Yesterday I watched a Dr. Phil episode, Mama’s Little Boy or Daddy’s Little Girl: Identity Confusion or Brainwashing? And my heart went out to that little child who was born an “intersex,” a term meaning that the child was born with ambiguous sex organs (not to be confused with hermaphrodites who are born with two complete sets of both male and female sex organs).
The heartbreaking part of the story, though, was the way the child’s parents were raising him or her. Dad is convinced his child is a girl; Mom is convinced her child is a boy, so at Daddy’s house, Aubrey dresses as a little girl, and at Mommy’s house, Aubrey dresses as a little boy. How confusing must that be for a 4-year-old child!
And yet, how confusing must the parents be as well. I don’t pretend to understand what they’re going through, but imagining how the situation looks through the eyes of a 4-year-old child, I can understand how I might want my parents to behave if I was an intersex. I would want the choices about me to be mine – without being forced to make them to please both of my parents!
Let me explain why I think a 4-year-old child is perfectly capable of knowing what he or she likes. I’ll use my own 4-year-old granddaughter as an example. Nothing about Avery is ambiguous. She was born a girl and she has long hair, which she loves. She won’t play with dolls, but she loves playing “house” with stuffed animals.
Try to put a dress on her, though, and she will refuse to wear it. She does not like wearing dresses. And she loves to play sports.
Does that make her a boy? No! And if she wanted short hair, what difference would her hair make in determining her sex? My own son, when he was only 4 or 5, had long curly hair, which I refused to cut, because I loved the way it looked. He, however, wanted a buzz cut, so I relented. He didn’t like his curly hair, so why should I force him to keep his hair long and curly? I’m glad I recognized that even as young as he was, he knew how he wanted to look.
The Barbarians – Are You a Boy or Are You a Girl
Maybe Aubrey has been so brainwashed, the child no longer knows what s/he wants. And how sad is that? But I think it would be wise for these parents to allow their little boy or girl to choose whatever hairstyle, clothing, bedding, or whatever else the child wants to wear or to have. Right now, I think Aubrey chooses what s/he believes her/his parents want her/him to choose. Aubrey very compliantly lives as both sexes depending upon which home s/he stays.
In any divorce situation, when parents get along, everything goes better for the child. In the case of Aubrey, though, the parents communicate not at all. Mommy gave her “son” a buzz cut, for instance, without informing Daddy of her decision. I would imagine that by now, the child feels coerced into behaving like a little girl when she is with Daddy and like a little boy when he is with Mommy.
So maybe a trusted third party should take the child shopping and allow Aubrey to choose for him- or herself the types of things that will help Aubrey learn to identify who s/he wants to be – and who s/he is – with no outside interference or coercion.
A walk through Toys R Us would give parents a clue about what the child finds fun or entertaining. Bedding choices should be the child’s too. And let the child lead when it comes to shopping for clothing. Hand Aubrey a catalog and let Aubrey choose what s/he wants to wear.
In the meantime, though so much damage appears to already have been done, Dr. Phil has offered these parents some professional help. I hope they get it in time for Aubrey to go to school, where s/he will have to appear as one sex or the other. Kids don’t need much incentive to bully, and seeing a child who appears during the week as a little boy and on weekends as a little girl would give the bullies among them target practice on Aubrey.