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Parenting teenagers has its ups and downs. Get advice from Mumsnetters here.


My 14 Old Daughter Says She Wants to be a Boy

405 replies

Somebiscuits · 03/05/2012 13:14

I have a dilemma. My daughter has expressed her dissatisfaction with many aspects of femininity before - periods for instance and the fact that women do not have true equality with men- and I have been very sympathetic. She doesn't like having breasts and quickly went from wearing ordinary bras to wearing sports bras. That was okay too.I suppose I was waiting for her to accept that she was growing up and mature a little bit.

However, recently she has announced that she has body dysmorphia and wants to be a male. She has asked to see a counsellor and last night asked me to buy bindings so she can flatten her breasts completely. I refused because I believe this could permanently damage her - she's still growing after all. She flew off the handle and now I don't know what to do.

The thing is I am pretty liberal and accepting and I would accept this more if she had a history of dressing or acting like a boy. She hasn't and has an interest in girls things like make up, hair and clothes. She is not gay. Her dislike of being female seems more to do with the physical and social aspects than a deep feeling that she was born in the wrong gender.

All this has left me very confused. I'm loathe to start her on counselling for fear she'll end up going down a particular path which I am not at all convinced is the right one. On the other hand I want to support her and the best I can for her while she finds out about herself. What should I do?

OP posts:
mollymole · 03/05/2012 13:17

I really do not know what to say to you, but I do so hope that you and your daughter are able to converse together on this subject. Could you maybe start counselling where you are in the room with your daughter and the counselling team.

Somebiscuits · 03/05/2012 14:36

Hanks. Having spent all day today thinking about this I think some form of counselling is the only way forward.

OP posts:
sashh · 05/05/2012 04:52

I went through that at about the same age. For me it was the restictions of being female.

Counselling might be a good idea, because she probably doesn't really want to be a boy, she just sees boys as having more fun/better jobs / earning more.

I eventually decided it was better to change things for women than join the other side.

Mopswerver · 05/05/2012 16:58

I think many of us, quite understandably, have a whole spectrum of confusing feelings around that age. I certainly remember a spell of having a crush on a girl and I was always a Tomboy so I was asking myself if I was Gay.

In a way I think having counselling straight away might legitimise her feelings somehow. Make it into something if you know what I mean? It might indeed be something that needs extra help at some stage but maybe not right away?

I would advocate lots of love, support and open conversations about her feelings in general (which I am sure you are doing). You sound like a loving and supportive Mum and I'm sure you will help her through this confusing time.

slug · 05/05/2012 17:49

Does she say she is a boy or wants to be a boy. The first is body dysmorphia, the second is a logical reaction to the realisation that life in this culture as a female is always going to be more difficult and restrictive.

Your DD sounds intelligent and perceptive.

LineRunner · 05/05/2012 17:55

I would say that if you opt for counselling, be very very careful in the counsellor that you select. If they don't know what they're doing in this delicate area, they could do more harm than good.

I have been to a couple of brilliant counsellors over the years, and a couple of real whack-jobs. Could you ask for a recommendation from a trusted organisation or professional?

I wish you and your daughter well.

ggirl · 05/05/2012 18:04

hmmmm sounds to me like extreme teenage angst about accepting the things life throws at you
i remember being pissed off about periods ,boobs etc
vowed I would never wear a dress , refused to do menial task "just cos I had a pair of tits"

do you think it may be a phase ?

I'm not sure counselling is appropriate if that is what you suspect. Just listen and let her moan about these things and support her feeling but not escalating them too much by rushing to the professional.

However you are the best person to know if this is seriously affecting her mental health or not.

MsWeatherwax · 05/05/2012 18:27

There are a few resources out there: is one. No decisions have to be permanent right now, everything can be changed back again if that is what's wanted. Breast binding doesn't as far as I understand do any permanent damage. She might want to look into identities such as non-binary and genderqueer: A good counsellor will do no harm - look for a BACP accredited counsellor. Her feelings are her feelings - if she feels you reject them they won't go away, she will just learn to hide them, it's better to deal with things head on and give her the chance to talk them through with somebody. What harm can it possibly do if she wants to dress and identify as a boy for now?

MsWeatherwax · 05/05/2012 18:29

ggirl your reference to "a phase" is exactly how my mother reacted when I came out to her (as bisexual). I suggest if the OP does think it is a phase that she doesn't say this to her daughter as it will only make her feel totally unsupported.

ggirl · 05/05/2012 18:59

I didn't mean for the OP to blatantly say to her dd that she was just going through a phase .
I meant for her to support her dd's feelings and allow time for her dd to grow and enable her to identify what exactly she is feeling.

Sorry if it came across as belittling the dd's feelings that is definitely not what I meant.

Bobbymac · 24/11/2014 10:32

Just came across this post and realise it may now be too old a thread to try... But anyway, I just wondered how things turned out for you and your daughter. I'm going through something similar with my daughter too and it's very concerning!

NikkiH38 · 04/12/2014 22:19

I was also wondering how things turned out. My 14 year old daughter had been dating her female friend for a few months and told me the other day she is now certain she likes boys and they broke up. However she has been a tomboy for a couple of years now and more and more dressing like a boy and recently has been talking about chest binding (which I don't like the idea off while she is still developing) and is now determined she wants to be a boy. She tells me she has been feeling this way for around 6 months. She has been having some counselling at school over the past few weeks which seems to have brought some of this out & we have a CAMHS assessment in January. I am not sure where to go with this - she has been reading some books which are "Boy kissed boy" books and is now pleading for a t-shirt by the same author/artist for xmas. I want to support her but she seems to be all over the place at present. Also last week she started eating meat after being a vegetarian for nearly 5 years.

Bobbymac · 05/12/2014 12:44

Hi NikkiH38 - my 15 year-old daughter is going through something that sounds similar. It seemed to start after she was dumped by her boyfriend (they'd been dating almost a year). She became overly-feminised (very short skirts etc which weren't usual for her) and was determined to "win him back" but then when her ex started flirting with her best mate (now ex best mate), she began dressing like a boy and said she thought she was gay. After a couple of girl-crushes, she started trying to flatten her breasts and said she wanted to be a boy.
After she was dumped she found alot of transgender blogs (including one FTM who seems to be something of a transgender hero) and info on the internet and I think she was looking for someone to identify with (she had complained of feeling invisible in her social group at school). She was a bit of a tomboy when younger but not overtly so. (Didn't like dolls and loved to be out on her bike but also loved crochet, ponies, knitting, sewing clothes for her soft toys. Used to spend hours styling and braiding her long hair but has since had it cut short). We've never tried to force any gender stereotype on her and have told her we love and support her no matter what but we're trying to buy time and not let her rush into anything!
(CAMHS tried to jump the gun so we're going via private route for family therapy, starting next week). Like you, it's hard knowing what to do for the best apart from giving lots of love and hugs. A therapist friend has advocated a light but supportive touch so that's what we're doing for now.

Don't know whether it's just me but there seem to be alot more teens going through this than when I was young - our neighbour's daughter is also going through it and we live in a small town...

NikkiH38 · 05/12/2014 17:28

Hi Bobbymac,
Thank you for that - it is good to know we are not alone! We are going to try and slow it right down (which is hard when you have a teenager and they want everything now). She has been spending a lot of time listening to music like "Not Thinking Straight" and reading the books and she obviously has a lot of information she has gleaned from various websites/blogs etc. I feel that she has romantisized? things and is perhaps afraid of growing up. We are trying to be as supportive as possible and will obviously love and support her whatever. She seems so young to be making these kinds of decisions.
I must admit I am a little worried about the CAMHS assessment but we will see how that goes in January. It would be good to hear how your family therapy goes.
I think there is a lot more information out there than when we were growing up - which can be a good thing and not so good sometimes. Thank you for replying - reassuring to know we are not alone. If you want to email me direct my email is [email protected] but I will check the site regularly.
many thanks

Somebiscuits · 14/12/2014 09:24

We were referred to the Tavistock Clinic in the end (via CAHMS) and had about 6 sessions of intensive counselling. The whole family were involved and it was tremendously helpful. What benefitted my daughter most I think was the realisation that she could talk to us about this stuff and we would support her, not react with horror.

She no longer wants to change sex but does now and again still express the wish to get rid of her breasts. I'm not at all certain that she will do it however. She is in a much better place now and is happy and successful at school. For all of you going through similar things I'd say to hang on in there - it wasn't a phase as such, but good counselling and time did help to remove most of the issues.

We have a follow up with our local CAHMS in a few days time - it wasn't compulsory but my daughter decided she would like to go.

OP posts:
BrowersBlues · 14/12/2014 12:58

Biscuits, thanks for the update. Its great to hear that your DD is happy and doing so well. Well done for staying calm and helping her to work it out. You didn't freak out and provided a safe place for her to raise a very sensitive issue. I don't doubt that the whole thing probably scared you witless but you handled it brilliantly and are a great example to other parents.

Somebiscuits · 14/12/2014 15:26

Thank you Browers! I will admit that it was scary at times. I felt very lost at first.

OP posts:
Bobbymac · 15/12/2014 09:07

Hi Somebiscuits - so glad to hear it all worked out. DH and I are finding it a bewildering experience but really reassuring to hear from other parents - as NikkiH says it's good to know we're not alone! Thanks so much for coming back to the thread with the update.

Gender seems to be a big issue in the media right now. There's currently a Radio 4 feature entitled "Becoming Myself" and also a R4 drama on today about a boy who wants to be a girl. I think I read that there's also a movie out next year about a girl who wants to be a boy. Interesting times...

Somebiscuits · 16/12/2014 11:22

One thing that came out in our family counselling sessions Bobby was the fact that with the Internet etc there are so many more sources of info about non-binary lifestyles etc that people of previous generations did not have. We had to take it or leave it. That's not so much the case anymore and young people have many more "choices" and thus questions than might have once been the case. As a society we are going to have to learn to accept that sexuality/ gender is a spectrum.

OP posts:
depecheNO · 20/12/2014 20:22

Some people never give much thought to their gender identity because they do not struggle as they are, e.g. because they are in society's eyes heterosexual, or are not often questioned about their interests. Some of us cope pretty well until puberty, or even beyond puberty if not going through anything we perceive as outrageously unfair with regards to social and physiological restrictions. Personally, I was bullied "for being a lesbian" (gender fluid asexual, so not even remotely a lesbian), and suffered from endometriosis, which is alone enough to make a teenager suicidal without any feeling of disconnect between the mind and body.

Things like difficult periods and breasts getting in the way can be the difference between coping "as a female" and feeling like everything about oneself is wrong. I wouldn't be so quick to write someone off as less than serious (or merely wanting to stay a child) because those are the things triggering the most upset. Children with non-binary gender identity are often the ones who are most scared of the prospect of puberty, because they do not treasure the supposed upsides of being a certain sex, and already expect the changes to feel incorrect.

From my own experience, I would recommend the continuous pill for any teenager suffering significant emotional distress because of periods. It has made a huge difference to my life, and although I still have thoughts about surgery, I am a functional adult and no longer suffering panic attacks simply from looking at a calendar. This is not to diminish anyone else's experience, but to help with teenagers who may not be aware of alternative solutions to certain aggravating factors which indeed may lead them to make drastic claims about "wanting to be" the other sex rather than "feeling like" they are. If you can engineer a situation where there are virtually no objective downsides to your physical sex, then you can start to think logically about whether or not surgery is for you. (In my case it is not, because my gender expression often will not stay still for whole days at a time, and I imagine this to be fairly common even in those teenagers who seem to settle on a static identity by adulthood.)

NikkiH38 · 15/01/2015 20:00

We have just been referred to the Tavistock clinic through CAMHS. I know that we will probably have a few months wait now for an appointment but hoping that it will be beneficial for us all as a family.
What is frightening me now is that I did not realise how many of her friends my daughter had discussed this with and has been asking them to refer to her as male & by a different name. I have expressed my fears to her now and told her to be discreet and explained that it is only because I want to keep her safe. Teenagers can be so cruel and it would only take a fall out with one of these friends (which is always happening!) and her life could be made unbearable at school. She is very fragile and has suffered with her confidence and low self esteem for a couple of years or more now so I don't think she could cope if she had to deal with bullying or name calling.
I have just had another chat with her and I think she now understands where I am coming from - this is all so hard. It has been a very stressful few weeks but it is good to know we are not alone going through this - thank you all.

Bobbymac · 26/02/2015 18:05

Hi Nikki,

Just wondered how you're getting on. Are you still waiting for the appt with the Tavistock?

My DD has also been going through issues with the pronoun, which seems to have alienated more of her mates at school. She is seeing a counsellor who has very gently advised discretion, but so many people at school know about it now. You're so right about teenagers being cruel... We've had a difficult few weeks.

Anyway, sending out supportive vibes...

NikkiH38 · 28/02/2015 11:13

Hi Bobbymac
Sorry to hear you are having a difficult time. We are still waiting for our appointment at the Tavistock clinic - we were warned that it may take a few months but my daughter does keep asking! She does seem to have taken advise and is being more discreet and seems happier for it. We had a difficult week of tears and refusing to go to school because she "couldn't face it" but things seem to have calmed down.
She had a massive clear out of her wardrobe and got rid of just about all her girls clothing (but kept one dress), I am not sure whether she did that for her or for me but I took some hope from it.
We are not seeing any professionals at present until we get our Tavistock appt. through although CAMHS have kept her referral open in case we need them. We are trying to take their advise and focus on normal routine and family and not make this the focus of day to day life.
I hope things settle down for your daughter and your family and will keep you posted on how things go.
Thank you for your support and sending you positive vibes back....

Bobbymac · 28/02/2015 11:31

Glad to hear your daughter is a bit happier. Ours has up and down days (the latter usually the result of someone refusing to use the male pronoun). The "up" days tend to result from gender not being the entire focus of the school day, so I think I see where the CAMHS advice is coming from...

JBro123 · 06/05/2015 23:07

Oy. These stories sound a lot like what is going on in my home. My almost 15-year-old daughter told us a year ago that she "felt more like a boy than a girl" and she thought she was more attracted to girls than boys but not exclusively to girls. We started therapy and antidepressants and things were calming down for while and now a year later we have gone through several varying gender dysphoria scenarios, the newest one is feeling gender neutral but slightly leaning towards male. She claims she wants to get her breasts cut off, look more masculine facially, and yet, aside from hating dresses and not wanting to shave her legs, she looks like a stereotypical teen girl. She does say she wants a boy's haircut and for people to think she is a guy but I fail to see how a short haircut will make anyone who wears jewelry, scarves and painted nails think she is a boy.
Now she wants to be called a shortened version of her name and to be referred by as "they" and "them". Her psychiatrist said he's seen these things sort themselves out with girls over time (years) but her psychologist seems to be more convinced she will not identify as a girl. Honestly, the sexuality doesn't bother me, and if she had been like this at a younger age I would understand but the contradictions seem to be too great for me to believe this is her "authentic self" forever. While I don't doubt she has a lot of angst over her sexuality and gender identity (she has a very high IQ, many Aspie traits, and has never fit in with other kids, especially girls), I have a hard time seeing her become a genderless kinda dude who mostly wears female clothing? My heart breaks for her with all the confusion and my head hurts trying to figure it all out. There just do not seem to be many legitimate sources that address this style of gender dysphoria at this age. There is definitely a trend of it applying to adolescent girls. She has a friend in another state going through this and there are some kids at school presenting as non binary. Any advice would help!

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