December 2, 2006

So your 5-year-old boy wants to dress like a girl....

How far should you go in supporting him? What if you're the teacher and the parents send him to kindergarten wearing a dress?
Doctors, some of them from the top pediatric hospitals, have begun to advise families to let these children be “who they are” to foster a sense of security and self-esteem. They are motivated, in part, by the high incidence of depression, suicidal feelings and self-mutilation that has been common in past generations of transgender children. Legal trends suggest that schools are now required to respect parents’ decisions....

Cassandra Reese, a first-grade teacher outside Boston, recalled that fellow teachers were unnerved when a young boy showed up in a skirt. “They said, ‘This is not normal,’ and, ‘It’s the parents’ fault,’ ” Ms. Reese said. “They didn’t see children as sophisticated enough to verbalize their feelings.”
And then there are the parents who think they ought to give hormone treatments to young tomboy girls on the theory that they need to be spared the shocking evidence of femininity that is menstruation.

67 comments:

Joseph Hovsep said...

I hear some parents are letting girls wear pants now too.

"Legal trends suggest that schools are now required to respect parents’ decisions..."

Schools are going to court to force parents to dress their kids differently?

Anonymous said...

My concern is for the little boy (5 is little) who goes to school in the dress. I would NOT want to be him. Our culture is not even a little flexible about male gender roles and expectations, the other children will not be kind and understanding about this. Heck many of the adults will freak out all over him.

It reminds me of gay clients that discuss coming out. My counsel is that they have real peace about the decision because there are people in their life that will not take it well. And it will hurt.

Should a boy have a right to dress in a skirt? Of course! Will he have a good experience if he does it? Not bloody likely.

Trey

Paddy O. said...

Too bad he's not Scottish. Everyone could be happy.

His parents should buy him a utilikilt.

My guess is the school will go to standard school uniforms over the next couple of years, thus mandating clothes for all the parents, and completely dodging the issue.

Bissage said...

Is that the right link?

AllenS said...

You pull his pants down, and paddle his ass. Or, you lift his dress up, and paddle his ass. Now I'm confused.

WV: ckwqg
Meaning: You're not wearing that to school, either.

Bissage said...

Maybe it’s best he get it out of his system while there’s still time.

(Not that there’s anything wrong with that.)

The Drill SGT said...

LOL,

I like the Kilt choice to buy the kid some time.


Seriously though, as posters have noted, the kid ought to be allowed to wear a dress, but life will be HELL.

and no, the school, should not harshly punish kids for naturally making fun of him.

and no, the parents should not be allowed to sue the school for its inability to completely protect the kid from being harassed

Ann Althouse said...

Sorry about the bad link. Fixed.

Zeb Quinn said...

This is what's known as synchronicity. My 5-year old grandaughter, who lives with me, came home from kindergarten earlier this week and said to me, "Grandpa, is it okay if I call Andrew a mama's boy?" Andrew being a boy in her class who suffers a little separation anxiety each morning when his mother drops him off, something other kids in the class have noted, hence this name-calling. The girls are particularly hard on Andrew. I told her no, that it's not okay, and that it wasn't nice. Then I was going to ask her how she would like being called a ____, but I couldn't come up with the equivalent name and concept for a little girl to be called. So I left it at that.

But the larger point is that schoolchildren, even kindergartners, have it well within their power to inflict pain upon kids who behave differently. So I'm wondering which is worse for a child: damage to his self-esteem if he isn't allowed to express himself as he is, or the punishment that the group will inflict upon his little psyche when he does.

Anonymous said...

So what is the exit strategy?

Do the parents and their psychologist ever intend to end this sexual charade? Or once puberty hits do they intend to have a sex change performed?

Worse, lets assume this is a ‘phase’ and the child comes to his senses in a year or two and now wants to go back to being a boy. Will he forever be known at school as the kid who used to dress like a girl? Talk about being a social outcast. I suppose they could always file a law suit to force the other children to accept their he/she, right?

I have a hard time accepting that these parents have ever disciplined this child, if their response to his wearing a dress is to give in. The idea that the parents are in control was probably never established.

It is one thing for an adult to decide that they are a women trapped in a man’s body, quite another to allow a 3 year old to decide the same thing. If they can’t get their child to accept the social convention of proper sexual dress, what other social conventions are they going to allow to slide?


At what point do parents no longer give in the whims of childish behavior?

Anonymous said...

Dr. Schreier is one of a growing number of professionals who have begun to think of gender variance as a naturally occurring phenomenon rather than a disorder.

How can "gender variance" not be a disorder? The kids are miserable about their own bodies. How could such deep psychological distress be in anyway considered normal and natural?

I think this is a very dangerous path, declaring that obviously disordered psychology is "just another variant" in order to spare more feelings.

What we need to address are the social stigmas attached to such disorders, but not by reclassifying them as "normal variants." Are we going to say that depression is a "normal variant" so that depressives can feel that they fit in better? A far bigger percentage of the population suffers from depression -- one could actually construct an argument that depression is a normal variant.

I understand that the establishment has kind motivations, but by redefining gender confusion this way they're moving the goalposts. I don't understand why a child so young should be so focused on his gender anyway. "It's like a nightmare I'm a boy," from a five-year-old? Why are the parents allowing him to dwell on this topic when it's completely irrelevant at this point in his life? If the kid can't let it go and focus on more age-appropriately important things (like Legos or My Little Pony or whatever), then that is a problem that could be dealt with -- obsessive concern is disordered in such a young child. And if your boy wants to play with Barbie, so what?

When I was 9 I asked for a toolbox for Christmas, and I despised girly-girl stuff (my own daughter is something of a mystery to me since she enjoys all of it immensely.) I didn't enjoy many "girlie" activities so I didn't participate in them, but it never occurred to me that I should despise the fact that I was a girl. Today, no one even raises an eyebrow over boys with dolls or girls with trucks. Kids should be able to be happy with who they are, but defining their happiness by they way they dress and style their hair is being ridiculously narrow. Lots of toddler boys want to wear sparkly sandals and pretty things, to dress up. I know this freaks some parents out but dress-up is a game that nearly every kid enjoys. The teaching moment comes later: Where we live, men and boys don't wear those clothes. In other parts of the world, men do wear things like dresses... Aculturation is a process that should start very early.

And parents who chemically stave off puberty aren't doing their kids any favors, either.

Simon said...

Paddy O. said...
"Too bad he's not Scottish. Everyone could be happy. His parents should buy him a utilikilt.

Dude! That's awesome! Of course, if shorts fall afoul of the Althausian fatwa on male legs being uncovered, surely so must a kilt, a fortiori.

"My guess is the school will go to standard school uniforms over the next couple of years, thus mandating clothes for all the parents, and completely dodging the issue."

That's probably a very good idea, on many different levels. I continue to maintain that school uniforms have several practical and psychological benefits, both for the schools and pupils.

In terms of the story, this is borderline child abuse. It's one thing to be fairly latitudinarian with your kids' fleeting desires, but it's bad parenting to say "yes" to their every whim, and it's even worse parenting to say "yes - and moreover, how can I aid and abet you in this endeavour?"

bill said...

Paddy O. said...
"Too bad he's not Scottish. Everyone could be happy. His parents should buy him a utilikilt.

Simon said: Dude! That's awesome! Of course, if shorts fall afoul of the Althausian fatwa on male legs being uncovered, surely so must a kilt, a fortiori.


Solution: kilt with leg warmers. I think everyone could respect that.

Simon said...

Joan said...
"How can "gender variance" not be a disorder? The kids are miserable about their own bodies"

I would suggest that they are miserable, period, and have simply attatched to a convenient vehicle for that depression. In other words, the unhappiness with their bodies is a symptom, not itself the problem. The same may go for transsexuality, although that may be a far-more deeply-rooted psychosis. Or perhaps, if we are inventing neologisms this week, "narcichosis".

altoids1306 said...

Parents should be allowed to do nearly whatever they want with their kids.

Hopefully, the parents will actually prepare their kids for the realities of life, but I guess it's up to them.

Anonymous said...

I've had a five year old. I'll have another one in two years.

They want to eat worms, and play with matches, and wander around in the road, and jump off the roof into the snowbanks a light dusting provides. They want candy bars for breakfast and cereal in seafood restaurants. They think a fat man in a leather suit will wriggle down the chimney and give them stuff. No, not Elvis. Santa.

I'm beginning to think there aren't many adults in the world. There are just houses filled with various kinds of little children. Some have drivers licenses and some have tonka trucks. But no one's in charge, particularly.

In God We Trust was a big, vague slogan for the old US. In a way, it has no import, other than: Life has meaning. It's obverse is the Keynesian: In the long run we are all dead. It's been grossly mischaracterized as some sort of wild-eyed dogmatic religionism, but it really just fights the ennui of Who gives a sh*t? sort of thinking.

I suggest we change it to: The US. Whatever!

Chum said...

If the child is truly transgendered why not allow him/her to wear androgynous clothes so as not to stand out either way? These kids just long to look normal while not being forced to identify with the aspects of the gender they know they are not.

Richard Dolan said...

There are a lot of agendas in play in this story, and few of them have anything to do with this kid. Is a 5 year old boy who wants to wear a dress (a) just engaging in a whim, (b) entranced with the fantasy of it all, (c) looking to "stand out" however he can, (d) doing it for Mommy (who is really nuts), (e) expressing "gender confusion" or even identification with the other gender, (f) in the throes of some deep-seated psychosis, or (g) fill in your favorite psycho-babble explanation here.

Who knows. I think Joan gets it right when she says that "declaring that obviously disordered psychology is 'just another variant' in order to spare more feelings." The only thing that's for sure is that someone in this story is really screwed up. Most seem to assume tht it's the 5 year old. But I suspect it's more likely to be one of the adults.

Fitz said...

Joan (& company)

“Dr. Schreier is one of a growing number of professionals who have begun”

This type of statement should read - “we are a small band of radical professionals who say the kind of B.S. that’s sure to get us headlines”
OR
“we are a small group of professionals who know that our approach will endear the homosexual & feminist communities (& ergo the left academic establishment) toward us – and therefore forward x,y, or z- bad science and healthcare”
OR
“We arte monsters who want to experiment on children”

If you are not all aware of this case, you should familiarize yourselves with it.

http://www.utexas.edu/courses/bio301d/Topics/Gay/BoyGirl.htm

(just because people have white lab coats and Ph.D’s doesn’t make them objective or humane)

Daryl Herbert said...

It's good that the parents want to help her now. Wanting to wear a dress--really wanting to wear one--and identifying as a girl are not normal 5-year-old behaviors. This is much more than a whim. If your 5-year-old boy asks to wear a dress, you should say "no." If your boy asks every day for a year, something is up that goes beyond whimsy.

The behaviors are not a simple "disorder" that can be cured with drugs, therapy, or "paddl[ing]" either.

Gender identity is a closely held thing. Ask any normal 5-year-old whether they are a boy or a girl, and they will be able to tell you, with quite some certainty. There's no confusion there. You can try to talk them out of it, but you won't get very far!

I would not even say that the child in this case is "confused." She knows, with great certainty, that she is a female.

This isn't about "tomboy[s]" or fairies (tough girls or gaywad boys). Children who identify with the opposite gender are different cases entirely.

Of course this girl will have a tough childhood. That's true whether she gets to wear a dress or ends up with a strict Christer father who beats her for being a sissy.

It's good that these parents are brave enough to defy the idiots around them. If I had kids, I would feel the same way about protecting their interests, even if people thought I was a douchebag for it. Or even, god forbid, speculated about my values or mental health on blog comments.

AJ Lynch said...

In a country with 300 million people, there are gonna be at least a few whackjob parents. And this set is Exhibit A.

That said, I guess the teachers should try not to interfere but the poor kid can never outlive the ridicule and infamy.

Joseph Hovsep said...

Richard Dolan: I agree there are lots of mixed motives at work in these cases, but you left out the mixed motives behind the education professionals who are apparently making a big deal out of whether this or that kid fits what they expect a boy or girl to look and dress like.

Kids want to fit in and they want to stand out and they just want to be themselves and mostly they just do what they're allowed to do. Parents much more often try to force their kids to fit in to their detriment than force their kids to stand out too much. In my opinion, kids are much more likely to grow up with emotional problems if they are too afraid of being made fun of to stand out as different than if they get made fun of for being different. All kids get made fun of for being different in some way, whether its for acting like the "wrong" gender, being of mixed race, getting good grades, or having a learning disability.

An acquaintance once told me she wouldn't marry someone of a different race because life would be too hard for the mixed race kid. I'm sure she thought she was being noble in some way, but I thought it reflected terribly on her character. I don't think parents of boys who like to wear dresses should encourage them to be different, but nor do I think parents or teachers should make a big deal over it either. The kid will probably decide that being socially acceptable is more important than wearing the dress, but barring him from doing it in the first place seems to be sending the kid a bad message in my opinion.

Theo Boehm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Daryl Herbert said...

I would encourage everyone to read the link that Fitz posted.

It shows the exact opposite of what he thinks.

It's about a boy with a botched circumcision. Doctors decided to raise him as a female. Surprise, surprise, when he was old enough to figure things out (about, say, five), he insisted that he was a boy.

He wanted to do boy things at the time and he wanted to be a man when he grew up. He knew. He was insistent.

Just like the girl in the article Ann posted.

The difference is, he was miserable because of it for his entire childhood and even into his adulthood, before he transitioned back to being a man.

Gender identity is very deep-seated in children's brains. The article Fitz posted shows that people should not try to change gender identity in a child's brain. In this case, that means letting the girl be a girl, even if she has a penis.

The idea that scientists could change a child's gender identity used to be a staple of liberal bullshit. It was part and parcel of their ideology that human nature is entirely socially constructed and therefore people could be remade in the image of the new man. Every thoughtful person should recognize that kind of liberalism and rebel against it, violently.

Equally stupid is the conservative idea that there's Adam and Eve, and everything else is a psychological degenerate who can be cured with therapy (biblical inerrancy + pop psychology). That's how conservatives used to treat gays for the longest time (and still do!)

Enough with the ideologies. Let the scientists sort things out. Dr. Money was a terrible fellow, but we can look at his results and use that information to handle these cases the right way in the future.

We should treat these children as individual human beings, not pawns in some giant ideological struggle between those who think human nature is plastic and those who think there are only three possible identities (straight man, straight woman, abomination)

Simon said...

Daryl Herbert said...
"The behaviors [of transexuality] are not a simple 'disorder' that can be cured with drugs, therapy, or 'paddl[ing]' either."

Deep rooted psychosis may not be a "simple" disorder, but it is a disorder, none-the-less, and it should be treated as such. It is a mystery to me why there are people in this country who can urge, with a straight face, a treatment to a disorder wholly comparable to treating an alcoholic with an open bar. But that isn't at issue here, because we are talking about a child - even referring to a five year old as a minor seems to exaggerate his maturity. Thus:

"I would not even say that the child in this case is confused." She knows, with great certainty, that she is a female."

He. He thinks that he wants to wear a skirt. He may, also, "think" that he is a female, an illusion that should disappear with the onset of puberty. And yes, of course this boy "will have a tough childhood," if his parents indulge this nonsense. If this child thought - with total certainty - that he was a transformer, would you urge the parents to start feeding him oil and energon, Daryl? If he declared he was a dog, would you buy him kibble and a basket? Of course not. That's a ridiculous idea. A five year old boy is a five year old boy. Not a transformer - and not a five year old girl, either.

The idea that "Children who identify with the opposite gender are different cases entirely" is ludicrous - you are investing a passing whim of a five year old with a level of maturity and reason our society and law simply do not recognize.

Chum said...

'He thinks that he wants to wear a skirt. He may, also, "think" that he is a female, an illusion that should disappear with the onset of puberty. And yes, of course this boy "will have a tough childhood," if his parents indulge this nonsense.'

If the child is transgendered there's know 'think' about it. He/she *knows* without any doubt at an early age they have ended up with the wrong gender. It's not a phase or a whim it's absolute knowing.

AlaskaJack said...

Lets carry this matter just a small step further. Suppose the parents of little five-year old Johnnie, after listening to his crying about wanting to be a girl, decided to have him undergo a sex-change operation. Would the Daryl Herberts of this world support this decision? Or would the parents rightfully be guilty of child abuse?

Joe Baby said...

And then there are the parents who think they ought to give hormone treatments to young tomboy girls on the theory that they need to be spared the shocking evidence of femininity that is menstruation.

Sometimes I just want to sit and have a good cry.

d said...

What about sparing them from that "shocking evidence of femininity," the BREAST!

Christy said...

I question how safe school is for this exploration of sexual identity.

Isn't it a mistake to assume this kid has permanently decided his orientation? I think there is an entire spectrum of orientation that exists beyond and between gay and straight. Labels are so constraining, even if well intentioned.

Daryl Herbert said...

you are investing a passing whim of a five year old with a level of maturity and reason our society and law simply do not recognize.

It's not a passing whim. These children are insistent on this point their entire lives.

It's not something that started yesterday. If this kid is typical, she's been acting like a girl since birth (preferring female toys/games, etc., before she even knew the difference)

If this really was a whim, and the kid really would change his mind in short order, I would definitely not support sending him to school in a dress. But this is no whim. It will be with this girl the rest of her life. This is not something we can change, and believe me, we've tried. Who wouldn't pay $10M to fix their kid, if they could afford it?

I should also point out the obvious: these cases are fairly rare. No one should take this as generic parenting advice when your five-year-old tells you "I'm a unicorn!" If you deny the existence of this phenomenon (having a gender identity that doesn't match the body type) then of course it looks like whim-worship.

But the phenomenon is very real. And like I said earlier, this is something that left-wing scientists thought they could "cure." So admitting that the phenomenon exists is not a victory for the left. It's one of their greatest failures. It proves that there is a human nature deeply ingrained in all of us that cannot be changed by any government program or mad scientist.

Once you accept that this is not something we are capable of changing, you'll see that there are really only two options: let the girl be a girl, and eventually get the surgery she'll need to be physically whole, or treat her like shit for her entire childhood until she's old enough to leave home and become a transsexual prostitute to save up money for the sex change she'll get if she can survive that long.

Where do you think transsexual hookers come from? Trannies are just inherently bad, sick people, so of course they'll be prostitutes? No, they're saving up to have their operations. They're willing to do whatever they can to raise the money, and it's not easy to get a job when you're a tranny (I wouldn't want to hire one and I suspect the same is true for most everyone).

Seeing a mannish "woman" with a beard and a male body type is sickening. They're disgusting to look at. They're bodies are completely unnecessary tragedies. No one wants them to look that way (except, apparently, the johns, and some leftists who are in love with the idea of anything that drives conservatives up the wall, aka "transcending boundaries").

We can prevent so much misery if we just accept what the child knows to be true: "he" is a girl, and "he" will continue to be female for "his" entire life. If we allow "him" to go through puberty without intervention, "he" will develop permanent mannish qualities (beard, deep voice, mannish body type) and we'll have a disgusting tranny, if not a suicide. Those characteristics take a long time to fade.

Daryl Herbert said...

AlaskaJack: the surgery is not performed on children.

The important thing is to prevent a normal onset of puberty by neutralizing the nuts, because that just screws everything up. It's very hard to reverse that (which is why trannies look so nasty).

Christy: this is not about "sexual" identity. It's about gender. The two concepts are distinct. Even confused or bi-curious young adults know what gender they are.

Simon said...

Chum -
To the extent that transsexuality is not, in fact, a purely induced condition, a paper-thin creation of identify politics run amock providing an expression for deep-rooted depression and psychosis (that is, to the extent that it is not a symptom rather than a problem), you're talking about people with a psychotic condition, a variant of apotemnophilia. What they do or don't "know," and their certitude about it, is irrelevant. I may be as certain as I like that the sun orbits the earth, but the solar system will remain obstinately heliocentric. It is bad enough that you want to let the law permit people to do such disfiguring violence unto themselves, instead of forcing them to obtain the treatment they need by removing the option of indulgence, but far worse you urge parents to encourage this in children who do not know better.

Steven said...

Deep rooted psychosis may not be a "simple" disorder, but it is a disorder, none-the-less, and it should be treated as such.

Okay. What's your treatment plan, then, doctor? I assume you have a brilliant new treatment program, because all the ones that have been tried for gender identity disorder in the last 200 years have failed. Please share it.

You see, people (at least most) who suggest "accommodate it" are not doing something because they consider it mere diversity to celebrate. They do so because the other options don't work and tend to have even worse side effects than accommodation.

If this kid really does have gender identity disorder, he's already in enough trouble, just like a eighteenth century child with typhus. Just like calling in the doctors to "treat" the latter with bleeding, "treating" the child will at best do no good and at worst will compound the harm. When psychiatry has something better than the equivalent of a lancet, then we can talk about treatment.

Anonymous said...

We can't make any kind of a reasonable judgement about how deep-seated this kid's female-identifying goes based on the reportage of a single NYT article. The Times, you'll recall, isn't exactly a bastion of accuracy even on the stories it approves of.

So we as readers have no way of knowing if the kid has been choosing baby dolls to play with and doing other girlie things since toddlerhood -- because that's not mentioned in the article. The article says all of this started after the kid's third birthday when he started objecting to wearing certain boy clothes.

If I were that kid's parent, I'd be looking for the event that flipped the switch for the kid. He never mentioned it before he was three, then he turns three and all of a sudden, he identifies as a girl. Something had to have happened.

Then there's Daryl's false dichotomy: let the girl be a girl, and eventually get the surgery she'll need to be physically whole, or treat her like shit for her entire childhood...

This it complete crap, Daryl. How about respecting your kid but helping them to conform to social mores as much as possible? Boys can and do wear pink these days, you know, and little girls can wear whatever the heck they want. He doesn't have to have long, flowing locks, but he doesn't have to have a buzz cut, either. I'm in my kids' elementary school everyday and I've seen plenty of androgynous kindergardeners.

He may want to be called "she" but he isn't a she, and humoring that request is flying in the face of reality. By spending a lot of time and attention on this, the parents have taught the kid that this is a great tool for manipulating people. There's no need to trample the kid, but when he says, "I wish I were a girl," the parents have a choice -- they can freak out and say, "OK, you're a girl now!" Or they can explore that a little -- why does he want to be a girl? What is it that he thinks makes girls better than boys, so much that he wants to be one? (For all we know, his best friend at school is a girl and he just wanted to use the same bathroom as her.)

Every kid runs up against thwarted desires as they're growing up. Gender re-assigning your kid at age five seems like inappropriate psychological experimentation to me. Personally, I'd go this route, "Honey, you're only five years old, and it doesn't matter if you're a boy or a girl. There isn't anything that girls can do that boys can't. Let's go put that puzzle together." Distraction works nearly as well on kindergardeners as it does on toddlers.

It's a time-tested truism of parenting that the more time you spend on something, the more of that thing you will get. Is that what's going on here? Did the parents, in an attempt to be sensitive and supporting, inadvertently push the kid into this? Mom's "you really want to wear a dress, don't you?" makes me wonder. She put the idea in his head; if wanted to wear a dress, why didn't he point to one in the store? Why didn't he say, that's what I want? Maybe the particular pants he was asked to wear were chafing. Some kids are really picky about their clothes because the little tag or seam can make them uncomfortable, but they don't know how to express that -- they just don't like the clothes and can't say why. It's really reaching to assign a gender identity issue to something that could be explained in other ways. But they've been doing the girl thing for two years now, so my guess would be, they're stuck.

Yevgeny Vilensky said...

I think that there are two very distinct issues here.

Some people are arguing against a boy going to school in a dress as if he has decided to get gender realignment surgery and the parents said, "okie doke." The kid isn't disgusted with his body. There really is little reason why women should be the ones wearing skirts while men the ones wearing pants (anatomically speaking, the opposite actually makes more sense, I think). That's just how society evolved and that's fine. But it _is_ a social construction and there is nothing necessary or natural about it.

So, someone choosing to buck the social construction, while rather silly (and to be discouraged by the parents lest the kid is beaten up in the sandbox), is not the same as being gender-confused and wanting to get a different set of sexual organs.

Finally, I seem to recall an extremely prominent law professor (as in, top 15 most cited scholars in the country), who raises his children in a gender-neutral manner.

tjl said...

"He/she *knows* without any doubt at an early age they have ended up with the wrong gender."

When I was four I knew without any doubt that I wanted to be a seagull because seagulls can go to the beach in the winter. Fortunately, my parents didn't drop me off at the beach.

When I was four I also had little interest in boys' games. Fortunately, my parents encouraged an interest in sports and outdoor activities. In adolescence I realized I was gay, but long before then, I had acquired the skills to more or less fit in with my schoolmates.

According to the NYT article, most gender-confused children become gay
adults, and only a small fraction become transgendered. The process of self-acceptance as a gay person is not easy, even if you have the self-assurance poroduced by a reasonably happy upbringing. The process must be infinitely more difficult for someone with an upbringing like the one described in the NYT article. Over-sheltered, friendless outcasts will never develop the coping skills they will need to live productive satisfying lives in a society where most people are not like them.

Surely the parents of 5-year olds would be better advised to encourage a reasonable gender conformity until full adolescence, when their offfspring are able to understand what gender actually means.

downtownlad said...

Lots of intolerant commenters on this thread. Not a surprise.

If a boy wants to dress like a girl - there is absolutely nothing wrong with that. The only people who have a problem are the others who are uncomfortable with that. THEY are the ones who need counseling.

Daryl Herbert said...

He may want to be called "she" but he isn't a she, and humoring that request is flying in the face of reality.

No. The reality of someone's brain is no less important than the reality of someone's body. The human brain is what makes us human. Denying that is foolish.

It's a time-tested truism of parenting that the more time you spend on something, the more of that thing you will get.

As has been noted elsewhere (see: Steven's comment), this is not something parents can fix. If they could fix it, I'll bet these parents would do so, in a heartbeat.

James Wigderson said...

Hand the kid a football and start saving for the Military School.

downtownlad said...

Hand the kid a football and start saving for the Military School.

Oh cool - Glad to hear you now favor gays in the military.

Anonymous said...

this is not something parents can fix. If they could fix it, I'll bet these parents would do so, in a heartbeat.

You're missing the point: by making this an issue the parents have contributed to this situation signficantly. There's no reason for a kid to obsess over his gender at such a young age. There is literally nothing a 5-year-old girl can do that a 5-year-old boy cannot, although the reverse is not true, because girls can't pee standing up. Other than that, there's no gender-specific restrictions on pretty much anything. Five-year-olds aren't having sex or even thinking about sex. There's no reason for 5-year-olds to be so focused on gender.

downtownlad said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
downtownlad said...

I completely disagree Joan.

Even as a gay man, I would have freaked out if my parents tried to dress me as a girl. It would have caused deep psychological scars. That's because I'm not transgenedered.

But I assume that a five year old girl who is transgendered and thinks of herself as a boy would freak out in the same way if her parents tried to force her to wear a dress.

Now why would a parent want to inflict such psychological harm on a kid? Let them dress as they choose to. Transgenedred kids are perfectly aware that others will make fun of them. But they are capable of assessing the positive and negative aspects of what they're doing. If it makes them feel more comfortable - then why should I care?

We need to teach people to be tolerant of others.

I'm not entirely comfortable around transgendered people, but I'm intelligent enough to realize that that is my issue - not theirs.

Anonymous said...

downtownlad, you're missing another one of my points. The parents can be loving and supporting of their child while at the same time helping him find ways to socialize properly.

Besides, I know plenty of 5-year-old girls who hate, hate, hate dresses and refuse to wear them, but don't self-identify as boys -- I was one. It's extremely common. Most parents nowadays make reasonable compromises with such daughters.

Do you have much experience with 5-year-olds? I have tons. The majority of 5-year-olds wear gender neutral clothing. I think the parents could work with the kid to find clothes acceptable to him and that would not cause a ruckus at school or elsewhere. There's a huge amount of leeway in dressing kids these days, it's not an either-or proposition as Daryl and you seem to see it. My view is it should be a non-issue until the child is much older.

Revenant said...

Someone needs to smack some sense into those parents. The last thing the kid needs is to spend the next 12 years hearing about how he used to come to school in a dress.

Anonymous said...

Sorry for yet-another-post, but I have to take issue with this: Transgenedred kids are perfectly aware that others will make fun of them. But they are capable of assessing the positive and negative aspects of what they're doing.

Transgendered teens or pre-teens may be this aware, but I can assure you that no 5-year-old has this much self-awareness, much less social awareness. I retract my question about your experience with 5-year-olds, because obviously you have none.

It is developmentally inappropriate for a five-year-old to spend time wishing he was a girl when he should be, you know, learning how to read, tie his shoes, and how to ride a bike without training wheels.

Anonymous said...

Daryl, one thing you have said is the most telling: “If I had kids, I would feel the same way about protecting their interests, even if people thought I was a douchebag for it”.

It has been my experience that the best parents in the world are the ones without children. They seem to have all the answer to how to raise a perfect child. And who can prove them wrong? With no mistakes running around calling them papa there is no real evidence their theories don’t work.

I was the same way before I started raising kids. If had a nickel for every rule I laid down about how I would raise my kids that I have since broken I could stop buying lottery tickets.

A co-worker recently had her first child, and as a present from the office we each parent wrote a page or two in a journal that we gave to the new parents.

My advice? Don’t follow anyone else’s advice on how to raise your children- write your own book, and then throw it away for the second child and write a new one.

As I said in an earlier post, children need discipline for multiple reasons, and allowing a three year old to bully you, as parent, into anything shows a distinct lack of discipline, especially in an area as important as cross gender dressing.

Daryl, would you be as in favor of allowing the child’s whims to rule if he decided at the age of three that he needed a beer with his lunch every day? After all, he may know he is an alcoholic and needs this beer to make himself complete.

I hope that doesn’t make any sense to you- handing your five year old son a cold beer with his tater tots makes about as much sense as sending him off to school presenting himself as a girl.

Old Dad said...

Gender is digital--male, female. Some get crapped on and confused. Could be embryonic hormones, freaky parents, etc. It's just bad luck. some have large noses, small parts that are ideally large.

The poor little ones who are truly confused are in a world of hurt, but they can't be accomodated--it's unnatural. That's the terrible irony. The confused little guys and girls are responding to their natural inclinations, as are their antagonists. Who is at fault?

In my view, a compassionate parent would dictate what a five year old would wear to school--boys dress as boys, etc. As the child matures and can better understand the situation, then he or she can accept responsibility for his or her choices.

Boys dressed as girls will get beat up at school. Girls dressed as boys will fare better, but won't be prom queen. I didn't make the rules, but PC pieties won't change a thing.

George said...

Tjl above speaks sense.

A little boy going to school wearing a dress or skirt will end up an outcast or worse.

Meade said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Meade said...

As one who has had the privilege of living with females - mothers, sisters... I even once had the pleasure of rearing a daughter - I'm here to tell you menstruation is not just shocking evidence of femininity, it is shocking evidence of being a female who is not pregnant.

A boy who wants to wear a dress to school is hurting no one. Beating up a boy who is wearing a dress to school hurting no one should never be tolerated.

But a boy who wants to exhibit the wearing of a sanitary napkin to school, now, that's another thing. That would be a boy who needs to be counseled and could likely benefit not from hormone injections but from psychotherapy.

And isn't a tomboy simply a girl who likes to play sports? An athletic girl?

Hormone injections in order to spare a healthy athletic girl the shock of being female strikes me as unusually cruel parental meddling and psychologically malignant hovering.

Paddy O. said...

As a purely psychological-sociological question (because I still think the utilikilt is the way to go) -- why do the other children necessarily have to be corrected in their behavior which would outcast such a child? Don't spit at me yet. If we are arguing purely on the basis of genetic predisposition and the way nature made us it seems there is a significant urge for social correction within the human psyche.

Because social cohesion is a matter of survival for our clawless, hairless, big-brained, slow running selves, isn't the evolutionary demand to enforce social cohesion by strong means just as inherent as understanding one's own gender?

I, of course, don't at all advocate this kid being beat up and I wish him a happy, healthy, successful life as he wants to live it.

I'm just curious how we can decide his motives are somehow inherently good while the motives of the other kids or teachers are inherently wrong. He wants to wear a dress to maintain his identity. Others want to prevent this to maintain the broader identity of the social group.

We are a social species whose very psyches are dependent on social interactions, thus it seems that the protection of social structures is as moral as protection of personal identity.

If other five year olds do ostracize him why are their motives any less innate than his? Should they then be also supported?

MadisonMan said...

Ninny parents. You let your child dress up however he or she likes at home. At school, however, there are rules of decorum to follow, that everyone follows. Find comfortable clothes for the kid to wear, nice androgynous clothes, and send him/her/hie/hir off. The parents in this article are trying to be friends, not parents, to their child.

Meade said...

PS: Full disclosure: I was once married to a woman who, at age six, beat up a schoolmate, a six year-old boy, for calling her a "tomboy."

An apology was requested by the boy's mother. The girl refused. The matter was dropped/repressed.

I'm certain I'm not just speaking for myself when I say we ALL would have benefited by timely counseling and psychotherapy for that girl.

Jason said...

From now on, I want you all to call me "Loretta."

David said...

1. The reaction to the idea of a 5 year old boy in a dress is entirely cultural. It wasn't that long ago (although more in Europe than the US) that young boys were raised, more or less, as girls. Girls and boys wore the same clothes, which look exactly like dresses to modern eyes, and boys had uncut hair. At age 7, or so, the boys were "breeched;" that is, they were made to wear long pants. The men survived just fine. If the boy prefers dresses to pants, that's not a big deal.

2. Nor is it unavoidable that the kid will get beat up. In our little hippy dippy college town, where a surprising number of the kids have two mommies, we have all sorts of weird little kids running around being treated with earnest respect by their well-indoctrinated peers.

3. "Parents should be allowed to do nearly whatever they want with their kids."

I have no idea why people think this. Kids are not property. Obviously, for almost every decision made by almost every parent, you'd prefer having the parent decide than the state, but the line has to be drawn a lot closer than "nearly whatever."

4. One place the line should be drawn is just this side of letting the parents get all invested in their little transvestite, when this might mean any number of things. No one should be deciding their social-sexual future at age 5. The silliest thing in the article is the teacher who suggests that 5 year olds are "sophisticated enough to verbalize their feelings" about sex and gender.

Daryl Herbert said...

2. Nor is it unavoidable that the kid will get beat up. In our little hippy dippy college town, where a surprising number of the kids have two mommies, we have all sorts of weird little kids running around being treated with earnest respect by their well-indoctrinated peers.

I would hate to live in your town. It sounds unbearable. Your story is so tragic.

The day American schoolchildren aren't permitted to inflict harm on kids who are different is the day America dies.

Or maybe, if the problem is bullying, we should punish the bullies.

Chum said...

Simon:

Transexualism as you call it is not a pyschotic condition or a desire to to mutilate oneself.

There are thousands of people, who once becoming an adult and having gone through a complex medical and psychological process that confirms that their body does not match their gender identity, undergo corrective surgery. These people go on to live successful and happy lives once their body matches their internal identity. You may even have met such people...you just wouldn't know it as post surgery life goes on, families are raised, and Little Leagues are coached, etc.

Transgendered individuals mostly want the opportunity of a normal life....something not easily possible prior to surgery and hormone replacement. Marriage is not possible until post surgery when legal gender can be changed.

Tom T. said...

The boy with the botched circumcision was indeed a boy, so it seems to me that the lesson of his case is that it's ultimately difficult to overcome one's biology.

Given how unusual the intensity of this little boy's feelings of gender identity are at this early age, I can't help but wonder if he has been exposed to sexuality through some form of abuse. Absolutely let's hope not, but I wonder if any of the authorities worrying about his clothing have looked into that possibility.

Daryl Herbert said...

The silliest thing in the article is the teacher who suggests that 5 year olds are "sophisticated enough to verbalize their feelings" about sex and gender.

Once again, someone throws "sex" into this, when it's just about gender.

Second, why is this statement so crazy? If the concept is simple enough ("I'm not a boy, I'm a girl"), why wouldn't a 5-year-old be sophisticated enough to say that? Isn't that exactly what this 5-year-old is doing?

If the kid feels very strongly about not wanting to wear pants, throwing a tantrum over it is verbalizing his/her feelings.

I don't think anyone is having a problem understanding what the kid is trying to say. Which would suggest that s/he is, in fact, sophisticated enough to verbalize his/her feelings.

Mortimer Brezny said...

This kid is why I believe in the right to abortion.

Anonymous said...

Paddy O wrote: "I'm just curious how we can decide his motives are somehow inherently good while the motives of the other kids or teachers are inherently wrong. He wants to wear a dress to maintain his identity. Others want to prevent this to maintain the broader identity of the social group."

Ah, easy, he has a progressive agenda so he must be good! It bucks up against repressive established psycho-sexual norms so it must be healthy.

At 5, his sense of self is still very malleable. He may indeed be transgendered. If so, he is in trouble as this birth defect sets people up for years of ridicule and pain. Better that it is a whim, better for him. It is less painful.

Not that it should be that way, but it is.

Trey

David said...

Daryl: I didn't say they wouldn't punish kids who are different. It all depends on what you mean by "different."

As for whether to trust 5 years olds on issues of sex and gender, I'm reminded of what a friend of mine said during the rash of day care pedophilia cases: "Promise my daughter a cookie and she'll say anything you want."

Knemon said...

"“They didn’t see children as sophisticated enough to verbalize their feelings.”

Imagine that.

jhon said...

nice post love it
Women Leather jackets

Womens Leather Coats

Kerri said...

I was amazed, at age 5, when I saw my first tomboy. This was in an era when girls always wore only skirts, dresses, or summer play clothes; and society dictated children's toys, clothes, interests, and activities, strictly.

I could not believe how brave this person was, carrying a baseball glove, in public, being teased by others, yet wearing a smile and was yet walking with self-confidence. I thought that this was a boy that had to look and act as a girl but was brave enough to let people know that he was not a girl, but a boy.

She was, of course, just a tomboy
...