm just making up for lost time. I made those new clothes and it just makes me feel so good to be able to identify this way and everything and identify as a woman of trans experience.
I'm just so glad to be able to identify with that. Kind of being like that light now and have support and everything.
Gia shares more about coming out and what has followed, including connecting with the GenderCool Project.
So what happened was, my mom came to me a year after I transitioned and she was like, “Oh, my gosh, I saw this thing on Facebook”. And she was like, “you should check it out. It's kinda like this organization about trans kids and everything.”
And at first I was like, no, because I don't like doing negative things; but then when I read more into this, I realized it was different. It shows who trans kids are, and it doesn't focus on the medical stuff or the anatomy. And it focuses more on who trans kids are. Like we can be and like what they can become and like how we can kind of like, be anything we want to be. And I really liked that aspirational aspect of it.
So I remember I was like, “okay, I'll join”. We'll see what happens. And then I get a call like, oh, we're going to be on the Megan Kelly show. And I'm like, huh, like national TV? So that was my first ever experience with advocacy on national TV. It was so crazy. And then I've just been doing work with them and like other organizations too.
And I've seen GenderCool grow and I guess I've helped them grow too in a way. And it's just, I'm so grateful to be a part of it. And I'm on the Board of Directors actually. For me, this is lifelong. I feel like I'm so grateful to have this organization to be a part of and to be so close with like the people in it is like a family.
And I'm really, really grateful for that.
You’ve heard Gia’s story today. Now let’s close our time together by hearing ways that we can all work to help make sure that the space we share with others, including transgender individuals, feels safe and accepting to all.
I think education and support are two words, very simple.
I mean, first off education, like writing this book and just kind of being informed about the trans community and the LGBTQ community in general is just so, so important. And I think that teaching kids about this stuff at a younger age in a more positive way can really shape our future and shape the next generation and how they perceive topics like being trans or like being LGBTQ.
And I think overall, this idea of support? I mean, when I came out, my teachers and administrators were extremely supportive of me and I think that set kind of the standard around the school. Okay. We're going to be supportive of Gia because the teachers who we look up to are supportive of her. And I think that really created a safer space for me, and also having a really strong friend group.
When I first came out, I remember my school let me have a pizza party with my friends. It was super sweet. And they were kind of the ones who were going to be there for me if something were to happen or something. And I think I had like one of those people in almost all my classes.
So kind of just having friends with you and having people in your support system is so important. And I think just being there for a trans person or for someone who's coming out, or for someone who's struggling with something is so important because that can get them through a really challenging time.
Each week on A Kids Book About: The Podcast, we talk about the big things going on in your world with a different author from our A Kids Book About series. This week we spoke with Gia, the author of A Kids Book About Being Transgender.