As parents, it’s our job to help our kids become compassionate, empathetic, and respectful human beings. Often, that means helping them navigate the differences between people and fielding questions we may not always know how to answer. It’s not an easy task, but as one group of Minnesotans found out this weekend, being intentional about how we engage and answer kids’ questions ultimately makes the world a better place.
Liv Hnilicka is a transgender waitress from Minneapolis who was at work recently when she experienced what she calls a “stellar parenting moment.” A family came into the restaurant with their little girl and the child asked her dad if Hnilicka was a boy or a girl. Unsure of how Hnilicka chooses to identify herself, the father did something spectacular and decided to let her answer the question for herself.
Hnilicka wrote on Facebook, “As I was filling the water station, he came up to me and said, ‘My daughter just asked if you were a boy or a girl. I didn’t want to speak for you so would you like to talk to her?’ I nervously said yes and walked to their table.”
The waitress explained to the little girl that she was raised as a boy, but now lives her adult life as a girl, and that it’s important to remember that “everyone can be anything they want to be in this world.” She asked if the child had any questions and the child happily said no. Writes Hnilicka, “I walked away from the table feeling really good about parents intentionally engaging their children about possibly difficult topics. And showing that giving people the power to voice their truths in this complicated world is beautiful and healing.”
It probably wouldn’t occur to many of us to walk up to someone and ask this type of question, but giving people room to be their authentic selves and own their truth is very important. Too often, we handle discussions about gender and sexuality with kid gloves and make it all so much more complex than it needs to be. People have the right to decide who they are and how they live, and it’s really as simple as that.
In giving Hnilicka the opportunity to answer that question for herself, these parents not only showed respect for her and how she identifies, but also taught their child the importance of accepting people as they are and not making assumptions based on our own observations or beliefs. It’s a small gesture, but one that is so necessary to raising a generation of kids who are tolerant and accepting of one another.