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Ask Dr. Shirley Schaye Your Own Question
Dr. Shirley Schaye
Dr. Shirley Schaye, Doctor
Category: Parenting
Satisfied Customers: 1673
Experience:  PhD-Psych; Certif. Psychoanalyst NPAP& NYFS; Memb.APsaA;IPA; Pub.Author; Teach/Supervise Therapy
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What should I do about a cross-dressing five year old boy

Customer Question

What should I do about a cross-dressing five year old boy?
Submitted: 6 years ago.
Category: Parenting
Expert:  Bonnie replied 6 years ago.

I will try to help but need some more information. Does he say that he is unable about being a boy and does he want to try other activities which are generally more girl-like (i.e., play with toys rather than boys toys)?. Is he driven to (obsessed with)

get these things?

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
sorry, typos in your response give me less confidence (e.g., "unable about being a boy" or "play with toys rather than boys toys")
Can't accept answer.
Expert:  Bonnie replied 6 years ago.

Sorry, I meant ....unhappy about being a boy and wants to be a girl instead.


and play with girl toys rather that boy toys,,

Edited by Bonnie on 9/24/2010 at 6:12 PM EST
Expert:  Bonnie replied 6 years ago.

I apologize as I was in too big of a hurry when I asked for more information. I have some time now and want to address your concern. If he is displaying the other symptoms mentioned above, he may meet the criteria for a diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder. If this seems to be the case, then individual and family therapy is recommended to help him live and adjust to his gender and give parents support and suggestions for responses to the confusion.


If he is not exhibiting the whole spectrum of the disorder, then, having a low key approach is probably best. Mildly saying things such as "These are girls clothes, not for boys" and leaving it at that without too many words and no punishment. You want to avoid having the behavior become a way to get attention.


I hope this helps. There is a good explanation of Gender Identity Disorder in children on the WebMD site. You can also search for the DSM-IV criteria for Gender Identity Disorder.

Customer: replied 6 years ago.
Thanks anyway,
Not accepting the answer since this is all info I already had.
Expert:  Bonnie replied 6 years ago.
OK, I have opened the question for other responses. Good luck.
Expert:  Dr. Shirley Schaye replied 6 years ago.
Thank you for contacting Just Answer. I am terribly sorry to hear about what you are experiencing with your son. I understand from your previous response that you have considered individual therapy and family therapy already. I absolutely would not at age 5 consider the diagnosis of Gender Identity Disorder. Certainly, if left untreated into adolescence, that's what you'll get. It's early --- he's only 5 --- you are dealing with the matter. OK --- so here is what I am suggesting. First --- DO NOT --- choose just any therapist. You must choose a child psychoanalyst who will dig deep down into the root of this matter and work with your child in play therapy to work this through. Of course, I do not know the history or have met your son so I cannot say what may have triggered this symptom. Something might have. Unless your son has 2 XX's and a Y ---- instead of an XY --- then there is no genetic reason for him wanting to be a girl. Then it is something psychological and can be worked through. I have had 2 cases over my professional life time --- one a little boy who cross-dressed because he wanted to be a girl --- we analyzed that and worked it through. This little boy's dad so favoured the daughter. Working with the parents and the little boy changed things. The other was a teenage boy who cross - dressed --- not a lot changed. In my frustration I suggested he get genetically tested. Sure enough, he had Kleinfelter's Syndrome 2XX's and a Y. Even that helped later in changing the cross- dressing because he began to understand the conflict within himself was genetic. He, too, is no longer a cross-dresser. I will be very glad to help you find a child therapist if you give me your city, state and zip code.
Expert:  Dr. Shirley Schaye replied 6 years ago.
By saying what I did does not mean that there isn't a Gender Identity Disorder. I'm merely referring to the fact that we should not presume that this is it and let's accept it and adjust to it. I'm suggesting analyze it --- get to the bottom of it. He is still young --- it is possible to turn things around. Statistically the onset of cross-gender interests and activities in children is usually between ages 2 and 4 years. According to the DSM IV Statistical Manual "only a very small number of children with gender Identity Disorder will continue to have symptoms that meet criteria for Gender Identity Disorder in later adolescence or adulthood." Also, according to the DSM IV "Most children with Gender Identity Disorder display less overt cross-gender behaviors with time, parental intervention, or response from peers." So the fact that you are intervening now is a good sign. Get someone to help you with it.