When Children and Educators Can Both Be Their Truest Selves, That’s Pride

Early childhood educator, Leslie Rubino, reflects on finding their gender identity and why they created a program for young queer children, like they once were.

From the time I was in Kindergarten and throughout my high school years, I did everything I thought a young girl would do: I wore makeup, skirts, and pink.

I even got my first perm (I probably should have listened to my mom, but what teenager does?) because I thought this was what it meant to be female. I had this notion that since I was assigned female at birth, I needed to “look” and “act” female to gain positive or negative attention. The problem was, even with all of the jean skirts and the bedazzled tank tops (The 90’s, am I right?) I never felt right. I didn’t feel like me.

However, how could I explain that to someone when I didn’t even have the vocabulary to describe who I was? The thought of discussing gender identity and/or even having transgender students in our schools was non-existent, while the queer youth who did come out as gay or lesbian were targeted for bullying and abuse. It wasn’t safe, and I was afraid of being another target.

It wasn’t until the pandemic that I was able to understand what it meant to live under the transgender umbrella. I discovered the term “two-spirit”, a person who embodies the feminine and masculine spirit, and, suddenly, my childhood and adolescence began to make sense. During this time, my wife was also on her own gender journey when she came out to me as a transgender woman. This time gave us the opportunity to open up and look back at our childhood.

With memories flooding of this queer child just looking for someone to look up to or relate to, I kept coming back to the question, how can we support queer children in the early years?

Facing Their Fears

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