There is a long patriarchal tradition that says that appearing as female is not acceptable if we think you might be male. But, years ago, we accepted that women and girls can wear pants and suits. But, somehow, it is not ok for men and nonbinary folks to wear a dress or skirt.
I wish we could come to a place where the feminine aspect that is in all of us is honored and respected.
That we stop putting people in boxes and assuming we know their gender when they haven’t told us. And that we respect people and allow them to choose the clothes and gender expression that fits them best.
Phrases that haunt me
“Is he still wearing dresses?” (a grandparent referring to an assigned male at birth nonbinary child)
“He is a crossdresser.” (an adult talking about their friend.)
I want to really encourage us as parents and educators to think about how we use terminology. We don’t ever use the phrase “crossdresser” for someone who is female. But, for some reason, if someone’s gender is male we think that they have no right to wear a dress or a skirt. Let’s just get rid of that outdated term, please.
Gender Expression vs. Gender Identity
Remember that gender expression and gender identity are two different things. Gender expression is how we choose to decorate ourselves. Gender identity is what gender we know ourselves to be. Children and adults can identify as female, but only wear pants and play in a rough and tumble way. A male or nonbinary child can wear a dress and skirt and play with dolls. Expression is how we choose to cut our hair and the clothes we wear and even as we get older – what hormones we might choose to have or not have in our body that make our physical characteristics look more typically female or male.
Gender identity is how you feel on the inside.
What are we teaching our kids? I think we have finally come to a place where kids can pick whatever color they like without it having to have a boy connotation or girl connotation, but even in the transgender parenting space, I see parents lamenting about choices of clothing. Transgender kids feel pressured to wear more feminine or masculine outfits and colors, just to prove to someone that they are the gender they identify with. And if they are nonbinary, many feel that they must take on gender-neutral clothing and styles. But, gender and expression are two different things. We can like things that are typically gendered as male and still identify as the gender of female or the opposite can also be true. We can also like all the things on different days and identify as agender or nonbinary.
Decorate How You Like!
Please parents: let your kids decorate their beautiful selves in the way that feels best. Don’t stop them because you fear the bullies, or you worry about what the old lady around the corner will say. There will always be bullies and crazy neighbors in this world.
And the more we stop our kids from being who they really are, the more we allow the bullying to continue. Because when only one child is allowed to step outside the norm, there is more risk of bullying.
But, when all the kids are allowed to show their unique side, then more kids become tolerant and helpful to each other. And we must actively speak up in our communities for more education so that the kids help each other feel safe.
I have a big wish for this world. It’s that when a child shows up in an outfit and they are excited to show you what they are wearing or how they have done their hair – simply show your enthusiasm also.
Don’t damper it with “_____(child of a certain gender) can’t wear that” or ” you look like a ______(child of a certain gender) when you wear that”.
Start by educating your kids and allowing them to experiment with all different clothes and all different colors. Encourage them to think outside the boxes of male and female and to venture into clothing sections that “aren’t designed for them” just so they can see what clothes they actually like to wear.
And the next time you see an amazing dress or skirt, don’t ask why that boy is wearing it. Ask them how it feels to twirl around. Maybe you would like to try it out too?