I think, this title is horrible, but I cannot put it in better words.
My five year old is not "age appropriately" in his gender role. (this sounds horrible again).
He loves dolls, glitter, pink clothing, skirts, wants to go to preschool in "hello kitty" dresses, "borrows" his sister's glitter shoes for school. Loves Fairy stories, his favorite movie of all times is "Emily STrawberry"
My sister is gay and an "early childhood development person" (i don't know the translation of what she does, and she thinks he is not clear in his role at all. She says, a "normal" boy of his age would be VERY boyish and would even try to deny all girlish things. (I guess there is a range though)
So, now my question. How do I raise a boy who could be gay? I know that every boy "could" be gay, and that they don't need to be girlish or anything. I just have the feeling, that he is not really like other boys (in more than one way :) ) and I kind of want him to know that he is perfect as he is, even if he is different.
I don't really know how to behave here. I don't know any books about boys who like to be girls or are gay and maybe I am way to early with all this.
I hope I did not confuse you all. English is not my first language, and I don't really know how to explain my worries. Even in german.
Trin with DH , DD(7) and DS(5) , DD(2) , ,
I am not regularly online at the moment due to the above ...
Five is still really young for children to embrace expectations of gender roles, so I think you still have some time before deciding this is going to be more permanent.
That said, my nephew's son started out like this and never looked back. He loved Barbie dolls with a passion, he adored all things sparkly. His favorite thing was to play with his cousin (my niece) and all her girl toys. He's a teenager now, and I'm not sure of his sexual orientation specifically, but he never dropped the feminine...um....interests, for lack of a better description.
I wish I had actual advice for you, but if my nephew-- conservative, Christian-- can manage this well, I think anyone is capable of it. That is assuming this is not still a fleeting interest. I would not make up my mind about this quite yet.
"Let me see you stripped down to the bone. Let me hear you speaking just for me."
I think boys and girls who do not have a family who tells them things are for boys or things are for girls don't always pick up society's norms yet, at age 5. I don't really have any advice, but an anecdote. When I was 4, I decided I wanted to be a boy. I made everyone call me a boy's name and I dressed only in boys clothes for an entire year. I never did play with dolls or play house much. However, this didn't mean I was or became gay. I think I was influenced by having older brothers and naturally being interested in their stuff. I think in this day and age, I might have been labeled as gay at age 4, instead of labeled a "tomboy". I'm not sure how that would have affected me. I do think it's too young to know. But you are his mother and need to be ready to support him however he is.
I guess the biggest concern at this age is how to handle other kids (and adults) telling him "that's for girls" and whether to encourage him to wear boyish clothes to school...
I spent some time working at PFLAG (parents families and friend of lesbains and gays) which is an organization for people just like you with questions like this!
I would give them a call (or you can contact them on line if you are out of the country). http://community.pflag.org/page.aspx?pid=416 This link will take you to their "find us" page where they list local and international chapters.
Even if your son isn't gay (which could be entirely the case), PFLAG is a great place to ask questions about children who aren't exactly living up to gender norms.
In my opinion, he is clearly exploring gender and the best way to deal with that is to show him you love him no matter what. Support him, be honest and let him know that some people might not like it or might tease him, but that you will always be there and love him for who he is.
Mostly I wouldn't stress out or worry about sexual orientation or anything like that. He is really young and many kids go through exploratory stages. He might just like pink and glitter! :)
How do you raise this child...?
First off, you need to learn more about the difference between gender identity and sexual orientation. He is currently attracted to things that are socially constructed as "girly". That does NOT mean that later in life he will want to have sex with men. It may mean that feels like he's more of a girl than a boy. Or it may not. He may just like glitter and pink etc. For example, he might grow up to be a make-up artist or fashion designer - gay or straight.
I had a daycare boy who would tell us in his own words he was gay. He'd say "I want to be a girl", and we'd ask "Why?". He'd only say "So I can marry a Daddy and not a Mommy" (Mommy was a little hurt)
His dad, who was a youth pastor at the time said "Well, you can't change who you are, you will just have to be the best boy who wants to marry a boy you can be, but you can't be a girl". (and he was told to stop saying he doesn't like Mommies) He got older, his preferences for all things girly faded by about 4th grade, and he started to grasp the difference between wanting to be a girl, and wanting to marry a boy.
His parents really didn't do anything much differently, but, they kept an open mind, and were quick to defend his choices, and were active about helping him find what he wanted. (this was before the internet, and if he wanted a certain shirt, they had to shop for it, and track it down...if he wanted to join a club, they either had to find one, or create one for him) They just took a "Eh, it is what it is" attitude.
I have a boy now, who is very much as you describe. His parents are trying to make sure he's accepted in his new preschool class. So, they make as many compromises as they can. He LOVES pink, but also really likes red, so he wears a lot of red. He LOVES Jesse from Toy Story, so, they find him shirts with Woody, Buzz AND Jesse. He still stands out as being a little different, and his room is filled with pink Minnie Mouse dolls and Jesse dolls, but, when he goes to school, he will be wearing clothes that they compromised on. He won't be forced into anything, but he won't be allowed to go to school in a tinkerbell dress.
His parents are also taking an "EH..it is what it is" attitude, but they don't want him to be the pioneer for dressing like a girl in preschool. When he's better able to stand up for himself, he can make different choices.
Read the blog Raising My Rainbow.
I think a lot of children at this age behave the way your son does. Some kids adopt really rigid gender roles around this time and some kids are very fluid with their behavior. Some kids adopt these roles or experiment with different roles both because of or in spite of what they see around them.
Pretty much everything we own is "genderless" and my daughter (3) adopted a pretty rigid "girl" role very early on. My son (6) feels sorry that some kids don't know that "color is for everyone." Going from a Reggio preschool to a public kindergarten classroom does seem to have narrowed his behavior at school somewhat. But is still has an American Girl doll on his wish list so he can play with his sister.
You might look back at your son's behavior in the future and see signs everywhere that he was X from an early age. Or not. I just don't think you can tell for sure yet.
I am so glad that you are committed to showing your son that he is perfect and you love him no matter what! If you keep doing that, you are doing a great job. I believe that it is the most important thing ever, and not to give in to society's norms around what people of different genders "should" be doing/wearing/behaving/etc.
I have a few thoughts to share with you. I haven't read the other comments so please forgive me if this is repetitive. I am queer and my partner is transgender, our baby is 10 months old and we talk about this kind of stuff all the time. :)
Gender identity and sexual orientation are not the same thing. So just because your son is currently preferring to "dress like a girl" that doesn't mean that he is gay. He may end up being gay, or bi, or otherwise queer, or he may not. He may end up being transgender, or he may not. There are trans people who identify as straight, there are gay folks who follow gender norms quite closely, and at this point there is no way of knowing for certain how your son will end up identifying. My suggestion is to keep loving him and supporting him in expressing himself as he chooses. This might mean talking with his teachers or other kids' parents if they judge him or do not understand why he is wearing what he is wearing, etc. If he knows that you have his back and support him in dressing as he chooses, etc., he will truly know that what he is doing is okay and he will not experience the same amount of shame and self loathing that so many LGBTQI folks grow up feeling.
Also, I think it is so awesome that you have reached out and asked for resources, because I think that educating yourself around the topics of gender identity and sexual orientation will be helpful for you (and ALL parents) regardless if this is a childhood phase or an indication of identity. Some books that I like are My Gender Workbook by Kate Bornstein and Gender and Sexuality for Beginners, which just came out. I think those are good places to start, and of course there are soooo many other resources out there. There is an annual conference called Gender Odyssey in Seattle that has a track specifically for families of trans youth that I've heard great things about.
Best of luck to you and your family!
Thank you so much for all your suggestions and support, I will check out all the information you gave me.
I think I have a small psychological burden here. :) As I said, my little sister is gay, and I think I didn't handle it too well as a child. I mean, I wasn't mean or anything, I am just VERY straight forward and I remember a family dinner, where everybody was sitting together, eating, and I just looked up (I was seventeen, my sis 13/14) and told her: You know, if you love girls, that's perfectly alright with this family. - And that was the first time anybody ever talked about her being (obviously) gay, and she didn't take it too well, she ran into her room and didn't leave it for two days or something.
I don't want to make that mistake again ;)
I think it is weird that there are no picture books or anything outside about this subject?! I know one, I think it's scandinavian, i think it's called "King and King" - but it's supposed to be very gender orientated, like the King likes boy things and the princess girl things, even though the prince loves a prince and the princess a princess.
I already asked a liberian, but they didn't know anything. Even my sis doesn't know anything :(
I think, I am very lucky to at least have my sister, I can always send my than teenage boy to her to the big city and the cool queer subculture there.
But we live on the country side, where boys like chain saws and tractors. (and he likes them, too - he is not all girl, he has a lot of facettes in his personality)
The dress think might even be, that he finds them more comfortable, no tight elastics, only free flowing fabric :) I did make him some tunica like play dresses, that he can even wear in public, like a knight tunic and a wizard tunic and such.
He is so cute, and I don't want him get hurt by stupid people, but I guess that is something we all have in common ;)
Trin with DH , DD(7) and DS(5) , DD(2) , ,
I am not regularly online at the moment due to the above ...
I wouldn't be so quick with the gay-support books for children*. Your son has not mentioned anything about liking boys--he likes the sparkles. That's what you know, and at five years old, I would not make any decisions as to what this might mean. 5 year olds are transparent. They do not do things because they secretly want something else (unless they grow up in an environment so strict that they learn this early). So, do not think that he likes the pink and the sparkles because he secretly wants to be a girl or like boys. He likes sparkles because they are....SPARKLY!! WOW!!
Like my nephew, this might be a trend that sticks and develops into something like cross dressing or liking boys or wanting to be a girl. At that point, whip out those gay-support children's books or whatever. But now? No reason to. *(Though it might be a good book anyway, I'm just saying don't bring it home for the express reason of "supporting your son's gender identity"--because I don't think that is what it is right now.)
"Let me see you stripped down to the bone. Let me hear you speaking just for me."
"How do I raise a boy who could be gay?"
Same way as you raise a boy who might not be. Or a girl who might be. Or not.
You raise them as a person. With particular interests, etc. Gay, straight, trans, bi, (add any other distinction you like). Your child is an individual. Raise them as such.
I recently came across this blog entry, which I thought was interesting. It is dealing with gender identity, not perceived sexual orientation, but it might be of some use.
Hi there , there is a book called 'My Princess Boy' which is about a little boy who loves skirts and frills and sparkly things. It was written by a Mum whose son was like that. There are some lovely supportive interviews with the family around too if you google. I know about this because all my friends sent me the links! My son wore dresses and skirts exclusively from the age of 2.5 until 5. He was never into pink and glitter as such, just dresses, skirts and tights. I think he found them comfy. He did have a box of Barbies and adored his My Little Pony teapot house which we still have.
It was always important to me to raise a child with freedom to express gender and sexuality however they wanted to. His first crush was on David Tennant when he was age 7 and he would blush furiously at the mention of his name bless him! Despite these things I've not really considered him gay. It's too early to tell. He now has a crush on a female friend and he seems quite happy to be attracted to various people. (in the innocent simple way that a 7 or 8 year old is attracted towards anyone!) All I've done is just raise him with freedom. I think that is the answer no matter what - freedom and acceptance. Unfortunately the world still has an alarming level of homophobic and transphobic individuals, so I do think it is extra important to show kids that preferences outside the norm are valid and accepted. You don't ever have to let someone know it's ok to be straight or gender-normative because the world will do that for them. Having said that, I made sure i was just as happy and complimentary when my son ditched the dresses for smart suits, because that's just pleasant and polite!
My son is like this too. We live outside of the U.S. in a country where gender roles are VERY rigid, and there is a lot of pressure and violence toward people who don't conform to them. On the other hand, both his father and I identify as bisexual and have exes of the same gender in our lives, and he has a godmama/aunt who is marrying another woman soon and whose previous partner and parent of my son's 'cousin' is trans. We've raised him to see nothing wrong with any of that, and as just another normal way to be.
But we've also taught him that some people are "weird" about things like that -- like girls marrying other girls or boys liking pink or having their nails painted (painted nails being a big thing in our house lately). We've told him that those people are wrong, but that they may try to tease him or bully him about those things, so sometimes he has to think about whether he really wants to wear that pink glitter t-shirt to school, or if he'd like to change/remove his nail polish before gym class. Not because the weird people are right, but because he might chose not to have to deal with them being weird (he says stupid) at him.
We have also told him that if he gets teased about these sorts of things, he needs to come to his parents -- and directly his parents, sadly, 'cause the school administration sucks -- immediately and that we will take care of it. We actually just pulled him out of a school because their take on homophobic and misogynist bullying was very "boys will be boys". We need him to know that we've got his back on this stuff 100%, and since the school wouldn't change, we found a school who takes those issues more seriously.
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It sounds to me like you are doing great so far! I'm confused by your sister because you say she's gay and some kind of early childhood expert, but I don't agree that it's "normal" for 5 year olds to strongly identify as their "own" gender. Gender permanance- the idea that your biological sex will not change, doesn't even solidify til 6 or 7. By the same token 5 year olds don't even know that they can't grow up to be a girrafe or a toaster.
I would give your child all the love and support in the world and read as much as you can about topics of gender, sexuality, sexual identity, sex/gender roles and gender politics. Here's a blog I like: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2012/03/the-genderbread-person-v2-0/
I think contacting PFLAG is probably a really good idea or at least checking out their sight.
BTW, my youngest son loved the color pink until he realized he wasn't "supposed to" and then suddenly he changed his favorite color to red (a socially exceptable version of the same color). My oldest son and his sister used to love to dress up in each others clothes and one year he was a witch for halloween and she was a cowboy. I dated a guy who was a self-described transvestite who was totally straight, not interested in guys sexually at all. I just want to say that there is a wide spectrum for sexuality and gender roles. Plenty of straight men wear leather, have long hair, pierce their ears, paint their fingernails, paint their toenails (or let others), wear guy liner, wear "skinny jeans" or even women's jeans, wear necklaces and bracelets and rings, drink mixed drinks, watch chickflicks, cry over "The Notebook," work as hairdressers, walk with a "switch," know more than 7 colors, etc, etc. etc. (And plenty of gay men who do none of the above!)
So I would suggest educating yourself as much as you possibly can and just teaching your kid that it's ok to be himself whoever that is!
I disagree with your daughter. But i wonder if some of his interests, are because, well, he has a sister....
Whether he wants to marry a man when he grows up, or just act a bit like a girl sometimes...whether he prefers pink and glitter to black and dump trucks....he is who he is. Let him be who he is, and love him as he is....gay or straight....or something in between
trinity i think you are jumping the gun here.
the question is not how do i raise a boy who could be gay, but how do i raise a boy who is an outlier? whether he is gay or partly a giraffe it doesnt matter. no matter what your son is 'different'.
and that can make life REALLY different for him. difficult rather - for him and for his family who dont want to see him hurt.
who knows he could be transgendered for all you know.
will he be going to school next year?
it is a tough world out there. and really apart from him, you need all the help you can. i have an outlier and if i believed her then as a K student in her world only bullies existed. why? because she was super sensitive and the kids were merely inquisitive. they wanted to figure out why she was so different. so i had to work hard on myself and dd and help her see the world through other people's eyes, including herself.
your son is a misfit in the society he is being raised. i think you need to get used to the fact that your son IS going to be hurt. that means prepare yourself to see how YOU can be there to support him. Does he hide his emotions? How does he show stress? Is he full of self confidence?
i have to say i too am surprised at your sister's comment. Perhaps your sister living in the subculture and knowing so many go through such hard times is perhaps jumping the gun here.
i am sorry but this should have been part of his education already. it probably is if his aunt brought her girlfriends over. so he IS aware that sometimes two parent households can be of the same sex.
what i think matters the most here is your son knowing and accepting that mama is open and that she will love him no matter what. armed with a loving family your son - any child - can make it through life fine. he of course might get hurt, but nothing is greater than rejection from family.
your son needs to know that no matter what mama is open to whoever he is. she may not like his actions but that has nothing to do with himself. he knows that even if he turned into a murderer his mom will always be there by his side. or that she doesnt really want him to 15 piercings on his face, but she will let him go do it anyways. or he decides to wear his pants half down his ass, mama will let him know how much she dislikes it, but lets him be his own person.
i have read many of your posts. you are an awesome mom. you ARE doing things right. i dont think you have anything to worry about.
i would not go too overtly gay. you are not 17 years old. i have done stupid tactless stuff to my brother at that age too so i think it comes with the age.
i try to cover it all with dd. whether she is going to be gay or poly or transgender or stay single all her life i hope she knows that affects nothing about how i feel about her.
little things go a long way. like marriage. she has been brought up to believe that she could marry a man or woman, or a fellow citizen or an immigrant, or a black, yellow, white, pink or blue person.
because she is an outlier she has been taught life is hard. life is isolating. that does not mean she should not walk tall - just coz she is different. people are mean - kids and adults. as much as it hurts, it should not stop her from being who she wants to be.
another important lesson is to teach him not to internalize everything. he may be a person who finds it hard to express his sadness in words, show him a way of expressing his emotions physically. sports or chores where he gets a physical workout would be great. make sure you have cuddle time with him and that you have the space of when he can talk. some kids like the dark and bed time to talk, some can even talk when you guys are on a walk together. in other words one on one time.
lets face it. gay or not your son is different. he IS going to be hurt at some point. i think you need to work on yourself to make sure YOU are ok. many many times when our children are struggling emotionally they recover from watching their parents deal with it. let him see your vulnerable side and learn that one can even survive that.
just the fact you let your son follow his sister, just the fact you are here posting this question - mama you have nothing to worry about. watch and see how your son is. how sensitive he is.
dd's bf - a boy with red hair AND a full on nerd - is totally oblivious to bullying. he just shrugs it off. dd super sensitive sees bullying in places where there IS no bullying. esp. in K and first grade. her picture of school life and what her teacher told me - were two different things. i had to kinda in a kind way show her the world through other people's eyes.
At five, I had already made up my mind that I was going to give birth to puppies instead of a human. Because Puppies were cuter.
I was also determined to always stay a small child (which contradicted my other goal of growing up to give birth to puppies) but, I decided to remain my current size and age forever.
|Lgbtq , Parenting , Parents , Child|