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Nov 1, 2012

Boys Dressing as Girls for Halloween or "Toddler Drag: Cause for Alarm?"



The other day, MPB reader Karen emailed me a personal story she thought I might share here, even suggesting the title, "A Boy's First Skirt."

Her two-and-a-half year old son wanted to be Dorothy from The Wizard of Oz for Halloween and she'd actually gone out and bought him a commercial Dorothy/Princess costume "with lots of frills and poofy sleeves."

States Karen: "He tried it on and loved it even though it was really scratchy with all that tulle and sparkle.  Very confident and and matter-of-fact about it as if he were putting on jeans and a t-shirt."

But, she explains further: "After a lot of teasing by his sisters of all things, I decided to convert it to formalwear vest and kilt."

How cute is this outfit?  (You can read Karen's Pattern Review post here.)





Needless to say, this topic is near and dear to my heart.  Our culture seems to have an obsession with gender identity, especially when it comes to boys.  In fact, I'd say almost exclusively with boys.

Remember the story from two years ago about the mother who blogged about her son dressing up as Daphne from Scooby-Doo and posted a photo that then went viral, along with the story?

The New York Times covered it in an article entitled "When Boys Dress Like Girls for Halloween." 



And only last August, The New York Times published "What's So Bad About a Boy Who Wants to Wear a Dress?" in its Sunday magazine.

Most interesting of all are readers' comments: you really get a sense of how emotionally fraught an issue this still is -- and confusing.

What's a mother (or father) to do when her son wants to be Dorothy for Halloween?  Is saying "He's only two, it doesn't mean anything" inherently homo- or trans-phobic?  What we're really saying, after all, is that it doesn't mean he'll turn out gay (or transgender); i.e., something bad.  (Then again, most parents don't wish for gay children; it can mean a harder life for the child and a lot of consciousness-raising for the parents.)

I don't remember ever wanting to dress up as a girl for Halloween (though I do recall as a small child wanting to be either a baker or a grandmother when I grew up).  In sixth grade, however, some friends of mine and I made a short 8mm film version of Cinderella almost completely in drag (with school money) and I was Stepmama Cass.  Classmate Lisa was the prince, while best friend Alan was Cinderella (decked out in blonde afro wig, tube top, and platform shoes; this was 1974).  Our movie -- loosely based on the Rodgers & Hammerstein version broadcast annually back then -- was actually shown at a school assembly on the last day of class.  I stayed home that day.

I'm not a parent, but I totally get that, while many parents want to support a child's choice of other-gendered Halloween costumes -- or everyday clothing -- they also want to protect the child from the kind of abuse which boys (and probably some girls too) heap on kids they deem different, particularly when it comes to masculinity/femininity.   It's easy to say that the one who has the problem is the bullying abuser, but if you're the potential victim, it quickly becomes your problem too.

There's so much we still don't understand about gender identity, sexuality, nature vs. nuture, etc., but I think more people than ever before understand that however a person identifies -- as male, female, gender queer, transgender, etc. -- they're a person first and deserve our support and respect, at every age.  Tolerance is a word I hate: I tolerate long lines at the supermarket, not someone's essential self.

As far as a two-year-old boy who wants to be Dorothy, I'd say he has excellent taste in movies and dress him however makes him happy.  Kudos to mom Karen!

Readers, what do you make of all this?  Do you agree that the issue of boys dressing as girls (or girl characters) seems like a greater source of cultural anxiety than girls dressing as boys?  Think how often women say they were a tomboy growing up; do you ever hear a (straight) man admit he was a sissy?

In closing, if you had a son who wanted to dress as a girl for Halloween -- or any other time -- would you...

1) try to discourage him?

2) let him dress as he chooses at home but encourage "gender normal" dress in public?

3) let him decide for himself and deal with the consequences: he's gonna live in the real world eventually anyway?

Jump in!

84 comments:

  1. If a girl can be a Storm Trooper from Star Wars, then why ever not?

    I think there's a fear that somehow "allowing" a child to dress in "other gendered" clothing will somehow "warp" their sexuality or turn them *something* or other. Which is utter bollocks.

    I wanted to dress my sun up as a ballerina as a 2 year old. He was wearing his sister's fairy tutu and was just so danged cute that I couldn't pass it up. Alas, I was overruled by certain other members of my family who are a little more than uptight about that sort of thing. Hell, if women can wear pants, why can't men wear dresses? Jesus wore a dress. Spartacus wore a dress. Wong Fei Hong wore a dress. Just sayin'.

    I swear I have photographic evidence of him dressed in a tutu. But of COURSE I can't find it.

    People need to wear whatever makes them feel fabulous. Fig leaves for everyone!

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  2. Trying to come up with a constructive comment about society's gender hangups makes my head hurt this early in the morning, but I do wish we could let children alone to enjoy their creative ideas without being judgmental. It is very upsetting that the sisters were the ones who teased him so much that the whole costume changed.

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  3. That stage of development is interesting. Two-year-olds can typically identify their own gender (and that of others), but they generally think their gender could change. My kid used to talk about being a man when she grew up — which we didn't think meant anything significant because she also talked about wanting to be a dinosaur when she grew up.

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    1. My middle daughter did that, too! She would constantly say "when I'm a boy...". I explained a few times that she would not turn into a boy, but that girls can do the same things boys do if they want, but I don't think she believed me. She's ten, now, and I asked her if she remembers that. She laughed and said she doesn't.

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  4. I have two boys. I've never understood why cross gender costumes are a one way street. Okay for girls, not for boys. For children, it seems it's about the fun of being what you see a lot but are not yourself. It's just pretend, which is always fun.
    I remember reading this nice post about a mom making a dress for her son't birthday gift. http://www.soulemama.com/soulemama/2006/01/the_big_birthda.html

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    1. I had to chime in Alice, as Soulemama is one of two other blogs that I check daily beside of MPB. The other is Cup of Jo. Very, very different slices of life, but also so similar in the kind, wise, and joyful way Peter, Amanda and Jo approach their blogging. Delighted to see that the blog appreciation overlap is shared. Amanda is an amazing parent and sets a great example even for those quite a bit further along in the family raising project, like me.

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    2. The reason girls and women can dress up as men is that maleness is respected in our culture. It's upward mobility.

      But for a male to dress as female is to move down the privilege gradient. It's "degrading."

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    3. Is that a quote from Glee? Its true either way.

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  5. This is such a hard question. I am not a parent but I have been thinking about this ever since I read this article: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2073416/The-incredible-story-identical-twin-boys-14-lives-girl-hormone-therapy-transgender.html

    I think I would have to #3 and just try to give extra support and love. It's also a good way to bring up the topic with other parents and try to make them aware. That's how acceptance and change begins. If we just keep sweeping it under the rug nothing will ever change.

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    1. I agree. Nobody wants their child to suffer from other people's prejudices, but at the same time, if you want your child to grow up in a world where people of all genders and sexualities are respected... well, that can only happen if parents let their children be who they are.

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  6. Boys and girls were both dressed in skirts in previous centuries. What is the matter with us that we are so hooked on naming gender? No one in the media paid a bit of attention in the 1950s when the only magazines aimed at children had ONLY male characters. Boys can wear skirts and girls can wear pants, and if it makes us happy, whose business is is?

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  7. I think it's interesting that the language itself has such different connotations for boys and girls who play outside the traditional gender 'boxes'. To my mind 'tomboy' is a far more neutral term than 'sissy'. (Does anyone else feel that way?). Maybe we should start calling those boys 'tomgirls' or something?

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    1. Simply put, 'tomboy' isn't an insult while 'sissy' is.

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    2. I don't think there's a way to say it without being negative. The only way to have a word that is equal to "tomboy" is to say that a guy WASN'T or ISN'T something. As in "he wasn't a typical boy", which also implies that there's something wrong/lacking with the man in question. It's sad, really, that we have such an amazing language but it's still so gender-specific.

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    3. Right on in your analysis, Jen. But: it's not the language so much as the culture behind it that skews dudewards. We value maleness more than femaleness. Therefore, our language--and bullying patterns--reflect that.

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  8. Not to sound frivolous ( I don't have anything profound to add to the gender identity discussion), but the fact that you wanted to be a GRANDMOTHER when you grew up is easily one of the cutest things I've heard in a long time.

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    1. Agreed! Grandmas are awfully great, so I can see why you would want to be one!

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    2. Ohmygoodness, yes indeed! That line took me back to childhood and all the grandmothers I've known and loved. Adorable, Mr. Lappin.

      I've been following MPB for several months now and this post is my favorite, to date. I am even commenting, see?

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  9. I would worry about how cruel other children can be, but that being said, I would let him wear whatever he wanted to.
    I asked my son what his opinion was and he said "It's Halloween, why does it matter if they want to dress like girls? If boys dress like vampires or zombies does that mean they wake up the next morning undead? Boys and girls should be able to wear what they want, even when it's not Halloween. I don't care what my friends wear as long as they're nice to me and like playing computer games."
    It's a shame some adults can't be as wise as ten-year-olds.

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  10. It doesn't make any sense to me, either-- if a little boy wants to wear a dress at Halloween (or any day, for that matter,) then let him.

    The other thing that *really* bothers me is when boys (or men) call each other girl as the ultimate insult. And it's so ubiquitous that you can't go anywhere in the world without hearing it. When it happens at work, I always point it out, and the men always look at me like I'm crazy. Nothing like hearing that what you are is the worst thing in the world.

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    1. THIS. "Man" is a praise, "woman" is an insult. That, I believe, is why people always think it's cute/cool/interesting that a girl has tastes that are related to boys, or act like is expected of a boy, but a boy being girlish is unforgivable.

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    2. Ditto. When I read your post, I immediately thought that it was a feminist issue as well. Because if people don't accept that a boy is girly, it's probably because they consider girls as somewhat inferior, to begin with.

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  11. When my son was in nursery school, the girls told him that pink was a girl's color. Even at the age of 3 he had a strong rebellious side, he decided pink was the best color ever! He rocked a lovely pair of obnoxious pink snow boots that year and loudly declared to anyone who would listen that pink was his favorite color. He is now ten and still not afraid to wear any color he wants and has long hair to boot.

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    1. My brother's baby blanket was pink, owing to the fact that my mother's uncle misunderstood my grandmother when she called to tell him about my brother's birth - he thought she said the baby's name was Stephanie. My brother's name is Stefan. So a package arrived with a baby gift of a pink blanket and a pink and white baby sweater. I was allowed to have the sweater for baby dolls but my brother had that blanket well into his 20's and didn't care who knew he had a pink blankie.

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    2. For centuries, white was the accepted color for baby's clothing, just for practicality: it can be bleached. Colors came into vogue only in the first decades of the 20th century. Smithsonian Magazine quotes a 1918 trade publication as saying, "The generally accepted rule is pink for the boys, and blue for the girls. The reason is that pink, being a more decided and stronger color, is more suitable for the boy, while blue, which is more delicate and dainty, is prettier for the girl." Others lobbied for blue or yellow for one gender or the other.

      The balance didn't tip in favor of pink for girls until the 1940s. Some say, as a result of pink's use in Nazi concentration camps to identify homosexuals (an inverted pink triangle meant you were a homosexual; superimposed on a yellow triangle to form a Star of David, it meant you were a homosexual Jew.) I'm a little dubious about that connection, but there you are.

      See also Pink and Blue: Telling the Boys from the Girls in America.

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  12. Thank you for your comment about "tolerance." If you think anything LGBTQ is something to be "tolerated, " I would say you are headed down the wrong lane. The music teacher at the school where I taught 6th grade actually got three boys to play Cinderella and the stepsisters for the spring concert. They were hilarious...even the kids thought so.

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    1. BTW...the 'you ' in my commentis the general 'you, ' not the Peter 'you.'

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  13. In this social experiment the girl also gets negative responses when she wants to dress like a boy for Halloween. http://perezhilton.com/2012-10-24-little-boy-disney-princess-halloween-what-would-you-do-gender-roles

    I think it's fair to say that girls dressing as boys is more accepted but it is important to note that they are still discouraged. I think it's often in more subtle ways. Being called a tom boy may not be an insult but young girls still get plenty of crap for it. When I was around 10 I went through a phase of dressing like a boy and lots of my classmates said mean things to me. "Why do you dress like a boy?", their voices full of disgust. I remember thinking that if I dressed like a boy the boys would like me more and then kind of backfired because the boy I had a crush on asked me if I was a lesbian. When I finally figured out dressing like a boy was not getting me anywhere and I asked my mom to take me shopping for different clothes I got teased for switching styles. "Oh, so now you're dressing like a girl??", the other girls would say snottily.

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  14. I'd always understood that the original point of dressing up at Halloween was to prevent the evil spirits from finding you. It seems that changing your apparent gender would be an obvious and appropriate step in accomplishing that goal.

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    1. in traditional orthodox judaism especially among the hasidic, they do not cut boys hair until 3 yrs old, the reason for this according to my secular family is to protect him from being snatched or harmed by the evil eye. evidently, girls are so undervalued, even evil spirits dont want them. [this is not in wikipedia, but it sounds consistent with the superstitious folk religion aspect of judaism to me.]
      i have always thought homophobia is an extreme version of misogyny. if women are inferior to men, then a man who is seen as choosing to be like women in any way whatsoever makes that man count as inferior too.

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  15. Both of my boys loved dressing up in girls costumes when they were little, my husband was slightly concerned when our first did it but was quickly reassured that this was normal! I also had them wearing kilts for potty training, it definitely cut down on the washing. Now that they are older they wouldn't be caught dead in a dress, or so I thought but I was surprised recently when I took them and their male cousins (aged 10 - 13) to a museum. In one of the rooms was some dressing up based on the eighteenth century. They took turns in trying on the men's/boy's costumes but fought over who would be first to wear the lady's. Clearly cross dressing still appeals so long as their mates from school don't find out!

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  16. Our neighbor's son used to (c. age 3-4 or so), dress in girl's clothes all the time. Why? According to him, it was because girl's clothes are more "fun" than boy's clothes, in the sense that they are more colorful and have more options and more choices of fabric than boy's clothes. He was right, of course :D

    At any rate, that ended right quick once he started school. These days, he's all soccer, baseball and lacrosse.

    I'm not sure that sartorial choices made at age 2 necessarily reflect gender orientation. Not sure how much grief a 2-year old boy in a dress will get from his peers (I suspect not much), but his parents might well get grief from other parents.

    At that age, I'd probably let the kid wear what he wants (bearing in mind that his older sister's teasing might well influence his final choice). I might give big sister a talking-to about living and letting live as well.

    As they get older, and speaking as one who got a lot of grief as a child for being different, that one might want to make them understand (though they'll certainly get it from their peers), that stepping outside the bounds of convention is not without consequences in that a lot of grief is likely to ensue.

    As Meryn Cadell writes in her classic The Sweater:

    Now if the sweater has, like, reindeer on it or is a funny color like yellow

    I'm sorry, you can't get away with a sweater like that

    Look for brown or grey or blue

    Anything other than that and you know you're dealing with someone who's different

    And different is not what you're looking for

    You're looking for those teenage, alpine-ski, chiseled-features and that sort of blank look that passes for deep thought or at least the notion that someone's home

    You're looking for the boy of your dreams who is the same boy in the dreams of all your friends

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  17. My uncle came out of the womb screaming pink.
    As a toddler it was silk, tulle, and anything that sparkles. As he grew up he hid that side of him. However, everyone knew that if they left anything silky or lacy laying around when he came to visit it would disappear. Everyone knew he dressed up like a lady, they never saw him as one because he would sneak out at night to visit "special" clubs that were discreetly hidden away in the 1940's. Everyone in the family loved and accepted him as long as it was never spoken of.

    My family have no problem with who dresses up in what or what your sexuality is. So in my family it has never been an issue.

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  18. Historically, MEN have been the brightly dressed gender, as males are in many species in nature. It was Beau Brummell and the Regency, and subsequent Victorian backlash to its excesses, that reshaped completely what a man ought to wear. From fuchsia silk satin and embroidery to black or blue, with white, forever. Such was the utter horror of the Victorians to the appalling behaviour of the previous generation, that horror I feel still resonates culturally without most people knowing why.
    Until the late 18th C, men were supposed to cry, show emotion, care what they wore, dress like peacocks, and walked around happily arm in arm with their male friends. This was normal male behaviour. The 'norm' changed, but of course a cultural 'norm' is all nurture.

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  19. I generally don't care if my son wants to wear a dress - his sisters have put him in dresses and tutus since he started being interested in dress-up clothes. He wants to be included in what the others are doing. My husband is slightly more hung up on the gender roles, but he also owns 2 kilts, so he isn't opposed to the idea of a boy in a skirt. A costume is a costume, after all, and gender identification issues are not caused by clothing choice, nor are clothing choices a symptom of gender identity. Putting on a tutu doesn't make my son a girl any more than putting on an elephant costume makes him an elephant. He routinely pretends to be a dog or other animal but isn't one. My favorite pair of pants as a middle-schooler was a pair of ladies' wool dress pants. My brother stole them from my closet and wore them a couple of times, and people who knew us said "Those are your sister's pants!" He didn't bat an eye at that. That same brother wanted to be "a fire dog" (aka, a dalmatian) when he grew up.

    As human beings we like to know what we're dealing with and the unknown is confusing and scary to us. We like to know that women are women and men are men, because we know how to identify with people based on how they look. Clothing is often the identifier for people whose features/physiques are more androgynous. If we can't recognize someone by their gender, we feel uncomfortable, and that's why people freak out if their son wants to wear dresses/skirts or whatever. It means that maybe the child is 'different' from the norm and we know that we don't know how to navigate the unknown that well. Parenting itself is a trip into the unknown as it is; the idea that one might have to parent a child who is different from his/her peers is REALLY scary, not just in terms of what it means for the child but also for the parents who parent the child. What is important is how the person feels about himself. I have a trans aunt (born my uncle) who for years was uncomfortable with herself. She thought that maybe it was because she was gay, so started dating men. After a long-term relationship with a guy she still felt uncomfortable and ended up going to therapy and finally realized that she had always identified as female, rather than male. She had her surgery in 1997 and now is very happy. She's a documentary filmmaker and made a movie about trans men in Thailand, called "The Ladyboy Story". She made it when she was in the process of transitioning from male to female. It's an interesting look at gender identity. I'd recommend it, but I don't know if it's available in the US.

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  20. I remember when Annie Lennox sang at the Grammys in 1984-dressed like an Elvis style MAN. And people were absolutely horrified, and she was vilified in the press for it! I thought it was just fantastic- I was 22 at the time, and had never met/seen a woman go that far to transform herself. This was not Lauren Hutton in a tuxedo; we had gotten used to women in men's formalwear. This was something different. And exciting. I thought she was very brave to buck the norm, and now we don't think much about women dressing in a heavily "male" way. So, until some brave man (and I am NOT talking about Mark Jacobs here....)really clears a path for boys to go back to skirts/kilts, I am afraid boys are going to continue to have a rough go of dressing in ways considered only female appropriate. I personally love a guy in a kilt!

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  21. They have never asked, but: I would never let my two boys dress up as girls. And the reason? They both have autism. They are high functioning but do not need another way to stand out and possible laughed at. They can't just "not care" or ignore and I wouldn't risk putting them in a situation where they couldn't stand up for themselves. I am also very careful dress them in age appropriate clothes - they really don't need to stand out anymore than they already do.

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  22. The rules for clothing for BOTH of my kids, boy and girl, are about them being covered decently and that they stay warm. That's it. If my daughter wants to dye her hair purple - sure. If my son wants to wear a skirt? Then same rules as for his sister. Not too short. Not exposing bare legs if it's cold.

    I like to think that I am raising open-minded children. That they will be free to share with me WHO THEY ARE without any issue. There will be no "I love you anyway" comments from me, because there is no "anyway". If my kid tells me they are gay, I want them to know it's like telling me their eyes are brown. It's just part of who they are that has no impact on their value or our love. I don't "love them anyway" - I just love them. Brown eyes, green eyes, gay, straight, whatever!

    But you know what, it's not enough to teach our own kids that they can wear what they want or to identify with any gender they want. They have to learn to respect and support that for others too. That's tougher...

    It's not enough for me to say I'm accepting that my children might be gay. I have to teach them it's all good if other kids are gay too. (or transgender, or whatever part of them might be judged by society). I mean, our kids will hear negative messages from others. It's not enough that my children won't hear homphobic messages at home from us, they need to be ready for the stuff they'll hear elsewhere. We have to be proactive.

    My 4 year old knows that sometimes boys marry girls. And sometimes boys marry boys. And sometimes girls marry girls. And that some people don't think they should be allowed to. But they are wrong. And saying they can't is just silly. She'll be ready to say that to anyone who tells her otherwise.

    And I will be so proud.

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    1. It's great to read what you wrote, Janimal.

      If you don't mind my asking, how did you come to have such strong feelings of support for people who are different from the norm? Did it come from your family, school, etc.?

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    2. Love your comment! It's how we raise our daughter too. I put in quite a lot of gender equality stuff too :) I do think though, that its easy enough to instill these values at home, much harder to equip them to deal with contradictory messages outside. Will she have the courage to stand up to a racist or a homophobe when they are taunting a classmate? Or not laugh at a guy in a dress or someone with green hair. I honestly don't know. If she can, as you say, I will be so proud!

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  23. I read everything here and I have a tendency to ponder what Mrs C pointed out. I always wonder if our tendencies are more about how much we have of estrogen and testosterone and everything else that makes up who we are. The spectrum from one end to the other is infinite. The human brain is so complex and much more so mysterious and the science community still has so much more to learn. In the meantime it is not the why are we one way or the other it is I love you no matter. Like so many choices from food to where one lives. I'm not one to question why a prefernece is different from mine...our chemistry is made up at conception and our environment subtly shapes us as to how we percieve ourselves.

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  24. When Grace was two, she wanted to be her hero for Halloween--Cookie Monster. After all, Cookie gets all the cookies and eats them up. What's not to like? My SIL vetoed it based on the fact that Cookie Monster is a boy... and she was Foofa instead. Gracie's wish had nothing to do with gender, but everything to do with wanting to pretend to be someone who gets what seems to be an unlimited supply of sweet things... (which I'm sure is something she'd like even now. Since we have to teach her to eat the right things, sweets are few and far between!) After all, this is the same kid who when asked what she wanted Santa to bring her that year said, "Candy!" No toys, no dolls, just candy.

    It's the same kind of thing for any kid wanting to dress as the opposite gender for Halloween, I think. It's just wanting to dress like a character they like and pretend to be someone else!

    (Grace is an absolute girly girl--she loves ruffles, lace, sparkles, ribbons, shoes, and pink and purple!)

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  25. My brother is two years younger than me, and when he was two or three he really looked up to me, so he wanted to be like me, and that included wearing dresses. My mother never really minded and there are a few pictures of us together in the garden, wearing similar outfits... She only once objected when he wanted to go to school dressed as Snow White, but only because she was worried about how other kids would react. In the end she let him go anyway.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with letting kids wear what they feel comfortable about. After all, if you start telling them what they want to wear is wrong and bad, what signal does that give them about themselves?

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  26. The only thing about Karen's story that bothers me is Why were the sisters allowed to get away with teasing their little brother?

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  27. When little boys get grief for this, it means there is quite a lot of cause for concern and very possibly a need for treatment.

    For those who criticize them.

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  28. Valerie,
    I agree. I'm amazed you're the first person to mention that in this whole thread. I mean, they are her children too. Correct their behavior and she would be cutting down the amount of people in the world that are intolerant of differences. It also doesn't mention if the sisters' teasing made the boy ask for his costume to be changed or if the mother just made that executive decision on her own.

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    1. "But, she explains further: "After a lot of teasing by his sisters of all things, I decided to convert it to formalwear vest and kilt."
      Sounds to me as if she made the decision. No way am I going to find fault with a parent's decision about her/his own children.

      I wish it were different. I wish we all felt comfortable with everyone else. But we don't in our culture. We all need to strive to teach love and acceptance, not only to kids but to adults, too.

      I agree with Peter, "sissy" is derogatory and should not be used, ever.





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  29. Your story reminded me of a costume I wore when I was younger! When I was 11, I decided I wanted to be Robin Hood for Halloween. The Maid Marion costume (part of the same sewing pattern) just seemed lame to me as a girl - I wanted a cool bow and arrow and neat hat with a feather! My mom didn't hesitate at all when I told her what I wanted to dress up as and even drew on me a mustache and fake goatee to complete my costume. I know if I was a boy wanting to go as something traditionally considered to be a "girl" costume, she wouldn't have tried to talk me out of it either. It's a shame that there aren't more parents (and people in general) out there with an open mind.

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  30. I'm not a parent, just a teenager, but if I had a son I would let him be whatever he wanted for Halloween. My little brother liked to wear dresses when he was around five and my parents were fine with it.

    Have you heard of baby Storm? A family in Toronto decided not to reveal the gender of their baby, Storm, and it was all over the news here in Canada.
    I heard about it on CBC radio as part of a fascinating episode of Ideas called "the gender trap" I highly recommend this episode to everyone. I think you would find it very interesting.

    http://www.cbc.ca/ideas/episodes/2012/08/01/the-gender-trap-part-2-1/

    I'm going to write that again in big letters so that more people read this comment, okay?
    I HIGHLY RECOMMEND LISTENING TO IT! My opinions on this subject are the same as Storm's parents.

    That Dorothy kilt & vest is adorable but I don't see why he couldn't have just worn the dress. His sisters should get sent to their rooms for teasing him.

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    1. I'm torn...I want the world to be more tolerant, but will those children be able to cope with the unkindness and ignorance in later years?
      I know what I went through growing up making puppets, costumes...and even my wife's wedding dress.(no one, then, knew I'd made it...)
      That's a powerful program!

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  31. I think it's such a shame to dictate what a child can of cant wear (or like) based on gender. My daughter was mocked by another girl for liking Lego. A friend's son had a tutu taken off him by a disapproving grandmother (and not even his own!) so many times I've heard a mother say "I don't mind but his father would have a fit" in regards to a boy liking pink or wearing a dress. It drives me crazy because kids are naturally broad minded and accepting, it's us adults with our horrible prejudices that ruin it. A girl in my daughter's class dresses like boy, hangs with the boys etc. but the kids couldn't care less, they just accept it and let her do what she wants to do. There is no conflict in their minds about it and there isn't in my mind anymore either. There probably isn't much we can do about having gender norms in our society, and they exist in all societies, but we can make ours more accepting and less confining over time. There will always be a lag but think how far we've come in even 30 or 50 years. This wouldn't be a question because it wasn't a question, it would have been considered plain wrong/bad/strange. In another 50 years who knows where we'll be but I'm hoping its in a place where we'll look as backward now as 50 years ago looks now.

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  32. Well, here's the reverse story: My daughter briefly wanted to be Spiderman for Halloween.

    And I was fine with that, except that all the Spiderman costumes online were padded muscle suits, and I felt a little weird about a four year old girl dressing as a buff adult man (the "Spidergirl" costume was silly.) And then I felt bad for feeling weird about it.

    In the end, she forgot about Spiderman in a few days and was back to Cinderella. I was relieved, mostly by not having to buy another costume, but also because I would have been rather torn if she'd pushed the issue.

    Sigh. What happened to the basic, old-style Spiderman costume that consists of a t-shirt, pants and mask, anyway?

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  33. Here's another aspect of this issue- age gender and sexuality rub up against each other. Australian Rules football is still seen as a bastion of masculinity- there are few girls’ teams, and in many communities, the local team has near heroic status. Gay men who play Aussie rules have a tough time being themselves. The official organisational culture stresses equality and respect for all; unofficially homophobia is rampant. BUT at end of season paries across the continent, big hairy guys frocking up is pretty common and accepted.
    I think that in Australia too, a boy in a frock causes concern. Some parents fear that clothing will create 'deviance' (re either sexual preference or gender identity). Others fear the boy will be bullied. So the gender divisions and prejudices about sexuality are reinforced. But when the boy is grown up and playing football ( unless he outs himself as gay and challenges entrenched stupid prejudice, as one or two marvellous blokes have done recently) he'll be able to wear a sparkly Dorothy costume no worries mate. Strange strange world we live in.

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    1. Aussie footy culture is a minefield of hypocrisy don't you think!? I could rant about it forever.

      I also read that New York Times article. Super interesting. I don't understand the hangups people have about gender...but I guess these questions are a new thing in society.

      I remember on a business trip once, my colleagues were talking about their children. The sales guy's 4 year old son had expressed interest in playing with dolls and dressing up in girls clothing and they were worried about him 'growing up gay'....I didn't say anything because not having children usually means you have no authority to comment on such things (I should have though) but was thinking "So what if he IS gay? Why is that a problem!?"

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  34. I think Jacqui sums it up for me. I would let me son wear what he wants. He's 8..I would support him no matter what he wants. I feel so angry when he comes home copying other kids in his class calling people "gay", thinking he knows what it means because he can define it by "boy with a boy" as he doesn't get it from home. I have gay, happy, female, male, ethnic people around us all the time. I don't tolerate my diverse friends; I embrace them.

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  35. Even though my parents were very traditional, experiencing adolescence in the 70s and 80s in a East Coast urban community made me very aware of how various gender identity could be. Good high school friends were coming out and going to a women's college certainly expanded on that experience. I'm happy that what was, maybe, "counterculture" then is pretty mainstream now -- or at least in any place I would consider living. My three kids (19-9) are at ease with alternative gender identification, and also that everyone has the right to love and marry who they want, whether our government(s) have caught up to that reality or not. At one time or another, all three have "cross dressed" for play and even just for hanging out . . . it's never been something that concerned me. My youngest just went trick-or-treating as Dr. Who and has just asked to cut her hair very short. I'm taking her to the salon this week. Now if one of them wanted to vote Republican, that would worry me. LOL.

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  36. *has not read other comments*

    Personally, I would have had a chat with the girls about why we don't make fun of our little brother (or anyone) for wearing a dress. Period.

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  37. As a generalisation, in our society it's 'ok' for a girl to dress up as a boy/be a tomboy because she is aspiring to become part of the dominant class. It is 'not ok' for a boy to dress up as a girl/be girly because he is then aspiring to become part of the non-dominant class. It's 'ok' for a boy to dress as a girl for comedic purposes, because girls are funny, with their silly ladyparts and all. Ha ha. Joanna Russ's The Female Man is a great read, btw.

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  38. Just let them be who they want to be! What someone does (or doesn't do) when they are young does NOT mean that that is how they will be when they are older. My 3 year old son likes to run around my house in his 6 year old sister's dress shoes, dresses and has even enjoyed some make-up, nail polish and perfume from time to time, courtesy of his 13 year old sister! He's happy, he's exploring and he is even learning. Am I worried that he will grow up to be gay? NO. If he does, will I treat/accept him any differently...No. But let this be known, all his exploring...will allow him to know what what it's like to be a girl and maybe someday one of those husbands that..."just gets it!"

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  39. I think you're underestimating the pressure girls are under to conform to feminine standards (understandably I suppose). I distinctly remember the argument with an adult that nearly ended up with me getting slapped in kindergarten, when I insisted I wanted to be a fireman when I grew up, while they told me I surely wanted to get married and have a lot of children instead. And that doesn't even come close to what happens to girls in junior high, the utter trauma of first bras, how you're treated when you don't even try to learn to wear makeup..

    So should boys dress as girls? By all means, if they feel like it. You could even go further and say that all men should be forced to wear feminine attire at least once, and experience for themselves the gunk of makeup, the itch of pantyhose, the pain of heels.. Can parents protect their children from all the jerks out there and their intrusive opinions? Not a chance.

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  40. One of my granddaughters dressed as Spiderman, not only Spiderman but Spiderman with muscles. She loved it. Blond ponytail hanging down her back. I made her a sparkly tutu to wear over it but she didn't wear it. So I guess I tried to make it more girly. She only has brothers and just tends to play with their toys. I say let them wear what they want you can't make them be something they don't want to.

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  41. I think there's often the idea that a tomboy will grow out of it (I remember being told that I wouldn't climb/run/wrestle like the guys did once I 'blossomed'), but that a boy who likes 'girl stuff' will stick with it forever.

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    1. Not when I was growing up. I was as tomboy as they come. My parents did everything in their power to discourage me from playing with my brother's Tonka trucks and erector sets. I kept getting useless toys like Barbie for Christmas. I remember using my brother's bow to shoot her over the house. It's turns out that I'm not gay, I'm an engineer. I think that boys who favor girl stuff could just be future designers or parents-- regardless of their sexuality.

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  42. My son went through a princess phase from about 3-4, which is just about the time that girls go through that phase too. The only difference is that we encourage girls to continue being princesses into adulthood, while we immediately discourage boys. Well, I didn't discourage him, but other kids and even ANOTHER MOTHER at his daycare did. Boy, did I straighten her out when we got to the parking lot. I talked about it with some friends and most of the men admitted to having such a strong desire to try out their sisters' princess things, but had to supress the urge because they knew it "was wrong" and there would be serious consequences. Sigh.

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  43. whenever my sons wanted to do something out of the norm-for-our-cowboy town (hair: bleach/perm (yes) skinhead: NO), (clothing: if you wear one of my sheriff's shirts people will know your mom is a cop), (pierced ears: when you're 18). we discussed the ramifications. neither either expressed a desire to dress in feminine attire, probably because of the aforementioned cowboyish of our area. the important thing is to discuss, discuss, discuss, honor, honor, honor, respect, respect, respect.

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  44. I have 3 sons - currently aged 12 & 20 - & every one of them has dressed up as a girl. All 3 were amongst my wives when we dressed as Henry VIII etc, & the eldest even celebrated his 18th birthday in Lady Gaga drag. None of them show any signs of confused sexuality - cross-dressing is just the norm on English rugby tours. And stag nights. And any other excuse, it seems to me!
    In fact, one of the (male) teachers at the boys' school did say to them that he firmly believes that every man has dressed as a woman at least once. And suggested they come home & ask their father, grandfathers, uncles etc for confirmation. So far, it seems he is right!

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  45. *Read every comment - and enjoyed them all!*

    Peter,

    Another spot-on post.

    A child's worldview is formed at home.

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  46. The other day I saw an article or blog post in which an African American mother didn't have a problem with her young son wanting to be a princess for Halloween. She just didn't want him to be a white, Disney cartoon princess.

    Progress!

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  47. I don't have kids either. I hate the attitude that someone who is neither married nor has bred has any idea what kids are like.

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  48. What a great comment thread.

    Our dress up box had lots of clothing, wigs, hats, old clothing from both of my parents. My dad built a "store" in our playroom/crawl space. Being the oldest, I was usually the shop keeper and my brothers would be the shoppers. My brother would put on a wig and bring a carriage and doll to "shop" for his family, then maybe wear a hard hat and be a construction worker. Mom never flipped on any of it and liked to see him playing with dolls and me playing with He Man and tonka trucks. I don't know that we ever did cross gender outfits for Halloween (I know I didn't) but we sure did in the basement. All three of us had cabbage patch dolls, granted my brothers had boys and I had girl dolls. Children need to explore all parts of their worlds to figure it out.

    I'd be having a good talk with those sisters if I was the parent. Teasing between siblings happens, but teasing about gender/sexuality isn't appropriate.

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  49. I have three kids, 2 daughters and a son. Two are straight and one is gay and I reared them the same. I wish people would move past this particular issue.

    I love the Dorothy costume. My own little story is that when my son was 3 he played a lot with the 4 year old girl who lived in our building who loved pink. When he needed a new bathing suit we looked through the Hannah Anderssen catalog, her clothes are European where they don't have our blue/pink fixation. My son picked out the hot pink bathing suit which I bought for him over his father's objections. . .he wore it to day camp and won the cutest bathing suit award

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    1. I live in Denmark in Europe and I think we (at least here in Denmark) have a blue/pink thing going. All girls can wear blue if they like. All boys can wear red if they like. Pink for boys is "limited" to boys from age 6 and upwards on polos, shorts, tshirts, an argyle sweater from H&M and such. My 8 yo has a pink polo that he will wear - but he won't wear the pink tshirt, it's too girlish.

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  50. I am 40 something, growing up both tomboy and sissy were insults. If you were a girl and dressed or acted like a boy, something was wrong with you. If you were a boy, and dressed or acted like a girl, something was wrong with you. Then as a teen it changed, if you wanted to be accepted, you had to act like a boy. Even if you liked being a girl, wether you were a boy or a girl ( darn feminism screwed it all up in the 70 i think). So growing up I learned to think like a girl, and act like a guy. Now things are going to who cares do what you want.. . I wish they were around when I was a kid!

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  51. Isn't young Dorothy responding more to the character and her role in an aadventure than her sex? The other characterss while lovable are not the stars- I think kids gravitating toward other characters and roles is just natural and shows they are thinking and exploring.

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  52. I went last night with my sisters and my brother in law to see The Trocks (for those of you who don't know, they're an American (mostly) comical ballet troupe. I was looking through the programme today and my son wandered in. I showed him the picture of the Trocks all together in their tutus, and told him to see if he could figure out what was special about them. He said he knew there was something "wrong" about them, but was absolutely HORRIFIED (quote: "wait, WHAT??!?!!?") when I told him they were all men.
    The thing is, one of the reasons I love going to see them is that TECHNICALLY they're brilliant dancers! They do beautiful pointe work and the costumes are pretty stunning too!
    We had seats in the front row, and I was sitting next to Ron Barassi - who is not only a famous Aussie footballer of years gone by, but is also the 'star' of a famous story told by dancer Colin Peasley about Sir Robert Helpmann.
    He tells about how when Bobbie was choreographing _The Display_ in the 60s, which includes some football on stage, he realised that none of the dancers knew how to handle a football and look like they knew what they were doing. So he arranged for a football team (including Ron Barassi) to come in in a show the dancers some tips and tricks. The dancers challenged the footballers to take a ballet class, and the story goes that the footballers wimped out after a short while. It's apparently harder to dance than to play football.
    Wish I'd had the chance to ask Mr Barassi if the story's true!

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  53. To add, in our family (husband's and mine) we have five gay relatives. Our family knew from the moment they were little that most of them were gay. I believe it was already
    determined by their biology or DNA (whatever you want to call it). It really would not have mattered what they wore, their sexuality was already evident. My husband believes that it is also genetic because he has a lot of male relatives that are gay and judging by previous generations this was probably the case too but kind of kept hidden.

    I think the reason for my family being accepting is because we were never raised in a belief system that judged people. We did not live by a doctrine that involved text which outlined morality. My husband's family are LDS, and for them it was extremely hard to accept that my husband's nephew is gay. However, they have in their way pretended that he is just living with a room mate and that he really isn't in any relationship, but they do acknowledge that he is gay when pushed.

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  54. I have been thinking about this a lot. And there are no easy answers regarding gender or sexual preference, especially when parenting is concerned. If parents make a big deal out of it, it will quickly become a big deal.

    But for me, I would hate to ever have sexual preferences be a division between me and someone I dearly loved. And I would always love a member of my family loved.

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    1. That last part didn't come out quite right. I would always someone a member of my family loved.

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  55. i saw a 'what would you do?' segment on ABC's hidden camera show on this very topic. a boy was asking his mother [both of them were the actors] for a princess costume in a store, almost all the other customers who intervened tried to dissuade him. i was imagining the perfect answer to them would be
    'i want to go as a princess because its halloween, and nothing is scarier to some people than a boy in a dress!'
    people kept trying to convince him to choose paramilitary outfits. i thought, hey why not suggest a pope outfit, which IS a dress, or even a samurai--pretty close to a dress. it was very clear that the customers were upset by a boy in a dress because they thought it would lead to him turning gay [without actually saying so], and furthermore, they actually used phrases like 'nip it in the bud'or 'stop it now', as though being gay is a consequence of inappropriate childhood clothing choices.
    although i dont have children, i am sure i would worry for their safety in this world of gay-bashing. at least nowadays kids dont trick or treat unsupervised.
    i could imagine giving boys who want to wear frilly clothes everyday to school some lacy lingerie to wear underneath their heteronormative boys clothes. just like the women with victoria's secret on under their regulation corporate skirted suit.
    i think elementary school is too young to have to 'deal with consequences'. on the other hand, many children are sent into the world with garb identifying their families unpopular religion, and might get bullied for that. these issues make me extremely grateful i chose not to have kids!

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  56. Looking at cover of magazine or book is back when clothes women wore was distinctly different than clothes men wore. In addition to bra, girdle, petticoat, and high heels which then a man wearing a dress makes up a whole different impression or feeling or both. Nowadays I see women wearing pretty much the same as what men wear (pants, flats, baggy clothes in general), I wonder what a young crossdresser or transvestite to do? Well there still is the slut look with tight mini-dress and spike heels (which many are platforms so they are cheating).

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  57. www.facebook.com/mensskirts

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  58. OMG!!!! I WANT THAT OUTFIT!!! it looks cute!

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