Last week, our middle school students engaged in the first of a four-part (I know you’re probably saying that four is not enough) workshop with our trained adolescent sexual health educator with a focus on SOGI education. The facilitator opened the class by addressing anonymous student questions submitted the previous week. In a nervously anticipatory atmosphere, one by one each tiny post-it was drawn from the ‘question box’.
With queries like “What’s [the] righ [sp] penis size for [a] man?”, “Why is there so much pain [for the woman] at birth?”, “What does doggie style mean?”, “How old are you when you can get a wet drea[m]?” and “Why is the womens [sp] [menstruation] period red?” All standard faire (according to the facilitator).
However, the question that garnered the largest ‘collective gasp’ and deepest and richest discussion was, “Can a person really be two gender[s]?”
The facilitator took an extended pause and responded, “Yes, at any time.”
To which a student impulsively asked, “How…?”
[cue the Genderbread Person]
(NOTE: There is also a Gender Bear and a Gender Unicorn if you are looking for similar metaphors to use in your classroom.)
The Genderbread Person incited a litany of questions and a lively (and frank) discourse that lasted nearly three-quarter of an hour. This is, after all, the world in which we live. And it is also their wave of curiosity, wonder, and desire to understand that educators must ride. Our students have questions. Good ones. We owe it to their present and future selves. And there is no better time to help nurture compassion, empathy, and acceptance. Scratch that. There’s never a better time. There’s just time.
And at this moment in our classroom, it is time.