"Why I'm not afraid to have difficult conversations with my kids."

My daughter asked me this morning about Caster Semenya and it didn’t make me afraid.

I didn’t feel afraid that if I talked about this famously intersex athlete that somehow my daughter would become frightened and confused about the world she lives in.

When my daughter asked me whether Caster was a man or a woman and what testosterone meant, I simply told her.

I said she is a woman but she was born intersex, which means she has some organs associated with a man – in her case, internal testes that produce testosterone.

LISTEN: Kate de Brito takes a measured approach to Caster Semenya on the Mamamia Out Loud podcast. (Post continues…)

I told her that although women also produce testosterone, it is primarily a male hormone. It affects muscle size and strength. In other words, it plays a part in what makes men stronger and faster than women.

We had a look at some photos of her.

“She does look a bit like a man,” my daughter said.

Yes she does, but then women come in all shapes and sizes. Some women are very muscular, particularly athletes. But she is a woman and she’s racing in a woman’s race at the Olympics, but because she has higher quantities of testosterone than most women, people are questioning whether she should be racing.


“Should she? Is that fair?”

“Well I think she should. But that’s what people are discussing and why this is in the news at the moment.”

After that we talked  a little bit about about how being born intersex is probably not the easiest life and certainly hasn’t been for  Caster who says she has been “subjected to unwarranted and invasive scrutiny of the most intimate and private details of my being.”

And that was it.

This is the sort of conversations people such as Lyle Shelton, who wrote for the Daily Telegraph this week, believe confuse our kids. The sort of conversation that might happen as part of Safe Schools.

But my daughter didn’t leave that conversation confused. She went away with greater knowledge of the world. She didn’t suddenly feel the earth had tilted on its axis, she just had additional information about how the world works; that it wasn’t like a Hollywood movie where everyone is white and straight and middle class.


And then we talked about how this was definitely the only time I was going to make pancakes on a school day ever again. Subject closed. Post continues after gallery. 


I’m not afraid to have those conversations. And I don’t think other parents should be either. I don’t think you need a big sit down to do it. I just talk about them as they come up.

And while I respect other parents’ right to talk to their children about whatever they see fit, and I understand people are scared of issues that push against their world views, these conversations are as simple as other subjects taught in school – about history and geography and commerce.

I think conversations about the diversity that makes up this world are incredibly important, and a far better education than many other parts of the curriculum.

This is about the real world. It’s not a world made up by campaigners for gay rights. It’s just the way people are. It’s not about perversity or depravity or even “choices”. It’s just life. It’s about real issues that don’t just confront Olympic athletes, but Australian men and women. Sexuality and gender are part of who we are.  Talking to kids about that simply lets them in on what the world is about.

We don’t taint childhoods by being real about the world. We taint their childhood if we make them believe life is a fairy tale.

That’s why I’m not afraid to have “difficult” conversations with my kids. And you shouldn’t be either.

The full episode of Mamamia Out Loud is here: