Even though it seems like we’ve come a long way in the battle for LGBTQ rights, society still has a long way to go. In particular, gender identity — and those who don’t limit themselves to the gender binary — still face routine discrimination and misunderstanding. In a newly published open letter, genderqueer activist and writer Jacob Tobia explained how parents can better talk to their children about gender non-conforming people.
Tobia has worked as a director’s assistant on Transparent and published writing in outlets like the New York Times, The Guardian, and Teen Vogue. Their most recent piece, published on BuzzFeed, is titled “A Letter to Parents Whose Children Stare at Me in Public.” Tobia opened the letter by explaining that children often stare at them. In particular, they discussed a recent incident in which children openly gawked at them at a hotel pool. Tobia observed that when the children pointed at them and commented on their appearance, the parents quickly shut them down by saying, “It’s not nice to talk about strangers.”
According to Tobia, this is the wrong approach.
Tobia went on to explain that in shutting down a child’s implicit question about gender identity, parents are missing out on an opportunity to explain that boys can wear lipstick and that girls can wear “boys’ clothes,” too. They wrote that they don’t mind if parents use them as a teaching moment. “Feel free to tell your kids all about the beautiful rainbow of gender,” Tobia concluded in their letter.
It’s important to take the time to spread awareness about those outside of the gender binary. But more than that, we need to encourage the idea that an individual’s gender expression and identity is up to them and no one else. We applaud Tobia for writing this important letter, and we’ll take care to remember this genderqueer activist’s advice in the future.