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What’s Wrong with a Boy in a Dress?

Posted on the 10 August 2012 by Periscope @periscopepost
Is this little boy wearing pink a step too far outside of gender norms? Is this little boy wearing pink a step too far outside of gender norms? Photo credit: Shutterstock

In a long and fascinating article for The New York Times Magazine, Ruth Padawer takes a look at the growing phenomenon of “pink boys”: Young boys who, bucking gender norms, want to wear dresses, play with Barbies, and, of course, wear pink – and the trailblazing parents who support them.

Many parents and clinicians now reject corrective therapy, making this the first generation to allow boys to openly play and dress (to varying degrees) in ways previously restricted to girls — to exist in what one psychologist called “that middle space” between traditional boyhood and traditional girlhood. These parents have drawn courage from a burgeoning Internet community of like-minded folk whose sons identify as boys but wear tiaras and tote unicorn backpacks. Even transgender people preserve the traditional binary gender division: born in one and belonging in the other. But the parents of boys in that middle space argue that gender is a spectrum rather than two opposing categories, neither of which any real man or woman precisely fits.

It’s an article that’s bound to stir up some controversy – any time parents go public with a child who likes to color outside the gender lines, there’s controversy – but Padawer delicately explores how parents handle a “gender-atypical” child.

As much as these parents want to nurture and defend what makes their children unique and happy, they also fear it will expose their sons to rejection. Some have switched schools, changed churches and even moved to try to shield their children. That tension between yielding to conformity or encouraging self-expression is felt by parents of any child who differs from the norm. But parents of so-called pink boys feel another layer of anxiety: given how central gender is to identity, they fear the wrong parenting decision could devastate their child’s social or emotional well-being. The fact that there is still substantial disagreement among prominent psychological professionals about whether to squelch unconventional behavior or support it makes those decisions even more wrenching.

What do you think? Should parents allow little boys to wear dresses, play with dolls, use nail polish – and should society ease up on the boys like blue, girls like pink restrictions?

More on gender, parenting

  • Meet Sasha Laxton, the gender-neutral child: A social experiment gone too far?
  • Jesus was a hermaphrodite?

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By Jay Leslie
posted on 30 September at 10:11

this just is all so terible wrong why can't society get over this why can't we just all learn to finally get along why must we have hate and indiifference.

when are we ever going to get beyond our adoleant thinking and finally accept that it is quite npormal for humans to want to be who how and what they feel they are and should be!

why must we labal people hurt them and even kill those who stand up for being how they are meant to be if a boy of any age want's to wera dresses skirts et all and be how he feels he should be why the hell can't he why do we even question it this is normal and those who still want to lock up the very ideas of being how you should be should not even be questioned just who still give's a damn about hate and indiffernce it is just so very simple you leran to accept it by just saying it is alright it's as simple as that but no we still have hate and oh why can't we just learn to be how we should all be!