This is my son. He will be six next month and is a month into Kindergarten.
Last night, he asked if he could wear one of my dresses. Knowing they would be way too big on him, I gave him a top that would look like a dress on him. He danced around, called himself a princess, and made sure to find my headband that has a big floppy bow on it.
He asked me, “Can I wear this to school tomorrow?”
My first reaction was, but what will the other kids say? But I simply nodded my head and smiled.
Then he had me teach him how to curtsy and said, “If anybody makes fun of me, I’ll just tell them it isn’t nice. And I’ll tell the teacher.” His tone was so devil-may-care that I was proud of him.
I don’t take this as an indication of anything except a small person wanting to experiment. He’s learning about his world, and who he is inside of it. He compliments the girls at school on their outfits, and admires the dresses he thinks are pretty as we pass them in the store. He told me, “I can wear a dress and still be a boy.”
When he woke up this morning, he still wanted to wear the dress. So I helped him put it on, tying it so it didn’t fit so loosely. He slid the big bow back on his head and smiled for me. I thought he looked cute. I wondered if I should prepare him for possible reactions. But I decided against it. I didn’t want him to change his mind.
On the drive to his school, I suddenly thought about the articles I’d read about similar situations. What would his teachers say? Was this the kind of school that would forbid a boy to wear a dress? How would the other children respond to his clothing? I don’t want it to be a problem, but I was afraid it would be. Because I know how our society works.
Children are not born believing pink is for girls and blue is for boys. They are not born believing only girls can wear dresses. Gender roles are learned. And I’ve struggled with them since the day he was born. We didn’t shroud his room in superheroes because he’s a boy; we did it because his dad and I love superheroes. I paint his nails occasionally because he asks me to. He sees me paint mine, and he wants to imitate his parent. I get it. And I love it. We bond over it, just as I’m sure mothers feel a bond to their daughters when doing similar things. But he never wants pink polish. The kids at school only make fun of his painted nails if they are a “girl” color. He sticks to blues and greens on his nails.
When we walked into the school, the assistant director was in the front office. She smiled at my son and complimented his outfit. She told him that was her favorite color. The next teacher we passed smiled at him and told him he had a very pretty dress on. The teacher in the “gathering room” for children dropped off early didn’t respond at all. Just greeted him the same way she does every morning.
As I was leaving him, I heard one of his friends.
I don’t know what happened after that. Not yet. I don’t even know for sure the friend was reacting to my son.
I’m going to spend the rest of my day wondering. Will his friends be kind and accepting? Will he still be wearing the dress when I come to pick him up? Will he be confident enough to wear it to school again, if he chooses?
Will he be lucky enough to grow up in a world that will accept him for who he is? I know his family will. Even if he decides he likes wearing dresses. Or even if he doesn’t.