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Elizabeth Brunner, Founder of StereoType, Answers Your Questions
Q: My Son Wants to Wear a Dress. I’m Worried He’ll Get Teased. Help!
I love the brand and was really captivated by your own story. I also have a son who is currently in first grade, and while he identifies as a boy, he loves wearing dresses and feeling “beautiful.” We were in a progressive kindergarten last year, where he wore whatever he wanted. Now, we’re in a public first grade, and he’s likely going to be with these classmates for at least the next five years.
He wants to wear his skirts and “sparkle shirts” to school. I’ve told him that there’s a difference between play clothes and school clothes. But now he’s one month into the school year, and he’s noticed his female peers are wearing skirts and “sparkle shirts.” I know the excuse was a lame one, and I feel like he knows, too. Thoughts?
Dear Want My Son to Shine,
I completely understand where you are coming, my son also identifies as a boy, and is drawn to dresses and anything that sparkles. When he first started wearing dresses and skirts it was in our home and he was free to wear whatever he liked, but when it came time to wearing dresses outside of the safety and (non-judgement) of our home, I felt more anxious about what others might think or say, knowing not everyone will agree with Jacob’s choices in dressing.
I was worried about the potential teasing and bullying Jacob might face when he went to school dressed in sparkles and kittens, but I eventually realized I couldn’t control what happened to Jacob outside of our home, I could only love, support and advocate for him as he is — which is a sweet, loving, gentle little human. I could make sure he knew he wasn’t wrong for loving the things that he does, that wearing what he loves is exactly how he should be dressing and empowering him to do so. The same for my daughter Chloe and her love of black, camo and dinosaurs, which are not discouraged or even encouraged in our home. These clothing choices are simply what my kids are drawn to and love to embody at this stage in their young lives. By encouraging their individuality every step of the way, I am able to create a stronger bond and deeper connection with my kids because they know that they are loved and accepted as they are.
What ended up happening at school when Jacob did wear his more “feminine” clothing, was although he may have gotten some negative attention for wearing a dress or sparkles (or both,) what he really gained were good friendships and friends who truly cared and loved him for who he is and not what he wore. The best part is seeing those friendships blossom and flourish. They feel supported and seen by one another. It’s such a beautiful thing.
I know it’s so hard and can be intimidating to go against the grain. We don’t want our kids to hurt...ever. But what I’m encouraging you to do is feel the wonder alongside the worry. Your son knows who he is and what makes him feel good! Some people spend their whole lives trying to achieve that sense of self. So I would say take a step back, offer support, and know that your son is already shining!
Have a question about exploring identity, breaking stereotypes, navigating the gendered-clothing aisles, or anything else? Drop a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and our founder, Elizabeth Brunner, will do her best to answer.