Reader: My daughter spent two and a half years insisting she was my son
Our posts about Coy Mathis, a six year old born a male who identifies as female, and the civil-rights complaint her parents have filed against the school over bathroom access, have drawn fascinating comments for weeks. The latest comes from a reader who has very personal experience with gender-identity issues in children.
As a parent with 3 kids of my own (age almost 5 to age 20) plus two step-kids, and as the parent of a daughter who at age 2.5 began insisting that she was my son, I really need to weigh in here. Age six is far too young to be certain as to what a child's gender identity is, and this kid may well (if his parents leave him alone and just get him gender-neutral clothing) grow out of this.
I have a daughter (almost nine at the present). Starting when she was about 2.5 she began insisting that she was a boy. It didn't stop, no matter how much I gently tried to explain that no, really, she was a girl. By the time she was 3.5, she was refusing to wear dresses, and would scream and tantrum if I tried to put her in them.
When she was age 4 or so, I once had kids come up to me in the park, and ask me "is 'that' a boy or a girl?" I said she was a girl. They said "then why does she say she is a boy?" At that time, I didn't have any reasonable response except to say that some people are born into the wrong body and that even though she had a girl body, she thought she had a boy mind. My daughter continued to insist that she was a boy, only wanted boy toys, and would get very upset if anyone referred to her as a girl.
So for kindergarten, I regretfully gave up on the cute pink frilly things that I'd set my heart on, and instead bought my daughter all sorts of gender-neutral clothing -- blue jeans, navy, gray, red and black sweat pants, navy, grey, yellow, red and black sweat-shirts, red chuckie taylor sneakers that could have been for either gender, and gender-neutral animal and sea-life t-shirts. I wasn't entirely convinced that my daughter was transgendered, but if she was (and I was starting to think so, given that she had been insisting for 2 years that she was male), at least this was a neutral way to subtly go about things without raising a ruckus or drawing attention to my child (or her siblings). Also, she has a very unusual Greek name that few in the US will peg for either a girl's or boy's name. So when kindergarten started, she had all sorts of gender-neutral clothing, and a gender-neutral hairstyle, so she wouldn't stand out, regardless of which gender she said she was. Plenty of time for these things to be figured out, I thought.
Maybe 2-3 weeks into kindergarten, my daughter (who had just spent the past 2 years insisting she was a boy and getting very angry when anyone such as myself said otherwise), began asking me, each morning, if the clothing I'd laid out for her was "girl clothes." I initially said that the clothing was for either a girl or a boy. She started expressing frustration -- now she wanted only girl clothing!
Since then, she has wanted to wear girl clothing (as long as it is not a dress or skirt -- she says she feels "funny" in a dress or skirt). She is extremely physically active and has more friends that are boys than are girls, but it's been over three years since she's said she was a boy.
Age six is, indeed, way too young to be pushing a child toward any gender identification. What is wrong with gender-neutral clothing for this child? For example blue jeans, a purple shirt, a gender-neutral necklace, short but not too-short hair, and purple or green chuckie taylors? His parents could always let him have colored undies and girlie socks underneath. But my daughter's experience really shows that age 6 is way too young for certain. By age 9 or 10 is a wholly different matter. But age 6, it seems like the parents are way too wrapped up in this..
For more memorable takes, visit our Comment of the Day archive.
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Denver, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.