Boys dressed as women and girls dressed as men

Dara Squires
Published on July 16, 2014

I shared a post on Facebook this week. It was published on HuffPost Parents and written by a father whose two-year-old son prefers dresses to “boy clothes.” I shared it because so much of what he said I agree with: that it doesn’t matter what your child wears, that it doesn’t mean anything when a boy wants to wear dresses, that if it does turn out to mean something about his gender or sexual orientation then so be it. I especially identified with his comment that the only embarrassment he felt was in worrying that others thought he was making his son wear dresses as some kind of statement.

I wasn’t surprised to find another parent who agreed with me. And I certainly wasn’t surprised at the negative reactions from others shown in his essay and in the comments on it.

What did surprise me is that this essay by a father who loves his son, regardless of how he looks or how he loves or identifies, was so striking and surprising to others.

Is it really that amazing that little boys sometimes – and for some of them, all the time – like to wear dresses and sparkly shoes and hair clips? Is it so absolutely astounding as to become a viral blog post that some parents – one wishes all of them – will support their child in this the same way they support their love of cheese or soccer?

The kind of support that says, “Yeah, I get it that you like this thing. Maybe it’s for right now or maybe its forever. No skin off my nose if you do. Heck, I think it’s kinda cute and quirky and indicative of your personality that you’re putting so much passion into this thing you love.”

Really, that’s all it says. It doesn’t say “my son is gay and I’m proud of him” or “I’m encouraging my son in cross-dressing because I don’t agree with societal mores.”

I find it completely, hysterically ironic that our society values the parents who encourage their girls to be “more than just a princess” by refusing to stick them in cookie cutter dresses and hairstyles and pink toys yet mocks the parents who allow their sons to explore those things.

It makes it seem that the outrage is not about boys wearing girls’ clothes or liking girls’ colours, but that anything primarily identified as belonging to the feminine gender is also identified as being worthy of mockery and derision. It doesn’t matter if it’s John or Jane wearing that sparkly pink dress; it’s regarded as ridiculous either way.

We have come so far but still have far to go in fairly representing girls in the media, in science, technology and politics but we also have so far to travel in making sure boys (and girls) are permitted to inhibit those feminine spheres of art, fashion, and sparkly princess pouferry.

As the proud momma of two boys who have at many times worn skirts and dresses and high-heeled shoes and of one boy who would now prefer playing tank battles on his Xbox to the imaginative dress-up play, drawing and crafts his younger siblings engage in, I can guarantee that there are times that a boy who refuses to wear a dress is much more worrying to a parent than one who chooses to.

In the end though, the fact is that none of this matters.

My daughter will not be a teen mom because I let her wear makeup in kindergarten any more than she won’t pursue a field in engineering because I painted her room pink. Nor will my son be gay because I let him wear dresses any more than my other son will be an anti-social serial killer because I let him play age-appropriate mildly violent video games.

Children are not made by their parents, they are nurtured into what they are – or they are tortured into being something they are not. While our choices for our children do impact their growth, no single choice predetermines your child’s entire future. But failing to present your child with a full range of choices can certainly limit their future — and their happiness.

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