Sex assigned at birth or biological sex is the label a medical professional gives a baby when it is born

There are lots of terms for gender identity, and it’s not important that you or your child memorize definitions. It is more important for children to understand that gender identity and expression are spectrums, and they don’t need to be afraid if they see someone different or if they feel different in terms of how they identify or express their gender. These conversation starters are a way to make sure your child feels comfortable asking questions and talking with you about these topics.

You can also talk with your children about cultural differences in terms of gender. A great way to start talking about these issues is learning about gender expression and how masculinity and femininity are defined in different cultures (e.g., Scottish kilts).

Sex assigned at birth is about what someone observes about another person’s body, not how that person may feel internally about being male, female or another gender

When you see people who challenge conventional ideas about gender identity and expression-like Prince (gender expression) or Caitlyn Jenner and Laverne Cox, who identify as transgender-you could also start a conversation with your child using some of the following:

It seems like it’s not easy when someone expresses their gender in a way that people don’t understand. What do you think?

Have you ever seen someone teased for being too much like a girl or too much like a boy? How did that make you feel? What did you do?

This assignment is usually based on what a doctor observes about a baby’s body. Babies born with penises are labeled male, and babies born with vulvas are labeled female. Babies whose bodies do not fit neatly into a male or female category are labeled intersex.

Gender identity is the feeling someone has inside about being male, female or something in between. Everyone has a gender identity. Sometimes people’s gender identity matches their bodies, and sometimes it does not. A person may be born with a penis and identify as a boy or born with a vagina and identify as a girl. This person may have a gender identity that is called “cisgender.” Or someone may be born with a penis and identify as a girl or born with a vagina and identify as a boy. This person may have a gender identity that is called “transgender.”

Terms like “genderqueer,” “gender nonbinary” or “gender expansive” may be used to refer to anyone who identifies as neither male nor female, both male and female or a combination of different genders. “Genderfluid” is another identity that is similar to genderqueer. Some people experience their gender as fluid. This means they may feel like a mix of masculine and feminine qualities or feel more feminine sometimes and more masculine at other times.

People express a sense of masculinity, femininity or something in between through their daily choices about appearance. This is called “gender expression,” and it can be influenced by how someone feels inside, family expectations, society’s expectations and other influences. Sometimes people’s gender expression matches their gender identity, and sometimes it does not. Gender expression can also change throughout people’s lives as they learn more about themselves and what masculinity and femininity mean to them and how they choose to express themselves on any given day.

This is called gender fluidity, and it is not related to a person’s sex assigned at birth or biological sex

Gender identity and expression don’t tell us anything about who a person is attracted to. “Sexual orientation” refers to what genders we are attracted to.