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There is good reason to believe that many gender identity problems arise from either physical stigmata or stereotyped judgments about behaviour. What, however, about children of caring, totally unremarkable families, without any obvious physical difference?

There are children that assert, almost from the moment they can talk, that they are going to grow up to be the opposite gender to which they are born.

John(1) began life as an outwardly unremarkable boy. From early toddlerhood, she was always just a gentle, friendly and intelligent child who didn't like to play football or cops'n'robbers etc. Neither did she like to play with dolls, but preferred mostly pastimes that could be described as asexual: painting, water play, bicycles, hide and seek, tree climbing, cookery, carpentry and taking anything mechanical or electrical apart and trying to put it back together again.

Even so, she had a feeling of separateness and, even in childhood was troubled by her physical appearance. She was continually bullied and teased at school, and never seemed to fit in.

Throughout childhood, it was apparent that her unhappiness was increasing. Her worried parents tested every diagnosis they could think of. She was lucky enough to have a caring GP, who remained convinced that her situation would not improve, until whatever was bothering her became apparent, which it did at 13 when she finally told her mother. Six months later the family doctor prescribed female hormones.

However, the local chemist notified the social workers, who intervened, overruling the doctor, and ordered her to take male hormones to make him more of a man.

The result was that John ran away, and worked as a prostitute in order to buy black market hormones to keep manhood at bay, and to save up for surgery.

The reaction of social workers, who over-ruled the diagnosis of a qualified practising GP, and presumably the expert, in this article is interesting. I wonder how many would have accused the parents of abuse, and taken the child into care?

How is it that so many people have the unalterable certainty that they have been cast into the wrong role in life? We may list various factors, we can describe processes involved in developing certain behaviours. The complexity, however, of the biological and experiential paths taken by each individual, means that there is no one simple solution.

1. This story is a composite of a number of accounts, principally one by Penelope Debelle in an unknown Australian newspaper.

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Bland, J., (1998) About Gender: John/Janice
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Web page copyright 1998-2006 Derby TV/TS Group. Text copyright Jed Bland.
Last amended 12.05.98