I read your article about boys who have strong preference playing with girls, but my question goes further, my 6yo is also interested in playing only with girls and quiet play, this less concerns me, what bothers me is that he always says he wants to be a girl and wished he had a magic wand to change his body parts to a girl, this has been since he was very little and hasn't changed, he also says he wished he could put lipstick and eyeshadow, he never tried to dress up as a girl and he does like some boys things, not many though. Should I be concerned that he might be a transgender? or could this be just a phase?
From: Worried Mom, West Hartford, CT
Dear Worried Mom,
The article you refer to, "A 6-year-old boy wants to play only with girls," says pretty clearly that, at this young age, a child's preference for playmates may simply reflect the activities the boy enjoys. But you're describing more than play preferences so.
Child development has long held that awareness of gender identity begins at young ages and it involves what psychologists call "core identity" -- the inner feeling you have about whether you are male or female, regardless of your physical identity. As a reader once pointed out in this space, psychologist Lise Eliot writes in her book, "Pink Brain, Blue Brain," that cross-gender behavior (not friendships) is a strong predictor of later sexual orientation, at least in boys.
Can you trust these behaviors as definitive? No.
Here's what I would do, though. Read everything you can, talk to everyone you can so that you can become comfortable with the subject so that you can be the best parent possible for your son, whatever his sexual orientation. The best place I know to start? Here: with PFLAG, (Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays).
PS. Check out this article by my former Globe colleague, Irene Sege, "Eight questions about young children to ask candidates."
The author is solely responsible for the content.