The other day The Bean asked if all boys have penises, which seemed like a good opportunity to start talking about difference between sex and gender.

“Let’s talk about biological sex,” I began, “Can you say that word? Bi-o-logical?”

“Biological,” the Bean repeated carefully.

“Awesome! Biological sex means what kind of body a person is born with. You were born with testicles and penis, so your biological sex is male. I was born with a vulva and a uterus and other parts. My biological sex is female. Some people are born with a mix of male and female parts. They are intersex.”

“I wish I had all the parts,” said The Bean, “I could pee SO MUCH!”

I made a mental note to come back to anatomy at a later date.

“Gender is….” I hesitated, trying to think of the best way to summarize the complexity of personal identity in six-year-old terms.

“I know! It’s like Like Star Trek: The Next Gender-ation,” The Bean offered.

“Uh…no. Gender is who you feel you are inside. ย Some people believe they’re girls, some believe they’re boys, some believe they’re a mix of both and some believe they aren’t either. Some people aren’t sure. But it doesn’t always have to do with what kind of body parts you have. So not everyone who has a vulva is a girl. Not everyone who has a penis is a boy.

“Who do you believe you are?” The Bean asked me.

“When I was little I was a girl and now I’m grown up, so I’m a woman. That’s what I feel” ย I told him. “What about you?”

“I feel I am…a dog! That’s my gender!”

It’s an ongoing process, people. It’s an ongoing process.

Posted with The Bean’s consent



  1. andrea says:

    I love The Bean. Great post.

  2. It is a fluid and magical time. My nearly 4-yr old daughter announced yesterday that she is in fact a boy, but she is still planning on making babies in her body, since, you know mum, some boys can do that.
    Why not?

  3. Oh my god so adorable. I nearly spat tea out all over my computer.

  4. Oh, he is so adorable.
    I would probably be a cat, if cat could be my gender.

  5. Briana says:

    <3 Thank you!

  6. Great. Now it’s GLBTTQQD.

  7. Haha! The Bean is a funny dog, must say. But I love the way you explain the idea. And it’s not just kids: I think sometimes adults also need to be explained this whole thing in an easy way. ๐Ÿ˜‰