gender identity

Gender Identity and Young Children

I was having coffee with my friend, M, the other night.  We talked about this and that… a meandering conversation the way mothers do when we manage to get out without our kids for a few hours.

One of our many topics was her son A, who is a unique little boy.  He sees the world in his own way.  Which is wonderful, until it isn’t.

M sent me this note today and allowed me to reprint it here, because, quite frankly, I was stumped.  Having a daughter who is very much a girly girl, I’ve never had to explore gender identity.  But what would you do in M’s situation?


Hubby and I are discussing how to support A’s emerging gender identity while still giving him the tools he needs to protect himself from bullying. So far we’ve supported him in whatever choices he’s made but are worried about school starting and the fact that he doesn’t always conform to established norms.
Here’s the background. My middle son A is 4, going on 5. He’s got some mild developmental issues that we’re identifying (sensory, gross-motor), and may be operating slightly younger then his chronological age (maybe late 3/ early 4). He’s an amazing child and has a wonderful sense of self and individually. I love the way he looks at the world.
In my opinion, he has a very healthy gender and self identity. He knows he’s a boy, and that he like some “girl” things. His favorite colour is purple, and he likes pink. He plays babies and kitchen with his little sister, but also monsters and Pokemon with his older brother.
He’s worn his sister’s purple dress to preschool over his clothes, and when told by his peers that boys don’t wear dresses, just matter of factly told them “Sometimes I do.” We went shoe shopping this week, and he left with pink sparkly princess shoes. Which he proudly told everyone he saw about “I’m a boy who wears princess shoes.” He wants the pink and white bike (which he didn’t get cause he doesn’t need a bike). He fought with his sister over the pink t-shirt that my mother picked up at the thrift store. When playing, sometimes he’s the mom, sometimes he’s the dad, sometimes he’s the dad lady, and sometimes he’s a dinosaur. Most days he’s in typical “boy” clothes with bright purple socks, and now his princess shoes.
He’s given his sister a lecture on gender equality when she told him that boys don’t cook. “Sometime Mommy cooks, and sometimes Daddy cooks. Sometimes Daddy cleans, and sometimes Mommy cleans.”
He told me once that when he grows up he wants to be a “girl teacher with purple hair”. I told him that if he still wants that when he’s older I’ll support him.
I love him like he is and wish I could change the world to make it fit him. I don’t want to change him to fit the world. I just hope that he keeps his self confidence and sense of himself.
We’ve talked about it, and don’t care if he’s gay or trans, or just a boy who likes “girl” things. But both of us were heavily influenced by bullying when we were kids and really worry about that too. So far we’ve been erring on the side of, “we’ll support you in what ever you decide” (in 4 year old words). Right now we’re thinking that we’ll talk a little more about how although it’s ok to like girl things, not all his classmates will agree and they may comment or tease. But I worry that he won’t have the emotional maturity to really understand that he’s a little outside the norm. We’re not even sure if he’ll be ready for kindergarden in the fall (outside of any gender discussion).

Any suggestions, resources, tips?

And so, my dear readers… what say you?
Hoping someone out there has some fabulously brilliant ideas, because I am at a loss.

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