Monday, February 28, 2011

My Son is Girly?

My son likes to wear dresses. There, I’ve said it, he’s  attracted to all things beautiful. At dress up parties, while the boys were putting on evil monster costumes, my son got lost in the pastel colours and silky fabrics of princess gowns. It was cute. When he turned five, it became uncomfortable.

Around me, the reactions were very different. Clusters of family members began to display discomfort for my son’s preferences. What started as whispers amongst each other became a series of warnings. I was told I was “damaging J by letting him wear dresses. I was confusing him. I was turning him gay”. The situation was getting ugly and spiraling out of control.
The rest of the family was appalled at this attitude. They were more concerned with my son’s well being. “He’s just expressing himself. It’s just a stage. It will pass”.

Battle lines were drawn. My husband and I were caught in the middle.
Josh knew something was up. He had been told several times from “helpful” family members that dressing up was inappropriate for a boy. He did it anyway. But there was an increasing secrecy in his behaviour accompanied by anxiety. I was worried.

My husband was torn. Half of him wanted my son to feel free to express himself. But there was a greater concern that his son display more male behaviour. That’s when our fights started. My son’s love of dresses started to affect our family dynamic and our marriage. We had to take some action.
I asked around amongst my  mummy girlfriends, and a child psychologist was highly recommended. A month later my husband and I sat in her office, a box of Tissues close at hand.
After hearing about our emotionally charged situation, she spoke. “Your son needs to stop wearing dressing immediately.” I was shocked. “What? What about his imagination? His individuality? His love of all things beautiful?” I grabbed another Tissue .
She explained that one of the ways children understand their place in society is the way they dress. At his age, wearing dresses isn’t socially acceptable behaviour and warned he would likely become a pariah amongst his school friends. The fact that he was anxious while dressing girly also didn’t sit well with her. What he needed, she prescribed, was for us to give him firm guidelines with an explanation. To satisfy his artist self, she suggested we provide Josh with a box of art materials so he can design, draw and write about dresses to his hearts content. Female clothing was fine as long as it was on paper and not on his body
I wiped my tears, my husband drew a sigh of relief and we went home to chat with him.
“J”, I said “What would you think if you saw a fireman wearing a dress? Or, what if your teacher wore her pajamas to school? You’d think that’s strange, right? We wear clothes so people understand who we are. You’re a boy so you need to wear boy’s clothes. So no more dresses, OK?”
I swear I saw relief pass over his face. He smiled, said, “OK”, and jumped off the bed. It was that simple.

It’s been two months and J hasn’t gone near a dress since. He’s happier, less moody and more playful. And so am I.


  1. Awesome post.
    My son has a thing for ladies bangles.
    Once I have this baby in July, he will be the only male in an all girl household (three sisters).
    It's only a matter of time before he starts with the dresses also!
    I think you tackled this issue brilliantly.
    Thanks for the pointers :-)

  2. Yes an awesome post! It's great that you shared it with us as I'm sure a few of us will be in similar positions at some stage.

  3. Wow, I am really impressed by this approach, especially encouraging him to draw and design the dresses xoxo

  4. Geez, this was a little heartbreaking to read. You must have gone through a terrible time, as you never want to think of your little ones being ostracized or worse, simply for being who they are. I enjoyed reading about the end result. Heart warming! It's amazing how little people are so much brighter than we give them credit for sometimes. If we could only remember just to "talk" to them when things go a little off the tracks, maybe issues would resolve ALOT quicker. Thanks for sharing this story.

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