What if little Tommy wants to be a girl?
April 27, 2012 12:48 PM   Subscribe

Seeking resources for a friend who is mom to a (possibly transgender) questioning 5-year-old boy.

He'll be 5 soon and starting kindergarten this year. Has since the beginning of time wanted to wear the pink and frilly dresses and shoes of his female playmates. Has typically feminine mannerisms and preferences. Has confirmed to his male playmates' inquiries that yes, he likes girl toys more than boy toys. And he's drawn to hanging out with girls more than boys.

Has parents fortunately just let him be him to what seems a very reasonable extent. In the beginning I think they were sure it would pass, that he'd grown out of it. When they show him "boy" toys (trucks and such), he says things like "My friend Charlie at school would love that!" Instead, he knows all the princesses, has the books and outfits, tiaras and fairy wands. He was Cinderella for Halloween last year and so very proud of his costume. His parents allow him to wear dresses sometimes when he wants to, and he seems to be okay with it when they tell him no, this is not one of those times. His wand and tiara are never far away.

His parents no longer think it's a phase that will pass, and they naturally have concerns for him. When they moved across town recently, they investigated schools and considered their options in case he begins to have problems as he gets older with peer acceptance or bullying. They live, fortunately, in a pretty accepting place: Portland, OR.

The internets abound with resources for teens, and parents of teens. But what about for the parents of small children showing transgender tendencies? (and is that even an appropriate term at this stage?). Any forums out there like MeFi? Or support groups to help parents with very young children exchange notes and ideas and resources? Links or book recommendations?
posted by AnOrigamiLife to Human Relations (25 answers total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I don't have help on any of the rest of it, but "qualities" or "features" might go farther than "tendencies".
posted by batmonkey at 12:59 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

You might check here:
posted by oneear at 1:00 PM on April 27, 2012

Best answer: sorry Gender Spectrum
posted by oneear at 1:00 PM on April 27, 2012

My Princess Boy
posted by Specklet at 1:01 PM on April 27, 2012

First, your friend is definitely not alone - it's not exactly common / talked about, but there are definitely kids out at that age who already have a clear gender identity that does not match their assigned sex at birth.

I would contact Portland's LGBT center, which appears to be called the Q Center, for local resources and groups. Even if they don't have a group for parents of kids, it could be very helpful for the kid's parents to talk to parents of teens or to talk to trans adults about their experiences when they were kids.
posted by insectosaurus at 1:04 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

This article ran in the Boston Globe a few months ago, and might have some good resources for your friends.
posted by judith at 1:10 PM on April 27, 2012

Best answer: If they haven't already, they must read Led by the Child Who Simply Knew, a great piece in the Boston Globe about a family with a mtf transgendered child. It includes information about resources that could be very helpful.
posted by alms at 1:10 PM on April 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

I get that they "don't think it's a phase that will pass," but actually, it often does. This is very, very common in boys who turn out to be gay. Great that they want to protect him from bullying, in any case. (Feel free to memail me for more information about how similar behavior transpired in my family.)
posted by Wordwoman at 1:12 PM on April 27, 2012 [4 favorites]

Trans Forming Families is a pretty good read.
posted by sevenyearlurk at 1:15 PM on April 27, 2012

Does the child self-describe as a girl, or as a boy who likes dresses and angel wings and what not? Boys can prefer princess play to cowboy play while having a strong sense of themselves as boys (and grow up to be of all sexual orientations, too).
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:31 PM on April 27, 2012 [37 favorites]

Act Two of this episode of This American Life is a very touching story about two transgender children. It also mentions a conference on transgender parenting in Seattle. At the very least, it will show these parents that they're not alone.
posted by rabbitbookworm at 1:37 PM on April 27, 2012

I think it's a pretty big leap to go - in a five year old - from "likes girl clothes" to "transgender". Kids do a lot of questioning/boundary-pushing type stuff that doesn't end up sticking - they're just exploring the rules we humans have set for ourselves.

I think there's a danger in over-pathing behavior by assigning the kid a label. Just let him be.
posted by downing street memo at 2:32 PM on April 27, 2012 [23 favorites]

Yeah, the thing about pink and dresses and frilly things is that there's nothing inherently "girly" about them. Society has just deemed them as such. Young children don't necessarily pick up on this or care right away.
posted by sugarbomb at 3:14 PM on April 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

He is far from transgender (whatever that would even mean). Kids change interests with startling rapidity, just like the rest of us. There's nothing even especially unusual about a boy who likes girly stuff.
posted by Mr. Justice at 3:28 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: Yeah, I'd be careful about labeling him too early. I'm a girl and I loved "boy" toys and things when I was a kid. I much preferred Star Wars to Barbie, I loved playing with toy guns and playing baseball, basketball, and football. I absolutely refused to wear dresses. I hated the color pink. At five, I was very clear that I wanted to play with star wars and play baseball and wear pants.

But 30+ years later, I'm heterosexual woman with no gender identity issues. I'm just a heterosexual woman who happens to be able to throw a hell of a pass with a football :)

So don't label him. Just let him be who he is. And do try and protect him from bullying because that's probably likely to happen.
posted by bananafish at 4:34 PM on April 27, 2012 [7 favorites]

It's in the UK, but there's Mermaids. They have an email list at any rate.

The Portland Q Center's youth center is SMYRC. It's aimed at youth themselves, but they may be the people to talk to looking for resources for a younger child. As I understand it, they have a good reputation when it comes to trans stuff. (I've never lived in Portland or had contact with them. But I've used some of the 'community education' materials.) The Q Center maintains a trans resource list for Portland.

As many people have been eager(?) to point out, it's entirely possible the kid isn't trans. It's entirely possible he is, though, too. I would assume that if this question is getting asked, the parents have thought long and hard about all possibilities. And, either way, it can't hurt for the parents to look for ways to approach handling bullying about gender non-conformity.

I feel like I know where/how parents of young trans children talk to each other, but I'm blanking on it entirely.
posted by hoyland at 4:40 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am only eager to point out that the person who best knows the child's gender identity is the child in question. I have certainly known trans people who knew they had been assigned the wrong gender at birth by age five.
posted by Sidhedevil at 4:59 PM on April 27, 2012 [5 favorites]

Mod note: Folks, let's please focus on providing resources rather than attempting a diagnosis. Thanks.
posted by restless_nomad (staff) at 5:34 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This article from Autostraddle came up in my Facebook feed just yesterday...
posted by blackkar at 7:42 PM on April 27, 2012

There are listservs and everything for parents of young children who are trans/gender variant. Definitely Gender Spectrum or Boston Children's Hospital could connect you or just google "gender variant children." Just be aware that there are (apparently) some listservs and/or communities that are strongly in favor of early transition and are perhaps a bit doctrinaire on this option. Whereas of course (in my view) every child is different so there should be a range of options available including but not limited to early transition.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:02 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

I am perhaps overstating --- I support everyone's choices, just want everyone to have them and to be non-judgey/ed.
posted by ClaudiaCenter at 8:40 PM on April 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Best answer: This is a sweet and thoughtful blog by the parent of a similar sounding boy of about the same age: Raising My Rainbow. I particularly like the way the blog's author is very comfortable with not knowing how her son will eventually identify, and simply appreciates him now as he is.
posted by wyzewoman at 11:53 PM on April 27, 2012 [2 favorites]

Best answer: My friend is a psych who specializes in this. I asked this friend for advice when one of my preschool offspring was saying that they wanted to be the other gender. This friend, a psychiatrist, told me that some kids experiment and try on roles. Some are wanting to identify with certain friends or a parent. Some persist for a while, then drop it. Some go on for years, then drop it at puberty. Some go through puberty and then drop it, although that's less likely.

This psych said that me saying, "Well, you can change it later, if you want" is good, if they are especially upset about their gender (and the physical mechanics). It removes the anxiety and power struggle. Psych also said that just saying, "OK" if they say they want to be a boy/girl is fine, because it's sometimes about conflict or not being sure if things are okay. That worked for us.

Also, my friend said that, if it seems like a big problem or worry, therapy is a good place to provide a safe environment. Fortunately, we live in a very inclusive neighbourhood and community too.

I should note that my friend frequently votes in favour of adolescent sex change operations, so please don't interpret any of the above notes about a lot of kids never persisting as some sort of indication that my friend downplays any of this. This psych is one of the top people in their field, which is why I'm being vague on their info...Internet trail of breadcrumbs and all.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 10:48 AM on April 28, 2012

« Older Transport 30 people in Chicago half a mile   |   The ins and outs of sex with the Nuvaring Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.