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Gender confusion, five-year-old style

The country's youngest "transgender child," age 5, is starting kindergarten.
 
 
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Nicole, a 5-year-old who just wants to go swimming with her friends, doesn't understand what all the fuss is about. And, reading an article that calls her the country's youngest transgender child, neither can I.

Nicole was born male but wears dresses and has long hair and thinks she's a girl. Her parents let him. No problem there, as far as I'm concerned. Will things be hard in kindergarten? Probably, but then it seems to me that while lots of children are acting out socially-approved gender roles by this age, a good many of them still aren't. And five seems a bit young to be forcing them to make a choice or making such a big deal out of what they do choose. (Actually, any age seems a bit young to me to force someone to choose a gender.) It's not clear what bad would happen to Nicole, and a number of other children like him/her, if they were allowed to just play with being whaterver gender they want, for as long as they wanted.

While Nicole's parents (who have three other children who seem more traditionally gendered), are trying to deal with it in the best way they know how, by respecting their child's choices, the reporter for the story seems more excited by all the lurid details:

"Minutes later, [Nicole] scampers back, now as naked as a jaybird except for her underwear. Without the dress, you can clearly see her penis, tucked carefully into her pink patterned panties."

Nicole has been insisting she's female since she could talk, her parents say. "He has always been attracted to the flowers, the bright colors, his Barbie dolls, and his beloved mermaids," the mother says (she switches pronouns throughout the article). Yes, but aren't many children?

The story gets more disturbing when it talks about what's happened to children who've made this choice before. In 2000, a 6 year old child was taken away from his parents becuase they attempted to enroll him and send him to school as a girl. Zachary/Aurora was diagnosed with "gender confusion" and hospitalized.

And the story ends on a particularly disturbing note:

"What would you change about yourself?" the reporter asks Nicole.

"Mm... my penis," Nicole murmurs.

"What would you do with it?" her mother asks.

"Cut it," Nicole replies.

When Nicole reaches an age where she can make this decision for herself, that will be one thing for for her and her parents to deal with. In the meantime, like any other five year old, she'll have to deal with the challenges of starting kindergarten. Only she'll have the extra challenge not of her gender choices, but of societal disapproval.

Rachel Neumann is Rights & Liberties Editor at AlterNet.