Since he could speak, Brandon, now 8, has insisted that he was meant to be a girl. This summer,
his parents decided to let him grow up as one. His case, and a rising number of others like it,
illuminates a heated scientific debate about the
nature of gender—and raises troubling questions
about whether the limits of child indulgence have
stretched too far.
by Hanna Rosin
A Boy's Life
HE LOCAL NEWSPAPER recorded that
Brandon Simms was the first millennium baby born in his tiny southern town, at 12:50 a.m.
He weighed eight pounds, two ounces and, as his mother, Tina, later wrote to him in his baby
book, “had a darlin’ little face that told me right away you were innocent.” Tina saved the
white knit hat with the powder-blue ribbon that hospitals routinely give to new baby boys.
But after that, the milestones took an unusual turn. As a toddler, Brandon would scour the
house for something to drape over his head—a towel, a doily, a moons-and-stars bandanna
he’d snatch from his mother’s drawer. “I figure he wanted something that felt like hair,” his
mother later guessed. He spoke his first full sentence at a local Italian restaurant: “I like your
high heels,” he told a woman in a fancy red dress. At home, he would rip off his clothes as
soon as Tina put them on him, and instead try on something from her closet—a purple
undershirt, lingerie, shoes. “He ruined all my heels in the sandbox,” she recalls.
At the toy store, Brandon would head straight for the aisles with the Barbies or the pink and
purple dollhouses. Tina wouldn’t buy them, instead steering him to neutral toys: puzzles or
building blocks or cool neon markers. One weekend, when Brandon was 2½, she took him to
visit her 10-year-old cousin. When Brandon took to one of the many dolls in her huge
Brandon Simms at age 5 in a Disney princess costume
(Courtesy of the family)