How can you tell if an effeminate male child is gay or transsexual? QR.
Some people can actually be both. Otherwise being gay is very different from being transsexual, and vice versa. A gay person is sexually, romantically and emotionally attracted to people of the same gender. A transsexual is a person who mentally and emotionally belongs to one [their true] gender, but who is born with the physical qualities and sexual organs of the other [or "wrong"] gender -- in other words a female born into a male body or vice versa. Transsexuals "transition" into the right sex --- their physical gender matches their mental gender -- through a "sex change," via hormones, therapy and surgery. Transsexuals generally seek counseling to determine if they are truly in a transsexual state and if transitioning will be right for them. While most transsexuals are much happier after the transition, a few feel they would have been happier had they not undergone the process, possibly because those who can not "pass" even after the transition as their true internal sex (for whatever reasons) may face more discrimination and ridicule. As noted, some transsexuals are also gay; many are not.
First of all, speaking of an effeminate boy, one has to define the term "effeminate." Some people foolishly think a boy is effeminate simply because he prefers reading over sports, writes poetry, and has good manners. Sometimes just a lack of an interest in athletics is enough to get a kid branded "effeminate" or a "sissy" -- or gay -- when he's really straight. You can not assume a boy is gay for these reasons because many heterosexual men are more interested in science or the arts than they are in knocking a ball around, and many gay men are very athletic and sports-oriented. To think a boy can't be gay because he likes football and plays it well is ridiculous. This doesn't change the fact that boys who are effeminate in the usual sense of the word -- girlish, epicene, what-have-you -- can certainly be gay. If you suspect your son may be gay, make sure he knows you respect gay people so that he will do the same (and respect himself) and it will be that much easier for him to come out and/or accept himself when the time comes if he is gay.
Often transsexual boys are not "effeminate" but rather feminine, like most girls. They will want to wear girl's clothing (which most gay men do not wish to do), adopt a new female name, talk about how much they wish they didn't have a penis, etc. A transsexual "boy" is crying out to be female and may let his parents know about it whether they want to or not. [Gays also feel a need to "come out" and be themselves, although it may not be as intense, as they do not require physical changes to their bodies or feel they are in the "wrong" ones.] In contrast, gay boys with a leaning towards transvestism/cross-dressing may identify with the female sex and want to dress up as girls as well, but in general will still think of themselves as males and have no desire to lose their penises. [Not to confuse you even further, but men who like to dress up as women can also be heterosexual, and most gay men are not cross-dressers.]
Many transsexuals and some gays recognize the truth about themselves at an early age -- especially these days when there is much more information available on TV and on the Internet. Some need more time to figure out their sexuality than others. If you raise your child in a loving open-minded home where diversity is accepted, chances are they will have a much easier time accepting themselves, whatever they may be, and will be more willing to talk with you about it.
Effeminacy does not always point towards homosexuality (or transsexualism) and many gay boys are not in the least effeminate. Transsexual or transgender boys will more likely exhibit "female" traits. But don't jump to any conclusions. In an environment of tolerance and understanding, boys and girls will have an easier time of determining who and what they are and in accepting and declaring themselves.