In our series "The FAQs of Life" we're highlighting two moms who share their most frequently asked questions about their awesome sons who like to wear dresses.
by Team Primary
Welcome to our blog series “The FAQs of Life” where we highlight amazing kids and parents in our Primary community who have stories to tell! Today we have two different moms, Danielle Aceino and Callie Glorioso-Mays, sharing their most frequently asked questions about their awesome sons who, among many other interests, enjoy wearing dresses.
Q: When did your son start wearing dresses?
Danielle’s Answer: Asher was about 4 years old when he first felt the magic of twirling in a dress. He had heard us talk openly about how “being a boy or a girl” shouldn’t dictate what you like or play with; that you can enjoy any color, toy or article of clothing you want. I think that got his mind turning and one day he complimented me on my own dress and then shyly asked, “But I can’t wear one, right?” When I look back at this moment I realize how this was an important question and how he was really asking to test my reaction. Would I disapprove? Hesitate? Instead, I responded with an “of course you can wear a dress!” His face instantly lit up. I found a smaller dress of mine and he didn’t take it off for days!
Callie’s Answer: One day when Hadden was a toddler, I put on a necklace and he wanted to as well. Another day one of his friends left her hair clip at our house and he was delighted to try it out in his short hair. When his baby sister joined our family we acquired a few hair bows and Hadden wanted to wear those as well. When he was five he found a yellow tutu dress in a store and asked me to buy matching dresses for him and his little sister. It was the sweetest, most earnest request. I was definitely a tad nervous about other people’s reactions, but we decided to go for it. The dress made him so happy (and he learned so many good responses to people’s questions) that my husband and I have been happy to support our dress-loving boy ever since.
Q: Do other kids think he’s a girl? Does it bother him?
Danielle’s Answer: Because he has long hair as well, most kids think he’s a girl. He’s pretty good with calmly saying, “no I’m just a boy with long hair.” Or “I’m a boy wearing pink and dresses.” He doesn’t often wear dresses out, so most of the mis-gendering comes from his long hair. It doesn’t seem to bother him, but we are very intentional about explaining that being called a girl isn’t an insult because girls are awesome! We tell him that it’s a chance for him to help educate his peers and that most kids aren’t being intentionally mean, they are just going by their experience and they may have only seen boys with short hair and never in dresses.
Callie’s Answer: For sure! But we’ve told him from the beginning that being a girl isn’t a bad thing so it’s not bad if someone assumes that you are. That being said, Hadden usually corrects people and, if not, my husband or I do. We kindly say, “He’s a boy who loves dresses!” I try to always do it with a smile to assure them that we’re not upset that our son wears dresses and we’re not upset that they were mistaken. Hadden knows that in our culture most people expect dress-wearing people to be girls or women. That isn’t the way it has to be; it’s just what most people are used to. (I love reminding people that Jesus wore dresses.) Sometimes people look startled when we say that he’s a boy, but we’ve had lots of positive reactions to his dresses too.
Q: How do you deal with family who disagree with this choice?
Danielle’s Answer: This is a tricky question, especially since we come from very conservative, traditional families. For the most part, comments are kept to a minimum but for Asher’s sake we do tend to avoid him wearing his dresses around certain family members. This also takes intentional conversations because we never want him to feel shame in this area. He knows to respect that others may have different (and strong) opinions on boys wearing dresses but that he has the full support of his parents and brothers
Callie’s Answer: It wasn’t that long ago that girls were sent home from school for wearing pants because they were deemed “boys clothes.” Then times changed, it became more acceptable for women to wear clothes that had typically been reserved for men. But things haven’t changed the other way. It’s okay for a woman to take on masculine qualities. It’s still seen as degrading for a man to take on feminine ones. It’s seen as a demotion or a weakness. If loved ones are uncomfortable with my son loving dresses I’d challenge them to dig into those feelings of discomfort and see what lies at the bottom. Just as society morphed when our mothers and grandmothers starting wearing pants, I hope that in 10-15 years we’ll realize that society has adjusted again to allow men more freedom in expressing themselves through clothing.
Q: Do you recommend any books that help kids with different gender expressions?
Danielle’s Answer: We LOVE Julian is a Mermaid by Jessica Love and Morris Micklewhite as well as The Tangerine Dress by Christine Baldacchino and Isabelle Malenfant. These are both wonderful and captivating books that help kids who may feel different from their peers understand that there is nothing wrong with wearing dresses or putting on some makeup for fun! Asher walked into Sephora the other day and immediately declared, “this is my heaven!” with such genuine joy and all I could think of was how pure and honest his heart is and how grateful I am for the authors and artists that contribute to my son’s confidence and secure sense of identity!
Callie’s Answer: We love the book, “I Love My Purse” by Belle Demont (illustrated by Sonja Wimmer). It tells the story of Charlie, a boy who happily wears his purse despite other people’s confusion and encourages them to wear or do what makes them happy. This book is a great way to start conversations about those “rules” of gender and show kids that it doesn’t have to be so rigid.
A huge thank you to Danielle & Asher, and Callie & Hadden for sharing their FAQs and photos with us! You can keep up with both of these amazing families on Instagram: