How would you answer? (Transvestites)

I was at the Palisades Mall the other day with six boys. Four of mine and two extras brought along because I needed more testosterone around me (not!!). This place is huge and overwhelming for provincial little me. Five of the boys went off together to do their own thing and I took the little ChatterBox with me.

At one point we were just sitting watching the people go by (and eating M & Ms). I love people watching and there are so many of them at this mall. A couple sauntered close by to us, and my son started to stare. It is never acceptable to me to stare at another person, and my kids know this BUT I guess he couldn’t help himself.

The couple that passed us were transvestites. They were both mid fifties, their faces exquisitely made up, huge hair, wearing tiny lycra skirts and high heeled boots. Totally fit the stereotype but there was no mistaking them for women. “Ima” he said “why are those men dressed up like ladies? They look silly.”

Thankfully, his question was out of curiosity, not judgment. I answered something benign, like “maybe they felt like they wanted to see what it was like being a lady for a day” and then he said “Oh” and offered me another chocolate and started talking about the lego set he was going to build later.

Is seven too young for this kind of lesson? I felt it was. How does one explain that some men are not comfortable being in a male body or vice versa? Or that some men like to dress as women because it makes them feel good? How do you explain that it is a personal choice and no reflection on their character? How would you have answered this question?

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12 Comments

  1. Chanief says:

    I think your answer was age appropriate. I’d only get into detail with an older child or if the seven year old kept asking questions.

  2. Lisa says:

    I agree with Chanief, you answered well. I would have only said morel if there were more questions. You told the truth simply without having to get into more details. Besides at 7 lego is more important anyway! Good job H!

  3. Offthederech says:

    I agree with chanief. I think you handled it great. My parents would have said “what, where?” :-)

  4. Chav says:

    I agree with the all of the above. My 6 year old recently asked me about the guy who had a baby recently. It was all over the news. We had an honest talk. Only because he wanted to know how that was possible. You did perfectly fine.

  5. shorty says:

    i agree, 7 is a bit too young to start explaining sexual orientation. your answer seems appropriate to me.

  6. RubyV says:

    I think you did pretty well. the important thing was that you treated it with a matter of fact attitude, without judgment.

  7. RubyV says:

    Shorty, I would have to disagree. I don’t think it’s age as much as how parents handle the material. I knew transgendered people at that age in NYC (I’m in my 30′s now) and my mother was always matter of fact and non judging about it. I knew plenty of LGBT folks then, and it just was.

  8. blackhuff says:

    I agree, 7 is too young to try to explain why they dress the way they dress. I think you’ve handled it exceptionally good.

  9. lady lock and load says:

    I hear that this “couple” is buying the house next to you and KoD. That should liven up the block….ARGH! I hate palisade mall and will only go there under duress.

  10. i think you handled it in a really age appropriate way. when i doubt, i go for short and simple and open-ended. so the door’s open if there’s more questions (now or later). my biggest fear is a missed teachable moment. well done, mama!

  11. tough situation, you could have added that you feel sorry for them. In Pirkie Avot it says that the rich is satisfied with his portion.

  12. Rainy says:

    My sister is a lesbian and her partner is a post op transgendered woman. MtF. My children were raised from birth knowing that Aunt Jenny used to be Uncle David. I explained to them when they asked, that some people don’t feel like the *inside* matches what G-d made them on the *outside* and so they dress or act accordingly. Since my kids have been around LGBT people their whole lives it was largely a nonissue. Kids are fairly matter of fact about this stuff.

    There is little exposure overall between the frum and the LGBT communities. So I think, for a child who is coming from a place where there has been little to no exposure at all, the simpler the answer, the better on these things. It’s just so much to explain to a little guy! But you can leave them with the sense of non-judgment and compassion at any age, with even a few words. That is the most important.

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