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My Daughter is Not Transgender. She's a Tomboy.

(101 Posts)
sticklebrix Wed 19-Apr-17 16:38:48

Article in the New York Times yesterday. It illustrates the outside pressure to trans that some perfectly healthy children experience.

I wonder what sort of response this article would get in the UK. Would it be seen as controversial?

www.nytimes.com/2017/04/18/opinion/my-daughter-is-not-transgender-shes-a-tomboy.html?smid=fb-nytimes&smtyp=cur&_r=0

IAmAmy Wed 19-Apr-17 17:38:57

I don't personally even like the term "tomboy". To me she's not a "tomboy", she's a girl. A girl who has short hair and likes sports. There's nothing remotely "male" about that - or female - just her own interests. I wrote this before finishing the article where I see the girl herself has questioned this term.

The article seems to highlight this worrying regression in how we see behaviours in children (and adults), though. That people are asking or even assuming the writer's daughter wants to be known as a boy because of what she's interested in and how she appears is ridiculous.

RosaDeZoett Wed 19-Apr-17 17:49:59

Really interesting article. I was a " tomboy", short hair, sports, male friends etc. I went through a phase around 12/13 of asking people to call me by my middle name (a unisex name) But that was the 70's....I often wonder what if I had have been born nowadays! I'm definitely a woman, I feel like a woman, but for a few years I did wish I was a boy... (I might be a tiny bit gay but that's another story....) Anyway, very interesting article.

Orlantina Wed 19-Apr-17 18:12:25

Surely by calling her daughter a tomboy, she is herself reinforcing gender roles by the word tomboy - a girl who does 'boy' things?

She's a girl. She's not transgender. She shouldn't really need to be called a tomboy. She shouldn't need a label. Just like a boy doesn't need a label if they do things that aren't "stereotypical" boy things.

Let kids be kids.

FamilySpartan Wed 19-Apr-17 18:25:29

This is something I've been thinking about quite a bit recently.

When I was young I preferred to play with the boys, play with toys that were intended for boys (early 80's) and wear trousers/shorts and never dresses or skirts.

I someone had sidled up to me at any time between age 4-10 and asked me if I wanted to be a boy, in my childlike rationale of taking this to mean I could wear trousers all the time, I might have said yes which these days could put me on an irreversible path.

I never actually felt like a boy, and I never wanted to be a boy. Now I realise I just disliked 'girly' clothes and affectations. Once I hit puberty I became a bit more 'girly'.

I'm still not big on dresses. I was talking about this to DH on the weekend, just saying what a mess I could have been made into by someone trying to push me into something irreversible when I was too young to understand.

I understand that there are people who feel they are born in the wrong body and I'm glad that help is available to them.

FamilySpartan Wed 19-Apr-17 18:26:56

If someone, not I someone. Sorry. Excuse any other typos too.

magicstar1 Wed 19-Apr-17 18:33:01

Same here...no dolls for me - I had dumper trucks and cowboys. When I hit my teens I had a flat top haircut and as I got older again I ride a motorbike and wore one dress in ten years...my wedding dress.
These days I'm sure I'd be told I should transition...I really hope pressure isn't being put on small children.

scaryclown Wed 19-Apr-17 18:39:41

I agree.

I was very lucky to grow up and go to uni when girls, especially radical forward thinking girls, could be 'boyish' if they wanted to be, and were just considered to be girls, Punk helped, boy george helped, clubbing helped, crusty helped. It was a wondrously normal time.

being angry or dark meant you would be alt, being too happy and undiscerning meant you'd be a clubber, being introvert or thoughtful or depressed youd be literary etc.

I hate this medcalisation and taking hormones to feel ok with who you are. its weird.

herethereandeverywhere Wed 19-Apr-17 18:41:23

I have a DD (5) who chooses 'boys' clothes, 'boys' haircuts, 'boys' toys. She is very clear that she wants to go to the 'boys' section in the shop and checks, before she chooses something, that it is for 'boys'. I explain that everything is for everyone (and have done this with both DDs forever) but unless she's reassured that she's not picking a 'girls' thing she won't go for it. This has been going on for about 18 months. It's not just about being comfortable or finding certain things more interesting than others, it's actively choosing to identify with what society says is 'boy' and rejecting what society says is 'girl'.

She's happy so we just go with it, even though it's costing me money as she won't touch any hand-me-down clothes from her older sister (and gets very distressed if we try to make her).

Is that a 'tomboy'? I don't think labels are very helpful but I don't think denying that there's something more than being 'a tomboy' is helpful either.

RoseSonata Wed 19-Apr-17 18:44:35

I wouldn't describe myself as a tomboy as a child, but as a teen I chose A level subjects which are much more popular among boys (physics and further maths) and a university subject which has a 20% female intake (engineering).

Does that mean I had (and have) a boy's brain inside a girl's body?

FFS this stuff makes me so mad angry

HeyRoly Wed 19-Apr-17 18:47:24

This article popped up on my FB feed and I thought "hooray!"

Then I clicked on the comments and it was full of angry people saying if you can't tell the difference between tomboy and trans, you're an idiot hmm

Personally I'd love to know how tomboy and trans are different, if they are both about females who prefer "male" things...

LineysRun Wed 19-Apr-17 18:48:41

I used to wish I was a boy because boys had more interesting lives and toys and futures. And were allowed to wear trousers. And do woodwork.

I had cleaning and skirts and embroidery ffs.

I was a girl, and I am a woman.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 19-Apr-17 18:50:22

'She is not gender nonconformin'g. She is gender role nonconforming. '
Quite.

Rose - my DD likewise, yr 13 now. As far as I can see she's 100% a young woman.

IAmAmy Wed 19-Apr-17 18:51:37

Of course there are also children who don't go all one way or the other in terms of this gendered nonsense. I always loved playing with toy cars, action figures and so forth. I particularly liked giving toys names and characters of their own - the elder of my two brothers and I had a whole community and ongoing storylines. Anyway, I digress and show how odd we were. I also loved playing sport, kicking balls around, generally lively playing and so forth. At the same time as all this I also had long hair (always have and still do) which is considered typically "feminine", wore dresses and skirts (as well as jeans and trousers...not at the same time though). I'm doing A Level subjects which are generally taken up more by boys - though not at single sex schools like my own, interestingly, where, for example, Maths is one of the two most taken A Levels.

This is possibly quite a roundabout way of saying once again how nonsensical current thinking on what makes someone "trans" is. Children are individuals with all sorts of interests. Liking one particular thing, having a style of haircut, wearing certain clothes, doesn't make one either a girl or a boy and some of these TRAs should explain how exactly it does. It's incredibly limiting and regressive thinking.

KathyBeale Wed 19-Apr-17 18:53:00

My son is 7. He says he is a "girly boy" and often plays with two girls in his class who could be described as tomboys (I also hate that word) who he says are "boy-y girls". He went through a phase when he was about five of saying he wanted to be a girl. I just gently said that boys and girls could do all the same things if they wanted and eventually we discovered he wanted to do dancing but thought it was only for girls.

He is actually now very proud of being a boy and embraces being a bit different. Weirdly it was David Bowie that seemed to get it all straight in his head - when he died and there were lots of pics around of him wearing feminine clothes. My son spent ages looking at the pictures and telling me David Bowie was wearing a dress but he was still a boy.

I wouldn't be at all surprised if he turns out to be gay. But I would be horrified if anyone suggested he should be a girl.

I really feel all these strict gender definitions are so damaging.

Orlantina Wed 19-Apr-17 18:54:16

I wonder what the 'reverse' article would be - a boy who liked wearing dresses, having long hair and doing 'girly' things. What word would they use instead of 'tomboy'?

sticklebrix Wed 19-Apr-17 18:54:59

Yes. I'm not a fan of 'tomboy' either.

The leap to assuming that this young girl might want to be a boy because of her appearance and interests is quite bizarre.

Rosa - interesting to hear your experience, thank you!

Butterymuffin Wed 19-Apr-17 18:56:15

I can see why she's used the word tomboy, because it's a known term (though less used now) for someone who wants to adopt the social behaviours expected of boys but who everyone knew was a girl. Not uncommon in times when this meant a more interesting life (George from the Famous Five as the prime example who wanted to be thought of as 'as good as a boy'). The term is outdated but the argument about purely social characteristics (or 'gender' as it used to be known) is a useful one.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 19-Apr-17 19:09:22

Some of the nonsense described by the mother in the article could be avoided by simply referring to the kids as kids most of the time anyway. Unless they're at an age where some things should begin to be sex segregated (eg changing rooms for swimming) then just let kids be kids.

We belong to a sailing club, a few years ago there was one kid, I couldn't tell from facial features, name or demeanour whether the child was a boy or a girl. So I called the kid by name, lent hair bobbles to restrain long hair, helped rig the boat .... it was simply irrelevant to the activity what sex the child was. Of course, before long I'd heard his mother refer to him by a pronoun and saw him going into the male changing room - there wasn't any need to ask. But even if I'd never known if he was a boy or girl why would it matter?

The opening line of the piece strikes me as a bit of 'on trend' virtue signalling tbh.

OlennasWimple Wed 19-Apr-17 20:59:11

I think I would have been identified as non-binary as a child: long hair, very into ballet, liked dresses and skirts but hated pink, mostly played with boys, had more lego than Barbies and could climb a tree better than plait my doll's hair.

I am so glad I was a child of the 80s

WombOfOnesOwn Thu 20-Apr-17 00:33:51

herethere, I think that's interesting that your daughter does that. I (33, a woman) felt very much the same about "girl stuff" at that age. Violently rejected it, wouldn't play with it, only wanted boy toys, boy clothes, would throw a serious full fledged tantrum over a skirt.

It took me a long time to understand that I was basically parroting the misogyny society had fed into me. I was rejecting girls as social groups, girls as friends, and "girl stuff" because I could sense the way it was denigrated all around me.

When I did "boy stuff" and pushed away girl stuff, I got so much approval from men, and I wanted that approval pretty desperately. I knew how men treated "girly" girls and how they were viewed, and I wanted to see the look of respect and "the kids are alright" I got from them when I told them I was building a rocket. I knew how much social currency there was in boy activities, and how very little there was in even the most dedicated, skilled girl activities.

When I was that age, I knew that boy clothes weren't designed in a way that made you wonder if you were showing something you didn't want to be. I knew that girl clothes were for a group of people who wanted to be called "pretty," because as soon as you wore nice ones, people started talking to you like all you were was "prettiness."

Yeah, there can be something beyond just being a tomboy. But I'm looking at my child and am very glad I didn't destroy my fertility by getting sterilized, or spend years in a blind panic because I believed it was truly important for everyone in my life to change the pronouns they use for me.

I identified with boys because I was told by everyone I listened to that boys were full-fledged human beings and girls were basically icons or inspiration or purely aesthetic, social creatures. I didn't want to be a caricature. I wanted to be a person. For a long time, I thought that meant being a boy.

MaryTheCanary Thu 20-Apr-17 04:35:27

I'm not a huge fan of the word tomboy either, but I think the most important thing is that she is trying to get some airtime for the fact that it is OK for a girl to be gender-nonconforming. It's helpful to use language the average reader is likely to be familiar with, and tomboy is a word most people will have grown up with.

sticklebrix Thu 20-Apr-17 09:20:31

True, Mary.

People describing their childhood experiences (thank you, very interesting) have made me think about my own DC.

My female DC seem readier to display their 'non conforming' traits in public. They get lots of positive feedback from other adults for, e.g. being good at karate. Nobody batted an eyelid that they spent their early years in ragged jeans covered in mud in the garden or up trees.

My kind, quiet DS, on the other hand, gets people reacting with visible relief to his interest in football.

Orlantina Thu 20-Apr-17 09:44:35

My kind, quiet DS, on the other hand, gets people reacting with visible relief to his interest in football

Boys who don't like / have such an interest in such things that they are expected to because they are boys do get people being surprised that they don't. And if a boy wanted to wear skirts or dresses, I strongly suspect they would be under pressure to transition.

sticklebrix Thu 20-Apr-17 10:56:41

'And if a boy wanted to wear skirts or dresses, I strongly suspect they would be under pressure to transition.'

I can believe that.

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