Aunty Ranger, What Am I and Where Did I Come From?

Mary Sue,

That is a great question! I bet you ask because it’s your birthday! You are six years old today!

Do you know what a birthday is? Yes, that’s right; it’s the day you were born. But what does that mean?

Exactly six years ago today, you came to life. You were growing inside of your [parent] for nine months and then when you were ready to come out, you were born! From there you’ve grown a lot bigger and will keep growing.

Now, where did you come from? What are you? These are really good questions, and really tough to answer. In fact, I can’t give you an answer in an hour or a day or even years! These questions are questions you’ll answer all of your life. You’ll spend your whole life learning the answers to many tough questions, and these are just two of them.

It’s like how you will read books all your life. You’ll learn from them all the time; there are so many books that you’ll never run out of new ones to read. But, before you can read all those books, you have to learn how to read, right? You’re working on that now, and from what I hear, you’re already very good at it.

So, let’s think of this as learning your ABCs the first time. I will take it slow, okay? And you ask lots of questions. All the grownups around you will give you as many answers as we can, and when we don’t know, we’ll go look them up. You should always look up answers when you have a question.

Now what was the first question? What are you? You are a type of animal called a human. I’m a human, your parents are humans, you’re a human.

So where do humans come from?

For starters, we have to talk about some parts of the body. You know about your fingers and toes, right?

Well, there are parts of the body that are between our legs. They are called genitals. That’s a cool word, right? Can you say it? Where are they? That’s right.

Now, one type of genitals includes these things: The vagina (say these back), the uterus, the Fall-o-pian tubes, and the ovaries. Cool words, right? See?

The vagina looks like a hole from the outside, if you looked between your legs in a mirror. It’s really a tunnel, though. It’s a tunnel to what’s called the uterus. That’s inside the body. Now, the uterus is where babies grow!* You grew inside of your [parent’s] uterus. But how?

Well, remember the ovaries? The ovaries are full of tons of teeny tiny eggs. Yep! Eggs! And one of those eggs is one of two parts of a baby. It’s half a baby. Half of you was an egg inside of your [parent’s] ovary.

Now, once a month a teeny egg leaves one ovary and takes a trip through the Fall-o-pian tube. What does the egg do? Yes, that’s right. The Fallopian tube is also like a tunnel.

The egg takes its trip through the tube on the way to the uterus. Remember what the uterus is?

As the egg travels through the Fallopian tube, it waits for the second half. Now, where do you get the other half? You get the other half from a different type of genitals.

This other type of genitals is the penis (say it back) and the testicles. A penis acts like a muscle like the one in your arm, and it has a tiny tunnel inside it that goes to the testicles. The penis is on the outside of the body and some people think it looks kind of like a hot dog. Funny right?

There are two testicles like there are two ovaries. The testicles, though, are where sperm are made. There are millions of teeny tiny little sperm, which kind of look like little tadpoles. They are the other half of the baby!

So how do you get the two halves together to make one whole baby? Well, the most common way to do this is for two people with those two types of genitals to have sex. Sex is how humans have made babies since the very first humans more than two-hundred thousand years ago. That’s a really long time, eh? There are lots of other types of sex, but you will learn about those when you’re older and ready to understand. Right now we’re just going to talk about the kind of sex that makes a baby.

Now, when the two people making a baby have sex, the person with the penis puts it inside of the other person’s vagina. Do you remember what the vagina is? It’s a tunnel to the uterus. So, the two tunnels of the penis and the vagina are together, one inside the other. From there tons of teeny sperm all race as fast as they can from the testicles through the penis and vagina and into the uterus. They all want to be the one to make a baby, so they try really hard to be first. When a sperm wins and meets up with the egg, that egg is now called an embryo.

That’s a pretty cool word, right? What’s an embryo? That’s right, it’s when the sperm and the egg come together, making the two parts one. The embryo then takes a trip out of the Fallopian tube and sticks to the wall of the uterus. It needs the uterus in order to get food and things it needs to grow. An embryo at this point is most often called a fetus. Over time a fetus will grow inside of the uterus and will eventually become a baby. The entire thing takes about nine months.

After the fetus has grown enough that it doesn’t need to live inside its [parent] anymore, it’s ready to be born. It’s ready to breathe and laugh and cry. It’s then that a baby will come out of the uterus, through the vagina, and into the world! That’s what it means to be born. Sperm and an egg come together to make an embryo, or a fetus, and then that fetus becomes a baby.

Squat birth

So that’s how a baby is made. There is a lot more to it, but as you get older and get better at reading, you will learn more. It takes time, though, so keep asking questions. Do you have questions now? (Take Questions)

Now, we’re going to talk about something that could be confusing. You stop me if you don’t understand, okay?

You know already that some people are born with a vagina and a uterus, and some are born with a penis and testicles. This is one way to know what sex you are, by what genitals you have. You’ll learn even more about this as you grow up.

So, sex can mean to make a baby, and it can also mean what types of genitals you have.

Now, people also say that genitals also tell you what gender (repeat) you are. But that’s not always true.

What is gender? That’s right, being a boy is a gender and being a girl is a gender.

You’ve seen pictures of what some boys and some girls look like. Sometimes girls have long hair and like to wear dresses. Sometimes boys only wear pants and like sports. But, this is only sometimes. Gender is just one way of talking about how we see ourselves, how we want our bodies to look, how we dress, do our hair, and what types of stuff we like to do.

But how do we know what gender we are? Is it just our genitals? No, it’s not. It’s something that each person knows about themselves. Like, what gender are you? You’re a girl? How do you know?

You just know; that’s right.  Only you can really know what gender you are. Sometimes it takes people a long time to figure it out, but deep down they know who they are.

My sister Sheila and I are girls.

You know based on how you want to look, how you want people to treat you, and what you like to do. Sometimes it’s related to the types of people you will want to have sex with when you’re a grownup. But not always; you will learn more about that when you’re older.

My partner, Jeff, is a boy.

Now, are you still with me? Gender and genitals are related, but there aren’t any strict rules about them.

Some people are girls, some people are boys, and some people are even both or neither. Why? That’s right, because there aren’t any strict rules. Only you can know what gender you are.

All people have genitals and people have genders. Some boys are born with a penis and testicles (you remember those, right?) and some boys are born with a vagina and uterus (remember those, too?). At the same time, some girls are born with a penis and testicles, and some girls are born with a vagina and a uterus.

Lots of times boys with penises grow up to have deep voices and their bodies are very straight up and down, like sticks.

Lots of times girls with vaginae grow up to have higher voices and their bodies are curvy.

Other times, though, a boy is born with a vagina and a uterus. And when he grows up his voice will be higher and his body will be curvy. He may not like this. He may want to look like boys who are born with penises and testicles, with a deep voice and a straight body. He can make that happen, though. He can become more like how he feels on the inside. His genitals do not mean that he HAS to look a certain way. He knows inside who he is and he can look any way he wants to.

My cousin and his son

So, is it the same for a girl who is born with a penis and testicles? If she’s born with a penis and testicles, what might she grow up to look like? Right, she would likely grow up to have a deeper voice and a very straight body. But like that boy we talked about, she might be unhappy and want to have a curvy body. Her genitals do not mean she HAS to look or act a certain way. She knows inside who she is. She knows what she really wants to look like and how she wants to act in the same way that you do.

My friend Riley as Tinkerbell

It can be difficult to tell someone’s gender from how they look because people are all unique and there aren’t easy rules about gender. You don’t have to be a “boy” to like stuff lots of boys happen to like and you don’t have to be a “girl” to like things lots of girls happen to like. Sometimes girls with vaginae are still girls, but look like how boys often look. And sometimes boys with penises are still boys, but look like how girls often look. I know this all can get confusing. But if you don’t know what someone’s gender is, you can just ask them — politely of course.

My super-fabulous friend Jorell

Now, I am sad to tell you that some people think that if a person is born with a penis, that person is ALWAYS a boy. They think he must always look like a boy with a deep voice and a straight body, and only wear pants and have short hair. At the same time, they think that if a person is born with a vagina, that person is ALWAYS a girl. They think she must always look like a girl with a high voice, a curvy body, wear dresses, and have long hair.

But what about the girl with a penis and the boy with a vagina? They would be very sad and confused if someone told them that what they felt was wrong. What if someone told you that you couldn’t be a girl? What if they told you that because of the genitals you have, you have to look and act a certain way? You would be pretty sad, right?

And why is that? That’s right, because only you know what your gender is and only you know how you want to look and act. Nobody can tell you who you are. Only you know who you really are.

Women like to box.

What’s that? Why do some people think that only girls have vaginae and only boys have penises? Well, there are lots of reasons. There are lots of answers for this, just like everything else we talked about.

Men like to dance in tutus.

One reason is that it’s a lot easier to keep track of genders if there are only two, ALWAYS two. So, for a very long time, people have tried to make that a rule, that there can be only two. It takes a lot of work to understand a boy with a vagina and a girl with a penis. Sometimes a girl with a penis still has a deep voice and a straight body. She’s still a girl, but she may not look like how we often think girls look. It’s the same thing when a boy who has a vagina does not look like how we often think boys look. So, sometimes it can be confusing.

Work hard!

People don’t like being confused. We want answers. This is a good thing. But, sadly, lots of people want easy answers. They want answers that are really quick so they can get back to watching cartoons and making dinner. You can kind of understand that, right? We all get lazy and don’t want to work hard. Working hard is tiring.

But what happens if we’re lazy like this? What happens if we say that people can only be a girl with a vagina or a boy with a penis? That’s right; it leaves a lot of people really sad. All of the people who don’t fit into those rules end up lonely and confused. They don’t live happy lives.

Do you think that’s fair? No, I don’t think so either. Just because we want things to be easy doesn’t mean we get to tell other people what to do and how to act and look. That’s not fair and not nice. The only way we can all be who we really are is if we all try hard to get the real answers, and not just the easy quick ones. We have to work hard to understand each other so that we can all be happy.

Does that all make sense? Does that seem like the ABCs?

What are the types of genitals? That’s right.
What are the two parts that make a fetus? That’s right.
How do the two parts come together? That’s right.
Where does the fetus grow? That’s right.

What does gender mean? That’s right.
What are the types of genders and what genitals do they have? That’s right.
Are people with penises always boys? Are people with vaginae always girls? No? Why not? That’s right.

Should we tell people what gender they should be?

No? Why not? That’s right.

Myself at sixteen

*The fetus actually grows inside of the amniotic sack, within the uterus. I found trying to explain the amniotic sack and placenta in simple terms to be very difficult, so I suggest that this is an example of the kinds of progressive clarifications children will need on this subject. This is not a one-time conversation. It’s very important that we realize these explanations are ongoing. While the function of the amniotic sack and placenta may be too difficult to explain to a six-year-old, laying the foundations for that lesson is very important.