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Gender dysphoria - almost 4yr old?

(43 Posts)
Sassypants82 Sun 15-Apr-18 20:44:48

My son is fairly ahead of his peers. He has a very active imagination & has been clearly verbal since he was 18mnts old. He will be 4yrs old next month.

For nearly two years he has been expressing his desire to be a girl. This has increased in how serious he is about it & in its intensity & has now started to upset him. He makes statements such as 'I don't want anyone to know I'm a boy', 'I wish I had magic so I could change into a girl for real' and says that when we use his name or the pronoun 'he' it makes him feel sad. He will even correct strangers that call him a boy.

He wears an old scarf of mine as 'hair' and really hates to be without it. At the moment he wears it most of the time except to preschool where I don't allow it, except on Fridays when they're allowed to bring toys/dress up etc. He understands & isn't too upset by this but will immediately find his 'hair' as soon as he comes home.

Is it possible for gender dysphoria to manifest itself like this or am I being totally dramatic? I am bringing him to the gp tomorrow to get a referral to a child psychologist. I'm so upset that he feels sad about being a boy & we (myself & DH) will obviously do anything we can to support him.

Just looking for any experiences of anything similar at such a young age? There have been no issues or trauma in his life so far. He comes from a very solid, supportive & loving extended & immediate family & there's been no upheaval of any kind. We welcomed his baby sister one year ago & he's crazy about her & her him.

I should mention that he's very into being in disguise, super heros transforming from ordinary people & loves to be 'in character' - always plays a female part. And he will insist that his real self is a girl.

Thanks in advance.

grasspigeons Sun 15-Apr-18 20:47:52

cant you let him grow his hair so he doesn't need to borrow a scarf?

SianRunner Sun 15-Apr-18 20:50:06

I'd let him grow his hair and role play as he wishes.

Sassypants82 Sun 15-Apr-18 20:50:51

He's growing it. He told my. Mother that the scarf is just to keep him happy until his own hair grows longer. It's coming on but is still like a long / shaggy short style at the moment.

missbonita Sun 15-Apr-18 20:51:25

I would let him have long hair and wear whatever he wants. My DB wore a tutu for 3 years (nude underneath obvs) with wellies and waist length hair. He's an accountant now, married, 3 kids full on boring middle aged man.

Just let him be him and enjoy his loveliness.

annandale Sun 15-Apr-18 20:52:44

Encourage him to continue the story - he has magic, he changes into a girl, and then....? what happens next?

Or if the magic turned him back into a boy again - what would happen then? Would anything have to change? Why?

He sounds fantastic btw smile

ladyvimes Sun 15-Apr-18 20:53:42

may I ask what does he understand being a boy or girl means? If he wears your scarf as he wants long hair then why can he not grow his hair long? Wear more stereotypical female clothing? Can you teach him that being a boy means he has male genitalia and not a lot else. That he can do anything a girl does, wear what he wants, look how he wants.
At four children really begin to develop a sense of themselves and how they fit in the world. It’s quite normal for them to experiment with different ‘roles’. I’ve known children go through phases of wanting to be a dog or a unicorn (not just playing but being completely serious).
I would definitely not be going anywhere near the labels of gender dysphoria or transgender at this age at all.

Sassypants82 Sun 15-Apr-18 20:57:39

That's good advice Annadale, I'll try that.

And good story missbonita.. Hits a nerve as he also wears a tutu most days!

He really is fantastic 😍
So amazing & I'm so proud of him. I am just terrified of doing or saying something that will wound him. I want to learn how best to support him if this is a 'thing'.

Sarsparella Sun 15-Apr-18 21:02:33

My 4 year old niece has spent the last month insisting she’s a dog and wearing a jumper around her waist as a tail smile

I think just let him grow his hair, wear what he wants & be imaginative - what else apart from having long hair & fashion does he feel is ‘being a girl’ that he can’t do anyway? smile

Sassypants82 Sun 15-Apr-18 21:04:40

Thanks ladyvimes, that makes a lot of sense. I swing from feeling very relaxed about it & much like you advise & then he'll say something that makes me feel so panicked that I'm going to destroy him by not supporting him adequately because this really is a serious thing he's going through.

I regularly explain that boys and girls are the same, neither is better than the other or can do anything more etc but he just says that 'boys aren't interesting' & he'd prefer to be a girl.

He knows he has a penis & that his sister has a vulva & although he mentioned once or twice that he'd like a vulva too, he hasn't in months & pees standing up now, but was sitting by choice for a while.

Marmelised Sun 15-Apr-18 21:05:02

My daughter was adamant to the point of tears that she was a cat at that age.

Sassypants82 Sun 15-Apr-18 21:08:23

That's good to hear Marmalised. He gets upset & cries saying 'I'll never be a real girl' sad

It's heartbreaking actually.

RBBMummy Sun 15-Apr-18 21:11:12

4 year olds don't understand the concept of gender. they don't know what it means to be a boy or a girl. Hes just exploring what it is. Boys can have long hair, wear tutus and have pretty bows. A boy can be a princess fairy and it doesn't make them any less of a boy. Hes just trying to discover that, push and see if there is a limit. When he finds out there isn't he'll likely just stop labeling things as boys and girls thing and tell you the things he likes

Sassypants82 Sun 15-Apr-18 21:12:19

Lol Sarsparella, she sounds like a ticket!

Tobestronger Sun 15-Apr-18 21:12:26

Let him grow his hair and play with what he wants and wear what he wants.
I allowed my daughter to have 'boys' and Bob the builder boots and Thomas train sets and any 'boys' character clothes she wanted at the age. She wanted Thomas pants. We couldn't find girls knickers so we bought the boys underwear version.
My friends boy spends his life in his sisters frozen dress and got a barbie for his birthday.

I think sometimes small children have conceptions of what being a boy and being a girl is. Get rid of that. Let him be who he wants to be.

If he does decide further down the line that this is a stronger feeling then fair enough but four is so little.

NannyOggsKnickers Sun 15-Apr-18 21:15:15

Yes, just keep letting him do the things he likes. He can do all the things he wants without having to be one gender or the other. It may be that he thinks all the things he wants to do belong to the catagory of ‘girl’.

DamnDeDoubtanceIsSpartacus Sun 15-Apr-18 21:16:03

Really important that he understands girls are not tutus and long hair. They are just people and they can choose what they wear and which toys they play with. Let him grow his hair, let him choose his toys, they are just his choices and should be respected. Boys can be feminine. smile

Mamaryllis Sun 15-Apr-18 21:16:49

why don't you let him grow his own hair instead of cutting it? It would be way easier if he realized that boys can have long hair as well as girls, instead of carting a scarf everywhere? The scarf is just silly. Just grow his damned hair.

ds1 wore his sister's clothes until he went to school and learned to walk in barbie shoes. He breastfed his dolls and pushed his dolls to nursery in his dolly pushchair. He went to ballet classes and out-girled everyone. (He also taught himself multiplication before his third birthday, and played 'shopping' by working out change. His nursery tried to get the LEA to assess him as he was scary bright.)

He's 16 now. All masculine. And no longer insists on wearing a leotard and tights and playing with dollies (although he still loves dance and drama). At the time, all of my friends took it for granted that he would be an entirely effeminate gay man (because largely, trans hadn't been invented on the mainstream stage for children, then. These days they would have been encouraging me to get him to the doc). He's very straight. And has the girls falling all over him.

In contrast, dd2 was a very girly girl. Long blonde hair, plaits, dresses. SHe's now 14 and vehemently non-binary. She wears grey sweats, baseball caps, and has her hair shorn. She finds her female body traumatizing. The jury is out on whether the you tubers will get her and send her a free binder.

For you, I would start with letting him grow his hair, because boys can have long hair too. But I would also be gently insistent that boys can't become girls, darling. If you teach your 4 yo that it is possible for him to become a girl, then he will believe it. (and that is a lie - he can grow up to become a dysphoric man -- that may find that genital surgery or a boob job gives him some mental ease - but he can't 'become' a woman.) You need to be allowing him to learn that all of the girly things he likes are fine for boys to like too.

And later on. Much later on. If he exhibits gender dysphoria. Then you can seek the mental health treatment he might need to come to terms with it. Which might lead to irreversible surgery, etc.

AT 4? He needs to know all of the stuff he likes is fine for boys. And that he is a boy.

(all of my three have been though the 'I am the opposite sex' phase. It's an entirely age appropriate exploration of societal roles, and learning who they want to be. Boxing them in to gender roles isn't progressive. It's regressive. If he grows up into a gay man, great. If he, sadly, ends up with gender dysphoria, then he will need mental health support. It's not an easy life, and it isn't one that you should be encouraging at 4. Particularly not when taken to its extreme, he will end up on puberty blockers that haven't been tested for long term outcomes, surgery, and sterilization. It's trendy. But it isn't a route you want to lock yourself into with a child that is exploring the world.)

I would be super careful about approaching a professional at this point. No-one is allowed to speak up, so he'll be socially transitioned before you know it. I wouldn't be taking those steps at 4, because you will set him on a path to transition, whether that would have been the outcome without 'treatment' or not. He sounds like a perfectly normal little boy. You can change that by transitioning him if you want to. But it would be your choice to do so. Your role as a parent is to gently distract from make-believe, not to cement it, which will only end up in disappointment later.

<disclaimer - I have a fair few trans friends and was heavily immersed in the community a few years ago - none of my friends would have chosen to be trans. It's something they accept, but given the option, would have preferred to not suffer from gender dysphoria. The new trend is more celebratory identity based, and forceful. It's not clear in twenty years how many of the current wave of transitioners will be happy - and what effects the current treatments will have on young bodies and mental health. We all do the best we can to allow our children to grow up healthy. Transitioning a 4yo is not in the child's best interest.>

We do have a few regular transwomen posters who might be able to give you an opposing view - jayceedove, justanothertranswoman, curry etc, but I think they are all older school transexuals like my friends. Just please read any pro-trans literature with a critical eye. And know that if it spouts the suicide statistics, you are being misled.

Sassypants82 Sun 15-Apr-18 21:19:09

Thanks everyone. I'll relax about it & follow his lead.

Just to give a full picture, he has access to a full range of toys, both typically boys and girls, at home, barbies, dolls & prams, a kitchen, trucks, garage, lego, art stuff, train set etc, we've never limited him or discouraged anything.

Recently he's asked for a dress but apart from the scarf, fairy wings, tutu & tiara & wand sets, he's not bothered about his clothes & never gets upset wearing his regular stuff, joggers, t-shirt & hoodies.

Staying Sun 15-Apr-18 21:20:20

I like the advice here so far. But I imagine it must be very hard to hear your perfect child (all our children are perfect little people) being unhappy about something about themselves for so long.

There is another thread on this section called something like Jazz - an edocrinologist's view. Before going to the doctor I'd take a read of it. It's an objective medical look at one treatment path. I've never come across that in the public domain before which is why I'm mentioning it. If you're thinking about involving the medical profession (and I'm not suggesting you should or shouldn't!) this would probably be good to have in mind as another basis for questions about it all.

My son right now is 6 and I'm not allowed to call him by his name alone. He's DS-Cristiano-Ronaldo. He's blonde and has his hair cut to be like him. People comment on his newly short hair and we have to explain its like Ronaldo's. He somehow feels he's got Ronaldo in him. At this age, perhaps the only difference is that it's more socially acceptable for my DS to wear a Real Madrid number 7 shirt all the time and cut his (formally long) hair than for yours to grow his and wear a tutu. And it shouldn't be.

FellOutOfBed2wice Sun 15-Apr-18 21:23:31

This sounds a lot like a boy that I went to school with who was and is gay. It sounds flippant to say that he was gay from the time that we were in play school, but he was. He’s a very proud out gay man now and has been since he was about 14. He is happily married and is a (very expensive!) wedding planner now. He seems very happy and was a great friend when we were growing up. His parents were always incredibly supportive and I would say it is to their credit that he was allowed to be who he is and grow into such a great man.

Sassypants82 Sun 15-Apr-18 21:28:37

Thanks for the post Mamaryllis, what you write makes sense.

Believe me, him being trans is not the life I want for him. Not because I would love him any less than I fiercely do, but because it would be a very hard path for him. Encouraging it or 'transitioning' him is the absolute last thing I want. But I am acutely aware of my own behaviour towards him being damaging in some way.

I fully understand that with him being so young, I sound so dramatic. Maybe I am being but believe me, I'm very level headed & like to think I'm tolerant and open minded, I'm just trying to be the best I can for him.

Sassypants82 Sun 15-Apr-18 21:31:11

Thanks staying & fell, both really comforting stories.

Just want a happy child at the end of the day.

PurpleDaisies Sun 15-Apr-18 21:34:07

I’d keep reassuring him that he is a boy but that doesn’t mean he can’t dress how he wants, wear him hair how he wants or choose the toys he wants.

Good luck.

Ohforfoxsakereturns Sun 15-Apr-18 21:34:29

Don’t label him as anything other than perfect. There’s no need to reinforce stereotypes and if anyone tells him he’s ‘wrong’ explain to him that they make different choices and that’s ok too.

12 years ago DS liked nothing more than swishing round as Aurora.

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