Children recognize differences between the sexes, beginning in infancy. At a very young age your child will identify with a gender -- although the gender she identifies with might not be the sex she was born into. Most children feel comfortable with the sex they were born into. Some children, however, do not identify with the gender they were born into, and identify with and want to be the opposite gender. Understanding the signs that she feels out of sync with her gender assignment will enable you to better help her.
May Struggle Socially
Some people feel like their gender identity doesn't fit in with that of their peers. This may result in challenging social situations or may make your child feel uncomfortable around his friends. Although some social struggle is normal for all children, a child who mentally doesn't identify with his physical gender may feel conflicted when it comes to fitting in with his peers or while engaging in gender-specific activities.
Identifies as the Other Gender
If your child feels she may be a transgender, then this means her gender expression is different from that of her physical body. Your daughter may want to have her cut her hair like a boy’s or she may want to wear’s boy’s clothing. Your son may want to dress like a girl or let his hair grow long. Many girls, however, are equally comfortable wearing dresses and overalls just as many boys will play with dolls – especially if they have a sister – but their doll play differs from that of their sister. Behavior or preferences for toys, activities or clothing does not determine whether a child feels he was born into the wrong sex.
Your Child May Tell You Directly
Listen to what your child is saying. Some children are scared, anxious or confused about cross-gender feelings. Other children may feel comfortable to express their feelings. If your son says he wants to be a girl or your daughter says she feels like she’s a boy, respect what they're saying. They aren't trying to be funny -- they are letting you know what they feel.
When your child shows you he is ready to talk, engage him in a discussion about his feelings. How you accomplish this depends on his age. A young child might have a difficult time telling you. Or, she might be forthright. She might simply say “I am a boy.” An older child or teen might not want to discuss this with you at all. An older child or teen may go to great lengths to hide his feelings. Or, an older child might be very willing to talk about his feelings.
Love Your Child Unconditionally
If your child’s identification as the opposite gender continues into middle childhood and into her tween or teen years, it’s likely that this isn’t a phase. The most important thing you can do for your child – any child – is to accept your child as he wishes you to accept him – with unconditional love and acceptance.