Cross Dressing Children

What will we allow our boys to wear and what toys can they play with? A girl wearing fatigues and playing with GI Joes barely raises an eyebrow. But Junior wanting a Barbie and fairy princess dress still makes us dads squeamish. Even me, and I'm gay for Pete's sake. You'd think I'd be all "woo hoo, party over here!" when my son clomps around the house in plastic pumps. But truth be told, there's a kernel of discomfort buried deep within my free wheeling, cool gay dad exterior.

The above picture was my son's idea. He plopped one of his sister's tutus on his head and pranced about in his version of a la-de-dah lady, something not seen since the grand ol' days of vaudeville. He then convinced Maxie to put a tutu on as well and demanded a photo shoot. It was campy and a lot of fun. The merriment ebbed. The tutu came off. He then got dressed in his uniform: jeans, tee shirt, hoodie, sneaks, and was off to school.

Bash is beginning to develop his own sense of style. For a while he fancied a pink pair of cat-eyed sunglasses. A girl in his class obnoxiously said, "Those are girl glasses." I immediately held my breath, taking more offense to the tone than the implication. But Sebastian parried with, "No, they aren't." Case closed. I didn't have to snatch the child bald.

I've blogged about the time he went trick or treating as Dorothy and his present attachment to a pair of Dolce and Gabanna girl boots, Sometimes a Girl Needs a Kicky Pair of Boots, and I've come to a conclusion... Much more important than any discomfort I may have, my children deserve the right to explore in a safe environment without being subjected to shame. Last thing I want to be responsible for are future therapy bills.

I couldn't tell you what Sebastian's sexual orientation will be, but he's incredibly social and if he can get the laugh, he very well might go out in public wearing a dress. Much like my uncle did in 1950's Norman, Oklahoma, singing to his high school assembly I'm Just a Girl Who Can't Say No.

I never wanted to wear women's clothes and I'm gay. My uncle, who still puts on his Ado Annie drag from time to time, has been married to my aunt for more than fifty years. So love of the dress has nothing to do with what team you bat for. My husband, the ex drag queen, may disagree.

Tomorrow, I'm driving north for a good friend's wedding. By myself! It will be my first night away from my daughter since she arrived in our home. I can't tell you how much I'm looking forward to the break. But while I'm gone, I'm not going to think about Sebastian as my tutu wearing, future eyeliner applying son. I'm going to miss his smile, and the energy he gives me daily. His personality is brilliant, and it is my job, whether I fully approve of his choices or not, to grind those kernels of discomfort into dust, and protect the energy and light and humor and strength and vulnerability that is Sebastian Isaac.


Jason said…
That picture is beyond adorable. I say let kids be kids while they still can.
Me-Me King said…
I once dressed my son as Carmen Miranda, it was hysterical as he danced around and sang, "I-I-I-I-I I like you berry mush." By the way, now 32, my son claims that 3 of his Top 5 embarrassing lifetime moments involve me - go figure.
Chris said…
I love it. I think letting him do his thing is one of the most amazing choices a parent can make. And for the record, by his age I was already know to be experimenting with makeup. Just Sayin. ;-)
Daddy Files said…
I liked this post. I don't like the idea of my son wearing a dress, but if he does slip on his mom's high heels in the future, I'm going to remember this post and take a few deep breaths.

Bella Daddy said…
Live and let live eh? My kid is always in various stages of dress it her princess dresses, her bumblee jammies or Daddy's shoes...all I care is that she is having a blast!

Good for you!
Hey there,
I wrote about a similar topic on dad blogs called, "But that is for a Girl".

I like your perspective and your kids seem awesome!!!
ciara said…
it's great that you don't stifle his ability to explore who he is. this could just be a phase, he could grow up to be a cross dress, who knows...i can totally see that your kids are in a loving and nurturing environment :)
KWG said…
"My children deserve the right to explore in a safe environment without being subjected to shame."

Brilliant and I couldn't agree more.

I never did the dress up thing as a child, but my sister was one helluva tomboy.

But I was an asthmatic, skinny, shy little boy who lived in his head and loved to read.

Birth father didn't did that. But then again, he didn't really care when I grew up to play sports or dig chicks either.

My daughter will be loved no matter what team she plays for.
Anonymous said…
Actually we allow kids to wear the same kind of cloths for both girls and boys, but this only until they reach the age of 2 :)

cloths is a part of the personality, so it's always good thing to direct the personalty of kids by their cloths!
Vodka Mom said…
My son used to run around the yard wearing his sister's bikini. (he was four) It was HYSTERICAL- and she would chase him SCREAMING.

I loved this post ("Even me, and I'm Gay for Pete's sake.")

More importantly, I love the fact that you are a GREAT dad.
I love that you have given your children the freedom to have fun! It is fun for them, not a major decision on whether they are gay or not.
Back when my son was only 2 1/2 he adored playing with and cuddling his sister's dolls. He would tenderly carry them around, kissing and hugging them. Two of my friends came over and the husband got very offended and told my ex to take that doll away from him. What the hell is wrong with boys learning how to nurture and care for children? As he grew he also loved to put on his sister's dress and let his older sisters do his hair and put make up on him. He would "try" to be graceful and dainty as he twirled and would approach us with a demure smile. Was I concerned with his sexual orientation? No way. He was being funny and cute. But how about last year when he was 11? He used his "fun loving cross dressing attitude" to get close to the girls that were having a sleep over with his sister. Oh yeah, this boy knew that if he went in to her room and said "hey, give me a make over" that the girls would be all over that shit! You could hear the roar of laughter coming from the other room, and they paraded him out dressed in an old pink costume with a pink boa, high heel shoes and make up and painted nails. The painted nails were a badge of honor that he couldn't wait to brag about at school because he REFUSED to remove the nail polish to show proof that he had a slew of girls tending to him. I took a picture and immediately sent it to his father. I nearly pissed my pants laughing so hard. He isn't afraid of dressing that way and at no time along the way has he questioned whether he was gay or not. It was a way to be funny and get the attention of some very pretty girls who would lavish all their attention on him if only for a few moments.
There is an excellent movie that I have always loved called "Bruno" about a little boy that loves to wear girls dresses.

I think that we as parents need to let them play and have fun. They are so pure and lovely and they deserve to be treated that way.
Out-Numbered said…
Uncle Milty, Monty Python, kids in the hall... They all made duckets of cash dressing up like the ladies. Just keep the love flowing in that casa of yours and it won't matter one way or the other. I think he looks damn good!
Kevin said…
At that age, cross dressing is hysterical. Kids haven't mastered subtle wit, so they go for the over-the-top humor, and dressing like a woman is far more about being a ham than claiming an identity.

Your attitude toward the situation seems great.
Gwensarah said…
When my son was a toddler he was such the little drag queen..if it was pink and sparkly then he had. to. have. IT! Even at 5 and 6 he still had a penchant for 'girly' toys. Now at 11, he is a Harry Potter and Percy Jackson reading, Command and Conquer playing Boy...who has a 'girlfriend' (the quotation marks are due to his young age) my family still jokes that he is the
gayest straight boy ever, he still respects his inner drag queen by drawing dress designs, he loves to bake and he genuninely enjoys the company of girls, complete with the gossip and the drama.
Something tells me he'd applaud Bash :)
Sarah Hoffman said…
My son wore a dress for three years--starting with the princess costume at school, and progressing to wearing a dress "for real" to preschool and kindergarten. I write about my experience raising a gender-nonconforming boy on my blog,

And I recently wrote a piece for Salon about how everyone assumes boys like my son will be gay. And of course that's OK--but it's not necessarily a given, and I'd rather let my son just be who he is, whoever that may be.

Thanks for writing about this stuff!
-Sarah Hoffman
Sarah Hoffman said…
Oops...full link to the Salon article:
Diane Cacciato said…
A great movie on just this topic is Breakfast with Scot. It's about two men dealing with the gender expression of their (probably gay) foster son. I teach Social Justice in high school and show it to my kids every year. I think I will get them to read this post too!

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