To give some background, my daughter has always been the proverbial girly-girl. Loved her long hair and styling it different ways, loved playing with makeup, always begging me to let her wear makeup and trying to steal my clothes. Total diva. She has been boy crazy, and had a mad crush on one boy for 3 years, even writing a Valentine last year professing her love for him. This all went on until last year when one of her brother's friends crossed her boundaries and scared her. He did not rape her, but he had her pinned down on a bed and wouldn't let her up, and she was very uncomfortable and afraid. (She told me about it and it has been dealt with, and I had her start seeing a therapist after that.) Shortly after that, she told me she no longer had a crush on the boy and that she thought she was gay. I told her that was fine, she could like whoever she liked, but she was still too young to date, and we left it at that. She is the youngest and has 4 big brothers who don't want to play with her so she often feels left out, and she struggles in friendships with girls, and has said many times she thought her life would be easier if she was a boy. She also struggles with depression and anxiety, and struggles with cutting. She is in therapy and on an antidepressant, but is always searching for something that she thinks will make her feel better, whether it's cutting, food, or other forms of self-harm. It's heartbreaking. Now her new thing is saying she's actually a boy.
I personally think this sudden change of identity has more to do with feeling like she'd fit into her life better if she were a boy and that she couldn't be hurt by a boy if she were not a girl. This "I'm really a boy" thing came seemingly out of nowhere, with no prior indication of confusion or anything, other than a dread of oncoming puberty. However, she is fully committed to it and I'm concerned about the obsession that's coming with it. Seemingly overnight she has changed her entire personality to fit what she thinks this lifestyle is supposed to look like, and expects everyone in our family to jump on board and go along with no longer seeing her as "her," and we're supposed to call her by a different name, refer to her as "son" or "brother," and use male pronouns. It's all she talks about, all she thinks about, and is forming her entire identity around this idea. I've told her that there is so much more to her than just her gender and that it doesn't need to be her sole defining characteristic, but she is truly obsessed right now. Of course, everything she finds on social media supports this.
When she told me, I was very calm and accepting. I let her cut her hair, I took her shopping for new clothes, and I told her we could redecorate her room if she wanted to, but that was where we were drawing the line for now. I have tried having open conversations with her, but she shuts down and gets very upset if our thoughts and feelings don't 100% align with hers. She thinks we are being selfish by not just changing how we see her and treat her, but she is unwilling to understand that it's not that simple. We (my husband and I and our other children) have been very accepting and supportive, and let her know that we love her and just want her to be happy and feel safe. But that's not enough, apparently. If we were 3-4 years into this and she was still feeling this way, or if she'd given any indication at all over the years that she didn't feel comfortable as a girl, that would be different. But this came on very suddenly and I truly feel it's a trauma response. It's so opposite of everything she's ever been that it's like she's suddenly trying so hard to be a completely different person hoping it'll fix all her problems. But I only see it making her more unhappy and unsettled. But I can't talk to her about any of this, no matter how lovingly or calmly I approach it, or she just gets so upset and completely shuts down.
I truly don't know what to do to best help her. I don't care if she's gay, straight, trans, or a polar bear. I just want her to have a healthy sense of self and positive self-esteem. But she's so focused on obsessing over and moaning over what she isn't and trying to form herself into someone else, that she's literally unwilling to put any effort into working on loving herself as she is, whatever that may look like. It almost seems like she wants to stay miserable and this is just a distraction or a way to keep herself unhappy. I want to support her, but I have doubts about how lasting this will be. I can't bear the thought of allowing her to totally transform her identity, get everyone to call her a boy and change her name, and then down the road if she realizes this isn't who she really is, having to undo all of that and start all over. I feel it would be embarrassing and damaging to her, and I want to protect her from that possibility. I want to do what's best for her, but I'm really struggling here with how to do that.