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14 yo DD thinks she's transgender/gender fluid but I'm not convinced

(27 Posts)
Izbiz1 Wed 29-Apr-15 15:41:51

(my first post so why not make it a goody!)

My 14 yo DD says she's confused about her gender identity, and is spending inordinate amounts of time brooding about this. She says she feels more like a boy than a girl more frequently now.

As a child, she was never girly - no fairy costumes or dolls or makeup. She always hated any form of dressing up. She also never displayed any tom-boy behaviour eg getting muddy, football or outdoor things, superheros. She mostly played lego, had imaginary friends and wrote a lot - little magazines, stories etc - she had a complete imaginary world based around her lego.

She has started wearing black eye makeup, but I've struggled to get her to attend to personal hygiene eg washing her face frequently. She's dabbled in making her hair frizzy with plaiting it when wet, she's dabbled with painting her nails, she stopped wearing school trousers and insists on wearing a skirt and tights and rolling the skirt. She hates shopping for new bras, and wears a cami over the top (but says other people do too but she doesn't know why they do it). She has seemed to fancy boys, becoming obsessed with eg Jake from Outnumbered, popstars and Phil/Dan on Youtube.

There has been absolutely no outward sign, as far as we are concerned, that she wants to be a boy. There has been a lot of what we considered completely normal - a dislike of the whole business of periods, an embarrasment with buying bras and being measured, a dislike of her body generally, a terror whenever an outbreak of spots appears and an insistence that she looks "a wreck" etc. I thought this was all normal teenage angst that everyone goes through, and has told her so, but she gets upset and says I don't understand.

I am seeing the PHSCE teacher on Friday, as I know my DD has talked to her confidentially (and I was upset that nobody told me about this, but understand there is no legal need to say anything - I'm just relieved DD has told me now). I am also seeing my GP on Friday as I feel that either DD or me/husband need counselling!

I am however very wary of initiating counselling, as I have a gut feeling that the PHSCE lessons - while important for promoting tolerance and anti-bullying and acceptance - and any counselling - will give airtime to a notion that could well be (and I'm sure is) just a passing phase. I don't want to encourage her to brood on this, when in a few months/a year her hormones have settled and life carries on. I am also aware that this is her identity we're talking about, and absolutely of the utmost importance, and if it really is the case that she is transgender then we need to get support sorted out ASAP.

Meanwhile, her school work is going to pot - and her music practices - everything really. She hardly talks to us, she's just constantly obsessing....

HELP!! What on earth do we do? Does anyone have experience of these feelings being a passing phase?

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

DrewOB Wed 29-Apr-15 16:13:28

Hello,
it's good that your daughter has mentioned it.
It may be worth mentioning that being a woman/ girl is not about dressing like a girl/ behaving like a girl? Your post worries me a bit, because you seem to say there was something wrong with her for not behaving in a girly way from childhood. Your description of her strikes me as a perfectly healthy (albeit geeky maybe ;) ) child.

There's a lot of women out there who hated their bodies when growing up, never wear make up, did not do ballet, were goths, hung out with the boys and were into "male ( apparently)" hobbies (Sci -fi, music, sciences etc) who grow up to be happy successful women and mothers.

Best of luck!

RiaOverTheRainbow Wed 29-Apr-15 16:25:36

I know it's a huge shock, but remember it's a very positive thing your DD felt able to confide in you. She needs your support, and to know you will accept her no matter what. Neither of you know how she will feel in 5 years time, but she is the expert in how she feels right now. Exploring her gender identity won't put your DD on a path of no return, but it may make her happier. Knowing her parents support her however she identifies will almost certainly make her happier long term.

PannaDoll Wed 29-Apr-15 16:26:00

OP I agree that everything you describe about your girl up until now sounds completely normal.

I think your only choice her is to go for counselling.

It may be that your DD feels 'different' in an awkward generic teenage way, in a sexuality exploring way or a transgender way and has some crossed wires somewhere along the way. Hopefully counselling will sort that out.

What a bumpy situation for you all to be in. Best of luck. I have no real experience/advice to offer.

mathanxiety Wed 29-Apr-15 17:28:13

I agree with the point made by DrewOB.

Everything to do with childhood has become extraordinarily genderised in the past few decades. The world of girls has become 1000% pinker than I remember from my childhood in the 70s and the world of boys has become a lot more macho. In terms of hobbies, preoccupations and interests, the divide between girls and boys has also widened. I think the highly 'east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet' genderised environment causes many issues.

I think it would be a good idea to tease out whether what your DD is feeling is trauma associated with puberty that is expressing itself in general misery with her appearance/identity/personality and a crisis of direction and motivation in school or gender dysphoria. Being 'different' in any way in this highly genderised society where even personal appearance is very generic and uniform can cause some to think they are so unlike the general image of girls or boys that they must belong in the other camp and this is not necessarily the case.

YDdraigGoch Wed 29-Apr-15 17:36:05

Again, not wanting to diss those who have identified as transgender, your daughter sounds to me as if she's "just" struggling with all the physical and hormonal changes happening to her body at the moment.
I was the same - back in the seventies. Dressed like a boy, happier helping my DF with odd jobs, household and car maintenance etc - men's jobs in those days.
I am now 50+, married, mother of two. Very maternal. Never girlie, not into party frocks and makeup, but definitely female.

Yarp Wed 29-Apr-15 18:09:01

Totally agree with mathanxiety

Izbiz1 Thu 30-Apr-15 08:30:34

Thank you all. When I said she wasn't interested in dolls etc, I didn't mean that was a bad thing, just a statement of fact! I'm not particularly "feminine" whatever that means. I don't wear makeup or heels and don't like dressing up. I'm feeling much better reading these replies, but I still can't really talk to her ie I try but she doesn't want to hear that this is all normal! And by saying that I'm not saying trans is abnormal, I mean normal for a hetero teen to feel a bit confused and have a poor body image. I think she is caught between wanting to be different and unique, and yet also find common ground somewhere to explain her feelings ie be like others. I'll report back after we've all chatted to GP, teacher and DD!

PannaDoll Thu 30-Apr-15 10:43:10

To be honest, if I was mired in teen confusion and 'issues' I wouldn't want to be fobbed off with being told 'this is normal' either. Also, you don't know it's normal, you just have a strong inkling that it is (and that may be partially wishful thinking).

Without having a clue how the conversations between the two of you are going currently, I think she would benefit for some more listening and less talking and reassuring from you as it may come across as minimising the 'total teen angst and trauma' that she is experiencing. Does that make sense?

It's certainly putting my morning struggles with my two year old in context. I am in no way prepared to own a teenager!!!

Izbiz1 Thu 30-Apr-15 17:58:02

I'm definitely not trying to fob her off Pannadoll. I'm trying very hard to negotiate my way between reassuring her that confusion is normal (which it is) and accepting whatever feelings she's having (which I know are very real) whilst also being concerned that all her energy is going into this, right now, and the rest of her life is passing her by. She's dropping the ball on everything else, and it may just be for nought. I don't know how to empathise with her, and reassure, without being accused (by her) of not understanding - which of course I'll never be able to do! Who can truly understand the innermost turmoil of another? That being said, I am her mother, and I don't have any sort of hunch or intuition that this rings true for her. I just don't know. If she felt more male than female, why the aura of perfumed body spray as she left the house in her hitched-up short skirt and up-do hair this morning?!

This is hard.

mathanxiety Thu 30-Apr-15 18:12:22

'I think she is caught between wanting to be different and unique, and yet also find common ground somewhere to explain her feelings ie be like others.'

I think this is very insightful. I think your last post expresses very well the place you are in, too.

There is a lot of pressure on young girls -- once you leave childhood behind you enter a sexualised world with almost no cocoon stage where you get your act together so to speak. Young teen girls enter a society where they are fair game for passing drivers and lads, where there are images of perfect bodies all around them, where they are expected to look like Abercrombie or Hollister models and be as sophisticated as bright airbrushed young things from American tv, whereas they are feeling incredibly inadequate and unready, and not interested in playing the genderised flirty role assigned to them, plus they have spots and their deodorant sometimes fails. They can realise very suddenly that many people they pass on the street are looking at them differently from the way they did even a few months ago, that they are being judged in a different way. It can be very painful to find yourself reduced to one specific dimension when you know you are far more than that. It is a huge struggle for many teen girls to get on top of it all and feel in control again.

Izbiz1 Thu 30-Apr-15 19:22:00

Thank you mathanxiety, absolutely brill.

Deep breath...I need to talk to her this evening!

AnyFucker Thu 30-Apr-15 19:34:35

That is a great post from math

Izbiz1 Fri 01-May-15 12:40:57

We're now in a better place.

School 110% supportive and aware of how this may affect academic work.

Child open to idea of counselling, to gain clarity over feelings. We've found a private counsellor rather than use school (long waiting list etc) but not yet phoned for appt.

Doctor confirmed counselling provision is thru school, and wished me luck smile

Daughter shared massive secret re best friend, so there is a new wrinkle to this in the form of self-harm (friend, not DD, but I did notice a tentative "scratch" the other day and did mention it in passing but brushed off....

Friend's Mum is our good friend too, so now we're all in on this together. So girls will know that we all know and that they're being looked out for. And this is a closed loop of trust and support and safety.

Our "duct tape parenting" experiment will continue (I didn't mention this before) where we stand back and let DD have control over large parts of her life inc laundry, getting herself out of bed in the a.m. etc - the intention being (a) to become more capable and independent, and then gain self confidence by being able to do stuff (b) to have control, and not need to seek it thru cutting/other self-harming or "naughty" behaviour eg refusal to do stuff, and (c) so we can back off!! And stop having to do her thinking and organising.

So thank you all for your support. I'll check in at a later date, but for now I'm all wrung out!!

CowboyJoeFromMexico Fri 01-May-15 23:18:43

Just wanted to say that my 14yo dad is going through the exact same thing - she was quite girly until puberty but for the past few years has dressed exclusively in tops and trousers. She wears boys underwear and a binder and is much happier this way, and identifies as male. Even if this does fizzle out eventually, it's hugely important to her (him) now and at least by knowing we take it seriously it helps a little.

She also has friends going through this too and I have adult trans friends who have spoken to her. It's a very different path to that of most teenage girls that I know. She is very prone to anxiety but has calmed down since being more open about feeling male.

Good luck x

CowboyJoeFromMexico Fri 01-May-15 23:20:11

Dd not dad!!! blush

mathanxiety Sat 02-May-15 00:28:55

I really like the duct tape parenting idea.

KatharineClifton Sat 02-May-15 15:24:06

For support and advice: www.mermaidsuk.org.uk/

For professional advice and counselling you need to go to your GP and get a referral to the Tavistock - it's automatic in England. In Wales you need to go through the palava of gaining funding. In Scotland I think it's a different system again.

comingintomyown Sun 03-May-15 13:45:47

This has happened to me this week. My just 16 year old told me a few weeks ago there was something making her very unhappy but she couldn't talk to anyone , even her best friend about.

She's told me this week she thinks she is transgender. As a younger child she was 100% tomboy wearing her brothers old clothes etc. She changed just before starting secondary school telling me she knew if she didn't she wouldn't fit in. Since then she has seemed to follow all the usual teen stuff ie hair , make up clothes etc.

She's said she thinks she is madly in love with her best friend of several years and that she,wants to be with her but not as gay but as a boy. That she's known she wants to be a boy since she was six years old but has hidden it.

Oddly she also said she loved being a bridesmaid at her Fathers wedding recently and wearing a dress and heels but thought maybe that was due to all the attention she got (she is stunning looking).

I haven't been able to post or cry or really think about much since but I am drawing solace from something a poster said on another thread on here about this. She said did the person say they are a boy or that they wanted to be a boy there's a world of difference.

We talked for a while and she's said telling me is enough of a step for now and that we will take from here once her pending GCSE exams are over.

She kept saying she doesn't want this to be happening and doesn't seem to want to bind her breasts, be called by a boys name etc.

I am torn between thinking its exam stress, her best friend has serious depression, she's gay and can't handle it to telling myself to face up to it.

Anyway OP you aren't alone and thank you for starting a thread where I could say this x

Loveeee Wed 06-May-15 00:57:23

Please do remember that there are other genders than just male and female, and many people have fluctuating gender identities. Anyone's identity could change at any point in their life. I wouldn't worry, just support her and make sure she's making good life choices.

Abloodybigholeintheground Wed 06-May-15 01:22:15

Without wanting to cause offence to transgender people....

You know how these days everyone googles everything and finds info on the internet. You have a certain ailment-you can give yourself a variety of diagnoses that normally you wouldn't know about. If you car is playing up you can find out what it could be. There's a problem with your dishwasher-you can find guidelines about various things to do... I think for many kids the accessibility of information about changing gender is such that they make decisions about it when they are suffering from the normal teenage angst and turbulent emotions. It's easy for teens to get fixated on something which, once they have matured and found life less of a competition and discovered their place in the world, seems irrelevant to them. So they may be unhappy with themselves in their chaotic hormonal existence but I feel thinking of permanent gender altering actions is pretty dangerous until they have fully matured. I write this as another non girlie girl, who lived in doc martins, jeans and sloppy joes and had a masculine outlook on life up until about 21 yrs old. Now married with kids, still not that girlie but definitely not a boy as I often wished I was! The recent TV program about medical professionals working with US kids as young as 18 mths old who were allegedly transgender was quite terrifying!

mathanxiety Wed 06-May-15 04:24:26

I agree with your observation, Abloodybigholeintheground.

I am also wondering if some of the friend's problems have affected the DD somehow. Some people are very sensitive to problems others are going through, very empathetic. It can be a great quality but it can also lead to losing track of your own path if you get over-involved or if you feel despair at being helpless to stop someone else from experiencing huge pain or problems. Or just if you are in over your head a bit in a friendship with someone who is leaning on you more than she should for support, or whose problems are more than you can really handle at age 14.

Izbiz1 Tue 12-May-15 23:11:10

Just coming back to this and finding the last couple of replies interesting and insightful mathanxiety and abloodybigholeintheground. We've had an excellent week, with revision, homework, music practice all being done (ish!). And she's been SO much happier and less snappy and moody. I think a huge part of this was carrying the weight of her friend's troubles, which I think scared her silly. She says she doesn't feel the need for counselling now, and has been more affectionate and fun than she has all year, really!

The other day she was completely gaga over a Youtube video of kittens, so who knows, the whole transgender thing may have been a blip. As abloodybigholeintheground said, I think she's been reading up too much on Google, and what with the PSHCE lessons, she convinced herself of being something "different" because she found out stuff she'd never considered before.

I hope things work out for you and your DD comingintomyown. It's tough xx

mathanxiety Wed 13-May-15 06:16:09

Wishing you and your DD all the best, and her friend too.

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