Princes and Princesses

Okay, so here’s a bit of a situation. My daughter is a counsellor at an after-school program. The other day one of her charges – a lovely little 5-year-old boy – was weeping bitterly in the corner by himself.  XUP Jr. went over to comfort him and to see what was the matter — because when she’s working with children or interacting adults other than me, she is the most charming, polite, caring and thoughtful young lady you’d ever want to meet.

After some cuddling and tear-wiping, the 5-year-old boy said:

“I hate being a boy. I don’t want to be a boy. I want to be a girl. I feel like a girl inside my head. I want to wear pretty things like a girl and play with girl toys and be a girl. I don’t want to be a boy anymore. I’m not a boy!”

My daughter, thinking more furiously than she probably has ever done in her entire life, finally asked him if he had told his parents that he feels like this. And the boy said yes he had but that they’d just told him he was being silly.

Then she told him that she’s heard of other little boys who feel like that and that there’s even some girls who feel like they’re really boys. And that some grown-ups feel like that too and tell their doctors and the doctors can help them be what they really want to be.

The boy seemed somewhat interested and consoled by that, so she told him he should really talk to his parents about it again and try to make them understand that he really means it; but that in the meantime he could play with all the girl toys he wanted in the after-school program.

Of course, she relayed the entire episode to the program supervisor, who just said “thanks for telling me”, but didn’t offer any advice. So then XUP Jr. told me to see if I had any other ideas. I told her that as a 17-year-old after-school counsellor she had handled it really well and to just keep an eye on the boy, talk to him, let him know she understands. There’s not much else she can do.

I’m surprised, first of all, that a 5-year-old was able to articulate such complex feelings so well. And, I wonder if he presented this to his parents in the same way? What would you do if your 5-year-old said he or she was the wrong gender? What could you do?

I know young children often tell you the most astonishing things, so it might be simple to dismiss this sort of thing, too. But what if you are wise enough to realize that maybe your child is really in pain?  The incidence of depression, suicidal feelings and self-mutilation is quite high in transgender children.

Some experts believe that young children confuse gender identity with different aspects of love and nurturing and that they’ll grow out of wanting to be the opposite sex. They believe that if you spend some extra time with the child, showing and telling him what is really good about being a boy and reinforcing the fact that he is a boy and not a girl, they will eventually understand.

That sounds a little to me like parents/experts who want to “cure” gay kids. Although, I suppose there’s a slim possiblity that they might be right. After all, you hear about little girls who tell their parents they want to be ponies and conduct themselves as if they were ponies for years.  We had a girl in high school who would only answer to the name of “Horse” and galloped and whinnied and did other horsey stuff…but that’s a story for another time.

In this case I guess, at the very least, if it was my child, I’d take him to counselling to help him, and me, deal with his feelings. What would you do? Would you let him dress like a girl? Parents in southern England subjected themselves and their child to all manner of cruelty and harassment last year when they let their 12-year-old son return to school in September as a girl.  

Perhaps a better solution would be to move away and/or let the boy start over in another school as a girl? That, too, could cause all sorts of problems down the road. Sooner or later someone is going to notice that he has a penis. What happens when he reaches puberty and doesn’t develop like a girl? I suppose they could begin hormone therapy at that point. I don’t know.

In Germany, pop singer Kim Petras, was the youngest person ever to have undergone gender reassignment surgery at age 16.  

Is that too young? How old does a child have to be in such a case to be able to give what is considered “informed consent?” Or, on the flip-side, how long do you let your child live with the torment of feeling like they’re the wrong gender?

What would you do if it was your child? Have any of you ever had any experience with any of this?


41 responses to “Princes and Princesses

  1. At 5 I’d expect the child to grow out of it. Obviously it’s a pretty rare occurrence to go with. The one thing they shouldn’t do is ridicule the feeling. If it’s just a kid having a bad day week, it’ll go away. If it’s a genuine gender confusion it’ll remain and they can deal with it if they keep an open communication about it.

  2. The ideal would be to find a very good therapist that specializes in transgender issues. Other than that, maybe to start off, I would say, “While you’re at home you can wear pretty things and play with the toys you like, but you must pretend to be a boy outside of the home until we can come up with a plan to make this easier for you. That’s only because it will confuse most people – just like you feel confused right now.” That must be tough though, for everyone. Poor little kid.

  3. I thought of something else. When I was little, I wanted to be a boy because I had only a big brother and I wanted to play with him and do all those things he was doing. I was Robin to his Batman and Artemus Gordon to his James West. We played army and army men. Maybe this kid has a big sister and she gets a lot of attention for her pretty things, and he just wants to be part of that. It’s just another perspective.

  4. that’s a doozie! i agree that the way xup jr. handled it was spot on.

    i’m not sure how i would handle it, the social aspect of the whole thing and the fact that my kids could be in actual danger.

    counseling would definitely be at the top of the list. i don’t doubt people when they come out with that type of information b/c who would try and make that up?

    i practice acceptance in our house, trying to explain that other families and people have different beliefs and they don’t always agree with ours.

  5. I agree that it is surprising to hear of one so young being so articulate about his feelings. Then again, whenever I’ve heard an interview with a transgendered person, they all seem to have known from a very young age that they were in the wrong body. I hope someone (parents, family) besides XUP Jr, listens to him.

  6. I’ve actually been thinking about this myself lately, as the This American Life had a podcast about transgender children recently. Two eight-year-old girls (born boys, but living as girls) met at a conference for trans children, had a sleepover, and talked about their feelings and experiences. Someone recorded it. I’d forgotten how insightful kids can be at that age, but I have to say I was impressed. These kids had given a lot of thought to who they were and how they fit and how they felt.

    As a parent, one of my roles would be to respect and support my child being his or her most authentic self. That said, I think children are too young for the surgery or hormonal treatments. I’d support him in whatever ways I could, including finding people with personal experience for him to talk to.

    I like how XUP Jr. handled the situation.

  7. I’d get my kid a good therapist who understood glbt issues and I’d homeschool. The homeschool community is full of kids who don’t fit societal norms and it tends to be pretty accepting.

    Wild Thing age 5 had a gender related breakdown this past year. At the bottom of it was that he thought being a boy meant he wasn’t allowed to believe in fairies. Nothing I said would help, but his big brother Darkmirror (16) always believed in fairies and sat him down and showed him all the pictures of him dressed up as a fairy when he was little. He also likes dressing up in twirly skirts and dancing. Nature Girl put his hair in ponytails once while he was wearing his brown sparkly twirly skirt and he marched into the kitchen hands on hips, put out his hand in a STOP hand signal and announced “Don’t touch me, I’m beautiful!”

    I do worry about him being bullied in school and if its an issue I will have no issues at all with pulling him to homeschool.

  8. i think xup jr. did great. it might be jumping the gun a bit to get the kid into therapy, but if the parents are dismissing any feelings he has as “silly”, that will cause problems. my daughter has friend (8 yrs old) and he definitely shows similar signs of preferring all things girly. i love how his parents deal with it – they just go with the flow, which seems to really give this kid the confidence to be who he is. i’ve seen him with nail polish on, dressed up as a princess and he’s invited to all the girls’ and boys’ birthday parties. he is never bullied (our community is small, anyone who would bully him would have his/her ass handed to him/her). i realize not all cases are this ideal though and it really makes me sad to think of a 5 year old with this kind of weight on their shoulders.

  9. I think with a 5-year-old I would listen and be respectful of the feelings, but wouldn’t necessarily go thinking along the transgendered route quite yet. It’s not that uncommon for little kids to have these wishes, but it’s pretty rare for them to turn into adults who have the same wishes. But if the feelings do remain into teenagehood, then that would be the time to discuss them more seriously.

    My niece was very tomboyish when she was that age and sometimes expressed a wish that she was a boy. I think part of it was a wish to differentiate herself from her very girly older sister.

  10. Wow! XUP Jr. did an awesome job of handling that!

    I don’t even want to think about what I’d do as a parent in that situation. That would be incredibly difficult.

    When I was a kid, too young to get a real job, I wanted to earn a little money, and I asked my father how a kid could become a paper boy. He told me, “Well, first you have to be a boy.” End of discussion. For a while there, I wanted to be a boy, but only because I wanted to be allowed to deliver newspapers and earn a little money.

  11. Never had any exposure to this with children but I did own a dog once that seemed to want to be a cat.
    I ended up getting it a ball of yarn and a scratching post because I couldn’t afford the species changing surgeries at the vet.
    None of the other dogs in the neighborhood made fun of it that I was aware of anyways.

    Hope that helped..

  12. Dave – I don’t know how rare it is – if you google it there are a surprising number of parents frantic because their little boy has been saying he wants to be a girl for months or even years. I do agree that it’s not often cause for major concern and that they might grow out of this “phase” – but how do you know?

    Geewits – That seems like a sensible solution. Like I said to Dave, it actually might just be something the child is doing to be more like his sister or mother or maybe boys at school are mean to him and whatever the girls are doing looks like more fun. Who knows? Thing is, you can’t assume that’s what it is, can you? And that’s what makes it difficult.

    Leah – Ya, she did good. It freaked her out a bit, though and who can blame her. The things that child has to do in her job, it’s ridiculous sometimes. And it’s great to foster a sense of inclusion and acceptance within your family, but if someone has a big issue like that you have to go further, don’t you? But how far? I can’t imagine having to deal with something like this and knowing what the right thing to do would be.

    Violetsky – As I said to Dave, there are a surprising number of stories on the internet about young boys who don’t want to be boys. Little boys who spend years dressing up in their sister’s clothes; who hide their penises or even try to cut them off. I never knew it was such a widespread phenomena until I googled it. I hope someone listens to the kid, too. She said he seemed so heartbroken.

    LGS – Okay. Thanks. Me either really. At least not that I know of.

    Zoom – I think she did really well, too. Did these kids in the podcast still go to their regular school or did they change schools when they changed how they were living? I find this remarkable. I could cook at 8, but I’m pretty sure I had no sort of sexual awareness or strong sense of gender identity. Too bad I can’t remember.

    Mudmama – I’m starting to think a lot of little boys feel the need to “be girls” once in a while. Maybe being a little boy and having to be tough and playing rough with other boys and trying hard not to be a “sissy” is very difficult on young boys and they long for the soft, nurturing kind, gentle play they think they girls are engaged in (if only they knew). Homeschooling is a definite option and it’s interesting that you’re finding the homeschooling community accepting. When I was involved, years ago, they were all holy rollers who were anything but accepting. Glad to see things have changed.

    Meanie – It is sad, no matter what’s behind it all. Which community are you referring to? Your neighbourhood? Does this boy wear nail polish to school, dressed up like a princess? I can’t imagine the other boys not giving him the business for that. It would be great if kids could all just do that. Nobody thinks anything of a little girl dressing in jeans and plaid shirts all the time. Odd, eh?

    Mary Lynn – I think you’re probably right. It could just be an exploratory phase. But how do you handle it. For a girl to dress like a tomboy and play rough is fine – nobody much cares, but for a boy to dress like a girl and play with dolls and make-up is still a big deal. If your 5-year-old wants to wear a pink dress to school, do you let him? Like I said to Meanie, you wouldn’t think twice about allowing your 5-year-old girl to go to school in short hair, jeans and a big t-shirt. Something just not right about that.

    HeidiLou – They didn’t have paper girls in your neck of the woods? And yes, it would be a very difficult thing to deal with, I think

    Glen – Thank you. Yes, that help a lot, especially since I’ve secretly been dealing with a similar issue of my cat wanting to be a dog. He plays fetch and tries to bark at other dogs and likes to gnaw on my bones. It helps to know I’m not alone.

  13. Not that surprised he/she could articulate his feelings…I am surprised he shared them. If my child told me this I would hope I would listen and not dismiss the feelings – but it’s easy to sound all perfect parent in an email. Since I have no experience with transgendered/intersexed people, I would seek out help with trained experts. Hopefully this child feels loved and supported. It is hard enough being a kid these days – not fitting in or belonging at that tender age is heartbreaking. Xup Jr. did a great job handling the situation. Thank goodness he spoke to her and not someone who freaked out or said scary/ignorant things. Sounds like you have a smart kind and compassionate daughter.

  14. yup, my community = my neighbourhood. i have seen him with nail polish on at school. the day care our kids go to is attached to the school. when they were younger (junior/senior kindergarten) he definitely dressed up with the girls in princess costumes. now, not so much, but that age group (8), girls and boys are sort of beyond dressing up. i’m friends with his mom and honestly, she says he has never been bullied. (he is the young man i blogged about last night in my post).
    i suspect we live in a bit of a bubble, but i hope by the time he is launched into the “real” world he will have enough confidence and friends to continue being whoever he wants to be.

  15. For what it’s worth, your daughter did the right thing. It’s good that at least one adult i his world told him that his thoughts and feelings were acceptable. I’ve felt like transgendered folks have it the worst in our sometimes idiotic society.

  16. How do you know if they grow out of it. You wait.
    As long as you don’t ridicule the option it should either go away if it was transitory like wanting to play with boy/ girl things or manifest itself over and over if it as an actual desire.
    If I five year old told you they wanted to be a cowboy would you immediately start looking for a horse to buy for them.

  17. I wanted to cry for that little boy when I read the story. Good for your daughter to let him know he is not alone – even though it may feel that way to him now. I am sure that her kind and true words will get him through difficult times in the future. I am just so sad that that his family is not listening to him.
    7 years ago I gave birth to the most beautiful baby girl. 3 years ago she was ignoring all the dolls that we had in favour of traditionally “boy” toys. 2 years ago she began to refuse to wear clothing that I picked out for her and would only wear the few items of unisex clothing she had – day after day. Around this point, she began telling me that she was a boy. A year and a half ago she told the hairdresser to cut her beautiful, mid-back length curls to a short “boy” cut. After the hair cut, her whole personality changed – happier, lighter and much more vocal to her desire to be a boy. I had to let go of my own pre-conceived notions and boundaries and start fully accepting who she wanted to be. She asked me to refer to him as my son and say “he” not “she”. Now, when strangers assume he is my son or his sister’s brother, he beams! This past autumn he informed me that he wanted to boy “parts” and how did we go about getting them…something I couldn’t solve with a trip to the mall! But, that made me know that I had made the right decision in letting her be him with all the love, support and caring that I could give. We are lucky that we homeschool and have extremely supportive friends and peers – the other kids have accepted his transformation with absolutely no problem, and I have found a wealth of support from the other parents. Unfortunately, outside of our little group he still feels lost in his gender – some boys still see him as a “girl” and don’t want to include him, many girls see him as a “girl”, but also “weird” and avoid him when he trys to join in. It is difficult as a parent to see your child emotionally hurt or outcast – I do understand the desire to encourage them to be “normal” and fit in, but I feel that it better to see the hurt and be supportive of your child than to ignore it.

  18. If it were my son, I would listen to him and be sure he knows I view his feelings as legitimate. I wouldn’t assume this was a phase nor a forever kind of thing. You just never know so I owuld treat each moment as seriously as I could. I mean, children live in the moment anyways. How much comfort can really come from “You’ll feel differently someday”? They care about NOW.

    I’d try to come to a balance that would let him express his true self while still “fitting in with society” to avoid harsh bullying. I think little kids have a lot of leeway in this regard and it really only becomes a major issue as you get closer to the teens.

    I think the most important thing to do as a parent is to make your home a 100% safe space to be who you are and then let your child decide how much of that he wants to take out into the world with him.

  19. Jazz – The horse story is just weird and some of it is not really something I’d care to blog. She was just a very messed up young person, I guess.

    MM – Very true – it’s so easy to seem wise when you’re sitting here thinking of it in an abstract way. Until it actually happens to you, you never know. We’re not always as attentive and compassionate to our kids as we should be, I think.

    Meanie – Well maybe it’s a sign that the next generation isn’t as hung up about stuff like this that the last generation was. Let’s hope!

    Dr. Monkey – It sure isn’t an easy thing to understand sometimes, I think. And when it’s a 5-year-old you don’t know if it’s just a harmless phase or if it’s a real problem – like others have said. This kid seemed pretty distraught about it, so I don’t know. I hope his parents will pay attention.

    Dave – That’s not a legitimate analogy. One is a career CHOICE; the other is a serious physical and mental issue. A child who is really unhappy in his body can suffer a great deal of psychological trauma. Young children have been known to try and remove their own genitals in order to become the girls they want to be – that’s what could happen if you just “wait”. That’s what makes this so hard. Sure you don’t want to immediately assume that your kid is trans-sexual, but you also don’t want to assume that he’s not.

    Callunal – Thank you so much for sharing your story. As some of the comments indicate, people find it hard to believe that a young child is this aware of his or her own gender identity. But it is a difficult thing sometimes to recognize the difference between children who just want to experiment with clothes and hairstyles of the opposite sex and those who truly and deeply recognize that they were born with the wrong body. You sound like a wise and sensitive mother and it’s unfortunate that your child isn’t as easily accepted in the world at large as he is in his own circle.

    Tiana – Your comments seem very reasonable. We can all seem very reasonable when we’re thinking of the situation theoretically, but as you can see from the comment before yours sometimes all our rational wisdom is useless and we have to make choices that seem impossible. I don’t think it’s enough for a child who is deeply unhappy with his/her gender to let them be a girl in the safety of his own home, but then he has to go out in the world as a boy again.

  20. Xup Jr handled it in a very mature way. I have heard many times about people who knew from a very very young age that they were not in the right body.

    That said, our grandson, at two, was a dog for about three months. He would drink out of the dog bowl, eat dog food and romp up, on hands and knees, to company so they could pet him. He also ate at the table, but we let him have his fantasy.

    So, I think it would be wise, as a parent, to let the boy have and play with girls toys, or vice versa, and explain that girls wear slacks all the time too so they are not made fun of at school. Then, see how it progresses or not.

  21. Yah, tough one.

    As a parent, I might have been too surprised to provide a “perfect” answer the first time. But after thinking about it, I too would give it some time. Just as XUP Jr did, I would provide affirmation for the feelings and check in periodically to see if anything has changed. If in a year or so nothing has changed, I’d start looking into some of the specialized options and support services other commentors have mentioned.

    In the meantime, I would try to balance the need for my child to express themselves against the potential backlash from societal expectations. I have some similar issues with my daughter at the moment, actually. So she is able to express herself more freely at home, whereas certain “rules” are expected to be followed for school.

    I also know a young boy in our community who has been allowed to express himself freely and he has very supportive parents. He attends dance class and wears the same outfit as the girls. He has grown his hair long, etc. To date, other parents have been the only ones to make negative remarks about his appearance. The kids don’t seem to notice or care. I imagine this will change as he gets older, but maybe not? Maybe his peer group will continue to accept him the way he is, without him having to conform. Either way, I think the fact that his parents support him will help him along immensely.

    In XUP Jr’s position, she is really limited in what she can actually do for the child. The teacher, on the other hand, could speak with the parents and share that the boy has been upset and sad lately and ask if they might have some insight into why. If the teacher pushes too hard with parents who are fiercely against the notion of “transgendered,” it could make things worse at home for him.

    Oh, I just want to take that boy home with me and give him a big hug! 🙂

  22. Congratulations to your daughter for her exceptional handling of the situation. I read this and felt real heartbreak for the little five year old. I suspect by the way he described his feelings that there is really something to this, and that he is probably in for some difficult years ahead of him.

    If I were the parent, I believe that I would be taking this seriously, but I would also adopt a wait and see attitude for the reasons already mentioned above. I would emphasize that everyone is different and not make a huge deal of it. I think I would explore counselling early on though.

    For the short term, I would probably buy neutral clothing for school, have dress up stuff at home, and let him know the he was unconditionally loved. And keep listening.

  23. I dunno what to say other than yer subunit handled the situation extremely well. I know of many adults with a helluva lot more life experience than she who would have sputtered out something nonsensical or hurtful.
    Kudos to her… the parental unit is doing a good job.

  24. Have you ever seen the movie Ma Vie en Rose? It’s about a young boy very much like the boy Xup Jr. met. The movie is absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking in its portrayal of a family dealing with this issue. What I remember about the movie is the sort of rollercoaster ride of acceptance and denial that the parents go through as they try achieve the same kind of balance that Triana mentioned in her comment. The young boy who played the lead role is absolutely marvelous…I really recommend the film if you can find it.

    I think I would find it easy to let my child express himself at home. I have no problem letting my son dress up in princess dresses and play with dolls at home. I would be fine with letting him take ballet and figure skating lessons instead of soccer and hockey. But if it came to things like wearing a dress to school, well then fear steps in and makes it harder. I would want to protect my son from hurtful comments. But what would hurt him more? Being picked on or hiding who he is?

    Not easy to figure out at all.

  25. Savanvleck – Jr. does have her moments. What bred of dog was your grandson? Kids are interesting critters, aren’t they?

    Julie – I think kids under around 10 are pretty accepting of different things. It’s not until they start listening to other people’s prejudices that they develop some of their own. There are all sorts of boys in my daughter’s school who are in the dance program and dress very much like girls and wear make-up and nail polish and no one cares. – of course she goes to an arts high school. I don’t know how these boys would do in a regular high school. However, with all the examples kids have in the pop star, movie star world where these taboos are broken every day, perhaps it doesn’t matter to them at all? (PS: maybe you could all join a “nature” club so that your daughter can express herself in public?)

    Finola – As I said to someone else, it’s not always possible to wait and see when a child is desperately unhappy. If your child had a big lump forming somewhere on his body, you might just think it’s a benign cyst but you wouldn’t just leave it to wait and see – you’d have it checked out to see what’s going on so you know how to progress from there. A parent might not want to make a huge deal out of it, but what if it’s already a huge deal to the child?

    Trashy – Kids today are exposed to so much more human diversity and have learned from an early age to be accepting, I think. I grew up in a white bread school where the biggest difference between kids was a few pounds and/or inches.

    Mary Lynn – You’ve hit the nail on the head – which would hurt the child more? That’s where the difficulty comes in, doesn’t it? I have seen Ma Vie En Rose and agree with your assessment of it. I also just recently saw an amazing movie called “Normal” with Jessica Lange that dealt with this subject except in this case it was a grown man. I highly recommend it and I don’t easily recommend movies. I would actually watch this one again (and that’s pretty much the highest praise I can give a movie)

  26. More kudos for XUP Jr. — she was great. This very issue has been in my mind a lot lately, because our middle daughter — Gal Smiley — often expresses her desire to be a boy. She prefers to wear the Captain’s hand-me-downs, she wants to cut her hair off (not girl short, but buzz-cut short), and she constantly says that boys are better than girls. In a game she will pretend to be a boy and when watching a movie, she identifies with the male characters.

    Right now we are just trying to let her be who she wants to be. We don’t pressure her to wear girly things or play with girly toys if she doesn’t want to. I often remind her that I am a girl and I like being a girl and it is a good thing to be a girl, but I try not to say anything negative or judgmental when she says she’d rather be a boy.

    She doesn’t seem to be having any mental anguish over the issue, unlike the boy XUP Jr. met with. He seems like he feels something is wrong with who he is — that he is physically wrong. Gal Smiley is generally a happy kid (except when we try to take her to Winterlude or feed her pie) so we are just kind of sitting back and going with the flow right now.

  27. That’s a tough question! If I had a potentially transgendered child, I would wait and see how it goes. If they still wanted it when they turned 18, then they would get my support to get the operation. But having them undergo the procedure while they’re still in school would (as you mentioned) cause them tremendous amounts of harrassment and possibly violence from less tolerant children and teachers. So I’m not so big on it. Plus-Children tend to go through phases, so you want to make certain that this is really what they want.

  28. I don’t even know where to go with this one. When I was five I wanted to be Zorro so I dressed up like him, had the hat, cape and the mask. My mother even got my picture taken on a horse. After I carved Z’s everywhere I lost my sharp stick privledges and the Zorro things just went down hill from there for me and then I wanted to be James Dean. Of course I did turn out to be a Lesbian….I am pretty sure it was the whole sword phallic symbol thing that did it to me or that theory may be a fallacy…I could go either way with it…damn now I think I’m Bi.

    BTW your child has a way with children, she may make a great child counselor.

  29. Lynn – Interesting. It seems a lot easier for a girl to deal with this issue than a boy. I’m glad she’s happy and she may surprise you one day and get all girly (or not). XUP Jr. started out uber-girly — everything had to be pink and sparkly; then all of a sudden at 7 she refused to wear anything remotely female and begged me to cut her hair, that went on for a few years and then she sort of balanced out.

    Pauline – Well, no one is suggesting doing gender reassignment surgery on a child. I think we’re just talking about letting them go out in the world dressed like the opposite gender, changing their name and referring to them with opposite gender pronouns — that kind of stuff.

    Zoom – Thanks. I’ll check it out.

    Cedar/Zorro – Now why did I think you’d have something intelligent to contribute to this discussion? My child is sick to death of working with kids. She’s been doing it for 5 years now in one capacity or another and is aching to get a “real” job. She IS good with them though and they seem to really like her.

    NOTE: Although it’s difficult to calculate, estimates are that approximately 1 in 500 males and 1 in 1000 women identify as transgender in some way

  30. I liked Dave’s comment about the cowboy.
    If my son had said he wanted to be a cowboy I wouldn’t just buy him a pony.

    Those ponies crap up a storm from what I’ve been told.
    Plus all the stalls in my house are full already..

  31. WTH, I contributed intelligently to this conversation…I told you even though I wanted to be Zorro when I was five I did not end up wanting to be a Latino Male that wore a black mask later on in life…well maybe only on certain nights sort of like you know…roleplaying or something. Jeez, you insult me. I wish I had a sharp stick I would slice a big Z on your Blog.

  32. Oh HELL!!!!!

    Pardon my French.

    If it’s causing significant distress at 5… when the patient doesn’t just say “I want to be a girl” but says “I AM a girl”….

    This child may not be transsexual. One can only hope. But this is a sign of intense, primary transsexuality. If it lasts for a long time, the odds are, well, they’re pretty high I’m afraid..Over 1 in 10, to be ultra-conservative. Some diagnosticians would put it much higher – opinions vary..

    Minor cross-gendered behaviour is another matter. Many kids grow out of that, no cause for concern. Even long-term, intense cross-gendered behaviour.means the kid may grow up to be gay, but at worst, there’s a 1 in 3 chance they’ll be TS.

    Gender Identity crystallisation usually happens around age 5. Sometimes as early as 3, just as often at 7.

    Sorry, maybe I should mention – I’m not a medical practitioner, only a scientific researcher in the area. One who’s been called on by professors of psychology and medicine here in Australia to give talks about this subject to their 3rd year students. And this is not medical advice – it’s advice to seek EXPERT (emphasis added) medical advice on the subject. Non-specialist GPs and Psychs haven’t got the training to deal with this, and you really need the very best available.

    Please e-mail me on this. I can recommend a few good specialists, world-renowned people who will either be able to say that there’s no cause for alarm (with luck), or to lay out treatment options over the next 15 years. There’s a 95% cure rate in extreme confirmed cases – probably better here, some Dutch clinics have a 100% success rate – but there’s only one treatment that works, and that has some significant social and medical side-effects. NOT to be entered into lightly, without checking, double-checking, and re-checking over a course of years.

    Whatever you do, avoid CAMH – the centre for addiction and mental health in Toronto. There are better alternatives nearby. They are pretty good for diagnosis, Zucker’s a world-famous expert there, none better. Not treatment though.. Again. e-mail me on this one for evidence here.

    Don’t panic, even if the worst comes to the worst, the prognosis with appropriate medical treatment is almost certain to be good. And there may well be no problem at all, if the symptoms are transient and don’t persist over years. The odds are high enough though of a severe case that expert diagnosis really is necessary here. This kid needs to see a specialist. Not immediately, but if it were my child, I’d do it sooner rather than later.

    Cross fingers it’s a transient episode of no clinical significance.(but of importance to researchers like me)..

  33. Glen – Dave would make a very mean dad, wouldn’t he? I wonder if he would refuse his kid a hockey stick if the kid said he wanted to be a hockey player?

    Cedar – Okay, you’re right. I was missing the subtle nuances of your allegory. Feel free to Zee me if you must.

    Zoe – Hi! Welcome to the blog. You understand, this is not my child or the child of anyone that we’re talking about, right? This is just one of a couple dozen kids my daughter looks after in a city-run after-school daycare type program. Neither she nor I are in any position to suggest anything to the kid’s parents. And, the supervisor of the program can mention the episode, but that’s about it. Having said all that, I would agree that if I were the kid’s parent and this wasn’t an isolated thing I would find someone – some expert – who knew something about this to help us out. I get that a lot of kids dabble with other identities when their young – from opposite sex to animals – and that those are phases that play themselves out in a few months. Then, as you mention there are different levels of transsexuality. You seem to go on to say that any or all of these are “curable.” Are you suggesting that homosexuality is curable, too with this intense treatment? If not, why would “primary transsexuality” be curable? Thanks for your input.

  34. It’s “curable” by hormonal and surgical intervention to remedy the biological mismatch in the anatomy.

    Even that wouldn’t be a problem, if it didn’t cause such terrible psychic distress, and problems with the neuro-chemistry. Many can get by on hormones alone, as much of the problem is due to a neurology bathed in cross-sexed hormones. It’s only the most severe cases that absolutely require surgery too – though there are societal issues with people who look entirely like one sex (due to hormonal treatment), but have the genitalia of the other. For most cases, surgical treatment is therapeutically useful in order to have a normal love life, as gay, lesbian or straight, and also to avoid legal issues that will often lead to assault up to and including death. Most jurisdictions in the US do not permit a legal “change of sex” without such surgery; a few don’t allow it even with.

    Gays don’t need “cures” because there’s nothing anatomically wrong with them. Even the most rabid homophobes don’t deny that.

  35. just skimming comments, sorry –
    I don’t have much to add to the speculation, most people seem pretty well aware that gender identity is something a person has a keen understanding of at any age (after all, I was never confused by mine, right? But I was lucky enough to be a straight, cisgender female who fit right in with society’s expectations of me, so there was never any conflict).

    I did nanny for a boy who desperately wanted to *dress* as a girl – he wanted, like, a wedding dress for himself. But he showed no other ‘girly’ tendencies, and never referred to himself as a girl, over time I decided he thought of it as a costume (he and his brother had a trunkload of them and would go around town dressed as toucans, penguins, crocodiles, laybugs, etc.) and that he thought it would be funny to fool people into thinking he was a girl. Which, despite his very boyish interests and demeanor and haircut, was surprisingly easy to do when he put on the dress I got him one day at the goodwill.

    He’d been asking for one for a long time – for literal years – and he was only five. So it’s not something he came up with one day on a lark. But his parents were really hesitant, whereas I was like, look – he’s five, he’s fixated on a dress, why can’t he have a dress? A girl who wanted traditionally ‘boy’ clothes wouldn’t make it on the social radar for doing so, let’s just get him a damn dress. I did, he wore it out (and grew out of it fast), and that’s (so far) been the end of it. Until I went and got the damn thing for him, it was a constant battle.

    Maybe his future wife (I have no doubt at this time at least that he’s straight) will have some surprises in store for her, but honestly, having a good attitude about it is the best thing you can do. XUP Jr. did just what I’d have done, and she’s only 17. She’s amazing, you’ve done good work there.

  36. Hallie – Nice to hear from you again and thanks. She does me proud pretty much every day. It seems a shame that males are so restricted in what they can wear. Females can put on almost anything and it’s okay. I always thought dresses were much better suited to men anyway. It must be so much more comfortable to let their junk just dangle free. Trousers seem to cause them no end of problems with all the adjusting they seem to always have to do. Who decided dresses were appropriate for only women, anyway?