19 answers

Does My Son Have Gender Identity Disorder?

My 4.5 year old son has been showing an increasing preference for "girl" stuff. He wants to wear dresses, jewelry, high heels, and have his nails painted. I am not a "girlie" mom by any means, so I do not think he only wants to be like me (his father is also a very involved father with masculine qualities). My son does also have fun playing with trucks, power rangers, and swords, but he loves mermaids, snow white, and cinderella just as much if not more. When he is with boy-friends, he plays with boy stuff, but he also enjoys the girls stuff when he is playing with girl-friends (especially if they have dress up clothes). He is begging to be a fairy princess for Halloween this year and I am really struggling to find out if this is a real problem I should seek help for and how to allow him to be who he is but also prevent him from getting ridiculed. He recently told me that he wants to be a girl so he can wear all of the pretty things instead of just shorts and shirts. Has anyone had this problem, and if so, should I be worried or seek professional help?

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What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

I really appreciate all of the great advice and I am relieved to know that my son is not "different" from a lot of other boys. Many of you shared very personal and supportive information and I am going to wait this out and take a suportive approach to his exploration of the world and all the beautiful things. We will see how his last year of preschool and kindergarten go......Ironically, yYesterday he wanted to play in his old batman costume all day and was pretending to use his wolverine claw to go to battle. Now he wants to be Darth Vader for Halloween!

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I am having the same situation. I am @ a loss myself. I've been told it's normal @ this age but I still worry.

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My husband played the same things when he was little--dress up, jewelry, heels. I am a woman and I played farmer, truck driver, race car driver, as as well as mermaid, princess, tea party, etc. I wouldn't worry. Just enjoy and support his interests--no matter what they are.

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He sounds amazing! I am so sad thinking he may be hauled to a shrink if he has a turbo feminine side-but then again, I would be one hundred percent fine if my son was straight, gay, identifying with both genders, whatever.

Your son could be the next Marc Jacobs with that flair for clothes and you could be sitting pretty living the good life as his pampered mom who always loved as supported him. Or he could be the next Calvin Klein. Not all designers are gay. Or this could pass entirely and he could end up driving monster trucks while eating big steaks and shooting big guns.

Whatever it is, BE CAREFUL. Do not make him feel like something is wrong with him. Which is implied with doctor visits for any "DISORDER". If he is gay or straight, if you instill a sense of shame and doubt in him or even a "need to change" to suit your own ideas of what he should be fundamentally, he could end up very very depressed and self destructive rather than becoming the best of whoever he is. And there goes your payday on the beaches of St Barts and your front row seat at Fashion Week next to Anna Wintour. Instead, you may have a very sad son who feels his parents don't love him for how he is unconditionally, and the ramifications of that are boundless. I don't hear you saying anything is medically wrong with him. Keep him the heck away from the professionals.

By all means, be honest with him about the fact that not everyone will be nice to him if he wears girl's clothes, because some people are mean to people for all sorts of reasons. People are superficial and hateful and it's not always their fault, they've been taught to judge. Tell him you're not going to let him be Glenda the Good Witch for Halloween because he won't have fun since other people are jerks and you don't want to deal with their wrath, so he'll have to do that on his own when he's old enough to handle himself.

As an ex fashion designer form NY, I have had countless gay friends. Not saying your son is gay, he's probably not. But just saying. The difference in the spirit of the people with supportive loving parents and the ones whose parents tried to change them and take them to shrinks throughout their childhoods is astounding. Don't hurt your son, cherish him and his quirks.

His appreciating pretty clothes is not a problem. Certainly not a medical one. Whoever your son is going to be, he will be that person-either happy or sad. Be his ally. Don't make him sad because of you. Tell him the truth about the perception of others and what could happen, and don't try to change him. Let him know that to you, he is perfect.

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D.,

It sounds to me like your son is healthily attuned to both his feminine and masculine sides. At this age, I would not be too anxious about it. If you respond negatively, he will be hurt to his core, and confused, because he knows you to love him. When he starts going to a school regularly, there will be plenty of peer pressure to be "into" certain things, or not. Kids will be mean, and he will need you to comfort him. Our son had a fondness for Bratz gel sandals (purple), necklaces and purses, and gradually it fell by the wayside. His taste now in clothes is oh so boring. No one would guess he used to like those things. Enjoy your boy the way he is, he's only young and cute for a short time.

D.

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Don't fret! Firstly, your son is perfectly normal. I have both a boy and a girl, both of whom will readily play with things that are not typically associated with their gender.

It's not an issue for girls--they can play with trucks and climb trees & folks say, Oh she's a tomboy. There's no socially acceptable equivalent for boys who enjoy dolls or dress up. I wish there were.

Let him play with what he likes. At his age, he's not bound yet by the gender specific requirements of society, and that means he is open minded and curious about *everything* in his world--not just the "boy stuff". I'd be more concerned with a boy that age not going near something because it's so-called 'girly' rather than him exploring everything.

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I just have one thing to add that none of the posters suggested. I would recommend that instead of saying he can't do something b/c "its for girls" (like painting his nails, or being a fairy princess) tell him he is not old enough yet. Telling him he is not old enough is not ridiculing him or his desires. By telling him something is for girls only you are ridiculing his desire to do it and you are making it an "impossible dream" which may make it more appealing. By telling him he has to wait until he is older you are putting off the "issue" and he will probably out grow this phase before he reaches the age where you will "allow" these activities. Ex. He can't be a fairy princess until he is six. By age six he probably won't want to be one. He probably won't even remember asking you to be one. If he does still want to be one & still wants to be a girl (which I think is unlikely) then he may have gender issues. Which you may want to seek counseling for or you may just want to continue to let him explore these feelings at home. Good luck.

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Hi D.

I agree that it is normal. My son is 4 1/2 - he plays with his sister's dolls, pushes them in the stroller and wants his nails painted because mine and his sisters' are. Although you don't have girls, he sees and plays with and near girls, so it's just interest in things other than what he already has. I don't pain my sons nails, I tell him that it's for girls. He's not a girl, and yes he says he wants to be a girl. But he loves his cars and trucks. So, don't worry so much about it. Just let him be, eventually as another poster said, peer pressure will catch up and he'll stop wanting to play with girls stuff.

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Hi D.: Just 2 quick thoughts based on my own experience. When my son was younger (he is now 7), he used to love trying on my shoes, whether boots or sandals or high heels. He was also very interested in my make-up and jewelry. No dresses, though. I think it's normal for boys to be curious about the sparkly, pretty colored things that girls have. On the other hand, my daughter (now 6) much prefers boy style shorts and tees, plain jeans. (She can't stand that it is so hard to buy a pair of jeans for girls that isn't covered by embroidery and sequins. I can see her point!) She is very active and doesn't like girly stuff much. But she does love me to paint her nails and raid my make-up! I think it is normal for young children to be curious about and experiment with things associated with the opposite sex. To ease your mind, it might help to talk to a counselor, but I personally wouldn't worry. However, I would try to steer him away from being a typical fairy for Halloween, if only to avoid possible ridicule from other boys. Maybe you could come up with a more boyish fairy, like a woodland fairy king. He could still wear wings (if that was his goal), but his costume could be more boyish. Hope these comments help. Good luck! S.

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A friend of mine has a boy that is going through the exact same thing. He is the only boy at a daycare with 5 other girls and he only wants "girl" toys. The thing is that your son is at an age that he doesn't distinguish some things as being girl and others boy. That's not really a bad thing if you think about it. My friends son did not do outside activities where he had any contact with other boys either. Does your child participate in an indoor/outdoor soccer league or a swim team? There are so many things that would encourage him to be around other boys that have varied interests. Is your husband active with taking care of your child? If so, it would be natural for him to emulate what Daddy's do. Does he watch videos where the girls are the heroes? And dressing up and make believe is healthy at EVERY age! Consider who he is playing with at daycare or in the neighborhood. Is there someone he likes to be around that loves "fairy princesses"? Kids seek approval at a very early age. They want toys because other kids think they are good. Give it time. It may be that he simply likes is creative and likes the costume quality of the big dresses. If you go to the toy store, it is much more difficult to find imagination toys for boys. Mostly action figures, but short of a pirate, there is nothing for a boy to really get into. I think that if you push him to like "Boy" things, he may rebel and refuse and act out. Maybe introducing him to heroes that are boys would help him to identify with a new focus. My son loved Peter Pan at that age. I know there are tights involved, but it's an improvement! I think a theatrical son does not dictate a sexual preference. I hope with time you have clarity on this situation. Good Luck, S.

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I am trying not to judge here, but when I read your post it really sounded to me that you were worried about your son being gay or a transvestite. If he is, then he is. And if you act to him that this is not normal or wrong, you could really damage his self esteem and his willingness to talk to you about it later on. If you are worried about how others will treat him, then maybe talk to a professional about how to let him act the way he wants while protecting him from ridicule or from hurting his self esteem.

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