• Tag Archives behavior
  • Young Transgender Children, (Part 1).

    How old does your child have to be to know their true gender?

    There is no set age.  Most of the Transgender people I’ve worked with over the years knew as young as 4 years old that they were really the other gender.  A small percentage did not know till later in life and some knew they were not the natal gender but didn’t feel exactly to be the other gender either.  There can also be some confusion in a child about their gender and the confusion can last a long time.  It may be that over time the child will come to feel themselves to be one gender more than the other and it may be that the child will feel more comfortable somewhere between male or female, or even shift back and forth.  It’s also possible for the child’s confusion to be a reaction to feedback and wishes of the parents or other adults close to the child to be the gender they were born into.

    What things might a young (under 5 year old) child do or say about their gender?

    They might say things like “I’m really a girl”, or “I’m really a boy”, or wish for long hair, or not to have a penis (in boys).   They might ask when they will be “fixed” or if a “mistake” was made when they were born.   They might want to dress as the other sex and play with toys typically associated with the other sex.

    When signs are visible, natal (born as) boys might wear a towel or shirt to simulate long hair, might want to play dress up as a princess, play with dolls, wear sparkly shoes, and berets.  There are also many transgender (male to female) adults who never did these things and presented as stereotypical boys as young children.

    For transgender girls (Female to male), they may wear boys clothes, play rough and tumble games typical of boys (wrestling, etc), simulate war games, be comfortable playing with other boys, not want to wear dresses or play with dolls.  Also, as with boys, there are many transgender adults who as young girls did not appear particularly gender a-typical.

    Young children of course don’t have a vocabulary to describe who they are, but they might think in terms of “the same as”, as in “I am the same as Mommy”, or “I am the same as Daddy’.


  • How do you know if your child is Transgender?

    How do you know if your child is Transgender?

    There can be several signs present (or none at all), and the help of a knowledgeable gender therapist would be needed.  A therapist would use the following criteria from the DSM-IV:

    “A. A strong and persistent cross-gender identification (not merely a desire for any perceived cultural advantages of being the other sex). In children, the disturbance is manifested by four (or more) of the following: 

    (1) repeatedly stated desire to be, or insistence that he or she is, the other sex
    (2) in boys, preference for cross-dressing or simulating female attire; in girls, insistence on wearing only stereotypical masculine clothing
    (3) strong and persistent preferences for cross-sex roles in make-believe play or persistent fantasies of being the other sex
    (4) intense desire to participate in the stereotypical games and pastimes of the other sex
    (5) strong preference for playmates of the other sex. In adolescents and adults, the disturbance is manifested by symptoms such as a stated desire to be the other sex, frequent passing as the other sex, desire to live or be treated as the other sex, or the conviction that he or she has the typical feelings and reactions of the other sex. 

    B. Persistent discomfort with his or her sex or sense of inappropriateness in the gender role of that sex. In children, the disturbance is manifested by any of the following: in boys, assertion that his penis or testes are disgusting or will disappear or assertion that it would be better not to have a penis, or aversion toward rough-and-tumble play and rejection of male stereotypical toys, games, and activities; in girls, rejection of urinating in a sitting position, assertion that she has or will grow a penis, or assertion that she does not want to grow breasts or menstruate, or marked aversion toward normative feminine clothing. In adolescents and adults, the disturbance is manifested by symptoms such as preoccupation with getting rid of primary and secondary sex characteristics (e.g., request for hormones, surgery, or other procedures to physically alter sexual characteristics to simulate the other sex) or belief that he or she was born the wrong sex. 

    C. The disturbance is not concurrent with a physical intersex condition. 

    D. The disturbance causes clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning.”

    I have also seen adults who ‘discover’ their gender issues as adults and those who kept their gender issues hidden as children, so that it is possible that a child may be transgender and never exhibit any of these criteria or keep them hidden.  It’s important to have a relationship with the child where open communication is possible so that they can be comfortable enough to reveal cross-gender feelings if they are having them.  It is also possible that once a child begins school they alter their behavior to be more in keeping with the other children, but the gender variance may persist.