#024 Sexuality & Gender – Tips for parents

Dr Matt Zakreski

Today is Part 2 of a conversation about sex education for parents of gifted kids that we started earlier this year with Dr Matt Zakreski. In this episode, we talk about gender and sexuality as they relate to the gifted population.

As parents of gifted kids, we especially, need to be open to accepting, knowing and understanding sexuality and gender issues and we talk about why.

We define sexuality, gender, CIS gender, gender fluid, transgender and all the letters in LGBTQ+ and why it is important to understand this language.

We provide tips for parents if your child starts talking about sexuality, or questioning gender, or comes out to you, or wants to talk about sex. Not to mention, how to talk about consent as an ongoing conversation.

This podcast is full of tips and how-to’s for parents to navigate what can be uncomfortable and complex conversations.

Continue the conversation in our Facebook Group or check out our NEW ‘What is Gifted’ page with a huge FREEBIE – Part 1 of Parent effectively by learning about the gifted brain. 🤩

Hit play and let’s get started!

Memorable Quote

“What we’re doing is, we are normalizing these conversations. We are taking this out of the bedroom, out of the closet, and shining the light of day on it. And, to those of you who are out there, who are engaging with this, keep engaging with it.” – Dr Matt Zakreski

“What we want is to create an environment where it’s safe for people to come out and share all aspects of ourselves. And that starts very much with the language we use…we want to use gender neutral terms as best we can.” – Dr Matt Zakreski

“So the number one thing you say when someone comes out to you is thank you because they are choosing to do a brave thing and they have identified you as a brave person.” – Dr Matt Zakreski


Dr Matt Zakreski Bio

Psychologist, Gifted Expert, International Speaker

Matthew Zakreski, PsyD is a high-energy, creative clinician who utilizes an eclectic approach to meet the specific needs of his clients.  He specializes in working with children and adolescents, as well as their families, in providing therapy and conducting psychological evaluations.  Dr. Matt is proud to serve as a consultant to schools, a professor at the university level, and a researcher and author on his specialty, Giftedness. 

Dr. Matt thrives in supporting young people in understanding, developing, and celebrating their unique brains and ways of operating in their world. He is best known for his work with Gifted individuals and in being an advocate for implementing high-level supports and understanding of Gifted needs.  He is a board member of the Pennsylvania Association for Gifted Education and active in multiple Gifted organizations around the country.

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Check out this episode!


Sophia Elliott: Welcome Dr. Matt, to part two of sex ed for gifted kids.

[00:00:08] I really excited. And I have to say about following our previous conversation. I think it was episode 15 where we talked about how do I talk to my gifted child about sex? A lot of those posts on social media are easily the most  engaged with posts. Now, the interesting thing is and I mean by thousands, like just above others, right?

[00:00:37] But there’s very few comments. So what I think is happening is parents are like, I really need this info, but I feel uncomfortable. I’m going to look at it quietly.

[00:00:49] Dr Matt Zakreski: Yes. Yeah. And what we’re doing is we are normalizing these conversations, right? We are taking this out of the bedroom, out of the closet, right.

[00:00:58] And shining the light of day on it. And, to those of you who are out there, who are engaging with this, keep engaging with it. This is, it’s so important to get this information. And if you’re not up for leaving a comment, you can message me privately, you so I’m sure you can message Sophia privately.

[00:01:14] And you know what I mean? Like, there, there is no shame in talking about this and engaging with it at the same time. If that’s not where you are personally or in your life right now, we get that. We support that. We see that. So then back channel that’s, that is totally an appropriate way to talk about this stuff.

[00:01:32]Sophia Elliott:  A hundred percent.

[00:01:33] And I think if anything, one of the big messages of the previous podcast was it’s okay to be uncomfortable. Because it’s an uncomfortable topic and that is a hundred percent. Okay. The important thing is we’re talking about it. The information is there for you. And if there’s this, there’s more questions like Dr.

[00:01:51] Matt says, send them in quietly. It’s all right. We are, we’re happy to hear from you. So we’re back though. We said that we would come back and talk about gender and sexuality because it was a whole other podcast and what, yeah. Literally that’s right. Buckle in. We’re in for a ride. What interests me about this is, I think it may have been in our previous conversation, but I’ve certainly come across this a number of times.

[00:02:22]And it’s that idea that gifted kids are more likely to identify as LGBTQ. So let’s start there. Tell me about that.

[00:02:31] Dr Matt Zakreski: Yeah. It’s something that the research on this is in its infancy. So this has been an anecdotal story for a long time. That even from when I was a young kid and going to gifted kid camps, I remember those, that was where I met my first LGBTQ kids right back then.

[00:02:48] And that was in the nineties. So it was much less mainstream, much less open, but, that was where I met those people. And then, we fast forward 20 plus years and, working with, primarily a gifted and 2E  population. I, so many of the kids I work with are on the LGBTQ spectrum, so diving into the brain research on this a little bit, we know that, the gifted brain is a different brain, right?

[00:03:13]There’s major differences there. And we know that the amount of neural connections, right. The amount of. Basically the wiring that goes on in our brain that leads to high levels of thought, output more creativity, more open-mindedness there seems to be a correlation with that and the LGBTQ spectrum.

[00:03:36] Now I’m not trying to say that LGBTQ people are more evolved than anybody else. I don’t want it to come across that way. It may be as simple as, the mind can consider more options. And when you have more out of the box thinkers who aren’t boxed in by traditional rules, it may give rise to more LGBTQ identities.

[00:03:58]So that’s without doing an entire third podcast on neuroscience, which probably, well, I could do that, but we should probably get somebody else. That’s that’s the basic. Idea here is that more brain connections seem to lead to more possibilities, more possibilities, seem to lead to more identities.

[00:04:18] Sophia Elliott: That is really interesting. And like you say, the research is still in its infancy, but there’s, we’re starting to see some trends in the research. And so as a parent of a gifted child, I think the message there is simply be open to the possibility. Your children may express themselves their gender  their sexuality in different ways.

[00:04:41] So in the previous podcast, we went through. Different ages and what was age appropriate in terms of sex education. And I noticed that as early as five to eight year olds, we need to be talking about having a basic understanding of sexual preference. Yep. So that’s good to know as a parent that we need to stop having age appropriate conversations around that age.

[00:05:09]Because I also noticed that gender and sexual identities can emerge as early as two and seven. Yeah. This is something I didn’t realize, it was necessarily that early, I mean, gender. Yes. Because I think you can see that cultural awareness of our kids when they start choosing blue or choosing pink, despite your best efforts.

[00:05:31]So, so tell us about twice other this term twice other, what is that?

More Transcript Here

[00:05:37] Dr Matt Zakreski: And twice other, which was a term that was introduced into the broader lexicon to, to give us a word to use for gift gifted in LGBTQ. So twice other and I see it in some of the literature. I don’t see it in other places, one of the key I asked one of the kids that I see who you know, what he thought about it and he’s like, I’m gifted and gay. And he’s like, that’s just what he’s like to me, that’s what it is. I’m gifted and gay. He’s like two G instead of two E. Right. What’s funny, you know? But the idea is especially if you’re familiar with the three E movement and that’s Donna Ford and her amazing team here in the states that we use the word intersectionality to talk about the fact that who you are within the gifted world, within the spaces you travel.

[00:06:27] Is a dimension we must consider. You know, Donna Ford, you know, so much of her work is about race and gifted black girls, gifted black boys. And how we have to consider that whether it’s a native identity or a Pacific Islander identity, or Latino, Hispanic, whatever it might come across, we have to consider that in how we approach our kids.

[00:06:47] And I think you could move sexuality within the three E ideas as well, because you’re going the way that we approach these kids, the way we’re going to meet their needs is that, that is a factor we must consider. So whether we use twice other two G or or three E the idea here is that a person’s identity is fundamental to how we educate them, how we reach them, whether you’re a psychologist, a parent, a coach, or a teacher.

[00:07:15]And we have to consider that.

[00:07:18] Sophia Elliott: Yeah. I remember talking to Marc Smolowitz in the episodes. I did talking about The G Word Film, and he talked similarly about that sense of gifted as a part of identity, just as gender sexuality, race are all kind of facets of our identity. So it’s impossible to consider anyone just in with one little bit, we have to look at the whole picture.

[00:07:44] So that, that makes sense. Uh, for parents who maybe get a bit overwhelmed with all of the letters, I thought it was a reasonable, reasonable place to start with just kind of, let’s just start at the beginning and and worked through the letters and what they all mean just to because what I, I think about it is.

[00:08:05] There’s actually this wonderful deep diversity, and I think that’s something that’s worth appreciating. So, so let’s have a look. So it starts with

[00:08:15] Dr Matt Zakreski: L yup. So L is for lesbian or so a woman who loves other women,  G is for gay. Now gay is also an umbrella term, right? So we, anyone can identify as gay though.

[00:08:28] The word traditionally is a man who loves other men. B is for bisexual a person who loves men and women T is for transgender. Now transgender is a gender identity. It’s actually being trans has nothing to do with your sexual preference. And it’s great that it’s within the LGBTQ spectrum. It also is a little bit more complicated because we go on sexual identity, sexual identity, sexuality, gender identity, and then we go back to Q, which is another umbrella term for queer.

[00:08:58]And that, that is anyone who’s in this broader space who maybe doesn’t have a preferred term, someone who is entering the sphere. And it hasn’t really figured out what they had, they want to identify yet. So queer a, a welcome to the world term. And then we have this little lovely plus at the end because the letters just keep going.

[00:09:18] Now, if I can, I’m gonna tell a quick story. So, I did five years of grad school working with kids and I, we had. Not even an entire semester class. We had three total lessons on this. So three days out of five years, and I sought out some research on my own working with a lot of LGBTQ kids.

[00:09:41] I want it to be up on the literature. And then I went to an all day training and the first thing they had us do was list all the letters of the alphabet this LGBTQ alphabet. So I said, okay, L lesbian B by G gay T trans Q for queer. Okay. W what else is there? And we could spend the rest of this podcast talking about all the different letters.

[00:10:05]There’s another Q for questioning. There’s a for asexual and on another, a for A gender, and all these other things that come in. And it’s around this point where my eyes start to glass over a little bit, because not because they’re not important because they are, but because it feels overwhelming.

[00:10:23]Many of us were raised with an eye with a pretty simple idea of boys are boys, girls, are girls, boys married, girls, girls, married boys. And it was very simple. And our brains as a general rule, like simple things, like things that are compartmentalized and, and as many inroads we’ve made there right now, people, men can marry women or other men and men can, love men and men, and all these other things that come in there.

[00:10:49] That’s great. But when I talk to parents, I find that LGBTQ, those five letters is about as much as I can get before they start to like start to hyperventilate a little bit. And, so that’s why I’m, so that’s why I like having the word Q on the end there, because queer is another all encompassing term.

[00:11:11]You may have a different gender identity or a different sexual identity and, and your letter is certainly in the broader alphabet of LGBTQ, but I put Q on my website. I, when I give talks, I always make sure I mentioned Q because that says me that even if I’m not saying your specific letter, I see you, right.

[00:11:31] I want, I want you to know that, whatever, however you identify within the spectrum, we’re here. We want to talk about it.

[00:11:38] Sophia Elliott: Yeah, absolutely. And I think the big shift here is, like you said, it’s simply moving from that idea that it was binary. You’re either ha you’re you’re male or female Moving to the spectrum of actually there are many other expressions or basically your heterosexual or your heterosexual moving to a whole other bunch of other expressions.

[00:12:06] So I think the thing for parents maybe is to just hang on to the fact that your child is your child and they may express themselves in many, many different ways and that’s okay, they’re still your child. And you I guess you go on that journey together at that point, if you’re, if you’re, having that journey with your kid, because, so we’re looking at sexuality and we’re looking at gender okay.

[00:12:36] Let’s just talk about what the difference is between sexuality and gender, because there’s a huge difference. And that’s an important thing to understand as well. So yeah, run us through that one.

[00:12:48] Dr Matt Zakreski: Yeah. And people misuse the terms all the time. So what we’re going to do first is we’re going to talk about sex.

[00:12:53]Collective gasp from the internet,

[00:12:58] of course, sex in this case is actually biological sex, which is the, to be simplistic, the genitalia, you have

[00:13:07] Sophia Elliott: your physical expression

[00:13:09] Dr Matt Zakreski: physical, right? Yeah. And we are assigned a sex at birth. We are not assigned to gender at birth that we’ll get to that in a minute. You, if, you’re born, you have a penis, they’re saying, okay, you were a male, right?

[00:13:24] And within, the literature that it’s a M a B assigned male at birth or a fab assigned female at birth. Now there are people who are intersex who have both set sets of sexual organs. And they, you know, we go back to our LGBTQ. The next letter is I for intersex. You know, people who are intersex obviously exist, but also are a part of this community.

[00:13:46]So that’s sex. Gender is a social construct. So gender is a how we expect people to look and act. The based on their biological sex. So being an American, I have specific ideas of how men act and how women act. And it’s funny, cause you don’t realize how culturally bound that is until you go somewhere else.

[00:14:15] Like when I lived in Australia and  it was so funny because my host family said, do you want to go see a field hockey game? And I said, sure, I love field hockey. Right? My high school has a good field hockey team. So we got in the car and we drove to the field hockey thing and who was playing field hockey men.

[00:14:32] And I, because in the states field, hockey is a girl’s sport. I played ice hockey as a kid. But it’s just those things that are culturally bound that you don’t really even know they are until they run up against some friction somewhere. And you think about the types of bathing suits, you know, Australia, right.

[00:14:50] It’s common for women to go topples on the beach, not so much in American thing. You know, the types of bathing suits that we wear, I, the sort of Speedos or one of my favorite Australian terms, budgie smuggler, is, is not associated with heterosexual men here in the United States.

[00:15:05] But in Australia, it, come one, come, all right. It was one of those things that, I mean, this is what we talk about. When we talk about gender, how we dress, I’m wearing a very gender specific lighting, I’ve got the blue collared shirt, I’ve got my work pants on, it’s very sort of male presenting thing.

[00:15:27] So if you identify with the sex that was assigned to you at birth and your gender identity, so the social construct of gender fits that. You are CIS gender CIS gender. And the vast majority of people are that. So that is, you know, welcome to the majority. Then if you are born and you feel that the sex that was assigned to you at birth does not fit who you are.

[00:15:51]You know, I wanted to be a boy. I want to be a boy. I want to be a boy. I want to be to, but you’re a girl, but I want to be a boy. And you transition from male assigned at birth to female. You are a female, and then you would be transgender, right? So you have  taken on your true identity.

[00:16:12] So that’s the sort of, that’s the nice sort of duality of the trans identity rights that, something was assigned, who I truly am is another thing. You may also be gender fluid or gender queer. Those are people whose gender identities are more fluid, right? They are, you know, I will dress in male presenting things.

[00:16:35] I will just in female presenting things, I will mix and match. I, I will wear eye shadow and makeup, which are things that are more assigned to women. You know, and that’s, and the idea here is once again, our brains, like simple things, our brains like dualities and people who are in between, gender fluid, gender, queer, gender questioning kids can be really challenging for schools and parents and mental health professionals, because it is this sort of, who am I getting today? It, because it’s consistently inconsistent. I think a lot of people struggle with that. And it’s one of those things that.

[00:17:13] We are along on a journey and journeys are not easy. They’re not neat. You don’t say I w you know, I’m going to transition. I’m a boy. Okay, we’re changing your name. You’re dressing a boy clothes. We’re going to get you surgery. Great boy. End of story. For many people, it’s not that simple for many people.

[00:17:32] It’s a long journey of, of experimentation and talking, and developing and getting feedback. And, and it’s one of those things that, buckle up. It, it can be a long and painful journey, but there’s so much support out there, both within the gifted community. And outside of that, there are a lot of wonderful organizations who say, yes, we love our kids, and yes, this is hard and yes, here’s help.

[00:17:57] That’s very important.

[00:17:59] Sophia Elliott: Absolutely. I think recognizing what a challenging situation that is, and. How serious that is in terms of potential mental health challenges going on that journey and how much incredible support is needed. No doubt for the individual going on that transitioning transgender journey, but also the family around to understand and provide adequate support.

[00:18:27]We were actually, my, one of my children were at a school where a primary age child was transitioning from one gender  to the other gender. And I thought that was awesome. And it was the first time that actually come across it in terms of that primary age anywhere. And I thought, how wonderful. First of all, how incredibly challenging that must be for that child and that family to go on that journey, as you say, but how wonderful that they feel like they have that option to transition at the primary school and effectively have that community go on that journey with them.

[00:19:14] Because as you say, it’s you know, our brains, like simple things that are known and it’s still quite new. And and that child in many ways is a trailblazer for future kind of generations. And so my heart really went out for them. And it brought up all of those kinds of questions around well actually, do you know what the interesting thing was that.

[00:19:36] My child and all the other kids just kind of went, yeah, whatever. And, and, it really didn’t register in terms of parents either. But I loved the way the kids were like, yeah, whatever. That’s all good. Know you’ve got a different name, you’re dressing differently. Yeah. Whatever it doesn’t matter.

[00:19:52] And I think the thing that was really beautiful, but it struck me that it was the very first time I’d seen that anywhere. And so hopefully, when we’re moving into that age where that’s becoming more of a norm, that people are, have that opportunity to be seen and find safe places within schools and communities.

[00:20:14]So yeah, cause that’s just really tricky. So I do want to touch on.

[00:20:22]First of all. Why is it important to know and understand why is it important to know and understand this language? We’ve talked about the different terms, what sex, sexuality, gender is all about. Why do we need to know this stuff?

[00:20:42] Dr Matt Zakreski: And I love that. And thank you for asking that question. Because actually you feel like the movement in many ways is assumed people know why it’s important, which can lead to this emotional disconnect of if it was a wallet.

[00:20:55] Well, why is this such a big deal? Right. So why is it a big deal? Uh, so Sophia, let me ask you a question. Is Elliot your maiden name?

[00:21:03] Sophia Elliott: No, that’s my married

[00:21:04] Dr Matt Zakreski: name. What’s your married name? Okay. So why do we call you Sophia Elliott?

[00:21:10]Sophia Elliott: Just a social construct of a woman taking a man’s name at marriage. And as a, well, for me, it was about my family having one identity.

[00:21:26] Dr Matt Zakreski: So identity is the key thing here. Now you are not Sophia Elliot your whole life.

[00:21:31]Sophia Elliott: No. I’ve had a couple of names

[00:21:33] Dr Matt Zakreski: actually. In primary school, you worked Sophia is something else. Yeah. Yeah. That’s right, right. So I always use this as an example because it’s something that those of us who are heterosexual and cisgender can wrap our heads around this construct of marriage and changing your name.

[00:21:50]And another way to think about it right, is I was not Dr. Matt, my whole life. I got my doctorate in 2016 when I was 33. Something like that math is hard. So I was for 33 years. You couldn’t call me Dr. Matt. I wasn’t a doctor yet. Since then everybody calls me, Dr. Matt, my mailman calls me Dr.

[00:22:09] Matt, right? It’s just, so identities are fundamental to who we are.  And we accommodate shifts in identity every day, every single day we do. And for many, many of us, those things we don’t even think about is the sort of a gen general empathy, social con contract. Right. Like, oh, so you got married.

[00:22:35] She’s no longer Sophia Jones. She’s Sophia Elliott. I will remember to call her Ms. Elliot now. And that’s the check we’re done, right? Yup. Yup. If your friend comes up to you and says, Hey, I know we’re supposed to go out for dinner tonight. I just came back from the doctor. I found out I’m allergic to soy.

[00:22:52] I cannot eat soy anymore. You can take your friend to Japanese food, swimming and soy sauce. That’s probably a bad idea, right? You would accommodate that new piece of identity. And I think that so much of our discomfort with accommodating the LGBTQ aspects of someone’s identity is related to our  fundamental discomfort with sex and sexuality and gender, because it’s so weird to us because, we get a lot of messaging that we’re not supposed to talk about it.

[00:23:23] And if someone says, Hey, I’m gay, then your brain goes to you’re gay. That means you have sex with men. Like, and like, I feel uncomfortable with this and. And so if you’re listening to this and you, and you’re nodding going, like, yeah, that’s how I feel. That’s okay. You are allowed to be uncomfortable with this.

[00:23:41] You’re not allowed to take that discomfort and make it that person’s problem or that person’s fault. And that’s the fundamental disconnect. And I mean, unfortunately we see this all over the world, and if you’ve taken time out of your life to listen to this podcast, you are already closer to being on the right side of history.

[00:24:02] And so I applaud you for that because this isn’t easy. I’ve gone through my own journey with this. This is, you know, I remember, struggling with language and struggling with mis-gendering people and not intentionally, but one of the fundamental ideas behind know, at least in my therapy practice is separating intention from impact.

[00:24:24]You know, so for instance, Sophia, if we were on the beach and and we were we were throwing a footie back and forth to each other. I want you to, I want to drop all my Australian terms and you throw it to me and I miss it and it hits me in the nose and breaks my nose. We were trying to break my nose.

[00:24:40] Thank you for that. Right. Some people do, but you don’t want to break my nose, but it doesn’t change. The fact that my nose is broken. So intention was good. Impact was bad. So if you mis-gender someone at work, if you assume that your colleague has a wife, when they have a partner or a husband, you made a mistake.

[00:25:05] Now that mistake is not the end of the world. But you have a choice in that moment, you can dig down and, and go to all those right wing talking points. Right. Well, you know, we all know.

[00:25:19] Sophia Elliott: Yeah.

[00:25:20] Dr Matt Zakreski: Or you can say, I’m sorry, that’s it right. And it’s amazing how fundamentally easy it is, but easy and simple are not the same thing.

[00:25:32]If you make a mistake, if you misgender someone, if you make an assumption about their, their domestic life or even their gender identity, based on what you can see, you made a mistake, your intention wasn’t to make that mistake. But the impact is that you have potentially hurt someone.

[00:25:53] All you can do in that moment is apologize, own it and ask how to do better. And if you do that enough times, It becomes second nature. I, I remember struggling with the they/ them pronoun for an individual person, many people who are trans or gender fluid or gender queer will use they, them as pronouns instead of he/she.

[00:26:17] And I would say eh, I don’t like that. Cause it’s like, well, are they going to be here soon? But they means one person and I, yeah, it’s the

[00:26:26] Sophia Elliott: single versus multiple people thing. Yeah. It’s hard to get right in your head. Yep.

[00:26:31] Dr Matt Zakreski: And then and so I owned that. I checked that and by owning it, I realized that I was going to make mistakes with it.

[00:26:39] I was going to have problems with it, but. I would just keep working on it and now I use it pretty fluently and it was a journey, you’re not this isn’t flipping a light switch. You’re not going to suddenly wake up like, huh, I am fully free of bias. And look at me, I’m of Cole ally. Good for me. I, I struggle with this all the time and I do this for a living.

[00:27:00] Sophia Elliott: Yep. And that’s why it’s called unconscious bias. It’s like, we’ve all got them. We don’t even know we’ve got them. Right. It’s unconscious. And the only way of overcoming that is by putting some consciousness into it. And, and like you say, practicing things within my podcasts and stuff. I obviously talk about my kids being, you know, the whole gifted kid thing, but as much as possible, I do try and respect their privacy.

[00:27:27] So I have started using. They a lot, rather than he, or she just because I want them to have some privacy despite I’m telling a story about them and yeah, it’s just getting used to using different pronouns. And I think that’s been a nice way for me to practice and get in the habit of using that particular pronoun.

[00:27:49] But I also liked what you said about changing surnames in terms of, I think it’s a nice way of imagining the possibility of shifting your own identity, because it does even, it’s a simple thing, like changing your surname does actually shift your identity and, and like you say, I had a surname at birth and I actually.

[00:28:15] Changed my name by deed poll in my early twenties, which was very much a conscious shift in identity for me. And then again, when I got married any, and it does have an impact words do matter. And yeah, so it is really important that we start to use correct terminology, but also, like you say, acknowledge that it’s a process.

[00:28:38]And I often tell my kids, because they are, there’s three of them, they go grumpy and cranky and stuff happens. And even by accident and I’m like, well, w and we often say, well, I have one child crying and the other one’s like, oh, is an accident. And I’m like, well, accidents still hurt.

[00:28:56] Don’t they, like, your sibling here is crying and in pain, I know you didn’t mean it but  accidents hurt , so what can we do for them? And yeah, that’s another really nice way of thinking about our impact on others, whether we mean it or not. And a lot of workplaces are getting better at acknowledging and using more inclusive language.

[00:29:17] And that’s again, a nice way for us to practice these things. You know, even before we bring it home and practicing it with our own family. Given what you’ve said about gifted children having or gifted children and adults, gifted people. Yeah. Potentially having that openness to possibilities and an increased inclination towards questioning sexuality and gender as a parent.

[00:29:47]If my child is starting to express alternative preferences in terms of sexuality and gender, because as we’ve said as early as two and seven your kids can start questioning these things. What tips have you got for parents? If, if their child comes out with something and they’re of like, oh, I didn’t see that coming.

[00:30:05]What should we do?

[00:30:06]Dr Matt Zakreski: So it starts, what we want is we want to create an environment where it’s safe for people to come out and share all aspects of ourselves. And that starts very much with the language we use. You know, in school when we are dividing things up, what’s the fundament, what’s the easiest way that we do that when we divide kids up in school.

[00:30:27] Well, you know, and, and this, that, this was a blind spot for me, because I do a lot of activities. Hey boys, on is that girls, boys versus girls. Yeah. Now you are potentially harming a child that way, and that intention versus impact, obviously, you don’t mean to, but the impact is you are, if you have a kid who is gender fluid or gender queer, you’re making them pick a side, you are potentially outing someone who has a different gender identity.

[00:30:59] And I say, and when I talk to schools, I specifically try to find the physical education, the gym teachers, because they never feel like these talks have anything to do with them. But when you do kickball, In gym and you do boys versus girls and they go, oh my God. I didn’t think about that.

[00:31:16] Of course you didn’t, it’s not your fault. It’s that is a reality. Let’s count off by ones and twos. It’s easy, easy fix, right? When you address the classroom, instead of saying boys and girls, same problem, right? Friends, folks, students, kiddos,  we want to use gender neutral terms as best we can.

[00:31:38] And we want to and we want to use our language around partnership in a way that isn’t biased. So, and instead of asking a little boy, do you have a girlfriend? Are you dating someone? Are you interested in someone? Because we also want to make space for people who don’t, who are not as.

[00:31:58] Sexually open or sexually active. We, you know, it’s like, well, are you interested in dating someone? I don’t want to make that assumption about you, um, and because, it’s that same thing. If you ask a, say 15 year old boy, oh, who’s your girlfriend. And that kid is gay, or that kid is BI.

[00:32:17] You are once again, either forcing them to lie or out themselves. You know, we, if I could get every school to stop using boys and girls and start, stop dividing, but I’d be like, my work is done. I feel like I’ve done a good job. That’s not going to happen. Cause it’s very much baked in, but we’re getting better at it every single day.

[00:32:36] So following that thread forward, if your child comes out to you and the, and coming out is a process and it’s not as simple as opening a door. It is. It is opening many different doors and many different rooms at many different aspects of your life. Not all of which have safe things on the other side of them.

[00:32:59] So the number one thing you say when someone comes out to you is thank you because they are choosing to do a brave thing and they have identified you as a brave person. One of my colleagues here in New Jersey, in the states, she said to me the other day, why, why did kids always come out to me? Like this keeps happening.

[00:33:18] My kids keep saying oh, by the way, miss I’m X, Y, Z. I’m like because you’re a very safe person. You’re a very easy person to talk to. And kids gravitate to authenticity, especially gifted kids. Like you’re an adult and you’re authentic. You don’t treat me like a baby. I can be real with you.

[00:33:37] And sometimes being real with you is, Hey, I like boys. And that’s so let we say, thank you. Thank you for telling me that. And then we can get into questions about who else knows, what do you want me to do with this information? The person who came out, it’s their story. So it’s our job to be the keepers of the key, right?

[00:33:59] So I, if you think about every person in your life, every system in your life is a different door, right? Kid, sometimes kids come out to their whole family at once. Sometimes kids come out to one parent, not the other. Sometimes kids come out to siblings, but not parents. I’ve had, I had a situation where a kid came out to their step grandparents and nobody else in the blended family, there was a there was, th there was step parents on both sides and step siblings and biological grandparents.

[00:34:28] And it was a step grandparent that knew, and the step grandparent happened to bring. The kid to therapy that day and asked to speak with me and say, what do I do? What do I do with this information? And right. And I already knew, the kid  had come out to me and this was a big deal. So we’re going to treat it like a big deal.

[00:34:47] So we had the grandparent come in and we had a conversation about being a keeper of the key. And I like this keeper of the key idea because it’s nice. It’s keys are power, but they’re also, you don’t unlock every door. You come to, you have a key that you can use if you need to. And if you weren’t given permission, you don’t unlock somebody else’s house.

[00:35:07] Hello. I still be on here. Right. That’s that’s strange. So if someone says you can come into my house, you use the key. And so we it’s one of the things that people fall into a lot is assuming that because someone’s out in one space that they are out in other spaces, And there are multiple reasons why people might not come out and multiple spaces, not every space is safe.

[00:35:34] Maybe you haven’t talked to them yet. One of the kids I work with he came out very early, but he’s like, oh, every family reunion I’m coming out again, because there’s a new girlfriend or there’s a new ex-wife or there’s is a guy just keep every summer I come out again, just transitioned to high school.

[00:35:53] And so then they came out again and it can be exhausting.

[00:35:56] Sophia Elliott: I can only imagine. Yeah, definitely. And never ending journey of just even being in that situation of, it’s almost like you have to continue to explain yourself because you’re not conforming to the majority. It must get exhausting.

[00:36:12] And I could certainly understand, picking who you’re going to have that conversation with. And And what, in what sort of environment she felt safe having that conversation with? Absolutely. So I’m imagining one of my kids or another kid has said, disclosed that kind of information.

[00:36:32] I can say, thank you for sharing that with me. I like that. You’ve said who else knows. And is there anything you would like me to do with that info or presumably, is there any way I can support you in that and seeing what happens from there? What kind of support might a child need?

[00:36:51] Dr Matt Zakreski: Most of the time, emotional support someone to hold.

[00:36:58] Some of that is, is all kids needed first. When we think about sexual identity and gender identity, we want to think about things in terms of thoughts, feelings, and behaviors. So you might have a thought, right? That, oh, that person is an attractive person. And maybe as a heterosexual person, you’re like, oh, that usually the people I think are attractive are women.

[00:37:22] But I think that man is attractive. So then it’s like, oh gosh, does that mean I’m BI? Does that mean I’m gay? Or maybe it was just a good looking guy, right? That’s a thing. That’s right. And then those thoughts will trigger feelings. Those feelings of, is it a feeling of huh? I noticed this thing or, do you have feelings of sexual attraction of longing?

[00:37:42]We don’t know that. And then even, so then do those feelings lead to behaviors. So when we think about gender identity and sexual identity, using the thoughts, feelings and behaviors framework helps us know where to meet people. Because most of the time when kids are coming out to you, it’s thoughts, we’re in the thoughts area.

[00:38:05] I’m having thoughts. I think I like guys and girls, I think I might be BI that’s. Great. How does that make you feel? It makes me feel a little scared. Okay. Then I’m going to support you in that, what should we do about this? And then we, you know, do we want to go to a support group? Do we want to, there are, there are social skills groups and there are peer groups for LGBTQ kids all over the world.

[00:38:32]So some of them are online, some of them are in person. Do we want to start there? Do we just want to keep going as we go, but maybe start to be more intentional with our language at home and then maybe at school, right? Once the information has been shared, the what? One of the things that’s really interesting, and this is not necessarily anything has to change.

[00:38:57]You know, it’s, Hey, I feel this way. Okay. What should we do with that? Nothing is just, I’m just telling you, I’m not going to act on that yet. I don’t want to act on that yet. I don’t feel safe to act on that yet, but if you are a person with whom I feel safe, so therefore I’m sharing this with you.

[00:39:13] So as grownups, we tend to move into action. When we feel scared or act or activated, my kid is telling me something important. Okay. Well, I’m going to, I’m going to go on grinder and I’m going to start, reading,  James Baldwin and Tennessee Williams and I’m am I helping?

[00:39:29] I feel like I’m helping you

[00:39:32] Sophia Elliott: give me something to do. Let me make something, do something. Yeah, totally.

[00:39:36] Dr Matt Zakreski: We’ll get a rainbow flag tattoo right here. Calm. Yeah. Slow down. , all we can do is help someone carry their burden. We can’t carry it for them. And so instead of jumping into problem solving mode, which is very, it’s very easy to do say, Hey, I can find some research and some resources I can sit on this.

[00:39:59]I can help you have a hard conversation with someone else. I like to think about it as like the avengers, right? Every Avenger has a different set of skills, so you’re adding me to your Avengers team. Here are the things I’m good at, right? How can, do you need any of those skills from me right now?

[00:40:13] You may not need them right now. They didn’t call captain Marvel until the end of the battle and the, those Avengers end game. Um, probably would have been better if they called they

[00:40:22] Sophia Elliott: should have called earlier, but yeah, maybe you,

[00:40:25]Dr Matt Zakreski: So we’re going to miss Tony stark, but no, that’s the thing.

[00:40:29] So here’s what I’m good at. Here’s what I can do. And you’re, and based on what your kid tells you. That’s when you activate those particular skills and you do those particular things and in those moments, it’s okay to say, Hey, you know what? That is something, I don’t know if I’m good at, and that’s something I’m not sure I can help you with that doesn’t mean I’m not going to help you.

[00:40:49] It doesn’t mean I can’t help you. It just means I’m telling you where I’m at with this. Yeah.

[00:40:54] Sophia Elliott: And going back to what we were saying in the last episode about being upfront about going thank you for sharing, actually, I don’t know a lot about it. We could, if you want, I’m here, we could look into more information about this together.

[00:41:08] Or I like what you said earlier about actually starting with, just. Inclusive language, well, before any of this sort of happens. And I often think of that, that saying is if you want them to talk to you about the big stuff later, then you need to listen to the small stuff now, and just being as engaged and connected as we can, as a parent and listening to our kids talk about the little things as they grow up.

[00:41:37] And so that they’re in a place where they feel comfortable telling you about the bigger things when they get older. Okay. So we’ve had that conversation we’ve said and, and left it up to them to dictate to a degree what that, what it is they need from us at that point in time.

[00:41:56] And I guess as a parent, then it’s being aware of our language, maybe doing a little bit of our own research, so that where, like you say, where. We’re not impacting negatively, even though we’re not meaning to buy maybe our language or just even cultural expressions that we’ve kind of wouldn’t think twice about it, but now we need to give a little bit more thought about okay.

[00:42:24] So I think that’s really helpful. I imagine as a child does get older and is in that kind of teen territory where our thoughts, our feelings is moving into behaviors. There’s whole other conversations around behaviors, “quote marks” in “behaviors”, because we might be exploring a bit of intimacy and hopefully much later sex and that kind of stuff.

[00:42:55] So again, I imagine it’s just being someone they can talk to. If needed and, and having perhaps awkward, and uncomfortable conversations, but just being honest and upfront about that. Any, any advice for parents with teens perhaps in that situation?

[00:43:14] Dr Matt Zakreski: So it’s about yes, and it’s about two big things, whatever behaviors are going to do, it has to follow three rules.

[00:43:27] It has to be safe, sane, and consensual. And you’ll notice doesn’t have to be with a specific person or people, it’s it has to be safe, sane, and consensual. So safe means using. Protection being in a safe place to have sex. You know, what a kids do, they have sex and parked cars and, at the beach and, cabanas or, in the, in the locker room at school, because they don’t feel like they can go to a place with a bed that is safe.

[00:43:56] And this is a tough thing for parents to deal with. But can you have that conversation? I would rather you have sex in my home where I know it is safe then in a parked car somewhere. And those parents will tell me, because in the states, the drinking age is 21 where in Australia it’s is it 18? Yes.

[00:44:14] 18. Yeah. Yeah. Cause I’ll talk to parents and say I’m okay with my kid having a drinking party in my house because then I know they’re safe. I’m like, how is that different than sex?

[00:44:22] Sophia Elliott: That’s so true. Let’s

[00:44:24] Dr Matt Zakreski: be honest, shorter than a drinking party. Right? Second, 20 minutes, you know, drinking buddies for hours and hours and you know what I mean?

[00:44:33] And it’s, and I, when I point that out parents go, huh? I hadn’t thought of it that way. And I, once again, I’m not saying you have to be comfortable with this. I’m just pointing out. The idea that there’s an inequity there sane means, right? We want to be in a good head space, preferably not under the influence of drugs or alcohol, preferably not, super stressed out or, afraid.

[00:44:59]You know, and this is where we start to edge into, questions about consensual sex, right? And consent is everything, which is actually the second point consent. That’s a whole other point, right? When we talk to our kids about sex, regardless of who they are having sex with. It has to be consensual.

[00:45:19] Consent is active. It’s affirmative, it’s ongoing. It’s a conversation, can I do this? Would you like it? If I did this, how would you feel if we did this, do you need to stop? I’m checking in with you. We’re having a conversation and consent is so important to our gifted kids because our gifted kids with developmental asynchrony can be a little lower on the social skills side can be a little lower on the emotional skills side.

[00:45:46] And we are talking about, we’re talking about one of the more complex and nuanced social interactions. In a situation where you’re potentially sexually aroused, you’re potentially confused. You’re potentially scared. You’re potentially really, really, really excited. And that’s when we lose some of those skills anyway.

[00:46:08] Right. Any person neurotypical or not? When I was in college, we had a sex ed talk. And they had, um, a guy and a girl come in and they talked to us about safe sex and college. We talked about consent. And then we did the classic example of, can you put a condom on a banana? So, my friend, Nick, we all do.

[00:46:24] It puts the condom on the banana  well, you’re ready to go, Nick. And then, so the woman says, all right, that’s great. Can we do that again? Now I have to understand this woman was gorgeous. Like unbelievably attractive. So Nick goes on. I’ll do it again. So hopefully like he goes to Oakland condom and she gets right up next to him and starts whispering in his ear.

[00:46:44] Oh, you’re so hot. I want all my God take off your clothes. Let’s do it right now. And Nick got bright red foam, like condom flies across the room, the banana like explodes. It was hilarious. It was, it was hilarious. I mean, burned in very, yeah. Nick was a very cool guy. And he was like bright red and sweating.

[00:47:05] And she looked at, she was like, guys, because that’s what it’s going to be like, it’s not this calm. Yes. I am no putting the condom on very good. We may initiate sex. It’s hot and heavy, it’s it? You might be drunk. You might be, like really, really, really like she’s so you have to be ready to do this when you’re not calm and chill.

[00:47:24]She’s like, because you’re a freshmen boys in college and you’re not going to be calm and chill. And we’re all like shut upwho told you that? That’s weird that you knew. So to navigate that, to tell our, our kids about good consent about good social skills, those conversations start early, connecting with people, empathy, asking questions and not making assumptions.

[00:47:47]One of the things that. I, I, when I do my sex ed, talk to teens, I say, okay, so let’s say it’s Friday night, you go on a date with somebody. They goes, well, you guys make out at the end of the night, they go back to their house. You go back to your house, right? When you see them at school on Monday, can you kiss him?

[00:48:05] And everyone’s like, what? I’m like, well, can you kiss them? You kiss them on Friday night. Can you kiss them on Monday morning? And some people say, yes, some people say no. And some people look at me like, I’ve never thought of that before consent is a ongoing thing. Just because something happened once doesn’t mean it gets to happen again.

[00:48:24] And it may not get to have it in every situation, every moment with every environment, you know, I said if you made out with your partner at a party on Friday night, that kind of makes sense. Would you make out with your partner at a funeral? They go, no, I wouldn’t do that. But you, so, because the setting does impact behavior.

[00:48:41]So can conversations about consent, include the person, the place, the activity, and their ongoing, and that is modeling that and TA and having our kids get used to those conversations, even something as simple as holding your hand, growing up, my grandmother loved to pinch my cheek when we S when we was here.

[00:49:01] And I hated that I hated it. And I didn’t say anything until I was in my teens, which might’ve spent 16 years dreading seeing my grandmother, who is the sweetest woman on the planet. No consent is about any physical interaction. And we touched on this in the last podcast, but, really talking to our kids like, Hey, if someone is touching you or asking to touch you in a way that you did not feel comfortable with, you say, no, you get out of there, you come find me and I will come get you, or I will come talk to you until like, whenever that is.

[00:49:35] And when we start those conversations, when our kids are three, four years old, then they have the concrete bedrock skills to do that when they’re 16 and they’re in the backseat of somebody’s car and maybe clothes are coming off and we’re thinking I don’t know if I want to do this. Our kids have to be able to say no, if you can say no freely, then what you’re doing is consensual.

[00:49:57] If you feel like you can’t say no for whatever reason, then it’s not consensual. And teaching our kids to identify that, teaching our kids to how to have those hard conversations and stand up for themselves is important part of sex education. And I don’t mean to make it all doom and gloom, right? Cause obviously this train of thought goes to you know, rape and sexual molestation and sexual harassment and those things are important.

[00:50:21] And we want to talk about them. But the other side of it is that consent is sexy. Consent is awesome, right? Do you want me to do this? You don’t have to guess people, you like, you can ask your partner or partners. Hey, what do you like? Why like me, I would not have guessed that. Cool. I can do this now.

[00:50:39] Like I think it can be hot. It can be awesome. It can enhance sexual pleasure, sexual intimacy. And that is the conversation around consent has been this sort of like nerds only who even asks to kiss somebody. You should ask to kiss somebody you should ask because you are engaging in the high level social skill with someone you were trying to be intimate with.

[00:51:04] Sophia Elliott: I imagine sets a great framework for that ongoing conversation about consent, but also a certain expectation about an ongoing conversation about. What you do. And don’t like, with your chosen partner, which is incredibly important conversation to have throughout life. And, and teaching our kids that kind of consent conversation from a really early age.

[00:51:29] I know our kids are quite young. Yeah. And we get into a lot of situations where they were playing happily and then someone that’s not wanting to play anymore. And we, we frame that in terms of, well that they don’t no longer want to play and that’s okay. They can say, no, they don’t want to play at any point.

[00:51:51] That’s there. That’s up to them. That’s you know, and I’m hoping, that translate to many sorts of situations as they grow up and having that sense of control over themselves and their own destiny and their choices. So I think that’s really helpful. Thank you very much. I think I want to finish with one last question.

[00:52:11] Please. And and I want to finish with this question because I know that the stakes are really high, generally in terms of mental health and figuring out a lot of stuff around gender and sexuality, but especially in that trans journey. And so as a parent if, if my child was to express some thoughts and feelings indicating, gender differences and, potentially transgender ideas have you got any particular advice for parents in that situation?

[00:52:53] Dr Matt Zakreski: So. It’s probably the hardest thing you’re ever going to have to do as a parent. And it’s not hard because it’s bad. It’s hard because it’s complicated. And so having that conversation about what does that mean, and really just trusting yourself to listen and trusting yourself to learn means that you’ve been given a gift.

[00:53:23] You’ve been given a gift of a kid who trusts you, a kid who is dealing with something far beyond their age. And they’re saying, I need your help adult. I need you to join me on this journey. And it isn’t as you don’t go right down to the courthouse and change their name. You don’t buy different clothes right away.

[00:53:42] It’s a, okay. So you feel this way. Tell me what that means for you and tell me what, how I can help, and maybe your kid says, I don’t know. Okay. So then let’s talk about where we might go from here. Asking more questions is always the right answer. And when you feel like you’ve tapped out, like you don’t know any more questions to ask w you feel like you don’t know where to go from here.

[00:54:10] It’s okay to say that. Use that. Meta-communication right. Listen, I am so flattered. You told me this. I want to help. I feel like I don’t know where to go from here. I’d like to get some research and get some information and then come back to you and let’s start this conversation again on Saturday, over coffee.

[00:54:26] Right. I want to get, I want to know what I need to know first. Your, you don’t need to, you know, because you don’t have any control over this conversation. If someone comes up to you and comes out to you, you’ve been thrown into their journey. Right. Here we go. And. My, my advice to that is listen, ask questions.

[00:54:49] And when you feel like you’ve got a good sense of what’s going on, then you can say that here are the things I need to learn. Here’s what I’m going to do. And then put a back end on the conversation, but let’s come back to this in a week tomorrow, later tonight, whatever that is. You know, if you decided, Hey, I’m going to send an email to that guy.

[00:55:10] I heard the podcast on and and he was talking about this and I’m going to see what he has to say. Then email away Dr. Matt Zakreski, gmail.com, right? That’s, because there, there isn’t a magic phrase. There isn’t a tool box there isn’t a, a series of things you’re going to do.

[00:55:25] That’s going to get this right. But there’s a stance you can take. That’s going to facilitate more conversation, more openness. And then through that, your kid’s going to get where they need to go. Yeah. So

[00:55:38] Sophia Elliott: permission for parents not to feel like they have to know it all, or they have to know, like the exact right thing to say or do just you, like you said, you’ve been brought into a journey and it’s okay to say, well, let’s kind of go on this journey together and what do you need?

[00:55:54] And let’s do some research and keep talking about it, which I think is a great thing just to keep that dialogue going. So while we’ve been through a lot for

[00:56:05] Dr Matt Zakreski: a lot of ground, we do,

[00:56:07] Sophia Elliott: it’s the good stuff. And I think it is really important. And I really do appreciate it because people don’t talk about this stuff very often.

[00:56:16] I like you say, our kids are very highly sensitive and. And these are the kinds of conversations that, that may well come up anyway, just because they’re curious around life, let alone, in terms of their own exploration. So I think it’s good to have a little bit of a handle as a parent sometimes even if it’s just to know that it’s okay to go, actually, I don’t know, and this is uncomfortable and we’ll work through it together.

[00:56:41] It’s all right. So I, yeah, hugely appreciate you coming on and sharing all of that with us and having these wonderful, uncomfortable conversations so that everyone can continue to consume the podcasts and the social media in their own comfortable way. And, and know that, we’re here and happy to facilitate getting more answers to questions if people have, and that’s what you do, it’s what we do. And yeah. So thank you so much. I really appreciate your time again. And yeah. Hopefully we’ve been helpful for, yeah. I feel like I’m ready as a parent who knows what the future will hold, so yeah, it’s been great.

[00:57:20] Dr Matt Zakreski: Yeah. Well, this, I mean, it, you are so easy to talk to, and this is, just, it’s just a delight to be able to have these conversations because every time we do every click on this podcast, every share on this link, we are making the world a more tolerant, open place and what’s better than that.

[00:57:37]I mean, that’s awesome. We are contributing to our kids feeling safer

[00:57:42] Sophia Elliott: and seen just for who they seen. I

[00:57:44] Dr Matt Zakreski: love that. Right. We get up in the morning.

[00:57:47] Sophia Elliott: So thanks. It’s been wonderful. Yeah.


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