Gender Identity - Sort of an updare in post 35 - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 37 Old 08-09-2010, 11:01 AM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm starting to think this is no longer a 'phase'

DD is 6 Yo. She has insisted on dressing like a boy for 2 years now. It's not dress up, it's an obsession. She will not (like meltdown time) under any circumstances wear anything that might be even slightly construed as gilrly. This includes any item of clothing that might have even the smallest hint of pink or purple in it. If it comes from the girl's section of the store, she won't wear it - even if it's a plain pair of jeans. She doesn't yet realize that boys wear different underwear, so we've been ok there.

She only plays with 'boy' toys. Trucks, cars, starwars etc. If it's pink, forget it. Play food is too girly etc.

She is now at the point where she is hating on me because I'm a girl. She says she needs to be a boy and is very angry with me because it's the one thing I can't fix for her.

Is this still a phase?

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#2 of 37 Old 08-09-2010, 11:13 AM
 
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I don't know your kid so I can't answer whether or not it's a "phase." I do know 100's of transgendered adults, and they all knew when they were kids.

I would look into what it would mean if your child was transgendered. Support for you and your child etc.

I would also think about just validating where they are at. If they want to dress "like a boy" or use another name, go there with them. Even if it turns out to be a "phase" your child will remember that you respected them enough to honor their needs/requests.
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#3 of 37 Old 08-09-2010, 11:16 AM
 
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At 6, I doubt it is a phase. Younger children try on gender roles just like they try out being a fire truck or being a tree. At 6, your child knows she was born female and is in solid rejection of this fact. Be kind with her. Her life may not be easy.
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#4 of 37 Old 08-09-2010, 11:29 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you. DH dismissed the idea immediately..I'm not so sure. I have no issue with it. It just scares me that she is so angry. She has actually used the words 'kill' and 'destroy' when she has referred to what she wants to do to me and others.

I have no issue with her dressing like and acting boy like. I absolutely let her do her thing. My feelings are that children do what they do because it fulfills a need. I accept that she will be whatever it is that she needs to be. I'm just not sure if maybe it's time to get her some help with this. It's the only thing that explains some of the issues we've been having with her and why she is sooooooo angry with me.

MIL blames DH and I for allowing her to nix glitter sneaker purchases etc. MIL loves to shop for her and always ends up frustrated when DD rejects EVERYTHING she buys. She is convinced that DH and I are influencing her. I think she is going to be our biggest hurdle. Whenever she spends time with Grandma, she ends up having a rough few days afterward. I worry that MIL is trying to force a female gender role on her. I think I may have to discuss this with her this afternoon.

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#5 of 37 Old 08-09-2010, 12:55 PM
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It may help your dd tremendously if you tell her that she can choose to make herself a boy when she is an adult.

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#6 of 37 Old 08-09-2010, 01:26 PM
 
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I would suggest trying to find a counselor that can help you as parents and your dd work through her anger and issues she's experiencing. I would especially encourage trying to find a counselor that is knowledgable on gender issues a/o transgender issues in children. The last thing she needs is someone trying to "fix" her. But you already know that. I think it's wonderful that you aren't treating her negatively for what she identifies with. She needs that. It just sounds like you could all use a little outside help to help her work through what she is feeling and for you as parents to better support her. I really think you are doing a great job supporting her already. Good luck!

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#7 of 37 Old 08-09-2010, 02:45 PM
 
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It may help your dd tremendously if you tell her that she can choose to make herself a boy when she is an adult.
I was going to say the same thing.
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#8 of 37 Old 08-09-2010, 04:13 PM
 
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It may help your dd tremendously if you tell her that she can choose to make herself a boy when she is an adult.
I would argue that the kid doesn't have to wait until they are grown up.

I would tell a kid that LOTS of people feel like they are in the "wrong" body. That many people feel that way and then change their minds and just as many people feel that way, never change their minds, and change themselves. Letting a child know they are not alone in their feelings, especially about gender and identity might really help and might open doors to talking about gender identity with less aggression.
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#9 of 37 Old 08-09-2010, 05:35 PM
 
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i would also try your local LGBT community and see if you can find someone YOU can talk to help support your dd. they would be able to tell you what they were going through when they were ur dd's age.

YOU are your dd's support system now. that is a BIG task. you need all the help you can get.

maybe post this thread on Queer Parenting forum on this board and see if you can find some moms or dads who can relate to what your dd is going through.

esp. if she has a gma like that she will need all the help she can to cope.

i have a LOT of friends from the LGBT community. and lack of family support - even just one - is what hits them the hardest.

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#10 of 37 Old 08-09-2010, 06:13 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thanks - I'll cross post there!

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#11 of 37 Old 08-09-2010, 06:41 PM
 
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At 6yo, I wouldn't discount the possibility that it still is just a phase. I would still leave both possibilities open. I would still avoid making her feel tied into one decision for life. I would not make her feel like she had to choose a gender right this minute.

Possibly the anger is coming from a feeling that she must make a choice. I would warn MIL that pushing this issue may be causing DD to feel boxed in. Whether this is a passing phase or a lifelong need, doesn't change any of this. I would view the anger issue separate from the desire to know whether this is a phase or ingrained. The anger may even be over confusion about why you and MIL are treating the issue so differently if you both love and care for her.

I would see if getting MIL to stop pushing the gender issue would help with the anger issue before seeking professional help. Try to get your DD to open up to you about why she is angry more. If after everyone is accepting that for now DD can be as boy as she wants to be, without forcing it to be a lifelong decision, the anger issues still are there, then I would look into professional help.

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#12 of 37 Old 08-09-2010, 07:46 PM
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As angry as she's acting towards you, she is so lucky to have an understanding mother for this. I agree, get expert help! There was a nice picture book about a trans boy that Arwen reviewed on her blog a while back, I forget the name but if you go to raising my boychick I bet you can find it... I bet there are other picture books out there, too.

I like the idea of not boxing her in, but also letting her know she CAN choose whenever she wants, and it's always up to her. And yeah, deal with MIL. I think you might need to get your DH to help with that, if you can... But I'm sure a counselor or someone who's been through it will be really helpful.

Good luck!
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#13 of 37 Old 08-09-2010, 07:46 PM
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I would argue that the kid doesn't have to wait until they are grown up.

I would tell a kid that LOTS of people feel like they are in the "wrong" body. That many people feel that way and then change their minds and just as many people feel that way, never change their minds, and change themselves. Letting a child know they are not alone in their feelings, especially about gender and identity might really help and might open doors to talking about gender identity with less aggression.
But any actual surgery would have to wait until adulthood.

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#14 of 37 Old 08-10-2010, 09:53 AM
 
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I wanted to be a boy until 4th grade, so nearly until 10. Desperately. I'd tell anyone who'd listen that I wanted to be a boy, and that I hated being a girl. If my parents had taken me aside and asked, "do you really want to be a boy? Do you want to live as a boy, and eventually take medicine that would make you grow up looking like a boy?" I probably would have said yes.

Am I now trans? Nope. I'm extremely happy being a woman, and love being married to a man.

The issue for me, I think, was that I was pretty gifted, and being in a very small school, didn't have any female peers. We didn't have any GATE-type stuff, and everything was (as was the style of the day) heterogeneously grouped. The boys were at least interested in the same stuff I was, like building things, dinosaurs, science, etc, and I found their general ability to get into mischief stimulating. The only other outwardly super-smart kids in my school (yes, school- I'm from a very small community of about 1,000 people) were boys, so, looking back, it makes a lot of sense that I would cling to "boyness" instead of "smart and quirky." I didn't have the emotional maturity or insight to understand that while I thought I was rejecting being a girl, I was actually rejecting being a "regular" girl.

In 4th, I realized I'd rather kiss a boy than BE a boy, but I still didn't end up acting or looking "feminine" until my 20s.

I'm not saying this is the case for the OP's DD, but there is a possibility that she simply is having a hard time making solid connections to her female peers and is expressing it via anger and wanting to be different. I do think at that age kids can be easily led onto a path that will stay with them forever- it's a LOT easier to start hormones at 18-20+ than it is to undo them when you've started at 12.

I'd look very closely at her relationships and her stimulation levels before approaching permanent gender change with her.

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#15 of 37 Old 08-10-2010, 12:03 PM - Thread Starter
 
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I'm definitely not considering hormones or surgery in the foreseeable future. I just want to help her feel better. I hate hate hate seeing her like this. She's anxious and angry.

We have the afternoon by ourselves this afternoon, I'm going to attempt to open some sort of discussion with her. It feels like a fine line though. I want to be really careful not to push her, but I do want to validate her.

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#16 of 37 Old 08-10-2010, 12:50 PM
 
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Whether or not it is a 'phase', she is certainly suffering right now. Being so angry and using words like kill indicates she needs some help. While six might definitely be old enough to know she is a boy (however she was born), it is definitely not old enough to know how to manage that awareness and identity in our gender obsessed culture.

You're doing so many things right, Mama, letting her dress and express herself as she wants, talking with her, accepting whatever choice she makes. You are so far ahead of other parents of transgendered children (whether or not that is how she will eventually identify herself). The only other advice I'd add to what others have suggested is to find her transgendered role models; PFLAG or a local GLBT resource can put you in touch with some people. However she chooses to identify herself later, it will help her so much to see people with a variety of gender expressions living happy, healthy lives.

And if you can, have a serious, serious talk with MIL and let her know how deeply and irrepairably she is damaging her relationship with her grandchild. Six year olds are well aware of who loves and supports them as they are and who doesn't and will remember for the rest of their lives. Your MIL has a lot to lose with the approach she is taking. If she's receptive, maybe some P-Flag literature would help her, too. If she cannot or will not change, you might consider reducing your child's contact with her. I know it sounds harsh, but trying to change someone's gender identity is extremely harmful emotionally.

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#17 of 37 Old 08-11-2010, 12:15 AM
 
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Y'know, I think I (former die-hard tomboy, happily gendered and hetero) would just let her know that she's not alone in her feelings. There is soooooooo much pink and purple and sparkly out there for girls. I think it could be pretty hard to be a non-sparkly 6 yr old girl and a girl of that nature could feel odd/different/wrong at odds with society. What I would do is tell her the next time she says she wants to be a boy that some grown up women felt the same way when they were girls, but they're happy to be women now, but occasionally when a girl or a boy grows up they can still feel like they're in the wrong type of body and sometimes people who feel really really strongly about it can do some medical procedures to become the gender they want to be. I would be sure to give her both options and let her know they're both okay, but, personally I would not talk about her—instead I'd focus on "some people" or you could even tell about "your friend (on MDC) who wanted to be a boy when she was little, but grew up and was happy to be a woman".

From there I'd just open it up to a discussion of gender roles in society (feminism, how women didn't use to be able to vote, or have many jobs beyond secretary/nurse/teacher but now women can be astronauts and fire fighters, etc) and also what it means to be gay and transgendered. With prop 8 getting overturned you've got a great current event to lead into a broader discussion.

The book "It's So Amazing" by Robie Harris, which is a "where do babies come from, and how exactly does that work" type book has a section on homosexuality. It may also have a bit on transgender. I'm not sure, but it definitely talks about a lot of options and is a great book to have in your home library.

Personally, I don't know that I'd feel the need to get involved in PFlag, but if you feel called to, it's a great organization.

I'd just lay it all out there in discussion and talk about all the different ways that people can be/feel and let her know that there are other girls out there who don't want to be all pink and sparkly. Some books (fiction and non-fiction) about non-sparkly girls and boys might help, too.

Good luck!

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#18 of 37 Old 08-12-2010, 12:08 AM
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let her know that there are other girls out there who don't want to be all pink and sparkly.

Which reminds me of what my 13 yo. dd said when we walked past the prom-dress store in the mall: "Why would anyone ever walk in there voluntarily?!"

"Our task is not to see the future, but to enable it."
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#19 of 37 Old 08-12-2010, 12:21 AM
 
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At 6? I would give her a big hug, and ask if she wants to be a boy in name, clothes, etc. Though I would explain some of the issues that can go along with that. Honestly, it doesn't matter if it's a phase or if she does identify as the opposite gender, what matters right now is that she does feel very strongly that this is who she is right now and that needs to be supported. Even if it means letting her live as a boy. If you feel comfortable with it, you can even discuss with her what options their are when she grows up. Sort of "there isn't anything we can do right now, but when you are a grown up, like mommy, there are ways they can help you get a boy body too."

In the long run, the result will be, whatever the outcome (she grows up to be a man, or a woman), she will remember her mom's willingness to accept who she was and really created a strength in her trust and love that is a really amazing thing. It's interesting that this should come up now actually, I some how got dragged into being the emotional support and sounding board for a 14 year old boy who's dealing with this issue too. He is very much a woman, but his family doesn't seem to understand that. I've set him up with people who have gone through the same transition, but as I was the first adult (yeah I know, everyone laughs at the idea of me being an adult ) who showed respect for what he was feeling, he's not willing to let me go as his main source of support.

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#20 of 37 Old 08-12-2010, 02:28 AM
 
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I rarely talk about this because I am in a same-sex marriage, so people tend to be very blaming. But my son is five, and he definitely clearly rejects many thing about being a boy. He is not angry like your little one, but he does seem to me to be sad about societal expectations for him as a boy.

He is a sweet, gentle little soul, and he definitely notices when people say things like "boys will be boys," and "rough and tumble" and all that. He adores pink and glittery! He carries chapstick around like lipstick.

His best friends are girls. In fact, there aren't too many boys he likes except for a couple of cousins. He likes things neat and beautiful, and his last birthday party was a "flower party," according to his theme choice. 90% of the kids he invited were girls.

We have lots of strong adult men role models in our kids lives (our kids are very close with their grandparents, for example...spending tons and tons of time at their house, and they also have a close relationship with aunts AND uncles, with whom they also spend a lot of time). My daughter is drawn to her uncles and grandpa like a magnet, but my son wants almost nothing to do with them.

My son likes trucks and things okay, but he also loves dolls. He really wants to take a dance class, specifically ballet, but he also says that he never will because he is afraid he will be jealous of the girls who will get to wear tutus and things to performances.

He is relatively patient in wearing unisex and boy things when out of the house (having parented an older transgender foster child, we realized how important it was to teach a gender-bending boy some safety tools), but when we are at the house, well, let's just say he has taken over all the dresses in my dd's closet. He wears his hair long because, he says, it is prettier.

When he plays make-believe, he tends to choose girl characters. When my kids play house, they usually pretend there is a mom and a dad, but my son always asks my dd to pretend she is the dad so he can be the mom. The other day, when I told him I was writing a letter to someone named Stacey [nice last name], he paused and said thoughtfully, "That is a BEAUTIFUL name mama. I think I might change my name to Stacey [nice last name]."

It is hard to watch him feel sad about this stuff. One painful moment in time was an issue with slippers at school. All the kids were required to have slippers. So my son picked out these cute little pink slippers...very girly.

I tried to be supportive, but also wanting to prepare him just in case it was an issue with some of his classmates, I said, "Some people think these slippers are only for girls. A lot of people don't think so, and I don't think so, but some of the other kids in your class might think so. Do you want some help planning what you might do if they say something?"

Well, that freaked him out, and a week or so into school I found out he had been refusing to wear his slippers. I felt awful. So we gave him other slippers to wear, but he didn't want to not wear the pink slippers. So he sort of became immobile because he wanted to wear the pink but didn't feel confident to do so. And he struggled and struggled with it, and I could tell it really made him sad, and it never did fully get sorted out.

Another really hard moment was when this spring, one of the little girls from his class, who he *adores* told him that she was having an all-girls birthday party so he definitely wouldn't be invited. This is a kid my ds talked about non-stop all year. This really hurt him. It makes me want to cry just thinking about it.

Anyway, I think at six it could definitely be a phase. No way to know. That said, I have a tomboyish dd, but I see a lot of differences between her relationship to her gender and the way ds is about his gender. For dd, it definitely seems more like a personality/phase thing that goes skin deep. She just lives at odds with certain gender stereotypes.

For ds, there is something more fundamental there. I don't think he is transgender (who knows, but I don't *think* so), but I do think there is something about the societal boy identity and his identity that are at fundamental odds. It is probably not phase-y for him, and definitely not skin deep. It just feels palpably different to me.

I just wanted to write to say you are not alone.

(By the way, your post reminded me of my friend Lian, who definitely was angry as a kid about being a girl.)

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#21 of 37 Old 08-12-2010, 02:33 AM
 
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Stacy can be a boy's name, too. I don't know if that would make it more appealing or less appealing to him.
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#22 of 37 Old 08-12-2010, 02:38 AM
 
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LOL True enough, though I must say that when I told him I was writing to her, we were also looking at a picture of her, and he was just looking at her so adoringly.

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#23 of 37 Old 08-12-2010, 09:40 AM
 
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I think you've gotten great replies here. Could be anything at this point, and as so many PP mentioned, SUPPORT and LOVE are really the biggest issues, and it sounds like you are giving her that.

FWIW I was pretty angry as a child about being a girl. I wanted to do something with my life, but my conservative catholic american south culture really beat it into me daily that "yes, you can do or be whatever you want... but you really are only a female so your main goal in life should be to get a nice boy to marry you, become his property, bear his children, put all your needs aside, make yourself a little hobby instead of thinking of a silly career and for g*d sake put some make up on and show how pretty you are, because that is really the only way you are going to get ahead in life." My identity was not mine, I was to be chattle to someone else. Virgin chattle, more preciesely, because a non-virgin had no value as chattel. Seems only logical I was angry. Not saying this is where your DD is at, just saying people say one thing, but societys messages are often 180 degrees different than what is said.
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#24 of 37 Old 08-12-2010, 10:03 AM
 
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I have to chime in to say that it's AWESOME that you're so supportive of your LO. When I read your post I was so amazed at how much you respect her wishes--so many people would do the opposite!

It's important for her to know that gender is largely performance. Where she thinks food toys or pink things are inherently feminine, they are merely designated as signifiers of women. This is heavy for a child--for anyone who was brought up to believe this, really--but her gender rebellion won't necessarily play out as a sex change. I spent many a night crying about being a girl and tried my damnedest to act like a boy and reject the "girly," until I realized that the notion of femininity I hated was just a product of a destructive patriarchal system. That's when I realized I was a militant feminist--ha! (And now happily married to a feminist man)

Anyway, I guess why I'm posting this is that gender performance is one thing and sex change is another. My sister is a transitioning MTF, and of course I 100% support it, but the "learning to act like a woman" aspect makes me cringe! lol. It's true she needs to perform society's role in order to be accepted as such, but it's just so damn destructive! ie "women carry purses this way. here is how a woman should cross her legs when seated."

I think the suggestions on this thread so far have been great--counseling, seeking out people from the LGBT community, etc.

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#25 of 37 Old 08-12-2010, 12:09 PM
 
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OP, I was exactly like your daughter when I was that age, probably until I hit puberty, and then still quite a tomboy Like your DD, I didn't wear anything that could possibly be seen as girl clothes, I played with Transformers, He-Man, Voltron, etc. (dating myself, aren't I? LOL) and wore boys underoos. I wouldn't say that my mother supported me, but she didn't resist. She was a young widow with two kids and I just don't think that was the hill she was going to die on.

I didn't have the same exact anger towards my mother as your DD seems to have, but I think my circumstances were just different. I definitely saw her as an outsider, and was very angry at her because I held her responsible for my father dying when I was 5 (she didn't kill him, BTW!) but I was so close to my father, that I just didn't transfer that affection to my mother. So, yes, a lot of anger towards my mother, but not because she is a girl I don't think. I was angry at her for not being my father, but not simply because she was a woman. At least not that I remember.

I also wouldn't call it a phase, because although it did not last forever, it was a time in my life that had a great impact on my developing identity, and who I am today. It wasn't just a passing phase, if you know what I mean. It was way more than that.

I think that it started petering out around puberty, when I started looking like a girl no mater what I did. I still don't wear overly girly clothing, pink is still kind of gross to me, I don't wear make-up, I don't wear jewelry, I had no interest in boys until college, don't own a pair of heels or a dress, etc. Overly feminine girls/women still make me a bit uncomfortable. My must-wear-a-dress-every-day-and-something-pink-too youngest DD baffles me. I am much more comfortable in the boys' section of the toy store than in the girls' section. I go to the store and eyeball the boys underoos and wonder if I can fit into a boys size 14. But I think I have a stronger sense of identity and body image, and am more comfortable in my own skin, than most women I know.

I think that being accepting of who your DD is, is more important than being supportive. Kids know when you are being supportive because you believe this is a phase that you think/hope is going to pass. I would address the anger towards you, though, but everything else I'd accept without question, whether it "passes" or not.

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#26 of 37 Old 08-12-2010, 07:35 PM
 
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Fyrestorm, go you for being such a fantastic parent. It just stinks that our society makes such an issue over gender.

There's a great blog that you might like.
http://labelsareforjars.wordpress.com/

They are raising a little boy, but he also has his own opinions. It's a great read for those of us with children who push boundaries.
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#27 of 37 Old 08-12-2010, 08:05 PM
 
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Ok, I just wanna give a big to all the supportive MDC parents here. It gives me hope for the future of kids like the OP's and Sierra's when I read stuff like this on here.

malesling.GIFMutant Papa to DD (12)hippie.gif and DS (2)babyf.gif, married to DHribbonrainbow.gif
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#28 of 37 Old 08-12-2010, 10:52 PM
 
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Originally Posted by MusicianDad View Post
Ok, I just wanna give a big to all the supportive MDC parents here. It gives me hope for the future of kids like the OP's and Sierra's when I read stuff like this on here.
oh MD i wanna cry reading your post. it is so so so so so sad that you even have to acknowledge this.

i want to say sooo much more esp. on this momentous day in California... but i will keep my silence.

one of the biggest lessons from parenting that i have learnt is that - our children want our love and support. they dont necessarily want us to fix things. they just dont want to feel alone in either their sadness or happiness. and for me as a parent that is the hardest thing for me to do. to just watch my dd's pain and not jump in and try to fix it.

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#29 of 37 Old 08-13-2010, 01:22 AM
 
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Count me in as another former die hard tomboy - I wore boys clothes including underwear, had a boy's haircut, had all boy friends, all boy toys, wanted desperately to be a boy. I had to be bribed beyond belief to wear a dress for my 1st communion and even then, it had to be the absolute plainest dress possible and I only wore it for the ceremony and then it was immediately off. I would sometimes put a balled up pair of socks in my underwear to pretend to have a penis. I'm not transgendered, I'm not gay, I'm now a happily married mom of two daughters. I still am not what you would call feminine - I tend very much toward unisex/male clothing, hate wearing dresses, heels, makeup, nail polish, etc. All of my friends are still guys and I like lots of guy hobbies. I also love being pregnant, love breastfeeding and being a mom, love gardening, cooking, sewing and other more feminine hobbies.
I would not have been caught dead in anything pink, purple, sparkly or ruffly either.
I'm another who wouldn't call it a phase, it lasted pretty much until puberty when my raging hormones changed the way I looked at boys and I wanted to start to impress them. I'm sure everyone in my family breathed a great big sigh of relief when I got my first boyfriend.
I also marvel every day at the irony of life with regard to my oldest daughter who is basically the exact opposite of me - she has only worn dresses for the past 2 years (when she discovered nightgowns aka dresses you can wear to sleep, she was over the moon), loves everything pink and sparkly, asks constantly when she can wear high heels and is just the most girliest, girl I've ever met.

Mom to Morgan 4-3-06 and announcing Baby Kelsey 4-11-10
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#30 of 37 Old 08-13-2010, 11:00 PM
 
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oh MD i wanna cry reading your post. it is so so so so so sad that you even have to acknowledge this.
I always get a little choked up reading threads like this, and hearing this kind of thing in the wider world because it reminds me that we are moving forward. and making progress. Some times it seems like we're trying to dig through a 50ft cement wall with a plastic spoon, but then you come across people like I've met on MDC who are accepting, even when they aren't part of the LGBTQ community and it just hits you how much things have changed. There is still a long way to go, but with people teaching their kids to stand up for others and being willing to speak out themselves, there's a promise that the next generation will be a little more open and a little more welcoming.

Just keep on fighting and we all get a little more free.

And just because I love it http://www.crimethinc.com/tools/post...sion_front.pdf

malesling.GIFMutant Papa to DD (12)hippie.gif and DS (2)babyf.gif, married to DHribbonrainbow.gif
If it looks like I'm trying to pick a fight... I'm not, I'm rarely that obvious.hammer.gif
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