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3.5 -yr old son wishes he was a girl - anyone else?

post #1 of 12
Thread Starter 
I want my son to love himself, and I feel bad that he does not want to be a boy. He has told me on multiple occasions - he wishes he was a girl and he could grow up and be a mama. He has an older sister and a baby sister, and he is very attached to me. He does not really have any friends (shy), and started saying he did not like boys around the time my 5 year old dd started saying that. I have always raised my kids as gender-neutral as possible. My dh is wonderful and they have a good relationship.

I am wondering if this has something to do with his attachment to me, and his desire to be like me, and the lack of nice boys around. My friend, who has raised her kids like me, has the identical issue with her 5 year old son saying the same stuff. Anyone else? Any book recommendations? I tell him I love him for who he is, no matter what. In other ways he likes typical boy stuff, which honestly I did not believe in until I had both sexes. You know, cars and trucks and trains, etc etc. He also plays with his doll. He and my older daughter play well together and are close.

Anyone else go through this or read about it? No offense to anyone but I truly do not believe this is a 'girl born in a boys body' thing. I would love to hear some other thoughts.


post #2 of 12
We have only had a consistent lament about hair with one of our boys, so I don't know if this fits, but just in case...

Ds3 was for months very unhappy that he has curly hair and every day he would ask me to 'smoothen it' when I'd carefully pick it. He is the only one with curly hair in our immediate family and we don't have any friends with curly hair as it just happens. His hair is like soft springs when short and ringlets when longer. It doesn't, under any normal circumstances 'smoothen.'

I kept telling him when he'd sadly lament his curly hair, that his hair is beautiful and also that many people have beautiful curly hair and many people who have straight hair wish they had curly, but that straight hair is beautiful too.

Anyway, one day it dawned on me to ask him why he wished he had straight hair. He told me with pure, pleading conviction, that barbarians don't have curly hair, and he couldn't grow up to be one if his hair didn't 'smoothen'.

I told him that many barbarians do have curly hair, and dh promptly brought up pics of curly-haired barbarians- lots of them. This was his concern, so once he saw that his hair wouldn't be a hindrance to his aspirations, he became pleased with his hair.

I must also say that we entertain all of their aspirations, so becoming barbarians has not been discouraged . Somewhere, someone gave them the idea that barbarians are not smart and they are violent/mean, so they have all subsequently elaborated on their barbarian profiles. They now say that they are growing up to be "intelligent, compassionate and educated barbarians, who read books."

We indulge these fantasies because they are expressing important values and goals of our children. Would it be of any help to your son for you to do something similar, like to find out why he wishes he was a girl and maybe engage in his ideas about what it would be like for him, role playing and such? Many times our boys choose the female character in their play; they are lionesses, tigresses, mothers, queens, etc.... They enjoy a full spectrum of fantasy involving gender and roles with very blurred or non-boundaries.

Your ds may just need to more fully explore what he perceives is the difference between him and his perception of what a girl might be like if he were one or just in general. This may be a way for him to explore what his gender means to him, how it is a part of his identity, and what place he has in your family and the world with it included.

I think it is potentially a very healthy exploration if he feels safe and supported. Then again, it may be a simple issue of feeling excluded from something very important to him, like childbirth, for instance. Maybe he just needs to know that men can and do have very important roles in loving and caring for infants and mums, and that he won't miss out by having that experience.

'Could be anything. It may only have to do with gender or sex as an expression of his growing understanding of differences/diversity and not as an overarching issue for his life or a disdain for being a boy. You know how sometimes children feel like they don't have enough freedom, and we have the opportunity to clue in when pouring one's own juice becomes the subject of arresting autonomy from the tyranny of the helpful mama? Maybe it's that sort of expression and prompted by something prominent in his life, like being the only boy.

I hope there's something in here that's useful, but if not, then maybe just be encouraged by the support and attempt at understanding...
post #3 of 12
My son was like that for a while. He has an older sister and he played with the neighbor girl a lot. He would play Barbies and dress up with them, etc. He is now 9.5 yo and in 4th grade and I could not see him playing princess dress up anymore! Although he is pretty comfortable around girls, which I think is nice. Like his gymnastics class is all girls except for him and it doesn't bother him at all, whereas I think some boys his age would have quit thinking it was too "girly".

So I would guess this is just some kind of stage your son is in. I know there are some boys who sincerely want to be girls but you said you don't think that's it with your son. It's probably like you said, he's around girls alot and is maybe quieter than other boys his age so he's thinking being a girl seems like a better deal right now. But I bet it won't in a few years.

My niece has been the opposite, she has always wanted to be a boy. She's in 6th grade now and for some reason, they divide up the boys and girls for recess and she was pretty bummed because the other girls are all "boring" and won't play football with her.
post #4 of 12
My oldest son has commented a number of times that he wishes he were a girl. I do my best to listen actively to his thoughts/feelings on the matter, and also to focus on the idea that he can do/be whatever he wants, just as he is. He has expressed an interest in makeup (funny, he doesn't get this from me!), so we talked about looking for some play make up he can use to "decorate" his face. He also asked for a vanity for Christmas so he could sit and comb his hair (saw this on TV). By the time Christmas rolled around, however, he had moved onto robots and chemistry sets, so go figure. I think this exploration is natural, and that the most important thing is to keep the lines of communication with your son open so he feels free to process these thoughts with you. Unconditionally along for your ride, sweet babe, ya know?

It sounds like you are handling things very well. How lucky for him that he has such a supportive family!
post #5 of 12
An interesting story on NPR about this: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...oryId=90247842
post #6 of 12
I posted a very similar thread about a year ago -- here's the link if you want to read what I wrote back then.

It's funny, until I read this thread I hadn't really noticed the fact that he doesn't mention wanting to be a girl anymore. I'm not sure what changed for him, maybe back then he was just strongly identifying with me and wanted to be like me or something? But in any case, he seems perfectly happy being a boy these days, just a year later.
post #7 of 12
Thread Starter 

good responses

Thanks for all the responses - I feel better. I think I need to relax about it and let him figure things out as he needs to. I have always raised my kids that they can be whatever sort of boy or girl they want to be. He definitely is a child that asks big questions early too. It made sense to me, to think that maybe he feels this sadness more than some kids that he won't be like me, won't be a mama. Also, limabean, it is amazing reading your old thread because my son said almost the identical thing about wanting us to find a fairy to make him into a girl! I do think he needs positive boy images around though, a range of boys that he knows so that he can see being a boy can mean many things. That being said, I think it can be hard for him to see what it means to be a man. What DOES it mean, differently from women?
post #8 of 12
My daughter at that age really wanted to be a boy. She wanted a buzz cut and was really upset to be a girl. I think a lot of it had to do with her brother having so many friends and her being left out. If she had been a boy, she felt she would have been included.

She's a bit of a tomboy though, so maybe she's just more on the masculine side of the scale of masculinity vs. femininity. I have always been, so, she'd just be taking after me.

Just respect his feelings, don't put too much emphasis on them, but acknowledge them all the same. I kind of wish I had let her have her buzz cut, but I didn't. She's over it now at 7.
post #9 of 12
Moved to The Childhood Years
post #10 of 12
My DS pretends to be a girl (with long blond hair, to be specific) regularly. He also pretends to be a cat, an owl, a dog, and any number of other things. I don't think (for my kiddo) that it's a "in the wrong body" thing, just that it's more of a trying-out-different-roles thing.
post #11 of 12
my friends only son is that way. he secretly wishes he was a girl. he is not into typical boy things. he gets along better with girls. all his life he has had mostly girl friends. i think him wanting to be a girl is the fit in thing. he would love to be in girl scouts, but obviously cant. he wants to do more fun crafty and art projects that girlss do.

its their way of expressing they want to be a girl. i am sure OP in your case surrounded by women and girls your son relates to you guys and wants to be like you.
post #12 of 12
This is really common, and it's extremely rare that it's anything but a passing phase, due to exactly the reasons you've listed. He's closest to you and his sisters, and doesn't want to be different. I think just talking to him about the positive things about him, and about what you love about him, combined with not making a big deal about it, is the way to go.

Most transgendered people do know they're different this early, but usually instead of saying they want to be the other sex, they insist they are. Which brings me to...
Originally Posted by lunamay View Post
No offense to anyone but I truly do not believe this is a 'girl born in a boys body' thing.
You can say "no offense" all you want, but offense absolutely taken. Gender identity issues absolutely do exist, and it is the reality of some people's lives. Please educate yourself. (I'm not saying this is the case with your son, it really doesn't seem to be, but that doesn't make it any less real for others.)
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