Gender Confusion?

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-16-2013
Gender Confusion?
15
Wed, 02-20-2013 - 2:18pm

Hi All,

I mostly lurk but could really use some advice. A few weeks ago, I noticed my 13 year old son had some of my nail polish, bras, etc in his room. I decided to check the Safari browser history on his iPod to see if I could figure out what was going on. To my surprise, I saw that he had been googling things like "how to know if you're transgender?" and "I'm not gay, I like women but I feel like a girl". This came as quite a shock because he has NEVER mentioned anything like this before- never wanted to wear dresses when he was little or told people he was a girl and not a boy, etc.

So now I'm wondering how on earth do I go about approaching this with him? And how possible is it that this is some sort of confusion brought on my puberty instead of life-long change he is considering making? My husband and I are pretty open-minded people, we'll love him no matter what but it's stressful to think about how much this could complicate life for him.

Thanks!

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Avatar for turtletime
iVillage Member
Registered: 05-13-1998
Fri, 03-01-2013 - 12:07pm

You've gotten a lot of good advice on having a transgender child. I would just add that at 13, it's a good idea to start hunting for social environments where your child is most likely to be accepted and feel comfortable. In my kids theatre group, there are a few transgender kids from 7 to 18 years old. My DD is a classroom aide for some of the courses and one of her little students started as a boy but came in next session as a girl and has been ever since. I grew up in a very liberal arena and worked as a theatre tech for years and even I'm surprised at what a non-issue it has been with young people in the modern theatre world. Of course, that might not be your child's scene but I'd be looking for places where he can just be himself. Unfortuantly, many schools aren't quite there yet.

iVillage Member
Registered: 01-16-2013
Wed, 03-06-2013 - 6:16pm

First off,  thank you guys so much for all replies! My husband I did attempt to talk to my son about it, telling him pretty much what I told you- that we were open-minded people, we loved him no matter, what, etc. At first he flatly denied that he was even wondering and/or curious  about being trans-gendered so I was forced to "show my hand" and tell him that I knew that wasn't the truth because I saw from his Safari history that he was googling information about it.

So then he said well that was only because he was a little curious and found it interesting. I kept trying to assure him that while I knew this wasn't the easiest thing in the world to talk about, he could tell us anything. But he never budged and swore that he didn't feel like he was transgender. I didn't want to keep pushing him so I just left it at that.

I was kind of talking myself into thinking that maybe that's all it really was...and then I read a few more of these replies. Now I'm thinking it's more likely that he's just not "ready" to tell us yet. 

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-08-2013
Fri, 03-08-2013 - 7:27pm

Hello, and thank you so much for your very understanding post. I have a son who is ten years old. I have been very concerned with his behavoir the past three years. I guess I have known that my son has shown his feminine side on more then one occasion. I guess it all started when he asked if he could dress up as a girl. I was more then a little shocked, but looking back, I probably felt it would lead to this. He prefers his playmates to be girls, doesn't like sports, etc..I allowed him to wear a dress, around the house, and I could see his face light up when he was told. He wore the dress while playing inside with his girl playmates, always games I would consider being on the girlish side. After several weeks had gone by, and he continued to dress is dresses, yes, dresses, I did buy him several more after he asked. Then it came to a head when we were out to the mall shopping, I was going to buy him some tops to wear. He had wondered over to the little girls undies rack, and I saw him looking and touching the panties. He came running over and asked if I would buy him some of the undies. I honestly didn't intend to buy him any, but there were people standing around, and I became embarassed, I admit to buying him several pairs of panties. I really don;t know how to stop this. I'm a single mother, so there is no father to ask advice. Does anyone have any advice, or experiences of their own?  

mahopac wrote:
<p>Hi there, I'm the mom on this board with the transgender kid.  Sorry I didn't see your post earlier, but I check the boards less frequently because there's hardly anyone here anymore, thanks to iVillage's technology screwups.</p><p>Gender confusion is not a phase or a typical adolescent experience.  Sexual orientation is something that some kids question, but gender identity is different.  Gender identity is a person's experience of how they associate themselves with (in our culture) being male or female. It is not typical to question one's gender identity.</p><p>Gender dysphoria is the sense that overall you don't feel like your physical gender fits the way you experience yourself.  It is not, as I've learned, necessarily the feeling that you are "a boy trapped in a girl's body" or vice versa.  It is a sense that the body doesn't match the person somehow, which *may* mean that the person identifies strongly with the opposite sex, but it also may not.</p><p>Sexual orientation OTOH is who you're attracted to.  Some transgender people are attracted to both sexes, others mainly to one.  Sometimes a transgender person will consider themselves gay at first before recognizing that it's really their gender identity that's the primary source of dissonance. </p><p>My oldest child was born female and in some ways was as girly as anyone would expect - she wanted to be a ballerina at age 4, played with dolls, loved princess movies, etc.  She was also sort of freakishly brilliant (in 3rd grade she could read at college level and do 9th grade math) and had a huge amount of physical energy that needed to be worked off through climbing trees, sprinting, and full-contact karate 5 days a week.  In other words, she was not a normal kid to begin with.</p><p>At 15, she told me she was bisexual, which was quite a surprise to me.  Shortly after her 18th birthday, she told DH &amp; me that she was transgender.  This however was not a surprise - in fact, it explained many things, such as her aversion to clothes shopping, a dislike of her figure, and a disgust about her period that bordered on the extreme.  She said she had realized at age 9 that she was not like the other girls - she didn't want to grow breasts and do girly things.  She hated it when girls at school thought she was a lesbian (you have to be female to be a lesbian and she didn't consider herself female), hated being referred to by teachers as a young woman, and was irritated by prom dress shopping (she wanted to wear a tux but her Catholic school wouldn't allow it).  When she told us that she was transgender, DH &amp; I said, "Well, that's really not a surprise" - and she was so relieved that we were OK with it.</p><p>It did take time for her to get to disclosure with us.  We are very open-minded and accepting people, but no one expects their kid to be transgender, therefore it was very hard for her to say.  We told him (I'll switch to the male pronoun now because this was the point where we started using the male pronoun) that we were going to have to learn a lot and we would make mistakes, but he needed to be patient with us because we were always well-intentioned, just in need of education. </p><p>It's now almost three years since he told us he was transgender.  The first thing he did was start using a male name (he picked one that we had considered for his sister if she'd been a boy).  Since he was going off to college, this was not a big deal.  He roomed his first year with another female-to-male (FtM) transgender person.  The summer after his freshman year, he changed his name legally.  During his sophomore year, he had chest surgery.  The following summer, he began hormone therapy. </p><p>This is nothing I would wish on anyone, not because it is shameful but because it makes life so much harder for my child.  I am amazed at the obstacles he overcomes every day.  He no longer considers himself bisexual but gay (i.e. he likes guys though his friends are mostly lesbians).  I'm happy that he lives in an age where young people are less structured in their thinking about gender and sexuality, but the odds of him meeting someone he can be happy with in a romantic relationship are vastly less than most people's (if you doubt that, ask yourself what your own response would be if you found out the man you were dating didn't have male parts).  There are many people who would be violent to him simply because of who he is, if they found out.  Heck, he can't even use a restroom like 99.5% of the rest of the population.</p><p>I suggest you try to find out as much info as you can from PFLAG, web sites, and so on.  The NY Times had an article not long ago called "Generation LGBTQIA" which you can search for on their web site.  You might want to talk to a therapist who specializes in transgender issues, especially with children.  There's a book called "The Lives of Transgender People" which is rather academic but gives an idea of the range of what "transgender" means.  I'm sure it will feel overwhelming at first, and probably disheartening, but be gentle with yourself and your own feelings.  Remember that your child is *your* child, not a stereotype.  Experimenting with lipstick and bras doesn't mean he's going to be the next Ru Paul. :)  Just as every teenager isn't a sullen, angry, disrespectful problem child, so every transgender person is not wild, crazy, or weird.</p><p>I think our oldest felt safe coming out to us because my uncle was a vivid member of the gay scene in NYC 50 years ago and among the first to die of AIDS, and he knew I remember him with nothing but fondness.  Plus, DS knows that we don't rush to judgment about people or dismiss them with comments like, "Whaddya expect, he's a bum" or "All Jews/Italians/Asians/pick-your-ethnic-group do that."  Even so, it's been an eye-opening experience.  You never know what subtle prejudices you have, however open-minded you think you are, until you're confronted with them.  We have had to learn a lot - more than our now-18yo DD or 12yo DS have.</p><p>Feel free to PM me if you want to talk more.</p>

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-08-2013
Fri, 03-08-2013 - 7:34pm

Hello Jeansforme!! I just sent a post concerning my ten year old son, and my fears about his feminine side. I just finished reading your post, and it seems we are both concerned about the same subject. I know it doesn't solve either one of our concerns, but like other things..it's comforting to know your not alone. Please feel free to email me at dee30sa@aol.com. Thank you..

iVillage Member
Registered: 03-08-2013
Sat, 03-09-2013 - 10:40am
I was wondering if anyone had seen this on the Huffington web site. It seems this mother has everything in hand concerning her young son, and his and her gender issues. There has been many tweets on Face Book, both for and against. http://www.examiner.com/article/my-princess-boy-childhood-cross-dressing-and-the-approaching-storm Be interested in your comments. JoAnn

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