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Patrick k. Freeman
Patrick k. Freeman asks:
Q:

My son says he wants to be a girl.  Does anyone have a similar situation?

Iam what I consider a typical dad. I love my son very much and do show him plenty of affection. My son is going to be four years old in a couple of Months. Iam getting a little worried because he is obsessed with being a woman. He does dress up and keeps telling my wife and I that he is a beutiful princess. We try and explain to him that he is a boy and that he has a penis, he will argue and say he is a girl and he has a gina. My son goes to catholic pre-school and I know that religeon is discussed freely amoung the students and teachers. One day out of the blue while we were watching sponge bob Connor turned to me and said he was mad at God because he made him a boy and not a girl. I was a little shocked and pretty much had no response. I used to take him to the Nordstrom Cafe at out local mall, but had to stop because I cant get him out of the womans shoe section next to the cafe with out him causing a huge scene.I probably wouldn't care so much if I knew this was normal but it has been going on since he was three and I thought it would have passed by now. Does anyone have any simular situations?
In Topics: Self esteem and identity
> 60 days ago

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Expert

Wayne Yankus
Jan 19, 2009
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What the Expert Says:

Thanks for a thoughtful description of how strongly your son at four perceives himself to be female.  Real concepts of male/female behavior happen around 6 or older. It is difficult to see at this age whether this is a permanent fixture in his life.  It may have nothing to do with sexualtiy and everything to do with his perception of nurture and love.
 
I would suggest the time is opportune for a visit to a child and adolescent psychiatrist.  You can find them through their website www.aacap.org or through your local hospital or your pediatrician. This should be explored now.  
 
Wayne Yankus, MD, FAAP
expert panelist: pediatrics

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Additional Answers (59)

lafillequibouge
lafillequib... writes:
Hi Patrick:  My first reaction would be to say your son might be gay or that he might want to change his sex once he is an adult. But I have to admit that when my brother was younger we used to dress him up in female clothing, and put make up on him, and he loved it. I was convinced he was gay, but now as an adult he is totally straight, and very  much in touch with his feminin side There was a good french movie called, "Ma Vie en Rose" I would suggest you watch it, it is the story of a smiliar boy.  
> 60 days ago

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Developmentalist
Development... writes:
I would suggest contacting a non-profit we work with called Advocates for Youth:

http://www.education.com/partner/articles/adforyouth/

They really know this area well and have great tips on how to talk with your young son.
> 60 days ago

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lmb32682
lmb32682 writes:
We, too, have a 3 year old who has for some months now been saying that he wants to be a girl. He loves to wear dresses, mine and the dress up ones at preschool and my shoes. At first, I thought this would pass, but it actually seems to be getting a little more intense. I, too, have tried to explain to him that he is a boy and will always be a boy, but he just tells me that he likes to be a girl. I'm not sure what to do. Have you received any advice? Do you know if this is typical?
> 60 days ago

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baskitcat
baskitcat writes:
I have a similar situation, i have a son and he wanted to be a girl me and my husband explained to him that he is a boy but he wanted to be a girl. It went on until he was five so that might be the same with you he might stop when he is five.
> 60 days ago

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milliondollar dad
Hi my son just turned 4 three weeks ago.  He has been saying that he wants to be a girl for about a year now.  We have brushed it off untill recently he has been really adimant about it and wants to be called a princess-not a prince, beautifull-not handsom and a girl-not a boy.  We have a daughter, she is 6 months old but this has been going on since before her birth.  That's what really worried me.  I also have sean him hiding his penis between his legs while standing in the shower.  I have had a heart to heart with him about it, when he brings up the girl issue.  Asking questions like like Why do you want to be a girl? and What do girls have that you want.  I have gotten sincere answers like "I always want to be a girl" and "I don't want a penis".  Also "boys are mean to me"  and "I want to be called sweaty pie"  -what I call our 6 month old.  So I started bringing it up with him while he was playing or doing something else.  I never got angry with him for saying he wants to be a girl.  I just kept telling him all the good things about being a boy. He started giving me more silly reasons recently.  Like girls have more toys etc... I believe that it's just a phase but it sure is hard to deal with. I started telling him "stop being silly. Your a boy and you don't have to be a girl for daddy to call you sweaty pie"  I think the bigger an isssue I make of it the more he wants to be a girl.  I would just say if you want to be called princess and your a boy you would be a princette and thats silly.  Today he told me he IS being silly.  That was a first and a bit of a relief I must admit.  I would suggest to keep bringing it up and talking about it.  Kids do strange things for attention.
> 60 days ago

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ar903w
ar903w writes:
My son loves to dress up in my dresses, wear high heals, wear dish towels as "long hair", and sing and dance. If he can't find dresses (which I have hidden all of my dresses from him), he takes my shirts and pretends they're dresses. He loves princesses, dolls, flowers and makeup and at school he dressed up daily as a princess in front of his classmates. He proclaimed to his classmates that "he wanted to be a girl."  He told me, as well, that he wished he was a girl.  

I was very distressed, at first, as was my husband, but a friend of mine comforted me and said that her little boy (who is now 12), had many of the same interests your son and my son have, and he grew completely out of his liking for girly things when he was around 7.

I hope that helps :)
> 60 days ago

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pamelad
pamelad writes:
I have a similar problem. My son is also three and will be four in a couple of months. He has been playing with dolls which I didn't care, although his father was against it, because he is also obsessed with cars. But, recently he started hiding around wearing my shoes and when I tell him no because he might break them and then ask him why he is wearing my shoes(heals) he says that he wants to be a pretty girl. It isn't as extreme as your son's comments or actions, but it has become a daily topic with him, where we feel we are explaining to him more often than I feel we should that he is a boy and that he can't do certain things he wants to do do because of that. He can't stand getting dirty, he has a phobia of any bugs and screams "like a girl" if a fly comes anywhere near him. Yet, he is always trying to kiss me on my mouth, he has to be stopped too often from touching my breasts, and he is always pointing out pretty girls. He doesn't like playing with boys at all. I am very confused.
> 60 days ago

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SMPTUE
SMPTUE writes:
First as a mom: My 8 year old daughter JUST started getting into girly things.  For quite some time, she was into everything "boy."  She loved Batman, Justice League, Teen Titans, Hot Wheels, boy clothes (jeans, pants, t-shirt, sneakers).  I never once tried to make her feel she wasn't normal.  I even bought her a Transformers t-shirt from the boys department to wear when we went to see the movie together.  She was a tomboy through and through, and isn't it odd how people think tomboys are cute but little boys acting like little girls is "abnormal?"  Something to think about.  

As for growing out of it, she still likes those things but now insists on dresses, "clapping shoes " (little heels), "princess" jewelry, make-up (pretend because I won't allow the real thing on my 8 year old!), etc..  We even painted her room one side pink for the Princess side of her and the other side blue for the tomboy stuff.  About a year ago, she begged to repaint the room white and add Asian themed princess things to it. She's big into karate (she's purple belt) and grows more girly by the day.  

Next as someone once as a child like this:  I grew up with 3 sisters and a brother.  The sisters ran me through the ringer.  They abused me any way they could.  My brother wasn't the greatest but he spent time with me, let me tag along and play games with him and his friends, taught me how to make model rockets and took me to the park to shoot them off and fly kites.  

Every experience I had with girls when I was a child was negative.  Every experience with boys (my age) was positive.  So I wished so much I could be a boy.  I hated girls so much and was embarrassed of being one.  I would even push up my long hair into my brother's old baseball caps to make me look boyish.  I only wore dresses when my mom made me, and always insisted on being the boy character in pretend with my friends (the cowboy or indian instead of the "damsel in distress"). This behavior grew after I was abused at 6 by a man, then it became about not wanting to be a victim since stereotypes made it seem only a weak girl could be a victim.

Every stereotype applied to girls became another thorn in my side and made me want to be a boy even more: girls aren't as strong, girls can't play football, girls can't get dirty or scratched up or go exploring for bugs in ditches and street gutters.  All things girls were allowed to do were boring for me. I hated sitting on the side lines while the boys ran and had fun.  I'm 36 and I'm just now starting to get into more girly things, although it was in my early teens that I grew a fondness for my long hair, mascara, sparkly jewelry and flirting.

Your son is 3.  Stop stressing.  The more upset you get, the more confused and hurt he will be.  It's a self-esteem crusher so relax.  If he's still doing this in 4 or 5 years, talk to someone about it because there may be something going on that you aren't seeing.  For now, he's just exploring everything around him.  Maybe he likes his moms things more than yours because he's allowed to touch moms things but not yours.  Only you can say if his point of view of women and men are the factor.  

For now I'd say relax and don't listen to anyone telling you your son isn't normal or he's automatically "gay" or whatever.  He's a kid.  Let him be a kid.  

Incidentally, I grew up catholic and it was their treatment of me and the church's influence on my parents when I was abused that made me hate the catholic church to this day.  It didn't have to be catholic, could have been baptist or Jewish or whatever.  I'm just saying that if you let your child see that your religion is making you treat him badly, he will grow to hate it and you for allowing it.  Take it from me.
> 60 days ago

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HeatherRose2006
HeatherRose... writes:
I understand this must be extremely distressing and confusing to you. I assure you, you are not the only parent to have ever had to deal with this. Examples of how some parents and relatives have dealt with this situation range from attempting to beat the demons out of the child and abandonment to, as difficult as it may sound to you, acceptance. My advice to you and your baby is for you to find a therapist who is experienced in issues of gender identity. This is not something that your child is going to grow out of nor is it just something that they are simply confused about. As I sat crying across the kitchen table from my Mama, at the age of seven, as I told her that I knew that I was supposed to have been born a girl, the only one confused was my Mama. Beware of anyone who claims that they have the "cure" for your child. Usually the methods they would employ amount to little more than revamped "Aversion Therapy" used in the draconian psycological "treatment" of homosexuals. You may be able to brow beat a child into any mold you like but all you will have accomplished is to cause the child to internalize their Gender Identity Dysphoria, which will fester and possibly cause a multitude of mental disorders, among them possibly being sexual dysfunction, physical and mental addictions and suicidal tendencies. Gender Identity Disorder is not a matter of sexuality or sexual preference but is a matter of gender identification, which should be fairly obvious given the age at which your child has made this assertion. I am very glad for your baby that you have taken it upon yourself to research this problem instead of dealing which it as some parents have choosen to as I mentioned above. I wish only the best for you and your baby.


Heather Wilcox
> 60 days ago

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HeatherRose2006
HeatherRose... writes:
I have found this 20/20 story, done by Barbra Walters, to be a true to to life representation how it is to be afflicted with Gender Identity Disphoria. I hope this may give you a bit of insight into what your baby MAY be going through.

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Carianc59
Carianc59 writes:
I have three sons. My youngest, who is three, loves princess and Dora. He loves to pretend that a towel or blanket is a dress. Yesterday I took him to my friend's house. She has a little girl and tons of toys to choose from. He picked a purse, pink tiara, and blue high heal Cinderella shoes. I am not worried about having a gay son. I just don't want him to hate being male. I feel lost. I have said over and over that boys are Princes and girls and Princesses. He knows he is a boy, but he loves to pretend to be a girl. I don't know if I should let him play with girls anymore.
> 60 days ago

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earlyedu
earlyedu writes:
I am a parent of three boys. My youngest boy which is 3 yrs. old says the exact same things. He says that he is a girl and he always talks about princesses. I have talk to him and told him that he is a boy and he says no I'm a girl. I understand your concern because I am very concerned. If you get any good advice. Please pass it on.
> 60 days ago

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imsmartapple
imsmartapple writes:
Hi Patrick,

My son's best friend (now almost 7) started out like your son - as did my son.  Both loved playing dress-up in girl's clothes and my son also told me he is physically a girl - even hiding his penis.  However, my son's friend now calls himself "Allison" and when he is at my house pretends to be a girl whereas my son took up more of the typical male gender role.  I have not talked to the parents of my son's friend since I am unsure if he is as open to his parents about his gender issues as he is to me (and I don't want to lose his trust) - I just always play along with him (my son on the other hand refuses to play "boyfriend, girlfriend" but does accept "Allison".)  I would recommend you speak to a child psychologist who has experience in gender issues.  You obviously love your child very much and want him to be a happy individual.  This he will be if he is loved by his parent - no matter what.  But both you and he will need to find professional support - to withstand the outside pressure, to continue to be a great role model, and to understand him better.  Best wishes!
> 60 days ago

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lawanz
lawanz writes:
Pray with him and continue to do what you are doing? Try involving him in sports. Ask questions, try to keep him with you as much as possible. At school are he mostly around girls?
> 60 days ago

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Csmom
Csmom writes:
I could have written your letter myself about my own son who is 4 1/2.
Just this afternoon I had to deal with him wanting to go to the shoe store to buy a pair of "maryjanes" like his friend Sally wore to school.  Everyday he wants to play princess, several times a day actually.  He wants to be called beautiful, wear dresses.  He is absolutely obsessed with it and I admit it feels draining to me.  I don't care what the subject is, favorite color, even what he wishes for for Christmas, he chooses something girlie.
He and I were in the car today and he asked me, his mother, if I ever wished I was a boy.  He told me he wished he was a girl.
He came home from school, Catholic montessori, very distressed two weeks ago that the other children in his class made fun of him. They told him he was girlie and that he wears girlie clothes.  (He wears nothing of the sort to school, not even close).  He said he was very embarrassed and begged to never go to school again.  I cried myself to sleep that night.  I admit, I also hoped it would register with him a little and change his girlie likings.  It did not.  
I cannot put in words how obsessed my son seems to be with this.  It's everyday, all day long.  I am trying so hard to be patient and understanding.  I am trying to find the correct things to say, the right answers to his questions.  I don't know what these are.  I don't know how to handle this and if there is anything 'to do" about it.  It's
amazing how stressful it's gotten to be for me as hard as I try to just play it easy.
It scares me for him.  I love this boy with all my being.  He is an amazing kid.  Children can be ruthless.  I am afraid for him as I send him to school everyday. Of course at school his preference is to play with, and like,the girls.
It was a relief to find I am not the only parent going through this.  I find it interesting it seems to be among the same agae group for the most part.  I am hoping we will all be writing each other that it was only a phase and laughing a little when we've gotten through it.  At this point I'm not convinced that will happen but hoping.
I would love to hear from someone who went through this when their child was 3-4 and is now older. I'm certain there is a multitude of conclusions.
Hang in there, Patrick. What you aren't is alone.
> 60 days ago

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popprincess
popprincess writes:
this is a very powerful question and hard to answer but have you ever thought of accepting this?  I know it sounds weird and all, but sometimes its good to except people for who they are, this faze may go away in time.  If not try talking to a doctor or see how your kid interacts with other kids at the same time.  Maybe you could ask him why he would want to be a girl, and not his own sexuality?
> 60 days ago

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rothken
rothken writes:
Patrick,
You clearly love your son and want what is best for him. The most important thing is to not make your child feel uncomfortable being who he is around you.  Children start to develop a sense of their gender identity as early as two or three, and start to articulate that as early as three or four.  At first children have a fluid sense of identity.  ( I can be a superhero today and a princess tomorrow.)  Then they start to develop a more defined sense of "this is who I am and that is not me". For some kids, the fluidity continues, and they don't feel clearly only boy or girl, but something in between, or neither.  If we weren't so trained in our culture to think only of a binary way of being- either boy or girl- we might all find ourselves having feelings and experiences that span a spectrum of ways of expressing our gender identity.  Some children have a very, very clear sense of themselves by age four, and when it doesn't match what other people are telling them that they are, there can be a lot of stress.  Imagine if someone told you that you are not a man!  You know who you are, and no one can tell you what you are not.  

Your child is very young, and it is right not to make any assumptions yet about who he will become.  Some children at his age love to dress up and fantasize about being the other gender.  For some, this is a passing thing, not an expression of self or identity.  For other children, it is an expression of who they know themselves to be, and they are seeking, not attention, in the usual way that children do, but a mirroring of themselves by others. They need, just as we all do, to be seen by those around them, especially those that matter, as they see themselves.  For many of these children, the persistence, the intensity of their need to show on the outside who they are on the inside, is an indication that this is not a passing phase.

You are not at all alone in dealing with this situation.  There are many resources available now for parents, many online support groups for you to gain understanding and support.  One excellent source of information and support is GenderSpectrum, which does education, training and support on issues around children and gender identity.  Their number is 925-254-3907.  Another resource is Children's Hospital in Washington D.C.

Good luck to you in finding information and support.
> 60 days ago

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dani4
dani4 writes:
We are going through same except my son is 5 1/2. The preference for pink and feminine things began as early as age 2 1/2 ,but we didn't think much of it then. He at that point still played with gender neutral or traditionally male type toys as well. But each year it got stronger, age 3 he insisted he was a girl,for a full year. We would explain why he was not, he would tantrum over it. I discussed it with pediatrician, who dismissed it as a phase. Every birthday cake from age 3 is feminine. If there are girl/boy characters in a show, he likes the girls. He had a June little einsteins cake at 3, and age 4 and 5 have been pink and purple flower cakes. At age 4 he told us he know he was a boy,but he was a boy who likes girl things. The gender issues got stronger, all the books he picked,toys,etc all I can say is they are what a girl would typically pick,from mermaid,to Barbie,etc and he started rejecting all his boy things. At age 5 it got very strong, and he then told me again he is in fact really a girl and we will see someday. He started taking anything out of his room that was blue or boyish(any sports stuff,etc) and slowly started going around house finding feminine things to decorate with. He will cover things w/ pink towels,etc. He now wears princess dresses full time at home (he has a sister and older brother as well). He literally undresses when we come home and switches to his girl stuff. He tantrums not wanting to go to school b/c he doesn't want 'to wear his terrible boy clothes'. He has asked for all pink or purple clothes, but settles on red as well b/c it is close to pink. What is scaring us is obsessive quality, he talks literally non stop about pink,ballet,princesses and fairys. We do now supply him with his requests. His xmas list was all girly type things,barbie,angelina ballerina, jewlery box, beading kits,etc. We gave it to him, I couldnt justify why he can't play with that stuff. Oh and a tutu, his number one requested thing which when he got he hugged me so hard and told me how much he loved me and how happy he is. He also now keeps wearing jewelry to school and has had kids comment on it. He said he does not care what they think. I could go on and on. I could comment on the weather and he has replied "so what fairy do you think I look like?". Well we are now in process of evaluations for him, have looked at Childrens in DC and Columbia Pres in NYC and are gathering info to send. We just want him to be happy in the end but we need guidance,what is ok to give, what is not,what to say to him,etc it is very stressful and confusing. The day he turned over photos of him around house broke my heart b/c he doesnt like way he looks and then this morning he pretended to be a fairy, and asked his 7 year old brother what wish he wanted,my older son said 'for my boy brother to come back' and my little guy said'sorry, I don't have the potion for that'...
> 60 days ago

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androgyny
androgyny writes:
I feel compelled to create an account and write from the perspective of your child. First of all, I'll start by saying that your child is not gay.

When I was 4 years old, I told my mother I had wanted to be a woman, because I felt like a woman and thought like a woman.

My parents response was similar to what many of you have described. They tried to make me see the advantages that I was a boy, that perhaps one day I could be a church leader or some other male privilege to try to change my mind about this.

My life was hell. I was constantly reprimanded for my girly behavior, my mannerisms and tastes. They didn't understand that it wasn't that I wanted to be a woman, but that I was a woman.

Eventually, I caved in. I tried to be a boy, the best I could. But my male friends never really saw me as one of the guys either. They knew I was different just as I knew I was. I seemed to get along with the girls only.

I grew up, I had a girlfriend, I did fell in love with her and my behavior from childhood had almost been forgotten. But there were unseen scars within. Internally, I always felt unloved, because no one loved me for who I was, but who I was playing to be, a boy, a man.

When I got to my twenties, everything started to come back. Somehow my girlfriend suggested I let my hair grow, and with it came more than just that. All my mannerisms, and girly behaviour that I fought so hard to repress all came back. I don't have to say that she had to end with me, although it broke both our hearts.

I couldn't change my true nature. My gender identity was not a choice.

I am transgender. I am androgyne. Many androgynes who are strong enough to fight against those who want to impose their gender identity on them are capable of achieving liberation and become transsexuals, some only adjust  their image to look androgynous.

Today I'm 23. I am still a man. I decided to cut my hair a year ago to try to conform and fit into society, so people would stop saying I'm gay. Gay would be so much easier, believe me. Actually (in my case at least) I don't feel it's about sexual orientation at all.

A couple of months ago, I came across a picture of a famous singer from Germany. His name is Bill Kaulitz. When I saw him, I saw myself, I knew that I was like him. The only difference is that he was free and he was able to be himself. Maybe his family and his society recognize who he was and allowed him to live his life. He is so lucky.

I however, might as well be dead. I am empty. In pain. Unhappy. I have lived the life others wanted for me. Not who I am. Who I was. I have deep resentment for my parents who although I know they loved me, I felt different treatment towards myself than my siblings for having opened my mouth when i was a child. You see, I don't think I had the privilege of feeling unconditional love. Love carried the condition that I was a masculine male when I do so poorly at that. I am a feminine male, despite how I may look on the outside.

If you want what's best for your child, do not imprison them. Get educated on gender identity and allow them to realize themselves. It is beautiful, believe me. But I'm afraid I will never know the world behind my wall.

Watch National Geographic documentary "Sex, Lies and Gender" as a start. It is too late for me, I've been robbed of my life. But not for them. I hope this helps.
> 60 days ago

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itsatoughworld
itsatoughwo... writes:
Androgyny, it breaks my heart that the discussion ended after your very open, honest declaration. I can only imagine that the parents are not yet prepared to address the possible reality that you have to face every day. I just wanted to say to you that at 23 your life is NOT over. The 20s are an overwhelming time for anyone. It's got to be especially hard for you to be confined to a body whose gender you don't relate to. I hope you remember that there are other benefits to a body, tho, degree of health and strength, intelligence. I hope you will persist in taking good care of yourself despite your despondence. Remember that life is not static. It changes. And, every individual has the power to influence the ways in which it changes. Don't leave yourself open to others' criticisms. Instead, take control of your future. If you are unhappy, figure out what would make you happy. Talk to the people who are most versed in addressing your situation. Seek them out. Be proactive in life. I can't help but think that in 10 or 15 years, once you've applied yourself to making your life as full as possible, you will find happiness. Don't give up! Create the world you need! Best wishes! :) I believe in you.
> 60 days ago

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