Aren’t children too young to learn about sexual and gender differences?

Many people worry that talking with young children about these issues will only confuse or worry them.

But children need caring adults to help them sift through the conflicting and misleading messages they hear about gender and orientation and to provide them with a context for developing positive attitudes and respectful values based on accurate information.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Elementary school children hear “you’re so gay” as a put-down and will repeat it unless adults step in and explain that name-calling is hurtful and unacceptable.
  • When children point out differences in public and are told to be quiet, they learn that these things can’t be talked about. Adults who speak openly and respectfully teach children that differences are okay.
  • Even very young children encounter attitudes and ideas about sexual orientation and gender in the form of storybooks and videos where a prince meets a princess and they live happily ever after, adults who hug little girls but shake hands with little boys, and TV commercials showing boys playing in the dirt with toy trucks and girls playing with dolls.

Openness and guidance from caring adults can prevent prejudice and stereotyping and cultivate acceptance.

Adapted from All God’s Children: Teaching Children about Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity

Contributed by Melany Burrill

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