Social Question

Ruki's avatar

If your son or daughter told you they felt they should be the opposite sex, what would you say to them?

Asked by Ruki (75points) February 24th, 2010

“Mom, why wasn’t I a girl? I wanted to be a girl! I am not a boy!”

This is more or less the scenario right around 4–7 year old coming from boys and girls as soon as they realize their gender identity is not congruent to that of their biological body.

How would you handle the situation at hand?

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50 Answers

Jude's avatar

Support them %100… Their happiness is what’s important. If they’re happy, I’m happy.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Honestly, if it came from a 4 to 7 year old child, I would ask them to give it some time.

If it came from a teenager or even older, I would support them completely in whatever decision they might make by introducing them to competent therapists and doctors. I would hope these experts would be in a position to determine whether there was a real gender mix-up or whether something else was going on.

Cruiser's avatar

Opposite sex curiosity is no big deal unless you make it into one.

I would talk with them to see how genuine their concern was. If it is obviously a true issue or dilemma for them I would allow them to explore this conflict as they see fit. If my son wanted to play dress up I’d let him! As long as he wasn’t setting himself up for to big a fall I’d stay out of it…if it looked like trouble ahead I would do what I felt necessary to protect him until he was old enough to make his own decisions and endure the ramifications of his decisions on his own.

I remember my lil sis absolutely besides herself for not being a boy. My parents let her wear boy clothes, do as much guy stuff as she wanted…she is married to a great guy and quite happy with her self today.

tinyfaery's avatar

I would support them in any way I could, whatever that meant.

phoenyx's avatar

Ask them why and try to discover the reason behind the question. The reason might be something simple like “the boys in the neighborhood don’t let girls play with them and I want to play too,” which is not a gender identity issue, but could lead to the same statement.

I agree that 4–7 is pretty young, give it time.

downtide's avatar

I would support them 100%. At the age of 4–7 that would mean allowing the child to express his or her gender in the way he or she feels comfortable and liasing with the school about ways in which they can be less restrictive. Whilst at the same time protecting them from such things as bullying in school.

If the feeling of gender incongruity persisted into puberty I would support hormone cblockers and, if the child wanted to transition, I’d support that too.

As a transexual myself (female to male) I know how unpleasant it can be to grow up feeling that you’re in the wrong body.

Violet's avatar

Honestly, I don’t know if I would really take them seriously at this age. If they still felt this way after puberty, then I would take them seriously.
What if a 4–7 year-old said they feel like they should be a bird?
If they asked why they were the gender they were, I would give them a biology lesson, and teach them about chromosomes.

MissAusten's avatar

I agree with a lot of the above. A child at age 4–7 could be expressing different things with a statement like that. I let my kids be themselves, and would also give it time.

When I was a kid, there were only two other girls in our neighborhood. One was a few years older than me, and the other was a few years younger. If I wanted to play with kids my own age, I had to play with the boys. My mom was always annoyed with me because I refused to wear dresses, wanted to take karate lessons instead of ballet, put up a huge fight when I had to take a bath or have my hair brushed (somehow I’d decided that boys didn’t do these things), and insisted on asking for a boys’ bike and toy guns instead of a girls’ bike or Barbie dolls for my birthday. My mom went along with all of this, even though she couldn’t help trying to change my mind. If you’d asked me then, I probably would have said I wanted to be a boy. That all changed over time, and while I still would rather wear jeans than a skirt and play guns than Barbies, I don’t want to be a boy. :)

Zen_Again's avatar

Probably Oy.

Then I would be encouraging and loving and everything. I would always accept them for who they are, and I have nothing against it anyway.

But ‘oy” would probably slip out first, to be honest.

janbb's avatar

It would definitely depend on the age. I would validate their feelings whatever age they were and encourage them to explore a range of gender expressions but if they were 4–7, I would be more likely to treat it as a phase. If they were teenagers, I would hope to be able to grow with them into the identity they sought.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

There is a difference between a 4 year old and a 7 year old – I have a 3 and a half year old and if he tells me this summer when he turns 4 that he really feels like a girl, I will ask him what he means by that and what he thinks being a girl is like and why he thinks this is something relevant or important to him – from his answers, I’d take steps to ensure that he can explore (without anyone’s criticism) whatever expressions of this ‘being a girl’ phenomenon…I’d explain to him some of own thoughts on gender and how I approach the binarism, etc. ...if this was a 7 year old telling me they feel something isn’t right and they want to go through life as a girl, I would tell them they’re not alone and that I have friends who they can talk to about all of these things and that their father and I would accept them no matter what and be there with them every step of the way.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

I would jump up on the coffee table with a Bible in one hand, slapping his forehead with the other while dancing and shouting at the top of my lungs “Eyen the naeme uv JAYSUS, Daemuns cum Aiyout Nayow!!!”

And then we’d go have ice cream.

CyanoticWasp's avatar

I don’t know. I’m trying to think what I would say instead of, “Well, son…”

ubersiren's avatar

I agree with @Violet. I used to cry and cry because I wasn’t a boy. Until middle school, I wouldn’t so much as wear girl’s underwear. I wanted so much to hang with the boys, wear boy clothes, act like a boy, play “boy” sports, etc. I grew out of it. Well, rather I grew to learn that gender means very little when choosing things you like. I don’t think this is all that uncommon. At a young age I think it’s hard to interpret what the kid is actually thinking.

If my child came to me and said this, I would tell him that he can act and dress however and embrace whatever he likes. He could grow out of the feeling, he could not. I’d support him in any way I could, trying to explain the hardships ahead (especially for an older kid; younger, I’d probably just wait it out a while). I wouldn’t go as extreme as the parents that I read about who granted a sex change to their 12 year old. I would want him to be absolutely sure about his feelings and wait until he was an adult to have any kind of elective surgery.

Arisztid's avatar

At that age I would not be overly concerned. Like @hawaii_jake, I would ask them to give it some time. Again, like @hawaii_jake, I would be more concerned with it if a teen child of mine said that.

So you can understand my use of the word “concerned,” I have known more than a few transgendered (is it now called “transsexual”?) individuals and their lots in life are very difficult. I have lost two TG friends to suicide, one of them a best friend of mine in the 80’s, my roomate for about 8 months. I would be hoping that they do not have this condition for their sakes.

If it turned out that they are transgendered, I would support them all the way, look into resources for them, and do my damndest to ease their lot in life. I know more than your average moron about TG due to my friends and would like to think that I could help them better than your average person.

I would do my best to find doctors, therapists, and psychiatrists who know about TG patients because not all doctors are trained in how to handle TG patients. Hopefully I would be in a city where the medical/psychiatric community is prepared to deal with this… not all are. I would look for support groups and the like. If they decide to transition after the battery of tests they are forced to undergo, I would likewise walk by their side.

I would also worry myself to death because of the violence towards TGs and the high suicide rate. I would do my best to prepare my child to handle this.

fireinthepriory's avatar

I’d have a lot of conversations about what my child meant by what they were saying. If a 3 year old says that, maybe he just likes pink and someone told him it was a “girls color” – if s/he’s 7, s/he has a better grasp on things and there might be a more significant meaning to his or her words. I would tell my child that gender does not define what you are allowed to do or say or be, but that some people do find that they have been born into the wrong bodies. After a lot of discussion, if my child wanted to live as the opposite gender, or as gender-neutral, I would help them do that.

As a teenager, if my child was adamant that they had been born into the wrong body, and understood what being transgendered is, I’d help them start hormone therapy. I don’t think I’d let them surgically change their body until they were in their late teens, unless they were incredibly mature, and also incredibly insistent. All along the way, I’d do everything in my power to help them.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@Arisztid As far as I know, the term transgeder (as an umbrella term) encapsulates transsexual as one of the possible identities a person can have – usually, however, a transsexual is someone that has change their body physically to better match what they feel – a transgender person doesn’t have to do that – to some I am transgeder just because I don’t identify with a gender but I haven’t changed my body.

evandad's avatar

Don’t do anything rash.

wundayatta's avatar

I would make sure they understood the potential consequences of this feeling.

Randy's avatar

I’d tell them that I feel as though I should be a millionaire but that we have to play the hand life deals us.

Jack79's avatar

Depends on the age. If it was in the 4–7 range I’d probably laugh, and then try to explain that children can be either boys or girls, and that we need both to reproduce (I’d probably also explain how babies are made, if I hadn’t done that already).

Then I’d tell her that she can still play with boys if she likes, and do boyish stuff despite being a girl, and that nowadays girls are allowed to do almost everything boys do (and vice versa).

If it was a 20-year-old seriously wanting to have a sex transplant, now that’s a different story altogether. I’d certainly have trouble accepting it (since, as a parent, you are used to thinking of your child as a son or daughter from day 1). But I’d probably try and be supportive and discuss everything extensively, and try to help anyway I could.

davidbetterman's avatar

I would tell them to get a job, because I sure am not paying for their sex-change operation.
And yes, I would support them otherwise 100%.

phillis's avatar

I would have no problem with it whatsoever. I would take either or both of my girls for professional counseling to make sure the gender issue is an inborn trait, and not a psychologial issue. That’s my job as a parent. It’s also my job to make it clear that the lifestyle they are choosing has it’s troubles within society over and above the usual ones. As long as those two issues are thoroughly explored and understood, let’s go shopping for lumberjack britches and climbing equipment.

As I have told my older daughter, she can be as gay as she wants if that’s what is ahead, but she still owes me a grandchild :)

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@phillis Most psychologists are incapable of dealing with this ‘issue’ which is never ‘inborn’, really unless the child has always been intersex. It’s not a psychological issue either and what we, as activists, try to do is to steer the medical community and the mental health community away from considering this ‘problem’ as a pathology which it isn’t. I think the fact that there are only these two accepted options makes it very hard for some gender-questioning children who don’t feel ‘right’ with ‘what they are/have’ because it doesn’t mean they must ‘be the other one’ (gender) – it just means that maybe these things don’t make sense to them, these divisions, and maybe they just want to be able to do what the other accepted gender is doing but that doesn’t mean they need to ‘switch over’.

phillis's avatar

@Simone_De_Beauvoir When and if that time comes, I am an excellent researcher and I can smell bullshit from a mile away, so it isn’t likely that a diploma on the wall or a dubious diagnosis would dissuade me from furhter exploration.

I do not view this as a pathology. Rather, if this issue came up, I would assume it was inborn, likely due to anomalies within the amygdala (if I remember right). Regardless, it makes no difference. He happiness is all I care about.

That being said, I fully acknowlege that I don’t know enough about this subject to give my child the emotional support she would likely need. I would have little choice but to forge ahead and find the answers. It sounds like you are very knowlegeable. I sincerely hope you and I are still in contact in a few years. I am certain I would appreciate the guidance you have to offer.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@phillis I do not think gender ‘issues’ have anything to do with the amygdala (but I’d love to look into some studies or articles where you got that from). And I am flattered by the rest of your response – you can absolutely count on me to find your professionals with familiarity on the topic.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

@phillis said: “He happiness is all I care about.”

Immediate happiness, or long term?

mollypop51797's avatar

If they were at that young an age, I’d say, “Well if that’s what you want to be for the rest of your life then go for it! But let’s just wait till you’re 1 year older, so you can put more year of thought into that decision”. However, if they were older, and mature enough to grasps the concepts of life in a different gender, then I’d talk it over with them, the possibilities, and the difficulties and all aspects of life that way. Then, once she/he has given it a months, a day, or a year’s worth of time over it, I would support them 100%

phillis's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies The “He” was one of my usual annoying typos that I didn’t catch before hitting the answer button. I meant to type “Her”.

I see no need to choose between the two. One could argue that long-term happiness begets the shorter, and vice-versa. I can provide acceptance and communication to support both. In the end, it won’t mean a hill of beans anyway, if I cannot teach her how to create her own happiness. Ultimately, that will be up to her. For now, she has to be shown. Accepting her for who she is lock, stock and barrel tells her way more than mere words ever could. Yours is a multi-pronged question (albeit, unintentional) that delves into a separate area than what we’ve been asked to comment about by this author. It IS interesting, though. We can take it to PM if you want.

Simone_De_Beauvoir's avatar

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies we can never guarantee anyone’s long-term happiness – this goes the same for kids socialized into ‘appropriate’ gender roles.

Buttonstc's avatar

A short time ago Barbara Walters did a special about this very issue and it was fascinating.

She interviewed several sets of children and parents of various ages, some quite young, others in their teens.

All of the parents were doing their best to support their children and many ramifications of this issue were presented in what I felt was an unusually well balanced way. Very thought provoking.

There are a few excerpts available in YouTube clips.

phillis's avatar

@ All – Forgive my not remembering exactly how fluther prefers it’s links posted. Here are tons of articles on the subject of amygdala anomalies affecting sexual preference.


RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Instructions for linking are at the bottom of every comment box

phillis's avatar

I tried the quotation marks. All it did was add the marks to either side of the link.

Violet's avatar

@phillis you put words in the quotation marks, then after the second ”, put a : and the with no spaces, post your link
so it should be ” words ” : link
but with no spaces

thriftymaid's avatar

If it was an adult child I would talk to them and support them and encourage them to talk to a professional. If it was a minor child, I would discuss it with them but would not allow any surgical procedure; that would have to be their own adult decision.

Buttonstc's avatar

Jazz was the youngest of the children in the Walter’s special.

I just discovered an update done on her and her parents by 60 Mins Australia.

It also looks as if there is a link to the Walter’s special also on this site. I couldn’t play it since I’m on iPhone, but the interview with Jazz over on the right hand side is a written transcript. Beautiful.

Sarcasm's avatar

I honestly don’t know what I would do.
As a male, physically, mentally, genetically, I honestly don’t know how to fully understand what it would be like to be born the “wrong” gender.
I would do as much as I could to support his/her decision, but I don’t think I could ever do enough.

How seriously I take my kid on this subject of course relies on the age. If it was a 16-year-old who came to me saying they felt like they were born the wrong gender, I would take the situation a lot more seriously, and do a lot more to help them feel “right” than I would if it was a 4-year-old.
I think I would probably write off the 4-year-old as just being confused. I would tell them to wait 10 years and tell me how they feel. I know, 10 years is a long time. I’m cruel.

I know we have a few Jellies who weren’t born into the right body. I’d really love to see the story from their side.

MacBean's avatar

@SarcasmI would do as much as I could to support his/her decision, but I don’t think I could ever do enough.

I think they’d know how hard you were trying, and that would make it enough. Speaking from a genderqueer POV, it’s okay if people don’t totally understand—a lot of the time I don’t understand, either, and it’s me—as long as they’re trying.

YARNLADY's avatar

Much like @ubersiren I hated being a girl while I was young. For me it seemed boys got all the privileges, attention, and had the respect of adults, while girls did not. This was probably true, in the 1940’s – 50’s while I was growing up.

I later discovered my ‘privileged’ brother suffered from a serious mental disorder, and that explains why he got all the attention, and my situation actually reversed itself when I ‘blossomed’ out as a girl.

davidbetterman's avatar

Of course, since this is a completely psychological issue, I would hope s/he would seek counseling to help her through her gender confusion. Of course, you are what you are born with, and any other conclusion is obviously someone who is gender confused themselves trying to make it seem normal, however unnatural this need is.

ChaosCross's avatar

“I can understand how you feel, I kind of felt that way when I was your age. But you are what you are and you can never actually change your gender, live with what God gave you because he likes you the way you are. So do I.”

tinyfaery's avatar

People change genders all the time.

KatawaGrey's avatar

Honestly, I think I would chuckle if my 6 year old came to me and told me that he wanted to be a girl. After the initial amusement, however, I would ask him why he wanted to be a girl. If it was something like, “My sister has all the cool toys,” I’d tell him that anyone can play with those toys. In all honesty, like most of the other people on here, I wouldn’t take a very young child’s desires to be the opposite sex too seriously because at the ages listed, a kid’s idea of gender is the clothing one wears and the toys one plays with, etc. However, an older child would be an entirely different manner. In that case, I think the best thing to do would be to admit to my child that i have no idea what I’m doing but that I want to ensure his/her happiness in any way I can.

@davidbetterman @ChaosCross: I’m not even going to touch those comments until I’ve had some sleep.

Christian95's avatar

I think the children have this problems because of this stupid society where people came up with differences between genders.Why a girl should like dolls and little animals and she should dance,she must hate science she is artsy,she should wear make-up and long hair while the boys should be rude,like football and sports,drink beer,some should like math and science they must have short hair etc.
I think all this is rubbish and of course that a little boy will feel confused if he likes dance and music when he’s been told he should like football and of course that a science girl will feel weird too when she’s been told she should sing or something else.
And all this different kids will feel they should be boys instead of girls and reverse.
So I think these people don’t have a problem with their sexual organs,they have a problem with these idiot society.
I felt the same when I discovered my scientific talent(I live in a country where if you don’t like soccer you’re a girl and all that kind of stuff)

Janka's avatar

I would ask the kid why does he think so. Since he is so young, chances are he just has some idea fed into him that only girls can do something that he wants to, and the solution is to tell him that boys can too and help him with it.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@davidbetterman Really? I don’t think all of the people on this thread who say they would support their child are gender confused themselves. That seems extreme. It would be just as easy to conclude that your resistance to the idea is the result of internalized transphobia because you are gender confused. Honestly I don’t think either conclusion is correct!

Jude's avatar

@fireinthepriory @davidbetterman‘s answers usually come off as being troll like. Now, I just skip over his answers.

fireinthepriory's avatar

@jjmah Thanks, good to know. I didn’t even recognize his name… Default icon syndrome.

Maldadpermanente's avatar

What you see is what you get.

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