As I recall, here's what the traditional "how babies are made" books look like: Man meets woman, they fall in love, they get married, and they finally have sexy-naked-time under the covers where a penis goes into a vagina and a sperm goes into an egg. Approximately nine months later, give or take, a squalling human is pushed into the world. Yawn. Let me tell you the reasons I threw out my traditional "how babies are made" books.
First of all, not only is that story old and boring, it's not the lived experience of most people I know personally. There are so many ways to create a baby, so why would I teach my child a half-truth? A half-truth that could totally invalidate them and their lived experience before they are even allowed to know who they are? Among the many feminist reasons I disapprove of the traditional baby-making books, I want my transgender daughter to feel represented in our home. A big piece of making that want a reality is presenting visibility and accessibility often and in thoughtful, tangible ways.
Second of all, how many more beautiful stories are there to tell about the way children come into existence? We erase these stories when we stick to this hetero- and cisnormative narrative. We're parents! We can be more creative than that, right? You can tell them their own story about what went into creating them, who was waiting for them, and who celebrated them. You can tell them how some people want to create, raise, and love a child so much that they spend a tremendous amount of time and money making sure that happens (as in in vitro fertilization, surrogacy, and adoption).
To be honest, this old story line always disturbed me, but I didn't think about actively disrupting it until I had children of my own. Now, not only have I thrown out any "how babies are made" books in my home, but I'm encouraging you to do the same.
Even if you're cisgender (as in, you identify with the gender you were assigned at birth) the gender binary is destructive.
Girls are not pink, and boys are not blue. Girls are not made of sugar and spice even if they are nice, and boys are not rats and snails and puppy dog tails. The cultural insistence on everyone conforming to this binary is at best limiting of all folx's authenticity (whether cis or trans), and at worst causing real harm to all of us who don't fit into into the nice, neat little pink and blue boxes.
There are so many ways for babies to be made, you guys. Sure, we know we need a sperm, an egg, and a uterus, but that's about all that's unchangeable. Everything else? Yeah, variables.
When we as parents perpetuate society's myth that being straight and cisgender is "normal," we teach our children that anything else is abnormal. You may not intend to teach this lesson to your children, but intention does not trump impact. Day after day, our children are bombarded with messages that being white, heterosexual, cisgender, and practicing monogamy is the only way to exist in the world, solely by virtue of its prolific representation in our society. If your child is anything but these things, or you want your child to respect people who are anything but these things, you'll want to include other representations in your birds and bees lecture.
Traditional "how babies are made" books include (often graphic) binary sex depictions of what society sees as a "male" body and what society sees as a "female" body. Transgender and intersex people are literally nowhere in these books. They are completely erased from the cultural narrative of people who have kids.
Let me be really blunt for a moment: This isn't OK. Trans-erasure kills transgender people. Even if you don't get it, even if you staunchly believe that biology is binary and that binary biology is destiny, it's not really your place to pretend people don't exist. That dehumanizes people.
Dehumanization is what you do to a group of people that makes them easier to harm because you don't see them as actually human, or at least not as valuable a human as the rest. This isn't alarmist thinking. We have an epidemic of transgender women of color being murdered in this country. Our words, or lack thereof, matter.
For people still worried about including transgender and intersex people in our sex education? Knowing there are transgender people in the world won't turn your child transgender (spoiler: if they're transgender they were already transgender, so nothing you do or say will change that!) but it may help do the following:
1) Help your child not be afraid of transgender people, and therefore less likely to be violent towards them later in life;
2) Help your transgender or intersex child know that they are not abominations, that there are other people in the world like them, and that they will be loved and accepted as who they are, thus reducing the chances of suicidal ideation.
You might not think anything is easy about teaching your kids about sex. I beg to differ.
It's easier for children to learn right off the bat all the ways babies are made than to learn the heteronormative malarky they'll have to unlearn and relearn later in life. Make no mistake, they will have to relearn. Whether it's because they don't fit in the really narrow Man-John, Woman-Jane story line or they know someone who doesn't.
Trust me. It's going to happen.
If your children ever decide to become parents, you don't know how that will look for them. Certainly, when you're teaching the birds and the bees, it's too early know anything about how baby-making will look for them.
Maybe your asexual/aromantic, non-partnered kid will carry within their uterus a fetus inseminated in a petri dish. Or perhaps your son will mix his sperm with his partner's and have a surrogate bake the bun. Just as easily, your daughter could implant her ovum into her trans boyfriend's uterus. Or your intersex offspring may copulate heteronormatively and their partner might give birth in a taxi on the way to the birthing center.
My point? We parents know so little about how our children will live as adults. Isn't it our job to give them all the information that truly exists instead of forcing them down any particular path that might not be their own?
Finally, the last reason I threw out those traditional "how babies are made" books? I found Cory Silverberg's book, What Makes A Baby, and found that this particular book is perfectly inclusive of everyone because it doesn't get specific about anybody's race, gender, relationship status, sexuality, or anything else. It only gets specific about the body parts and fluids involved to create human life. It makes absolutely no assumptions. This makes it perfect for my household.
But it's also perfect for any and all child-rearing situations that look nothing like my household. It encourages kids to tell their own story while learning valuable sperm + egg = zygote = embryo = fetus = baby.
And boy, do I love me some science.