One of the things I’ve come to appreciate about men over the past twelve years of leading dads of daughters in The Abba Project and interacting with men at conferences is this: Ya’ll shoot straight and you want clear answers to your direct questions!
Case in point. Here is an email I just received from a dad who I’ll name Scott. He’s given me permission to share this:
How to talk with your daughter about gender
“My 13-year old daughter has made huge progress this year and we are proud of her accomplishments, but also are concerned that she now is questioning whether she’s attracted to boys or girls. While I enjoy and have attempted to implement many things you post, I find nothing in your library about guiding children who are questioning their sexuality. I’m curious why this is avoided?”
Great question! Here was my response:
“Thanks so much for reaching out and I appreciate you addressing this topic of sexuality as it comes to this current generation. You’re so right that this is a huge issue these days. I don’t know if you have my most recent book, “Let’s Talk: Conversation Starters for Dads and Daughters,” but I have one of the 60 topics on the issue of same-sex attraction where dads can lead their daughters to open up about this topic.
I haven’t addressed it in my blogs and some of that is because I’ve been focused on other things. I honestly wasn’t intending to avoid it. Simultaneously, because gender is such a “land mine issue” right now, I’m cautious about addressing it from a strong personal position.
My goal, as you know, is to help dads lead their daughters in conversations without telling dads where to land on the issue. And with that said, you’re right that this would be a great blog topic. Now that you brought it up, I definitely will move it to the top of my list. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.”
To illustrate the cultural magnitude of this topic right now, if you type in the words, “how to talk with your child about gender” in your search engine, you will see that there are about 596,000 items to peruse on the subject! To complicate matters further, you can read about:
- sex at birth
- gender expression
- gender identity
- gender stereotypes
- gender assignment
- gender reassignment
- gender diversity
- sexual orientation, to name a few.
Most fathers have no idea where to start in navigating these issues, let alone speak into their daughter’s life about them. But as Scott noted in his email, we can’t avoid this topic anymore. This is the world your daughter lives in and she needs you to help her process it.
I’ll be honest. I do have opinions, convictions, and beliefs on this issue. Yet, as I told Scott, my goal isn’t to tell you what I believe. Instead, my goal is to encourage you to enter into this conversation with your daughter so you can hear from her and she can hear from you.
Here are my recommendations for your conversation with your daughter on sexuality:
- Remember this is a two-way interaction. (Goal: talk and listen)
- Don’t talk at her; talk with her. (Goal: listen, not lecture)
- Model mutual respect. (Goal: dialogue, don’t dominate)
- Begin with asking questions (this list will get you started). (Goal: be curious, not critical)
- End by sharing your thoughts/beliefs/convictions with her. (Goal: honesty with humility)
I’d love to hear from you, so feel free to write me at firstname.lastname@example.org and let me know how it goes. So let the conversation begin!