As supportive parents find each other through mailing lists on the internet (see the CNMC and Transkidsfamily) we share stories about our kids, and the problems they face— and the problems we face being thier parents. Over the years a profile builds up, qualities that many of these boys seem to share.
We are astonished to find the same patterns, the same specific behaviors, popping up over and over again. List members collect their own lists of anecodotes.
Some of us have attended gender conferences and listened to presentations by clinicians and pyschiatrists working with these children. I’ve been lucky enough to have spent time talking with Edgardo J. Menvielle, MD, Catherine Tuerk, Greg K. Lehne, Ph.D. and Kim Pearson, all of whom I consider experts on gender non-conforming children. (Kim is an activist and mom, not a caregiver, but she has helped so many families navigate these waters.)
There are very few experts in this area, and very little research.
Some of the kids on our lists are trans; some are tomgirls; some are in flux; some are supressing these qualities and trying to fit in. The following list is not intended to subsitute for any professional opinion on the matter. My list is focused on gender variant boys who frequently do not end up identifying as transgender, though transgender children may share many of these qualities.
I have been told, and forgive the flakiness of the term, that Trans kids and GV boys give off a subtlety different vibe. Professionals working with them often have opinions as to who is really transgender (bound for SRS or a lifetime presenting as female) and who isn’t. But parents—not professionals—are the deciders when it comes to how to raise their children. These professional opinions may never even be voiced, as they work to create the most supportive environment possible, given a family’s, or a community’s…limitations.
It’s important to note here, that even modest accommodations made for these children often have a huge impact on their later mental health and self-esteem.
Without further ado, here’s my list:
- Barbies not Babies: tomgirls (i’ll use that term for GV children throughout this list) are more fascinated by dressing up barbies than nurturing babies.
- Hyper feminine: the most extreme manifestations of femininity are embraced; sparkles; high-heels; make-up; rainbows; glitter; fashion, hair, nails, Jewelry.
- The Princess: A fierce relationship with the barbie princess is almost universal.
- The Drama Queen: volatility; extremes of emotion; blinding despair, giddy elation. All kids are like this; tomgirls often moreso. Favorite quote from despairing tomgirl: “I wish the human race had never existed!”
- Character identification: Identifies exclusively with female characters, even when the story in question has almost no role for female characters. (My son was Bo Peep in Toy story.)
- Averse to Rough & Tumble Play / Team sports: Almost forgot about this one. Obviously, some gender normative kids are like this as well.
- Towel Hair: Many pretend to have long hair, using towels as props. It doesn’t matter if the child is, say, african american. They all want long flowing blonde hair.
- Pink: You can have any color you like, as long as it is pink. In my case, pink and white has given way to pink and black as my son hit age 10. Fortunately, Hello Kitty stuff comes in both flavors.
- Expresses desire to be a Girl: My son was sad he wasn’t born a girl when he was younger. He blamed his mother. Some kids blame God. He cried himself to sleep when he was 3 or 4 a few times over it…that experience changed us.
Here are some anecdotes from our email lists; it’s possible the self-selected nature of our groups have yielded a certain kind of GV boy. Take these with a grain of salt.
- Sociability: This may only manifest in situations that allow it, but far from being guarded introverts, many Tomgirls are ‘popular’ in early years, engaging a wide variety of both male and female friends; in places where boys are more rigorously gendered, these friendships may be exclusively feminine.
- Unwillingness or inability to suppress / ‘fit in’: this might just be a sign of time and place, but many of these younger kids seem reluctant to hide, even when presenting has consequences.
- Creativity: All kids are creative. Tomgirls seem to be very creative; the content, the subject matter, of course, may be limited to hyper-feminine content. My son drew, sculpted, and assembled from recycled materials, approximately 3-400 iconic female figures from the ages of 3-6.
- Unhappy with boy toys: Almost every parent of a tomgirl has a story of an unpleasant holiday moment, when the child unwraps some really butch toy, and bursts into tears—or rage. My child went on an ironically Hulk–like rampage when given a huge green rubber Incredible Hulk.
I welcome comments and additions to this list by Tomgirls, supportive families, professionals, and transgendered individuals. If I’m off-base on any of this, let me know.