Welcome to GenderJabber!


This page is meant to be a resource for people who interact with young children and who want to think inclusively about gender. It is for people who want to support kids of all genders. The focus is on language we use. 

We want to give kids the world

As parents, caregivers, teachers, librarians, and other folks who engage with young people, we are committed to making every child's world as big as possible. We give them age-appropriate autonomy and help them develop their confidence and sense of power in themselves. We teach them to be members of society by teaching them about kindness and empathy. This site is aimed at creating expansive gender notions and options for young kids (0-5).

(Binary) gender can be so limiting

Many of us grew up thinking that gender is a binary category – there are men and there are women. Clothes and toys are color-coded for girls and for boys, and we are surrounded by images of what boys do and what girls do. We were told that girls (and boys) could grow up to do anything. However, there has been, and still is, a policing of gender expression, especially in children, to make sure that they fit into one of the two binary genders. This policing is firm, and it starts very early. Children as young as two know what things are boys things and girls things [1].

Adults tells children they can do anything they want. In next panel, adult says that a child can't be a truck driver because that's for boys. Adult then says that another child can't wear nail polish because that's for girls. When asked if they are a boy or a girl, a child says, yes, both.

However, it is clear that binary gender is an over-simplified idea that doesn't capture lived human experience. People's gender identity (how they feel inside about their own gender) and gender expression (how they outwardly express their gender) span a wide range and may or may not align with the gender they were assigned at birth [2]. It is clear that many people are transgender, have non-binary genders, or are gender nonconforming. Further, there are many cisgender people (people's whose gender identity matches their assigned gender) express their genders in ways that do not conform with binary gender stereotypes. Given the rapidly growing wide-spread changes in our understanding of gender, and the need to support and be inclusive of transgender and gender-fluid kids and adults, many adults are unsure how to effectively support children in being good allies.

Language Matters

This is where being really aware of the language you use around gender (and lots of things as well!) is so important. This educational guide is meant as a primer for people who interact with young kids to think about the language they use and to provide some tips for ways to make your language more gender inclusive in order to model that for kids (though it’s a good idea all around).

As much as it sounds like old-school feminism to talk about making gender-neutral toys and space for girls to play with trucks and boys to play dress up as princesses, the changes have not been that big since the 70's and children get messages about what is "appropriate" from people and images around them [3]. Perhaps the increased awareness that gender is not as simple as many of us once thought is an opportunity to create more options for our children to express their genders, no matter how they identify. Can we strive for a world where it is perfectly fine for a boy to dress up as a princess? What do we want for our girls? We already tell them they can play with trucks. We need to stop just telling them they're beautiful [4]. Maybe the goal is for them to play princess, and to do the rescuing!

Child wants pink shoes but thinks they're only for girls. Adult responds that shoes are for people and that the child should get the pair they like best.

Where do we start? 

Changing patterns and language we use is hard work! This guide is meant to help. Start with the Big Ideas, work on using Gender Neutral Languages, and think about messages in Books here! If you want to read more, check out the Resources and Contact us if you want to give feedback or share your experiences!

Homepage References

1. https://www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/gradeschool/Pages/Gender-Identity-and-Gender-Confusion-In-Children.aspx

2. http://www.transstudent.org/gender

3. https://www.commonsensemedia.org/blog/boys-girls-and-media-messages, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/allison-lantagne/gender-roles-media_b_5326199.html, and http://www.etfo.ca/Resources/ForTeachers/Documents/Gender%20Issues%20in%20The%20Media.aspx

4. http://www.aww.com.au/relationships/parenting-family/the-danger-of-telling-girls-they-are-pretty-21588 and