Letters from the mom of a gender dysphoric twin boy.
August 1, 2006
This is a composite of a series of e-mail messages I received from Ms. Danielle Alexander in the summer of 2005. She has twin boys, one of which clearly and repeatedly states that he is a girl, not a boy, while the other twin seems quite content with being male and behaving like all the other 9 year old boys. Ms Alexander has given me permission to post this synopsis of her concern and love for her child. Ms. Alexander can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and welcomes comments from others who may be in a similar circumstance.
Anne Vitale Ph.D.
Letter from the mom of a gender dysphoric twin boy.
Ms. Alexander writes:
I have 9 year old twin boys. From the moment the younger one could
verbalize his thoughts he has stated he's not a boy, he's a girl.
Around the age of three he attempted to cut his penis off. His
reasoning was that girls don't have a penis. I took him to the doctor.
The doctor did a physical exam, assured me he was a boy, then referred
me to the Behavioral Science department with the diagnosis of "Gender
When I was pregnant I had an amniocentesis performed. It came back
that both fetuses were boys. I'm assuming that means the right
chromosomes are there for them to be boys.
At this point in time I allow my son to be whomever he believes
himself to be. I allow him to dress as he wants and play with whatever
he wants. I have taught him that it's okay to be whomever you believe
you are, however, some people aren't going to like him or will be mean
to him because of choices he makes. I have fought hard to teach the
school that the person doing the teasing is the one that's in the
wrong, not the person being teased. I have been very firm with those
in my life and at his school about what they can and can't say around
him. It's an endless, confusing battle at times.
I'd love to have a test to determine if inside his brain there is something that is female and not male. Maybe then I'll have the answer as to why one
of my twin boys is extremely all macho male yet the other one is just
Adam is responsible for the clothing he chooses to wear to school. He's responsible for the behaviors he displays. He is responsible for decisions he makes today that may effect his future. He may ask me if it's okay that he wear one of his "girl" sweaters to school that day. I always say it's his body and his clothing - as long as it fits within the dress code for school he may wear it. Then I remind him that some may tease him or hurt him. I remind him that the person doing the teasing is the one in the wrong - however, he's also making a choice to enter into a situation that may prompt this behavior from others.
I'll ask him how he will respond if different reactions occur due to his choices. Once we go over all of this he may decide to go ahead and wear it or he may not. The part that always blows me away is if he decided to wear the sweater to school then comes home from school beaming stating that no one teased him today because of his sweater.
Most of the time I think, "Great! Another positive outcome for acceptance of my son." Then there are the days where I'm thinking,"Damn! If they had teased him then maybe he'd choose not to wear that to school again." Inappropriate thinking on my part. However it's also a very normal response for a parent who becomes overwhelmed by facing all these issues every day.
My role as a parent is to empower my child to love himself, to have confidence in his choices, and have options available when others don't agree with him. I pick my children up from school. Occasionally Adam will get into the van and report that a classmate called him "gay" or laughed at him because he had on pink snow boots, or someone slashed his book bag because it had a pink strip on it. I listen to his words while I try to hear what's behind them. Is there pain? Sorrow? Anger? Fear? Is he just relating an incident that occurred or is he asking for comfort because he feels injured? In the few seconds I have to process this information I have to come up with an answer to his story. I usually attempt to get him to look at the big picture. There are 500 children in his school. Today two teased him. Today 498 children didn't tease him. Out of 96 classmates, 2 teased him, 94 played with him on the playground. I try to help him to remember what classmates thought his snow boots were the greatest or what child hugged him today or what classmate asked to sit by him in lunch. I relay to all my boys that sometimes when others feel threatened, are faced with the unknown, or forced into a situation they aren't familiar with that those people may lash out by teasing, hurting, becoming violent or mean. Then I try to help them problem solve what to do in those situations.
As a parent - I have to support my children. Do I want to guide them in particular directions? - YES!! If I had the inner workings to interfere with my kids I would guide Adam into believing he's not a girl - he's a boy and that's that! I would guide Jared away from his dream of going off to war as a Marine and fighting terrorist fires and snipers. In the past I would have done anything for my, now 14 year old, to have some sort of direction for his summers - the idea of him thinking about the future was way too big of a step at that time. Now he's decided he's going to become a full time auto mechanic! Guess what?? I would love to be able to direct him away from that choice :) I guess I'll have to settle for the fact that at least he has a goal and let his choice just be :)
It's my dream that Adam continues to follow the guidelines listed in the DSM-IV. That he continues to blend in with his peers as he gets older. It would be the greatest dream of mine that he's in the 25 percentile group and he ends up being a straight male. Why is that my dream for him? Because society as it is today isn't very open to non-straight ways. I don't want my child to hurt therefore I want him to be straight. If only society would change then it would no longer be a issue.
I went to Russia in April as a support person to a friend of mine. She went there to start the process to adopt a little girl. Due to society restrictions her partner couldn't go with her. No one could know she had a partner. Same sex parents aren't allowed to adopt in Russia. Since I lived at a different address I could go with her but her partner had to stay behind with their other children in silence. Is that the type of future I want for my son - to live in secrecy? NO! Do I have control over any of it? NO!
I will always remain curious as to what has occurred within the process, from conception to birth, for these children to believe/act the way they do. My pregnancy with the twins wasn't an easy one. I was in a coma for several weeks, on life support, and my parents were told the twins were "dead" and asked to abort them so I might have a chance to live. Six weeks after the twins were born I had open heart surgery. I always wonder if it could have been the drugs they had me on while I was in the coma that messed with Adam's developmental process so the ending result is he believes he is a girl. However, if that were true then why was his twin brother born without this issue? My vacillating thoughts tell me that maybe Jared was already past that developmental stage or maybe he didn't absorb as much of the medication as Adam did. Reality takes over somewhere in this thought pattern so I end up knowing it couldn't have been the coma/drugs because not all children with GID had moms in coma's while pregnant. Once again I go back to being curious When? Why? How?
Some days I find myself counting the days until Adam and I can join Passages (http://www.kcpassages.org/index.php) group. I'd go as far as to say I "need" that group in my life now! This journey Adam has me on can be a very lonely journey for me as a parent. Passages is a youth program for gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender youth. I think they lowered the beginning age to 12. That means I have 2? more years before Adam can attend. Adam's psychiatrist, Dr. Batterson, is on the Board of Directors at Passages. He is a true blessing in many ways.
Dr. Vitale referred me to: http://www.dcchildrens.com/dcchildrens/about/subclinical/subneuroscience/subgender/guide.aspx. When I read the parent guide it felt like someone took the words out of my head and put them to print. Many of the guidelines they suggested in the Help and Pitfalls to Avoid sections are exactly what I tell others when dealing with Adam. All of the behaviors they listed have been or are presently being displayed by Adam. The only issue they don't address is the one dealing with twins where the other twin isn't facing this situation.
When Adam, first took my hand to lead me on this journey of his I almost memorized the DSM-IV 302.6. It states, "By late adolescence or adulthood, about three-quarters of boys who had a childhood history of Gender Identity Disorder report a homosexual or bisexual orientation ... " I was saddened when I read this. I was sad that if this is the course of my son's future then it can be a rough road to get there. I was sad that what lies ahead of him are many years of teasing, inner turmoil, confusion, possible depression, maybe thoughts of suicide, a non-accepting society, and a life that isn't going to be easy. I have often wondered if he will be strong enough to live through his teen years and early adulthood without too many personality scars.
There have been many days in the nine years Adam has been on this earth that I have wanted to grab him and tell him to "just stop it!"or "you are a boy get used to it!" or "why can't you be like your brothers" Those are the days that it's best Adam and I take a break from one another. There have been many times that Adam's brothers have asked me to take Adam out of their school or to keep Adam home or asked me if Adam could live with someone else.
Adam's twin brother, Jared, has started to ask me why Adam had to be his twin. Within this last year Jared has started to become mean towards Adam. When my other son, Zach, was 11 I'd have to fight with him to get him in the same car with Adam or go any where with the family if Adam was going. Thankfully he's grown through that stage well, he's mostly grown through it.
Honestly, at this moment I'm not sure what the future holds for Adam. I know in public situations he has been trained by society to say, "Gross" when girl items are mentioned. I know at home he's still the Adam I have always known. Yes, he's started to blend into more boy appropriate behaviors. He's started to ask for jeans instead of dresses. Sometimes I'll find him playing with his brother's toy cars. He's following the growth pattern I have read these types of children go through. Watching Adam grow I'd have to say society/peers are behind him changing into more boy appropriate attire and desires. At home Adam will still ask me how old he has to be before he grows breast. He wants to know how big his breast will get. He still doesn't understand why he can't have a baby since he knows inside he's a girl. He still lives in a castle with unicorns, fairies, mermaids, and his 20 children that each have their own rooms with night lights in them (yes, I picked up immediately that he was stating what he needed now more than what he wanted for his kids in the future). Will Adam grow up to be a straight male that happens to have a gentle side to him? Will he be a gay male? Will he be a cross-dresser that's either gay or straight? Will he be transgender? Will he go through sex reassignment? What role will he choose? What will his choices do to the family, his twin brother, or his older brothers? Will my adoptive parents die of heart failure before Adam graduates from High School because of Adam's choices? (probably)
Jared, Adam's twin brother, is 100% all male!! About the time that Adam was trying to cut off his penis because girls don't have them Jared was ready to sign up for the Backwoods Fireman Squad. I thought both of them were going through a stage that would last a short time. I was wrong on both counts. Seven years later Adam is looking forward to growing breast and Jared is going to be a Marine Firefighter. Adam runs around in dresses, makeup, and dreaming of giving birth to babies. Jared hides out in his fort dressed in a fireman's suit with camouflage paint on his body, play knives attached to every available loop while on the lookout for snipers.
In one week the kids go back to school. I think the first thing on my agenda is to take a long nap.
Copyright 2006 Anne Vitale All Rights reserved.
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