Mummy, what does cisgender mean? -

Mummy, what does cisgender mean?

A new children’s book introduces kids to the world of transgender politics

Fiona Smyth

Fiona Smyth

“The first thing you should know about sex is that it’s a word,” writes Cory Silverberg, Toronto sex educator and author of Sex is a Funny Word. This educational kids’ book, in bookstores this month, stars four children of different genders, races and abilities. It tackles the usual—changing bodies, fuzzy hair, extra nipples—before it dares go where few other kids’ books have gone. “Having a penis isn’t what makes you a boy,” it reads. “The truth is much more interesting than that!”

As such, it may be one of the first kids’ sex ed books—it’s aimed at eight- to 10-year-olds—to explore the concerns of transgender and gender-diverse youth. Silverberg’s last book for kids, What Makes a Baby, touched on sperm donation and unconventional families, but Sex is a Funny Word takes a big step into gender and identity politics. “When we are born, a doctor or midwife calls us boy or girl. But that’s based on our outside, our cover, and who they think we are,” Silverberg writes. “What about who we think we are?”

Silverberg is posing big questions at a crucial time. In the age of Caitlyn Jenner (formerly Bruce) and Orange is The New Black’s trans star, Laverne Cox, trans awareness is slowly filtering down to younger ages; Stealth, the story of a 12-year-old transgender girl, screened this year at the TIFF Kids Film Festival. This week TLC launched I Am Jazz, a show starring 14-year-old transgender activist and author Jazz Jennings.

Gender as a spectrum, rather than a binary, is a very comprehensible concept for today’s kids, Silverberg argues. According to a poll of 1,000 Millennials conducted by the media company Fusion, 57 per cent of females and 44 per cent of males aged 18 to 34 believe gender is a spectrum. Long before then, however, children understand. “Kids don’t have the language, but they’re in the playground, they know there are boyish-girls and girlish-boys,” says Silverberg. “They’re actually very open, and some people are afraid of that.”

Today’s Parent: Sex Is a Funny Word: A must-read for kids…and parents

Those people are usually parents, says Christine Baldacchino, a nursery teacher in Toronto. “There was a four-year-old boy in my class who really loved this gold dress,” she says. “One day, his mom saw him and told the director she didn’t want him wearing it.” Because the director thought it would be easier, she removed it from the dress-up centre. “For days, he asked about his favourite dress—where it went, if it was out getting cleaned or fixed, if it was coming back.”

Eventually, the boy caught on. “He said, ‘If you bring the dress back, I promise I won’t wear it,’ ” says Baldacchino, once a tomboy and very familiar with gendered rules of play. “It broke my heart, so I wrote a book about it.” Morris Micklewhite and the Tangerine Dress was released by House of Anansi’s Groundwood imprint in April 2014 to glowing reviews—mostly. “A librarian told me that a boy had taken out the book and his mother made him return it,” says Baldacchino. “She proceeded to try to get the book taken out of the library.”

Baldacchino had trans kids in mind but speaks equally to “cisgenders”—those who identify as the gender they were born with, i.e. most of us. Grown-ups don’t always appreciate the ambiguity. “Many parents want an answer as to whether Morris is gay or trans. I don’t know,” she says. “He’s only four.”

There are many kids like the fictional Morris, but only a few of these children will make a full gender transition, says Miriam Kaufman of the new Transgender Youth Clinic at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick Children. In the meantime, she says that hormone blockers “give young people some breathing space to think about their identity and live in their body as it is.”

Books like Baldacchino’s and Silverberg’s, which was brought to Kaufman for expert input before publication, represent shifting ideas and the inevitable parent-kid conversations around them. “This is a great opportunity for parents to have a talk that doesn’t use the word ‘I,’ ” says Kaufman.

Silverberg also invited kids as early readers. They embraced Sex is a Funny Word, he says. “The book is awesome because you put lots of effort into it,” said eight-year-old Bronwyn from Ottawa. “One of my favourite things is that all of the people were different.”


Mummy, what does cisgender mean?

  1. Good idea! We need a book like this.

    • I agree and, not surprisingly, “… some people are afraid of that,” and “those people are usually parents …”.

      Therefore, those “eight- to ten-year-olds” ought to share these books with their parents.

      • I certainly agree with that!

  2. I see the delusion of the “trans” community continues.

    Anyone else have any suspicians that the author of this book is NOT a white, hetro-sexual male?

    He’s a “sex educator”……

    No doubt. I would however have grave concerns about what he would be teaching to the kids if his book is any indication.

    So glad I I can afford private school for my kid; though it looks like it may have to be one outside of Canada; certainly not in Ontario if Wynne has her way.

    Just plain disgusting.

    • Don’t bother pimping your ego on here Jimmy……nobody cares.

  3. Will Hadrian To all my friends who say, ‘oh just live and let live, kaysara. If someone wants to think they’re a man trapped in a woman’s body, let em, that doesn’t affect me.’ If you think for one minute that these people won’t come after us to regurgitate this crap you’re wrong. These people have no intention of leaving us alone, they will not stop until there’s 6 washrooms, and our pronouns are changed. When we’ll be forced upon us Orwellian style ‘doublethink’ and having to second guess ourselves upon whether someone is a man or a women.

    • Ya know… the 18th century there were those who longed for the old-fashioned comfort of the 16th century. Modern times were just so complicated, they said!

      If you go back far enough, you’ll find people who were anti-writing …..because we’d lose the ability to remember things they said. All this new-fangled stuff!.

      Relax Will…the world will survive.

    • Will, no doubt, you will disagree with the science that says (conclusively) that all of us have a varying percentage of the opposite sex DNA within us. Recently, it has also been discovered that there are some homo sapiens, today, with neanderthal DNA … have you been examined?

      • B.CAUSEIKNOW….

        If you are a fan of science….try this.

        What is your sex if you have XY chromosomes?
        what is your sex if you have XX chromosomes?

        What is your condition if you have XY Chromosomes, but like to wear dresses, take hormones, and mutilate your body to suit the shape you desire?

        As for science conclusively discovering that each of us has a varying percentage of opposite sex DNA within us….well DUH.

        Given that every single person born has 50% from the mother, and 50% from the father……it stands to reason. Didn’t take science to figure that out……it took two parents. (opposite sex parents of course)

        Bruce Jenner…is a dude. Always was, always will be.

        • Ah yes, the science is so simple (maybe not for a PHD in biology, but for jameshalifax)

          If you’re an XX with a penis and testicles you’re a female, right jameshalifax?

          • Tresus….

            You are embarrasing yourself again.

            If you are a normal human being with an XX chromosome type….you are a female. If you are a normal human being with an XX chromosome type and own a penis and testicles….you are a wife.

          • You don’t see to understand the question.
            If you’re an xx and a penis and testicles are part of your anatomy you’re a female? Is that right?

          • Tresus,

            You are an idiot.

            If you are a “NORMAL” person (as in, born without any genetic defects) with XX chromosmes…you are a female.

            If you have an XX chromosome, and have a penis and testicles….then they have been stitched on, or your are most definitely and anomoly.

            You really are daft.

          • There are people are born with penises and testicles that have double x chromosomes.
            So, can you just confirm for us your insistence that such a person is a female, regardless of how they fell about it?

          • Tresus……..based on your previous comments and your faulty logic…I always suspected you were a bit slow on the uptake. I didn’t think my opinion of your shallow intellect could fall much lower.

            congrats…you manged to surprise me. Are you really that daft?

            Go back and read it again. Please note I said “NORMAL” as in…..not the NORM. There are genetic defects…but the entire discussion of this thread is for people who were born NORMAL…….but now want to be something they are NOT.

            I thought you were just being a devils advocate, or deliberatly provocative….but your latest comments indicate that at the end of the day…’re just stupid. I’ll try and use smaller words the next time I respond to any of the ridiculous crap you write; if I respond at all.

          • Oops..typo.

            NORMAL” as in…..THE NORM

          • You’ve claimed that gender is a clear black and white x y chromosome issue.
            Now it isn’t? There are actually a whole host of other factors you haven’t got the faintest clue about that determine gender?

            That’s what I thought.

          • Tresus wrote: (but still can’t understand the discussion)

            “You’ve claimed that gender is a clear black and white x y chromosome issue.
            Now it isn’t? There are actually a whole host of other factors you haven’t got the faintest clue about that determine gender?

            That’s what I thought.”

            Tresus, what you “thought” is just as shallow and ill informed as all of your other thoughts. If you can’t grasp even the most basic points being discussed, they stop pretending. Are you really this stupid, or are you just being a troll?

            For your sake I hope it is the latter, but I suspect the real answer is the former.

            (someone else want to help him out? I’m sure he really doesn’t understand)

          • I know these comments in which you give up any pretense of even trying to substantiate your assertions and just scream names at me are really your way of saying thanks for all the help.
            So…you’re welcome.