My Son Wants To Wear a Dress

If you’re wondering whether gay parents are more likely to raise gay kids, you should know that my 2 1/2 year-old daughter has already announced that she wants to marry a boy when she grows up.  No particular boy, not at this point, just “a boy”.

Where did she get this crazy idea that you can marry, you know, people of the opposite sex?  I blame Disney movies.  Ariel and Eric, Tiana and Naveen, Beauty and the Beast.  Daddy and Daddy just can’t compete with love stories like those, especially without any Menken-penned showtunes of our own for her to dance along to.

I’ve even reminded her that girls can marry girls, at least here in New York.  No thanks, she’s marrying a boy.  And her brother is going to marry a girl.

So she says.

Like most boys his age, Bennett hasn’t shown much interest yet in marrying anyone, of either gender.  But he does want to wear a dress.  Badly.  Lately, he’s been asking me every day.

I read absolutely nothing into this, of course.  It’s not like either of his dads was ever into the drag thing, but he certainly hears about dresses an awful lot.  His twin sister is obsessed with them and gets a lot of attention for them, so I don’t blame him for thinking something magical will happen if he puts one on.  He’d definitely get a lot of attention.

Of course, that’s my fear.  I don’t care if the kid wears a dress, whether or not it ends up being something he wants to do when he gets older.  But I know if he wears a dress to the playground or the zoo, some schmuck kid (or, perhaps more likely, grown-up) will feed him that nonsense that “boys don’t wear dresses”.

If that happens, it might not be a big deal.  He might go, “Oh, really?  They don’t?  Why didn’t you tell me that, Daddy?”  Then again, he might cry.  I’m just not ready for the world to teach my kid shame.  I grew up in the closet myself, albeit a slightly different one, and I don’t want that to happen to him.  For now, I don’t even want him to know there is a closet.

So when he asks me to wear a dress, I don’t say no.  I tell him he can do it “later” (as in when we’re not going outside for a while).

“Later” also means when he’s old enough to understand how other people might react.  And if he wants to wear dresses anyway, then I’ll have his back — plunging, ruffled or otherwise.

I’ll also remind him that he can marry whomever he wants, no matter what society – or his sister – might tell him.

59 comments on “My Son Wants To Wear a Dress

  1. Parenting: You’re doing it right.

    Seriously, I give you and your partner mad props for how you handle every day situations that most parents wouldn’t even begin to know how to approach.

    Keep it up!

  2. A friend of mine told me the other day that her step-dad sat her and her brother down one day when they were young kids and said “I may not like everything you do, but I will always love you regardless.” It’s so important for kids to know they’re loved for their genuine selves. It gives them an unshakable base. The friend who told me that is 65 and she’s never forgotten it. You’re a good dad to love them without conditions.

  3. You could do what we did with my brother if your son is young enough.

    My Baby brother wanted to wear dresses around 3, because all of us girls did and that was who he was around for a bit. He’d pull them down, and ask us to help him put them on. My older sister, being clever, pulled down one of my dad’s big t-shirts that was really long on him, and said that it was a much prettier dress, and put it on him. For a year or so, he would only wear really long t-shirts, and then pretty soon, they got shorter and shorter, so he could play easy, and pretty soon, he just had no memory of it. He never got made fun of wearing the long t-shirts, some of his friends were even jealous that we allowed him to.

    I think you’re handling it well. But if you don’t actually ever let him wear a dress, and just say later. You’re teaching him that “later” is a synonym for “never” which is important to remember.

  4. My son (just over 3) want to wear a dress sometimes too. I bought him a purple princess dress last Halloween. He also has a purple superhero cape. After we went to Florida last year for vacation with my niece and her boyfriend he asked me when we got back if my niece’s boyfriend was a princess. I asked him if he though that E was a princess. My son told me he did think E was a princess. I told him then that yes, E was certainly a princess and we discussed what color his princess dress was.

    I’m currently struggling against my ex and his family as they do not want me to indulge my son in wearing his favorite color of purple (it’s just a color people) and they don’t want him to wear dresses for any reason. He’s old enough to pick out his clothes before daycare now and I think that gives him the right to have some say in what he wears.

    There is another blog I follow and her son (4-5 ish) loves to wear dresses. One day he wanted to wear his dress to the grocery store but there had been some issues at school surrounding his differences. So she dashed into her bedroom and put on a fancy-ish dress as well. Her daughter was already in dress up. So, in solidarity, her husband went into her closet and found a dress he could put on over his clothes. So the whole family went to the store in dresses. I love that show of acceptance.

    I want my son to grow up understanding that I love him for who and what is, no matter who and what that is. I’ll love him if he wears purple dresses and I’ll love him if he wears business suits. I want to encourage him to be himself and not let others, or society, decide that he needs to dress, act or love a certain way.

  5. I have fallen in love with your blog and I completely agree with how you’re handling this. There need to be more understanding parents like you in the world.

  6. Hah, I get that request lately, too. I am the only woman in the household, and I am not wearing skirts or dresses an awful lot of times. But when I do (like the new nightie I bought) my little monster can be counted on to demand a skirt for himself as well. Usually I simply use one of his muslins and wrap it around his waist or drape it over one shoulder like a toga. With his normal clothes underneath. He generally loses interest as soon as it slides down or gets in the way of playing. The one time that we went outside in this outfit people just smiled or laughed in a friendly way because he was wearing it with so much pride. But then we live in England, so maybe people are just too polite to lecture him (or me) on appropriate clothing?

    By the way, I do use the “later” card on all kinds of stuff but I try to make sure that I follow through. He is getting to the point where he doesn’t forget as easily anymore ;-)

    • “But we live in England, so maybe people are just too polite to lecture him (or me) on appropriate clothing?”

      I live in the US, and little kids wear all kinds of adorable goofy stuff in public. I see tiny superheroes in the grocery store all the time. A toga would get some friendly smiles, but only a crank would tell a child he was dressed inappropriately.

  7. You could always get him a kilt. Others are less likely to comment on something they think represent a certain culture. Or just get him a dress or two…he’ll get sick of it pretty quickly anyways. Dresses are IMPOSSIBLE to play in comfortably…that’s why I never wear them. :)

  8. Have I ever told you how great it is that you share these stories? It gives me a lot to think about. I mean, these things happen. It’s worth thinking about how to respond to such situations.
    I remember my younger cousin, when he was about 3, wanting to play with dolls. I was quite surprised when the women in my family said, “Oh, just let him play with it!” his dad kind of just shook his head at the situation. At some point, he said, “Dolls are for girls, man. Give it back to [whoever it belonged to].” That made me a little sad. But I get it. We live in a very homophobic place. It’s even branded itself “Christian nation” How scary is THAT?

  9. As a Mama to a Princess Boy, we’ve been playing with this issue for a few years. He sported his first dress around the age of 2, and has been in and out of dresses ever since. When he was littler I would make his dresses boy-ish by adding a truck applique, or a Lightning McQueen. Now he strongly prefers anything swirly, sparkly, and Pink. Trucks are still cool, but not for dresses. He’s 5 1/2 now, creeping up on 6, and wants to be the Sugar Plum Fairy when he grows up… Or maybe the Mouse King…. Or maybe a trucker…. Or maybe David Bowie….

    We support/encourage dresses at places we know he will be safe and supported, and not questioned, like at home, at my parent’s homes, or other similar events. But now he’s bigger and less inclined to listen to our ideas. So he wore his favorite purple tights and brown skirt to the hardware store… His Papa grinned and gave the evil eye to the dudes giving our boy the evil eye. We’ve had only one person verbally chastise us for allowing our son to choose the clothes he is comfortable in. We pointed out that the Papa wears dresses and skirts if the weather is right or the costume demands it, and then we ignored that person – who (thankfully) didn’t discuss this in front of our son.

    And when other kids ask why he’s in a dress, I ask them if they’ve ever met a girl who wears pants. The answer is always yes and then I leave them to draw their own conclusions.

    His most recent acquisition is purple glitter eyeliner…

    He’s going to be who he’s going to be. And I’ll have his back.

  10. My youngest son’s absolute pillar in life is his one year older sister. And when she was dressing up with a princess outfit on Halloween, he was adamant to get one too. He got one. They made for quite a pair, the two of them. Ok, he took with him the biggest toy gun he could possibly find, because dresses are one thing, but a toy gun that goes bang is nothing to snubb at, but either way, good on him, whatever makes him happy. :-)

  11. Love this jerry! William loves to wear dresses! And will choose his dress from daisy’s wardrobe – we happily let him! It’s “dress up” for him – he twirls and swirls around calling himself a “princess”!! it dosent usually stay on for long, but if it does, that’s fine by us – we laugh and tell him how beautiful he is! we never say “boys don’t wear dresses” – he can wear whatever he wants…. Xxxx

  12. I think that it is only natural for ANY child to want to dress up. You are right, he thinks that something magical happens when a dress is put on. Its the same with high heels. Nothing to even think about. At least not worry! Children are usually drawn to brightly colored sparkly things. And things that go “tap tap tap” (the high heels.)

    just wait untill he discovers nail polish!

  13. Thank you for this post! I didn’t care when my middle daughter (she’s 7) declared that she wanted to be a boy, dressed like a boy, and said that her best friend (who is a girl) was her girlfriend. I didn’t care if it was a phase or not but I did worry about jerks out there would make her life miserable.

    My version of “later” for her was to tell her it was okay to want to do all of these things (though I had to remind her that she couldn’t kiss anyone without their permission) and Mommy and Daddy would love her no matter what… but for now, she could only talk about it with me and Daddy. And that was okay for her.

    It turned out that it was a phase but I hope that all children are accepted by their parents no matter what and that in the near future, no one will have to worry about jerks out there.

  14. You seem to be a brilliant Dad. My father has not accepted that I am gay and four years later still believes it to be a phase. I should post your blog onto him. Maybe seeing it the way you do will help him be more accepting. Nice blogging :)

  15. I can understand your hesistancy given your situation, but honestly if he wants to wear a dress, let him wear a dress! :) my son has curly hair and its a bit on the long side (about to his shoulders) his bangs get in his face a lot so rather than dealing with the hassle of trimming them every few weeks we’ve decided to just let them grow out to meet the rest of his hair. This, of course means a month or two of hair in his face. My niece is a year older than my son (3 and 2 respectively) so when my sister put a clip in my niece’s hair, Adrian asked for one too. My sister had a spare, it was pink but happened to have winnie the pooh on it (one of his favorite characters) He wore that clip nonstop for a week until he finally lost it, and every so often he asks for it (if I had another one to give him i would) For his week with a hair clip in his curly blond hair he was frequently mistaken for a girl. I just correct people and move on. Who says hair clips (or dresses) are for girls? it solves a problem he currently has, he likes it, and i’ll be damned if some societal convention is going to determine what my son can and cannot do.

  16. There are no easy answers to growing up. All I know is that even as a child, I thought it was unfair that I could simply be a tomboy if I decided to wear pants. But what could boys who wanted to wear dresses be? I hope it’s a bit easier now, but I suspect that it isn’t.

    And here is why your children are so blessed. They have intelligent, well-centered adults in their lives who can help them explore all different ways of being so that they can find what being fits them best.

  17. Both my boys (I only have two kids and both have a Y chromosome) love sparkly pink and purple things. Our dress-up bin is full of flowery tutus and ballet skirts and headbands. My 6yo son has worn pink sparkly butterfly wings every single Halloween since he was two.

    And nobody has ever said anything. Once his female cousin told him only girls can wear pink and red. He was devastated. And I asked him if he wears them. “Yes.” And does your Dad or Grandpa or other grownup men wear pink or red? “Yes.” Well, then, she’s clearly wrong. It’s okay for people to be wrong. But if you know you like to wear something, then there is no “only certain people can wear certain clothes or have certain jobs or be friends with certain people.”

    The second we let other people tell us to shut down our kids’ creativity, we make their worlds smaller. Take him shopping and let him buy his own dress. Not one for his sister. For him. And let him wear it. And comfortable sut down anyone who says anything. Because dresses don’t make people gay (duh). And gay is good anyway.

    btw, the reason your daughter wants to marry a boy is because her fathers are the most important people in her life, and they’re both boys. Why wouldn’t she want another one in her life?! ;-)

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  19. When my sister and I were younger, we used to play with dolls, dress up and with do kid’s makeup and nails. Our little brother was always wanting to dress up in dresses, do makeup and nails, and my mum let us doll him up, because in the end, at that age, he’s not going to thing of gay. As his sisters, it was our duty to include him, and he loved the fun it brought, but now, he would turn his nose at all that girly nonsense!
    I can safely say that it has not affected his life choices, as he is a healthy 13 year old boy, interested in girls. One thing we have noticed is that from being raised and included in the games of a highly female-populated family is that he has always got on well with girls and knows how to interact with girls. That is a FANTASTIC thing! =) It’s more than a lot of us can say about most boys his age.

  20. I adore that in America people can marry people of the same sex, and accept it. In Ireland people don’t accept and give respect to people who want to marry of the same sex.
    Kudos to you, raising kids must be hard, you may ask what would I know about that, I’m 12, but I know what I put my parents through!

  21. Raising kids is tough, and this is a perfect example. You KNOW that there’s nothing wrong with your son wearing a dress. It doesn’t hurt anyone in any way. It’s not dangerous. It’s just clothes. But you also know that if he does wear a dress, the discrimination will be shocking. Some people won’t care at all, but it’s likely that he will encounter stares, comments, and bullies of all sizes. You know first hand what it’s like to not be accepted by a sector of society, and you don’t want that for your son. So what to do? It’s truly a dilemma, as there is no right answer, no good answer that makes the problem go away. The problem is with society, not with what your son wears.

    Waiting until he’s old enough to understand the possible implications of wearing a dress can prevent him from experiencing the shock and shame that he doesn’t deserve to feel. Letting him wear a dress now allows him to express himself, but puts him at risk of being hurt by others. What you are doing right now is what works for you at the moment. In time, you may try something different, when the time seems right. What’s going to help your son the most though, whatever decision you make as to whether or when he can wear a dress, is that he knows his family loves him, and supports him for who he is without judgement. I expect he’s going to turn into a fantastic young man, because of that support.

    Anyway, thank you for an excellent blog. I’m glad your posts have been recently featured because it’s given me the opportunity to find your blog. I’ve enjoyed what I’ve read and I look forward to more :)

  22. Our sons (3 and 5) also occasionally want to wear dresses, and we usually don’t let them wear them in public, for the same reason- that we don’t want other kids making fun of them or telling them that boys can’t wear dresses. But on our special family holiday, “Different Day,” we let both of them wear dresses over jammies and we went out to several public places. Only one or two kids gave them second glances, and one asked if the younger son (who’s hair is a little longer) was a boy. But it was really no big deal for kids so young, and I realized that at this age, it’s just not a big deal. So why not let them wear dresses while they’re young, and then later on be more protective?

  23. Parenting is definitely a quest, and I believe you have a unique perspective on the subject…

    Even though we (as human beings) are supposedly “in continuous evolution”, it doesn’t mean we have become more accepting or tolerant. Far from it, actually. So I definitely understand how you’ve handled this.

  24. Love it Jerry!! We miss you guys– thanks for the blogs and posts it keeps me up to date on your darling children!!!

  25. I grew up in a neighbourhood of boys, with two brothers. Most of the time, my options were to play by myself, or play with the boys. My brother had a GI Joe, complete with fuzzy beard. He spent a lot of time with Barbie. Because I didn’t have a lot of female playmates, I didn’t really know what Barbie’s life was supposed to be like, so she spent a lot of time on spy missions and jumping out of airplanes. GI Joe fit quite nicely into her clothes, so when he was undercover, he often wore Barbie’s pink gingham dress. We had the completely unfettered use of our wild kid imaginations, until my Dad stepped in. He asked us why GI Joe was wearing a dress. “Cuz he’s a SPY, Dad. He’s in disguise!” It really didn’t sit very well with Dad, but to his credit, he didn’t forbid us to play anymore, and as a result, we continued our blissful imaginary play without any thought to whether it was right or wrong for Joe to be sporting a bridesmaid’s dress. Sadly, her shoes would not fit him, but the combat boots lent the outfit an edgy, punk feel. Message? Kids should just be kids. It’s all okay.

  26. I just found this blog and I want to send you a big hug. You sound like fantastic parents with two very lucky children.

  27. You sound like an awesome dad. Well awesome dads. As for the dress. I’d let him wear it. It’s just an article of clothing. I see loads of young girls wearing their brothers hand-me-downs, meaning they wear “boy clothes”. As long as the dress your son is wearing is clean, fits, and weather apporiate then I say go for it. Teach him at a young age to not care what others think and or say about him and to defend himself and to do so in the proper way, (with words).

  28. I grew up home schooled, with my single mum (albeit she drove my brother and I over 2000kms every other weekend to see him, and as a bonus we had for some time an amazing step dad). My brother is just shy of 2 years younger than me. When he was little his favourite toys were my unused-by-myself dollies and stuffed and plastic animals. He would love to wear nail polish, and didn’t care if he had to wear my pink socks. He would dress up in my mom’s heels and pretty leather boots, and on his 5 year old frame they were hilarious thigh-highs. He was ALWAYS the girl in videogames (Pokemon, Donkey Kong, and even when he was 13 and playing MMORPG Runescape) My dad called him sweetie until he was 11. He never got bullied for it by adults or other children. That might be because we were home schooled for our primary years, it might be because the only kids we hung out with were our cousins and a few 2-3 kids in my dad’s neighbourhood. Maybe its because the adults we were exposed to were all a bit uncanny and mismatched themselves. Regardless of why, it was never a negative thing. We were kids being happy kids.
    Its not the same as wearing a dress, but its damn close enough.
    Being kids who only had eachother during the week, we didn’t seperate ourselves with gender roll toys when we played. We played with lots of dollhouses, lots of tonka trucks, and lots of plastic and stuffed animals (never people except for my brother’s little dollies when he was super young!). It worked out well.
    I remember understanding a lot more than adults thought I could (at first) when I was very small. Maybe Bennett will too. If he wants to wear a dress, why not a kilt?
    I think you a brilliant father, Jerry. I love your blog. I’m just speaking from the heart and what I remember as a kid :-)

    • Thank you so much for sharing this BeeBee. I loved hearing your story, and it sounds like you had some brilliant parents yourself, not to mention a cool brother. :)

  29. Pingback: My Son Wore a Dress | Mommy Man

  30. As a single father (not gay), my son went through the same thing and i went out brought him a demin skirt and a t shirt in a similar colour and let him wear that. We did have the conversation that dress’s are for girls skirts are for boys ( gladiators etc)Yes i still had to support him . It was not an easy discision but the stereo type image was finished some time ago , this is what you are having trouble with,girls wear dress’s boys wear pants but in this day and age girls wear pant’s also.There are health benefits to wearing a skirt (better sperm,less prostate problems, etc) and resently there has been a movement for men to go back to wearing skirts for the above reasons but the stereotype image still remains for men. My son is now 23 and the father of three children and thank’s me for the support , so in closing support him,love him and don’t stereo type ( equality is for all not for some ) IT IS JUST CLOTHING THE REAL PERSON IS WITH-IN THAT CLOTHING

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  34. I have to agree let him wear a dress. Although I do have to wonder about all these ppl here saying let him wear one..if they saw a boy or man in real life wearing a dress or skirt how many of them would be indifferent and how many would laugh, giggle, or snicker?

    • Good point, Robert, although I have to say from the times my son has worn a dress in public, people’s reaction has generally been positive. Most, in fact, are completely indifferent, or they just assume he’s a girl with very short hair.

      • I have to agree with Jerry here. When my son wears a dress, or his purple winter boots in public, no one we see has acted mean or rude. Several people have even stopped to compliment him. Honestly, it has been one side of his family that has been the most negative. I have braced myself for rude comments in public and been surprised not to have any –not from children or adults.

      • Right on, Tara. Most (if not all) of the resistance I’ve encountered from letting my son wear a dress (or dress as Sleeping Beauty for Halloween) has come from people who tell me I’m setting him up to be mocked and humiliated by other people. I always think, “Well, you’re the only one who seems to have a problem with it.”

      • Well thats great its just too bad that adult men cant wear dresses/skirts. When we see a small boy wearing such clothing we think “oh how cute” but why arent we equally as open minded about an adult wearing such clothes? I always read “i’d leave my man if i ever caught him in a dress” or “i want a real man not some sissy”. These comments burn my butt because im also hearing from those same women “its not whats on the outside but the inside that matters” and “i want to be loved for who i am not what someone else wants me to be”. Just doesnt seem right.

      • Good points, Robert. Some parts of society may not be ready for grown men wearing dresses, but maybe the bravery of a few little boys like my kid will help change that. That being said, have you ever tried?

  35. LOL I wore a skirt to a small convenience store once and the female cashier made it a point to leave the register to “find something” then slowly walk behind me to check out my clothing choice. She didnt say anything but a moment later all of the other employees started coming up front from the back so i paid for my purchase and left. Id love to be able to wear anything i wanted but i live in a military/college town in the Bible Belt so even though id love to wear my skirts and such in public i must err on the side of caution and not do such things. Besides, i need to lose about 30 lbs before id even consider wearing a skirt or anything out of the house even if it was acceptable.

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  37. I think it’s so important to give your kids the comfort of being themselves and teach them from very young age that they will always have your support, and let them explore, and let them be different, if that’s who they are,, that’s how you raise a human being who can accept, appreciate and even enjoy the differences between people,, and I know it’s hard to see your kids suffer from a bad comment, but that’s something you cannot control, unfortunately and something most of us feel sooner or later,, kids are mean, adults are worse but in the end it’s how you feel inside that really matters,,

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  39. “I’ve even reminded her that girls can marry girls,” sounds like you have an agenda you are trying to push on your children.

    • Yes, did you not notice the banner at the top of this page? I want my kids to be gay-friendly. They have gay dads, for crying out loud. If that’s an agenda, then yes, I’m pushing it with everything I’ve got. Thanks for stopping by.

    • I’m curious what that agenda would be? There was no indication of any pressure to believ that something might be wrong with the fact that children’s movies predominantly (almost exclusively) feature heterosexual relationships. With this being the case, a reminder that “girls can marry girls” doesn’t seem like pushing an agenda, it seems more like a reminder. Unless, of course, you believe that everyone must push either a heterosexual agenda or a homosexual agenda. Can’t anyone just push the “agenda” of love and acceptance?

  40. So your boy wants to wear a dress, I say let him. You might find out you have twin girls or at least for a while. some boys end up finding that is more of their true path instead of staying a boy and honestly the earlier they find out the better because the will end up regretting not coming out sooner if they don’t and are forced to adheir to “SOCIETY” laws witch are ridiculous and just plain stupid. social laws are not really laws but guidelines for you to fit in to the crowds and masses, so don’t adheir to those phoney wanna be laws and what law says that dresses are just for girls. To be honest with you if you go back far enough in time there were dresses and skirts that MEN and boys wore that would put the dresses and skirts of this day and age to shame in the amounts of frill and even lace.
    I say let them explore and if they don’t have a problem with going out in a dress then let them.
    Warn them though that there might be some people that will criticize them for wearing a dress and that they will need to stand up to them that is part of knowing their rights.

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