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We Think He Might Be a Boy

Tiny Tornado after a recent trip to the barbershop.

Tiny Tornado after a recent trip to the barbershop.

I am at the dining room table, and my five-year-old is in the bathroom. After a bit, I realize that the water has been running for much longer than it takes for him to wash his hands. I hear cupboard doors opening and closing; I hear the rattle of things being taken down from shelves; he’s probably had to put a stool on top of a chair to reach.

“What are you doing in there?” I call.

There is a long pause. He’s definitely up to something.

Finally, he answers: “I am doing,” he says, “what I want to do.”

Let me introduce you to our son. We call him the Tiny Tornado.

He is not yet two and we still think he’s a girl. One day, he refuses every t-shirt in his drawer that has pink anywhere on it, or cap sleeves, or flowers. He puts on jeans and a plain white t-shirt. Later in the day, I’m cleaning out his older brother’s closet, bagging things for Goodwill, and he pounces on a worn-out Spiderman t-shirt that is much too big for him. He wears it all summer. I get it off him every five days or so to wash it, and he puts it back on as soon as it comes out of the dryer. I put his older brother’s outgrown clothes in the basement, and, with a pang, take most of the hand-me-downs from the twin girls down the street to Goodwill instead.

He is two. His brothers are three and six years older than him. We still think he’s a girl. We are at our homeschool group’s Christmas party and my friend Ann says to me, “I find it amusing that the Tiny Tornado is the most boyish of your children.”

He is not quite three. He gets tired of waiting for me to toilet train him, so one day he takes off his diaper and pees in the toilet, and that’s that. He always knows exactly what he wants, but I hesitate when he tells me he wants his hair cut short. I’ve been told so many times that white moms simply can’t cut a black girl’s hair. But he is determined, so, a few days before his third birthday, my partner David gets out the clippers and gives him a mohawk. He runs around with an enormous grin, showing it off. I look at pictures of him with his braids. I think of what hard work it was oiling and combing and parting his hair, how satisfying it was. How beautiful he looked.

He is three. Sometimes he says he’s a boy. We’re not sure. I am looking at a catalog, pining over a red skirt in his size and wishing I had someone to buy it for. He looks over my shoulder. “Ewww,” he says. I turn the page, and there’s a picture of a boy wearing an oxford shirt, khakis, a v-neck sweater vest, a blazer. “Ooohhh,” he sighs, gazing at it yearningly. He learns, from somewhere, about suits with ties, and I buy him one. He is dazzlingly happy, shiningly handsome.

At the end of the year, his preschool puts on a concert. The girls are brilliant in tulle and glitter and sequined barrettes. He is wearing a polo shirt and cargo shorts. I point to where the girls are showing off their dresses to each other, twirling their skirts. I would have loved those dresses at three. I would have loved to buy them for my daughter. I say, “Do you think you would ever want a dress like that?”

“No,” he says. “And I don’t want you to ask me that ever again.”

So I don’t.

He is four. We think he might be a boy. We think probably he is a boy. He holds out the chest of his t-shirt and says to David, “I don’t want to get puffy, like Mama.”

David says, “You mean like breasts?”

“Yeah,” says the Tiny Tornado. He pulls up his t-shirt to show his chest. “I want to be like this, with nipples, but not puffy.”

He’s almost five, and the whole family goes to a conference for trans people, their allies and families, and people in the helping professions. The first morning, at childcare, a volunteer is helping him make his name tag and asks, “Do you want me to write that you like to be called he, like a boy, or she, like a girl?”

Nobody has ever asked him that before, but he answers without hesitation, and the volunteer writes “He” on the Tiny Tornado’s name tag.

The next night, we’re getting ready to go to the family pool party, to join a big happy splashing crowd of trans kids and adults and their families. As we’re changing, I tell him, “I think your blue shorts look enough like a swimsuit that you could wear them to the pool instead of your tankini.” He skips bare-chested down the hallway and spins through the hotel lobby, whirling in little celebratory dances.

He’s five, and he’s a boy.

The week before he starts school, he changes his name to one that sounds more male. The principal and his teachers know his gender status, but to everyone else he’s just one of two hundred little boys showing off to each other on the playground. He worries about his body betraying him, turning him into a woman against his will, and we tell him that doctors can help him with that, if it’s still what he wants when the time comes.

He freezes when his music teacher divides the class into boys and girls, not sure he’s allowed to go with the boys until she reassures him. He asks me to take down a picture of him as a one-year-old. “I have a ribbon in my hair,” he says with distaste. He excels in his swimming lessons, loves his basketball class, learns to skateboard and roller skate. He wants to sign up for t-ball, soccer, karate, hockey, and—now that he knows he won’t be forced to wear tights—a dance class. He trains his dog to jump over jumps and run along balance beams. He can sound out three-letter words and count past twenty. He loves to go to the black barbershop and get a really sharp cut; he admires himself in the rearview mirror all the way home and says with satisfaction, “Lookin’ good. Lookin’ handsome.”

He’s so independent that some mornings he has already packed his snack and lunch for school before I wake up. “Five more minutes, Mom,” he tells me, “and then you really have to get up or we’ll be late.” He tries to pee standing up, and manages surprisingly well, but usually decides to sit down. “He splatters more when he stands up,” I tell his principal. “Well, that certainly sets him apart from the rest of the boys,” she jokes.

I find a doctor’s office that has “male/female/other” on its patient history forms, where he is not their first transgender patient even if he is their first transgender child. I save the information that a new children’s gender clinic has opened in Chicago, just four hours away from us. My father tells me, “I don’t want to have anything to do with you as long as you keep treating her like a boy,” and we are careful about what we tell the Tiny Tornado, because we do not want him ever to think that it’s his fault.

We count our blessings that his school is so supportive, and try not to worry about other schools, and other years. I’m 47 and I’ve never had a career, never made more than $21,000 a year, but I go back to school in speech language pathology. I do this for many reasons, including my excruciatingly banal mid-life crisis. But I do it, too, because puberty blockers can cost over a thousand dollars a month and insurance will almost never pay for them, and whatever choice he makes at 12, at 15, at 18, we need for it not to be about money.

When I was pregnant with our first child, Friends who knew our intimate connections to trans people asked if we were going to try to raise a Baby X, not assign a gender, and avoid pronouns. David would say, “No, we’re just going to go with the apparent biological sex. We figure if we’re wrong, the baby will let us know soon enough.” But we didn’t think that would really happen.

The Tiny Tornado will have a lot to figure out as he gets older: whether to go through puberty as a boy or a girl; how out to be about his trans status; when and how to disclose to potential romantic partners; whether and when to take hormones or pursue surgery. He knows as much of that as it’s appropriate for a five-year-old to know. Which is to say, he doesn’t know much. He trusts us, though, when we say that he is the person who best knows whether he is a boy. He trusts us when we say we can help him with this, that he can grow up to be a man if he wants to, that he can grow up to be any kind of man he wants to be. That he can grow up to be a good man. That we think he will grow up to be the very best kind of man.

Author’s Note: It is customary in my experience to use a person’s chosen pronoun even when referring to their life before gender transition. In addition, I have chosen to respect the Tiny Tornado’s preference not to be referred to with female pronouns.


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Updates

How Do You Know He Won’t Change His Mind?

Author Su Penn writes: “I put up a blog post today reporting on a session I attended at the TransHealth conference this June. It was a presentation by Dr. Johanna Olson, who has worked extensively with trans youth, and, as the Tiny Tornado’s mom, I went in with a million questions. I found it very informative. If you have questions about things like ‘what if he changes his mind’ or ‘how you can tell if a kid is transgendered or just likes pink or to play sports,’ you might find it helpful.”

From the publisher: Thanks for visiting and sharing this important article! Please stick around, and consider subscribing to Friends Journal for as little as $25/year!

Su Penn writes about the Tiny Tornado, homeschooling, adoption, Quakerism, and much more at tapeflags.blogspot.com.

Posted in: August 2013, Features

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277 Responses to We Think He Might Be a Boy

  1. Karen J Gold July 31, 2013 at 10:05 pm #

    City & State
    Douglasville, GA
    Beautiful article.

  2. James August 1, 2013 at 2:17 am #

    City & State
    Huntsville, AL
    Great article, very well written. I love the child-guided approach. Kids get it.

  3. Daniel Allen August 1, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

    City & State
    Kitchener, Ontario
    …OK, who started chopping onions, just as I read the last sentence?

    Thank you, Su.

  4. sw August 1, 2013 at 2:21 pm #

    City & State
    San Diego, CA
    Some female friends (born biologically female, and still are) and I were talking about this, and a number of us did these same things. I did these same things. Asked if I liked pink when I was 4, I answered, no because, “Pink’s a girl’s color.” I did everything this parent is describing her child doing. I even SAID wanted to be a boy. And I am in no way, shape or form trans. Never was. What I was was a little girl growing up in a world where even as a toddler there are messages that being a girl is a bad thing, even when the messages don’t come from your home. I saw it everywhere, and I can remember it now. Until feminism reached me at a young age and I realized that being a girl was not only okay, it was awesome.

    I know that the trans people I care about would have given anything to have parents accept things like these have, of course. But I hope these are as willing to accept if this child turns out to be just another little girl who is going through what so many other non-trans kids have, and the fact that sometimes kids just do this and it in no way means they’re trans. If my parents had thought ‘oh she must be a boy’ it would have been the wrong path to go down for me.

    I know this isn’t the popular view, but it’s realistic. This happens, too.

    • Hunter August 1, 2013 at 2:28 pm #

      “But I hope these are as willing to accept if this child turns out to be just another little girl who is going through what so many other non-trans kids have, and the fact that sometimes kids just do this and it in no way means they’re trans.”

      It is very clear that that is the case.

      • Linda Marie Rossi August 3, 2013 at 10:41 am #

        City & State
        Saratoga Springs
        Hunter: I don’t see how that’s “..very clear..”. Are you basing that on what SW wrote?

        • Amanda Thomson August 3, 2013 at 11:36 am #

          City & State
          Fyvie
          Um… is it is clear because the author has clearly said the options are open in the future. Also at the beginning of the article discussed her feelings of loosing the her little girl to boydom. If Tiny decided to change his mind, I can’t see why they would be any less supportive. I see nothing but supportive language used in this article. This kid definitely has more support than your average trans kid or tomboy.

          • Jen August 3, 2013 at 8:12 pm #

            City & State
            Brooklyn
            Furthermore the article kept stating continuously that all decisions were in the air to be decided if the child still wanted to continuing pursuing further changes.

    • marrog August 2, 2013 at 10:15 am #

      In fairness, you don’t get the impression that this parent actively _wants_ their child to be trans. I have a feeling that if TT turns around and says “actually, I just don’t like girly stuff” that’ll be just fine too. I too was very much like this child and can confirm I am a contented cis woman. However, if my parents had let me spend the first ten or eleven years of my life as a boy? … I think that would’ve been okay too! (Though I appreciate that the ‘going back in’ process might’ve required a change of school or similar, but eh, I did that anyway.) Gender is more and more becoming something kids try on like an outfit and I think that’s a good thing.

      • Kim October 29, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

        What does “as a boy” mean? I let my daughter and son be kids. I didn’t tell them there was one way to “be a boy” or “be a girl”. This pushing of the idea of trans kids does exactly that. My daughter wore jeans and rode skateboards. My son loved Disney Princesses. They aren’t “trans” because we didn’t put any of this nonsense about how to “be a boy” or how to “be a girl” in their minds.

    • Sierra August 2, 2013 at 1:18 pm #

      City & State
      Brooklyn, NY
      My first reaction was: Oh no, the parents are pushing their trans experiences onto their child’s development.

      Many kids go through these stages. These parents seem so loving, which is incredible but it’s important to be aware of what our experiences might make us be hypervigilant of in our children and to just listen and see how this child develops and feels as they get older.

      • Sarah T August 2, 2013 at 5:49 pm #

        This was exactly my concern. I too went through so many of the things stated above – but my parents were not aware of trans people or trans issues. If they had been, and they had looked at my behaviour, they could easily have reached this same conclusion (and then children easily feed off of this from the parents). I had real problems with my femininity right up till my late teens/early 20s – sometimes it persists today – but that does not mean I identify as male. I feel that this age is too young to make such a decision about gender, it would seem to be healthier to teach that girls don’t have to meet any stereotypes and can do anything boys can, then TT can make a decision when they feel ready.

        • Tim Chevalier August 2, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

          Why is a given child too young to make a decision about being trans, but old enough to make a decision about being cis (or have such a decision imposed on him)?

          • Sojun August 2, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

            Exactly.

          • Susan August 3, 2013 at 3:36 am #

            Absolutely. All the transpeople I know KNEW when they were young – one certainly by the age of five.

          • Annie August 14, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

            Um, it seems rather obvious to me… it’s because the decision to move forward with transitioning is an actual action. An actual decision. Being born is the only “decision” required to live as the sex you were born. It’s only “imposed” on them by way of birth. Personally, I don’t see why there has to be some finite connection between “boy” clothes/ “masculine” mannerisms and being automatically trans. I wonder how many people are getting swept up in something (out of an eagerness to show love and acceptance) and then feel too integrated as the opposite sex to go back, if they want to. I have to wonder if society didn’t dictate gender based on clothing, how many trans people would actually want to transition, as opposed to simply dressing and acting how they want.

          • Palaverer August 14, 2013 at 11:51 pm #

            Reply to Annie’s comment: “I wonder how many people are getting swept up in something (out of an eagerness to show love and acceptance) and then feel too integrated as the opposite sex to go back, if they want to”

            Yes, that’s the problem with trans*gender people, they get TOO integrated LOL FOREVER. You clearly know nothing about trans* people or what they experience.

            “I have to wonder if society didn’t dictate gender based on clothing, how many trans people would actually want to transition, as opposed to simply dressing and acting how they want.”

            Seriously? Did you read any of the comments from trans* people on this thread?

        • T. Kenoyer August 2, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

          That is exactly how we have raised our children,and how we will continue to raise them. But I do suspect our younger child *is* transgendered. We don’t push him in this. We were actually shocked when he finally started expressing more and more strongly that “no, I think I am just a boy, not a tomboy.” We have been deliberately raising them without gender essentialist messages in our home, and we explain the examples of it that they see around them. They know (in their young ways) that most of it is culture, not biology.

          But again, like TT’s parents, we are not pushing him one way or another. We may be in charge as parents, but we take our cues from him in this. We wait until he asks, or expresses his conception of himself. We know how terribly influential parents can be, and how children wish to please. This is why we are so careful to let *him* lead in this, and to continue to praise people of all genders and expressions.

        • Potts August 3, 2013 at 12:26 am #

          Agree with this post for my daughter went thru same thing and now sheis very happy with her gender at age of 19, she grew up as a tomboy for a long time.

        • Robin August 4, 2013 at 3:08 pm #

          City & State
          Massachusetts
          When I was a kid I was a total little boy. Transgender is a spectrum though. I am genderqueer. I am okay with being female, I do not resent my vagina, but I lean more male on the inside. I have a husband, but I am more attracted to women. When I am with a woman I do not feel like a woman. I have no intention of have surgery or taking hormones. I live life as a woman, but I dress ambiguously, even wearing neck ties to work.

          Gender is a spectrum just as sexuality. My parents didn’t know anything about trans people either, but I wish they did. I would have understood myself more in my childhood and teens.

          These parents are doing a great job. They aren’t pressuring this kid to be a boy, they are allowing him to be who he wants to be. When he mentions fears of puberty, they keep the information small and simple. This has nothing to do with not wanting to be a girl because girls are weak. When you’re trans, you know it. You just do.

          Just because you’ve not reconciled with where you are on the gender spectrum doesn’t mean these parents, who are doing an amazing job approaching their child’s gender questions and experiments, are forcing their girl to be a boy.

          Were we even reading the same article?

          • Stagewhisper August 5, 2013 at 8:57 am #

            City & State
            Windsor, ON
            Thank you, yes. I am in a similar boat. I pushed in small ways to be boyish as a kid – wanting to join the boys’ team instead of the girls’ team because my best friend was there, wearing a bow barette as a bowtie for a friend’s recess “wedding”, attempting to go topless in the summertime like daddy. But I was never really into sports, or trucks, just nerdy stuff like superheroes and video games, which was seen then as more masculine than it really is. I currently identify as genderqueer also – I am comfortable with my vagina, I have no interest in surgery and almost none in hormones (I like my singing range, and I’m kind of particular about my body hair as it is), and I love to wear neckties to work. (I teach English overseas, so I get a lot of “Teacher is boy?” and I enjoy making them vote on it =P)
            I don’t really like being called ‘she’ or ‘Miss’, but as I’m not transitioning I’m not going to ask to be called ‘he’…I really wish there was a gender neutral pronoun that was more commonly/universally accepted, as I don’t want to seem like a precious snowflake making up my own (though ‘zhe’ and ‘Mixter’ do hold some appeal). For the first time a couple days ago someone actually asked me what pronoun I preferred and I felt so dumb just stuttering, “Uh, well, usually I get ‘she’ and I guess I’m okay with that”.
            Anyhow. This is a beautiful article, and it’s clear that these parents will support their child no matter how he chooses to express his gender, now and in the future.

        • Traci K August 6, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

          And at what age would be old enough to decide then, after unwanted breasts make an appearance? At this point, nothing permanent is being done. Even when TT starts puberty blockers (if TT starts puberty blockers) its not a permanent change and puberty would commence when the medication is stopped.

      • Tim Chevalier August 2, 2013 at 6:22 pm #

        City & State
        Mountain View, CA
        It sounds like *you* want to push your *cis* experiences onto children’s development. Trans people exist, and those of us who are trans adults were trans children and trans infants at one point. Just because you believe we are confused cis people or wish we didn’t exist doesn’t mean you should take your issues out on kids. Instead, why not learn more and try to address some of your obvious ignorance about trans people’s lived experience?

        • Matt August 2, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

          City & State
          Kyoto, Japan
          And yet there *are* a lot of kids who seem to be on their way to a trans adulthood, but find they are happy with their own bodies. Just as there are kids who seem (at least on the surface) to be fine with their born sex, yet come out as trans surprisingly late.

          • Tim Chevalier August 2, 2013 at 9:51 pm #

            City & State
            Mountain View, CA
            [citation needed]

          • Matt August 3, 2013 at 1:26 am #

            City & State
            Kyoto, Japan
            Yes, Tim, I do need a citation here, don’t I? I recently read an article (Where?) by a counselor of children with gender identity disorder (who is herself transgendered), that was primarily intended to debunk myths about puberty-delaying treatments. In it, she emphasized that such treatment is reversible, and she cited the rate of misdiagnosis of children with GDI. I was stunned when I saw the number, but since I don’t remember the exact number I’m not going to spread disinformation by guessing here. But whether’s it’s one percent or 80, I think my point is valid. There are all kinds of people, and people can and do change over time. I have a transgendered friend who did not realize until she was almost thirty that gender reassignment was even a possibility. (Yes, how she managed to avoid that ubiquitous bit of information is a mystery, but there you have it. She’s from a conservative rural area in the South, if that explains anything.) And another commenter here spoke of being fine with being a boy as a child, but now being unhappy as a man. I myself struggled with my own gender identity in my twenties, but eventually settled on the identity of an MtF lesbian who does not feel a need to have her gender reassigned through treatment or surgery. And my larger point is that people will find their true selves no matter what the parents or other adults do or say. The intense indoctrination by countless cis hetero parents to make their own children cis hetero does not prevent children from becoming trans (though it obviously makes it much harder to deal with!), so the idea that these parents are somehow imposing their will on TT and forcing her/him to be trans is silly.

          • JJ Shag August 3, 2013 at 2:23 am #

            Good point. I thought I knew a lot about transgenderism, but then I did some volunteer work with trans teens and learned from them about the wide diversity among them.

        • Valentine August 2, 2013 at 10:27 pm #

          Not all of us that are trans adults were trans children or trans infants. I grew up perfectly happy as a boy, played baseball, football, army, cowboys and indians, cops and robbers. I did all the normal sorts of boy things. Now as an adult, I am not happy as a male.

          • Ellie August 4, 2013 at 9:23 am #

            I did normal boy things as a child, doesn’t mean i was happy being a boy.

            You do not encompass trans experience any more than people who claim *all* trans people have been trans forever, but don’t imply that enjoying traditionally male activities make someone happy to be a boy.

    • kathy August 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

      City & State
      New york NY
      It is apparent that they are following their childs lead-and will probably continue to do so-whichever direction that takes them. I was a tom-boy too-not trans-bio female and am the parent of a trans child who is now 20. Tomboys dont usually want to cut off their body parts, get dressed without lights and mirrors, or disparately want to die rather than live another day as their assigned gender. These parents seem to be very accepting and love their child unconditionally..truly.

      • Hannah August 2, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

        Thank you! As a tom-boy married to a transwoman I don’t mind saying I was getting a bit miffed with the “I was a tom-boy too” comments. I too hated dresses, and girly things. I too sometimes thought life would have been easier if I’d been a boy, and even sometimes wished I had been born a boy. but I never once thought I *was* a boy, or wanted to be mistaken for one. In fact, I often felt the need to point out that even if I was in jeans and baggy t-shirts and had a crew cut, I was still a girl. My goal was never to be a boy, but to be a girl that got to dress and do and be whoever she wanted.

        • Potts August 3, 2013 at 12:27 am #

          same as my daughter :)

        • blacksheep7777 August 3, 2013 at 7:52 am #

          City & State
          london, england
          Bravo Hannah. The most sober, lucid comment I’ve read here. Society’s absolute obsession with labeling human beings or to assign gender is ridiculous. I feel there in lies the problem. Humans feel they have to choose who and what they are based on the extremely narrow parameters of body image, behaviour, sexual identity, race, religion….. I think it’s rooted in “man’s” finite knowledge / wisdom. I truly hope “civilisation’s” collective consciousness is evolving with the coming of the new age.

        • Debbie August 3, 2013 at 9:31 am #

          City & State
          Perth Australia
          You sound exactly like my daughter, even at 6 months old she didn’t like wearing dresses, this has continued through her life, although she wore one for her older sister’s wedding. She came out as a lesbian around 17 and I just said “About time you told me.”

        • Janell August 3, 2013 at 1:55 pm #

          Hannah: Ditto! Thanks for putting it so well.

        • Chris August 3, 2013 at 4:43 pm #

          I was a tomboy too. Or I wanted to be. I was too sickly to play sports, and all of my clothes were parts of matching sets, hand-sewn by my grandmother for my sisters and me. I wasn’t allowed to cut my hair. I got very good at convincing relatives I liked the “girl” toys I got on Christmas. I thought my life would have been easier as a boy, and sometimes I would wish I had been born one. I never thought I WAS a boy, but maybe a girl with a boy brain put inside. I was just like any other tomboyish girl, and I thought my resentment towards being female was just because I hadn’t been allowed to act as “boyish” as I felt. I didn’t want to cut of my body parts, or get dressed in the dark, and I certainly didn’t want to die.

          But sometimes, sometimes I would see boys, and later men, who somehow reminded me of myself, like mirrors showing who I would have been if I’d been a guy. And there’d be a surge of anger and sadness from somewhere inside me, like I was mourning someone I never was. As a teenager, I thought it was because I was jealous of their clothes, so I bought boys clothes. Then I thought it was because of their haircuts, so I cut my hair short. Then I thought it was because of their “toughness”, so I took up boxing and stopped drawing and practiced hiding my emotions. But it was still there, coiled up in gangly elbows and big hands and flat chests and narrow hipbones. For a while I thought it was attraction, except attraction doesn’t feel sad.

          And one day when I was 16 got mistaken for a guy. Twice, actually. And I grinned SO much that whole day. From that same somewhere, there came this feeling of rightness. Like a favorite teacher had just told me I was smart. Like my dad saying he was proud of me. Like I was being acknowledged.

          I’d never consciously thought I wanted people to call me a boy. But the second someone did, I realized that I had ALWAYS wanted it, so deep down I couldn’t understand it myself. That I didn’t actually LIKE boxing or being stoic or extreme sports: I just liked the fact that they made people see me “like a boy”. That if it hadn’t meant being forced into tights, I would have taken tap dancing as a kid.

          As a girl, my goal was to be as masculine as possible, to MAKE myself as masculine as possible. As a guy, my goal is to be a man who gets to look and do and be whoever he wants.

          • Palaverer August 3, 2013 at 5:55 pm #

            City & State
            Roanoke, VA
            Chris, thank you so much for this comment. This helps me understand the difference between being trans* and a “tomboy” (I hate that term) better than all the abstract theory in the world.

          • Su Penn August 3, 2013 at 6:01 pm #

            Chris, that was lovely and beautifully written. Thank you.

          • Choya August 5, 2013 at 5:36 pm #

            City & State
            North Hollywood
            I take issue with the idea that you only felt as though you could accomplish your goals as a man…It sounds like…you wanted to be treated as an equal by your oppressor who was ironically your role model: the straight male.

            It sucks that you had to go through those lengths to be treated as another intellectual being.. but that’s what feminism is about: redefining the modern man and woman, and defending femininity as a worthy and equally respectable trait.

            You shouldn’t have to cut off all your hair or buy clothes that don’t fit your body just to have your intellect recognized or to gain respect.
            Being girly, wearing dresses, wearing make-up, liking romance novels/movies, etc isn’t weak. It’s just different. If other people ever made you feel that way, it’s because they’re the weak ones – not you.

            Being a woman is awesome! I wear all kinds of clothing: from corsets to oversized shirts jeans and jackets to tight dresses. I am also bisexual…so I never felt obligated to dress a certain way or not dress a certain way. I am simply human. We are all just human beings. As a woman, I feel as though I can literally do whatever I want, not because of my sex, gender, or wardrobe, but because of my character.

          • Chris August 5, 2013 at 10:52 pm #

            @Choya

            1. I am also bisexual. I’m not sure what that has to do with anything.

            2. I have never had an issue with people failing to recognize my intellect. Seriously. Never. It was the opposite: I had no idea why a) everyone kept saying I was smart, and b) other kids kept asking the teacher to explain things that were obvious. I also never felt like being female stopped me from being good at math or science.

            3. You are partially correct. I DO imagine myself achieving my goals more easily as a man. I also more easily imagine myself failing at my goals, and working at a job, and visiting friends, and falling in love, and falling out of love. I imagine myself LIVING as a man more easily.

            4. I know men’s clothes don’t fit well on my body. I wish they did. Women’s clothes would fit very well on my identical twin, if I had one, but not on me.

            5. I know makeup and dresses are not weak. I know a woman who ALWAYS wears heels. She loves makeup, and she wears dresses whenever she can. She is confident, brave, opinionated, driven, and the last person I would want to piss off. She does more in a week than I do in a month, and she looks fantastic the entire time. I know dresses and makeup are not weak. I am not secure enough in my masculinity to rock a pair of heels. I know guys who are and who do, and I admire them.

            6. I actually view masculinity as a glass castle: a superficial image of strength and grandiosity, but in truth immensely fragile. I do not see heteronormative men as my role models. Perhaps I did as a child. But then, my father and uncles are all such men. I intend to be a soft man. I intend to be a sensitive man. I intend to be the kind of man who smiles at strangers, prattles on about flowers, sings showtunes (badly), and makes excellent soup. That’s what I meant when I said that, as a man my goal is to do and be whoever he wants.

          • Meg November 9, 2013 at 10:04 pm #

            Chris–

            Saw someone cut and paste this onto a discussion on facebook and searched for it, and lo and behold, it is here, at Friends Journal, making it seem even more like a small spot of home to reach for. Thank you–but thank you is too small. Friend speaks my mind… :)

          • Jen Loforese December 5, 2013 at 11:17 am #

            City & State
            Lansing, Michigan
            Hi Chris ~ after reading a gazillion research articles, tons of scholarly papers, blogs, books, reports, etc., your post here communicated something so valuable, in such a deep, and meaningful way, that I hardly have a response. If you happen by this reply, I would really like to use a quote from you for a research paper I’m currently writing. I used my full name here in hopes you will look me up on Facebook and drop me a note, and I can explain in a little more detail.

          • Jen Loforese December 5, 2013 at 11:24 am #

            City & State
            Lansing, Michigan
            side note- after responding to your post below, I read the next comment and noticed that someone had mentioned your comment being cut and pasted into a conversation on Facebook – I just wanted you to know that person was me. I made it clear that I was cutting and pasting from a reply to an article, so as to be sure that it was not mistaken for my own words. Again, I just wanted you to know how much what you have written here impacted me.

        • Zoe Brain August 4, 2013 at 4:33 am #

          I wanted to be a boy too. They got to do all the cool stuff, be doctors not nurses, astronauts not beauticians, scientists not secretaries.

          I never believed I was one though. I tried. Pretended to be one. It was… expected, as I looked like a boy. My Birth Certificate says “boy”, and as I’m Intersex rather than Trans (technically), it always will pending a change to the law, despite my transition.

          It’s important that this child be told that girls come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. Including girly girls and tomboys. But once the kid realises that – get out of the way, for that will be irrelevant to him if he’s a boy.

      • marf August 2, 2013 at 11:04 pm #

        City & State
        nyc
        bio isn’t the word – because that would erase intersex people
        it’s Female Assigned/Coerced At Birth or FAAB/MAAB

    • Beebop August 2, 2013 at 5:38 pm #

      City & State
      Canada
      I feel the same way you do, I could have been considered “transgendered” as a child too, and now I am a grown woman. While I still may have some penis envy (lol), I am also thankful no one rushed me into a lifestyle I was curious about.

      Unfortunately, discussing that side of the issue has only led me to being called insensitive, or I “just don’t get it”

      Well, anyway..now i just give a nod of the head and wish the child the best, in whatever outcome.

      • Darcy August 2, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

        don’t worry beebop considering you are a grown women with penis envy it’s pretty clear you’ve got some issues of your own.

        But that’s great that rather than think “hey why is everyone saying there is somthing wrong with me and you are ignorant” you just blinding continue to act the way you. I’m glad this child has good parent, hopefully you don’t have kids.

      • Lianne August 3, 2013 at 4:27 am #

        City & State
        Canada
        Given all the other people saying similar things here, I find it a bit implausible that discussing your experience has *only* led to accusations of insensitivity. I suspect either hyperbole, selective memory, or that the manner in which you bring it up predisposes the reader to infer a level of insensitivity. Maybe a mix of all three.

        I mean no offense by this. I’m just grasping for an explanation of why you weren’t receiving support from your fellow non-trans women who went through a ‘tomboy*’ phase in previous attempts to talk about that side of things, and can’t actually think of a less offensive way of expressing it (short of silencing myself, which I’d find even more offensive.) My failure, for which I apologize.

        *not particularly fond of that word actually, as it implicitly invokes gendered assumptions and I personally believe there’s nothing intrinsically ‘boyish’ about not liking dresses. Culturally, sure; but not intrinsically.

      • Beez August 3, 2013 at 10:04 am #

        City & State
        Chicago
        No, you could not have been “considered transgendered”, and saying something like that show a fundamental misunderstanding of what transgenderism is. Did you prefer male pronouns as a child? Did you present as a male whenever the situation allowed? Or were you a tomboy, like countless other girls?

        No one in this article is rushing the boy into a “lifestyle”. They’re taking their cues from him in terms of haircuts, clothing, pronouns, etc. If he woke up one morning and said, “I’d like to wear a dress, Mom”, the author leaves little doubt in my mind that she and her husband would fully support it. Wanting to be fully informed of, prepared for, and supportive of a child’s needs is not forcing a lifestyle on him. It’s being a good parent.

    • Amy August 2, 2013 at 6:54 pm #

      City & State
      Maine
      I’m with you, SW. There are plenty of kids who are gender non-conforming who are not trans.

      This family seems more concerned with whether their daughter acts “like a boy” or “like a girl” than most families I know, who have kids who were born decades ago.

      My son never acted like the boys who were into rough and tumble play. I didn’t then decide that maybe he is “really” a girl.

      When I was a kid, I didn’t like pink and hated playing with dolls. No one decided that was “really” a boy.

      Open up your mind to the possibility that boys don’t have to conform to male/masculine stereotypes and girls don’t have to conform to female/feminine ones — and they can still be male and female identified.

      I’m sure some people truly are trans. But part of this movement seems awfully bound to gender stereotypes.

      • T. Kenoyer August 2, 2013 at 7:35 pm #

        I think you’ve misjudged this family.

      • Darcy August 2, 2013 at 10:00 pm #

        that’s lovely that you are sure there are some people that are trans. that’s mighty big of you to decide that there might even be some trans people. serious do you and the other non- trans people posting here realize how ridiculous and judgmental not mention condescending, ignorant and transphobic you sound or do you just not care. Who are you to decide from reading one article is someone is trans or not rather than RESPECTING a mother who has been with her child his entire life. Did you not read the part where she states that if their child magically comes and says they want to be live and be raised as a girl they will support that or are you so sure that your own singular personal experience is greater than the now years of research and actual experience of trans people. As a cisgender butch women I will no call into question another person’s right to be who they are truly not the least because I expect that same respect.

        • Polly Anna August 2, 2013 at 11:34 pm #

          City & State
          Burlington, VT
          Well, you would definitely know judgmental and condescending! Respectfully expressing an experience or opinion different from yours doesn’t make someone ignorant or bigoted. It just makes them different. Or must everyone conform to some predetermined norm?

        • Lian August 22, 2013 at 10:14 am #

          City & State
          FLA
          Darcy.

          After reading so many supportive comments, I think a stick is lodged somewhere it ought not to be. I’ve read a couple of people are making valid personal points, and you are jumping all over them with sarcasm and condescending language. I read their comments with not trace of hurtful sarcasm as I have yours.

          It is funny that you choose to call other people condescending, and make sweeping generalizations of a person you’ve never met, when the tone you have taken screams much more condescension and presumption than I have seen in almost every other comment.

          Just because someone says something that you find so ignorant as “I’m sure some people truly are trans. But part of this movement seems awfully bound to gender stereotypes.”, do you truly think you reserve the right to tell them that they are transphobic? Do you believe that you have the right to tell someone they have issues if they admit to mild penis envy?

          Remember, this is all based solely on your comments. I am not making any sweeping generalization about you.

          I’ts mighty big of YOU to preach respect or the rights of one person “to be who they are” while simultaneously berating someone you’ve never met on the internet.

          I hope you are a troll, because according to your previous comments I feel it is inevitable that you will try to use the fact that I am not more than 50% trans, and the fact that I defended someone who does not conform 100% to your opinions of the world, as a reason to call me a condescending, ignorant transphobe, all the while knowing zero about my life, loves, interactions, and gender.

          I’m in the same boat BeeBoop, and Amy. I get exactly what you were trying to say. Thanks for expressing. And thanks PollyAnna as well, you said it much better thank I, and much shorter than I blundered to do before seeing your post,,,,

      • Lianne August 3, 2013 at 5:15 am #

        From the account given, neither did they for at least the first two years that they noticed TT rejecting ‘typical’ girl things and embracing ‘typical’ boy things. From what I can see in there, it took a combination of persistance, pervasiveness and vehemence – combined with a little awareness that trans people do exist – before they even started thinking “maybe…”

        That awareness didn’t exist a few decades ago, so yeah: they wouldn’t have thought of it; but in some cases, it would have been right. Today, we’re more likely to think of it – and so maybe we’re more likely to get it wrong the other way. But if not bringing it up decades ago didn’t stop those of us who were trans from being trans back then, I doubt bringing it up when it’s not the case isn’t going to push non-trans kids into being trans today.

        Pushing it would be wrong, just as wrong as pushing for conformity in an effort to avoid it. And I can understand being sensitive to the risk of it being pushed; but I do have to question what makes you think the parent’s aren’t open to the possibility of boys and girls who don’t conform to gendered stereotypes without being trans.

      • Neil August 5, 2013 at 8:27 pm #

        Amy, they didn’t “decide” TT was really a boy because he didn’t act like what they expected of a girl. They listened to him.

        I’ve known TT from infancy, as I have known his older brothers from infancy.

        I can assure you that this family is WELL aware of the possibility of behaving counter to stereotypes and gender expectations while fulling embracing Inez’s assigned gender.

        • Neil August 6, 2013 at 1:27 am #

          Inez’s?? Oh, autocorrupt is at it again!

          ONE’S assigned gender.

    • jeayjay August 2, 2013 at 7:02 pm #

      Totally agree with this. I hope that the mother doesn’t decide to go through “puberty blocker” techniques, etc. when the child says “I want to be a boy”. Kids say and do so many things, and change their minds rather quickly. Rather, I think it is important to let the child grow up and be mature enough to decide on his/her own before going ahead with life-changing decisions.

      • T. Kenoyer August 2, 2013 at 7:45 pm #

        This is a child who has expressed himself about this over the course of most of his young life. He may yet change his mind, but so far, it sounds as if he’s been pretty immutable on this issue. It also sounds as if his parents are open to his choices.

        Puberty blockers only do that. Nothing more. When they are discontinued, puberty starts normally.

      • Fluffywalrus August 2, 2013 at 7:54 pm #

        Puberty blockers aren’t permanent or anywhere near as “life-changing” as puberty. Look, I get it, you’re concerned, and you have every right to be, but puberty blockers aren’t handed out willy nilly, there are psych evals done to make sure it’s the right medical decision.

        Because yeah, kinds change their minds on a lot of things pretty quickly, but one’s gender identity tends to solidify around ages 5-6. Meaning that, if the child has a good grasp on what that means for them, they generally won’t change their mind on that unless they’re coerced, like a lot of trans kids are.

        It’s important to let kids grow up and make mature decisions yes, but it’s also important to minimize harm and trauma. A child who is trans, who’s forced through a “natural” puberty, can suffer severe trauma depending on the level of their dysphoria. It’s a large reason why 43% of trans youth attempt suicide…and that number is actually fairly conservative, not taking into account the trans youth who have attempted and succeeded.

        So the next time you go on about life-changing decisions, please stop and think about the other sides of the situation, because for trans youth, a huge negative life changing decision would be for their parents to deny them puberty blockers and force them through puberty, whereas a positive life changing decision would be to give them blockers and let them feel out the process safely, giving them room to fully commit to a decision, and giving their doctors and parents time to fully assess the child.

        • Momally August 3, 2013 at 10:18 am #

          City & State
          Cincinnati Ohio
          Thank you for this. After reading these comments, I was beginning to see red with all the “the parents are pushing him into this” and “what if he changes his mind.” That IS the point of the puberty blockers, and the psychological evaluations; to help the child determine if this is a “stage” or otherwise explained by some medical condition, or if they truly were assigned the wrong gender (if any, at all) at birth. From everything provided in the article, it seems to my psychology student mind that the parents have it all under control. They are taking the cues from TT, and I get the impression that should he decide he’d rather be a girl, they would be perfectly fine and supportive of that as well. BUT, if he decides that he’s made the right decision, and he really is a boy in heart, mind, and soul, then he will forever know that his parents have supported him from the very beginning, and that will make the remainder of his transformation more positive. One day though, they will have to tell TT what his grandfather said, and he will have to face that prejudice. I can only hope that TT’s happiness will show the grandfather what a mistake it was to say such a horrible thing, and that he will want to be in TT’s life as a positive, encouraging ally in a very transphobic culture and society. It IS changing, thanks in part to articles like this. I’m so happy to see a story of a trans child who is not white. It seems every article, every case study, and the like that I have found is all about a white child, or group of children. These parents are very brave to come out and show that not all trans children fit into one race/ethnicity, and that it’s okay. I wish them all the best, and hope to hear of TT’s success in the future, in whatever he decides!

          • sagebrush August 7, 2013 at 1:57 pm #

            And why would they need to tell TT about what grandfather said? Before it came to that, and only if necessary to protect TT, I would tell grandfather that we will have to limit contact with our family until he finds it in his heart to treat *all* of us with love and respect. I understand it may be difficult for grandfather to learn and change a lifetime of beliefs, maybe he is unable, but protecting TT must come first.

      • Neil August 5, 2013 at 8:46 pm #

        The point of puberty blockers is exactly to allow life (and body) changing decisions to be made when the child is older.

        If TT changes his mind, so be it. It’s not like his parents are going to say, “No, you said when you were 2, and 3, and 4, and 5, and 6 that you were a boy, so that’s the only thing you can be.” No, they will support him (or her, if that becomes an appropriate pronoun) in being fully whoever he is, be that boy, girl, or both/neither.

      • Julie November 9, 2013 at 11:24 pm #

        I know I’m late to this conversation but whatever. It has nothing to do with whether “the mother decides to go through” puberty blocking techniques. It would be TT’s decision, as it is his body! This is not just “I want that toy!’ and then they won’t. This is about whether he feels right in his own body, and he is the only one who knows that, and if he’s chosen, it will be hard to change his mind. In addition, as you put puberty blockers in quotation marks, I’m going to guess you don’t know anything about the process. Before ANYTHING can be done, the child must first go through counselling with a psychologist, who can diagnose them with gender identity disorder. Then they must live live as their preferred gender for 1-2 years without swaying. Only then will hormones be given, or will the potential for surgery be available to them. This is not something that people do for fun, it is a lot of time, money, and trouble to go through. But gender identity disorder can cause depression or even suicidal tendencies, in children as young as 5.

        These parents are doing great. They are being helpful and supportive, and not letting him get scared. They are not pushing him into anything, they are doing exactly what he wants, when he wants, in order to help him. It’s great, they deserve congratulations and respect.

    • Durant August 2, 2013 at 10:51 pm #

      City & State
      Fairfax, VA
      Completely realistic. Which is why the common practice is to administer hormone blockers as the child reaches puberty. Blockers aren’t the same as replacement–it puts off the puberty process, keeping both sets of sex characteristics at bay, until the child is fully prepared to take decision.

      The entire article is about learning to let TT decide his gender. Right now, he’s a boy, and sounds like a cool little dude at that. The writer doesn’t even say that she’s furthering their career to pay for those hormone blockers–she says she doesn’t want money to be a factor if he still wants that when the time comes. She wants her child to have every opportunity to grow into the best person they can be and the little dude, in turn, is her motivation for being the best she can be. Rest on that a moment. Let that be as beautiful as it is!

      You’re absolutely right that some kids go through phases, and that’s okay. Some kids don’t, and that’s okay too! You can lay your judgement to rest. I’m confident that the author will be for this kid exactly what he needs at every step along the way.

    • zee August 2, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

      City & State
      MA
      This was a beautiful article! We are grateful to be lesbian mommies, and had the surprise of a baby girl nearly 2 years ago, and I can only hope to be as supportive as these parents have been with their sons and daughters. I would like to share, though, that I agree with the statement above, and I am thankful that this person had the strength to share the “unpopular view” as I have found it difficult to do in lgbt circles.

      I grew up and developed in a similar way – loving and collecting remote controlled cars and dinosaur toys, loving the color blue, and I frequently expressed my desire to be a boy – I wanted to swim and run around topless, and I perceived boys to be strong, fast, and independent. My parents were quite liberal with the acceptance of my gender expression, and though it was only 20 years ago so much has changed with regard to how we respond to gender roles for our children. I want my daughter/future children to have the support of having the full gender spectrum accepted in my home. I want so much more for my daughter to find strength and infinite value in herself – something I cannot expect society to give her as a multi-ethinic gayby. If we’re having serious talks about transitioning in 10 years then so be it

      I see a lot of debate and back on forth here, a lot of love, and a lot of animosity. My opinion and experience leaves me simply hoping that my little girl doesn’t reject herself – her true self as it blossoms within her each day and not the self her parents, classmates etc feel most comfortable with. Thank you Su for sharing, I have found great insight within your piece as well as down below in the comments

    • Potts August 3, 2013 at 12:25 am #

      City & State
      Kuna
      This concerns me if you agrees to treat daughter as a son and worry about how to change his sex, I had a daughter like this, she refused to wear pink or girly stuff when she was two years old too. She kept on taking her brother’s clothes, I already had two daughters and three sons so this tomboyish daughter would be my third daughter. She refused to wear girly stuff no matter how much we persudaed her, so we let her be herself and she played sports with boys, became best friends with boys and even cut her own hair and that we had to cut it off She looked like a boy for a while, Finally in teens, she decided to wear girls jeans and boys shirts, I was so thrilled!!!! (I even was thinking okay if she decided to be alesiban, I would show her love no matter what) some people asked her if she would be one and she flatly told them NO!!! But she even longed to be a boy while she was growing up until she was about 16 she decided to start wearing girls jeans and boys shirts then she got her boyfriend and they loved each other now she is wearing make up and wearing “tomboyish clothes sometimes and girly stuff sometimes even though she won’t wear pink or purple. So, I would not be in a rush to change this child’s gender for this chiild isnot old enough to know what she wants.

      • Momally August 3, 2013 at 10:23 am #

        I believe the pronoun you were looking for to describe TT was “he.” It’s very rude to call a trans individual by the wrong pronoun so blatantly.

      • Jen August 3, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

        I think there is a big difference between children who long to be a different sex and explicitly state that they are a different sex.

      • Fluffywalrus August 3, 2013 at 8:47 pm #

        If kids are too young to know what they want and who they are, why do parents go around telling others that their newborns are boys or girls? They certainly don’t know any better than the kid at that point. Sure, you can play the odds (favourable ones, obviously) but just know that there’s no concrete certainty until *gasp* the children tell you. because children know better than the parents about who they are, what they are, and what they want. And considering gender identity IS something that people are born with, something that many have fought to change in children without success across the decades(see: the John Money experiment, and all the stories from intersex kids whose doctors made a mistake when they were born, and who were raised as boys/girls instead of as girls/boys, stories of trans children whose parents gave their children lobotomies in an attempt to ‘cure’ them, etc.), I think the notion that the children’s environment(including their parents) greatly affects children’s gender identity is worth tossing in the trash. The only thing the parents could do is coerce their children into one way or the other, but seeing as how these parents are giving their child freedom to express himself, and they’re letting him lead the way, leads me to believe that there’s no coercion involved. That if this boy decides down the road to identify with the sex he was born with, that would be entirely good and a decision he could make without penalty of punishment.

        This kid considers himself a boy right now, and he knows better than anyone who and what he is, and what he wants. Just because you had a child who had SOME anecdotal parallels, doesn’t mean that it will occur in this instance. There’s a big difference between rejecting stereotypical femininity and proclaiming oneself as a boy consistently over time.

        • Lulu August 6, 2013 at 1:06 am #

          City & State
          manchester. nh
          i think people go around calling their newborns boys are girls bc most people understand that to refer to the biological sex that their child has at birth–hey a penis, ok, so this is a boy. hey a vagina, so this is a girl. i understand trying to change how people view sex and gender, but most people in this country see sex and gender as the same thing–you have a penis or a vagina and that is your biological sex–a fact. one may feel that they are truly male or female and express that as they get older, but the fact is at birth, unless one is intersex or something similar, they will have a penis or a vagina. i was one of those girls who grew up with an older brother. he got to do EVERYTHING. i was not allowed to climb trees and never received the same cool toys he got for holidays. i wanted to be a boy so badly. i hated wearing dresses and bows and fancy shoes. my favorite outfit was wrangler jeans, brown cowboy boots, a fringed vest and a sheriff’s star. i loved my bb gun and insisted on being on the boys soccer team with my brother rather than joining the girls team (since we were so close in age this was possible) i used to imagine that we were twins. it turns out i just wanted the freedom he seemed to have. i still hate dresses and fancy shoes and wish i had no breasts bc then i imagine shirts would look better on me. but i also eventually learned to love my female body. once i got old enough that my mom HAD to listen to me about my clothing choices, i was happy being a girl who wore her brother’s clothing as often as possible. and once i attended a woman’s college i really embraced who i was–that wearing clothing viewed as men’s clothing did NOT mean i was lesbian, since i did, in fact, lack any attraction to women, and did not mean i was trans. I was a woman who was more comfortable in unisex t shirts and jeans and doc martens or chucks, but sometimes, when i found the right dress, i was really happy in that, too. i wonder if the parents in this article would have jumped on my saying “i want to be a boy” and pushed me somewhere i did not belong, OR, as some have noted, there is a big difference between ” i wish i were a boy” and “I AM a boy. I can understand that there is probably a big difference there, or perhaps not, since 2 and three years old are not so nuanced in their language yet. I do not know, mostly i need to know that i do not know– but this mom must know her child. and i wish him all the love, support and happiness in the world throughout his life whichever way things turn out.

          • Fluffywalrus August 6, 2013 at 9:15 am #

            You’re right, most people conflate gender and sex, which is wrong. So if the majority of people are uneducated about this, then their opinions on who “knows better” are just absurd. They may think they know better than a 5 year old about whether the child is a boy, a girl, or perhaps even genderqueer, but seeing as how most people’s understanding of gender variance ends at tomboys and drag queens, I’d wager that adults that aren’t in TT’s life are much more in the dark than TT himself, and his parents.

            I get the tomboy narrative, it’s common. Girls are restrained in childhood and it sucks, but a decent parent, who knows their child, will be able to communicate with their child and figure out whether they’re envious of the freedoms they typically lack if they embraced femininity at that age, or whether it’s something else entirely(I say this because most parents are unaware of how to identify or deal with trans kids, but it’s certainly different behaviour than tomboys or boys who enjoy expressing their femininity). And if they don’t communicate, they’re not likely the type of parent to actively make any decisions on behalf of the child, and it’ll all come out in their teens. The parents who think to themselves “My child might be trans” are the ones who are knowledgeable enough to know that the need to communicate and observe is vital.

      • Neil August 5, 2013 at 8:52 pm #

        Nobody’s in any rush to change TT’s gender. TT’s mom has discussed in her blog her missing the little girl she thought she was going to raise. I understand that. I, too, miss the girl we all thought had come into our lives. That doesn’t stop us from treasuring TT the way he is.

    • Nicky August 3, 2013 at 8:35 am #

      City & State
      England
      I never saw that being a girl was a bad thing as a kid, but more than girls had a limited role in the eye of the toy makers. In my house, my dad always told me to ignore what I was “supposed” to play with and go with what I “wanted” to play with. So although friends and extended family gave me barbies and my little pony toys, my parents got me microscopes and a toy car that I used to pretend to fix when my dad worked on our car. I never felt the need to call myself a boy to feel that I could play with them. I was a girl who liked cars and science. I was told at school that certain sports were for the boys, and even though I didn’t want to play those sports, I fought for the right to play both. I still identify as a girl now.

      I think that if the parents have raised the child to understand that whoever they are, they are capable of anything and nothing they chose to wear or play with is wrong because they are one gender or the other, the child will have a clearer defined sense of self which in turns allows them to be the gender they truly are from an earlier age. Hopefully it means that the child will not feel that they MUST be a certain gender just because they like to wear jeans more than dresses or vice versa. I think it’s up to the parents to fill the child with enough self-confidence that nothing the outside world can do will destroy it.

    • Neem August 3, 2013 at 10:01 am #

      City & State
      Montreal
      Giving people information/options is NEVER a bad thing. I’m one of those cisgendered women that wondered if they were trans because they didn’t like gender norms. I went to trans support groups, considered surgery, and had a great trans therapist. In the end, I was more sure than ever I wasn’t trans. Being around lots of really wonderful trans people didn’t brainwash me into thinking I was trans. Instead, I learned from these experiences how to express my gender in a way that made me happy as a cisgendered woman. Let kids explore a trans identity. If they turn out to be cisgendered, then they’ll have all this great knowledge and experience they’ll carry with them.

    • Molly August 3, 2013 at 10:40 am #

      City & State
      Columbus, OH
      San Diego makes a good point. I’m a child psychologist and I have worked with children who identify as the opposite sex. It is wonderful to hear about parents who are so open to the child-directed path, and I don’t see anything wrong with the decisions this family has made, but there is some caution to be taken. Cross-gender or “gender variant” behaviors are actually quite common in childhood (in both directions–females identifying as males and vice versa). Longitudinal research (what little we have) actually shows that only a very small fraction of these children end up being transgender in adulthood. Many of them end up being homosexual, some end up straight and had just been going through a phase. There can be significant social/emotional consequences to social gender transitioning (to the non-biological gender or back to the biological gender once a child has been accepted as the other gender) and certainly to the hormones and medical interventions that become necessary to maintain/complete the transition to a non-biological gender in puberty and later in adulthood. It is unclear at what age children and adolescents are cognitively and emotionally developed enough to make a decision about gender transitioning. Luckily hormonal interventions are reversible, but again there are other types of consequences to making the decision to socially transition a child who later decides s/he is not transgender. I say this not as a criticism of these parents, but as a measure of reassurance and perspective to other parents who have children expressing similar discomfort with their biological gender. It’s wonderful that TT’s parents, school, and community are so loving and accepting and comfortable with allowing TT to take the lead on his gender, and his parents are considering this an open-ended issue: I love the lines “He knows as much of that as it’s appropriate for a five-year-old to know. Which is to say, he doesn’t know much” and the fact that they are making decisions about today and leaving decisions about puberty to the time when it arrives. However, it is not usually such a clear issue for parents and there are many other varieties of healthy, loving, accepting responses to gender variant children (aside from social gender transition). The important thing is to love and accept your child and understand, listen and leave room for kids to change their minds, and prepare for the consequences of the decisions you make as parents. Deciding to make the social gender transition or not to make the social transition both come with consequences and may both, ultimately, be “wrong” (in terms of the child’s ultimate transgender status), but it is never wrong to love, accept, and listen.

    • SG August 3, 2013 at 11:45 am #

      City & State
      Santa Maria
      SW, what you wrote could have been written by me. You described my childhood and growing up perfectly. That’s not the response they want to hear, but it is true for so many. I worry about these kids being pushed and boxed into “transgender” identity at a young age. Another thing: as a third daughter in a family with no sons, people used to mourn for my parents for not having a boy. So, I was, I think, acting out being his “boy”. Dad, however, never indicated that he saw me as a boy. He was proud of his girls.

    • Carol Uren August 3, 2013 at 1:26 pm #

      City & State
      UK
      Whilst I agree somewhat with what you have just said SW, even if he does go on hormone blockers at puberty, these only temporarily put puberty on hold (i.e. natal boys do not grow facial hair or the voice break, natal girls do not develop breasts or start their menstrual cycle). This gives them the chance to really evaluate where they want to be until they can give their informed consent as to whether they wish to start taking cross-sex hormones, when their bodies will go through the changes associated with the hormone regime that they desire.
      These children are under regular supervision by a team of experts (psychiatrists, psychologists etc) who evaluate them and their contentedness in the role that they desire to be.
      If they do decide that they want to grow up in their birth sex, then the puberty blockers can be withdrawn and the child can go through normal development for their biological sex.
      Surely this is better than not doing anything and then later the child has to go through
      1) painful electrolysis/laser treatments to remove facial hair
      2) painful (and expensive) facial feminisation surgery to rectify the masculinisation of the face that accompanies male puberty
      3) the voice breaking and then expensive voice therapy lessons
      or
      5) breast reduction surgery (which invariably leaves some scarring)
      6) hysterectomy to remove the ovaries and uterus.

    • Brandon August 3, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

      City & State
      Oregon
      i know where your coming from as a man who while young longed to be a girl and now older has found comfort in masculinity (but still feels more androgynous than anything) but I think its pretty clear she would have liked tornado to be a girl the way she talks about dresses and braids, but is being neutral and letting tornado make his own decisions. I dont think she would ever force tornado to stay a boy if he didn’t want to be. In the end tornado knows himself best and we should let him find his place whether male female or somewhere inbetween

    • liz August 3, 2013 at 11:35 pm #

      City & State
      Philadelphia, Pa
      I completely agree with you on this. Turns out I am just a tomboy who just happened to look up to my older brother. When I came out to my parents as a lesbian they had heard stories like this and instantly thought I must want to be a male which is in no way the case. Stories like this are important to tell but there is so much more to how and why we act certain ways as children. Society really plays a big role in this.. and if my kids want to call themselves by the opposite sex I will be sensitive to the issue but I will not allow my child to go to school as the opposite sex at the age of 5… that seems too young to jump to conclusions.

      • Ezekiel Reis Burgin August 4, 2013 at 4:10 am #

        So you’ll force a child who tells you every single day that he wants you to call him Bobby instead of Sarah, and who says he’s a boy, to go to school as Sarah, just so that what, when in 4 years or 5 years or 6 years you decide you think it isn’t “jumping to conclusions” he gets to be bullied mercilessly when he starts to transition? He needs to change schools? He has to learn first hand which of his peers that he thought liked him this whole time will turn on a dime and hate him and which will actually continue to accept him?

        Cis folks seem to never think that an age is “old enough” or that there is just quite enough “proof.” If a child is saying “use “he” when you talk about me” “use this male name when you talk about me” it isn’t jumping to conclusions. Which is EXACTLY what Su describes in this article.

        • Nuala August 4, 2013 at 5:23 am #

          City & State
          Firchburg, MA
          Yes! This!

          I and most of the trans folks I know, knew and expressed verbally very early on (2-4 years old) and insisted we were the Gender Identity we knew ourselves to truly be. At 60+ that has not changed, but maybe it’s just a phase and I’ll outgrow it?

          I played with trucks and dolls, I still don’t wear pink, as I don’t look good in pink… Some days I wear dresses or skirts, other days jeans and a top and sneakers… but I always have known through it all from my earliest cognizance that I was female, no matter what my body outside was doing to try to betray my being.

          The official gatekeeping for trans folks errs very much on the side of extreme caution rather than the side of capriciousness.

    • Tams August 6, 2013 at 11:54 am #

      City & State
      Chicago, IL
      “The girls are brilliant in tulle and glitter and sequined barrettes.”

      What scares me about this article is the clichéed way that certain things are attributed to girls, women and wanting to be a girl or woman. I HATED dresses my entire life: you couldn’t climb trees in them and now, as an adult, I feel completely bizarre wearing them. I did not like pink. I wanted to do all the things boys did. I did not want breasts and did not understand anything good about them until I had them, fully developed, and experienced how great they felt (!).

      No one could have convinced me of any value of breasts when I was a kid. I resent having to wear shirts in the summer today (double standard).

      Thank God there was no talk of children being trans back then! Every gay and bi and truly individualistic woman I know did not follow the “norms” of growing up a girl. Most gay women I know WANTED TO BE BOYS – until they realized that they were gay and were old enough to live life the way they chose. I wonder how many of them would have been pegged as being trans early in life and told they “can grow up to be a man if they want to”, prepping them for surgery, hormone “treatments”, etc., without their ever knowing that you can hate the things society usually attributes to girls and still thoroughly enjoy being a girl/woman later in life.

      Allowing children to accept the chlichés associated with being female or male supports sexist stereotypes and severely distorts their understanding of what it means to be a boy or girl, woman or man. Allowing them to believe that they can “change” their sex before they can begin to understand the pain, irreversible changes and everything else that entails is unfair, untrue and wrong.

      Why are we even talking “trans” at these young ages? Let a kid be a kid, dress they way they want to, play with the toys they want to, develop the way they want to and explain more as they enter puberty.

      • Hannah August 6, 2013 at 5:31 pm #

        City & State
        Las Vegas
        You know, reading your response made me mad. Seeing red mad. And I’m not even trans.

        1 – Yeah, we get it, you were a tomboy. Me too. This does not give you any insight into the trans experience. Wake up and smell the ignorance you’re dishing out.

        2 – There is a very vast difference between WANTING to be a boy and KNOWING that you are one, whatever your body looks like.

        3 – As one of those “individualistic women” you describe, I’m insulted by your comment. You know what makes me an “individualistic woman”? I know I have choices, and I make them on my terms. I have done that since I was a child. Had there been more awareness of trans issues when I was growing up and had anyone told me I could grow up to be a man if I wanted to, none of that would change. Presenting me with another choice would not in any way have threatened me, or changed the course I chose for my life to take. Choices are good, and empowering. Making a child aware of more choices they will be able to make when they’re ready is a beautiful thing. Giving them the best possible place to make them from is even more so. If you cared a hoot for this child’s ability to make good decisions for himself, you’d want him to be aware of ALL the choices, and let him have as much time and help as possible in making them.

        4 – Seriously woman? How can you rave against stereotyping of women and then proceed to make all the stereotypical statements about lesbians?? Really, most lesbians you know wanted to be boys? How interesting. Do you have some numbers on that? How many lesbians do you know anyway? And how do you know their feelings about their gender as a child? And why should we accept your personal experience as having some kind of statistical significance? Can you taste the irony?

        5 – “Allowing them to believe that they can “change” their sex before they can begin to understand the pain, irreversible changes and everything else that entails is unfair, untrue and wrong.” No, it’s not. It’s empowering, definitely true, and very, very right. If you had any idea how bad the dysphoria can get, even in children, you wouldn’t make such ignorant comments. For one example, Google “Danann Tyler”. Children try to cut off their own penis in the shower, with scissors. This is not a girly boy who’s probably going to be gay and devote his time to interior decorating. This is a child who is going to be dead long before they hit puberty unless they are taken seriously, their wishes are respected, and they know when the time comes, they can get treatment.

        6 – “Let a kid be a kid, dress they way they want to, play with the toys they want to, develop the way they want to and explain more as they enter puberty.” This is exactly what these parent are doing. They’re also “talking trans” because it’s a possibility, and if it turns out to be true, it will take, time, money, resources that they need to be ready with. And because suicide rates in the trans community are astronomical. And because most of those suicide attempts are motivated by family rejection or by expecting it. So TT needs to know asap that being trans (if that’s what he is) is OK, that his family accepts him and supports him in this. That he’ll have help when the time comes. That he’ll have love, no matter what.

        7 – You know what offends me most about your post? The implication that if tomboys were aware of the possibility that they could go through hormone therapy and SRS and grow up to be men many/most of them would jump at the possibility and go ahead and undergo all the procedures, jump through all the hoops, and endure all that goes with transition on an uninformed whim. That is insulting to women, insulting to tomboys, and insulting to trans people. Transition takes years, it entails persuading a number of professionals that you transition is medically necessary and that you are not essentially insane and trying to self-mutilate. It’s insanely expensive. And painful. And often life threatening. It’s not a journey anyone enters into on a whim. It’s simply not possible to do it in ignorance.

        • Zoe Brain August 7, 2013 at 9:02 pm #

          Hannah – Tams knows what she knows. Nothing you can say will change her mind. Her ideology is taught as standard in many Gender Studies courses: that Trans people are tools of the Patriarchy, affirming an oppressive gender binary, and should be “morally mandated out of existence”.

          Her ideology trumps others’ narratives. She felt a particular way, so everyone else must have done too, they were led astray by “transgenderists”, a mythical political group.

          This was best expressed by a commenter on PinkNews – “Trans abominations oppress women just by existing”, though you’ll find it expressed in more detail in Prof Janice Raymond’s classic “The Transsexual Empire” and in Sheila Jeffrey’s forthcoming work “Gender Hurts”.

      • Anne Collins August 13, 2013 at 1:04 pm #

        City & State
        Oklahoma
        I had the wonderful experience at Gathering this year of being TT’s teacher in Junior Gathering. If his mother had not clued in the staff, we would not have given any thought to his gender. The last sentence in Tam’s response is exactly what these parents are doing: They are letting him be a kid, dress the way he wants to, play with the toys he wants to, develop the he wants to and waiting to explain as he asks more. TT’s mother reported her excitement at having a daughter; she did not expect her child to not behave, dress, and play like a girl. But this child was blessed with parents who listen, who are not frightened away from non-conventional needs and desires. This child is so lucky to have parents who will allow him to develop as who he expresses himself to be. Should he decide someday that he is a girl, I am confident they will support him or her, as it develops. It was a delight to spend a week with TT. He is a marvelously happy, curious, kind child. And from where I stood, he was “all boy.”

    • Ann Schrader September 6, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

      City & State
      Ludington, MI
      As I read Su Penn’s story about her child, I kept thinking to myself “that’s me, that’s totally the way I was.” Of course, my family, or probably any family in the 1950s, was not as understanding as this one is today. Eventually, I realized what I really wanted so desperately was the privilege, confidence, respect, specialness, etc. that belonged only to boys then, and I wanted a girl to love me back. Thankfully, I discovered the Lesbian/Feminist community so I didn’t need to be a boy to have the life I wanted and have today.

  5. question... August 1, 2013 at 2:53 pm #

    I guess…I guess I just don’t understand why a girl can’t love sports and have a short haircut and not like dresses and think ties are cool. It’s the thing that I don’t understand about being transgender–how is it not just enforcing stereotypical gender roles? You don’t like pink so you might be a boy? It just doesn’t sit right with me to think of gender so rigidly in accordance with societal gender roles. And I feel very guilty about this–because I like to think of myself as accepting and not merely tolerant of everyone. And to be sure, I love people for what’s inside–and regardless of whether or not I “get it” I know that being transgender is such an epic struggle for people that nobody would choose to live their life as a different gender if it weren’t of the utmost importance to them….but I don’t get it. I don’t get why men and women can’t just be any kind of man or woman that they want to be without rejecting their biological gender all together. I don’t get why your kid can’t be the butchest of the butch ladies out there. And truth be told…I guess I kind of find the flat out rejection of womanhood to be insulting to women and…I guess slightly self loathing (and the rejection of manhood to be insulting to men and a little self loathing in men). I know that whether a person is self loathing is nothing I can judge or determine. But I hope that someone is telling the kid that girls are not repulsive things. I hope someone is telling the kid, whatever their gender ends up being, that it’s okay to embrace the feminine parts of himself–even if he ultimately identifies as male. And I also hope that this comment is taken in the spirit it’s meant–which is coming from a place of ignorance, and hoping to come to enlightenment. I think a lot of people who could be powerful allies for the trans community just don’t understand. And we want to. But sometimes it feels like to ask questions is an intolerant attack. And I assure you this isn’t–I want everyone to be as happy and healthy as possible, and that’s MY bottom line. I could care less what gender you do it as. But I don’t have kids–and I might one day. And they might be transgender–and I would like to understand.

    • Emily August 1, 2013 at 3:55 pm #

      Though I am not trans or gender nonconforming, I have many friends who are and, as a member of the LGBTQ community, I feel I can offer some insight regarding your question.

      Unfortunately, we exist in a society that wraps the concept of “man” and the concept of “woman” up in a lot of superficial trappings– clothes, haircuts, toys, professions, and hell, even colors. For society at large, pink and glitter and dolls and girl are all ideas that go together. Our media, our social interactions, our schools, and yes, our parenting, are often rife with these assumptions, whether we consciously make them or not. Children are incredibly sensitive to and aware of this; they understand from just existing in our society that girlhood is defined by what you wear, what you play with, how your hair looks, etc. So, for a child who knows intuitively that he is not a girl, an effective way to express that is to reject the TRAPPINGS of girlhood. They may come to a more integrated and nuanced understanding of gender later on (or they may not, and that is completely fine too), but when we as adults and as a culture so explicitly and absolutely entangle biological girlhood with “femininity” and biological boyhood with “masculinity,” complete rejection of femininity MAY be the only way for a child to assert that he is indeed a boy.

      As for your question RE being transgender as simply enforcing gender roles, gender identity and gender expression are two different things. There ARE many girls and women who love sports, wear ties, and have short hair, but they also possess an intrinsic sense of femaleness, and identify as such. To be transgender is something different altogether; it is a deep sense of one’s internal gender that can have everything or nothing to do with external presentation (the way I, for example, possess an internal sense of being a woman, whether I am wearing a dress or cargo pants). In the same way that cisgender (people who identify with the sex they were assigned at birth) people reject and embrace gender stereotypes to varying degrees, so do trans people– and that is their fundamental right.

      • Fiona August 1, 2013 at 7:48 pm #

        City & State
        Aberdeen
        Wow, I just wanted to say that is the most amazing and succinct explanation of the difference between, say, tomboys and trans kids that I’ve heard. I have a lot of trans or gender neutral friends, but when talking to other people about it and trying to sum it up, I’ve struggled. Thank you so much for this comment.

      • Thankful August 2, 2013 at 2:52 pm #

        But.. the child doesn’t know or hasn’t experienced gender yet, all they know *is* the trappings.
        It’s not unlikely this is what they are rejecting; a girl can reject those things and enjoy all things we call masculine and not be rejecting their cis-gender but the things they see assigned to girls.

        • T. Kenoyer August 2, 2013 at 3:18 pm #

          I experienced gender at that age. It doesn’t require sexual activity.

        • Hannah August 2, 2013 at 6:37 pm #

          What does that mean, experience gender? I was a tomboy who never liked any girly things. I had a crew cut growing up, and all the kids used to joke about whether I was male of female. I would stand there, in first grade (I was 5 and I entered school at first grade), knowing to the bottom of my soul that I was a girl, and hating the fact that it was ever put into question.
          My niece is a girly girl. once my wife called her a dude, while they were playing. my niece was 3 or 4 at the time. she quickly pointed out to my wife that she was not a dude, she was a dudette. We don’t question this sense of knowing in cis people. But when it’s a trans child who knows, in the exact same way, that they are male or female, despite their assigned sex, we suddenly call that into question and point to body parts as if that explained everything.

          if you had asked me, at 5 years old, why I was a girl, I would have simply told you “I don’t know, but I am.” my sense of being a girl didn’t come from any body part. I was barely aware that I had body parts, beyond their practical uses. it never would have occurred to me that this body part or that one made me a girl. I simply knew that I was one. sure, I was told that boys and girls had different parts, and I had a baby brother. but my body parts never played into my sense of being a girl. neither did the kinds of clothes I liked to wear or my passion for math and science. I knew I was a girl simply because I knew it.

        • Kella August 4, 2013 at 12:03 am #

          City & State
          Eugene, Oregon
          I think transgendered people point out that gender is something that we experience at all.

          How do you know you are your gender? I’m guessing your first answer is not, “Because of what my body looks like,” but, “because I just do. I know.” If you are cis-gendered, your body validates your mental experience and you don’t experience cognitive dissonance. If you are transgendered, you have that, “I know because I do,” feeling but it conflicts with what your body is and with what other people see you as.

          The way I think of it is that bodies are still trappings in a way. A person wearing a dress is not necessarily female. A person with a vagina is not necessarily female either. Me wearing a dress or pants does not change my gender. Nor does getting an operation or not getting an operation change my gender. But it does have an effect on my state of mind and my feelings of autonomy.

          In order to answer, when does a child experience gender? I think you need to answer, “when do I experience gender in a way that does not come from outside me in any way, including my body’s anatomy?” I’m betting you’ll find that a hard question to answer.

      • Hfemme August 2, 2013 at 5:19 pm #

        City & State
        Los Angeles
        Very intelligent explanation – thank you so much. WOW.

      • Lou August 2, 2013 at 6:29 pm #

        City & State
        DC
        OMG. All these transphobic posts. Okay, let me be honest. There was a brief period of time after I accepted that I am attracted to women when I thought gender was just a social construct and everyone is genderless and I am fine with trans people but prefer they didn’t “reinforce the social construct.” But I soon realized how fucked up and transphobic this view is.

        It’s like white people saying race isn’t real while walking all over people of color with their white privilege. White is the invisible race, like white noise, you don’t notice it. Same with gender. Cisgender people are the invisibly gendered. I tried going by gender neutral pronouns for a little while. Eventually I had to admit I preferred feminine pronouns. See, I took it for granted that I was a woman until I didn’t have it. Cisgender people who think gender isn’t real are like that. They take it for granted that they can walk around identifying with their bodies and assume everyone is like them. If they were forced to have surgical sex reassignment they’d be horrified! If they were called by a pronoun they didn’t agree with, they’d be uncomfortable at best and pissed or horrified at worst. So don’t do that to someone else. Don’t assume they’re doing it to conform to gender. Gender non-conformity isn’t morally superior to gender conformity anyway… Thinking like that is just another form of gender conformity and gender policing.

        Some people are actually not okay with the genitalia they were born with, and they aren’t trying to change their bodies to please anyone else. They are trying to change their bodies because that feels right to them. I sure as hell don’t want facial hair, or a deep voice. I like to have short hair and occasionally wear ties and dance lead and be a drag king and have sex with women, and I wish I were more muscular like a guy… But I get uncomfortable when my hair is so short that people start calling me “he” in public. I thought philosophically that I’d be ok with it but after a while I realized I wasn’t and never would be. So I keep my hair slightly long on one side to be read as a woman. And I’m ok with having a vagina. But not everyone is. Some people feel male from childhood till old age and you need to stop making it about you. It’s not sexism – in fact you are the sexist here. You are the transmisogynist and misogynist and transphobe who thinks that there’s something fake about wanting your body to look and feel more feminine or masculine. People don’t go through all these lengths just to please others – just like lesbians didn’t become lesbian out of hatred for men, trans women didn’t become women out of hatred for men and trans men didnt become men out of hatred for women. Transphobia is a huge huge problem way worse than homophobia, and youre really gonna sit there and be like “i dont get it. You are just doing this to please others.” That’s ignorant, stupid, cissexist, and transphobic.

        • T. Kenoyer August 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

          Just a note: There are people who have never had any innate sense of gender, or have an active sense of “genderlessness.” For them, gender is a performance.

          • kimberly_r August 4, 2013 at 7:44 am #

            City & State
            Philadelphia PA
            YES!! I was born with an intersex condition, yet raised as male (the idiot doctor told my parents “he’ll grow out of it”). I was told I was a boy, but never believed it. While I socialized primarily with girls, I didn’t feel like a girl either. I was also kept from seeing any other people naked, or any pictures of naked people (easy to do in the 1950’s) so imagine my shock the first time I had to change for gym in the boy’s locker room. Not to mention how the boys were shocked. The humiliation, taunting, harassment, and worse kept up, and in some ways intensified for the rest of my school days.

            It wasn’t until I was 20 that I began to feel that I was female, and by then I had spent so much time impersonating a male that I tried to suppress my feelings by attempting to be more macho – and failing miserably. Decades of therapy later, I am becoming who I really am.

            If only there had been an option, or at least acknowledgement that I was different, I might have been able to avoid or at least minimize the psychological damage done to me, and get back the decades lost in search of my real self.

        • Nuala August 3, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

          City & State
          Firchburg, MA
          YES!

          I am aware that some gender non-conforming children go on to be fairly average. Some are slightly more masculine women or slightly more feminine men, others may come out as gay, lesbian, bisexual, pansexual. But be assured, some of us are transgender and some of us under the transgender umbrella are transsexual.

          There is a vast difference between gender roles, gender expression, gender expectations… all based in social constructs, societal norms, cultural perspectives… and Gender Identity. I know a LOT of cisgender folks have difficulty understanding the concept, because for them, Gender Identity and genitalia, and sexual orientation, and gender expression all lined up.

          Many trans* folks are acutely aware of their innate, intrinsic Gender Identity at a very early age. One of the things many of us remember is telling our parents, not “I wish I was a girl/boy” or “I want to be/become a girl/boy”, but rather “I AM A GIRL!” or “I AM A BOY!” Medical developments show similarities in brain structures, and many of us are certain that our true Gender Identity is as innate (in our physical, natal, organic, biological brains) as say, sexual orientation (which tends to become apparent at a later time than Gender Identity).

          I feel that the parents here are taking a very good course in supporting their child and being open to changes and cues. I don’t see any push to have the child identify as trans*. The gatekeeping mechanisms around what we are allowed as trans* folks, err far more on the cautious side of things than the capricious.

          Many of us who grew up in the 1950’s and 1960’s know firsthand what a horror it was to be a trans child/adolescent/teen/young adult. Being cut off from all of my girlfriends at the time when boys and girls go their separate ways in between childhood and dating. Being thrust into a world of rough and tumble boys all wanting to punch, boss, and be king of the hill… and not having a clue as to what was up… Then to have my body betray the very essence of my being.

          There is this fairytale, this myth, that in a perfect world where everyone’s gender expression was accepted and supported, that there would be no need for women and men of transsexual history to seek HRT and GCS/SRS in order to bring their bodies into congruence with their being and their brain. That they could just accept that having the wrong body for their innate Gender Identity was all fine and dandy. That is not the case… We don’t seek congruence to please society or some social gender norms or to fit into some hypothetical dichotomy.

    • Dave August 1, 2013 at 7:53 pm #

      City & State
      UK
      Pretty much what Emily says – there are trans women who are not typically “girly” and prefer jeans and boots to dresses, just as there are cis women who do the same. Same with trans and cis men. There are even trans crossdressers – people who dress as their assigned sex but don’t identify with it. The argument that trans people are reinforcing rigid societal gender roles is one often floated by transphobic people, particularly the transphobic element of “radical” second-wave feminism. However, they are cherry-picking the evidence and ignoring the many counter-examples. This isn’t to say that the OP is being transphobic, of course.

      Certainly in the UK, a trans person has to behave in a manner stereotypical of their non-assigned gender in order to receive medical treatment and legal gender recognition. Similarly, there’s enough discrimination against trans people in society that a trans person may want to conform to a stereotypical gender role to avoid that discrimination, or the discrimination which is levelled against non-gender-conforming cis people as well. So trans people have reasons to perform stereotypical gender roles, but those reasons stem from societal discrimination rather than their own sense of gender.

      In my experience – I’ve not seen any research here, though it would be interesting – trans people who have achieved desired legal recognition and surgical status, i.e. whose behaviour is not being influenced by medical and political factors, seem to have a wider range of gender expression than those still at risk of having their medical or legal choices taken away from them for not being sufficiently “in role”.

    • Tim Chevalier August 1, 2013 at 8:49 pm #

      City & State
      Mountain View, CA
      Do you ask cis men (men who were assigned male at birth) why they’re rejecting womanhood, too? I don’t understand the double standard that attributes political meaning to the personal decisions of those of us who were socially and politically (certainly not biologically) assigned the wrong sex at birth, while treating the decisions of cis people as neutral and non-political.

      I can express solidarity with women by being a feminist, but I don’t think it would help any women if I made myself miserable by pretending to be something that I’m not, given that I am a man.

    • PeaPod August 2, 2013 at 10:03 am #

      City & State
      philadelphia
      Agreed! I, born & still have my female body, liked girl’s things and boy’s things (as if there is a diff ugh!). Even today, as a lesbian, i telling other people if i identify as butch or femme is difficult. It just depends on my mood and activity. I appreciate this parent’s approach. I also hope that someone explores the ‘puffiness’ issues with him.

    • MomToBE August 2, 2013 at 12:40 pm #

      City & State
      Boston
      I sympathize with your feeling of “not getting it”, but imagine being born with a penis. Nothing else has changed about you, the way you think, what you like, how you act, etc. What if the womanhood you hold so dearly was out of reach? What if the only thing you could identify with was being a little girl and growing into a woman? With a penis! It is far more than being butch or flamboyant. It’s equivalent to saying bipolar is just terrible mood swings. Incorporate different people into your life and learn about their personal experiences. It might help you get it.

    • Thankful August 2, 2013 at 2:48 pm #

      City & State
      Oakland
      THIS THIS THIS THIS THIS, all these things you said!
      What is so painful about all of this, even seeing someone “support” the child’s choices is that they are assigning gender to these choices.
      If you’re independent, self-assured, decisive – you’re MALE?
      It makes me sad even while I’m grateful that the Tiny Tornado is allowed to express themself.

      • T. Kenoyer August 2, 2013 at 3:16 pm #

        No. That’s not what is happening with our own child, who sounds just like Tiny Tornado. Both of our children are being raised with the knowledge that there are no “girl toys” nor “boy toys,” just toys. That pink is not gendered, nor blue, nor Legos, nor dolls, trucks, cooking, skirts, computers, math, etc. That SOME people think there are “boy things” and “girl things,” but that we don’t believe that, and we certainly don’t model it.

        If our child decides that no, he’s a girl who just acts like a “stereotypical boy,” we are completely fine with that. He knows this. We are not “indulging” him in accepting him for who we is.

    • kathy August 2, 2013 at 5:50 pm #

      as the parent of a transgender son-who is now 20-I could have written this article. Our son was EXACTLY the same way-but we didnt realize that it was a gender non conforming or trans issue. We allowed our child to express himself however he wanted to in clothing, sports, choices, etc. We truly figured we had a tried and true tomboy on our hands. It is different in the fact that our child would rather have DIED than continue to live in a female body. NOT rejecting womanhood to be insulting…but because his true gender was NOT female. When he finally told us how desperate this was for him (right as puberty hit)-we realized only then that we could have been a statistic-parents of a teen who committed suicide. With our complete love and support, he became the incredible young man he was always meant to be. The best example I can give you is-look in the mirror-do you want to die because your biology is not who you KNOW you are? You wake up in the morning and you KNOW you are female, you have always known it and probably never questioned it. The things you like or dont like do not define your gender. Now, what if KNOWING you are female and never questioning that, you walk around and all anyone sees is a MALE-even though you KNOW in your head and heart that you are female. What if you wake up in the morning KNOWING you are female and you look down and see male genitalia and masculine features-BUT YOU KNOW YOU ARE FEMNALE. and You are who you are, you know who you are, but what if EVERYONE around you actually physically SEES something just the opposite…that is as close as I can get to trying to express to you what being transgender is-according to my son. It is not a rejection of manhood or womanhood, gender is not defined by any tangible, physical aspect-think about when you KNEW you were a girl…probably can not define the single particular moment..you have just always been a girl..it is EXACTLY the same for transgender people-it just so happens that sometimes the body that their gender is created in does not match.

      • Hannah August 2, 2013 at 7:00 pm #

        I usually use this “what if scenario” to try to explain it to people. for the sake of simplicity, i’m going to pretend like i’m explaining this to a guy. what if you were in a horrible car accident and your body was completely destroyed, but your brain was saved, and transplanted into another body. the only donor match available is a female body, though. and you’re stuck with it for the rest of your life.
        now what? are you going out and buying a whole girly wardrobe? learn to walk in heels? are you going to be ok with people calling you ma’am? if someone who was a friend of the girl whose body you live in now calls you Susie, are you going to shrug it off, or explain that Susie is dead and this body belongs to Tom now? what about when it happens for the 100th time this week? are you going to want to have some ID that proves it? are you just going to learn to live with boobs, with 40 guys who think your eyes are a few inches below the neck? are you going to march confidently into the ladies room if you’re at the mall and you need to pee? when Susie’s body starts menstruating, are you going to just take some Midol or are you going to be freaked out and disgusted? in short, are you going to go through life as Susie, or are you going to try to make Susie’s body look as much like Tom’s as you can and try to see the body that goes with how you see yourself in the mirror every morning?
        I find it seems to help people understand the range of every day practical problems, the little things that accumulate and wear down the spirit. I don’t know that it’s possible to really understand it when you haven’t experienced it.

        • Michelle P. August 2, 2013 at 10:12 pm #

          City & State
          Red Bluff, CA
          Thank you. This helps me understand more than anything else I have read.

      • Melissa August 3, 2013 at 7:20 am #

        City & State
        Norfolk, CT
        This is the most beautifully clear explanation I’ve yet read. Thank you for sharing. It is exactly how I have always understood the transgender “question,” and although I am not transgender, nor are my children, this is exactly the intellectual explanation I have held fast to when discussing transgender questions with my kids. Thank you for such a clear and honest explanation.

    • Charley August 2, 2013 at 6:24 pm #

      I am trans. I know you just want to understand but the simple fact is in many ways you can’t. that’s why we focus on stuff like ‘well I always played with boys toys’ ‘I hated pink’ ‘I loved sports’ because it’s the only way we can explain it in a way that might even begin to make sense to cis people and satisfy their curiosity because the answer ‘I just do’ ‘it just feels right’ tends to only garner the response of ‘but why?’ ad infinitum until we get fed up and snappy because that’s the point where it feels like you’re questioning our ability to know our own minds. It’s just one of those things where for most of us simple language is completely unequal to the task of truly baring the human soul.

      i didn’t start IDing as male until I was about 18 purely and simply because I was very much allowed to do the activities I liked I did crosstitch and watching formula one with my mum and I ‘helped’ my dad fix motorbikes and cook (I’m fairly certain I got in the way more than I helped). I never questioned my gender because my gender was rarely if ever forced on me and the occasions where it was I had too many other things happening to focus on it. I was deeply unhappy at a school where I was forced to wear a skirt? Well I was being hideously bullied of course I was unhappy, etc etc. Then I went on a protest and was wearing a baggy top and jeans and I had really short hair. A copper addressed me as sir and something just clicked it felt right. I spoke with trans friends and read things and the more I read the more I was convinced this was me but really it all boils down to the fact that having male pronouns used towards me simply has an innate sense of rightness to it that female pronouns never did. Has it stopped me doing crosstitch? Nope I even take commissions on occasion. Has it stopped me wearing nail varnish? No the colours make me happy.

      All I can suggest is that you try it sometime consistantly have your friends and family members refer to you by other pronouns than those you would customarily use if you’re anything like me then it just won’t sit right with you.

    • LookItsZee August 2, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

      City & State
      NY, NY
      I will accept your claim that you are coming from a place of ignorance, but be aware that some of your questions have a rhetorical gist that might be interpreted as transphobic.

      Responding to your question about whether trans people existing somehow reinforces stereotypical gender roles: no it doesn’t.

      Your gender expression is completely distinct from your gender identity. I’m a woman and I generally don’t like skirts or dresses. I detest heels, have a rocky relationship with makeup, and I refuse to shave my armpits.

      As a kid, I was a bit of a tomboy. I liked the “girl toys” and the “boy toys” equally. I didn’t like pink and I always felt like TV commercials were trying to get me to like pink frilly princess stuff which I had no time for.

      I’m also a trans* woman. As a child I identified as female even though I wasn’t especially interested in the trappings of femininity. This is not a contradiction. Gender–even trans people’s genders— is/are not just a matter of liking pink or blue.

      Also two small points:
      Rejection of female hood is only self loathing if you’re female. All evidence (specifically his explicit self-identification) points to TT being male.
      There’s no such thing as biological gender. What you are referring to is coercively assigned and enforced gender. This is not intrinsic to ANY person, trans or cis, and rejecting it isn’t to insult other people of that gender, it’s just to acknowledge that it doesn’t apply to you.

    • Ezekiel Reis Burgin August 4, 2013 at 4:04 am #

      My mother asked me why I couldn’t “be a butch lesbian” instead of a trans man and the answer is… I’m not butch! and I’m not a lesbian.

      And I AM a guy. Since you say you are (and seem to be actually) trying to learn, I REALLY recommend Julia Serano’s “Whipping Girl” which is an extremely well done take down of a lot of myths surrounding around trans-ness.

      I also agree with those others who have already responded. When the world is constantly telling you you are a girl but you aren’t, you (and in this case I mean me) are much more likely to reject femininity even if you would usually embrace it. After people finally starting seeing me as a man, I have felt much more freeness in embracing my femininity. It’s the transphobic nature of our society that makes it SEEM that trans* folks are upholding gendered stereotypes.

    • Toni August 4, 2013 at 9:13 am #

      City & State
      Carson, NV
      You don’t understand.

      A trans person doesn’t transition to acquire opposite gender roles. They take on opposite roles because either:

      1) They IDENTIFY as (let’s say Male) and they enjoy asserting their maleness and relating to their perceived peers (other males).

      2) They IDENTIFY as (let’s say Female) and know that in certain circumstances, they’ll be expected to do feminine things that they may not like.

      An example for 1) is a trans guy who enjoys lifting weights and competing with his peers. An example for 2) is a trans woman, who may not like doing makeup, putting it on for a job interview.

      Notice that cisgender men can lift weights for the same reasons. Notice that cisgender women can apply makeup for the same reason, even if they don’t like it.

      People have gendered identities. People have gendered bodies. If your identity doesn’t match your body, then there is gender dysphoria. To greater or lesser degrees depending on which parts of your gendered body cause you more or less distress.

      A transgender girl may be so distressed by her penis that she attempts to cut it off herself. Or she may feel fine until puberty and freak out over growing a beard and body hair when she wanted breasts and hips. Denial of their real selves results in clinical depression, anxiety disorder, suicide. And why wouldn’t they be depressed, anxious, etc. when they have been denied the rights to feel comfortable in their own skin and to associate with their peers their whole lives.

      Also, while most trans people experience great distress from the body/mind conflict. Some experience moderate stress and find that being the other sex just suits them better, for whatever reasons: emotional, physical, relational, whatever. It doesn’t really matter as long as the benefits outweigh the costs for them.

    • Neil August 5, 2013 at 9:01 pm #

      No, it wasn’t a matter of not liking pink, or whatever. It was and is a matter of taking seriously what someone says consistent about themselves.

    • Julie November 9, 2013 at 11:53 pm #

      I get how you could think that. I am not trans, but I take a class about this subject and so I hope my way of explaining makes sense: Being transgender is not just “not liking boy things” if you’re born biologically a boy, or “not liking girl things”, or liking girl things better if you’re a biological boy, etc etc etc. It’s not your preferences that make you transgender. It’s your brain. Gender identity disorder is actually something that happens in one’s brain, prenatally, that causes a difference between their biological sex and their gender (how they perceive themselves). It’s just who they are. Just like I know, somewhere deep down that I am a girl, even if I’m wearing pants, even if I’m playing with trucks. It’s not about the things you do, its about who you ARE really.

  6. Su Penn August 1, 2013 at 3:59 pm #

    City & State
    Okemos, MI
    If Friends are interested, I put up a blog post today reporting on a session I attended at the TransHealth conference this June. It was a presentation by Dr. Johanna Olson, who has worked extensively with trans youth, and, as the Tiny Tornado’s mom, I went in with a million questions. I found it very informative. If you have questions about things like “what if he changes his mind” or how you can tell if a kid is transgendered or just likes pink or to play sports, you might find it helpful. Practitioners really wrestle with these questions as well. I included the link here in the “website” spot. I hope it’s helpful for people seeking additional information.

    • Su Penn August 1, 2013 at 4:00 pm #

      I see that if you put something in the website link, it turns your name into a hyperlink. So if you click on my name it will take you right to the blog post I mentioned.

  7. Lucas Cookson August 1, 2013 at 6:19 pm #

    City & State
    England
    I wish every parent reads this and realizes that they can be just as supportive as you two. I think you’re wonderful, and this article is wonderful.

    Tiny Tornado is the cutest, most handsome little boy and he’s going to be a wonderful young man thanks to his caring, loving parents.

    Thank you, from a very happy transman in the UK.

    • Neil August 1, 2013 at 11:38 pm #

      TT is awesome now, and will be as an adult. I will be very surprised if the adult TT is not a man. I know, though, that his parents and brothers will love and support him regardless. As will I.

      And yes, TT has terrific parents. I want to note it goes beyond that. He also has two totally awesome older brothers.

  8. Emily August 1, 2013 at 6:32 pm #

    Oh my gosh! Would this happen to be the Goodwill in Burlington? I’m transgender and recently volunteered there, and I’m 99% sure I saw your son! It’s really great to hear that even in my own city there are parents raising trans kids without bigotry :)

    • Su Penn August 2, 2013 at 11:31 am #

      City & State
      Okemos, MI
      Alas, no! Thanks for your great comment up-thread about intrinsic gender identity.

  9. Melanie August 1, 2013 at 7:37 pm #

    City & State
    Melbourne, Victoria
    Thank you, thank you so much for being such awesome parents. One day the way you are behaving will become the norm and children who would normally have been forced into a life of horrible self-loathing will be free to be happy little people. I wish my parents had been like you, I wish I’d been more like your son and been able to stand up and tell my parents how I felt about them forcing me into being a boy, they still cannot accept who I am.

    I have two girls of my own who are both cisgendered and I’m so happy they have a body that is congruent with their own gender identity, that they wont have this struggle to add to ever other they will face in life. But if that were not the case I’d be doing exactly what you are doing now. Keep being awesome, God Bless.

  10. Richard August 1, 2013 at 8:09 pm #

    City & State
    Los Angeles, CA
    I was reading this article with interest and compassion until I read the part about spending $’000’s of dollars on “puberty blockers” and operations (presumably to remove breasts?). To do something like this even if the child is requesting it has horrendous implications and consequences. As the lady from San Diego tells us, she was in the same position when she was younger but grew out of it and is a 100% happy woman. As SW said “If my parents had thought ‘oh she must be a boy’ it would have been the wrong path to go down for me.”

    It may be ‘politically correct’ to explore your children’s gender tendencies, but to supply body-altering drugs or cut out functioning body parts at 12 or 15 years old is extremely drastic and could have grotesque consequences. It could be seen as abusive by many, despite the ‘wishes of the child’.

    I would err on the side of caution, which we as Quakers most generally do. Let the child decide when an adult, not at a tender age when there could be lifelong regret as a result.

    • Dave August 1, 2013 at 8:14 pm #

      City & State
      UK
      Richard, the point of puberty blockers is that they are not body-altering drugs. They simply and literally block the physical changes of puberty, until the child is old enough to make an informed decision. Medical/surgical gender reassignment after puberty is much harder, and going through puberty can be particularly traumatic for trans children – allowing a child you know to be trans to go through puberty could be seen as abusive by many.

      Puberty blockers are erring on the side of caution. If the child later decides not to undergo gender reassignment and becomes one of the tiny minority of former trans people who “grow out of it”, then puberty blockers do little to no harm. I hope this helps explain the situation to you.

    • Tim Chevalier August 1, 2013 at 8:51 pm #

      Would you say that a teenage cis boy (boy who was assigned male at birth) who has gynecomastia shouldn’t have his excess breast tissue removed, either, because that tissue is a “functioning body part”?

      For trans men who do not have breasts as part of our innate, immutable body image, breasts aren’t a “functioning body part”; they’re more like tumors.

      • Mykell August 2, 2013 at 7:19 pm #

        City & State
        Michigan
        I don’t think he would get anything except puberty-delaying drugs until age 18+ anyway. And if during his teen years he finds out he’s actually a woman, he can just stop the puberty-delaying drugs and go through normal female puberty.

        • T. Kenoyer August 2, 2013 at 7:41 pm #

          Exactly.

    • Tim Chevalier August 1, 2013 at 8:56 pm #

      Also, do you understand that what you’re calling “erring on the side of caution” can and does lead to suicide in many trans youth and adults? Responsible parents wouldn’t withhold any other needed medical treatment from a child for political reasons, so refusing to treat the life-threatening medical condition that is bodily incongruence because you’re uncomfortable having a trans child and would rather try to make your child into a cis person is unethical.

      • Richard August 1, 2013 at 9:13 pm #

        City & State
        Los Angeles
        This almost sounds like a series of ‘attacks’ in the form of ‘questions’ Tim. I must apologize for having a different opinion from you.

        • Su Penn August 1, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

          City & State
          Okemos, Michigan
          Richard, the blog post I wrote today, and which I linked above, addresses some of your questions.

          Allowing a trans adolescent to go through puberty as their biological gender so that they can make a decision as an adult can not only be traumatic at the time, but can result in physiological changes, such as a deepening voice, that will make it difficult for the person to live as their chosen gender without facing questioning & harassment on a routine basis. This is one of the things that has to be weighed when making these decisions.

        • Tim Chevalier August 1, 2013 at 9:42 pm #

          City & State
          Mountain View, CA
          This is an example of tone policing: http://geekfeminism.wikia.com/wiki/Tone_argument , and that’s an abusive way to interact with people who lack privileges you have.

          Your “different opinion” may be a theoretical, abstract game to you, but the position you’re advocating is one that has caused me actual pain and suffering. You might want to consider learning to consider other people’s perspectives and acknowledge that their lived experience is real even though it’s not yours.

          • Daphne August 2, 2013 at 8:44 am #

            City & State
            New York, NY
            I have seen the tone policing argument invoked on many occasions, and I can’t find myself agreeing with it.

            Just as you have every right to be angry, offended, or to feel and express any emotion or any opinion, and to express them in any way that you choose or believe is necessary, so does the person to whom your remarks are directed have the right to comment on what they perceive to be a tone (or content, since what is referred to as “tone” is often actual content) that is dismissive, condescending — or whatever else that they perceive. It is not abusive to feel a given way and to voice that feeling.

          • Tim Chevalier August 2, 2013 at 1:09 pm #

            City & State
            Mountain View, CA
            Daphne: You’re drawing a false equivalence between an oppressed person speaking from lived experience and a member of an oppressor class speaking from authority. When someone invokes social power dynamics that say that an oppressed person is always being “too angry” regardless of their actual tone, they invoke the entire wrath of a social order that disbelieves and discredits oppressed people’s feelings and experiences. That is different from an oppressed person simply stating their lived experience, because it doesn’t have the backing of an entire oppressive society behind it. Ignoring the power dynamics in a discussion amounts to endorsing the oppression of one group by another; in this case, the oppression of trans people by cis people. Trans people, as a group, have no power over cis people, and thus it’s incorrect to equate how a trans person talks to a cis person with the reverse (just like how a cis man telling a cis woman she’s “too angry” for talking about how she doesn’t like being harassed by men on the street is different from the same woman telling the same man to eff off and stop mansplaining).

          • Amy August 2, 2013 at 6:58 pm #

            So someone saying they disagree with you is oppressive? Nonsense.

          • Tim Chevalier August 2, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

            City & State
            Mountain View, CA
            Amy: Someone “disagreeing with me” about whether I and other people like me have the right to exist is oppressive, yes. It’s not really a disagreement at all, though; hate speech isn’t an opinion. But it does have real consequences.

          • Daphne August 2, 2013 at 11:19 pm #

            City & State
            New York, NY
            Tim, Your argument assumes that an oppressed person always speaks from lived experience (and how could anyone argue with “that’s my experience” — what a great silencing tactic), and that a privileged person always speaks from an ignorant, insensitive (and probably malicious) position of authority.

            That’s just not true.

            Also: tone matters. If you are snarky and condescending, regardless of your relative privilege, or lack thereof, you can expect to get called out for your tone. For you to say that’s “always” a silencing tactic, or that it does not depend on the actual tone being objected to, is also just not true.

            Btw, these orthodoxies that you spout so seamlessly and of whose merit you are so convinced, come from a position of privilege, since they have been drafted and enforced by (mostly white, mostly cis) academics.

            No one here said that anyone does not have the right to exist. If they had, then of course it would be right to go ballistic on them.

          • Palaverer August 2, 2013 at 11:31 pm #

            City & State
            Roanoke, VA
            It obviously doesn’t matter what tone Tim uses, because he’s been nothing but respectful in making his argument. The fact that he is speaking from experience and therefore knows more about the topic than Daphne, Richard, or Amy does not mean he is being condescending or silencing by explaining a trans* perspective and requesting that you listen/research more. You are cissplaining, trying to dictate the conversation, and being very rude. Do yourself (and everyone else) a favor, and just stop.

        • Palaverer August 2, 2013 at 11:12 pm #

          City & State
          Roanoke, VA
          What part of Tim’s response constituted an attack? He made an argument supporting his position. He said nothing personally against you. Disagreeing with you is not equivalent to attacking you, and it’s a silencing tactic to suggest that he has done so.

    • Chris August 2, 2013 at 5:44 am #

      City & State
      Bristol, UK
      The surgery thing always seems to come up whenever anyone talks about trans kids. I think this is because when people think about medical treatment of transexuality they often automatically think of surgery, even though hormones often play a much bigger role (there’s often even the assumption that when people talk about transitioning children socially they are also having surgery, which also comes from the transexual = surgery myth). As has already been said puberty blockers simply delay the affects of puberty, in the case of FTMs it prevents the growth of breast tissue, which would make surgery unecessary anyway.

      I do agree though (as a trans man myself) that there needs to be more parallel discussion between transexual and gender-non conforming people and parents. I think if, right from the start, kids are taught that they can do whatever they want regardless off gender, then it would be much easier to tell which kids are genuinly trans and which are just into things that society says are for the other side (though this division is so ingrained into culture that I doubt it will happen any time soon). There’s also a problem with language, it’s very hard for me to explain what it means to “feel male”, without resorting to cliches and stereotypes.

      • Carrie August 2, 2013 at 6:05 pm #

        I’m actually glad you brought up gender roles. I battled for a while with wondering if I was FTM trans, because I’m into traditionally male activities. I can’t stand dresses and makeup (too froo-froo and interferes with my ‘manly’ activities), I can’t stand ‘pretty’ lacy clothes or fancy hairstyles, I like to tinker with engines and fix things and weld things and what-not. I can’t bake to save my life, not even those ‘no fail’ recipes, my outfit of choice is jeans, tee-shirt, and sandshoes. I even have wide “man” feet; I couldn’t fit into girly shoes even if I wanted to ;)

        So I came to the logical conclusion that I was a man in a woman’s body. Add in the fact that I hate my breasts with a passion, and it seemed cut and dry.

        But then I discussed it with a MTF trans friend, and she helped me through the process of figuring it out. She raised some questions that made me look beyond the outer, such as clothes preference and activity preference, and after looking at that, I came to the conclusion that I am actually just ‘butch’. I don’t quite feel right in a woman’s body, but I probably wouldn’t feel right in a man’s either. I’m just sort of “sexless”. I do know, however, that I am attracted to other women, and therefore I define as gay.

        So yeah, it’s easy to believe you’re trans because you have a preference for certain behaviours or activities attributed to the other gender. As you say, we won’t be able to tell for sure with some folk until those traditional roles and values are removed.

    • kathy August 2, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

      no permanent surgeries are performed on children-and there are no “body altering drugs”-just puberty blockers. If the child determines that they are in fact the opposite sex from which they were assigned at birth and physically the puberty blockers DELAY their puberty to give them time to grow and make that decision when they are of age and capable. Puberty blockers can be stopped and the child can go through puberty as their biological sex at any time. This makes transitioning so much less traumatic in the long term. The person who didnt want to be female because being a female was a ‘bad thing’ was NOT transgender and knows it. The parents of Tiny Tornado are not projecting trans issues ONTO their child, they are supporting and giving their child a chance to grow into the person he knows he is.

      • Carrie August 2, 2013 at 6:25 pm #

        Not to mention the mother’s apparent sense of loss when she thinks of braiding TT’s hair. It’s clear that she would have liked TT to stay as a girl, but she is respecting and supporting his maleness. That’s hardly pushing issues onto a child, that’s being there for your child regardless.

    • Darcy August 2, 2013 at 10:15 pm #

      Hi Richard,
      I would suggest before you freakout you do this thing called self-education so you don’t look stupid and uninformed. Some words to look up are cisgender, cis privilege, judgmental, puberty blockers. As using one commentor as an example of all people is not a good idea. I could say there was this one quaker guy who knew nothing about trans people and made very insulting comments so there all Quaker men must be like that but we all know that isn’t the case.

  11. Tim Chevalier August 1, 2013 at 9:48 pm #

    City & State
    Mountain View, CA
    Thanks for writing this article that sets a great example of the way many of us wish we could have been treated as children.

  12. Brenden Watts August 1, 2013 at 9:49 pm #

    City & State
    Baltimore, MD
    i remember him from the kids camp at the conference. feel free to contact me if you ever need help as i am also an african american transgendered male. my email is bwatts410@gmail.com

  13. Rachel August 1, 2013 at 11:29 pm #

    He’s right, he is lookin’ handsome.

  14. Jade August 2, 2013 at 9:37 am #

    Su, you are a wonderful mother. On behalf of your Tiny Tornado, thank you, on behalf of my trans friends, thank you, and I, as an LGBTQ woman, thank you. All parents should be as open to their child’s identity as you. Whether trans, cis, artistic, or scientific, children need the love and acceptance of their parents that you obviously exhibit.

  15. Dominique Storni August 2, 2013 at 9:47 am #

    City & State
    Salt Lake City
    We all wished for parents like you. Thank you for being so good for our little brother. :D

  16. Mark McKenzie August 2, 2013 at 1:31 pm #

    City & State
    Richmond,
    Overwhelmed and overflowing with gratitude for these enlightened parents. As the western version of our species, we evolve slowly, yet, there are those among us who still believe the “arc of the universe bends towards justice” and ultimately, Love wins out! The power of love is revolutionary, as demonstrated by these folk who love their child enough to allow them to self-define. Unlike when I was a child in the 50’s when I would hide the Sears’s Catalog in my bedroom and lay awake at night with a flashlight focused on the pages with men’s clothing. I KNEW what kind of Gentleman I was going to be. I was in secret training and only God and I knew about it. Opportunities to lay my coat down over a puddle for a “lady” rarely materialized, however, I did get the joyful role of opening doors with a slight bow at the waist, I’m certain, rarely noticed, as well. I used to smoke cigarettes because it looked masculine to me, even when women did it, and I studied how men held their cigarettes and lit theirs and other’s, as well as, the best benefit of all: a deeper, gravely voice. IN SPITE of my parents who raised me to be a “lady”, I am who I am because somebody loved me enough to accept me and my own self definition. I am forever grateful for my Beloved wife, Kathleen.

  17. Elizabeth August 2, 2013 at 1:58 pm #

    City & State
    Frederick
    This article is being shared around Brown’s queer people of color community – and I, the Quaker, am not the one who started that! Everyone is tearing up over it. You’re doing something right.

  18. Johanna August 2, 2013 at 2:02 pm #

    City & State
    Philadelphia, PA
    I have found the following website very helpful in explaining the difference between sex, gender identity, gender expression and sexual orientation: http://itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2011/11/breaking-through-the-binary-gender-explained-using-continuums/

  19. T. Kenoyer August 2, 2013 at 2:07 pm #

    We have a Tiny Tornado of eight. This is so much like our son. Since moving to living as the boy he is, he has bloomed. He was always a confident and happy child, but he is unstoppable now.

    The other boys know his body is different, but they also know he’s one of them.

    Thank you for writing this.

  20. T. Kenoyer August 2, 2013 at 2:11 pm #

    And the people up there are correct, Richard. Puberty blockers are reversible, and merely allow a child to hold off IRREVERSIBLE physical changes for a period of time, until they feel confident in their medical decisions.

  21. Tommy August 2, 2013 at 4:35 pm #

    City & State
    Brantford Ontario
    i am an 18 year old transman, that means that my body is female but i’m working on making it male. And i wish i had known this about myself when i was so young. i’m So happy that T.t has someone who loves him and wants the very best for him.

  22. Ezra August 2, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    City & State
    London, England
    This was a very important article for me to read and I thank you for it because it is precise and the poignancy comes through that precision. I hear no woe from you and that struck me as important because of how seamlessly you speak of your child. I don’t have much to say but I felt compelled to say that little piece. Thank you and God bless you all. x

  23. Alex August 2, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

    City & State
    Minneapolis
    “Lookin’ good. Lookin’ handsome.” So precious!!

    You are an awesome parent.

  24. M. August 2, 2013 at 5:06 pm #

    City & State
    Cambridge
    Your son is so lucky to have you! With your support, I have no doubt that he will grow up to be a happy, healthy, and fulfilled young man.

  25. Heidi August 2, 2013 at 5:11 pm #

    City & State
    Anchorage, Alaska
    Wow.
    Like a wave this brought back memories of being so little and watching my aunts and my mom and thinking, “I can’t wait to grow up and be pretty like them.”
    How they smelled. How they looked. How they interacted with each other.
    How I’d practice in second grade to sit like my teacher, but so careful so no one would see me doing it, her beautiful thighs spreading across her chair as she read us stories… how great it would be when I grew up and had beautiful thighs like hers.
    How uncomfortable I was in _so many_ situations, taking my assigned place with the boys.
    Wishing I could play on the bars and spin around and around like the girls (and who I now know were the _other girls_ – my training in the second grade such that I certainly knew not to claim my true gender – the rules were made to be very clear for me).
    And so many of the perceived “difficulties” with my situation, and our Tiny Tornado’s, absolutely don’t have to be.
    All that shame I carried for so many years for knowing I was incomplete (and maybe even damaged and unfixable) goods… and so completely unnecessary.
    It’s interesting to me how people get so freaked out about gender transition – and in our world today it is frightening and daunting, but quite simple.
    I have a very dear friend (a straight guy who grew up in Texas) who struggled with understanding me, and actually kind of likes me, if you catch my drift :) ) – and in the end he’s concluded, “It’s simple. You are a girl.”
    Simple indeed.

  26. Jpaige August 2, 2013 at 5:35 pm #

    thank you so much for writing this. you are a wonderful parent and your son is so fortunate.

  27. William Salyers August 2, 2013 at 5:40 pm #

    City & State
    Hillsborough NC
    This month I become 81. My life has been enriched by people who fit no “normal” categories. All behavioir IS normal. Not all behavior is average. Children know at a very early age what they prefer. I rejoice that the “tiny tornado” has received parenting and and an environment where inner awareness dictates outward appearence and preferences. Thank you for a sensitive and beautiful report.

  28. Carrie August 2, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    City & State
    Australia
    Why aren’t there more parents like this? As a gay woman, I was lucky that my parents accepted me when I came out at the beginning of my 30’s, but there are so many that just don’t accept anything unless it’s considered ‘normal’. I have friends whose parents disowned them, friends who were kicked out of home, and friends whose parents are trying to ‘fix’ them. Even my own parents, while accepting, don’t exactly ‘support’ me. They just accept it as another of my quirks, to be humoured but not encouraged (evidenced by comments such as “won’t this affect you getting a boyfriend if you decide to be straight again?”)

    It’s so good to see a mother who accepts her child exactly as they are. That’s parenting as it should be!

  29. Tess Healy August 2, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    City & State
    BC Canada
    sex, gender, sexual identity, gender expression, affectional preferences, genre stereo types, – human beings are in credibly complex and it isn’t a blue/pink world any more no matter how much we may wish for simplicity. And often it is the kids and younger ones leading the way. When I teach my gender outlaws class (been teaching it 1996 and it is constantly evolving) I talk about the gender kaleidoscope. That is, each of this categories within us turn and sparkle or predominate or fade as turned by time and circumstance… The first best and most we can do as parents is prepeared to follow, to lead from behind and to love our children simply because they breathe. (and check out the brave parents who learned too late that love them just because they breathe is the first and only rule for parents. many thanks for courage and compassion. And to those who don’t get it, thank you for your honestly and gentleness is expressing your doubts, because this is how we learn – when we can speak what we truly fear or worry about in ways that can be heard. And listeners can respond with the stories and support for mutual learning – thank you all,

    • Sarah August 3, 2013 at 10:12 am #

      City & State
      Hampton, VA
      Tess: this part of your comment brought me instantly to tears: “The first best and most we can do as parents is prepeared to follow, to lead from behind and to love our children simply because they breathe.” Thanks for that. I know I’m extremely lucky to have been loved just because I breathed, and I wish that for every human being on this planet.

  30. Heather Woodward August 2, 2013 at 6:12 pm #

    City & State
    Durham, NC
    What a wonderful parent you are. What a gift your son is to you, and you to him. I cannot imagine what it feels like to believe that the body you were given is not the one you should have, and how many things you would have to cope with. Lucky for your son, he doesn’t also have to cope with his parents trying to change who he knows he is. I’d say he’s got a better shot at growing up to be a healthy, well adjusted man than a lot of little boys out there.

  31. Ethan August 2, 2013 at 6:36 pm #

    City & State
    Columbus, OH
    Su, thank you. I love my mom dearly, but I wish she and my dad (and the rest of my family) had raised me the way you’re raising TT.

    Richard, you are wrong. You are an oppressor. Daphne, you are just as wrong for backing him. Gender is fluid, gender is not black-and-white. It is abuse to put someone through something that will inevitably lead to psychological problems. Many trans youth and adults commit suicide each year because they were forced to go through puberty as their assigned sex. The number is even higher for inersex people. TT’s parents are doing right by their child. They are giving him the opportunity to EXPLORE before he can make his own informed decision. They are letting him take the lead, and they have made clear the simple fact that he is his own person, whatever the outcome is, and that they love and support him.

    So many trans* people (such as myself) wish our parents were like Su and her partner, especially amongst the trans* folk who are racial/ethnic minorities.

    Heck, we wish everyone all over the world was this awesome. Loving, accepting, supportive. Not hateful or murderous. The LGBTQA* community is frequently being attacked, fired from jobs, beaten, and murdered. Those who do not identify as cis are attacked more often. Transwomen especially. The numbers are horrifying. And to say we need to be quiet is yet another form of attack on us. You have privilege. We do not.

    Lastly, Su, beware of a German college girl named Sophie Miriam Herold. Search the tags on Tumblr.com for information about her. She targets and outs gays and transpeople without their permission. Some of her victims have committed suicide, and one person is believed to have been murdered because of her actions and bullying. Keep TT safe from her and others like her.

    • Lyssie August 3, 2013 at 5:40 am #

      City & State
      Fife, Scotland
      You realise that by writing her name here that you could prompt a Google alert if she has one in place? I’d suggest that you edit your comment and find a way of sending Su a private message.

  32. Makayla August 2, 2013 at 7:01 pm #

    City & State
    Santa Monica, CA
    So glad your child, and children for that matter, have such accepting parents. No where in this article did I see that they are pushing boy or girl isms on their child. Instead, they are letting their child make choices and supporting those choices. Every parent should be able to do this, even if not in a gender way.
    I feel bad that the grandparents are so blinded by traditional society that they can’t accept who their grandchild is or even who their own child and partner is. Gender roles have been modified as has science. Sex and gender are two different things and they don’t always match. I hope this child continues to find their own way in life and continues to be the confident child that is portrayed in this article.

  33. Liz Opp August 2, 2013 at 7:04 pm #

    City & State
    Minneapolis, MN, USA
    One thing I want to add, especially for non-Friends who are making their way to this article, is that this family is embedded in a number of communities, including a Quaker one. There is a community-based spiritual discipline among Quakers, to “test the Way forward,” if there’s a point of confusion that a Friend wants to clarify for herself or himself, and always “with Divine assistance.”

    The Quaker LGBTQ community in the States to which her family is connected include trans* adults, genderqueer persons, and cisgender persons, including allies. That particular Quaker community provides a rare form of care, guidance, accountability, support, and nurture for the entire family. We labor with one another in love.

    Indeed, it models and lives the value of radical inclusion. My experience tells me that as we learn to validate our own and each other’s ability and drive to be authentic, to be who God calls us to be, the whole world benefits–not just the Tiny Tornados in God’s kin(g)dom.

  34. Charity Froggenhall August 2, 2013 at 7:31 pm #

    City & State
    Princeton, NJ
    I love “Tiny Tornado.” Good luck to him!

  35. T. Kenoyer August 2, 2013 at 7:39 pm #

    To the cis people who believe the parents are somehow indulging a whim:

    When did you know you were male/female? What does it feel like? Can you explain it?

    This reminds me so very much of the old saws from heterosexuals to gay and lesbian people: “How do you know? Why can’t you just stop being homosexual?”

  36. jessica August 2, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

    City & State
    scotland
    he is transgender you should see a therapist and a doctor about starting her on female hormones and puberty blockers

    • Jen August 2, 2013 at 9:33 pm #

      At age five, the blockers are not necessary, and it sounds as if his parents are proactive enough to see the appropriate professionals.

  37. Lucia Maya August 2, 2013 at 9:35 pm #

    City & State
    Tucson, AZ
    What a beautiful, loving way to parent. Thank you for being so supportive and aware, and for sharing this!

  38. Matt August 2, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

    City & State
    Kyoto, Japan
    The nice thing about puberty delaying treatments is that they are just that, and not irreversible. I don’t see this author as in any way pushing transgender on her child, though a couple of commenters seem worried that she is. As with sexual orientation, parents can’t “make” their children transgendered, regardless of what the bigots think. And parents can’t “make” their children cis, either, though the majority try very hard. It all comes out in the end. It’s sad that TT’s grandfather doesn’t get that. Let’s hope he comes around eventually.

  39. Darcy August 2, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Thank you for this article and being brave enough to share it. As a butch women of a certain age and with now grown children I don’t know that I wouldn’t have had the understanding and been nearly as supportive as you are due to being ignorant about transgender people and the fact that it is not about fitting some gender norms but about the child being as true to themselves as I am about being a female masculine woman. It breaks my heart to still read parents trying to remain ignorant or trying to deny their kid’s right to be who they are because of their own fears and ignorance especially when it is women who have been criticized for their own gender presentation. How is this any different than a parent telling a child that they may stop being gay in the future? We are not in the future, we are in the present with our children and our communities and we must be there for them in the here and now.

    As parents we don’t have to understand everything to be accepting and supportive our children, our community and our friends. Can we not ask “how can I be of service” rather than “why is this happening”?

    • Ezekiel Reis Burgin August 4, 2013 at 3:33 am #

      I love this line you wrote “We are not in the future, we are in the present with our children and our communities and we must be there for them in the here and now.” It really perfecting encapsulates such an important point.

  40. Emily August 3, 2013 at 12:21 am #

    It’s sad that the unconditional love and understanding that you give your child is something that I feel compelled to stand up and applaud for– I wish it were commonplace enough that I wouldn’t feel like you should get a metal.

    Though you tell your story so eloquently, I’m sure it must have been harder than it sounds here. You’re very gracious to not go in depth to the times when this might have been confusing or stressful to you. I can imagine times when it was exhausting trying to decide what was best for him. But for what it’s worth, I think you’re on the right track, and luckily, you and your partner seem to know that too.

    My little sister has always eschewed ‘girly’ things, always chosen boys toys over girl’s toys. She just cut her hair short and I think she looks the best she ever has. She’s wondered if she might be transgender, but I can tell that she’s not nearly so certain as your son. In accepting my sister as a person rather than a gender, I’ve gotten to know her as a person much better than I did when we were growing up. I’ll sure you’ll have a similarly profound closeness to your child as he grows up too.

    I’m sure there will be a lot of difficulties that Tiny Tornado faces, but it’s clear that love, at least, will always come easy, as it should. Best of luck to your family! Thank you for sharing this :)

  41. Courtney August 3, 2013 at 12:21 am #

    City & State
    Chicago, IL
    I wish all parents were as loving & supportive as you are.
    Thank you for sharing!

  42. Taina August 3, 2013 at 3:15 am #

    City & State
    Finland
    Small things can make things much more fifficult. In our language the pronoun for he and she is the same, hän. The gender does not matter in many situations, so why bring it out.

  43. Tyrone August 3, 2013 at 7:08 am #

    This is a wonderful article and all, and a heartwarming story but I can’t help but get stuck on “black barbershop” and an earlier, similar comment. It may well be a legitimate distinction in SOME respect but really, why the hell does it matter? For all the high points here, there’s a little habit we need to learn to break. Forgive me but it gets damned bothersome. Best wishes

    • Ezekiel Reis Burgin August 4, 2013 at 3:31 am #

      It matters because as Su mentions, she is a white mother raising a black child. Many children in this situation are harmed by a “color blind” approach to parenting, as that ignores the systemic racism the child will be forced to contend with their whole life. Children of color who are adopted (I don’t know if that is TT’s situation or not, but it is what I have most experience with) by white parents often grow up to express frustration and anger at their parents for “treating them as if they were white,” aka, not taking into account the fact that their child will not have white privilege. As such, RESPONSIBLE white parents need to be explicit about race and ethnicity from the get go, so that the child feels comfortable asking/talking/communicating around their own experiences as they grow.

      As for why it matters that it was a “black barbershop”? Probably because most hair stylists who aren’t EXPLICITLY known for cutting/styling black hair (in all its awesome permutations of thickness, curl, kink, etc.) mess up in cutting black hair.

    • Su Penn August 4, 2013 at 9:59 am #

      Tyrone, I would say that it matters that it’s a “black barbershop” for a few reasons.

      One is that the Tiny Tornado is being raised, as many black kids adopted by white parents, in an environment where he is rarely in a place where he is in the majority. We have what I would call pretty good racial diversity where we live (while having little diversity of economics and social class), but the black barbershop is one of the places he gets to go to be in a room mostly full of black people.

      It’s also a place where he gets to be around a whole bunch of black men, who talk about a lot of things including being black, noticing and addressing racism, and (on one memorable day, when an older man was there hanging out in an unused barber chair controlling the remote for the satellite radio) listening to an impromptu lecture of the history of soul music.

      It’s also a place where he can sit and listen to the rhythms and inflections and vocabulary of African-American Vernacular English. I am not joking when I say that someday I hope he can have the job of the boy who hangs out there and sweeps the floor between haircuts, because I would love for AAVE to be in his repertoire, and he is *not* going to get that from his Miss Anne of a mother out here in the suburbs.

      It also matters because, at the black barber shop, they know how to cut his hair. And they have posters up that show dozens of possible hair styles for boys with hair like his; he loves to study that poster and then tell his favorite barber, “number seven!”

      Also, you know what the black man who owns the shop, and the black (and one Hispanic) man who cut hair there call it? A black barbershop. One day, the barber finished up TT’s hair by spraying it with a conditioner called So Sof’ Fro, which has a particular fragrance. As he took off TT’s cape and boosted him out of the chair, he said, “There. Now for the rest of the day, everyone will know you’ve been to the black barbershop.”

    • Angela August 5, 2013 at 1:04 am #

      I was thinking the same thing and wanted to ask when she last went to the white hairdresser. I wanted to ask when I take my mixed son (who at age 7 is still trying to figure out if he’s white or black–mostly he says he’s white & we think it’s because all the kids at school and in the neighnorhood are black, so in comparison he’s the whitest) should I take him to the white barber or the black barber…or should I just take him to the barber.

      This is not a ‘little habit'; it is a damaging way of seeing others as ‘different’.

      • Ezekiel Reis Burgin August 5, 2013 at 1:28 am #

        “It is not our differences that divide us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences.”

        -Audre Lorde

        • Angela August 5, 2013 at 3:04 am #

          That is not the same as dubbing spaces black or white Ezekiel. If her son were not being raised in an all-white environment she would not have felt the need to call it a black barbershop, and neither would the barber. Like I said, I don’t take my kid to the black barber; I just take him to the barber, and no one feels the need, not me or the barber, to mention that everyone there is black. And no one would ever talk about going to the white barber because white is the ‘invisible race’ (http://www.fjaz.com/kimmel.html) just as cis-male is the invisible gender.

      • Su Penn August 5, 2013 at 9:44 am #

        I think people are conflating my use of the expression “black barbershop” with the practice of identifying people of color by their race while referring to white people simply as people–a white man is a man, a black man is a black man, a white doctor is a doctor, a black doctor is a black doctor.

        But a barbershop is not the same thing. The black barbershop is a cultural and social institution with a long history in the black community; along with the church, it has been a vital institution, a gathering place, a forum for discussion, a social network, an economic anchor, a launching place for entrepreneurship. When I say I took the Tiny Tornado to the black barbershop, I am being accurate; I am honoring the importance of the black barbershop in our lives; and I am also honoring the black barbershop and its role in American life.

        • Angela August 5, 2013 at 2:30 pm #

          Look Su, I am not trying to tell you that you are not a good parent; obviously, you care about your children very much. However, caring does not necessarily equate to good parenting choices, nor does celebrating diversity equate to addressing your own privilege.

          Just because I am in an interracial relationship, have mixed kids, live in a black neighborhood, have a vast majority of black coworkers, work in social justice etc does not absolve me of my white privilege, in fact, it makes it that much more tangible. No matter how many times people tell me that I’ve ‘got a black card’ it will never be true. You cannot share some one’s oppression, not even your child’s.

          When you tell your black child that you are taking him to the ‘black barber’ you are telling him, even if you are celebrating it, that this is something unique and separate from your every day life, from your mostly white world (I used different before, and that was a poor choice of words). It seems that his opportunities to interact with others that look like him are a special occasion, a spectator event. It’s great that as a privileged suburbanite straight cis-gendered white woman that doesn’t have to work that you are making attempts to expose your child to others of his heritage, but (and I can only guess from the information here) it sounds as if you may be missing many, many opportunities for integration.

          As I said before, when I take my step-son to the barber, we don’t go to the black barber; we just go to the barber, and I’m sure our barber is not much different than yours. It’s not the same as discussing Black Barbershops as a cultural phenomena in an academic way, and the fact that you have the luxury of doing so is an example of your privilege. Defending your use of the phrase by saying that the barber used the phrase is another example (my neighbor uses the *n* word all the time, and while we can say that the word shouldn’t be used regardless of color, the impact if I were to use it would be very different).

          You say you want him to learn AAVE, but will you also teach him the certain way that black people have to interact with police to avoid getting arrested or shot? Or what to do when he gets followed around a store by security? Or how to make his resume read as though he’s white so that he will have more job opportunities? Or, especially if he is also transgender, that when he is sexually assaulted it may not be taken seriously but if he is accused of sexual assault his word will mean nothing (particularly if it is a white woman making the accusation)? These are things that are that much more important for him to learn if he is growing up in a white community. Maybe you are teaching him these things, and, if so, I think that would be a great story to tell in addition to the one you shared here. For my part, I have the benefit of my partner and my community to teach these things; I can’t imagine what it would be like if my children had to rely on my white perspective or occasional exposures to learn the realities of being black in America.

          • Su Penn August 5, 2013 at 2:54 pm #

            Angela, I cannot begin to address the number of assumptions about me, my home, my community, my family, and my conversations with the Tiny Tornado that you have made in this long comment. Some of your assumptions are accurate; many are not. But they are all your assumptions, and not based on my reality or on things I’ve said.

            I am going to ask you some rhetorical questions. I don’t expect you to answer them, and I don’t expect that I’ll be continuing a conversation with you. But you might think about these things a bit:

            What makes you think that I am cis-gendered? Have I identified myself as such?

            What makes you think that I am straight? Have I identified myself as such, or do you assume that based on the fact that my primary partner and the father of my children is male? Are you aware that some opposite-sex couples include one or more bisexual, pansexual, or queer partner? Are you aware that that not every couple is monogamous?

            How do you know what I have and have not said to the Tiny Tornado? what makes you think that I have called our barbershop a “black barbershop” when speaking to him? Did I tell you that I have done so? Did he?

            How many children of color, mixed-race families, and families of color do you imagine are a part of our lives? When I said that it was not usual for the TT to be in a majority-black environment, did you assume that meant he spent most of his time in places where he is the only person of color? Why did you assume that?

            Did I actually say we live in a suburb, or did you assume that as well?

            What makes you think that I have not made efforts in my life to grapple with my white privilege? Have you examined any of the other writing on my blog, for instance, on transracial adoption, in considering whether I have done so?

            Do you assume that our entire family, other than the Tiny Tornado, is white? Why do you assume this?

          • Angela August 5, 2013 at 6:55 pm #

            “What makes you think that I am cis-gendered? Have I identified myself as such?”
            You stated that you were a woman and mentioned being pregnant.

            “What makes you think that I am straight? Have I identified myself as such, or do you assume that based on the fact that my primary partner and the father of my children is male? Are you aware that some opposite-sex couples include one or more bisexual, pansexual, or queer partner? Are you aware that that not every couple is monogamous?”
            I’ve read many of your other blog posts; I get that you like women sometimes. One of my closest friends is most often attracted to women more than men and her marriage allows her that freedom. She is the first to tell you that it does not prevent her and her husband from enjoying all the privileges of a straight couple.

            “How do you know what I have and have not said to the Tiny Tornado? what makes you think that I have called our barbershop a “black barbershop” when speaking to him? Did I tell you that I have done so? Did he?”
            I had to re-read your story (for the umpteenth time) as well as my own response, and I admit that the way I worded ‘when you tell him’ does imply an assumption. However, you have made this statement public, and he may one day read it. Others in the comments said that their children read it.

            “How many children of color, mixed-race families, and families of color do you imagine are a part of our lives? When I said that it was not usual for the TT to be in a majority-black environment, did you assume that meant he spent most of his time in places where he is the only person of color? Why did you assume that?”
            You have an entire post about the lack of black people in your community. In re-reading my comments, I see that I said ‘opportunities to interact with others that look like him’, so I see how it seems that I was making an assumption that you have no black friends, extended family, etc, and I apologize. It was not what I was trying to convey. As an analogy, consider the difference between having a Japanese friend and going to Japan. In your case, you stated that you are an hour and a half from Detroit and making trips to Chicago, so there is plenty of access to ‘majority-black environment’ if you would capitalize on them.

            “Did I actually say we live in a suburb, or did you assume that as well?”
            You specifically stated this in the comments and other posts, but any place within a four hour radius of Chicago is basically the suburbs (at least to those of us that call Southside home).

            “What makes you think that I have not made efforts in my life to grapple with my white privilege? Have you examined any of the other writing on my blog, for instance, on transracial adoption, in considering whether I have done so?”
            Show me where I said that you have not made “efforts in [your] life to grapple with [your] white privilege. Now it is you who is making assumptions.
            Yes, I have read some of your other blog posts. The part of me that grew up in Midwestern white suburbia and thinks were it not for differences in time and space that we would have crossed paths at some womyn’s events feels camaraderie (MichFest though really? No trans women allowed-and the same objections you are berating in the comments here are how they defend this), but the part of me that bounces back and forth between Philadelphia and Chicago barely managing to scratch out a living as a social justice worker and barely getting to see my partner and boys in a world that still, in the 21st century, really doesn’t accept black/white interracial couples (proven beyond my own experiences thanks to Cheerios), well, that side of me thinks ‘wtf, white people problems, smh’ in regards to some of what you say.

            I read things like: ‘We should be challenging everyone who walks through our doors’ and I have hope. But here I am, challenging you, and that is not acceptable? Why? Is it only appropriate at Meetings? Those of us that are privileged, particularly when a social privilege has manifested into economic privilege, we must be rigorous in our critiques of each other lest we turn into the awful white feminists that led to the history you read about in books like Ain’t I A Woman, or the awful feminists like the ones who say that trans women aren’t women enough to be at a womyn’s festival (I actually defend the right of born-women to have their own spaces, but not in this context-that’s a complex issue for another time).

            You are privileged, there’s really no denying that. You are also much further ahead in understanding than most people and are clearly compassionate, but that is not something to be worn like a badge of honor when many parents, who love their children just as much as you, do not have the privileges to parent as you do and are often judged to not be good parents because they cannot afford to be. You say in one of your posts that you don’t let yourself feel guilt. Why not? Feeling guilt because of the knowledge that everything you or I have is gained on the backs of others is a necessity of ‘grappling’ with our white (or cis or economic etc) privilege and grappling is not the same as having overcome.

            (by the by, I run a workshop that my partner and I developed that I give to white activist groups on changing their lack of diversity, or there are many books that I could recommend if your Meeting is serious about it. I also run trans&women’s direct action workshops and will have one in Chicago in the not too distant future.)

            “Do you assume that our entire family, other than the Tiny Tornado, is white? Why do you assume this?“ Su, seriously, there are pictures of your kids and yourself in your blog; no one needs to make any assumptions about you to know these things.

            Lastly, in regards to your newest blog post, I never suggested that if TT saw girls in oxford shirts or playing hockey that he would not be a boy. You stated specifically in your article that you chose not to use gender neutral parenting, and that is what I was questioning. You mentioned pointing out examples of feminine girls and asking him if he wanted to dress like that while never offering up one instance of showing him gender neutral examples. That’s not to say that I assumed that you didn’t which is why I ASKED QUESTIONS about when or how often he was exposed to gender neutral examples. Considering your statement that you chose to assign gender at birth, these seem to me like very reasonable questions. There was no need to twist my words.

            I don’t mean you any disrespect; trust me, I wouldn’t waste my breath on some one that I didn’t believe might either learn something or teach me something.

  44. Brava August 3, 2013 at 7:41 am #

    City & State
    Altamonte Springs
    It was a Christmas party (we all staying for the weekend at grandma)and all the children were taking turns to shower and get ready. My niece Richelle-(Richard then) and I were the last one to go. I had on the bed my polka dot dress, my panties, my pink ribbon, and my cute shoes. She had her t-shirt, cargo pants, and manly shoes. She shower first and when into the room as I when into the bathroom. 20 minutes later when I enter the room she was dress with my clothes and putting grandma’s make up on. So choking for a 7 year old girl to see her 5 year old niece that it was suppose to be a boy using her stuff. I told on her and my ignorant grandma and family humiliated her and punished her from trying to be her. I redeem my self supporting, loving, accepting her as we grew older. I was there throughout her transformation and grow and now she is a gorgeous woman. Thanks for this amazing eye opening article. It remind us that gender is just a man made bias. <3

  45. Leesiejoy70 August 3, 2013 at 8:35 am #

    City & State
    Morton Grove, IL
    I enjoyed reading about your son, the Tiny Tornado. It sounds like you are very understanding and supportive parents. I wish you and your family the best.

  46. Reynaldo August 3, 2013 at 9:05 am #

    City & State
    Grand Rapids, Michigan
    I dig the understand though I have a hard time buying all of this story. The best part is that (once again) drugs to the rescue! I don’t want to live on this planet, sometimes.

  47. Reynaldo August 3, 2013 at 9:07 am #

    City & State
    Grand Rapids, Michigan
    Ahem, I dig the *understanding (nature of the parent).

  48. storme August 3, 2013 at 9:33 am #

    City & State
    overland, Kansas
    Great job parents, respond to the child as the child presents each day! I have a tomboy, she is 6, it is very clear that her gender presentation varies; she is not a trans child, it is just her preference as it happens.
    your child presents consistently male, great, respond from that baseline. The way this reads i fully trust you’re responding to the child’s wants and needs.
    Don’t worry about rants telling you what you’re doing wrong. Keep trucking with what your child shows you you’re doing right!

  49. Carlos August 3, 2013 at 10:17 am #

    City & State
    Princeton, NJ
    Beautiful article, I’m so glad you shared this with all of us. What I don’t get, however, has more to do with the comments. Why are there so many comments insisting that gender is not (or can not be) dynamic?

  50. Andrea Puddu August 3, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    City & State
    Trieste, Italy
    Thank you so much for being such a wonderful parent. God bless you and your beautiful family,

    Andrea

  51. Bear August 3, 2013 at 10:26 am #

    I deeply appreciate this article, and the author’s tenderness with herself and her son.

    I don’t appreciate a lot of these comments, though. And I am startled to see how many people presume to understand and therefore judge someone else’s experiences based on their own memory of themselves at three, four, or five years old.

    Wishing you and your family all the best of luck.

  52. James August 3, 2013 at 10:32 am #

    City & State
    Oklahoma
    I feel a lot of commenters who are criticizing the mother for trying to push a decision on her child are not reading the article thoroughly.

    Much of this article contains the internal thoughts of the mother as Tiny Tornado develops through early childhood. You can’t fault her for having feelings about TT’s development, and being gutsy enough to express them. She is upfront about her initial “pangs” about giving away the girls clothes because TT doesn’t want to wear them. However, she and her partner are very supportive in TT’s choices in clothes, hobbies, haircuts, gender identity, etc.

    Never once did she say she was going to make TT take puberty blockers or hormones. I respect the mother for preparing ahead of time for a potential decision TT might make “at 12, at 15, at 18″, but although she may suspect her child may be transgendered, throughout the article she indicates the choice is TT’s to make.

    She states that for TT’s age now, she only gives enough information that is appropriate for a child that young to know, and will continue to let TT take the reigns when it comes to identifying what gender path to follow in the future.

    So please stop criticizing the parents who seem to be unconditionally loving and supportive of their children, and let’s just wish the best for the family and TT in the future, no matter what gender TT decides to continue life as.

  53. Julie August 3, 2013 at 10:35 am #

    City & State
    st louis
    I just want to add that puberty blockers are not quite as simple as many of you are stating. Delaying puberty and then letting it start later may have a significant effect on the development of that person versus how they would have developed if puberty started when their body said it should. (shorter height for men, less muscular development, and other changes) Parents and children should choose to take puberty blockers with their eyes wide open and realize that there could be unintended consequences. however, I do agree that they are a very good option for children who are questioning their gender or are certain they are a different gender than what they were born as. it is much easier to address the consequences of delayed puberty vs “reversing” what has already occurred. and excluding all the cultural constructs of gender and how people self identify, biology of gender is far from linear and dichotomous. people can “look” male, female or a mix of both and be genetically male, female, and other combos of X, Y and so on! It is extraordinarily difficult for people who do not identify with the dominant beliefs of a society, big things or small. and on a side note, dialogue is how we come to understanding and shutting down people who are reaching out to understand is not useful. In some respects, I am a member of an oppressed group and in others, part of the dominant group. You can’t “see” me to know which groups I belong to but if you said I should just shut up because I am expressing a dominant group viewpoint, that is not useful to getting me to understanding the alternative viewpoints. I think it is fine for people to express joy about TT’s parent being open to him possibly being transgender but I also do not think it is bad for people to want to protect this child. I think that is all that the people posting questions about this are concerned about…I would rather have people as questions and say things that get people thinking about the best ways to protect children than no one caring at all or being willfully hurtful towards children. being as honest as we can be about the statistics on suicide rates with transgendered children AND about the pros and cons of puberty blockers and about the benefits and potential risks (far far outweighed by the benefits) about raising a child in a gender neutral way is the best way forward.

  54. Kristina August 3, 2013 at 11:31 am #

    I am gender neutral. Somedays my actions manifest as more masculine, and some days as more feminine. However I don’t think of myself as either. I am biologically female. I have a body with large breasts and curves in all the right places. When I choose clothing it is not based on it being male or female. More often than not I will wear what is comfortable, and choose based on color. I am just as likely to run around in my boyfriends t-shirts and shorts, as I am to wear a cute summer dress. I don’t get upset when people use a female pronoun with me. I also don’t get upset when people say I am “one of the guys” or more like a guy than a girl. It comes with the territory. I don’t insist that people use a gender neutral pronoun with me and this sometimes has caused my trans friends to be irritated with me. I just choose not to care about labels. I wear what I want when I want. I answer to anything as long as it is not derogatory and I simply am me. And as far as sexual orientation, I enjoy both genders, no genders, and I don’t know genders. I knew I was not a girl or a boy when I was very young. I went from a bowl haircut and looking very much like a boy to being forced to grow out my hair and pierce my ears and shave my legs by family members. It was not fun. I just wanted to be comfortable. These parents are doing for this child what my Papaw did for me. He just let me be me and as I changed accepted each new change as it came. For a GN child that is almost daily if not by the minute.

  55. Alexey August 3, 2013 at 11:33 am #

    City & State
    Moscow, Russia
    It is very touchingly written…

    I would like to wish Tiny Tornado of happy and interesting life! I am sure that only HE has the right to solve as he will live this life – as the boy/man or as the girl/woman.
    Greetings to you, Tiny Tornado, and all your family!

    P.S. : I regret for my bad English :(

  56. Su Penn August 3, 2013 at 11:38 am #

    Hello, Friends. I have skimmed the comment thread here and am glad to see people advocating for the Tiny Tornado and encouraging folks to read what I wrote and not what they think they saw. I’d like to share something else I wrote, for people who are interested. It addresses the question of “what if he decides he’s a girl?” and also outlines what I think of as “good faith questions,” which I am always glad to answer. Here’s a snippet from an old blog post on the subject (clicking on my name on this comment will take you to the full blog post):

    I won’t be keeping a close eye on this comment thread, but if you have a good-faith question for me, feel free to ask it as a comment at my blog.

    My snippet on good-faith questions:

    I always say, “I will answer any good-faith questions about this,” whenever any of these kinds of topics come up. “I don’t think you’re thought about the implications of this down the line,” is not a good-faith question. “Kids as young as four don’t even understand gender, so I’m concerned that you’re making a mistake letting the Tiny Tornado choose” is also not a good-faith question. Nor is, “Don’t you think he’s just emulating his big brothers?” No, I don’t. Clearly you do. But you probably wouldn’t think that if you lived in our house.

    So, what does a good-faith question look like?

    Well, it’s not a statement, for one thing. “I’m concerned that…” is almost never actually a good-faith question. It’s usually actually a lecture or commentary. If your “question” doesn’t end with a question mark, it’s not a good-faith question.

    A good-faith question should actually ask for information. “Don’t you think…” for instance, is also almost never a good-faith question. It’s an expression of opinion disguised as a question. It’s putting words in my mouth. It’s telling me what I should think. It’s asking for my agreement with your opinion.

    How do you know if you’re asking a good-faith question?

    Well, one way to think about it is to go back to high school journalism class and the classics: Who, What, Where, Why, When, and How. If you can re-phrase what you want to say so that it begins with one of these words, it’s harder to turn it into a statement of your own opinion (not impossible, I’m sure. But harder). Think about how different these sound from the examples I gave above:

    “How did you decide to use male pronouns for the Tiny Tornado?”

    “Where have you gotten information to help you make these decisions?”

    “How do you think you’ll handle it if he decides, somewhere down the road, that he is a girl?”

    “How are you feeling about all this?”

    “What kind of support system do you have as you’re dealing with this?

    You can fix a “don’t you think” bad-faith question by dropping two letters and an apostrophe: “Do you think he’s just emulating his big brothers?” is a good-faith question, because it implies the possiblity that I’ll say, “No, I don’t think that, and here’s why.”

    A good-faith question should reflect the questioner’s desire to know more. That’s why I loved Peggy’s, “I’d like to hear more if you’re comfortable talking about it.” I’m going to be remembering her as a model when I’m dealing with my own curiosity. Her comment could also be rephrased as, “What has this past year been like for you and the Tiny Tornado?”

    See how that works?

    • jesus f. christ August 3, 2013 at 1:38 pm #

      When someone uses the phrases and terms you cited to take a statement and turn it into a question they are simply trying to soften what they are saying. They are doing that out of respect to you. Even though the only appropriate response to what you have written is utter revulsion they are still trying to be amicable. You should appreciate that. No one that raises a slight question about your disgusting home life is misusing this forum. You have put yourself out there now you should receive what real people think about your life.

      • Fluffywalrus August 3, 2013 at 2:50 pm #

        No, it’s not anyone trying to soften any discussion. It’s someone asserting their opinion is superior.
        Every single time I’ve heard someone tell me “Don’t you think…” it’s always been followed by them asserting that they have a better idea, that they know better about something…whether it’s about the way I sit or my posture, or my studying habits, or the way I have my hair or dress, or about a political issue I’d been taking a stance on, etc. And when it hasn’t been aimed at me, it’s been about how another parent shouldn’t let their kids toboggan down such a steep hill, or about how some parent shouldn’t let their teenage daughter wear such short shorts, or whatever.

        It’s always been a value judgement. And I can hear that ‘soft’ tone in the printed words as if they’re being spoken, because nothing’s better than that warm condescending tone people take when they’re trying to control a situation and want to both make you feel bad and make themselves look like the good, concerned person.

        If they were truly concerned, they’d ask for details, reasons, etc. before jumping in with irrelevant life stories and experiences and assumptions.

      • D August 3, 2013 at 3:22 pm #

        cool so we can do the same to you because you posted your disgusting comment on the internet and put your hate out there. Do you think you acting like an idiot is because hatie yourself and therefore you to harm others? I’m not sure but maybe daddy touched you in the wrong place or is it just that a girl sad no to your unwanted advances that makes you full of hate?

        See do you feel respected cause I softened my comments to you even though you are clearly a sad pathetic person who no one could love.

        Just kidding, God will always love you.

      • Lyssie August 4, 2013 at 5:57 am #

        City & State
        Fife, Scotland
        There is no possible scenario in which your comment has any worth. The hatefulness which you’ve vomited here is so indicative of what a twisted version of a decent human being you are.

        Don’t you dare tell the OP to be appreciative of people who passive aggressively question HER decisions for HER family. Just because you take the aggressive-aggressive route doesn’t legitimise you in any way.

        I sincerely pray that you never parent a child.

    • Ezekiel Reis Burgin August 4, 2013 at 3:20 am #

      This was an incredibly thoughtful response to a lot of people being incredibly prejudiced. Thank you for such a good break down of why their “questions” are nothing of the sort.

  57. Amygdalia August 3, 2013 at 12:29 pm #

    City & State
    Livermore, CA
    What a beautiful article about your beautiful child. It breaks my heart that there are parents out there who would not embrace a transgender child for precisely who they are.

    Thank you most of all for the author’s note at the end of the article. I have an adult child who came out to us as agender at 18. I’ve struggled with the “do I use pronouns when discussing the time prior to coming out” question.

  58. wow August 3, 2013 at 12:43 pm #

    Tough love talk coming. Some of you will think it un-p.c. It is not, it is simply real talk. I have to say I am stunned and saddened by this article. It comes off to me like a case of good intentions going horribly horribly wrong. There is clearly a confusion happening here (on the parents part) between the perception of traditional gender roles and actual transgende status. I am an educated and trained critical and cultural thinker — yet I see this confusion happening all the time among educated and progressive people. It is a willful defiance of “common sense” or biological indicators. I know “common sense” is a contested term, as it should be. But my Lord, this child seems to be a gifted girl child who has extreme sensitivities to the negative messages about girls in our society and is, in her own 5 year old way, resisting these messages. Or maybe she just likes boy clothes. The parents are making a normal developmental stage into a full on identity drama by allowing her/encouraging her to be confused about whether or not she is a girl. It’s the parent’s ideology being misused to misperceive the normal stages of child development and then egotistically patting themselves on the back for their so-called progressive stance.
    What upsets me even more, as an African American man, is that this is a mixed race family who, like so many white liberals, seem to be in complete denial about the work they must do to understand what raising a Black child in our world means. In short, It means the silly but destructive meanings we attach to race must be ACTIVELY countered race differences must be attended to and racial differences must placed in a healthy context. They cannot be ignored in some ridiculous “I don’t see color” manner. The parents may not see color, but the rest of the world does and they have to be proactive about reaching out to supportive people and communities who who will aid them in their journey of raising a healthy child in an adopted multi-racial family. But like so many white liberals raising Black children, they inadvertently take the ostrich head in sand approach on race and focus on other things. In this case, the parents are paying so much attention to gender that they barely mention the first thing people see in this world when deciding how to regard or treat you– race and ethnicity. So we have this developmental horror show clothed in good intentions of white parents who are raising a Black girl to think that she’s possibly a Black boy in (probably) a majority white environment in a world that is, shall we say, somewhat hostile to Black boys and men. In a world where hunting African American boys and men down (see Trayvon) has just been legally re-inforced by the Zimmerman trial. Wow. What are these parents really doing?! They’re “allowing” a 5 year old Af Am girl to choose to be an Af Am boy? Their lens is warped…

    • Fluffywalrus August 3, 2013 at 2:44 pm #

      1. You cannot be a critical thinker and also respect the cultural value “common sense” has. So please, let’s just be honest about where you’re coming from in this, okay?

      2. “Biological indicators” are not infallible. As much as people love to take the “ostrich head in sand” approach on the topic, sex resides along a spectrum. Every day, people interact with hundreds, thousands of others and they rely on certain gender markers and attributes to discern another’s sex. it happens automatically, and when something seems “off” red flags tend to shoot up, people get confused. That’s because sex if someone lacks, or has an atypical range of sexual attributes, people start to question if they’re male or female. Any trans person who’s gone through transition, or is going through it, can tell you this. So genitalia can be atypical, holding parts of both systems. People can have atypical chromosome combinations. Both of the former examples involve people who have intersex conditions, which is literally proof that “biological indicators” aren’t a stable way of ascertaining a person’s gender identity, something that typically falls in line with one’s biological sexual attributes and general gender expression.

      3. This article is not a 60,000 word tome explaining the child’s life, it’s a mere short editorial on a child’s growth. And yes, there’s a chance that TT is simply rejecting feminine gender tropes, but most trans youth who reject the identities they were assigned at birth tend to reject those gender stereotypes as a way to strengthen their message about who they are. I told my parents I was a girl when I was 3,4,5 and 6…four years of me insisting I was a girl, and because I still did “boy’s things” like hockey, they didn’t take me seriously at all. It’s only when I wholesale rejected those stereotypes that they even remotely started to listen. Kids use the tools they have at their disposal. There’s a chance TT isn’t trans, certainly, but from the article, he seems pretty content being treated as a boy, so I think that’s worth respecting. Children know more about who they are than we do as observers, as much as it might seem difficult to comprehend. Parents are always a few steps behind their kids in figuring them out, that’s why parents always have to be attentive, that’s why they have to plan for contingencies, etc. These parents are listening to their child, which is more than I can say about a lot of the parents I’ve come into contact with. They’re letting the child express himself, and feel that he’s free to be who he is…and if he decides he’s not a boy later on, there’s an exceptionally good chance he’ll feel free to take that step as well.

    • D August 3, 2013 at 3:26 pm #

      Oh look a minority person is trying to oppress another minority. Does it make you warm and fuzzie to put down other people the way you hate other do you? For being so educated you certainly are just coming off as another man who wants to control other people’s live. Yeah you are black, you are also male, cisgendered, educated so check that privilege or is that not common sense to you?

      • Angela August 5, 2013 at 1:15 am #

        Do you understand that most black men don’t get the same advantages of being men that white or Asian men get?

  59. Jamie August 3, 2013 at 1:16 pm #

    Lovely read! If only there were more parents like this in the world :) I’m sure this child will grow up happy, with such support from his family.

  60. Madison August 3, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

    City & State
    Omaha, NE
    I didn’t read this whole thing, but it seems like you accept your child. That is great. I just want to share a few things:

    The actual problem with gender labeling is this-

    spider man doesn’t just have to be a ‘boy’ shirt
    all girls aren’t dress wearers or long hair people
    suits and ties, polos and khaki pants aren’t just ‘boy’ clothes
    plenty of adult females out their hate their boobs

    My point is, we try to stereotype gender too much. Why can’t a girl like spider man, a buzz cut, and hate ballet tutus? If you’re child had been the first child, do you believe they would have still turned out this way? It may be the way you seem to have type casted your other children.

    Nothing a child chooses to do/ wear/ change about their appearance is wrong. If your child grows up and wants to change their sex, that is absolutely fine. I just want to say that sex and gender are NOT the same thing. I’m not criticizing, just offering another point of view. Something for everyone to think about. Thanks for writing and sharing this story.

  61. Amanda August 3, 2013 at 1:45 pm #

    City & State
    Casper, Wyoming
    My oldest son and I had had a number of conversations about sexual and gender orientation due to have trans, gay and bisexual members of the extended family. One day when he was 5, he came to me and informed me that “Just so you know, I am a boy and I like girls, okay?”. I told him that was okay and that I loved him. He smiled and ran off to play. If he can know, why is it so strange that another child would be certain of who they were.

  62. June Davis August 3, 2013 at 2:55 pm #

    City & State
    Nova Scotia ,Canada
    You are wonderful Parents

  63. Leigh Ann August 3, 2013 at 5:58 pm #

    <3 Love <3

  64. Laura August 3, 2013 at 8:31 pm #

    City & State
    Australia
    My trans son is the same age, and even looks like TT! Very well written, thanks for your bravery. You are the trailblazers for the rest of us. Our Tiny Tornado told us he was a boy at 2, and now 7, has never waivered about his gender identity. It’s only an “issue” to people who don’t understand it.
    God bless your family!
    p.s. my Tiny tornado read and re-read this with a smile on his face. He had some extra time as we are waiting right now for 7 other little trans boys coming for a play date right now!
    Lot’s of love from Australia!

    • Su Penn August 3, 2013 at 8:54 pm #

      City & State
      Okemos, Michigan
      Laura, this has had a lot of readers in the last few days, but your Tiny Tornado is the one I’m happiest about. God bless your family too.

  65. Ezekiel Reis Burgin August 4, 2013 at 3:12 am #

    City & State
    San Diego
    Su, as a trans* man who was raised in a Quaker family, your article brought happy tears to my eyes. Some of the comments have brought less happy tears to my eyes, with their cissexist framing of the world, and the assumptions about what is “best” for your child. I’m so happy that TT will have a chance to grow up supported and loved by his parents, whoever he chooses to be. I also hope (as a trans* guy who really rejected femininity prior to coming out/for a while when people were constantly misgendering me), that when he gets a little older, and is still even more certain of your unwavering support and his appropriate gendering by those around him, that he is able to let go of some of the animosity towards femininity and feminine things (Whipping Girl, by Julia Serano, about “the scapegoating of femininity” has been really powerful for me to read). Admittedly this is also based on the fact that these days *I* really love allowing myself to be more feminine, now that I don’t have to constantly protect my gender from public assault.

    Anyway, thank you for this amazing article. Thank you for clearly valuing your child. Just thanks.

    And to everyone who says “…I’m just saying,” all us trans* folks have heard it before. You are offering nothing new to the situation. Likewise, framing your *privileged* experience as one that is being “demonized” is a form of silencing and erasure. When people respond with anger to you, it is because our lives are CONSTANTLY being “audited” so that cis folks like you can “prove” things. Anger in the face of oppression is normal. We have a right to our anger, as all people (and especially all marginalized people) have a right to it. Stop trying to make us smaller than we are, to deny us the right to human emotions and the expertise of our own lives. In this instance, on this subject, WE. KNOW. MORE. THAN. YOU. Get that through your heads.

    • Laura G August 5, 2013 at 10:18 am #

      City & State
      Richmond, VA
      Thank you so much for your comment, Ezekiel. It speaks to my experience. When I feel more secure in my internal gender being “known” I feel less need to be consistently masculine in my gender presentation. Also, in settings where gender presentation and gender identity are less closely aligned (like in some Quaker youth circles) than in my everyday life I feel more able to play with my gender presentation.

      Serano’s “Whipping Girl” was also a powerful read for me as someone who presents and reads as a butch woman most of the time. Figuring out the difference between “not right for me” and “not right for anyone” in a dominant culture that associates femininity with frivolity has been a big piece of internal work for me during the past decade. I was an asshole about femininity when I was a kid because I knew so strongly that it was “not right for me” and my culture endorsed my disdain for it.

  66. Devan August 4, 2013 at 10:22 am #

    City & State
    Toronto, Ontario
    Thank you Su for sharing the beautiful story, authenticity and TT’s joy and experiences of expressing himself. Many blessings to all of you.

  67. Angela August 4, 2013 at 5:39 pm #

    City & State
    Philadelphia
    Oh boy, yuppies get it wrong again. I get what these parents are TRYING to do, and it is noble, sort of.

    How often does this child get to see pictures of girls playing hockey and wearing oxford shirts and ties? Is it possible that TT is so terrified of growing breasts because they do not see examples of people with breasts being the kind of person they want to be? The parents seem to be assuming that because the child likes things normally considered ‘boy’ things that they must be a ‘boy’ because god forbid they just be a girl that doesn’t feel like acting the way our culture says that girls should act.

    Why is this child only offered TWO pronoun options? If you are too ignorant of anything beyond two gender options, then you are still stuck in forcing gender oppression on your child and probably shouldn’t be bragging about your parenting on a public forum.

    It is possible that this child does have transgender body disphoria, a condition that can be treated with pharmaceuticals as mentioned. Wouldn’t a good parent want to be 200% sure that it is not just the societal problem of gender dichotomies first?

    • Garrett August 4, 2013 at 6:15 pm #

      City & State
      Texas
      Actually you are DEAD wrong. They didn’t put these ideas in his head. He prefers to be called HE, he prefers to do things that are considered male, he feels more comfortable presenting himself as male.. you know why? It’s who HE is. There is nothing wrong with masculine girls, but some people are TRANS.. they identify as male (in this case). Not just being masculine. In fact a lot of Transmen are not all that masculine but MALE is how they identify. Sad to say that in your case, you are the one who is confused. This family is letting him guide the way. It’s insulting that you say gender disphoria is treated by just throwing some hormones in there… Trans people take hormones b/c it helps them feel more like them self.

      • Angela August 5, 2013 at 12:02 am #

        I don’t know where you get the sense that I am accusing them of putting ideas in his head or that there is no such thing as trans people or non-masculine trans people. I never said anything of the sort.

        I simply said that they need to present ALL the options including gender neutrality.

        I don’t know what you mean about the hormones not treating body disphoria and then you say that it helps them feel more like themselves which sounds like treatment to me. Maybe I am missing a point you are trying to make here. Can you please clarify?

    • Ezekiel Reis Burgin August 4, 2013 at 9:10 pm #

      Angela… quick question: how many trans* identified people on this thread do you see saying the parents are wrong?

      Perhaps we have some insight that others might not?

      • Angela August 4, 2013 at 11:50 pm #

        You certainly do, and without a doubt more than the average cis person who has never considered gender oppression beyong whether or not women deserve equal pay. But, just like it can be shown that African Americans hold many of the same prejudices against their own people that whites do, you have also been socialized in the same dysfunctional system of oppressive gender dichotomies. In other words, the fact that you are transgender, while important in adding the voices of the affected to the discussion, does not automatically make you right.

        Most progressive people recognize that the majority of psychological conditions are the product of our dysfunctional society. Why not body disphoria? Don’t mistake me; I celebrate born-females bucking the chains of femininity if it suits them (as a former fire fighter and mountain climber, I’ve done plenty of my own), and I celebrate my trans friends doing what it takes, despite the abuse from society, to be happy and comfortable in their bodies. I’m just saying that with the next generation we have to take the next step towards abolishing gender norms altogether.

        If you could be so kind as to answer a few questions that I have. Can you think of any potential benefits to presenting the child more than two options? Can you think of anything that could be negative about presenting the child more than two options? Are you able to defend the dichotomy against a gender-neutral society?

        • Ezekiel Reis Burgin August 5, 2013 at 1:24 am #

          City & State
          San Diego
          Actually, as a trans* person I automatically know more than ANY cis person about trans experiences (at least my own), not merely “more than the average cis person who has never considered gender oppression beyong whether or not women deserve equal pay”. You clearly view yourself as more “enlightened” about trans* issues, but the fact is, as a cis person, you DON’T know as much as a trans person about this. Thems the breaks. Also, calling trans men “born females” (which is what you are apparently doing) is incredibly rude and transphobic.

          Additionally, you didn’t bother to actually ANSWER my question about how many of the more than a handful of trans* identifying individuals who have written into this thread have expressed anything but excitement about how Su has written about raising TT. INCLUDING people who identify as genderqueer.

          Your questions to me also show that you continue to read Su’s article through a very limited lens, and have also applied it to me. What makes you think Su and her partner haven’t presented more than 2 options? (If they went to the conference she talks about going to, it’s clear that they have). Do you truly think that the MANY trans folks talking about our own experiences aren’t aware and supportive of the idea of more gender neutral parenting? (We are, that’s not what we are objecting to). Why do you assume I support a gender binary? (I don’t. But I do support what Su has written about doing with TT, who has clearly not just shown interest in “boy’s” things, but in specifically being SEEN as a BOY).

          Finally, again, I would invite you to think about how many people who are trans have called out things either that you have said, or people saying similar things have said, and reflect on why we all seem to be coming down so hard on you?

          • Angela August 5, 2013 at 2:51 am #

            ‘as a trans* person I automatically know more than ANY cis person about trans experiences’ I never said that you didn’t. Only a moron would believe otherwise. What I said was that in discussions about gender oppression you are not automatically right. That is not the same as claiming that, as a cis person I know more about the trans experience than you do. As a woman, and particularly as a woman that has spent lots of time in male-dominated fields as well as in rape victim advocacy (with experiences of my own as well), I do know something about gender oppression.
            (Also, I have actually taken the time to read through every comment on this article, and the experience of trans people is far too varied for anyone to even make the claim that because they are trans they are right because that would mean that another trans person is wrong. For example, the number of people that are saying that they knew when they were young, and almost all know when they are young is just about equal to those that are saying that they didn’t figure it out until they were much older. This would indicate that even trans people are dismissive of other trans people’s experience; whereas my comments did not dismiss anyone’s experience but only suggested that some experiences may be missing, i.e. gender neutral folks.)

            I never called trans men born-females. You are misreading; I was talking about people that are born and identify as females when I used that phrase. Is it possible that you have decided I am trans phobic and are searching for proof?

            ‘What makes you think Su and her partner haven’t presented more than 2 options?’
            Su spent a lot of time talking about the ways in which they supported TT’s possible male-ness, but did not once mention gender-neutrality, not once. In fact, the article specifically mentioned TT being asked if they wanted to be called HE or SHE, but not whether they wanted to be called THEY. So if my assumption that they have not presented gender-neutrality is incorrect, it is certainly by no fault of my own as I have used sound reasoning in coming to the conclusion.

            ‘Do you truly think that the MANY trans folks talking about our own experiences aren’t aware and supportive of the idea of more gender neutral parenting?’ I never commented on whether trans folks support gender neutral parenting. I never commented about trans parents at all. I only spoke to the specific instance of parenting presented in this article. But to answer your question, of course I don’t think that trans parents aren’t supportive of gender neutral parenting. Su is not a trans parent. She is a privileged suburbanite cis-gendered white woman.

            ‘Why do you assume I support a gender binary?’ I did not assume that you support a gender binary and never said anything to imply that I did. When there is not enough information to make a defensible assumption, I ask questions, which is exactly what I did. If you do not support a gender binary, then the reasonable response to my last question would have been ‘No’.

            While some of my questions in my original post would have been very rude had this been an in-person interaction with the questions asked as some sort of unsolicited advice, this is a public article that is open for commenting seemingly with the intention of creating a dialogue about the issue, so this is EXACTLY the place that cis people should be coming to be educating themselves, and, even those that have made offensive comments, if they seem to be well-meaning and in the effort of understanding, should be applauded for not just ignoring the whole gender-queer issue because that is very easy to do if it does not affect you personally. It seems that we tell people to take responsibility for learning about oppressed groups but then give them no pace in which to do so without being berated.

          • Angela August 5, 2013 at 3:32 am #

            By the way, Su directly stated that they made a conscious decision NOT to offer gender neutrality:

            “Friends who knew our intimate connections to trans people asked if we were going to try to raise a Baby X, not assign a gender, and avoid pronouns. David would say, “No, we’re just going to go with the apparent biological sex.”

            TT was learning gender associations from the moment he was born.

    • Lianne August 6, 2013 at 3:31 am #

      City & State
      Canada
      Regarding your question about a “good parent”: access to the pharmaceuticals is (black/grey market notwithstanding) controlled by the medical profession, who (again black/grey market notwithstanding) are held to a fairly rigid standard of care in treating gender dysphoric individuals of any age.

      Physical intervention isn’t even considered until adolescence – and even then only after first having a psychological evaluation, much of which is directly about addressing those very concerns regarding gender dichotomies. It’s set up so that if you approach the system in good faith, nothing happens without what I would consider 300% certainty – the certainty of the child, the child’s legal guardians, and the evaluators.

      Of course, one can ‘game the system’ if one is sufficiently motivated. I won’t go into details on how, except to say that the only people I know of who’ve considered trying to do so were working against unsupportive parental figures.

      • Angela August 7, 2013 at 12:48 pm #

        Thank you for the explanation; I’m sure many readers here will find it useful. I am well aware of the process having many friends who have gone through it and a father who used to work as a nurse at one of the largest sex change hospital wings in the country.

        When we are exposed to gender dichotomies at birth there is no way to tell whether the body dysphoria that transgender people feel is due to cultural influences or biological defect; we just don’t understand the brain enough, but studies are increasingly leaning towards cultural influences as the gender assignment chromosomes do not differ in transexuals and the number who undergo reassignment surgery that have it reversed (particularly those that were younger than their 30s) is ever-increasing. Even if these Parents were giving him every possible example of gender neutrality, the rest of the world would be showing him something else. What’s troubling here is that Su specifically states that they chose NOT to use gender neutral parenting while they seem to have no problem transgender parenting. Gender is simply a cutlural/mental function, and if we lived in a culture that understood the difference between sex and gender and rejected gender norms, well, gender wouldn’t exist and no one would be transgender. That’s not to say that the psychological condition of body dysphoria wouldn’t exist, but we would call it what it is.

        If this child feels that he should have been born with a penis and will live an unhappy life without one, then he should be helped to realize that, but that is not clear from this article. What is clear is that he is rejecting ‘feminine’ things which don’t necessarily have anything to do with body dysphoria (not even the rejection of breasts as many women don’t want large breasts, and many men have large breasts).

        • Angela August 7, 2013 at 1:22 pm #

          I’d like to add that these parents need to be really clear that you cannot actually change some one’s sex, at least until the day that we are able to change the DNA of humans after they are born. Reassignment surgery is simply cosmetic, and just like with other cosmetic surgeries, while some are helped, many find that they still struggle with the same issues of self-loathing, suicidal thoughts, etc after the surgery that they did before.

          • Zoe Brain August 8, 2013 at 12:40 am #

            Angela wrote:
            “I’d like to add that these parents need to be really clear that you cannot actually change some one’s sex, at least until the day that we are able to change the DNA of humans after they are born.”

            You mean with a bone-marrow transplant? Sure, it takes a number of years for senescent cells to be replaced by stem cells from the bone marrow, but gradually the body of the recipient becomes genetically identical to the donor.

            See:

            Bone marrow-derived cells from male donors can compose endometrial glands in female transplant recipients by Ikoma et al in Am J Obstet Gynecol. 2009 Dec;201(6):608.e1-8

            Transplanted human bone marrow cells generate new brain cells by Crain BJ, Tran SD, Mezey E. in J Neurol Sci. 2005 Jun 15;233(1-2):121-3 :

            But so what? What has anyone’s chromosomes got to do with what sex they are? They bias, strongly, the likely path of development in the womb, but they’re not definitive. 1 in 300 men aren’t 46,XY. Some women are. Rarely, so rarely that it’s worth documenting, so are the daughters they give birth to.

            “A 46,XY mother who developed as a normal woman underwent spontaneous puberty, reached menarche, menstruated regularly, experienced two unassisted pregnancies, and gave birth to a 46,XY daughter with complete gonadal dysgenesis” – J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2008 Jan;93(1):182-9

          • Angela August 8, 2013 at 7:07 am #

            Zoe, thank you for bringing up this very interesting topic that definitely deserves some discussion here.

            A couple points need clarity though. First of all, I am wondering if you might be confusing sex and gender because chromosomal makeup has everything to do with sex. A Y-chromosome is absolutely required for the production of male genitalia. Female reproductive organs (stress on the word reproductive) require an XX make-up. Any variation on that will produce someone who is intersex, usually, but not always, without the capability of reproduction. (Obviously you would know more about intersex than I would, most likely, so I’m simply putting that here for the benefit of anyone else reading this.) I’m not sure how you self-identify, but that is the strict definitions of the words.

            It doesn’t sound as though TT’s parents believe him to be intersex but transgender, possibly transexual, which is an entirely different issue biologically.

            The issue of bone marrow transplants changing chromosomal make-up is an interesting one, and one that I will look into further. In my initial search, I did find your article. Let me be clear though, I am not suggesting the lack of ability to change chromosomal make-up as a method of de-legitimizing transgender people, just the opposite really because what I do think is important is to be clear about the differences between transgender, transexual, and intersex to aide in proper understanding and treatment of each. If it is possible to change chromosomal make-up through bone marrow transplants, could this possibly offer a more effective treatment for transexuals than cosmetic and hormonal surgery?

            Btw, I love the part in your article about people seeing themselves as ‘performance art’ rather than ‘static portraits'; I whole-heartedly agree, and there are many commenters that have discussed their journeys through various stages of gender performance. We may disagree on whether cosmetic surgery and hormone therapy necessarily has to play a part in that performance. Of course, some people will choose that, and I have supported those in my life who have; I just think that we should be hesitant to become a society that uses drastic therapies of modern medicine as a default as we have for so many other socially constructed psychological conditions (to be clear, not all transgenderism is a psychological condition, but the body dysphoria of transexualism is, if not a psychological condition, a legitimate medical issue). I think it is great to have effective medical therapies to offer but that it should be done in conjunction with extensive research and efforts towards cultural shifts that abolish gender dichotomies, or, at the very least, cultural shifts that sever the ties between gender and sex.

            My original comment was predicated on how appalling I found it that TT’s parents were so quick to take up transgender parenting after summarily dismissing gender neutral parenting. It was not intended as an all-out dismissal of transgender parenting on my part, just utter surprise that they would find one method so acceptable without applying the gender neutral methods that seem to me to be the foundation for allowing a child to find their gender as a free form and potentially dynamic identity rather than an either/or static identity.

          • Zoe Brain August 8, 2013 at 8:00 am #

            A Y chromosome is neither necessary nor sufficient to form male genitalia. For example, the SrY gene usually on the Y chromosome may be translocated on another. There are two other gene sequences that can cause genital masculinity, one by presence, another by absence. Genital masculinisation – apparently male genitalia that isn’t what it seems – can be caused by an anomalous endocrine system, as can incomplete masculine genitalia.

            It’s complicated! 46,XY male, 46,XX female is usual, certainly. But other situations are possible.

            A decidedly tongue-in-cheek satirical view of the idea that sex is determined by chromosomes is at http://intersexpride.blogspot.com.au/2008/04/homochromosexuality-new-psychiatric.html

          • Angela August 9, 2013 at 3:12 pm #

            I had to re-read my comments to see how your response feven made any sense because XXmales still have portions of a Ychromosome, just not the full chromosome. Also, this is still a person who is intersex, which is not the same as being transgender or transsexual, especially not in terms of identification or treatment.

            You mention two other gene sequences that produce masculinity, and while I know of a few, I don’t know of any that don’t require Y chromosome material, or simply materialize as masculine traits but not sex organs.

            Your link was incredibly rude, and a very underhanded straw man tactic in directing it at me since I never once stated that there are only two sexes. The writer is clearly very ignorant of the difference between sex and gender, and I can’t imagine why anyone other than those seeking to oppress gender non-conforming folks and women would see any benefit to continuing to use sex and gender interchangeably or to support the idea of gender at all, which has never been anything but a tool of oppression, a red-herring to draw attention to your anatomy when someone wants to wield power over the way you act or dress or talk. Body dysphoria and transexualism is not the same; I don’t know why you keep ignoring this fact that would benefit your other arguments.

        • Lianne August 7, 2013 at 4:10 pm #

          Speaking of dichotomies, I like how you readily you endorsed the ‘genetics vs cultural influence’ one there – not acknowledging other possibilities (such as in utero environment, which was the most popular theory among the researchers last time I checked) with even a token dismissal.

          I’d be curious to see the studies you’re talking about though, as the ones I’ve seen – while insufficient to conclusively rule out cultural influence – seem to lean heavily against it. I’ve also not seen any data *at all* on the rate of de-transitioning. Trumped up news-stories from anti-trans conservative sources and anti-trans radfem sources focused on a few who did so publicly, but I don’t consider those to be serious studies for reasons that extend beyond the obvious bias of the sources.

          Not sure what purpose gender-neutral parenting would have served either, save to satisfy our own selfish interests as observers, cultural-revolutionaries or skeptics. In the few cases I’ve seen where it’s been tried (admittedly an inadequate sample size), the child wound up adopting a traditional binary-model gender in adulthood anyway. It did no discernible harm, but made no discernible difference in outcome either. One could attribute that to cultural influence over-riding the parental decision, but without having an actual gender-neutral culture to compare with such an attribution would be more speculative than factual.

          It would, however, have been a decidedly experimental (and therefore controversial) approach to raising their child. And as we’re talking about a family that is already in a controversial position – white family raising a child of color – choosing the experimental approach of deliberate gender-neutrality in an otherwise gendered society would have entailed deliberately inviting extra issues into the child’s life. And inviting issues is different from dealing with them when they come up on their own. So while I would have supported the more progressive choice (for what little the support of an anonymous name on the ‘net is worth,) I can also support starting from the more traditional approach until circumstances dictate otherwise.

          Far better than starting with any ideological approach and pushing it through come hell or high water.

          • Angela August 8, 2013 at 12:01 am #

            Lianne, the sarcasm and such really isn’t necessary, nor is it productive.

            Thank you for bringing up that there are other possible causes to body dysphoria. I apologize if I implied that there were only two; this medium really isn’t the best for conveying very complex ideas. I am not familiar with the in utero studies of transexualism; I’ve only heard it as a cause for homosexuality (a ridiculous thing to study since homosexuality has no ill effects physically and requires no medical interventions).

            Here is one site that gives some data on the rates of de-transitioning (between 10-30%: http://tgmentalhealth.com/2011/06/18/on-regret-of-gender-transition/). The numbers vary significantly in the few studies that have been done, and we can expect them to increase as the rates of reassignment surgeries increase. The real issue is that surgery and other medical interventions are being encouraged when not enough studies have been done to determine their effectiveness. (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21364939) I’m not saying they should never be done; I just feel that many people defend it rather blindly while many doctors and pharmaceutical companies get rich.

            ‘Not sure what purpose gender-neutral parenting would have served either, save to satisfy our own selfish interests as observers, cultural-revolutionaries or skeptics.’ I don’t even know how to respond to this entire paragraph. Are you seriously arguing AGAINST gender neutral parenting while arguing FOR transgender parenting? SInce you’ve offered up anecdotal evidence, I know far, far more people that are transgender or gender neutral/non-conforming that choose not to undergo any physical interventions and are happy with their bodies citing exposure to communities that have examples of the full spectrum of gender and sex. Let’s be clear, there is a difference between being gender non-conforming and having body dysphoria, and the psychological condition of body dyshporia is just as likely caused by one thing as any other since so little research has been done about it (though genetics has been ruled out as least as far as the Y-chromosome is concerned). So why would you rule out a practice that you yourself admit has not been study and does no harm versus a practice of gender dichotomy living that we know full well damages men and women alike who struggle to conform?

            Then you go on to do defend it by saying that parents should only deal with issues when they come up or it’s too controversial?! So we should only talk about sex, drugs, bullies, etc, when they come up? How would gender neutral parenting be any less controversial than what they are doing now?

            (btw, As a white woman raising black kids, I know full well about the ‘controversy’ surrounding a multi-racial family, and I guarantee you, from reading Su’s other posts, that she has little sense of the real controversy since they live in white suburbia and both parents are white. The day when a simple Cheerios commercial can suddenly make you afraid for your family-a fear that you’re aware of but manage to keep buried most days-well, on that day you know what controversy is, and I asked Su that in another comment, if she had spent as much time learning about how to teach TT what he would encounter as a black person as she has learning about how to help him transition his gender. Maybe she has; I hope she has.)

            Clearly Su cares about her children very much, and that will hopefully equate to good parenting choices which should include being sure that TT knows that he can be all the things that society says make one a boy without having a penis or choosing between ‘he’ or ‘she’.

          • Zoe Brain August 8, 2013 at 10:17 pm #

            The 30% regret figure was from 50 years ago, when surgery wasn’t very advanced. The 10% was from 20 years ago. Figures since 2000 have shown a 3-5% regret rate.

            The Swedish study showed that late-transitioning transsexuals had far more problems than the control -group. But the control group was not of untreated trans people, but the general population. This is exactly comparable to looking at those who have had open-heart surgery vs those free of cardiac disease, seeing that those who had had surgery have more health issues, and concluding that the surgery is ineffective.

            A better study is contained in http://ai.eecs.umich.edu/people/conway/TS/News/Europe/Cohen-Kettenis%20JSM2008.pdf

            This indicates that the earlier the transition, the better, with early transitioners functioning “not very differently from their peers”. Late transitioners as a group don’t do as well. The study also gives high-reliability tests for when transition is appropriate. In boundary cases, some delay appears to do no harm, and prevents misdiagnosis and consequent regret. In obvious cases, delay is harmful.

          • Angela August 9, 2013 at 3:50 pm #

            If by ‘better’ you mean ‘supports the view that you are biased towards’, then sure, but this isn’t even a scientific study or a met-analysis; it’s just a report, a report that seems to have conflicting information (I have to read it one more time to be sure, I could be mistaken). Is there a particular study in the references that you would like to direct me towards?

            Your observation about the Swedish study is a good one; they should have used a second control.

            I don’t know where you get that the data used for the 30% measure is 50yrs old. The study was a meta-analysis of data from as long as over 50yrs ago and as recent as 20yrs agoF.

            Regardless, it seems you think I am arguing against medical interventions in any case, an argument I have not made. What I said is that more studies should be done on all treatments, and we should consider who is profiting from these interventions. For example, I could easily prove that anti-depressants have positive outcomes in dealing with depression, but that doesn’t mean that pharmaceuticals should be the first step in attempting to deal with depression (in the case of depression, lifestyle, counseling, diet, etc would be a safer first option), and pharmaceuticals are used as a first treatment because big pharma gets rich off of it. Yes, some people need anti-depressants, but certainly not as many as take them. That’s just an analogy, and no analogy is perfect, so I hope you will stop being so combative and try to understand my point (that we should invest more into finding the best and healthiest treatments rather than accepting current treatments as some sort of dogma) rather than look for some (nonexistent) proof that I am trying to be trans or intersex-phobic.

          • Zoe Brain March 15, 2014 at 9:21 pm #

            “This study shows little or no regrets possibly due to surgical advances.”
            — Krege S., Bex A., Lummen G., et al. (2001). Male-to-female transsexualism: a technique, results and long-term follow-up in 66 patients. BJU International. 88:396-402.

            Mentioned in the URL Angela gave – http://tgmentalhealth.com/2011/06/18/on-regret-of-gender-transition/

  68. Garrett August 4, 2013 at 6:09 pm #

    City & State
    Texas
    He is very lucky to have such great parents! I wish that my parents would have been so understanding back then.. it caused me A LOT of years and experience, but I’m happy to say that we are close now. They see how much happier I am now and it’s all good.

  69. Molly August 4, 2013 at 6:50 pm #

    I have a couple of questions I hope you don’t mind my asking.

    1. Do you worry about reaction from peers if, a few years down the road, TT decides that he is not/is no longer a boy? (I say “no longer” because I know people who identified as one gender at one point in their lives, then another – they don’t consider it as being unaware of their “true” gender, or trans but stifling it, etc; they consider/ed themselves male or female at one point in time, and then a different gender at another. I don’t mean it in an “oh, if he changes his mind and was never a boy” way…I’m not sure how to express it well. Argh, I hope what I’m trying to say is coming across! Though I do know people who thought they might be another gender and ultimately decided that they never were trans, just questioning, so that is some peoples’ experience and I’m not trying to invalidate THAT either. It seems condescending to call it a “phase” but I don’t really know if there’s a word for it.) (Also feel like I should add I’m not trying to imply any sort of tone here; y’all sound like great parents who are letting your kid be himself. I just wonder if you’ve thought about how you would handle it should the situation arise, or if it’s even something you think about at all.)

    2. Are there any good books at a child’s reading level about the subject? I know there are a lot of books about gay acceptance aimed at young children, involving everything from people to penguins, but are there any specifically involving trans characters? (This one really goes out to everyone here.) I’ve never seen any but honestly I don’t know that I’d know where to look, either.

    • Su Penn August 4, 2013 at 8:57 pm #

      Do we worry about reactions from peers if he chooses down the road, to live as a girl? Yes, although we try not to borrow trouble–we have enough on our plate without trying to solve problems we don’t have yet. And so much would depend on the Tiny Tornado, and how he wanted to handle it, and the environment he was in when he reached that point. A lot of kids who socially transition when they’re older (and this would be what TT was doing…again) do things like transition over the summer and go back to school as their chosen gender in the fall, or even change schools, so that they exit one school as a girl and show up at a new one as a boy, for instance. I dunno–I guess we hold this in the category of “We’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.”

      I worry about peer reactions right now. Yesterday at the park, TT and his friend–a boy he knows from school–went into a single-seater mens’ room together to pee. I have no idea what happened in there. I could hear them chattering but not hear what they said. There were peals of hysterical laughter. When they came out, they were both wearing wet t-shirts because, apparently, the sink splattered in a dramatic way when they turned the faucet on, and they held hands as they walked back to the playground. I was biting my nails when TT decided to go in there with J, and was tempted to intervene–“are you sure you shouldn’t take turns?”–but whatever happened, it was apparently perfectly OK. I live with some anxiety about the time it might not be.

      As far as picture books go, people tend to really like 10,000 Dresses, My Princess Boy, and Roland Humphrey is Wearing a WHAT? I don’t know of any books that address female-bodied gender-variant kids and their stories, but I haven’t really sought such things about because TT hasn’t seemed interested in topical stories like that.

    • Ezekiel Reis Burgin August 4, 2013 at 9:05 pm #

      City & State
      San Diego
      To answer your first question, (I’m obviously not Su), I’d point your attention to all the people who are quite “willing” to have TT by a tomboy rather than trans. Being trans is a “lesser” state (according to our cis-sexist society), being cis is most certainly not. So. If for some reason TT decided he was a girl at some point, the likely reaction by most of society (wrong as it is), will be a sigh of relief, an “oh, I guess it was just a phase.”

      For your second question: Not many, but some: http://www.therainbowtimesmass.com/2013/02/13/transgender-friendly-picture-books-for-young-children/

    • Traci K August 7, 2013 at 11:10 am #

      There is a children’s book called, “My Princess Boy”

      • otherness August 9, 2013 at 3:57 am #

        City & State
        UK
        Dear Su,
        I think you are doing the right thing for your son. He’s clearly a boy.

        Officially the first book about Tboys (that I know of) is one I read at school and it is by a writer I thought was a cisman all my life. I never saw the book again till I saw it in a shop nearly 30 years later. I bought it this or last year; and was looking at it the other day. When I got it as an adult I found out the writer was not a cisman but was a ciswoman who identified as butch/androgyne and gender-neutral, mixed gender or genderfree etc.

        The book is ‘The Turbulent Term of Tyke Tiler’, by Gene Kemp. Lots of versions are on Amazon including an audio book, stage play, and Kindle version.

        Reviews:

        1)this book charts the mischivievous emploits of tyke tiller and his best friends pitthead and danny writen by Gene Kemp. This book is one of those books which has a great storyline with a adventure based genre. It is all about a friendship between tyke and dannny, who will do just about anything for each others friendship to stay as close as ever. There’s even a twist: just when you thought you were sure of something it turns out all different. :) :) :)

        2)Once in a while, a story with a simple but brilliant twist comes along and says, “Now why would you think that?” Such is the case in this story of best friends Tyke Tiler and Danny Price, who wreak havoc wherever they go. Not that they always do it intentionally. Danny, not being the brightest crayon in the box, doesn’t always know not to take ten pounds from a teacher’s purse. Fortunately, Tyke is always there trying to set things straight.

        The whole term is a trial for Tyke who has to, at one time or another, fish a sheep’s skeleton from a stream, perform chores around the house, steal a test to make sure Danny passes it, deliver electoral leaflets around town and beat up either slimy Martin Kneeshaw or his henchman Kevin Simms. But the real challenge is ringing the broken school bell that was last rung by an ancestor of Tyke’s a long time ago. Climbing the roof without a ladder and pushing the bell without falling off or damaging the school will be the real test of Tyke’s daring.
        ———————————–
        Me again: Just to point out, the book is from the UK and set a few decades ago. It was written at a time before we had terms like transboy, though it is clearly the correct word that would apply nowadays. This is the best book, at least for younger kids, that I can think of to deal with the life of a transboy. Tyke is basically just a regular boy, doing boy things with boys. (It’s the sort of stuff I got up to all the time and never questioned, as I was just a boy doing what boys are meant to do.)

        I have a few other books on transboys, they are not as good though, as they revert to the cis concept of gender and sex. One is of a sort of transboy who becomes a sailor (‘The Rope School’), and I have another one of a transboy called Joe who goes to work on a farm in Australia. In ‘The Rope School’, after being outed as trans the hero STILL wants to wear male clothes. I’ve another that won’t help you as it is quite an old book and in Welsh, but it is about a transboy who joins the army during the English Civil War. For older kids on the same theme, but falling into the cis trap, is Terry Pratchett’s book ‘Monstrous Regiment’. *Older* books tend to all have a theme of ‘dressing up as’ or ‘pretending to be’, but really don’t get it. If you correct the pronouns,a book of Disney’s ‘Mulan’ might work (I recently saw a Chinese film of the same story). It is based on a real life man, recorded in actual chronicles, who became a general in the army of a Chinese kingdom. He was called Hua Mu-Lan. Unlike in the Disney version, nobody ever found out he was trans till many years later. Even though he was wounded in battle more than once. A novel has been written the other year about the highwayperson Sovay (fictional, from folk song), but refers to them as ‘dressed as’. It is for teenagers though. Endless adult books on this theme. Both historical and fictional.
        I’ve another kids’ book, it’s about a child who is a boy but he wonders if he’s turning into a girl. Then he sort of does turn into a girl for a while, and turns back into a boy.

        If movies are your thing and you don’t mind subtitles, ‘Ma Vie en Rose’ is a film about a French trans girl from age 5 upwards. She makes it quite clear to her family she’s a girl. At the end of the film they have been persuaded to try therapy to ‘cure’ her, and put her in boys’ clothes. On holiday they meet a transboy under the same sort of ‘therapy’, and the transboy and transgirl sneak off and swap clothes, coming back dressed correctly for who they really are.
        ‘XXY’ is an adult-ish (older teenagers) movie from South America, in Spanish, with subtitles. It is about an intersex child. During the movie the father meets an intersex transman. ‘Vera’ is a film about a trans boy, despite the bad title. ‘The Gwen Araujo Story’ is really sad, and true, about a trans girl. (Not to show to young kids though?!)

        In ‘Billy Elliot’, the central character is a boy who loves ballet. He has a male friend who is a gay transvestite, even as a little boy. In one scene the friend tries to put makeup on Billy. This is not a trans movie as such, but gender expectations are a strong theme. Billy is from a very macho, tough background where men are meant to be ‘real men’.

        Films that look in a broader way at gender include ‘Bend it Like Beckham’ and ‘Gregory’s Girl’, both about girl footballers. ‘Chakde India’ is about a women’s hockey team in India but you forget the characters are female and it is just a sports movie. ‘Offside’ is a film based on a real-life case, in which a number of real-life Iranian transmen were caught in a football stadium, entry there being men-only. ‘Flying with One Wing’ (most definitely adults only!) is a film about a (probably fictional) transman in Sri Lanka who is a mechanic and has a wife. It’s a good if harrowing film though, and the scum who turn on him are like scum everywhere. ‘Osama’ is a film from Afghanistan based on a real-life case of a transboy who was sent for military training with the Taliban. (Afghanistan and Albania have some tradition of allowing transboys and transmen, but for the transboy Osama/’Lion’ this was not allowed.) It does have some upsetting scenes…
        ‘Raghs E Khak’ (Dance of Dust) is an Iranian film, with not much plot! It is good though, I mention it because one character dresses in a female way and does female jobs like childcare, so could be a transwoman or two-spirit person.
        There are lots of other books and films on not only trans themes but gender themes, such as the questioning of stereotypes. The child in ‘XXY’ feels they don’t want drugs or surgery, and wants to stay as they are. If the little girl in the French film could, she would want to wake up the next day the same as other little girls.
        Films and books for older viewers/readers are worth watching, as an adult, to look at issues faced by trans people, intersex people, and other gender variant people. The book ‘Middlesex’ by Jeffrey Eugenides is about an intersex person who eventually lives as male. Rose Tremain’s book ‘Sacred Country’ is about a transman called Martin.

        If your kid likes history, he might like to learn that there was a transman called Hatshepsut/Hatusu, who became Pharaoh of Egypt. Not to mention the French soldier Jean (John) ‘d’Arc’. Actually a lot of the reason why men in history dressed as men, was because they WERE men. They did not know about DNA but they knew that they were men, even before operations. Some of the first operations were done on transmen in the 1920s, their surgery this pre-dates the GRS of female trans people. Some men in history have been known to have survived removing their own breasts; and basic operations were given to hijras and similar girls to remove the ‘wrong’ parts; but that didn’t make all the parts standard in surgery of today. The men’s surgery was based on experimental techniques for men who were injured ‘between their legs’ in the First World War, and drew on knowledge of keeping tissues alive, gained from pioneering work in plastic surgery for military burns victims. Before the more famous cases of transwomen having early surgery, at least one transman had completed his lower surgery. He was an Irish aristocrat, Laurence Michael Dillon, and he became a ship’s captain, and then went to India for the rest of his life as a Buddhist monk. An earlier man, Dr. James Barry, graduated from medical school and served in many settings throughout his life. At one point he had to fight a duel. Barry was only outed posthumously, as was the pioneer ‘Little Joe’ Monaghan/Moynihan in the USA. (There are many more examples)

        I wish I had had supportive parents. I was the kind of boy who had loads of female figures as heroes, as well as male. That didn’t seem weird to me, I liked women characters who were soldiers or astronauts, for example. It seemed natural that there are all sorts of men and women, ways to be male or female, and that this varies over time from place to place. Take even a ‘universal’ notion like ‘being a man’. To some, it is being a gentleman. Others see the gentleman archetype as too domesticated, ‘real men are tough rough outdoors types’. Cultured men see some others as thugs, but *they* may see book-readers as sissies and recluses. It varies across class, context, country and subculture. There are as many ways of being a man as there are men. I was a boy who thought women could and should do whatever men were allowed to do and vice-versa. But this was entirely separate from knowing that I was male. In every circle you’re in at the time you have to conform enough to fit in and look the same, so each group of guys I was with, I’d do as they did, basically. It wasn’t always stuff I wanted to do but it was survival. That is largely the same for every cisguy out there! Most guys are scared of looking not as manly as the others. Then you get to a stage in life where you just go, I don’t give a damn who is more macho or how others see me. You blend in or stand out as you choose, but you don’t fit in for the sake of fitting in, or act like an idiot to be impressive to others. You see it’s all maya (illusion). However macho some guy gets there is always some other guy round the corner bigger and tougher, so what’s the point. I do agree that a lot of the time in our socialisation (everyone) to split everyone into being men and women, we have often forgotten how to be people. But for cisfolk it does need reiterating, that when it comes to receiving treatment, certain stereotypes of behaviour are required from us as patients. If we did exactly what we wanted all the time, our doctors would withhold the treatment we need. I don’t think the fact I do textiles and make jewellery are reasons making me any less male. Cismen do this and nobody questions their right to be men. I am a sportsman at quite a high level, where exposure would be disastrous. I’ve done some pretty macho environments in my time, a lot of which I’d (like many other, cismen) not care to revisit. Much of my time is spent in sports around other men, then in my textile groups I’m the only guy, and my political meetings are split 50-50. People have basically variants of the same conversations and worry about the same stuff.

        Good luck to you and your child. I hope he can access the healthcare he needs later down the line (mine has been blocked before completion). I don’t want to enter a 40th year in therapy, I’ve 6 years to get to that point. I hope it is fixed before then. This is a physical condition not a mental one. And people work out for themselves what kind of guy they are going to be.

  70. Stacy August 5, 2013 at 4:53 am #

    City & State
    Somewhere, Utah
    He is so lucky to have you as a parent. When I was a little girl, I wanted desperately to be a boy. I fought with my very feminine Mom – she forced me to put on dresses that itched like crazy and made it hard to run. She scolded me when I wanted to play on a dirt hill. She’d buy me Barbie dolls and my brother army soldiers – yet I played with the soldiers just as much if not more than the dolls. My father allowed me to get a short hair cut in first grade – I was bullied by the students because I looked like a boy even though I was a girl – the teacher did nothing about the abuse.

    When I hit third grade, I started to grow boobs and I couldn’t stop crying. It was devastating. It was only when I was twelve-years-old that I decided that I needed to learn how to be more like a girl to fit in. I grew my hair long. I learned to apply makeup. I learned to love my body.

    I’m 21-years-old now and even though I look like a girl, I still think like a boy most of the time. I think equality, and yet gender identification keeps being shoved in my face. I’d like to be ordained – but I’m told women aren’t allowed. I want to be an equal to my husband – but he’s the leader and he needs me to be a supporter. When I become too sensitive and cry or lose my cool, my pride hurts (I have BPD, so unfortunately this happens more frequently then I’d like to admit). I still secretly feel like a boy at heart and I have extreme difficulty making friends with typical girls. I hate having D cup breasts.

    I hope Tiny Tornado has smoother sailing than I have with acceptance about what my gender is and the way our culture reacts to it (whether we want to be identified that way or not). So far, it sounds like he has the best parents in the whole world and a nice community at school that appreciates him for him.

    • Stacy August 5, 2013 at 4:55 am #

      P.S. I still hate wearing girly clothes, especially dresses and skirts.

  71. Casper August 5, 2013 at 5:24 am #

    City & State
    Roanoke
    May I just say something after reading some of these comments?

    There are people here saying that being trans is just enforcing gender roles and gender stereotypes, but as a queer, trans man myself I still enjoy stereotypically effeminate things. I identify as male because I know myself to be just that, mentally. I present myself physically as male to the best of my ability, but I refuse to change my interests and such to seem more manly. I say, forget gender roles.

    I still openly enjoy bright, pretty colors and activities such as sewing, dancing, singing, and things of the like. However, in doing these things I pass as a male much less than I would prefer. (I would prefer to pass 100% of the time.) So, that being said, a lot of trans people will conform themselves to these stereotypes so that they too are perceived as their identifying gender even if it means depriving themselves of some other joy or forcing themselves to do something they don’t enjoy do they seem either “more girly” or “more manly.” It saves them a lot of dysphoria. They would rather pass than dare do something they enjoy that could out them. And I don’t blame them.

    So, to the cis people that are commenting on this who don’t understand, it’s because you have not experienced it for yourself. These parents are going about raising TT beautifully in a safe and accepting environment. He’s free to be who he is inside.

    In the end, he’s not your kid so you really don’t have much of a say anyway. Screw your gender roles and have a nice day!

  72. Lesley Laing August 5, 2013 at 5:54 pm #

    City & State
    White City
    I truly appreciated this article. I wish I had known 43 years ago what these wise parents know and write so eloquently about.

    You see, my only child was born to us as our son, but came out to us in his 20’s as possibly trans. In her early 40’s she made the decision to live her life life full-time as a woman. She had done everything she could to try to live and conform to a boy’s and man’s world, but was often depressed and even suicidal because her body and identity as a male just did not fit who she knew herself to be – who she had known herself to be since the age of 3 when in nursery school she first became aware of differences between boys and girls.

    At about age 3, she told me a “dream” she had about existence before being born – all the “about to be babies” were told to line up in the boy line or the girl line, according to whom they knew themselves to be. But she was busy playing and was late getting to the girl line. By then all the girl bodies had been given out so she was given a boy body.

    So we named and treated her according to her body characteristics, and she had dolls as well as trucks with which to play. She did not discuss this as a child, just endured and was so depressed at age 7 that at age 8 she told me she had thought the year before about ending her life – it just was not worth living. But since she was still with us at age 8 and seemed to have friends and sports and be doing well in school, I didn’t worry. And even if I had recognized the childhood depression, who then recognized trans issues in children.

    So when she came out in her 20s we said “we love you and always will, whatever pattern you choose to follow; but please, since depression tends to run in the family, get counseling to determine the root of your depression before you do anything irreversible.” It was nearly 20 years later before she found a counselor who understood and with whom she could work. Then she chose transitioning and the name I would have given her if she had been born with a girl’s body.

    She is now so much happier and more open. If only…I am so glad for TT that his family is knowledgeable in ways we were not 40 some years ago.

    We loved our son and we love our daughter – our daughter carries our son’s memories and has been/is/and always will be our beloved offspring. But not all trans children are so lucky. Many are rejected by family and friends and the suicide rate among trans and gender queer individuals is tragically high.

    Please accept people for who they say they are backed up by how they act. The person knows better than anyone else who they are intrinsically. And if we truly accept and support them, perhaps we can reduce the high suicide rate while helping these precious people also become who they are meant to be, just as we as conscientious and loving parents try to help our cis children become who they are meant to be – and all will be happier, loving, productive members of society.

  73. Joanne August 6, 2013 at 6:43 pm #

    I hope that if I ever have to help my child work through issues with her gender that I can be as amazing a parent as you and your partner have been to the Tiny Tornado.

  74. Kristen from MA August 7, 2013 at 2:38 pm #

    City & State
    Salem MA
    TT is a lucky kid to have such loving parents. Best wishes to the whole family.

  75. queezy August 7, 2013 at 4:40 pm #

    What disturbed me about this article was that the author has such strong gender stereotypes. Girls have to like pink, and ruffles, and sequins, and flowers, and ribbons? The author pines over the loss of Tiny Tornado’s long, beautiful hair, and wishes her child would wear cute skirts and dresses. Quite obviously, she is disappointed that she didn’t get a girly girl. (And Tiny Tornado can, no doubt, perceive that.) This is a tragedy in itself.

    Why do we, as a society, have such a propensity to insist that little girls adopt this type of superficial and artificial femininity? I’m sure there are children (male and female) whose own tastes lean toward pink and flowers, but I’m also sure there are kids who learn who either learn these preferences from their parents or who have their own preferences stomped out if they don’t happen to prefer the “appropriate” style for their gender.

    Although Tiny Tornado’s refusal to be slotted into this stereotype is not the only evidence that he may be transgender, it does seem to form a large proportion of what the parents consider evidence in this case. If the author of this article feels, in any way, that TT is transgender because of his refusal to fit into her perception of what a girl *should* be like, that misperception may be transmitted to TT in some subtle way. Then, when it comes time for TT to make a decision about his gender, he may feel that his only two options are stereotypical boy or stereotypical girl, rather than whatever awesome kind of boy or girl he actually is.

  76. Dr. G.G. Bolich August 7, 2013 at 6:02 pm #

    City & State
    Spokane, WA
    Why does recognizing a third gender matter?
    Gender is fundamental to personal and social identity. It also plays a basic function in guiding people into social roles. In binary gender systems third gender people are left without a culturally sanctioned gender home. This unnecessarily and adversely impacts their personal identities and social functioning. Society itself suffers from its failure to recognize, appreciate, and properly appropriate a third gender. Recognizing a third gender benefits both society and individual third gender persons.

    • nem August 8, 2013 at 5:09 pm #

      Yes, thank you. It is cruel and awful to live in a world that does not recognize your completely valid existence. Although, it is important for your to recognize that third gender is a term commonly used in indigenous communities for their specific cultural gender identities that do not fit into the male/female binary. Please refer to non-indigenous identities as non-binary, please.

    • Lianne August 15, 2013 at 1:49 am #

      City & State
      Canada
      Is there no room between recognizing a third (fourth, fifth) gender and choosing one of those nonbinary genders as the default position from which to raise one’s child?

      I ask, because AFAICS the family has only spoken about rejecting the second position (the ‘baby X’ approach) and it seems quite a few people are reading a failure to recognize a ‘third gender’ into that. I’m not sure that’s a justified reading; that it came up as an option implies to me that they both recognize nonbinary genders, and have at least one (and likely more) individuals who identify as such among their friends and/or acquaintances.

      • Angela August 15, 2013 at 1:01 pm #

        Why is there so much discussion about what kind of friends they have? It sounds a little bit like ‘I have black friends so I can’t be a racist’ defense. It only has relevance insofar as the child has opportunities to interact with other gender non-conforming folks, but not as a way of showing whether their decisions are properly motivated or what’s best for the child.

  77. Emma August 8, 2013 at 6:28 am #

    Beautifully written!

  78. nem August 8, 2013 at 5:07 pm #

    I sort’ve enjoyed this article, until i reached the part where the parents insisted on not mentioning nonbinary gender identities to their kids. Really?! Are you SERIOUS?! When I was growing up, I knew all along that i wasn’t a boy, and i wasn’t a girl, but i didn’t know there was anything else and it hurt SO MUCH.

    Also I swear, stop using terms such as “biological gender” unless you are referring to yourself. It is an outdated, harmful set of terms that alienate and erase the existences of trans* and intersex people. My vagina is not a “female organ”, just as my liver is not a “female organ”. Why do we have to gender other people’s genitalia? It’s so gross.

  79. BurnTheWitch February 21, 2014 at 3:06 pm #

    Very sad that when your friend commented that your child was “boyish” that you didn’t say “How silly that you associate boys with any particular behavior! Haven’t you heard that gender roles are old fashioned? Girls can do anything!”

    There is nothing in TT’s story that suggests anything about TT’s innate “gender identity” — only that TT has a strong preference for the behaviors that are applauded in boys and decried in girls. If you — the adult — believe that certain behaviors are inherently “boyish,” it is completely logical for TT to believe that too. It makes me want to cry that presumably educated adults, upon hearing that a child doesn’t want to wear a dress, would conclude that the child must surely be a boy because real girls love dresses. Good god, no magic “gender identity” is necessary to explain why someone who doesn’t fit the mold would resent being pushed into societally mandated gendered behaviors,

    For those who might say I surely don’t understand — I raised a gender-nonconforming boy who is now a healthy gay man. He used to twirl around in dresses and wear nail polish and insist that he would never, never grow a beard. My way of supporting him was not to drag him to the endocrinologist but to let him know he could do anything and dress any way. I bought him a doll not because he was a girl deep inside, but because why on earth should a boy not have a doll? He is EXACTLY of the demographic that is now being treated with hormone therapy. Every bit of research on the matter has concluded that most gender-nonconforming children do not grow up to be transgender adults.

    And if you’re going to tell me that “gender identity” isn’t the same as “gender expression” I defy you to tell me a story about a transgender child that doesn’t heavily rely on gender stereotypes as being indicative of the child’s “true gender.”

    • Zoe Brain March 15, 2014 at 10:52 am #

      “My way of supporting him was not to drag him to the endocrinologist but to let him know he could do anything and dress any way. I bought him a doll not because he was a girl deep inside, but because why on earth should a boy not have a doll? He is EXACTLY of the demographic that is now being treated with hormone therapy.”

      No he isn’t. There are significant differences. See

      The treatment of adolescent transsexuals: changing insights. Cohen-Ketternis et al, J Sex Med. 2008 Aug;5(8):1892-7.

      “Every bit of research on the matter has concluded that most gender-nonconforming children do not grow up to be transgender adults. ”

      Sort of. Mere gender nonconformity is quite different from transsexuality. But as it turns out, most kids who in addition to being gender nonconformal also exhibit certain other traits, they don’t desist. Merely gender nonconforming kids like your son won’t want, and certainly don’t need, puberty delayers. In fact it would be harmful psychologically to them, if not physiologically. But other kids do need them,

      See
      http://aebrain.blogspot.com.au/2014/02/methodological-questions-in-childhood.html

      Please read what the article said:
      “The Tiny Tornado will have a lot to figure out as he gets older: whether to go through puberty as a boy or a girl; ”

      Exactly. From the data in the article, the body dissatisfaction goes far beyond mere gender nonconformity. It’s not (just) about clothes.

  80. Zoe Brain March 15, 2014 at 9:16 pm #

    Just ignore it. As you can read from the numerous posts, this “mark” is a TERF. You can tell by the language – “trans cult” etc. Very stereotyped.

    Nazis gotta hate Jews, Kluckers gotta hate Blacks. Just substitute a few tokens in the sentences they write, and they’re all the same shrill, fanatic voices pretending they’re relevant. Not Trolls doing it for shits and giggles, this is their Religion.

  81. remark October 23, 2014 at 8:40 am #

    City & State
    Germany
    I (am woman) was raised only amoung boys and as I child I was really like a boy. I hated pink – not because I was no girl, just because I prefered blue. I played soccer, climbed trees, never wore skirts – nothing had to do with my feeling of any kind of gender. It is a different to “behave” like a boy and feel like a boy! I never felt like a boy, so I am still a girl because this has always been inside me. But if a child feels “the other way” it is ok no matter of the behaviour. Boys can play with toys are have a play kitchen – that doesn’t make them girls unless they feel it.

    I truly believe that it doesn’t change anything if you let your girl play soccer and your boy play with toys – they will become what they are inside! They might not be sure, undecided and most likely scared but you can never force them into one direction. It is not that they change their gender – it is that they live the gender god already has given them in the inside!

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