Talking Sexual Fluidity with My Preschooler
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I’ve had an ongoing discussion about her body and sexuality with my daughter before she could verbally talk. Most recently, that conversation has broadened to address the wide range of sexual fluidity among people. The “new” normal is that there is no “normal,” as Dr. Peggy Drexler points out. People experience a wide range of gender identity and sexual orientation, and expressions of gender and desire vary.
Yet, people have an urge to label; to fix into neat categories. I get that “labels can be a good way to build community and find yourself, but they can become a problem if someone feels restricted or constrained by them,” as the blogger of “monochrome in the 1960s” puts it. I’ve always felt constricted by them. When I was doing research on gender and sexuality in Norway a few years back, I came across the term gender claustrophobia. And not just among women and men feeling pigeonholed as “cisgender” or “straight” — walking manifestations of a heteronormative culture — but among queer women and men who felt constrained by limited understandings of lesbian and gay, even within their communities.
The beautiful thing about talking sexual fluidity with a four-year-old is that she totally gets it. She gets that we can look female and feel male inside. She gets that the object of each person’s affection can manifest immensely differently for that one person. She’s not confused by our friends who are currently same-sex partnered while previously opposite-sex partnered. She’s unfazed by the prospect of a woman gradually changing to look more like a man and vice versa.
It’s not like I’d be doing my daughter a disservice by not teaching her that the “new” normal is that there is no “normal;” she already gets this. Children already get sexual fluidity. Ignoring or pretending there is no such fluidity would constitute a disservice; closing their minds and hearts off to that wonderful plurality of gender identity and sexual orientation that exist among us.
(Crossposted on Love, Sex, and Family.)