Too young to know your gender?
The story of 11-year-old Tammy who was born a boy and is now living as a girl sheds some light on the issue of childhood transgender issues
September 27th, 2011
12:36 PM ET

Too young to know your gender?

Comments of the morning:

“I applaud these parents for loving their child for who she is and allowing her to find herself rather than forcing her to suppress all of her feelings and be ‘normal.’" - WowMe

“If God wanted him to be her, God would of created you as such. Going against Gods word is dangerous!” - The9thSeal

Little boy lives as little girl

Hindered by a speech impediment, it wasn’t until age 3 that Thomas Lobel, by learning sign language, could communicate with his parents and the first thing he told them was that he was a girl. Eight years later, Thomas now goes by Tammy and lives as a girl, a process that has been difficult for her parents; the balance of supporting their child and taking criticism from family and friends can be painful and confusing.

So what do CNN.com readers think about their decision to support Tammy’s wishes to live as a girl? Some said they fully support it, while others said that, among other things, Tammy is too young to fully understand gender.

bojimbo261 said, “Children know more than adults do.”

flipnap2112 said, “I am a 42-year-old man. Some of the ways I acted and dressed would have had these adults convincing me I’m transgender. But back then my parents just laughed, didn’t assign a thing to my behavior and I grew up as normal as one can. I’m as heterosexual as one can get. Why are you doing MRIs and brain scans. They’re kids!”

khadija60 said, “People don't realize that forcing boys into the Rambo mode and girls into the Barbi mode is extremely destructive. I know men who cook and sew and women who can change an engine. It doesn't mean they are gay or lesbian. People should just lighten up.”

Mijan said, “And some gay men are extremely masculine, rough, and tough. Some lesbians are extremely feminine and delicate. Some people are androgynous. One of my straight guy friends loves to bake, knit, sew, and wear kilts... but he's absolutely straight. And (as I was in the Army) I know a lot of straight women who are extremely rugged and tough. Let people be who they are! Boys will be boys, except when boys will be girls, and that shouldn't be a problem, because that's just how people are.”

MeNMine said, “I think that most of the problem comes simply in perception. Tammy likes to wear dresses and do other things that girls want to do. But no amount of artificial hormones or surgeries is going to make him a girl. He is a boy, who just happens to enjoy and associate more with stereotypical ‘girl’ responses. I think the problem is that Tammy and those around him feel like they need to change who he is (by taking hormones and possible future surgeries making his body feel more feminine) so that he can fit in.”

VinoBianco said, “Transgender people are a real thing. It doesn't mean they were abused or are ‘sick’ – the science on this is still being discovered but you can have the mind of one gender and the body of another. Why can't we just accept that? These kids have to go through too much confusion to have to deal with the ignorant judgments of society.”

And readers debated the parents, a lesbian couple’s influence:

lamponhill said, “Funny that this boy who thinks he is a girl has two moms! Has anyone thought that he identifies with women because he doesn't have a male to identify with? Sad that he doesn't have a father.”

gimmetheax responded, “Funny that some commenters haven't noticed that he has two brothers who are very ‘masculine’ and who, coincidentally, ALSO have two moms....”

NCCallie said, “I'd like to applaud Pauline and Debra. You have obviously struggled to make very difficult choices and have focused on what is best for Tammy. I think it is encouraging to see that two people can love a child so much that they put her needs first-ahead of society's perceptions and bigotry. Tammy is lucky to have you as her parents.”

bamagrad03 said, “So they let this kid call the shots when it was 3 years old...that's great parenting right there.”

kakash responded, “When it comes to something as traumatic as gender identity disorder then you're damn right the kid has to be involved if not in charge of the decision. This isn't about doing homework or bedtimes. It's about the child's mental health. It isn't a parenting issue.”

EricaWIP33 said, “I was born a boy...I transitioned into a woman only recently, but I have known since I was four years old that I was a girl. The only reason I didn't do it before was because of a world that was so cold and uncaring, and social stigma that went along with it. That, and at age 10 my father told me to either get happy being a boy, or get busy finding a new place to live. If only my parents were as accepting as Tammy's are, then maybe I would have enjoyed my childhood more.”

Do you feel your views align with these commenters' thoughts? Post a comment below or sound off on video

Compiled by the CNN.com moderation staff. Some comments edited for length or clarity.

soundoff (37 Responses)
  1. StarBorneMaiden

    I believe gender is set in stone. If you're a boy, you're a boy. If you're a girl, you are a girl. Having stereotypical traits of the opposite gender doesn't make you that gender

    September 27, 2011 at 13:22 | Report abuse | Reply
    • VoodooChild333

      I agree that a person born as a male will always be a male no matter what hormones he takes and no matter how well his artificial female organs are constructed. But I am transgendered. I'm born with an X and a Y chromosome, which means I'm born a guy. However, I feel like I'm in the wrong body and that I should be a girl.

      I have all the stereotypical traits of a guy and I enjoy doing traditionally male things. I like guns, muscle cars, lighting things of fire, etc. I'm a Right Wing Libertarian, but none of that changes the fact that I feel like a girl in a guy's body. The only reason I was able to hide it so well, was because I prefer doing traditionally male oriented things.

      September 27, 2011 at 14:53 | Report abuse |
    • SMS in Texas

      Of course you do, because you never struggled with these issues. How lucky for you to be so "normal."

      September 30, 2011 at 11:18 | Report abuse |
    • Bill

      Are you a medical professional? Just because you 'believe' something, doesn't make it so. What is the scientific basis for your belief? I believe the world is flat.

      September 30, 2011 at 11:59 | Report abuse |
    • Karen S

      Big whoop. Who says that a boy or girl has to live a life they really abhor? "Set in stone" is such nonsense.

      September 30, 2011 at 15:19 | Report abuse |
    • teresa


      October 17, 2011 at 22:34 | Report abuse |
  2. jazmine7302

    kids does not know right from wrong. when they are confused, you have to tell them that god create you this way, and god doesn't make mistake. love what god gives you.

    September 27, 2011 at 14:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Karen S

      And God may have made you a boy on the outside, and a girl on the inside. No one gives God any credit for that possibility.

      September 30, 2011 at 15:20 | Report abuse |
    • A squared

      God doesn't make mistakes? So things like harlequin babies, babies born with holoprosencephaly, down syndrome, God totally intended those? You believe in a sick god.

      September 30, 2011 at 15:27 | Report abuse |
    • rosethornne

      Then your imaginary Sky Fairy is a sick cruel and vicious sadist.

      February 28, 2013 at 13:42 | Report abuse |
  3. Geersman

    The true question here is...How can a parent teach a kid about what is naturally right, when their lifestyle is at odds with what is "natural".

    September 27, 2011 at 15:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • daniel

      @ geersman...just because society views a man and woman as "natural" does not make it right. at one time, society stated a woman's place was only in the kitchen and also that certain ethnicity's were better than others. is that still true today? no. would the world be a better place if that perception had remainded? according to your post...i guess you do.

      September 30, 2011 at 13:30 | Report abuse |
  4. Estreeter

    Coming from a family that I once had a brother who has transgendered into a girl, I know the difficulties. Well lets put things into perspective, I only know my difficulties of trying to deal with her. At first I was upset and had the same questions as everyone else has "What do you mean you're a girl" I was never supportive. When he told us he was gay, I understood. From a very young age we – mother, father and me – saw a difference in him. You CAN tell at age 2 that they maybe different. I don't know how to pinpoint it, but playing with different toys doesn't mean they are going to be a girl or boy. My brother at a young age was always a little more female like than male.

    Growing up I could only imagine what she had to endure in school since she was very confused in how to tell us. Even when she did decide to tell us she was dealing with a lot of issues. At age 31 she has finally completed her transformation and finally feels like she is living a real life. All the bashers here or god lovers cannot speak to this UNTIL it happens to someone they know. Till then you cannot say – "it's because they have 2 moms" "God made you so don't change" etc. etc. THAT friends is ignorance at it highest level.

    I may not have understood much of what my sister was going through, but at least I had the decency to have open ears and a closed mouth to try and understand.

    September 27, 2011 at 15:19 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Namaste

      I totally agree. Until people have actually gone through this then they have no right to speak for us. As a mother of a teen identifying as transgender it has been an emotional roller coaster for us for two years now. I am doing all I can to support my teen if this is the true path. People should be more educated before they open their mouths.

      September 27, 2011 at 19:20 | Report abuse |
  5. Thatguy2581

    Wait... "After his parents, Pauline Moreno and Debra Lobel, adopted Thomas at age 2" He has two moms. He doesn't have a Dad. Do you think that this might have something to do with this? Does anyone notice this or does everyone just think its irrelevant? Why didn't the article talk about this at all? Does everyone think these are just two unrelated coincidences? Somebody please answer me.

    September 27, 2011 at 19:51 | Report abuse | Reply
    • dammyfish

      This story is about Tammy & raising Tammy to be secure, happy & cormfortable with the person she is. She definately has strong male role models in her life; she just isn't them.

      September 28, 2011 at 16:14 | Report abuse |
    • madisoncnn

      Hey, Thatguy2581. We interviewed several families who have a child with gender dysphoria. The families came from different backgrounds - traditional married mom-dad homes, divorced parents, single parent homes and Tammy's home. We saw every type of family grappling with this issue. In this context, it was irrelevant.

      September 28, 2011 at 16:28 | Report abuse |
    • Parentsproblem

      Hey Madisoncnn, just because someone comes from a traditional family with a mother and a father doesn't mean they're not complete idiots like these two lesbians

      September 29, 2011 at 17:43 | Report abuse |
    • something

      She has two gender-conforming brothers who were raised by the same two moms. Clearly the fact that she was raised by lesbians didn't cause it.

      September 29, 2011 at 18:01 | Report abuse |
    • winry1111

      By the age of two a child will have already developed a sense of gender roles. Since Tammy was two when she was adopted the fact that she has two moms would be irrelevant since she would have already had a sense of gender roles prior to coming to live with them.
      That and the fact that there is no evidence that a child raised by a same sex couple will turn out any different then a child raised by a heterosexual couple. In fact Tammy's moms have two other boys described as masculine.
      So again, yes, it is irrelevant

      June 1, 2012 at 09:33 | Report abuse |
  6. leo

    Be open to and listen carefully to your children, there is no set age at which they will say things that are important to their life. i have had experience in this field and found parents want their children to grow up to the image and likeness of their own views. BIG MISTAKE!

    September 27, 2011 at 19:59 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Estreeter

    To THATGUY2581........they don't touch upon that point because it's irrelevent. My brother who is now my sister grew up with a father and mother and we don't come from a broken home. He was loved and had to struggle with this his whole life till he realized, "I'm a girl" In my mind I thought having strong willed parents, I thought they were going to lose their minds with this. Instead they surprised me and everyone else in the family by being supportive. Sure there were some arguments and a lot of questions that were being asked.

    However, in the end we are still family, blood family and strong. This has nothing to do with 2 moms, no dads, 2 dads, no moms. This is a life struggle.

    September 28, 2011 at 11:10 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Mario

    It's not a disorder, it's just misunderstood. People are diverse, that's just how we are. We can learn a lot about ourselves and the world from transgendered people and their experiences in life.

    September 28, 2011 at 23:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. CmonReally

    It seems to me if an 11 year old with a developmental disability has the ability to choose to take hormones or hormone blockers, that people who want to take steroids should legally be able to. They want to change their bodies and "feel" as though they are trapped in a body that isn't right.

    September 29, 2011 at 01:07 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Truth

      I have to disagree with you on that. You are trying to compare apples and oranges. Steroid use has been proven to have dangerous and life threatening side effects that are _permanent_ ,while the effects hormone blockers do not. Hormone therapy maybe permanent but it won't kill you. I may not agree with allowing children going through the hormone therapy until they, themselves fully understand the ramifications, but steroid use is dangerous.

      September 30, 2011 at 17:28 | Report abuse |
  10. AreWeEnabling

    I don't think someone who makes the decision to have gender swapping surgery is evil, and I wouldn't be uncomfortable eating dinner with them, but I do think it is wrong. For the same reason I wouldn't have plastic surgery, or take growth hormones. I was born as I am and I'm good with that.

    It also makes me wonder... what did human being do for the thousands of years before this surgery was available? Or is this a recent phenomenon? Not trying to make a point with this statement, but it makes me wonder.

    September 30, 2011 at 10:00 | Report abuse | Reply
    • TransGirlReporting

      Medical transition via hormones and surgery is a pretty recent phenomenon (obviously,) but there have always been transgendered people. There are many cultures from around the world that have traditional roles and names for trans people- for example: Hijra in India, Kathoey in Thailand, and "two-spirit" roles in Native American cultures. Basically, it's always been around, but it's uncommon and stigmatized in Christian societies so many people didn't know about it until the past century.

      October 3, 2011 at 23:54 | Report abuse |
    • AcademicInput

      It has a lot to do with our society, I think. Transgender individuals EXISTING is not a new phenomenon, surgical and hormonal intervention is. I really think it's indicative of our society's intolerance for gender nonconformity... if you chalked up this child's desires to that which is purely aesthetic (wearing dresses, etc.), she would have tremendous problems navigating a very critical social landscape behaving and dressing the way she likes in the body she was assigned. If our society were more accepting of various forms of gender presentation in the bodies we are assigned, I suspect that these issues of surgery and hormone treatments wouldn't arise so young – they'd be elective, like standard plastic surgeries.

      October 4, 2011 at 18:42 | Report abuse |
  11. Yes I have a name

    Although personally, I do not understand the motivation to have gender realignment surgery, I have also never understood the idiotic boxes that society defines as male and female, masculine and feminine. I am female, and don't feel any need to be otherwise, but my interests run the gamut of traditionally "male" to traditionally "female." So I do understand to a certain extent what it is to not fit into society's mold of what gender should be. That being said, just because I dont' understand the motivation for gender realignment surgery, doesn't mean I should vilify someone. I don't understand the need for facelifts either. I do know that when I am expected to wear a fancy dress and hose(I refuse to wear heals, I value my ankles), I feel like I'm in drag. I can only imagine what it feels like to have your body feel like drag, like a lie. PS. for those making assumptions... I happen to be straight. so don't assume. There's an old saying: don't judge another until you have walked a mile in his (or her) shoes.

    September 30, 2011 at 11:23 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Terry

    The people who mentioned that Tammy has lesbian parents is mistaken. I know two transwomen, Chris and Ari who have both a mother and a father. Ari worked in law enforcement and Chris has a job where she travels doing infrastructures and networking if I'm correct. Those don't sound like professions in which mentally ill people can excel in. I know another who founded a business with her family and she's relegated to the back room

    Transgender people are sick of being marginalized and the Gay and Lesbian communities have to fight for their rights as well. I knew I was gay at 7! 7! I called my shots because I was self aware. It is no difference with a transgender child. What we need to do is understand that these are CHILDREN–NOT ABOMINATIONS, NOT FREAKS OR PERVERTS! THEY ARE CHILDREN, PEOPLE, HUMAN!

    They are my brothers and sisters, they are beautiful and they are wonderful! No amount of name calling will change that!

    Next time you want to call a trans person a freak, sit down and talk to them. LIsten to the hurt in their voices as they describe family members that weren't supportive. Listen to them as they describe how the world has shown them its bum for a long time!


    October 3, 2011 at 22:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. teresa


    October 17, 2011 at 22:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. LivinForHim

    I'm Christian and straight, but I don't agree with these hate groups against gays and transgenders. Everyone sins. Is his sin any worse just because he used to be a girl? When you woke up this morning and lied to your husband/wife, was it okay? No! So, if you want to treat these people in that manner, go ahead, but make sure you treat yourself the same way.

    February 20, 2012 at 15:46 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. Luna

    If God wants everyone to live within traditional gender roles, why would he make a girl feel like she was meant to be a boy? or make a boy feel like he was meant to be a girl? Why would God allow these children to spiral into depression and hurt themselves because they feel like the body they were born in is wrong for them? If God is supposed to love us, shouldn't he love us for who we are?
    These kids aren't saying they want to have sex with people that are their same gender. Does a straight boy decide he wants to have sex with girls when he is 3? Of course not! These kids aren't trying to change thier bodies so they can have sex with who they want. It's a personal choice they make because they feel uncomfortable in the gender role that society assigned them. NO ONE can tell them they are wrong when they say what gender they are. You're gender orientation is different than your physical sex.
    Live and let live.
    We should all be allowed happiness.

    March 15, 2012 at 12:03 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. Ericka

    I am posting only because of what EricaWIP33 said:

    “I was born a boy...I transitioned into a woman only recently, but I have known since I was four years old that I was a girl. The only reason I didn't do it before was because of a world that was so cold and uncaring, and social stigma that went along with it. That, and at age 10 my father told me to either get happy being a boy, or get busy finding a new place to live. If only my parents were as accepting as Tammy's are, then maybe I would have enjoyed my childhood more.”

    My story is like that except I did not transitioned yet. I do not think I ever can, my family seems like they would not accept it. Basically I have back problems and I cannot live on my own but my mom will not fully accept me being a girl. It reached a point where it is like you can do what you want when you move out. I thought of killing myself a lot because of it and I think those thoughts started when I was in high school in an all-boys school. I was very unhappy and lately I been discovering why.

    August 24, 2012 at 08:32 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Kasey

    I am a transgendered male. I knew when I was 5 or 6 that something was off. I couldn't say it because I didn't know how to. I was raised very sheltered and didn't even know what gay was until Ellen came out. I was in girl scouts and also wore jeans. As soon as I could dress myself, I wore jeans. I hated dresses and make up my whole life. I lived as a butch lesbian for a few years, because once again, I DIDN'T KNOW TRANS EXISTED! I learned that in Waco, TX. I am now transitioning and have been on Testestorone for 3 years. I wish that I didn't have to go through female puberty!
    I think that regardless of whether a kids has 2 males, 2 females, or a male and female raising them, if they say, "hey, I'm a boy/girl." and the parent supports that, GOOD FOR THEM.

    I know many trans people who would have LOVED not to go through the puberty of their assigned sex. To judge someone based on this is ignorant. More power to these kids and parents because maybe they will be spared the pain of puberty or judgement or feeling not loved by their parents for being trans. To be different is not a bad thing, and I am proud that our country is finally paying attention to those that fall in the gender gap.

    February 28, 2013 at 17:13 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. elena

    I think there is a danger in assuming the child is transgendered as opposed to being gay.
    Let the child be/act in whatever way he or she wants, without judgement. Don't push to identify gender. It will emerge.

    February 26, 2017 at 13:23 | Report abuse | Reply
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