M. Giant's
Throwing stuff at the internet to see what sticks

Wednesday, December 19, 2007  

Dress Up

Something a bit weird happened the other day. We stopped by Trash's brother's house to drop off their Christmas cookies, and to hang out for a bit and give M. Small a chance to play with his cousin Deniece for a little bit. The kids ran around in the living room for a while, and then they went downstairs while we adults sat upstairs and discussed the WGA strike (by the way, the writers have one more supporter as of Sunday).

It was just coming up on that time when you realize the kids have been quiet for a while. As any parent knows, loud noises and yelling and crashes coming from the place where the kids are generally do not constitute a major problem; it's the times when they've been quiet for too long that you know the real damage is being done.

I was just about to go down and check on them when they came back upstairs. They hadn't destroyed anything at all, as it turned out, and were behaving quite innocently. Deniece was wearing a fringed flapper outfit from one of her dance classes. And M. Small was stunning in a full-length pink ball gown.

Although not "stunning" in the usual sense.

He presented himself before us, smiling proudly yet mischievously, his little-boy haircut suddenly looking oddly butch. Obviously this was Deniece's doing, but it was equally obvious that he had been a willing participant.

Trash and I made the appropriate surprised/aren't you silly noises, and they ran off again. And Trash admitted, "You know, I'm not having the reaction I've always thought I'd have."

We certainly haven't gone out of our way to socialize him with traditional gender roles. At Target, he always compares the vacuum cleaner displays with "Daddy's vacuum" and compares hardware store displays with "Mommy's table saw." Yet he's always been much more interested in tools and construction equipment than in dollies or dresses, through no conscious effort on our part.

We've always agreed that we will support him no matter what when he gets older, but after he ran off again in that pink formal, Trash confessed, "Inside my head I'm like, get it off, get it off." And I was glad she said that, because I kind of felt the same way. If he wants to wear women's clothes one day, fine. But preferably when he's older. And definitely not with the dark-blue socks that have rockets and stars on them. No son of mine is going to leave the house in a pink dress unless he's got white stockings on as well.

Obviously we didn't make a big deal of it, because the last thing we wanted was to turn it into a formative experience, either way. Hence no pictures for your enjoyment/alarm. Shortly afterward, it was time to go, and we explained that it was too cold to go back outside until he put his own clothes on.

"Noooo!" he wailed in protest. "I want to be a princess!"

"It's too cold for you to be a princess," I told him, and wrestled my child out of a dress, something I haven't thought I was ever going to have to do ever since we found out what gender he is.

I don't want to make it seem like I'm reading too much into this; It's just something funny he did. But it made me realize that as enlightened as we tell ourselves we are, I'm sure there's some part of us that's glad we don't have to worry about preparing him for certain things, like the way the world sometimes reacts to boys who aren't as interested in backhoe loaders as they are in MGM musicals. Being willing to but not having to represents the best of both worlds; you get to be thoughtful and progressive without actually having to work at it.

We've always told him he can be whatever he wants to be when he grows up. If that's a princess, we'll worry about it when the time comes.

posted by M. Giant 9:24 PM 19 comments


At M's age, dressing up, playing with dolls, kitchen, etc. isn't a cause for alarm. He's just pretending. He probably doesn't even understand that princesses are girls. My preschoolers all love to play dress up, cars, whatever, no matter their gender. Letting boys play dress up or with dolls is shown to help them express their emotions! :)

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 20, 2007 at 5:18 AM  

My daughter likes to wear her "pwincess dwesses" while playing with her trains and backhoes. You just never know with kids. Her almost 7 year old brother will wear a tiara while fighting her for the Thomas trains.

I think even the most progressive parents would still prefer our children to not be gay or transgendered or whatever. Not that we find anything wrong with those things, but we don't want our children to experience society's scorn and prejudice. That's not homophobic, just loving.

By Blogger Bunny, at December 20, 2007 at 6:05 AM  

My younger brother wore my pink ballet tutu all the time when he was about two. We have several pictures of him wearing it while on his big wheel. He liked it more than I did, it was pretty hilarious. My parents didn't make a big deal out of it either, and eventually he got tired of it and moved on.

He grew up to be a costume designer. He loves to sew. However, my dad was always the sewer/knitter in our family and also the cooker, whereas my mom can barely make spam and barely match up clothes she buys at the store, much less actually make them.

I do agree with Bunny in that most parents, despite being completely enlightened and understanding about transgendered, crossdressing, or homosexual folks, hope that their children will not be those things simply because it is difficult and painful. Many people will hate you for no reason, or for doing something simple that others can do without comment, like holding hands in public. All parents want to spare their child as much pain as possible, so it is not the life they themselves would wish for their child, any more than a parent wishes for a child to live in poverty, also a difficult and harshly judged situation.

It's just a matter of wanting your child to experience as little of the sad, hurtful parts of life as possible.

By Blogger Unknown, at December 20, 2007 at 6:30 AM  

My son's favorite color was pink until he entered pre-school. I think the others kids quickly schooled him on what boys and girls are "supposed" to like and how they are "supposed" to act. Then he started talking (and it was all talk) like he was "all boy". For his 4th birthday, he insisted no girls would be invited to his party. But then when you asked him the names of kids to invite, it was "Amber, Sarah, Chloe, ..."

Now he's six years old, and after attending a few cub scout den meetings, I have no doubts of his gender identity. The boys spend about 5 minutes on the craft, and 45 minutes running and hooting around the room -- very different from the girl scout meetings I attended as a kid.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 20, 2007 at 6:38 AM  

Look at it this way: if he does grow up to be a cross-dresser, then statistically he has a greater than usual chance of becoming a US Senator or FBI Director. So that's pretty cool.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at December 20, 2007 at 8:27 AM  

When I was a kid I wanted to be a cowboy. "Don't you mean a cowgirl?" people would ask. "No!" I'd insist scornfully, "A cowBOY!" No one ever told me that being anything I wanted to be when I grew up didn't include male.

I never did get into dolls and tutus, but the next vocation I latched onto was a botanist and that one lasted all the way through grad school, much, no doubt, to my parents' relief.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 20, 2007 at 9:06 AM  

I'm a new reader of your blog and I've been enjoying the posts about your son. However, this post and the comments above from Bunny and Ali make me sad and angry. If so-called "progressive" parents hope not to have LGBT kids, I'd hate to hear what more conservative parents think about this topic. This is a very personal issue for me, but I'd like to think that any true progressive parent would work like hell to create a society that values all people, including the LGBT people their children might become.

And PS--Sometimes homophobia yells, but sometimes it whispers. Either way, the message comes across very clearly.

By Blogger Clementine, at December 20, 2007 at 11:34 AM  

A couple that I am friends with have four children, two older boys and twin girls. The middle boy is the most stereotypically "boyish" in his behavior. Nonetheless, one of his favorite things to do when he was little was playing dress-up, and dressing up ALWAYS included Mommy's high-heeled shoes and some Mardi Gras beads. We all thought it was adorable; but then his parents used to cross-dress for their Halloween costumes in their pre-child-having era. Enjoy your son's imagination and sense of freedom; this lack of self-consciousness is precious, and usually doesn't last.

By Blogger kmckee7, at December 20, 2007 at 11:45 AM  

I was wondering when a comment like the last one would appear. I'm not going to speak for Trash and M. Giant, but as someone who knows them in real life, I can promise you that they are not homophobic at all, and I think other friends would back me up on this point. They have very close friends and relations that are GLBT, and I think that's what M. Giant was trying to say here. While they wouldn't have any issues themselves with a GLBT child, it would sadden them that M. Small would live in a world that does discriminate. But again, I don't want to speak for them.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 20, 2007 at 11:49 AM  

Although we all know that M. Small isn't necessarily anything LGBT because he's wearing a pink dress, some interesting things have come up in this conversation.

First, it will be sad for M. Small to grow up in a world where people discriminate whether or not he is straight, LGBT, a clown, whatever. The existence of discrimination is sad and bad for people, even straight people.

Second, for all of you who are saying that wanting your kid to not grow up with the "pain" of being LGBT is loving and not homophobic, some of us LGBT folks have experienced pain and suffering mainly from our parents, not necessarily this nebulous "rest of society". Y'all, we are the society. The computer is the network. It's good to acknowledge our hidden discomforts with this stuff, like M. Giant is doing, and then agree to see what happens when it happens, and to greet it with love, not fear.

By Blogger meera, at December 20, 2007 at 11:58 AM  

I'm gay and I'd have to say that if I had kids I wouldn't want them to be gay/transgendered/etc. It's not homophobia. Stop being so overly sensitive and PC! It's really ok!

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 20, 2007 at 12:10 PM  

I love the Internet, but sometimes it seems like it's where people go to be annoyed by stuff. This discussion is asinine.

And no, I wouldn't want my kid to grow up on the Internet. I'm trying to make it a slightly better place in my own way, but that doesn't mean I endorse everything that goes on in here.

By Blogger Febrifuge, at December 20, 2007 at 12:50 PM  

@febrifuge Maybe when you consider how many people are murdered and beaten, or commit suicide every year because of homophobia, you'll think twice about how asinine this discussion is.

@M Giant, I didn't want to be a princess when I grew up, I was made this way.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 20, 2007 at 8:33 PM  

My 6 year old nephew was dressed up like the lone Ranger playing guns and shooting things while singing look at me I'm sandra Dee.
It's on video and I call him my little gay boy. Who cares He's happy healthy and really cute and smart - that's what's important.

By Blogger Libragirl, at December 21, 2007 at 1:14 AM  

@anonymous 8:33pm -- look, this is asinine because it's not the time or place. If you believe that the comments section of my friend's blog is where I'm going to a) show my true colors as some kind of hateful bigot, b) experience a conversion to the "correct" way of thinking, or c) convince you that I'm actually a thoughtful, decent person, then you're just wrong. None of those things can really happen here. The difference between you and I, it seems to me, is I know it.

And anyway, I highly doubt I'll be able to come to any accord or honest exchange of ideas with someone who chooses to be anonymous, rather than standing behind at least a consistent online identity with a track record behind it.

I understand that homophobia is one of the more horrid aspects of the society we live in. As I live my real life, I don't tolerate it. As I conduct my conversations online, I call people on it. Please step off that pedestal and take a look around.

You're addressing me like I'm saying it's an unimportant issue; that's a straw-man argument, it's lazy, and it's insulting. What I'm actually saying is it's ridiculous to lecture M.Giant or his commenters about this topic, because by and large all anyone has done is to acknowledge the difficulty of the situation.

We all want to make the world a better place, and fight for what we believe is right. We also want our kids to face as little of that bullshit as possible. So forgive me for acknowledging that the world has a way to go yet, and don't lump me in with people who don't care.

To MG: sorry this blew up this way. For Xmas I guess you got a flame war! ;)

By Blogger Febrifuge, at December 21, 2007 at 10:21 AM  

Oh sure, Feb - we get a flame war for Christmas, you guys get cookies. Unfair!

At first I wasn't sure I wanted M. Giant to post this entry, because my life feels a little open-book sometimes, but now I am glad that he did. I think the discussion is good - it shows that even the more well-intentioned response can trigger someone else. Besides, I think the holidays are prime time for feelings to be close to the surface.

So to everyone out there, happy holidays! I hope the year ends with a bang - and I mean that in a good way.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 21, 2007 at 11:09 AM  

I'd like to have seen the pictures - especially the blue socks with rockets. It is giving me ideas on what to wear to our next faculty event.

As I was reading the post (from my lesbian perspective), I, too, was thinking "get it off, get it off!" Of course, that was probably because the dress was *pink*, a color I naturally abhor. Wonder what that says about my gender issues/whispering homophobia and other internalized social messages?

As a young feminist (yes, you are) I used to think that just the awareness of my own internalized -ism's made me immune and that I magically stopped spreading our culture's b.s. because I was aware. Age and experience made me realize immunity isn't an option. Awareness just makes me aware. What I choose to do with the awareness is what matters. We don't become cured, we just get better at dealing with our cultural baggage. How's that for a mixed metaphor?

I wish M. Giant and Trash had been MY parents. I'll bet I would've gotten the Tonka trucks my brother got for Christmas is 1977.

Damn the luck.

By Blogger Madrone, at December 21, 2007 at 6:12 PM  

My 16-year-old son and I were at the Roseville Target earlier this week when I heard him say, "Oooh, mom, I want this for Christmas!" I turned around to see.... Hello Kitty Barbie. He's obsessed with all things even remotely Japanese.

What the hell, for the $35, I'm just glad it's not another video game.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 21, 2007 at 10:59 PM  

I don't really know what's so wrong with hoping your kid won't grow up with a giant metaphorical target painted on his ass. In decades past, would saying "I hope my kids all grow up right-handed so the nuns don't duct-tape their hands to the desk in handwriting class" have indicated a deep-seated loathing for left-handed people? Come on, for real. I am the B in LGBT (which is how I happen to know that Ls and Gs are more than fully capable of sexual-orientation bigotry all their own but that's a whooole other post) and I have no problem with loving parents who want to see their kids grow up suffering as little mockery, scorn, oppression, or repression as possible. Until we *do* live in that happy world where no gay kid has to deal with more of that stuff than straights, I have no problem with M's & Trash's attitude at. all. Acknowledging that the world is more-than-usually cruel to gay kids isn't the same as *condoning* that fact.

By Anonymous Anonymous, at December 28, 2007 at 8:32 PM  

Post a Comment

Listed on BlogShares www.blogwise.com
buy my books!
professional representation
Follow me on Twitter
other stuff i