Our daughter, my husband's from his first marriage, has always been what most people would call a tomboy. She has never liked dresses and will pitch a fit if you try to get her to wear one, has never liked typical "girl" toys like dolls or tea sets, rather likes toy trucks and cars. She loves to play outside in the dirt and with animals and bugs (we have no problem with this...she likes science and nature in general). She's very bright and has tested at least 3 grade levels higher than hers on all tests.
The only thing is she's recently told us she's not or doesn't want to be a girl. This has been going on the last 6 months or so. She went so far last weekend as to take my husband's beard trimmer and basically buzzcut her hair so she looks like a boy. When we take her shopping, she goes right to the boys clothes department, and refuses to let us buy any article of clothing that looks even remotely feminine. When she plays pretend games by herself or with her friends, she always assumes a male role, often with a male name to match. She went through a spell in school for a few weeks where she spelled her name "Aaron", instead her given name of "Erin" and tried to use the boy's bathroom. She got upset when people referred to her as "she" or an object as "hers". She wanted to use male pronouns.
I'm concerned. I know sometimes kids go through stages of questioning their gender identity or sexuality, but this seems extreme. My husband isn't too worried and thinks she'll grow out of it. What would you advise? If she is transgendered, how do we approach that?
How old is your daughter? It's not unusual for children, particularly when they are very young (i.e., pre-school to first grade), to indicate play and friendship preferences of the opposite gender. This is not so typical as children get older. With a girl, the major issue isn't so much one of being a 'tomboy', but rather wheter this is accompanied by negative self-perceptions about being a girl. Your note indicates that your daughter does carry such negative appraisals, and this can be a problem. I'd proceed with an evaluation by an experienced pediatric mental health professional (clinical psychologist, clinical social worker, e.g.) who can help figure out how your daughter perceives the world, particularly gender issues.
Our daughter is 10, she will be 11 in August. Our 6 year old thinks her sister is "weird", and as of yet has exhibited none of these behaviors.
I should add that the older, Erin, has displayed these behaviors off and on through most of her life. She usually curtails them and acts more "girlish" when other kids start picking on her, but this time she seems to really be hanging onto it regardless of what other children think.
We've asked her if she sees anything wrong with being a girl, and she says she doesn't, but that she just doesn't "feel like a girl and never has". In her school, they've started basic sex ed/human anatomy and though she understands what puberty is and what happens, she thinks and hopes she'll grow a penis and can't wait to start puberty because of that.
She really seems to be psychologically male. Her mannerisms and walk are boyish, her voice is low for a young girl, and the way she handles emotions seem to be more male than female. I know there's a broad spectrum, but she's much "tougher" than other girls. We had her to an endocrinologist when she first started this behavior and he found nothing wrong, that she is a normal biological female.
I don't want to take her to a mental health professional because that might give her the impression there is something wrong with her. But OTOH, if she really is transgendered and identifies with a male personality, I think that needs to be looked into.
With adolescence on the near horizon, definitely seek help. Now, it may be hard to locate a clinician with a specialty of gender identity issues, but certainly make the attempt. Leave it in the hands of the clinician to help with with perceptions she might have about utilizing mental health help.
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