[Image description: Illustration from They, She, He, Me: Free To Be!, by Maya Gonzalez. Three smiling people with light-brown skin of nonbinary gender, with dark hair of different lengths and green and white clothing.]
Not sure how to explain the difference between sex and gender with your kids? If you’re looking for inclusive, age-appropriate, and body-positive books to understand the difference between assigned-sex-at-birth and gender, this picture-book guide is for you.
Teaching Kids About Gender
Building A Framework Of Acceptance & Inclusion
Genitals and assigned sex at birth don’t automatically determine a person’s gender. I’ve explained that to my boys countless times, but we hadn’t gone over the many (MANY) things the outside world teaches them to assume are innately masculine or feminine, like facial hair.
These books helped us dig into these assumptions. With these gender-expansive books on the gender spectrum and fluidity, both my boys reassessed how they perceive markers of masculinity and femininity.
From left-to-right, and top-to-bottom, you can introduce these books in a pace that feels right to you, answering kids’ questions as they go. If you’re not ready for these books yet, check out our basic books on anatomy and body awareness, then come back here.
- They She He Me (pronouns, nonbinary, gender fluidity & spectrum, breaking gender constructs)
- Introducing Teddy (transgender)
- Red (transgender, invisible disabilities)
- From the Stars In The Sky To The Fish In The Sea (nonbinary, gender fluidity)
- Worm Loves Worm (nonbinary, gender fluidity, marriage rights)
- The Gender Wheel* (nonbinary, gender fluidity & spectrum, whitewashing, colonization, breaking gender constructs)
The only book that shows genitals is The Gender Wheel – and the reading level is for older kids anyway. The product page guide says 4-8, but the flowery, didactic text is probably best for ages 5.5+. (Or older, if you’ve got spirited kids who can’t sit through didactic books.) By the time your kids are old enough for it, you’ll be ready to say words like ‘penis’ and ‘vagina’ out loud. Go ahead and start practicing now. It gets easier.
VULVA. See? Six years ago there’s now way I would have typed that on my website. Progress! Destigmatizing! Shameless!
I used to recommend Who Are You as a starter book for preschoolers, but I recently found out that white cisgender authors plagiarized The Gender Wheel, appropriating and whitewashing the labor of Maya Christina Gonzalez, a queer Chicana woman. (…Yeah.) Don’t buy it, and don’t check it out of the library (libraries track that). Let it fade into obliviousness.
Accountability & transparency: I am a cishet woman, without lived experience in LGBTQ+ issues, and sometimes I make mistakes. If I messed anything up, or left anything out – leave a comment below and I’ll do my best to create a more inclusive collection.
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