My toddler is exhibiting behaviours typical of the opposite sex. Should I be concerned?

It is not uncommon for toddlers and pre-schoolers to exhibit behaviours typically associated with the opposite sex, as gender roles are still in development. Boys in kindergarten may be happy to play “girly” games like dress-up, while girls may insist on behaving “just like the boys”. Not all atypical gender interests should cause concern, so be careful not to humiliate your child because of an occasional episode.1

Parents should be concerned if, in addition to demonstrating behaviours and interests of the opposite sex, their child expresses:

  • a persistent desire to be, or insistence that he/she is, the other sex
  • a persistent and strong discomfort with his/her own sex and gender role

If this is observed, parents should seek the guidance and expertise of a psychotherapist who believes that change is possible.2  There is always hope: Development into a heterosexual gender identity is possible.

Development of gender identity typically goes through the following stages:3

0-4 yrs
  • Attachment to same-gender parent.
  • Boys require an additional step of identifying with Father after separating from Mother.
5-9 yrs
  • Attachment to same-gender siblings and playmates.
  • Identification with same-gender role models or heroes during play.
10-14 yrs
  • Curiosity towards opposite-gender peers with complementary qualities.
  • Children who are unable to form healthy levels of attachment in their relationships may become easy prey for sexual predators.
14-18 yrs
  • Self-conscious about emerging man-/ womanhood.
  • Same- and opposite-gender identification with other authority figures.
18-21 yrs
  • Opposite-gender social relationships can develop into more exclusive and romantic interests. Increasingly, heavy media exposure has resulted in this happening at an earlier age.
21 & above
  • Commitment in romantic relationships with a member of the opposite-gender can lead to intimacy that culminates in sexual relations within marriage.


1. Mike Haley, 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality(Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2004)
2. Joseph Nicolosi and Linda A. Nicolosi, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Illinois InterVarsity Press, 2002)
3. Ibid.

What is homosexuality?

The term “homosexual” is used to describe a person who in adult life has an enduring, definite and preferential erotic/sexual attraction to members of the same sex and who usually engages in overt sexual relations with them.1 The term “gay” is typically used to describe homosexual men and “lesbian” to describe homosexual women.

  • Biological Sex in human beings is genetically determined from the moment of conception as being male (boy) or female (girl). Approximately 0.02% of the population is at risk of being born with external genitalia that differ from the standard male and female appearance and an intersex condition occurs in about 0.05% of births2, 3 (which does not automatically result in the individual experiencing same sex attraction), but even in intersex individuals, their sex is determined and assigned within a few weeks after birth and following medical examination.
  • Gender identity answers the question: “Am I male or female?”, and is related to social and cultural beliefs about masculinity and femininity. Our gender identity is developed through the growing years of childhood until young adulthood.  When gender identity is not successfully developed, confusion over sexual identity may arise.
  • Sexual identity answers the question: “Am I heterosexual (sexually attracted to the opposite sex) or homosexual (sexually attracted to the same sex)?” Some people consider themselves bisexual (sexually attracted to members of both sexes). Sexual identity is related to, but not the same as, gender identity.

Contrary to popular understanding, homosexuality is not so much driven by sexual needs as it is driven by a (conscious or unconscious) desire to be loved and to love another person, especially of the same-sex.4, 5

1. Lawrence Hatterer, Changing Homosexuality in the Male: Treatment for Men Troubled by Homosexuality (New York McGraw-Hill, 1970)
2. Garry L. Warne (MBBS, FRACP), Complete Androgen Insensitivity Syndrome. (Victoria, Australia: Department of Endocrinology and Diabetes, Royal Children’s Hospital, 1997)
3. Emily NussbaumA Question of Gender. (Discover, January 2000, pp 92-99)
4. Jason Park, Overcoming Male Homosexual Problems (Century Publishing, 1998)
5. Anne Paulk, Restoring Sexual Identity: Hope for Women Who Struggle with Same-Sex Attraction (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2003)

What makes a man “gay”?

Often, a boy who is unable to form a meaningful connection and bond with his father (or older, trusted male equivalent) may be left confused and conflicted about his own gender identity. He may view his father as cold and distant, and detach himself from males because of the hurt or rejection experienced in his search for a masculine role model. When the boy reaches the next stage of his identity development, he may sub-consciously seek to establish that connection and bond with another man.

Other factors that make up each homosexual man’s unique struggle may include:

  • Sexual violation, such as incest, molestation or rape
  • Sexual experimentation with men/boys
  • Exposure to pornography
  • Media influences
  • Personality and temperament
  • Negative body image
  • Teasing, peer labelling, harassment/bullying or alienation
  • Fear of or inability to relate to the opposite sex
  • Dysfunctional family relationships
  • Negative spiritual influences

Homosexuality is complex and a combination of factors is at work; it is too simplistic to attribute undue significance to any single aspect as the cause.1

“Gay” as a term has been used both derisively and in a celebratory manner. In comparison with the more clinical-sounding word “homosexual”, it is emotionally as well as politically-charged and may thus not be useful in aiding our understanding of the issue.

1. Mike Haley, 101 Frequently Asked Questions About Homosexuality(Oregon: Harvest House Publishers, 2004)

Is homosexuality an illness/disorder?

Homosexuality was considered a psychiatric disorder before Dr Robert L. Spitzer spearheaded its removal from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in 1973, on the grounds that if homosexuals are “comfortable as they are”, we should not insist they have a disorder.

“In 1973, the American Psychiatric Association in response to nasty disruptions at its 1970 and 1971 conferences and intense behind-the-scenes manoeuvring by gay activists, decided to eliminate the classification of homosexuality as a disorder in its Diagnostic and Statistical Manual. The hope was expressed that such a change would lessen the discrimination experienced by gay and lesbian individuals. As the years passed, it became clear that this was the first step in undermining the scientific integrity of the mental health profession.”1 

Benjamin Kaufman, 

Clinical Professor of Psychiatry, The University of California School of Medicine

Almost 20 years later, Spitzer found that many homosexuals reported substantial changes in sexual behaviour as well as orientation, hinting that not only could they change, they might wish to.2 However, the same political pressure that made him remove homosexuality as an “illness” eventually led him to apologize to the homosexual community for his findings.3

At the root of homosexuality is the issue of gender identity. A healthy gender identity successfully develops when there is proper attachment, and thereafter separation and individuation, of a child with Mother and Father. This is absent for many who struggle with same-sex sexual attractions. Since homosexuality is no longer pathological, Gender Identity Disorder (GID) is used to diagnose and Insight-Oriented Therapy to treat those with unwanted homosexual tendencies.4

Sexual issues are typically symptoms of a root problem with one’s masculine/feminine identity. Homosexual males usually need help to address sexual addiction issues (including pornography and frequent masturbation) whereas homosexual females need help with emotional co-dependency issues. The earlier the intervention, the easier and more effective the treatment.


1. Benjamin Kaufman, Why Narth? The American Psychiatric Association’s Destructive and Blind Pursuit of Political Correctness (Regent University Law Review Vol.14(423), 2001-2002)
3. Benedict Carey, Psychiatry Giant Sorry for Backing Gay “Cure” (The New York Times, 28 May 2012)
4. Kenneth J. Zucker & Robert L. Spitzer, Was the Gender Identity Disorder of Childhood Diagnosis Introduced into DSM-III as a Backdoor Maneuver to Replace Homosexuality? A historical note (Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 2005, Vol 31, pp 31-42)

Can homosexuality be prevented?

Given the myriad factors that affect a child’s gender identity, it is worthwhile to bring up a child in a manner that affirms his or her healthy gender identity. In doing so, collectively, we can counter the prevailing culture that seeks to normalize and, ultimately, promote homosexuality.

Promote an “open” atmosphere in your home. All children will have questions about sexuality. If they are hushed or mocked for even asking, they deduce that sex is off-limits for discussion and will seek out information from peers and the media that may be contrary to your values.

Give accurate information. Young children are unsure about what homosexuality is and isn’t. Assure them that it’s normal to have close same-sex friends and that you do, too. Encourage adolescents to discover their sexuality, not through sexual experimentation or pornography, but by explaining boy-girl relationships and coaching them through puberty. Ensure they know that same-sex infatuations do not make them homosexual.

Affirm your child’s gender by reinforcing gender-appropriate behaviour in them while expressing delight in their masculinity/femininity. It is important not to label a child as unmasculine/ unfeminine just because they have a stereotypically opposite-sex interest (e.g. where a boy enjoys ballet or where a girl is a good footballer), as a person’s masculinity or femininity transcends his or her interests. In other cases, children can sense if their parents wanted a child of the opposite sex instead and may (unconsciously) adopt opposite-sex behaviours and pursuits to gain approval and affection. Be discerning and respond appropriately.

Be generous with affection. Sons who are liberally hugged by their fathers will not have their sense of masculinity warped; in reality, they are less vulnerable to inappropriate touch from other men. Studies have found that “a constructive, supportive, warmly related father precludes the possibility of a homosexual son.”1

In reality, what I needed was… an affirming, character-modeling, loving relationship with my dad.  In fact, that’s what my homosexual journey was always about – finding a man to love me. Sex was just the means to an end.

~Alan Chambers, author of “God’s Grace and the Homosexual Next Door”

Encourage identification with same-sex role models who embody your values. Single parents raising an opposite-sex child can help their child build relationships with trusted extended family members of the same sex as the child, such as aunts/uncles, cousins and grandparents.

Even though there is no ultimate guarantee how our children will make their sexual choices – whether it concerns premarital sex or homosexual behaviour – parents can proactively and intentionally inculcate a healthy gender identity in their children.2


1. Joseph Nicolosi & Linda A. Nicolosi, A Parent’s Guide to Preventing Homosexuality (Illinois InterVarsity Press, 2002)
2. Love Won Out series: When a Loved One Says, “I’m Gay.” (Focus on the Family, 2002)