Gender Confused Kids: Mary, Son

Coming Full Circle

"When my son was 8, he came to me and said he felt like a girl inside," Mary remembers. "My son would wear girl's clothing. He would get wigs, and bras, and old prom dresses and dance around. He was fascinated with mermaids and dolls. He played more with the girls than in the sandbox with the boys. When my son was 5, he enrolled in a ballet class, and many times, he would come out crying because the girls had made fun of him. To see your son made fun of is probably the most devastating thing that could happen. Most of the time, I felt terrified and very confused. What should I do for him? How can I help him?" She wipes her tears away. "I was afraid that I wasn't making the right decisions for him. Allowing him to be what he wasn't, or stopping it. I didn't know what to do.

"When my son was in third grade, he went to a Catholic school," Mary continues. "He was constantly verbally abused on the playground. And one day, my son was physically assaulted by some older boys, and I pressed charges against the boys." She cries, "Nobody deserves to be treated like he has been treated. My son was dismissed from the school. I told my son that we would be moving where children would be more accepting. At his new school, he had a plan to go as a girl. He went to school the first day with two earrings, and right away, the students saw that he was different. He couldn't go into the girls' restroom because he was a boy and that would not be allowed. So he decided that it wouldn't be safe to follow the plan of being a girl.

[AD]"My husband had a difficult time coping with what was going on in my son's life, and that's why he wasn't home a lot, and that's why he drank," Mary says. "I felt as though he didn't spend enough time with his son and that my son was identifying more with me, watching me do the housework, and baking, and dressing up and getting my nails done. In some ways, I think my husband was afraid he was losing a son and gaining a daughter."

"As you sit here today, do you think you made a mistake?" Dr. Phil asks Mary.

"All I know is at 2 years old, my son was not acting like a boy. He wanted nail polish, he wanted bows in his hair, and it became more and more intense as he got older, and I knew it wasn't an act. I knew it wasn't play. It was intense, and it was real. I thought it was maybe something I did wrong, or didn't do, or something that my husband didn't do, didn't spend enough time with him doing boy things."

Mary's husband, Terry, joins the show over the phone. 

"Your wife is saying, ‘I really had questions at the time, as to whether I was doing the right thing or not.' Where did you come down on that?" Dr. Phil asks Terry.

"I just thought that this was a phase, a young child growing up at that young age, and just going through the phase," Terry says. "I had six sisters. Now, I'm sure I played with a doll here and there, but I was more or less [interested in] baseball, football. Like I said, I had six sisters, and I think I had combed a Barbie's hair before."

[AD]Dr. Phil asks Dr. Siegel, "Did they do the right thing by allowing the child to evolve, in terms of feminine interests with fingernail polish and that sort of thing, or did they make a mistake?"

"I think they did the right thing, and I'll tell you why," Dr. Siegel says. "I think the most important thing for parents to do is to tune in to who this particular child is, not stereotypes about what the child should be doing, based on either what society says is male or female, or what the genitals tell you this child should be. Instead, both these parents, what they did as a family is they tuned into the child and supported that child for who this child was."

"And you disagree with that? You say that is a mistake?" Dr. Phil asks Glenn.

"Well, I completely agree in terms of meeting the child where they're at, but here's the problem of the spectrum: If the child wants to be artistic, creative, or even do ballet, encourage them in that, but to do it in a masculine sort of way." He tells Mary, "I mean, it breaks my heart when I see your son going to school with earrings, knowing what's going to happen to him."

[AD]"He doesn't understand because he doesn't have a child going through this!" Mary says angrily. "There's no way you could understand."

"My point is our job as parents is to protect our kids, so I'm agreeing that it's the parents' part to come forth and say, ‘You know what, son? When you wear a bra to school, certain things are going to happen. First of all, you shouldn't be doing this. I understand your heart. I understand your interest, but I'm the adult,'" Glenn says.

"You don't get it. You don't get it," Mary says.

Mary's son, now 16, says he doesn't blame his mother for allowing him to be different.

"I was 7 years old when I started feeling different from boys. I was very fascinated by girls, and I enjoyed playing with Barbies, and I felt more comfortable in girls' clothes," he says. "People picked on me all the time. It was very hard for me to go to school. I always pretended to be sick so I wouldn't have to face that. I wanted to start school as a girl. I wasn't able to because I was getting older and signs of me being a boy were showing more.

 

"My relationship with my father is sometimes difficult because he really hasn't been there for me in my childhood, and I think that's what caused some confusion. The way things are now are very good for me. I have a lot of friends, and I think I've resolved the gender issues. Right now, I feel like I'm a boy. I consider myself straight. I just recently had a girlfriend. I think my mom has been very supportive because I had someone to talk to, and if she wasn't there, then I might've felt more lost. I know now that there are other people besides me who go through gender issues."

"So, at this point, he has evolved back to more male interests," Dr. Phil says to Mary. "And has a girlfriend?"

"Yes, several," she says.

"And feels straight, not gay, has a girlfriend, identifies with the masculine side of things?" Dr. Phil asks.

[AD]"Well, Dr. Phil, that's one of my questions," Mary says. "I don't know if he's being totally honest with himself. I just don't know if he is."

Dr. Phil asks Dr. Siegel, "How do you square that with the theory that his brain I.D. was on the feminine end of the spectrum?"

"These are all separable things. Your brain identity, your chromosomal external genitalia identity and your sexual orientation are three independent variables, and you can see them getting mixed and combined in different ways," he says.

 

At the end of the show, Dr. Phil says, "I want to thank all of my guests for sharing their intimate and personal stories. I trust that we've dealt with them with dignity and respect."