My son is big into tractors. He loves Legos. He builds skyscrapers out of wooden blocks, and then goes all Godzilla on them. He plays in the mud, and looks for bugs and gravitates towards the collection of plastic dinosaurs over the baby dolls that his big sister, M. favors.
And on the first day of gan (preschool) last week, Little Homie told me that he wanted to wear a dress.
“This one!” He said, holding up M.’s white summer dress with the red and orange flowers on it. “Pretty dress!”
So that’s what he wore.
“Do you know your son is wearing a dress?” one father told me during drop-off.
(No! Really? Must be laundry day, Captain Obvious, because you forgot your cape.)
“Maybe he wants to wear this instead?” a mother said, handing me a shirt from her son’s bag.
(Right, because nothing screams manly like a shirt with a yellow duckling on it.)
“Doesn’t he have boy clothes?” a grandmother asked when she saw my son twirling around in his flowery frock.
(No, Lady, we don’t have “boy clothes,” because we’re too damn poor to afford to buy new stuff for him, so it’s M.’s hand-me-downs, or nothing. And besides, I’ve decided to exercise my God given right as his mother to turn him gay. Now, lets crank up the Madonna and get this party started!)
Yeah, my son is wearing a dress with flowers on it. But so fucking what? It doesn’t impede on his ability to play in the dirt. He’s not tripping over the hem and hurting himself. Yeah, he’s twirling a little bit, but it’s awesome: he’s learning about rhythm and movement, and the way soft fabric feels against his legs when he whirls around in a circle.
I didn’t encourage his fashion pick: Believe you me, our drawers are stocked with clothes in navy blue, steel, and hunter green. We have shirts with pictures of dinosaurs and trucks and cartoon dogs emblazoned on the front. We’ve even got the requisite badass AB/CD (AC/DC parody,) and the “Chicks dig my Crib” onesie. But when Little Homie gravitated toward his sister’s skirts and dresses over all the clothes in his drawer, I honor his choice.
(Did ya notice the key words, people: His. Choice.)
Yeah, Little Homie is only 20 months, but this is one way we can allow him to (safely) exercise his autonomy. Sure, there are things that parents decide for their kids all the time: If asked, Little Homie might have opted out of his brit, or the DTaP vaccine. But this is different.
And if anybody –parent, or teacher, or child—belittles my son for this, I swear I will cut them. Because even if he starts breastfeeding dolls or asking to take ballet class, so long as he’s happy and healthy, then it’s all good. And I will honor his choice to wear dresses, or lip sync to Madonna, or wear red nail polish on his toes.
Or fall in love with whoever he chooses.
Although I draw the line at wearing my high heels to gan.
For another take on gender and clothing, read Liz Rose-Cohen’s My Black Son’s Pink Shoes.