Why I Let My 8-Year-Old Son Keep On Dressing Like A Girl
Self-confidence never had a better spokesperson than a bullied, cross-dressing first grader.
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My son loves a skirt.
He wears nail polish all the time, bracelets up and down his arms, an anklet, and as much pink as he’s in the mood for in any given moment. His sartorial tastes go through phases that have included daisy dukes, tights, and, these days, Elsa-inspired gowns. To school, he wears parachute pants, an oversized women’s tee, and his (usually pink) Chuck Taylors. I wouldn’t choose this style for him, but he is fully and unabashedly himself. He’s 8.
We’ve tried to give him the tools to handle the moments we knew would and may still come his way.
My son’s taught me a lot about being true to who you are. It hasn’t always been easy for him, being a little boy who likes to dress like a “big girl.” But we’ve tried to give him the permission and confidence to be and express himself regardless of cultural and gender norms and regardless of what others might think or say. We’ve tried to give him the tools to handle the moments we knew would and may still come his way as long as what he likes and wears doesn’t reflect what’s considered “typical.”
Two weeks ago, we were driving to a friend’s house when the conversation turned to how some kids at (our progressive and diverse) school still make fun of him for how he dresses. “Boys shouldn’t wear pink or nail polish or hair ties,” they say. Resisting the urge to turn the car around and find the 7 year-old who’d challenge my son’s happiness, I instead asked how he handles these moments. And, with a sense of self I’ll always remember and cherish, he answered, “I tell them that colors don’t have penises or vaginas, and colors aren’t for boys or girls. I like pink, and I like nail polish, and I’m a boy. I like what I like, that’s all.”
At my age, I strive to be as comfortable with myself as my son is with himself.
At my age, I strive to be as comfortable with myself as my son is with himself. Indeed, based on the work I do, I can say our cultural norm is discomfort with one’s self … and again, my son is the outlier. It may not always be this way, but for now, I’m so happy it is and so happy he’s so comfortable with who he is and how he chooses to express, share, and sometimes even defend that.
Do I care that he likes to dress “like a girl?” Not even a little bit. I’ll admit though to wishing he had better style — but he likes what he likes, and that’s just great.
Seth Matlins has served as the global CMO for Live Nation as well as senior executive for Creative Artists Agency.
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