Editor's note: Children begin to understand their true gender as young as 8-10 months old and their gender identity continues to develop well into childhood. We're often asked, "how young is too young to start discussing the possibilities of gender with children?" We can only respond: There's no such thing as too young. Ensuring that our children grow up comfortable with themselves - and aware of all of the wonderful possibilities that exist - begins at birth (or even before) and should never stop.
I am currently an early childhood educator at a pretty large preschool in metro Atlanta. As a teacher of 2-year olds, our lesson plans not only make sure we discuss colors and shapes, and of course, going on bear hunts, but we are really confronted with molding these toddlers to fit society: instilling manners, using words and not hands, potty-training, taking responsibility for our own actions, etc.
These little sponges are absorbing, and often times, repeating what we say - so we know that we are making a difference.
To assess each child's progress throughout the year, we have a list of various benchmarks or milestones a child of this age should do at least sometimes or regularly. This can also help alert teachers to red flags in development that need to be given attention.
Today, as we were doing a group art project, we wanted to use the opportunity to observe the milestone of whether each child is "Beginning to identify as a boy or girl."
Instead of handing the little girls the pink shape of the pig-tailed figure and the little boys the blue shape of the baseball-hat-wearing figure, my co-teacher turned to me and said, "Ok... so... what if someone's transgender?" I was ecstatic! Yes! Let's make a difference! Let's help raise a new generation of accepting children from the beginning! (Of course, I'd like to believe we had already been doing this already, especially with the dramatic play dress-up center, but, this topic had yet to come up...)
We decided where a teacher would typically ask, "Bryan, ARE you a boy or a girl?" we would ask, "Bryan, what kind of person do you feel like?" When each answered, they picked a figure and glued it on our classroom bus! It was a pretty interesting social, cognitive, fine motor and artistic lesson for all... even the teachers.
Stacey Lasky is an early childhood educator in Atlanta. She is the co-chair of Purim off Ponce, SOJOURN's annual fundraiser. For more information on gender-related resources for the classroom, check out these links: