What makes a transgender child? Cliches, it seems… (UPDATED)

The transition of children has become a proven source of human interest news. The following quotes are extracted from a selection of stories on the Daily Mail (British newspaper) website looking at young transgender males:

They had presumed their prancing, pink-loving son who squirreled away cousins’ girl toys was gay… He wore sweatpants around his head to mimic ponytails and dressed as a princess for Halloween. And he hated boy things – especially his body.[1]

Sources said the youngster had confided in friends that he wanted to be a girl and would put on a bikini to go swimming and use a Barbie towel. He rode to primary school on a pink scooter and wore pink ribbons in his hair.[2]

While Blaine preferred playing with trucks and cars, Keat liked dolls. At school he liked playing dress up with the princess dresses… Keat was so happy in her skin but I dreaded that first day back at school where she would be going back to class with pigtails and a pink backpack.[3]

She grew her hair out, pierced her ears, and wore dresses everywhere – even to kindergarten… growing up Jazz’s bedroom was filled with girly things – pink bed linen, a closet filled with dresses and an ample collection of stuffed animals.[4]

When she chats with people, she introduces herself as, “Hi, I’m Sadie, my favorite color is pink, I’m vegan, and I’m transgender. Who are you?”‘ Sage said.[5]

“I’m wishing for the one I love to find me!” the preschooler would enthusiastically sing into the toilet, copying Snow White, who sings into the echoing wishing well in the animated Disney movie. Six months after her second birthday, her parents say Ryan was drawn to all things pink and sparkly. Ryan, the boy, wore pajama pants on his head, pretending it was long hair, or acted out girl roles from movies.[6]

Danann Tyler, who was born male but now dresses as a little girl and has long hair,… he never had any interest in the toys his elder brother Liam had loved. His sippy cup had to be pink. When a family friend playing dress up put him in a princess gown, he refused to take it off.[7]

The commonality of these narratives is striking, within these seven stories mention is made of the following: a preference for pink (7/7), hair (6/7), princesses and dresses (5/7), ‘toys for girls’ (5/7).

As an example, the association of pink with girls is itself cultural; devoid of culture, pink has no meaning with respect to the preferences of children, or even adults, of either sex. If we can accept that one’s “gender identity” is preference for the cultural conventions applicable to a particular sex, is it such a leap to suggest that for girls who are masculine (or boys who are feminine), such personality traits are being interpreted as an indicator that the child’s “gender identity” is not correspondent with the child’s sex? Is this not tantamount to suggesting that personality determines sex?

[1] “Call me Katie: U.S. boy, 8, to live as a girl after being diagnosed with ‘gender identity disorder’” http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1184245/Call-Katie-U-S-boy-8-live-girl-diagnosed-gender-identity-disorder.html

[2] ‘Boy, 12, turns up for school as a girl after sex swap during the summer holidays’ 21 September 2009 http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1214314/Boy-12-turns-girl-summer-holidays.html#ixzz4YOLdKdlZ

[3] ‘The schoolgirl who was born a boy: Parents defy local bullies to support child’s transition after she was diagnosed with gender identity disorder at seven years old’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2611975/Little-girl-9-born-boy-determined-live-normal-life-despite-backlash-hate-campaigns-local-community.html#ixzz4YOMRZtKc

[4] ‘”He’s asking what parts of a boy I have”: Transgender teenage girl, 12, faces new problems as she starts dating’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2264745/Hes-asking-parts-boy-I-Transgender-teenage-girl-12-faces-new-problems-starts-dating.html#ixzz4YOO1SRq3

[5] ‘’We’re just like everyone else’: Transgender girl, 11, writes speech in response to Obama’s historic inaugural address because she wishes he’d spoken about her community too’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2267777/Sadie-Croft-Transgender-girl-11-writes-speech-response-Obamas-inaugural-address.html#ixzz4YOPMLMHz

[6] ‘This is Ryan’s first day as a girl, and everyone better be nice’: How transgender kids are navigating school challenges with increased support’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/femail/article-2332346/This-Ryans-day-girl-better-nice-How-transgender-kids-navigating-school-challenges-increased-support.html#ixzz4YOQRQNpw

[7] ‘”When kids said I was a boy it made me sad”: Transgender eight-year-old reveals why she’s much happier living as a GIRL’ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2062296/When-kids-said-I-boy-sad-Transgender-child-says-shes-happier-living-girl-born-male.html#ixzz4YOS7Eout

4 Responses to “What makes a transgender child? Cliches, it seems… (UPDATED)”

  • Teri

    Article reduces preferences for gender expression (long hair, pink, etc.) to cultural norms to suggest variant gender identity is simply personality. One can equally apply that argument to suggest that any cis expression of gender identity is merely personality, and equally question the gender identity of any cis person. It fails to consider the underlying meaning of any gender expression for any cis or trans persons.

    • miranda

      I question the entire concept of ‘gender identity’ as being different from personality. ‘Identifying’ as a sex is meaningless as sex is a concept based on material reality, being part of a reproductive class. People should be able to live their lives as they wish, provided they cause no harm, and do the things they like without being judged. Telling kids their personalities means their body is wrong is abuse.

    • S

      Cis people don’t *have* a gender identity, and yes, all of these preferences are just personality. “Gender” expression is personality. There’s absolutely no reason to tether types of expression and preference to the concepts of male and female.

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