I will refer to her as Youngest. Youngest is 8 at the time of this writing. Oldest is 15. Oldest was a bit of an experiment. I didn’t know I was a feminist when I was younger. In fact, at one point I was a Republican, Chik-fil-A-eating, anti-choice, gun-loving Jesus Freak! I have a different viewpoint today. I still love Chik-fil-A, though. Mmm, blessed Jesus chicken… Anyway…
Oldest learned the birds & the bees early, being very curious. I hated the fact that my parents lied to me when I was younger, and I refused to do the Santa, Easter Bunny, or Tooth Fairy nonsense. He was pretty grounded in truth and had tons of questions. He didn’t have a lot of questions about girls or their anatomy, but he learned what periods are, why cleaning out the trash can when you have a dog is important, and that sometimes chocolate is awesome for people with vaginas (which Chrome doesn’t recognize as a word, by the way).
I wish I had known then what I know now. It’s my hope, in the last few years I have with him, that we teach him that trans* individuals are people, that pronouns are important, that consent is a thing, and that a person’s soul is far more important than anything about their existence on the outside. This ideology – well, basically, feminism – is central to the Jesus Christ ethos. We take it seriously in this house. We know not all believe this, and that is each person’s individual choice. For this house, though, this is what we believe Jesus, Yeshua, aka Yaweh, taught his disciples, even if they had a hard time wrapping their heads around it.
We are behind in our home school lessons. It’s January, but we’re barely hitting the Christmas in our faith-based curriculum. As we progressed through, I realized Youngest hasn’t retained much of the Christmas story. I open my phone app to the first few chapters of each gospel, hoping to culminate with an awesome reenactment involving the dogs and blankets and probably potato chips to keep the animals participating. That didn’t come to pass, because as I read to her the book of Luke, she learned that Zechariah had to name his son on the 8th day after his birth at the circumcision ceremony. Then came the question:
“Circumcision was a religious custom to separate the Jews from others in the region. When a baby was 8 days old, they would cut off the skin at the tip of the penis.”
“What’s a penis?”
Now, I know we covered this. 5 years ago. When she was 3. We have always taken the “let them ask first” parenting philosophy. Oldest asked a lot of questions pretty early, and has asked relatively age-appropriate questions since, but Youngest hasn’t been interested. We had definitely been over this, but she didn’t remember.
So here I was, sex ed mom, unprepared for this talk. I was about to explain sex and babies and gender dynamics and I felt terrified but excited. She finally asked about something she’d never really taken an interest in, because she’s a little different.
Youngest is our artist. She’s our free spirit. No matter how gender neutral I tried to raise her, she has wanted her blonde hair long and adorned with tiaras, her body frocked in pink tutus and glitter everywhere. Rainbows, unicorns, alicorns, and fearlessness are her trademarks. She is Crista Anne Orenda on innocence and pixie stix crack. She truly believes the best in everyone. Today is always the best day ever. Songs are made up on the fly. Dance breaks are the best part of the day. Food is always delicious (unless it’s yucky). People always deserve hugs. We should always help. We should feed the homeless people and be their friend because friends are awesome. Happiness is her soul. THIS is a child of a depressed person and a bipolar person. We don’t understand how it happens but she is a ray of sunshine that exudes positivity! Youngest has not asked about sex/reproductive questions in 5 years.
She knows that gender is what you make it. That boys can dress in pink and be unicorns (she believes Manicorn should be a super hero with his own show). Girls can build things! Girls and boys can have short hair or long hair. Bathrooms don’t matter. Glitter looks good on everyone. It’s the most honest to goodness positivity I’ve seen in my life, but sometimes it’s corrupted by the media she watches. She worries that boys who dress like girls make her feel awkward. She wants to be a veterinarian instead of a doctor or programmer or architect. She has said that some professions are for boys. We have come at this hard, to combat the horrid Nickelodeon and Disney Channel programming she loves so much.
But she doesn’t know what a penis is. I started to wonder where I went wrong but then realized we’d come to a pivotal moment. I had the platform and microphone to say what I’d wanted to say, in a moment I’d only dreamed of! My whole feminist transformation, the feminist truth ethos, to now lay it out in the words I’ve studied to have on hand for now. I had one shot, one opportunity.