Bending the Gender Norms


When we found out we were having a boy, there were so many different things that ran through my mind. Would he play football like his daddy? Would he be a mama’s boy? Could I teach him to grow up to be a sensitive, understanding young man in this wild world we live in?  I knew that raising a boy in the culture we are currently in was going to be a challenge, but I was determined to do the best that I could. I was going to do whatever I could to allow my son to be whoever he wanted to be, despite what society was telling him otherwise.  

Ten short months after he was born, his little sister arrived and you could tell from an early age, he was very interested in “sissy’s things”.  He loved everything pink and purple, and seemed to be drawn to the sparkly, glittery items (I mean, wouldn’t you?) When you asked him, his favorite color was purple and when his sister got a baby doll for her birthday from her Nana, we ended up going to buy him the same one because he kept stealing hers.  

As a society, we seem to push children into gender roles before they are even born. When you plan a baby shower, the themes are usually pink, blue, or yellow/green, depending on the baby’s gender. I was determined to break out of those gender norms the best I could as I entered parenthood and frankly, didn’t care what anyone thought. So our daughter wore most of her brother’s hand-me-downs and no one really thought twice about it. However, as our son became older, he grew more and more interested in “dress up” clothes that typically a girl would wear. For her birthday, our daughter got an entire trunk full of princess dress-up clothes, sparkly costume jewelry, and baby high heels. But before she even had a chance to play with them, our son was parading around the playroom with several of the items on, proud of his new look.  

I am a member of several parenting groups online, which can be both a blessing and a curse. I find it helpful to read stories of parents who have been through the stages and can offer advice or ideas when I am in the thick of it. However, I also realize it can be a breeding ground for negativity. On a recent post that caught my attention, the parent was asking “How many parents allow your son to wear dresses?” and there were over 500 responses on this particular topic. As I read through the comments (which is not always the best idea), I couldn’t help but feel sorry for some of those little boys whose parents were limiting their creativity and robbing them of some typical childhood fun. One response even went so far as to say “I don’t mind it but my husband thinks it will negatively affect our son and he could turn out to be gay”, which left me dumbfounded. It’s 2020 and there are still people in our world that believe that letting your toddler son dress up in princess clothes will “turn him gay”.  Furthermore, if your son did happen to be homosexual, so what? I couldn’t wrap my head around the fact that as a parent, that could be a valid reason to be worried.

As I sit here with my kids, they are both pulling out several shiny items from their dress-up box and once their decisions are made, my son has a yellow skirt on and claims he is going to be Peggy from “Hamilton”. He asks me to turn on the movie so he can act it out, dance around, and just enjoy being a 2-year-old. Who am I to tell him that some people are just not ok with that? I just want my kids to grow up to be happy, healthy, independent, and kind individuals who are comfortable in their own skin. It just breaks my heart to know that there are people out there who aren’t as accepting, but maybe these future generations can work on changing that for all of us.    


  1. Absolutely love this! As I was reading I couldn’t help but remember a day at work. I was a manager for a children’s clothing store and a family came in to shop. The mom did the majority of the picking while dad played with the son. There was a point where the little boy picked up a fairy skirt. The dad (quite macho) looked around (for acceptance) and I nodded bc it is ok to play… he said “ok” and the kid and dad both put skirts on and played. About five minutes later mom was done shopping and they both removed their skirts. Dad rubbed the little guy’s head and said “that was fun! But only here ok.” It was fun. For everyone to see such joy.

  2. Kudos to you! We have to raise strong, brave children who aren’t afraid to be themselves. I’m the proud mom of a non-binary lesbian, I couldn’t possibly love them any more. I have the best kiddo that I could’ve dreamed of, I’m so happy that they’re proud to speak up and not be afraid of what’s said. I’ll be right by their side the whole time!

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