My Transgender Life: Explain It to Me Like I'm a 6-Year-Old

03/24/2015 04:23 pm ET | Updated Feb 02, 2016

It all can start with the Beginner's Mind, but what is that?

Think about it... Can you still find that 6-year-old child still within you? Can you remember when everything new had that WOW associated with it and a total lack of judgment?

I am learning to find that part of me once again -- although it's a great deal of work.

There once was an innocence, a curiosity and a willingness to explore. To just know, really know, that all I observed was simply that -- a discovery. It was not part of me, or said anything about me. I had no judgment, as it was all so new.

I wonder when I lost that. When was innocence replaced with comparisons and judgment? When was willingness to explore replaced by concerns for safety? When was the childlike joy of something new replaced by the stagnation and boredom of responsibility and survival?

It has taken me a long time to recognize this change and believe it does not have to be this way. Each day can be an adventure if you are willing to find your own beginner's mind.

As a transgender woman it's been fascinating to observe how people respond to "coming out" announcements. I've had many opportunities to see what happens when myself, or others explain their change of gender status. Note, this occurs in different situations for just about everyone. Some are surprised, shocked, curious or frozen. Some want to talk, and some are silent. Some become closer and some disappear, never to be seen or heard from again.

However, what amazes me most is to watch the children, the little ones who still operate with a beginners mind.

A few years ago, I attended a workshop and learned how it is that children truly see the world so differently from adults. For them it's much simpler. They are exploring it and finding their place in it. Not like us.

When a father who has young children transitions he is often frozen with fear about how to let them know that daddy is going to be a woman. Children usually respond to what he often sees as a drastic, earth shattering change that could destroy his family with only three concerns. Their curiosity can be fully satisfied with the right answers to three simple questions:

• Is it my fault?
• Do you still love me?
• Are you going away?

If the answers of no, yes, no respectively come, most 6 year olds will go right back to playing their video games, and all can take a deep breath and move on with what's really important -- which you may have heard me say before, taking care of yourself and then the others around you.


I wonder why adults don't look at change the way a 6-year-old does. Why can't we explain being transgender to everyone in the same way we would to our children?

Being transgender is no one's fault. Gender identity, like sexual orientation, is just an aspect of who we are and how that quite complicated organ, our brain, is wired.

Being transgender does not change the feelings a parent has for a child, or for anyone with whom they are in relationship. For those who transition gender the only relationship that they change is inside, with themselves, when at long last they can align their body and their mind.

Being transgender does not automatically force the person you know to go away. Most of us who transition, desperately don't want to go away, but as we know all relationships are "complicated" and it's not a decision we make alone. I will go on record to emphatically say that it is always better for the children when you don't go away. Sadly, however, for many reasons that is not always the path that is travelled. If only adults would respond with beginner's mind so then the right path could be found.

In the classic book, Zen Mind, Beginner's Mind, Shunryu Suzuki states, "In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities, in the expert's mind there are few."


But, how do we find our beginner's mind. Ask yourself: Am I willing to look at the world with curiosity; with a sense of adventure; with a willingness to explore without pre-conceived notions? Am I willing to accept that our culture's pre-conceived norms of a binary view of gender may not be accurate for all people? Can I accept that it is no one's fault and that there is nothing "wrong" with those who have the courage to change gender? Can I see that they are just like me in our mutual need for, and capacity to, give love and compassion and be in relationship? Can I operate from a place of looking for many paths, for many possibilities?

Since I transitioned I wake up and begin each morning with my own version of beginner's mind. In my book I explained it this way: "I awake each morning with no expectations and look forward to the day's adventure."

If you can go deep enough to find your own answers you will understand that explaining gender variance to a 6-year-old is actually not all that hard. It's simply all about love and connection. Children get that. Adults can too.

I hope you can find your 6-year-old child inside and be willing to learn from them, especially about how to live with beginner's mind.


Grace Stevens is a transgender woman who transitioned at the age of 64 and holds a Masters Degree in Counseling Psychology. She is a father of three, grandparent of two, athlete, advocate and author of No! Maybe? Yes! Living My Truth, an intimate memoir of her personal struggle to transition and live her true life authentically as a woman. For more information about Grace, her work and how Gender Variance Education and Training can help you, visit her website at: Follow Grace on Twitter: .