Mothering Forum banner

3.5 yr old DD and gender identity

685 Views 8 Replies 8 Participants Last post by  Ev80
Hi, I would like some advice if anyone has some! Dd has been having trouble with gender pronouns, calling males she and females he. I didn't think anything of it and assumed she was just taking some time to learn the difference.

I decided to talk to her about it and to my surprise, she told me she was a boy like daddy. She had never said this before, though she would just say that she would grow up big like daddy (she's always been really big and strong). Just in case she was confused, we had a talk with her about anatomy. She knows she physically like a girl, but is very insistent that she's a boy.

I don't want to push the issue because I love her and I don't want her to think there's something for her to feel bad about. I'm scared of doing something that will hurt her. Will calling her a girl hurt her? Will calling her a boy hurt her? When I say she's a girl now, she says, "nooooo, I'm a boy". I'm also worried about the people around her. What happens in school if they divide the boys and girls (and why would they at such a young age?)?

Dh just lost his job, so we don't have the resources to see a professional about it. Is she too young for this to be a big issue?
1 - 9 of 9 Posts
My DS went through the exact same thing at about 3.5 -- I posted about it here. He would talk about wanting to be a girl, and get teary-eyed about it, and ask how he could turn into a girl. It broke my heart to see him to be seeming to struggle so much with his identity.

The mamas who responded to my thread mostly told me to give it time to sort itself out, and until I read your thread I didn't even realize that it hasn't been an issue for several months! He hasn't brought it up at all.

So, I don't know -- it may be something he'll come back to when he's older, or it may not. But for now, it looks like it was just a phase. I gave him some pretty clear messages that I love and accept him just as he is, and will always love and accept him no matter what, so hopefully he'll feel comfortable coming to me if this is something he thinks about more as he grows up.
See less See more
Our DS went through the same thing, also at 3.5. He was never particularly upset about it but he did insist that he was a girl. We went along with it more or less, even bought him a fancy dress, which he wore to PS sometimes with his homemade crown. The first time he did, all the other kids immediately started to dress up and also make themselves crowns - boys and girls.

At some point at school there was a bit of a movement to claim one bathroom as a boys' room and one as a girls'. I'm not sure how that happened since it wasn't usually that way and while it was a little bit of an issue, they figured out some way to work around it.

I really think this is almost always a stage about sorting out gender identity. The pronoun confusion speaks to that as well. They are not just figuring out their own gender identity, they are figuring out the very concept of gender identity - well, as much as anyone can.

Our DS also insisted that he was not going to turn 4 (indeed, that he had not turned 4) and at one point claimed that everyone wore diapers - all his friends, his parents, and all super heroes. This was, of course, because he was still in diapers and I assure you, his parents and his friends were not. Not sure about the superheroes.

We dealt with all of this the same way. Mostly, we played along. You don't want to be four yet? Ok. Superman wears diapers? Really? I didn't know that. Notice, I didn't commit about whether superman actually had on diapers or not. Likewise: You're a girl? Cool! I'm so happy to have a daughter. Of course, I also loved having a son. For us, references to anatomy didn't help. A few times he tried to stuff his penis between his legs during bath time or he would insist that girls could have penises. Especially the hiding the penis business led us to back way way off and just let him figure it out on his own.

You know, I really DID enjoy having a girl for a few months, LOL.
See less See more
My niece went through this for a couple of years, starting around the same age. She kept it up until kindergarten. She wouldn't wear girl clothes, she even wore boxer shorts. Right before she started kindergarten, the kids in her pre-school started asking lots of questions like, why does she use the girl's room? Is she really a boy? Why does she have a girl's name? And it made her uncomfortable. So she decided to be a girl when she switched schools and started kindergarten. I was visiting that summer and she was "transitioning". It was really hard for her. She would wear shorts over her bathing suit so it didn't look girly. I'm pretty sure she still refuses dresses or anything pink.

I don't know what will happen when she gets older. Her mom resisted at first, but finally gave in, and it was eventually my niece's decsion to swtich because of the complications with other kids. I would just leave it alone and let her be who she wants to be for now and deal with the challenges as they come up.
See less See more
Really just follow her lead. It could be a phase, many kids go through it because, well most of us have at some point desired to be something we aren't. It could be that she is a boy.

Personally wouldn't make a big deal out of it and go with the flow.
See less See more
A 3 year old's understanding of gender identity is pretty fluid -- it's still a bit unclear to them how you get to be a boy or a girl. So, in their minds, it seems possible that you could become a boy when you grow older, just like you could become a truck driver or a doctor.

So, her comments might be nothing more than a developmental stage, or it might be your first inkling of a transgendered child. I don't think you'll know for a few more years until your child is a bit older and has a better grasp on the idea of the biological nature of sex determination (vs. the social construct of gender).
My guess is that she's still just figuring out how gender works. DD occasionally mis-identifies males and females and mixes their pronouns, and she has also announced that she will grow up into a daddy. She has also insisted that she is a dog named Tramp.
And, she says, that when she becomes a daddy then her daddy will become a mommy and I will become a baby again. I think it's just the age, personally. I don't worry about it, and I certainly don't think you need to worry about any type of therapy. I think that might make things worse.
See less See more
Don't take it too seriously at this age.

DS (3yo) was very adamant that he wasn't a boy one day when my dad wanted to show him the kid size urinal in the mens room at a museum. My dad had said he could use it, b/c he was a boy, DS decided he wasn't a boy. I took him to the ladies room and lifted him up onto the tiolet. About a month later DS was loudly declaring himself a boy.

DS has also only recently started to get "he" and "she" guesses right.

A single incident at this age is pretty meaningless as an indicator of long term gender identity. Just don't make a big deal about it one way or the other.
Thanks for the replies everyone.
Just to clarify, I wouldn't have gotten therapy for her, but for me. But I think I was just being too afraid of hurting her somehow.
I'm just going to go with the flow and love her like I always do. Once again, I realize that my instincts are right.
See less See more
1 - 9 of 9 Posts
This is an older thread, you may not receive a response, and could be reviving an old thread. Please consider creating a new thread.