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Babette Francis, May 15, 2010

Baby girls make a beeline for dolls as soon as they can crawl, and baby boys head for toy cars, a new British study has shown. “There could be a biological
basis for their choices,” said one of the study’s authors, London psychologist Dr Brenda Todd (UK Daily Mail, April 16).

I myself wrote exactly that as long ago as 1977 in my minority report to the Victorian Committee on Equal Opportunity in Schools. Having four daughters and four sons, I had a perfect laboratory for observing gender preferences. A minor crisis erupted once when a son removed the head of a bride doll, treasured for years by a daughter. She shrieked. He looked merely puzzled — he wanted to see how the doll was made. (No, he didn’t grow up to be a serial bride-killer; he studied engineering.)

My minority report argued that one can give a boy an “anti-sexist” toy, but he won’t play with it in the same way as a girl would. You can give a girl blocks and she will build a house for dolls. Feminist “anti-sexist” policies may interrupt development of a healthy sexual identity. Boys have a more difficult time. Girls can identify with mothers, the primary carers for infants, while boys have to separate from mothers and identify with fathers with whom they do not spend as much time.

“Catarina”, the psychologist I wrote about in News Weekly (May 1, 2010) who counsels those who want to change from same-sex attractions (SSA), says parents must educate themselves on how to help their children develop a healthy sexual identity. She writes: “Sometimes a child can have a profound disturbance of his or her sense of gender identity. This disorder is known as gender identity disorder or GID.

“The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 4th edition (DSM IV), says GID can be distinguished from simple nonconformity to stereotypical sex role behaviour by the extent and pervasiveness of cross-gender wishes, interests and activities. This disorder is not meant to describe a child’s nonconformity to stereotypical sex-role behaviour, e.g., ‘tomboyishness’ in girls or ‘sissyish’ behaviour in boys.

“A child with GID has a persistent discomfort with his or her sexual identity. The confusion and anxiety about his or her biological sex can start as early as two or three years of age and the disorder can be well established by the time he or she reaches adolescence.”

The American Psychiatric Association has diagnostic criteria to determine whether a child has a GID condition:
1) Repeatedly stated desire to be, or insistence he or she is, the other sex.
2) In boys, preference for cross-dressing, or simulating female attire. In girls, insistence on only wearing stereotypical masculine clothing.
3) Strong and persistent cross-sexual roles in make-believe play, or persistent fantasies of being the other sex.
4) Intense desire to participate in stereotypical games and pastimes of the other sex.
5) Strong preference for playmates of the other sex.

Catarina observes: “The obsession about being the other sex can lead to pre-homosexuality. The pre-lesbian girl will reject her feminine identity and the femininity the mother represents. The pre-homosexual boy will have trouble identifying with his father and his masculinity.

“Children need to feel secure about their sexual identity. Children with GID or pre-homosexual children will be distressed about their gender and will suffer other related psychological and social problems.“Parents need to be concerned when their child exhibits cross-gender behaviours. Some parents may ignore the importance of early intervention and prevention of GID because they believe children are born with GID or that they are born homosexuals. “However, it is important for parents to know that GID isn’t a biologically-based trait behaviour, but rather a symptom of ‘separation-anxiety disorder’. A child with GID may feel emotionally separated and unattached to the same-sex parent. Attachment is vital for the formation of a child’s identity. It is through attachment that a child discovers who he or she is.”

Dr Joseph Nicolosi, in his book A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Dallas: InterVarsity Press, 2002), says that “gender nonconformity in childhood is the single most common factor associated with homosexuality”. He adds: “However, once mothers and fathers recognise the real problems their gender-confused children face, agree to work together to resolve them, and seek the guidance and expertise of a psychotherapist who believes that change is possible, there is hope. Growth into a heterosexual identity is indeed possible.”

Catarina remarks: “A mother, concerned about a daughter who has lived a lesbian life style for the last 20 years, wrote to me: ‘If I’d only had the well-researched
information which exists now about GID and SSA, I would have been better able to guide her than I did. “I encourage all parents to inform themselves about GID and SSA, so they can prevent the pain our lovely daughter, her father and I have suffered, and still do’.”

Babette Francis is national co-ordinator of Endeavour Forum Inc., an NGO having special consultative status with the Economic and Social Council of the UN (ECOSOC).



Member Organisation, World Council for Life and Family

NGO in Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC of the UN