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Gender nonconforming worries

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I'm new here, but looking for some advice/feedback about my daughter.  She is now 14.  I just recently stumbled across the term gender-nonconforming, which seems to be a much better descriptor than "my daughter might be transgender, not sure yet." ;-)


I've read a lot of stories from parents who tell how their son (assigned female at birth) told them from very early on that he was really a boy (or vice-versa).  I've also noted the "insistent, consistent, persistent" paradigm.  Needless to say, that ain't my kid.  But I'm also aware of many people that transitioned in college or later.


We live in a really liberal, open, accepting college town, which is great.  And as a parent, I am open and accepting to anything my daughter tells me she is - even if that turns out to be a cisgendered heterosexual.  But parents always gotta worry about something right?  The biggest worry that my wife and I have is that our daughter has always been uncertain, but instead of following her feelings has been guided by how she should behave in order to be accepted by her peers, and that by suppressing her true identity now, she will suffer more as she grows older. 


In other words, I'm happy to wait to find out, as long as the reason for the waiting is not causing harm.  Hard to tell if we've got a gender-fluid child, a cisgender child who was going through an 8 year phase, a transgender child who is suppressing their true identity, or...  Here's the story...


Even from a young age, DD was not into the typical girl things, said she wanted to have a penis (so she could pee standing up), wanted to cut her hair short, hated girl clothes....  But she never said she was a boy.  From about age 6 through elementary school, she shopped exclusively in the boy's department.  She liked to dress up - but in boy's dress clothes.  She wore boys boxer-brief underwear (but, she was deathly afraid that one of her friends would find out).  I told her that boxer briefs (which I wear) were comfortable - and it would be cool and edgy, not necessarily boyish, for a girl to wear them.  Yeah, that didn't make a dent.  Swimwear was trunks and a rash guard shirt.  As she got older, she seemed to feel more different from the girls in her class, but she was never one of the boys.  At 5th grade moving up ceremony, she was the only girl not wearing a dress, and she really didn't like feeling different.  She always kept her hair pulled back in a tight ponytail and when viewed from the front was frequently mistaken for a boy.  She apparently didn't like this.  Around age 8-10 when she asked to get her hair cut short, we said sure, if you want to - whatever makes you feel good.  Just be aware that if you do, you will most likely be assumed to be a boy more often than you are now.  She decided to keep the hair long, and keep it in a pony.  She seemed to be becoming more distanced from her peers and we were worried about her.  Towards the end of 5th grade, we spoke about our concerns with a therapist familiar with transgender kids (without our daughter).  The consensus from that meeting was wait and see.


Then she got to middle school and found her peeps.  She plays ice hockey (on a girl's team) and found some good friends who were more like her.  From outward appearances she seemed to be feeling more comfortable in her own skin.  As boy's pants really just wouldn't fit her anymore, she switched over to wearing sweatpants bought in the girl's department.  She's still not too keen on girl's cut t-shirts, but now in 9th grade her wardrobe has morphed to be much closer to that of a typical teenage girl.  And those factors together seem to make her feel comfortable and accepted.


In terms of wardrobe, she has left boy's clothes behind.  She now wears tight-fitting jeans, which she would have gagged at a few years ago.  In warm weather she wears girl's Nike running shorts, but sometimes tighter-fitting jean shorts (as long as the inseam is not too short).  Shy typically wears unisex-cut t-shirts, but she also wears button-down flannel shirts from time to time (cut for a girl). She wears a girl's cut winter jacket.  She doesn't have a large chest, and probably won't ever, but she always wears the most flattening Nike sports bras.  Footwear is generic sneakers, but now she will wear Birkenstock sandals in warmer weather.


Of course, at the time she went through these changes, she was also going through puberty - so that's another confounding factor. She's 14 now and some of her friends are starting have boyfriends and girlfriends,  but neither my wife nor I have ever been privy to any expression of interest in "dating" or even in whether another person is attractive.  She still seems totally asexual, which I am perfectly happy about :-).  I know that sexual preference is different from gender identity, so even a preference one way or the other wouldn't necessarily say anything about gender.


So I'm not sure what I'm asking.  From outward appearances, she seems to be falling into line with gender norms and she seems to be doing fine.  We just still have these lingering doubts about whether this is really who she is, or whether she is just trying fit in.  If it's not doing future harm, then it's all good.  She does often seem to have difficulty expressing any feelings or closeness with people, particularly her family, and that is a concern for us.  Then again, she is a teenager!


So is this just one reasonably normal path for a child to take growing up, or am I missing something?  We just want our child to be who she (or he) is and be comfortable with that.  Thanks for listening.



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Hi Jeb and welcome.  I'm glad you found a place to ask your questions, nebulous and vague though they appear to be by circumstance.  You don't mention in your post whether you've had a gender conversation with your daughter in recent years.  I'm aware of many girls who, at a young age, expressed a desire to have a penis for the very reason your daughter stated her preference.  And you're right that, even added up, all these signs don't point to transgenderism or a gender non-conforming attitude.


Have you considered sitting down with her and asking what her thoughts and feelings on the matter are now?  I know a lot of parents would hesitate to put their kids on the spot with something so personal, but as open and affirming as you and your wife are, I can see a lot of benefit to having a brief conversation with your daughter about this.  If only just to let her know you'll support her in whatever discoveries she makes about herself and whatever choices she makes to fit in.  The key thing is that you want her to be happy, and from the tone of your post I suspect she already knows this. :) 

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Welcome Jeb.  My grandson has had gender issues from before i came out and transitioned.  He is finding his way.  Long hair and some of his choices remain as a sign that he remains a bit fluid at the least.  I know he has support regardless of where he goes.  Of course hormones and peer pressure will affect his path.  I am trying not to influence his decision.  

The path he is taking simply in not going all out one direction or another would never have been tolerated when i was a child, especially as a young man.  It is wonderful that you are supportive regardless fo the final path your child may follow.  We are simply not in control and that is probably a good thing.





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Hi Jeb


In my opinion:


I think that if she is generally happy and appears contented then not to worry too much. I have come across many cis women who often prefer to dress very male, even in mens clothes. I remember some who dressed in this way in their teens, but I am not aware of any who have since come out as transexual. It may be that your daughter is dressing in accordance with her peers, but, if that were more an act, I would have thought things would show somewhere.


The gender spectrum is very broad, and many people sit somewhere toward the centre where the distinctions between male and female are not set in stone. Just be there for her, as we all are for our children.



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Thank you for the replies.  It is reassuring.  While we haven't had a sit-down, "we're going to spend a significant chunk of time talking about gender, etc. now" conversation with our daughter, we do frequently pose leading questions - and the short answer has always been "I'm a girl."  I accept that answer more now - but one is always second guessing and reading between the lines.  A few years ago, I would have interpreted that as "I don't want to talk about it." :-)


I will sometimes listen to "The Moth" in the car, and there have sometimes been stories involving how parents dealt with their child's transition.  My daughter has always seemed more interested in these sorts of stories, and been indignant that any parent (even an accepting one) wouldn't immediately understand and be able to immediately switch over to treating their child as the gender they identify as.



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