My son gender confused? Need some advice. - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 8 Old 07-15-2014, 01:18 PM - Thread Starter
 
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My son gender confused? Need some advice.

Since my daughter came along 2 years ago my son began his girl identification. He is 5 1/2 now. Since he was a small child he has always been different than many boys or girls for that matter. He is hypersensitive, easily gets his feelings hurt and very bright. At the age of 2 he already knew his ABC's and numbers. Now he prefers watching spider (his passion) documentaries. He watches cartoons but hates any violence. He seems to get upset at it and worries about whomever could get hurt. He hates hurting others and when he does (always accidentally) he becomes very upset and states that he is a very bad boy and gives himself time out. He follows all the rules out of fear of getting reprimanded. He is all about fairness and social justness. Has excellent memory and is a very gifted at drawing. He really has no friends only his same age male cousin. He seems to withdraw when too many boys, they are just too rough. He does not gravitate toward girls as I thought he would, just ends up hunting for spiders by himself.

The concern my husband and I have is his strong girl identification. He knows he is a boy and is happy about that, but always chooses to be girl characters in fantasy play. He loves to pretend to be a girl but not everyday. He loves to wear a princess dress we bought for him. He does not seem to be into the makeup, hair or accessories, just the dress. He constantly draws princesses. He seems to always want to know what is female and what is not and will always choose the female version of it. He does not gravitate to girl toys too much, we did buy him some barbies, but the interest lasted a very short while. Right now it is super mario princess peach. He says he loves her because the dress is pink.

We are just confused. It is hard on us since he seems not to play very well with others. The boys are all about rough housing and the girls (don't know why he does not have more girl friends) he does not really approach. I worry as he gets older will not have any real friends. He is not coordinated and so sports have not been of interest to him. I have done extensive research so am fearful in all the different directions this could go. We know he could very well be transgender but he does not fit the whole description. We love our son and want his happiness. We want to accept all of who he is, it is just challenging when you know how much he could potentially suffer . Thanks of any advice.
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#2 of 8 Old 07-15-2014, 02:13 PM
 
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You seem to be very focused on gender roles. It's an easy habit to get into, I've seen many parents hold up similar lists in the hopes that it'd hold the answer. I'm afraid that there is not a checklist of "girl traits" and "boy traits" where you tick which ones your child fits to determine their gender. Trying to do that can cause a lot of heartache. There are feminine boys and masculine girls.

One thing that may help you is to realize that gender is not a bunch of stereotypes. Your daughter may grow up to love spiders and trucks and hate dresses and still identify fully as a girl. If that happened, you probably wouldn't be bothered very much and would just love your daughter for who she is. We're not only less comfortable with men expressing femininity, but it's also difficult when a child specifically expresses cross-gender identification. I imagine if your daughter were the one who liked princess dresses and princess peach but not barbie dolls or makeup, you wouldn't be here fretting about your daughter's gender.

There are many different ways to be transgender. Some cross-dressers identify as transgender, even if he grows up to be a straight man who just enjoys wearing dresses he may still be transgender. It's possible that your child is genderfluid or bigender- since he's comfortable as a boy, but also has a female side he wants to express. It sounds like he sometimes intentionally chooses things because they're "for girls" ("He seems to always want to know what is female and what is not and will always choose the female version of it")- so it's not that he's just a boy with feminine interests, he seems to have a specific desire to express femaleness. If he just had a lot of feminine interests, it would be possible (it still is possible) that he is just a feminine boy who has learned feminine=female and thinks he has to say "I'm a girl" to be allowed to play with "girl toys". Even if you never intentionally taught him this, it can still happen.

Have you had many open talks with your child about this? Also, have you stressed to him that he's a boy? It may be that your child has a firmer female identity than you realize, but has been taught to also hang onto the boy identity.

Consider looking into finding a gender therapist in your area who works with children. There are still some therapists who push "reparative therapy" that is incredibly damaging, so be careful. The therapist should be open to helping your child accept who he is- not trying to force him to be a "normal" boy. The therapist shouldn't go in expecting your child to be transgender or cisgender, but should only want to help your child come to understand and accept who he is. This therapist can help with navigating social situations and school and such as well. (and also should be able to recognize if there are any problems that aren't related to the transgenderism)

"We are just confused. It is hard on us since he seems not to play very well with others. The boys are all about rough housing and the girls (don't know why he does not have more girl friends) he does not really approach."

It may be that he doesn't feel comfortable doing so. Children pick up very early on gender roles even if we, as parents, try not to teach them. 2 year olds can already know that pink is for girls. Your child may realize that he's not supposed to play with girls, or may be afraid of rejection (or may have faced rejection that you didn't realize) because he's not one of them.

Some children are also just very introverted. Have you ever tried doing one-on-one playdates, is he willing to interact then or does he just not play with kids at all? This may be totally unrelated to the transgender issue, it sounds like he avoids all other children, you may want to speak to his pediatrician about it. This sounds like a social development issue.

" He is not coordinated and so sports have not been of interest to him."

This is not likely a transgender issue at all. If his coordination isn't developed the way it's supposed to be, you should probably talk to his pediatrician. Although girls tend to get pushed away from sports, they're still encouraged to do things like dance that require coordination.

"We want to accept all of who he is, it is just challenging when you know how much he could potentially suffer . Thanks of any advice."

The landscape is changing a great deal. Laws to protect trans people are increasing and improving. There's an increase in the number of trans celebrities and they're beginning to be visible even in the mainstream media. There are more companies that are putting in protections for transgender employees and hiring them. There are more places that trans people can live in relative safety. Things have changed a lot since I came out in 2007- imagine how much they'll have changed in the next decade. If your eldest does turn out to be a girl, she'll likely be able to transition before she starts puberty and have a much easier time being accepted for who she is. If your eldest turns out to be genderqueer, there's an increasing awareness about that as well. A lot more kids are growing up with classmates and friends and cousins who are non-binary. Our childrens' generation will be much more accepting than ours.

Yes, there will be difficulties, but it's not like it used to be. All people can have difficulties in their lives.

You might want to read this comic: http://princesscomic.com/ It's about a young transgender girl, and one of the plots is her mother's path to acceptance. Her mother is painted in a very sympathetic light. Even when she does the wrong thing, it's made clear that it's done out of love and that all she wants is to protect her child. The comic also has a genderfluid character and is beginning to touch on that more.
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#3 of 8 Old 07-15-2014, 03:35 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Thank you sillysapling for your reply. You are right about our strict gender role typing. I am hispanic and was raised this way. I did not realize how bad I was until this event. I had considered myself pretty free and open minded but now realize maybe not as much as I thought. My husband, who is also hispanic is dealing with this much better. He says we should not worry about it, and really thinks he will outgrow it. He says our son has more of a feminine side due to his sensitive and artistic nature. I have talked to my son about his preference for girls. He tells me he is just a boy that likes girl stuff. We have bought him the girl toys he has wanted and he has played with them but not overly much. He now has a 2 year old sister and he does not seem too interested in her stuff. He has a 4 year brother who is definitely more of the stereotypical, and they can play well together. His interests in the dresses has wax and waned over the last two years, but just when I think he is done with it, he starts looking for the princess dress. What does not change is his cross gender role playing. He tells me it is funner to pretend to be a girl, since he is always a boy. To some degree I believe this if not for his strong identification with the female. Just want to be a supportive mother and be accepting. Do not know exactly how to handle it best. I do not want my son to grow up and remember that I was an unsupportive mother.
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#4 of 8 Old 07-15-2014, 07:34 PM
 
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Many boys who choose play in traditionally girl themed ways (dress ups, etc.) are not transgender and simply move on as they are ready. He may never fit any traditional stereotype. It may help to just build his competence in areas that he is most passionate about,without regard to gender. He sounds very scientific, so send him to a science camp or something (gender shouldn't matter with that!) If he's not so good at team sports but needs an energy outlet, try something like karate or fencing, in which one's own coordination is strengthened. Perhaps focus less on this issue and more on just appreciating him!

 
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#5 of 8 Old 07-15-2014, 10:06 PM
 
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The hypersensitivity seems very normal for a boy this age. I've worked in early childhood for seven years and have noticed that boys tend to meltdown quicker and more frequently than girls. My dd is 11 and her friends who are boys still seem quicker to lose control. I'm really not sure why girls are stereotyped as sensitive and emotional.

The dressing up sound normal. Young kids tend to imitate the people they are around a lot in play and often that is their mother and their female teachers. It doesn't indicate how they will identify themselves in the future.

If his social skills worry you I suggest seeing if the school has a friendship group. Swimming lessons can be a great place to make friends and build coordination skills. If you have a good ymca in your area I suggest looking into getting a membership and having him try out some of the classes for young kids.
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#6 of 8 Old 07-16-2014, 04:05 AM
 
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I wanted to add that he sounds like a wonderful kid! Your description of him as so caring for others feelings, so inquisitive about nature, just makes him sound fabulous. I have no doubt that he is marching to a different drummer, and kids like that know that they are different--they have a harder time making friends because they are often wired differently.

I have another suggestion. Your son also fits some of the traits common to children that are quite bright. I always hesitate to use the word 'gifted' because it takes some parents down a strange road. However, social difficulties are quite common in very smart kids and interestingly so are issues with coordination and physical prowess. Poke around on the Hoagies gifted forum (http://www.hoagiesgifted.org/parents.htm) and see if anything resonates for you. You may have a really smart kid there that just needs some help finding his way, and his identity as a smart kid that is not "like" the others. Asynchronous development is one of the major hallmarks of bright children (for example being really bright but socially immature).

 
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#7 of 8 Old 07-16-2014, 05:56 AM
 
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Originally Posted by alexmami View Post
Just want to be a supportive mother and be accepting. Do not know exactly how to handle it best. I do not want my son to grow up and remember that I was an unsupportive mother.
This will take you a long, long way. The fact that you are approaching your son from this angle--how can I best be his supporting mother?--says a lot about the kind of mother you are, and what he will remember about how you raised him. Don't worry too too much about how the outside world will treat him or "how much he could potentially suffer" (and, as the mother of a little boy who has similar preferences and the wife of a Hispanic man, I totally, completely sympathize!!)... Focus on being the most loving and supportive mami you can be.

Good luck. I know it can be scary, but I believe your loving heart is going to mean the world to him as he grows up, no matter how he ends up expressing himself. Keep up the good work.

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#8 of 8 Old 07-17-2014, 04:35 AM
 
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Originally Posted by alexmami View Post
Thank you sillysapling for your reply. You are right about our strict gender role typing. I am hispanic and was raised this way. I did not realize how bad I was until this event. I had considered myself pretty free and open minded but now realize maybe not as much as I thought. My husband, who is also hispanic is dealing with this much better. He says we should not worry about it, and really thinks he will outgrow it. He says our son has more of a feminine side due to his sensitive and artistic nature. I have talked to my son about his preference for girls. He tells me he is just a boy that likes girl stuff. We have bought him the girl toys he has wanted and he has played with them but not overly much. He now has a 2 year old sister and he does not seem too interested in her stuff. He has a 4 year brother who is definitely more of the stereotypical, and they can play well together. His interests in the dresses has wax and waned over the last two years, but just when I think he is done with it, he starts looking for the princess dress. What does not change is his cross gender role playing. He tells me it is funner to pretend to be a girl, since he is always a boy. To some degree I believe this if not for his strong identification with the female. Just want to be a supportive mother and be accepting. Do not know exactly how to handle it best. I do not want my son to grow up and remember that I was an unsupportive mother.
It doesn't sound like your son is experiencing any distress related to his gender. It's good that you want to make sure you're doing the right thing, but it sounds like you already are. Let him explore this, love him for who he is, and just take it as things go. Also, do talk to his pediatrician about your concerns over his socialization and coordination.

The only place I can see a real problem coming up is if he wants to start wearing dresses to school or around friends (not sure if he has or not). That's something for your family to figure out, there's no right answer. More schools have transgender students and are becoming safe spaces for them, so it may be a non-issue. There are places where it's really not safe for a boy to wear a dress, though, even a young one, and you can respect his desires while keeping him safe.

Do be aware that it may not be a phase, though. You may want to talk to your husband about how he'll feel if your son is still doing this in a few years, or as an adult.

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