June 30, 2011 1:23 PM

Gender confusion in boys: how to help

My column at The Catholic Herald this week. Please keep in mind I only have 600 words to make a point, and my point is that there is hope for children with gender confusion.  Parents who love their kids need to look beyond the current PC agenda and set their feet on a path to emotional and spiritual health.

Children are individuals, not political pawns. The current emphasis on changing the social milieu to accept and approve aberrant behavior may actually freeze them in a place where deeper emotional/psychological issues remain unaddressed.

My-Princess-Boy-Book-300x300.pngI have linked to the article in toto as well as providing more reading and resources below.

"We've decided not to share Storm's sex for now -- a tribute to freedom and choice in place of limitation, a stand up to what the world could become in Storm's lifetime (a more progressive place? ...)."

Storm's two preschool brothers -- Jazz and Kio -- have enjoyed lots of latitude when it comes to gender roles. Both typically forego haircuts and dress as girls. They know but aren't telling whether they have a sister or brother.

If you are of a certain age, chances are you never heard the terms gender-bending or gender-creativity when you were growing up. Boys were boys and girls were girls and life was just that simple and straightforward. Now push-the-envelope media wage war against those still bound by such "harmful" traditions. To protect some from bullying, schools have bullied others whose belief that "male and female He created them" is seen as intolerance.

No wonder we're confused. A mom hip to "The Today Show's" PC doctrine won't think twice when her own son puts on a tiara and tutu. She learned from Princess Boy's mom that she should accept and affirm his choice. Then check with the school to make sure they've read the book to all the classes.

In today's culture, this is what passes for unconditional love: freedom, acceptance, affirmation. But would unconditional love push a child down a path that could lead to a lifetime of confusion and despair rather than getting him the help he needs to grow and thrive as a man -- the man God created him to be? 

Read more at Catholic Herald

I first became aware of this problem and the quiet work of therapists to dig deep to truly help troubled children through two separate mothers of preschool boys who contacted me to share their stories.  I'm happy to report that their sons are both getting the help they need.

Here are more resources:

Gender Identity Disorder in Children

Boys Will Be Girls: Catholic Therapists Help Kids Overcome "Transgender" Issues

Answering Parents' Questions on Gender Confusion

Parents taking a common sense approach to finding professional help for untangling their child's confusion - rather than encouraging it - will be very much going against the flow.  Currently, it's "chic" for moms to encourage their girly boys.  And fathers seem not to be stepping up to the plate.

I'm focused here on preschoolers, not adolescents or adults, but here is more discussion of the current level of dysfunction:

My Princess Boy: Encouraging gender role confusion

Gender Identity Issues in children - is tolerance the answer?

Gender Diversity propaganda in public schools

Propaganda in children's literature

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As with most issues there are two sides and I can see them both. Gender identity disorder is a problem and should be addressed. Preschool boys or girls who express a consistent wish that they had been born the other gender should get gentle, kind direction pointing them to the wonderful ways God has made them. At the same time, I also feel that some individuals definition of masculine and feminine behavior is far to narrow and that narrow definition can be equally as damaging to a child. Not all boys are into traditional masculine sports, this however does not mean the child is dysfunctional. Not all girls like to play with Barbies this does not mean they have a problem that needs to be fixed. God made men and women different but he also made wide diversity within each gender. Extremes on either end are not healthy.

Posted by: Diane | June 30, 2011 3:24 PM

Actually, Diane, what you have expressed are both part of the same side and I don't think there are many rational people who would disagree with you.

But did you read my article???? Because the problem is that the other side is one that actually celebrates boys dressing up in girls clothes, writes books about them, parades them on TV and gets busy creating a dysfunctional trend.

That's the point of view you need to be arguing with.

Posted by: Barbara | June 30, 2011 3:36 PM

I used to babysit a little boy who had deep gender issues. He wanted to wear his sister's dresses and pink shoes. His father died tragically when he was only 6 months old and his mother just did not know what to do. She allowed the behavior, all the while deeply concerned with it.

However, when puberty hit, he snapped out of it. He's a musical theater major, and a bit flamboyant , but he no longer has gender confusion issues. I just saw him this weekend and you'd never have guessed that he was the same person who used to beg to dress to as Dorthy.

He's not gay or transgendered. What someone does as a young child doesn't mean that their fate is set. Is hate to see other confused kids used as props for an adult agenda.

Posted by: lauren | June 30, 2011 4:34 PM

How would one know whether the behavior is problematic, and when to start worrying? I have a 1 1/2 year old who absolutely loves to do what his big sister is doing. Sometimes he will do boy things, like trucks; other times he will be putting on jewelry or trying to put on her clothes. But I'm pretty sure it's just that he loves his big sister, and whatever she's doing is cool.

Posted by: Jessi | July 1, 2011 6:16 AM

Jessi, my mother tells a similar story about me and my little brother: he wanted dolls and buggies to be like me. She gave him GI Joe dolls and actually gave him my old buggy, to my father's consternation. But my brother filled the buggy with rocks and sticks and and had backyard commando battles with his trusty buggy alongside.

He came out fine.

Posted by: Therese Z | July 1, 2011 9:43 AM

I'm the mom of a preschool boy who is being treated for GID. I've been dealing with this issue for 2 years alongside my husband. Jessi, we've found that when boys are doing things out of love, copying older siblings or friends, and they are not engaging exclusively or almost exclusively in "girl" behavior, it's generally not a problem. Disorders are diagnosed based on the duration of the behavior and the intensity. But I would caution parents not to dismiss gender-switching play. I dismissed my son's behavior as "normal" for a while and my DH saw the problem much earlier than I did. Husbands are usually more sensitive to this issue in sons so if your DH thinks there is a problem, listen to him.

As far as what Diane posted, in her opinion gender roles can be too "narrow." I couldn't disagree more. Hyper-masculine and hyper-feminine roles are not encouraged or embraced in our culture. This is a straw man (an objection based on a faulty premise). I can't think of one occasion where someone told me my son was acting "too girly" when he was parading around with blanket dresses and crowns on but I can think of lots of times when people cautioned me about "repressing him" or hurting his self-expression. Quite honestly, there are not two "extreme" sides in this issue. There is only one. There is the extreme gender bending side and the side of natural law and natural order.

What people are missing, and what breaks my heart, is the hurt these GID children are trying to communicate. This behavior is a cry for help! It's a message that something is terribly wrong. Adults who ignore or encourage this behavior are doing a grave disservice to the dignity of the child.

Posted by: MomS | July 1, 2011 10:05 AM

MomS -

We are really indebted to you for this thoughtful answer. There's no one who knows a subject better than someone who's living through it.

I'm thinking a lot of this has to do with disengaged fathers and mothers running the show. The whole giddy television response seems female-driven. Women at their worst.

Posted by: Barbara | July 1, 2011 12:21 PM

MomS, thank you for your reply. I think we are probably okay because my son also loves trucks, balls, and books--it's not a focused thing, just a "so this is what we are playing now" thing. I'm not concerned about him hugging a baby doll or pushing a doll in a stroller--after all, his daddy does those things with him. I just wanted to make sure I wasn't ignoring a problem....

At what age should I not let my son play with jewelry? Or should I try to restrict him to manly colors/styles? He has a big sister who likes jewelry and an older boy cousin with autism who takes great comfort from beads and so loves necklaces. I've gotten his cousin some "manly" necklaces but his grandpa buys him anything he finds that's big and chunky, and he tends to commandeer his sisters' necklaces too... in his case it's just a texture thing, but I think his love for necklaces may encourage my son to think it's okay, and come to think of it Daddy will put on necklaces when our daughter tells him to, so most likely he doesn't even see jewelry as a "girl thing."

Posted by: Jessi | July 2, 2011 1:54 AM

Any advice on finding a professional to help? I am growing increasingly concerned about my son.

Posted by: Michele | December 11, 2011 4:39 PM

Michele, you can contact NARTH, the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality. They should be able to help you find someone. The number they have posted on their website is 1-888-364-4744. May God give you peace.

Posted by: MomS | December 12, 2011 9:07 PM

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