Our friend Tyler, 5, has always loved the color pink. And he's told his parents on more than one occasion that he'd like to be a girl. "We try to take it in stride," says his mother, Corey. "He'll either grow out of it -- or he won't -- and we occasionally try to gently guide him to more traditional boy stuff, but usually we just let him be himself." That's a good approach, says Michael Thompson, Ph.D., a psychologist specializing in children and families and coauthor of Raising Cain: Protecting the Emotional Life of Boys. "Childhood play doesn't necessarily predict adult behavior. If you let your child do his thing, within reason, you're going to help him develop into a healthy adult."
Still, many parents wonder. If a boy plays with dolls and likes to tromp around in his mother's heels, will he be gay? You can ask the same question if a girl can't stand to wear a dress or prefers pirates over princesses. Most experts say that only time will tell. "We tend to read too much into our kids' behaviors," says pediatrician Meg Meeker. "Kids need the opportunity to explore different dimensions of their character. Ultimately, they're going to be who they are -- there's not a lot you can do about it."
Originally published in the April 2010 issue of American Baby magazine.