The Genderbread Person

Genderbread Person Feature
Momentous Institute
By Momentous Institute Jul 02, 2018

Last week we wrote about all of the terminology related to gender and sexuality. It’s a lot to keep track of! It’s even harder to know whether you’re getting it right for each individual person. Here’s an easy activity that can help illuminate these themes. 

 It’s called the Genderbread Person.

This activity is a great tool for opening a discussion with older children as well as parents about gender and sexuality. We’ve used it in a therapeutic group for LGBTQ teens that we call T.R.U.E. (Together, Respecting and Understanding Each Other).

In this group, our therapists facilitating the group had students rate themselves on each of the measures. This opened up a dialogue for them to explore how they see themselves and what labels they like to put on themselves. Some teens identified with the terms in the activity, and others provided their own.

Our therapists then asked a series of questions such as:

  • What did it feel like to do that activity?
  • Do you know any other people who might rate the same?
  • Were you surprised by your results?
  • When did you first know how you rated on a gender or sexuality spectrum?
  • What was your first exposure to LGBTQ people or information?
  • Who did you first talk to about your gender or sexuality?
  • Who has been helpful to you in understanding your gender or sexuality?
  • What questions do you have about gender or sexuality as a spectrum?

The teens in the group all identify as gender fluid. These questions helped them process through their own identity and learn from others who were similar or different from them.

Our team did this same activity with the parents of these teens, asking them to rate themselves on the different measures. For many parents, this was eye opening. In many cases, they weren’t familiar with the concept of a spectrum related to gender or sexuality. Many hadn’t been exposed to the various terms for the different concepts.

After parents completed the activity, they were asked similar questions as their teens.

All of the parents in the group identify as cisgender and heterosexual, so some of the questions might seem like they don’t apply. But asking a straight person, “How did you first know you were straight?” can help them think about what that experience might be like for someone who doesn’t fit into society’s default standards related to sexuality or gender expression. The truth is that kids and teens are exposed to so much in terms of gender and sexuality. They know more terms than our therapists! Many parents, however, don’t have that same level of exposure and understanding. This activity is the first time that many learn about these concepts, and most are surprised. Opening up the conversation for questions allows parents to process through some of the mixed emotions they may be feeling related to their child’s sexuality or gender expression. In our experience, most parents deeply love and care for their children, and worry about what future struggles their child may face as they explore this topic. This activity is a great starting place and allows the door to conversation to slide open. From there, families can work together using a common understanding.

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