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ERipley

Gender identity and children.

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ERipley

My son is 5.5. I think lately he’s going through a phase of figuring out what’s more common for boys and girls in society and what he prefers. I have noticed though that he prefers feminine things. His game characters are all girls/women and he was very jealous when his sisters were given sparkly dresses for Christmas. Turns out they were way too big for the girls so he’s been running around in the dresses and he loves it! He needs a super hero costume to go to a school holiday event soon and now he wants to go as a well known female villain.

 

My thoughts are, is this common at this age? I don’t see other 5.5 year old boys running around with nail polish. Maybe they just do it at home?

 

I have always raised my son to be a feminist and to him women are amazing and powerful, as much as any men anyway. I’ve never done “blue for boys and pink for girls” and toys have always been gender neutral. I’m doing this have I confused him as to what society expects?

 

I guess I’m just unsure what extent to encourage this to. I don’t want to encourage him to the extent I confuse him, and I also don’t want him to ever think we wouldn’t be supportive. I want him to be who he is, but I know how cruel children can be and he is incredibly sensitive.

 

Is anyone else in the same situation? Is this even a situation at all or am I totally overthinking it?

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Crap Napper

But isn't the very point of gender neutrality in toys, games, clothes etc to allow children to decide on their preferences without the pressure of societal expectations? Allow him to explore, otherwise how can he know?

 

FWIW, my now 15yo ds spent a good few months breastfeeding a baby doll when he was around 3.

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ERipley

But isn't the very point of gender neutrality in toys, games, clothes etc to allow children to decide on their preferences without the pressure of societal expectations? Allow him to explore, otherwise how can he know?

 

FWIW, my now 15yo ds spent a good few months breastfeeding a baby doll when he was around 3.

 

Yes, I did want him to explore without societal expectations but now he’s about to start school and those expectations are there. I don’t think it would be fair to put him in a room full of children who have been raised on pink and blue without fair warning that some people are going to be unpleasant when you do something they’re not used to. Of course I’m going to allow him to explore but how do I protect him at the same time? And when I say he’s sensitive, I mean it. He gets deeply upset if random kids in the park are mean and he will refuse to go back to the same park for months.

Edited by ERipley
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little lion

Has he been to big school yet? I aimed to be pretty gender neutral with my two sons — we have dolls, wands, books about princesses, nail polish etc. But I noticed once my oldest hit big school he was aware of the boy/girl divide more and came home talking about girl colour and that rubbish.

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hotsonfornowhere

My DS is now 6, will be 7 in June. He got a rainbow twirl skirt for Christmas:)

He will still wear nail polish, and his favourite pjs are a pink Hatchimal set.

He has however, decided that most of this stays at home, has presumably picked up at school what his peers find acceptable. Although now it is school holidays he wore his rainbow skirt to daycare drop off for his brothers. He made his own Rapunzel wig and used to wear that always with a pink dress, but thankfully that seems to have stopped! I only say thankfully though because we used to keep stepping on his "hair" :lol:

I did discourage him from wearing a princess dress to the school disco very early in the year, though framed it as he should dress as the theme for the night. Now though I would quite happily let him wear a dress to school if he wanted. I guess I wanted him to work out what he was happy doing at school first since it was his first year there this year.

I haven't heard that he has copped any grief for what he likes, though he has seemed to work out a bit what others find acceptable at school etc.

I have also told him that if anyone says anything to him about being a girl/liking pink etc that he can tell them to bugger off, and that he can respond with pink is for everyone, that there is nothing wrong with being a girl and that girls rule too so it doesn't matter!

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TheGreenSheep

Agree with Crap Napper.

 

As a mum who’s boys played with pink kitchens, rode pink bikes, wear pink T-shirt’s, they also have freedom to decide, but also strong ideas of who they are and what gender they identify as or with.

 

I personally think let it be and let him be. Free to grow and have fun with out expectation.

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Moonl!ght

It’s normal for him!

 

I can’t really answer your question but it is normal for one of my sons and the opposite of normal for the other. Both were raised in the same house with same toys etc.

 

I think your son will navigate his way through his “differences”. And part of that may be covering them up sometimes which is also okay.

 

Yes you don’t see many 5.5 year old boys wearing nail polish but neither do you see many girls of that age wearing it either. I’d let things run how they are and provide counseling and support down the track if it’s ever needed.

Edited by Moonl!ght

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little lion

^ yep, that was my boy, came home sad because kids teased him about his rainbow lunchbox. I told him he had two options — get a new lunchbox or keep the old one and tell kids he did not care what they thought was for girls/boys. He kept his lunchbox. Love him.

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ERipley

Has he been to big school yet? I aimed to be pretty gender neutral with my two sons — we have dolls, wands, books about princesses, nail polish etc. But I noticed once my oldest hit big school he was aware of the boy/girl divide more and came home talking about girl colour and that rubbish.

 

He stats next year. Interesting point that he may just pick up on it by himself and then he can make some more informed decisions.

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BadCat

Playing with gender roles isn't going to define who he is in the end. It's not that simple.

 

You could force him to live as a girl but it would not make him one if he isn't.

 

Let him choose what he wants to do, be, play with. He will know his gender in time.

 

If it helps, many boys dress up and wear nail polish and sparkly stuff around that age and still turn out to be boys.

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Kallie88

Ds1 is only 18 months so we're a bit off this but he loves wearing his big sisters dresses so we've talked about it. We plan to prepare him that some people think girls and boys can't do/ wear certain things but we don't believe that, and support him in his choices. We believe in building his resilience to those sorts of attitudes rather than encouraging conformity if that's not who he is.

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ERipley

Ds1 is only 18 months so we're a bit off this but he loves wearing his big sisters dresses so we've talked about it. We plan to prepare him that some people think girls and boys can't do/ wear certain things but we don't believe that, and support him in his choices. We believe in building his resilience to those sorts of attitudes rather than encouraging conformity if that's not who he is.

 

This is what we believe too and I’ve told him the same thing.

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Mel1609

I also have a 6yo like this. He's a twin and his brother is more what you'd call bog standard. Here's also very sensitive, like your ds, and there have been times when ive been unsure how others will handle his clothing choices. Sometimes he likes to go to the shops in a dress, recently he went to a party in a full get up- dress, clip on earrings, tiara and gold shoes. He knew the other kids would look at him, but after some consideration he decided he didn't care. ( i was so mentally hi fiving him ) At the party the kids did look at him strangely for about 30 seconds, then they moved on. Many of the parents were confused too. One dad asked me on the way out " i just have to know, why is he dressed like that?" I answered because he wants to. That simple.

 

I think the older they grow the more they become aware of social norms, and may decide not to dress a certain way, which is a shame. But until then im just going with it as im sure it will have a limited lifespan unfortunately. I love the fact that he chooses not to conform, he is his own person. Enjoy it, OP.

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ERipley

Playing with gender roles isn't going to define who he is in the end. It's not that simple.

 

You could force him to live as a girl but it would not make him one if he isn't.

 

Let him choose what he wants to do, be, play with. He will know his gender in time.

 

If it helps, many boys dress up and wear nail polish and sparkly stuff around that age and still turn out to be boys.

 

I hope I have been clear that I have no personal preference regarding gender. I just want to know how to help him navigate his way through a world that can be very cruel at times.

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seayork2002

 

 

I hope I have been clear that I have no personal preference regarding gender. I just want to know how to help him navigate his way through a world that can be very cruel at times.

 

By letting him be? In a way you are trying to 'box' him in yourself, (imo).

 

Just leave him to do what he wants

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ERipley

I also have a 6yo like this. He's a twin and his brother is more what you'd call bog standard. Here's also very sensitive, like your ds, and there have been times when ive been unsure how others will handle his clothing choices. Sometimes he likes to go to the shops in a dress, recently he went to a party in a full get up- dress, clip on earrings, tiara and gold shoes. He knew the other kids would look at him, but after some consideration he decided he didn't care. ( i was so mentally hi fiving him ) At the party the kids did look at him strangely for about 30 seconds, then they moved on. Many of the parents were confused too. One dad asked me on the way out " i just have to know, why is he dressed like that?" I answered because he wants to. That simple.

 

I think the older they grow the more they become aware of social norms, and may decide not to dress a certain way, which is a shame. But until then im just going with it as im sure it will have a limited lifespan unfortunately. I love the fact that he chooses not to conform, he is his own person. Enjoy it, OP.

 

I think what worries me slightly is that he’s so much like me. I was an all out non-conformist and I know first hand the kind of reaction that gets from some people. I found it hilarious but I had a pretty thick skin. I just worry he’s going to be non-conformist too but then take it to heart when people don’t like it. Of course he needs to build resilience but how do you do that without losing spirit on the way?

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Mel1609

I think just be supportive. If ds says to me that people are looking at him, i just tell him it's because he's so gorgeous. I don't think we need to word them up about people's prejudices at this age. Unfortunately, they'll find out on their own. Or maybe not... who knows??

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ERipley

 

 

By letting him be? In a way you are trying to 'box' him in yourself, (imo).

 

Just leave him to do what he wants

 

I don’t think I am. I haven’t actually done anything yet. That’s why I’m here, asking for advice.

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ERipley

^ yep, that was my boy, came home sad because kids teased him about his rainbow lunchbox. I told him he had two options — get a new lunchbox or keep the old one and tell kids he did not care what they thought was for girls/boys. He kept his lunchbox. Love him.

 

That’s gorgeous.

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ERipley

My DS is now 6, will be 7 in June. He got a rainbow twirl skirt for Christmas:)

He will still wear nail polish, and his favourite pjs are a pink Hatchimal set.

He has however, decided that most of this stays at home, has presumably picked up at school what his peers find acceptable. Although now it is school holidays he wore his rainbow skirt to daycare drop off for his brothers. He made his own Rapunzel wig and used to wear that always with a pink dress, but thankfully that seems to have stopped! I only say thankfully though because we used to keep stepping on his "hair" :lol:

I did discourage him from wearing a princess dress to the school disco very early in the year, though framed it as he should dress as the theme for the night. Now though I would quite happily let him wear a dress to school if he wanted. I guess I wanted him to work out what he was happy doing at school first since it was his first year there this year.

I haven't heard that he has copped any grief for what he likes, though he has seemed to work out a bit what others find acceptable at school etc.

I have also told him that if anyone says anything to him about being a girl/liking pink etc that he can tell them to bugger off, and that he can respond with pink is for everyone, that there is nothing wrong with being a girl and that girls rule too so it doesn't matter!

 

That’s really lovely. I hope my son will be as confident to do what he wants.

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ERipley
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Mel1609

 

 

By letting him be? In a way you are trying to 'box' him in yourself, (imo).

 

Just leave him to do what he wants

 

Where do you get that from?

 

Honestly, OP, you can't ask anything without someone overstepping the mark. Ignore that comment.

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knottygirl

My son as a 4 year old loves pink. He picked out a pink lunchbox to start prep with. I did explain that some kids might be mean about it, even though there is nothing wrong with it. He thought about it and changed to a green one.

 

Last year though going into grade 4 he picked flamingo book contact for his books. He’s old enough now to know so I didn’t say anything. He just said he wanted that one cause he likes flamingoes. I don’t know if anyone teased him I didn’t ask. He has had his fair share of teasing anyway through his other asd quirks. He’s got long hair which he’s been teased about but that’s sort of dried up now thank goodness. He likes his hair and likes it long that’s all that matters.

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CallMeFeral

My thoughts are, is this common at this age? I don’t see other 5.5 year old boys running around with nail polish. Maybe they just do it at home?

 

I have always raised my son to be a feminist and to him women are amazing and powerful, as much as any men anyway. I’ve never done “blue for boys and pink for girls” and toys have always been gender neutral. I’m doing this have I confused him as to what society expects?

 

I guess I’m just unsure what extent to encourage this to. I don’t want to encourage him to the extent I confuse him, and I also don’t want him to ever think we wouldn’t be supportive. I want him to be who he is, but I know how cruel children can be and he is incredibly sensitive.

 

So firstly, yes it's extremely common, especially in boys that are allowed to be themselves without family/friends making slight disparaging comments about choices they make. It means you've done a good job. Blind freddy can see that 'girls' stuff is more fun at this age - it's sparkly, colourful, bright, fluffy and generally decorative. I strongly believe that only a very small minority of children are likely to be naturally drawn to the muted dark blues and dirty greens and browns that are the boys shoe sections in a lot of shops, without there having been a social influence pointing them that way.

BUT... boys find out very quickly what is socially acceptable, so by the time you see them out in public they have likely learned to tone it down due to the attention it draws. If they've been to daycare it will happen quite early. My son loved silver shoes and pettiskirts, but learned after a couple of times where he wore pettiskirts to daycare that he didn't like the way some kids responded (the carers were awesome). Even the subtle cues of people not intentionally being rude are picked up on - he and his sister ran into the post office - when she ran in the lady went "oh how beautiful you look!" and then when he ran in after her went "oh, is that your sister's?"

 

You haven't confused him at all. Gender expectations exist but that doesn't mean he has to keep to them. I try to treat it like I do religion, i.e. "some people think that blue is for boys and pink is for girls, but it's ridiculous and every colour is for everybody, but they don't know that because they have been brought up believing in pink/blue" (ok I'm not that blatant when it's religion because I think gender roles are far more ridiculous than religion). But you get what I mean. You can explain others behaviour by explaining common beliefs and where they come from, but make it very clear that those are not beliefs he has to abide by, especially when they are blatant nonsense.

If he is sensitive (my son is), he will probably gradually start to comply with gender roles. And that's fine. But by letting him take the lead on that, you are showing him that he is allowed to do and be what he wants to be and you will support him.

I went through that dilemma. My heart in my mouth about whether he would be teased. The desire to advise him to not do it in public because people are cruel and ignorant and he was sensitive. My mama bear on guard when he wore the pettiskirt out in public. In the end though, I decided that if I told him he could be what he wanted to be, and if society told him something different, he could decide to listen to society but he would always know that whatever he wanted was fine with me. So I had to live that with him by not implying he should change to fit society, even if he was going to come to that conclusion himself.

I have at times armed him with information - I think it was something like "some people think boys can't wear skirts, which is stupid because they used to wear them all the time. But if anybody asks why you're wearing one, you can say "because I want to"". Just to arm him with some responses. I didn't drill it in though because I think it was better for him to go out and wear it with confidence and obliviousness as opposed to pre-anxious about whether people would say bad things to him. So mostly I didn't say anything at all until someone had actually said something, THEN I'd use that as the lead in to a conversation about potential responses.

 

Truth be told, he probably won't do it for long. Especially if he's sensitive, he will be keen to conform. Kids might be cruel. But he will always know that as far as you were concerned, he was allowed to be whatever he wanted to be. Good luck!

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Sancti-claws

Just whatever you do, do not do what a mother I met when my daughter first went to school did, referring to her son as "my little fag" and "fag boy!" because her beautiful 4yo loved little ponies and playing with his big sister's friends and toys.

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