Born that way?

What if your young daughter decided she wanted to dress like a boy?  Would you be fine with that, even indulge in your daughter’s requests?  For many, this isn’t much of an issue.  Lots of young girls decide they’re more tomboy than feminine.  And it isn’t seen as abnormal.

But what if it went further?  What if your daughter decided that they actually were a boy – wanting to be called a boy’s name and become a boy?  And what if it were actually your SON who could no longer identify as a boy?  What if he started to wear dresses, changed his name, and insisted that he was now a girl?

What if he were only 5 when he made his wishes known?

This is what parents, Steve and Barb, were faced with when their son, Harry, decided he felt more like a girl than a boy, as shown in the documentary about parents who are raising their son as a girl on “Our America” with Lisa Ling. 

Harry had always gravitated towards dolls, flowers, or other such things that leaned more towards a feminine sense rather than what “normal” boys seemed interested in.  When he’d draw pictures of himself, he always drew himself as a girl.  And in kindergarten, the teacher talked with the parents about how Harry got into fights at school with the other boys when he insisted he was not a boy, but a girl.  Harry’s even decided that he was no longer Harry, and wanted to be called “Hailey”. 

The parents met with several different therapists who all mentioned the same thing – transgender.  But Harry/Hailey was only 5.  Not only that, his Baptist parents found that everything they knew about sex and gender from their religious beliefs was being questioned.  Hailey’s father even admitted anger and shame in this new transformation, not really wanting to accept that his boy wanted to be a girl.  He was hoping it would be a phase. 

There aren’t clear reasons as to how a person becomes transgendered.  But there are several theories. 

The first is the “hormonal wash theory”.  Basically, this theory trends that we’re born the way we are.  By the 7th week of gestation, all embryos have both male and female primordial ducts.  If the egg is fertilized with the X chromosome, the embryo continues growing as a female.  If it is given a Y chromosome, then a hormonal switch happens.  The female parts are dissolved and destroyed, and male parts continue to grow.  These chromosomes also cause brain differences, as well, developing feminine or masculine traits, as well as other human traits like whether we are right or left-handed, calm or high energy, etc.  However, 1 in every 200 births results in “intersexuality” – when the chromosomes in a human are not the cut and dry XX or XY.  This may cause the body to develop one way and the brain to develop a different way.  (For a more complete description on how someone can be born transgendered, go here.)

The second is the “nurture theory”.  This is when it’s believed that the environment a child grows up in has a bigger effect than genetics, creating how they turn out to be in temperament, skills, likes and dislikes, and even gender identity and preference. 

Many who are transgendered realize their differences from early on.  This may prove difficult as a child who identifies with the opposite sex grows older.  By denying their differences, they hate the body they live in – sometimes resulting in drug abuse or other addictions, depression….even suicide. 

For Steve and Barb, it became clear that supporting their son, now 7 year old daughter, was most important, and vital to her well being.  They realized this was how she was happier.

“God made her just like this.”

Of course, Hailey’s parents know that while life is really easy for their son/daughter now, there will be many difficulties that lie ahead.  In her young life, Hailey’s peers are accepting of the fact that Hailey identifies as a girl.  But eventually, the differences in Hailey will be glaring.  And even Hailey will realize that she is the only girl with a penis, and that what she has chosen isn’t how other kids grow up.  Her parents are plagued with questions about how will it affect her love life, her future, her well being as she gets older.

Do you believe that the parents of Hailey made the right choice in allowing their son to dress, act, and be a girl?  Is a 5 year old really capable of knowing this much about themselves, or could his/her parents be encouraging their son’s transformation?

Would you be able to allow your child to identify as the opposite gender they were physically born as?

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4 thoughts on “Born that way?”

  1. I commend these parents for what must have been a very difficult choice. Their child will grow up feeling cherished and accepted by the two people who matter most in the world, which will make the difficult times ahead much easier for her. There are many cases of such a young child realizing that they were born in the wrong body, and parents helping their child to create a lifestyle that better suits them. Just check out Kim Petras, a British pop star who was born male, and transitioned to female at a very early age. She is a very well adjusted, and beautiful young woman, who has not suffered at all for the decision her parents made to support her.

  2. Seconded. Good for them! I imagine this decision was particularly difficult considering their existing beliefs and values, and it is fantastic that they chose to support what their child needed rather than forcing her into a mold she didn’t fit.

    Her life will be hard–less so as the LGBT community becomes more accepted, but unquestionably, she will face challenges. Knowing that her parents support her will go a long way towards helping her through what lies ahead.

  3. Thank you, unusually wonderful parents!

    Children are people, too. Most are entirely capable of understanding certain truths about themselves from very young ages.

    Children do experience phases but few children ever go through a “I want everyone to pick on me” phase. Children who are willing to endure social stigma in order to be true to themselves are only being as purely honest as they can be.

    Nurture does not overcome Nature.

    There is something that needs to be said here, however. Not all children who somehow cross social gender barriers need to be accommodated because of a genetic mishap. All people should be accommodated because it is the civilized, compassionate thing to do. Our social expectations and demands of gender are too rigid and do not properly account for the naturally diverse range of talents, abilities, and styles all genders are capable of.

    If biological reasons help some people understand the issues, it is okay. But at some point we will have to move beyond the biological excuses and accept our healthy range of differences.

  4. there is such a large gray area between nature and nurture.

    And we as parents have a massive influence on what happens to our children.
    Usually we don’t know it at the time.
    We are raising several grand children of our chemically dependent children. The correlations to earlier ways of life become painfully obvious. The grand father was always taking medicine. We gave them cough syrup for a minor cough.. but many times because it made us feel less guilty for not feeding them properly, proper rest, etc. They in turn do it to their children.
    Antibiotics excess are another example.

    This is also showing up in the transgender child.

    How we think about ourselves is usually passed on to our children. where it shows up, and the connection, is many times not intuitively obvious. But bringing a fresh set of eyes to the picture. In our sports we even have umpires.

    One of the children hates to do homework, and poops in his pants -at 9 years old, and only during the daytime. They also let him sleep with them at night.

    Is these acts of nature or nurture? His parents swear it’s nature.

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