Daughter's Gender Identity Issues

Updated on May 10, 2010
S.S. asks from West Sacramento, CA
19 answers

Hi- my three year old daughter has been repeatedly saying she wants to be a boy. She has an older brother whom she admires and loves greatly- and most of her friends at day care are boys (there are no girls in the small family home care). So, it makes sense because she has a presence of more males than females. My question is whether this is something I should be concerned about and whether we should handle it in any particular way. I have been telling her that she can be whatever she wants and I will always love her. Any insight is appreciated

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So What Happened?

Thank you all for such wonderful insight and feedback. I think I was on the same track as your thinking, just needed some outside perspective. And, as has been pointed out, I really am ok with whomever she wants to be- I love and adore her for who she is. I just wanted additional insight. Thanks!

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answers from San Diego on

Sooooo totally normal. She'll also periodically be a giraffe, a super hero, a princess, and even inanimate objects.

My son wanted to be a girl for quite some time... specifically so that he could "have a baby in his tummy". Being able to write his name in the snow, though, appears to be adequate consolation. ;)

4 moms found this helpful


answers from San Francisco on

she's three - leave it alone. Don't over think it. My daughter used to say she wanted to be a boy so she could stand up and pee. Who cares - she's three!

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answers from Santa Barbara on

I wouldn't be concerned at age 3. My son wrote what he wanted to be when he grew up for a school project and it was: A baseball player and a Mommy. Sooo... 8 years later, still pursuing baseball, not so much the Mommy thing.
I love this age because they haven't gotten society's boundaries yet. My son loved, loved, loved wearing my heels up until about age 5. I think it's cool that you just let her be herself.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Denver on

I love what you already said to her! As I imagine you already know, if you make an issue of it, she will be likely to dig her heels in. As a non-issue, it should eventually go away (or not, but you'll see other signs that will let you know, and really- the odds of a gender identity issue are very small).

If it were me, I would vary my responses. Sometimes just an 'mm hmm' will suffice (as you would if she said she wanted to be a bunny rabbit). But maybe sometimes say things like 'it seems like fun to be a boy sometimes, right? what seems fun about the boys?'. Just to get her talking about it. And a follow up of 'can girls do that, too?' or 'what's fun about being a girl?'. Etc. Just starting lighthearted conversations about it should ferret out the real issue. But your gut is usually right (another great thing about being a girl!!).

It's only an issue if you let it be. You asked for insight, but I think you are spot on as far as your assessment and your approach!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

My lovely, now prissy, 14 year old told me that as well. All her friends were boys...I told her she could be a Tom-boy and she thought that was cool. I have no idea what was going through her little head but she quit talking about it and just enjoyed herself with everything and everybody!

All kids do this. Some want to be pussy cats, some want to be puppies....She's not telling you any great secret. She's just admiring what she has around her.

God bless,


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Rochester on

First of all, don't worry! :) My 3 1/2 year old boy keeps telling me he wants me to have four green girl babies who will be his brothers, a sister he can name "mommy," etc. They are learning so many things at this age, including what gender is in a biological sense as well as activities. You can always tell her that she can do the same things as boys as far as playing goes. To be honest, I was a bit of a tom-boy as a kid and can remember actually thinking that if I hoped as hard as I could before I fell asleep, maybe by magic I would wake up as a boy. This, of course, was mostly because in stories and movies boys always have the best adventures--they can be pirates, knights, princes, super-heroes, brave miller's sons, etc. I also didn't really have any friends as a kid and just had two sisters and read a lot of books. I still prefer "boy" adventure stories, like Kidnapped and Treasure Island, but love being a woman--married to an awesome man who likes fishing with me and mother to two great boys. I had no gender confusion, I did not try to "become" anything that I was not (I distinctly remember in addition to wanting to be a boy so I could have adventures that I also wanted to grow up, get married, and have six children, be a veterinarian, stay single and adopt as many children and animals as I could, become a Missionary pilot, study sharks, and write picture books). I grew up hiking, fishing, hunting, target shooting, having "adventures" with my sisters outside, rolling in the mud, rescuing worms, and many other things that are so wonderful to experience in childhood, whether a child is a boy or girl.

On a side note, one of my nephews said as a child that he wanted to grow up and be a mommy--he adored her and seemed to think she had the coolest job ever. :) Remind her that being a girl is wonderful, but don't feel any need to press her into "girl" behaviors--boy play is often much more fun anyway! :) Sounds like you're doing great just listening and telling her she can be whatever she wants and that you love her.

P.S. Sandy S.--how true! My boys LOVE wearing my heels around the house after work! The higher and more fun, the more they love it! They also usually tell me they are dinosaurs and that I am mommy dinosaur.

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answers from Honolulu on

She is 3. It is not ingrained in granite.
They do this.
They pretend play, look up to others, want to be like their friends.. it is not real "gender" based right now.

My daughter at that age, had MANY boy buddies... I thought it was cool. She had girl buddies too, but she got along with her boy buddies well. Which is great. She could/can play boy ways and girl ways. No biggie.
Her interests are wide, despite her being real girly too.

It is not a concern, now or later. Except for socialization and learning to accept differences in people and not it being discriminatory. But that is a lesson even older kids don't get. Even many adults.

Just love her. A girl can be anything they want... and kids just naturally role play. Part of learning. All normal developmentally.

Again, she is ONLY 3 years old. Its fine.

My daughter is now 7, and she's at the "phase" where boys are "icky." Normal. AND my daughter has a classmate, a boy, who's favorite color is PINK! But he is TOTAL all boy... totally. He just happens to like pink. No biggie. There is no "rule" on what colors/interests kids nor adults "have to" have. Women are in the military now... it doesn't mean they have "gender issues." Right? Boys do ballet. Men too. It doesn't mean they are gender confused. No biggie.

all the best,

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answers from New York on

listen, whoever she is, that's who she is.
now, i don't believe you can change anyone but you can, just to see where she stands, start exposing her to girls, playdates, playgroups, even consider changing the daycare provider so that she is exposed to everything.
but when one of my twins was 2 and 3, and a bit into 4s, she wanted to wear blue. i mean blue everything. i did allow my mind for a bit to wander, and wonder i did, but didn't do much else.
5s roll around and oh my god don't i miss the b'blue' stage. i have glitter coming out of my ears. i cannot choose her clothes anymore, everything has to be BRIGHT pink, and BRIGHT RED, and oh you name it girlie girl.
when she was three she refused to get earrings. she said, and i quote: 'daddy doesn't have earring so why should i.' her twin sister, the girlie girl got them that day. she's 5 now and has stated she needs earrings. so earrings shall she get.
so it's a phase. kids imitate whoever they're around with. then there are kids with real gender issues. those, in my very limited knowledge, i assume express desire to have short hair, question their anatomy, do not want anything girlie, which they find repulsive and so on.
just expose her to more girls in her life and let nature take its course.

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answers from San Francisco on

When I was four I told my mom I wanted to be a boy! She asked me why and found out that because I had older brothers I a) wanted to be like them, and b) thought that their extra privileges were because they were boys, not because they were older. She explained that I could do whatever the boys did when I reached their ages. 'When you are six you can cross the street without having me hold your hand.' That kind of thing. She also explained all of the wonderful things about being a girl. Worked for us!

By the way, when my oldest was three she wanted to be a cat!



answers from Sacramento on

She is 3, kids go through stages and periods of learning and experimenting. I think that she is just expressing what she finds the most interesting at this time, so I would just wait and watch and indulge her a bit. I would be more worried if she was closer to puberty and wanting to be a boy. My friend's child acted like a dog for 6 months, I mean water from a bowl, barking, walking like a dog at the age of eight and the parents just indulged her. She is a very hard working 17 year old with an over achievement bend. No worries.
You are doing exactly the right thing, loving her the way she is.
Keep up the good work!



answers from San Francisco on

Greetings S., As the mother of 5 I wanted to add my 2 cents worth of thoughts. Since she is with boys all the time then ofcourse she wants to be one of the guys. Try getting her around some little girls from church or neighborhood even if they are a bit older to play with. This will help her to learn to play in other ways as well. I ;have one beautiful daughter that was all lace and frills one minuet and dirt and grime the next from playing with her boy cousins all thetime. Tell her that her role as a girl is special and that she can teach the boys to respect and do things for her that are different-example when the boys all go to the bathroom she gets privacy, her body is built different and is precious. She at three is just as likely to spend her time in the garage becasue daddy is working there as she is to be with ou doing whatever you do. Just know that when she gets older she will need to see that there are differances with boys and girls. My girls at 4 can climb with the best of them and has taught the boys to tap dance becasue it was cool to make the noise, so don't worry you have plenty of time to let her learn the fine skills of being a young woman. One trick we taught our children both boys and girls was " Your body is a Temple of God and not a visitors center-- so respect it and your differances".


answers from Dallas on

Provide her with good role models that are girls as well, since she is missing this type of exposure. Let her be the little girl that she is and encourage her to do the things she likes. Maybe join a little playgroup with other girls in it too and introduce her to princess parties and makeovers.

But also don't make her feel bad about playing with the boys. Lots of girls (myself included) were major tomboys as kids and didn't have gender identity issues. My sons love being boys, but they also love to play dress up and watch Barbie movies and loves princess stories. My 4 year old also sticks out his tummy and tells me he has a baby in it.

Really, it's just play, she's still so young, so avoid labeling her as some may try and do as it will just cause confusion. If, later in life she has a hard time figuring it out, then you can seek counseling for her to help her, but now, just provide fun and well balanced examples for her.



answers from Provo on

I would not be concerned. I talked to one mother who asked when her little girl was going to start acting feminine. She had four brothers so I told her that I didn't think that would be happening anytime soon. I think that to some degree we are all influenced by the company we keep. When a person is younger it seems to be more prevalent.



answers from Redding on

In my opinion, children do not have gender identity issues at 3 years old.
They don't even really understand what gender is.
My son grew up with me and his older sister. I have pictures of him with hair bows in his hair. Not that we encouraged it, but at that age, all he knew was that mommy and sissy got to have them and didn't understand why he couldn't. So, he had a barrette in his hair when he ran around the house and he wanted to try our shoes on.
My nephew threw a huge fit over a pair of pink Power Ranger slippers.
They are teenagers now, not gay, not confused about their gender.
My sister was such a tom-boy that actual boys were afraid of her because she was just as rough as the rest of them.
She's very feminine, married to a man, has kids and grand kids now.
I don't think you should be concerned at all.
At 3, your daughter has no clue what being a male or a female even means, let alone the difference between the two.
She may go through a phase where she walks around on her hands and knees and barks and wants to be a dog.
I don't think you should worry.



answers from San Francisco on

This is totally typical for this age. Lots of adults I have known, have talked about wanting to be other other gender between 3-6 years of age. This does not necessarily always correspond with gender id choices later in life, & can be a natural exploration. This is still the age of figuring out gender differences & where I fit in this.



answers from Kansas City on

When my aunt was little she wanted to grow up to be a boy, because her dad wanted a son and never got one. That changed when she became a teenager and started liking boys. :-) I wouldnt be too concerned right now.



answers from Sacramento on

I have a 4 year old daughter who LOVES Diego and wants a Diego bday party and wants to be Diego for Halloween...at first I was so against it, but then I realized, she loves Diego and why should I ban her from something she loves and has an interest in. As parents we are here to help them become a person NOT molded into a person....

but..my little girl is a girly girl..she just has a thing for Diego...lol



answers from Sacramento on

This doesn't seem all that unusual at age three. Just think of how many children that age say they want to marry their mother or their father. They simply don't have a grasp on the realities of sexuality yet. Being around so many boys and no girls makes it natural that she would be saying she wants to be a boy. I like that you've told her she can be anything she wants to be... but I think you also need to point out that she was born a girl, but that doesn't mean she can't do most things that boys can do.



answers from San Francisco on

One thing you said caught my eye..."She can be whatever she wants..." Well, she can't really become a boy without surgery. I think it might be confusing to a 3 year old for an adult to act as if she can become a boy - as if it's a choice. A better way of handling it might be letting her know that she can do whatever a boy does - and you might ask her why she wants to be a boy. Maybe she likes that boys are more vocal or active. Then tell her that she can be that way. Maybe she is reacting to someone telling her to be a "good little girl". Don't assume she saying this because she's gay. That's quite a leap and a sad testimony about our society, in my opinion.

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