Posted by: Cheryl Christoforos | 2011-05-31

My 3.5 year old son

Dear Expert,

I would like your opinion on a statement that my 3.5 year old son has made a few times. Last night when we arrived home from school he said out to no one in particular " when I grow up to be a girl and wear dress" . I would like to know if this is just a phase that all boys and girls go through or is he confused in understanding the difference in the sexes or is he becoming curious in the opposite sex. I also have a 1 year old daughter who he is infatuated with.

Kind regards,

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageTransgender advisor

Hi Cheryl

Children go through different developmental stages of understanding the difference between the sex of their body and the privileges that go with social understandings of gender. Let's face it gender is a constructed set of rules and privileges that we attach to the sexes of the body for various reasons. Children learn this construct as time goes by.

Sometimes they learn quickly how things work, sometimes it takes them some time and more personal experiences and examples. These lessons are like any other lessons of socialisation.

There are health professionals who will tell you that children will explore these behaviours when they are very small. The best course of action is to not attach negative connotations to events where they express cross gendered ideas. Just gently explain to them how things stick together. Hostile behaviour towards a child in these moments could very well lead to suppression of identity that could very well lead to sexual behavioural problems later in life and gender identity struggles. While allowing them to express gender across the board will help them understand better what works for them and what won't.

If you are worried that your child might be transgender then you need to take the child to an expert in transgender issues. The behaviour you explain does sound very far from it though, at this point. Please email us if you need a referral.

Robert Hamblin
Advocacy Manager
021 633 5287

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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