The Princess and The Gender Role

This past Christmas, we were in line to see Santa when it happened again.

A mom close by asked my children — ages six and eight– what they were going to ask Santa for. My six year old rattled off the list he had been sharing with anyone who asked, “the American Girl Doll of the Year Saige, the ponytail you can get to make her hair longer and black high heel boots size 10 and a half.”

The mom shifted her eyes to me and I got the smile and blank look. I know that look by now. It’s the “I don’t know what to say, I wasn’t expecting that answer” look.

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My six-year-old is a boy. He is a boy who loves his pink backpack and pink lunch box. He is a boy who loves musicals and princesses. He is a boy who loves dress up and make believe. He is a boy who loves life. We realize this may not be the “norm” for most six-year-old boys, but you would really be surprised how many people tell you their stories when they hear his.

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Bren went to his school Halloween party this past year as Merida from Brave — wig, dress, heels and all. It is his first year in a big public school and he is a first grader. He walked with confidence into the gym and had a blast dancing with his friends. It was almost as if he was unaware that it would be odd for a boy to show up in a princess dress. Afterward, a teacher told me how proud he was of Bren, the school community for their acceptance, and our family for letting him choose what he wanted and supporting him.

We have heard that before, people “impressed” with our parenting and letting Bren be Bren.

My husband and I talk about parenting often and we come to the same conclusion in every conversation. How can you not let your child be who they are?  It may be the Montessori education we got while the boys attended preschool to “follow the child,” but really we cannot imagine saying ‘no’ to this enthusiastic free spirit who may be the bravest person we have ever known. There is nothing impressive about letting your child be who they are, it is just love. In the same way we encourage our older son Aidan to explore his interests for science and math, we let Bren explore his interests, which have lead us to theater.

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Bren had the opportunity last Summer to perform with older children in a play. In his role, he was needed for two weeks of rehearsals and six performances. He was at practice for 10 hours a day including travel time.  More important than the play and experience on stage, Bren met older boys, 12 and 13 years old. They thought his pink lunch box was cool. They sang songs from Legally Blonde the Musical with him. They gave him tips backstage and invited him to sit with them at lunch. The girls certainly did the same, but Bren is used to relating to girls. I truly believe these boys gave him his confidence. It let him see there are others like him.

By the way, Santa did bring Bren the American Girl doll, ponytail and high heel boots.

He was on the nice list, so how could Santa not?

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Related post: Blurred (Gender) Lines

About the writer

Nicole O'Brien is the proud activities director of the O'Brien family.  She likes to write about adventures near and far with her husband and 7 and 9 year old sons on their family website.  This post was originally featured on Irish Eyes Photography.  You can also find her on Twitter.

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Chelsea 6 months ago

Thank you so much for posting this. My son loves barbies, princesses and dress up and he loves superheroes and wrestling as well. I am always worried others will make fun of him I am so glad your son has had such wonderful experiences and I hope my son will have the same.

Luna 6 months ago

A much kinder world :)

Anne 1 year ago

Just curious, do you follow all of the commands of Deuteronomy? Do you eat pork? Do you eat shellfish? Do you wear linen and wool blended clothing?

Using scripture to defend your idea about what clothing children should wear rings of cognitive dissonance and points toward a very simplistic view of ancient texts.

Cheryl Britton 1 year ago

I love this!!! Absolutely LOVE IT!!!

mel 1 year ago

I have a 7 year old girl with short hair (totally her choice) who plays basketball and is constantly referred to as a boy (her fraternal twin sister couldn’t be more girly which poses a scary juxtaposition for most people, not me). Our 12 year old boy is into choir, dance, fashion and singing. At 5 years old all he wanted for his birthday was Polly Pockets. We have tried to let him dress up and express himself as he wishes – when it is safe. Entering middle school is worrisome. So far no damaging negativity but other kids are cruel. He is currently designing his own fashion line and has started working with a local mall on fashion and retail. I love that he is confident in pursuing what interests him and what he is passionate about. He glows when he is doing what he truly likes, as is my basketball playing short haired 7 year old girl. Let them figure it out, help them figure it out and support them no matter who they are.

Megan Stokes Kidd 1 year ago

Long hair and robes were customary and “normal” for that time. Not so sure people had access to clippers or a lot of clothing items back then either. Regardless, what you consider petty, I may consider important and vice versa. Jesus also didn’t judge people, but we live in a world where people judge everyone for something. So why make our kids stand out and be ridiculed when we could just guide them according to what we believe. Agree to disagree, ya know!

Sandy Roffey 1 year ago

I don’t know about yours, but my Jesus had long hair and wore a dress (robe.)

Katie Hop 1 year ago

This is a fab picture :)

Heather 1 year ago

He is a boy. He doesn’t need guiding to “be” a boy. He is, biologically, male. Full stop. Just the same as he is wearing boy clothes. He’s a boy and he’s wearing clothes, ergo… boy clothes. At 6 (and based on what’s presented in this article) this is not so much an expression of gender identity but rather an expression of personal preference for entertainment. I don’t like reality TV despite it’s popularity. I suppose I’m non-conforming in that way. And yet, no one is making me change or telling me that I’m “doing it wrong”. Curious.

Ana Rebelo Daley 1 year ago

My son loves dress up clothes, they are boy costumes, but he never passes up the opportunity to leave the house as Spider-Man, a pirate, a ninja turtle, or Woody. Also, his favorite toy for the past two years has been a doll, Jessie from Toy Story. We just let him be a kid and have fun. He is confident and imaginative and I wouldn’t want to put limitations on that. EVER!

Heather Holter 1 year ago

Protect them? They need to learn to be themselves and be strong enough to face opposition in the real world. If we protect them till the day they turn 18 they will fail miserably at life.

Heather Holter 1 year ago

I also am a christian and don’t see what letting a boy wear nail polish and have long hair has anything to do with it. Society decided those were girl things, not God.

Danielle Anderson 1 year ago

I totally get that. It is just that the long-term cost to society based on those marketing decisions is huge.

Giovanna Capane Holden 1 year ago

Having read so many of these articles recently & the comments that follow, I myself wonder if some parents are encouraging their boys to non-conform because it’s the cool way to parent now. It seems they like the attention of having their child be different.

Giovanna Capane Holden 1 year ago

They market items items to the masses based on what will sell to the majority. The fact (as unpopular as this may be on this thread) is that boys tend to prefer say Star Wars Legos & girls prefer horse stables that are pink. It’s based on making money, not supporting personal choices.

Carin Ekre Anderson 1 year ago

Fyi lady…you know all those rules in Deuteronomy were given by MOSES to the people bc they were acting like jerks?

April Doke 1 year ago

I agree, being a Christian is not something you just do on Sundays. It’s a relationship with the Savior, and it affects every choice you make (or, it SHOULD, if you are sincere). Letting your male child dress like a girl doesn’t show him love or acceptance; it teaches him it’s ok to dress and behave like a girl. The Bible very clearly objects to it: “A woman must not wear men’s clothing, nor a man wear women’s clothing, for The Lord your God detests anyone who does this.” Deuteronomy 22:15. Does this mean women can’t wear pants? No. It means you should be able to look at a woman and see that she is a woman. And a man should look like a man. I know we’re not talking about grown men and women in this instance, but what we teach our kids today molds what they grow up to be. Even though their actions and preferences may be completely innocent at this age, we have to love them enough to gently guide them on the right path with a spirit of love. My son went through this faze, as well, so I understand the issue. And now that he’s a little older, he is grateful that I steered him towards behaviors celebrating his God-given gender: as a little boy. And that was a difficult task as a single mother! LoL. But it’s NOT about doing what’s easy for us parents, what makes our kids smile, or what’s acceptable to society. It’s about doing what’s best for our kids, and doing what The Lord teaches us to do (or not do). Wanna make your child smile and feel accepted? Hug them tight, tell them how much you love them, and how proud you are of the wonderful, creative, smart, funny little boy/girl they are! :) And teach them right from wrong, in a loving, gentle manner. God bless you all!

Heather Holter 1 year ago

For a while my oldest son preferred the pink cup, liked to paint his nails and had long hair. He didn’t mind the teasing but still ended up cutting his hair and doesn’t do that other stuff anymore but still prefers mostly girls for friends and isn’t very athletic. He never wanted to do sports until this yr at 12 yrs old, he is doing football. Most people were kind about it but a few said “what if he is gay”? That made me so angry. First, who cares if he is, second it is not an indicator all the time. It’s those steroetypes that get us in trouble.

Claudia Conchas 1 year ago

My little one will be 3 next month and she loves her dresses and light up shoes oh and her disney princesses but she also love and will fight her 8 year old brother for his lightning McQueen and if spiderman is on she is stuck to that tv so if that is what she likes so be it nothing wrong with that oh and my 8 year old likes to play with her dolls bit he also has a poster of Megan Fox because he has been in love with her since Transformers 1 and if you mention her name he get all shy and stuff so just because they play with toys that are supposedly made for a certain gender it doesn’t mean that there is something wrong as a parent I love my kids unconditionally.

Victoria Olson 1 year ago

The thing here is no one is trying to force boys to bend gender norms. No one here is trying to make little boys dress like & act like little girls. However parents here do believe that if their little boys really really want to wear a disney princess dress & that’s obviously a part of their personalities than they wont try to hinder their free spirit either or try to make them be something other than who they are just to fit societal norms. I am glad to hear though that even with your more admittedly old fashioned thinking you still inspire your sons to be compassionate & kind & still inspire your daughters to be educated & independent as all mothers should. That’s a lot more open minded then some. I can appreciate that.

Rachel Karns 1 year ago

Thank you for sharing this!!!

Danielle Anderson 1 year ago

Helen Russo – Yes, I know, but the point I am trying to make is I don’t see why they have to be segregated by color. Why can’t they just all be legos? Why do they have to be boy-legos or girl-legos?

Cecilia Baquirin-Torres 1 year ago

I remember people giving me loads of Barbie dolls when all I wanted were Legos. I swore I wouldn’t do the same to my kids.

Kylie 1 year ago

Love this! I have a daughter and my friend has a son. They are two months apart and raised pretty similar. Whenever we talk about this we are always so amazed that she is so girly and he is such a boy. They were born that way. She has always picked pink stuff from when she was tiny and he is fascinated by cars. Someone did a study a while back I remember hearing about. Boy and girl babies having different reactions to the same thing. One was a doll they had rigged to have and arm or leg fall off while playing boy babies tried to break it more girls tried to fix it. We are just wired differently:)

Katie Pouk 1 year ago

I totally remember reading that part in the bible all about boys not being allowed to wear pink, because that has to mean they’re gay and not just a kid who likes pretty stuff.

Kathy McDaniel Cook 1 year ago

Love my a Kendal. He starts dance in September at MAC.

Kylie 1 year ago

I think there is a line. I agree with the fact that the majority of toys could go either way. If my son wanted a doll I would let him get it because boys grow up and have babies too. A dress or make up set…no boys don’t wear dresses. I would steer him away from pink stuff just because but if he wanted a pink ball or pencil case or whatever who cares, that’s just a color. But something that is really only for women…not for my son. Luckily I only have a girl. But my little brother loved my dolls when he was little. He’s a stay at home dad now and has a beautiful girl friend so he turned out well I think:)

Kylie 1 year ago

I love this explanation. I am also Christian and would love my child no matter what. True Christians don’t hate, they may not approve of certain lifestyles, but it is not our place to judge. Only gods. But I would encourage my child to act as god wants her to. If she turns out differently I will still love her with all of my heart.

jen 1 year ago

I find it refreshing to hear parents that go through the same thing as me! My son loves “girl” stuff. His father and I are not together and he has a huge problem with this. If he finds out that I have let my son have girl stuff he gets mad at me. I really don’t care – it’s what makes my son – who is 6 – happy! He’s not hurting anyone by wanting to wear my skirt around the house, or doing anything bad. He is just being himself. He is my only child and I let him play with just about whatever he wants. I get sad when he comes home from his dad’s house saying things like he can’t have any girl toys.

Elizabeth 1 year ago

Amen and amen! This is very well put, and I’m not sure why more people can’t understand the harm they cause their children by encouraging these behaviors.

Elizabeth 1 year ago

SPECIFICALLY, the harm is a child who is bullied relentlessly and winds up committing suicide. Or in therapy. Or confused about their sexuality which may not have happened if someone had simply said “It’s not something boys wear/do.” Dear Lord help this country and its “forward” thinking…it’s gotten us so far, hasn’t it?

Christy Moddelmog Young 1 year ago

Why does every jump to that being their true personality. They are testing the waters and you push them in and tell them to swim to the other side. Why can’t you just guide them to be a boy? Is that sooo freakin terrible? Is this the she-woman man haters club?

AaronandKatie Puckett 1 year ago

I agree with you Amber. I’m not just a mom but an elementary school teacher and kids can be MEAN. this doesn’t mean I would keep my son from exploring his interests, but I would not let him wear a princess costume to school. I’ve seen how kids treat other kids and I would not feel okay to let that happen to my son if it was possible to stop.

Hannah Jones 1 year ago

For a sold out follower of Jesus, one’s Christianity has everything to do with every aspect of your life, and one of the most important for parents is directing and rearing your children to God’s ways. Since we are all sinners, we don’t naturally gravitate toward doing things His way, which is very evident when we let our kids choose everything and do what they want. We have to parent them toward The Lord because it doesn’t happen by itself and that’s what we are there for! :) not exactly a popular mindset in this politically correct and touchy feely society.

Andrea Anderson 1 year ago

These are the types of boys I want my daughters to befriend…so I can be friends with their moms too :)

Victoria Olson 1 year ago

I can understand your concern there Amber Oneill. I appreciate you responding back to me. Thank you for that. I appreciate the fact that you are opinion minded about the issue & would consider erasing some of the gender norm lines there if your kid wanted you too so long as the environment was a safe enough one for him to do so & so long as he could understand the consequences that come along with those actions. I can respect that.

Liz 1 year ago

Christians who don’t share that view aren’t reading their Bibles. Please read this passage out of 1 Corinthians, specifically the part about men acting like women.

Do you not know that sinful men will have no place in the holy nation of God? Do not be fooled. A person who does sex sins, or who worships false gods, or who is not faithful in marriage, or men who act like women, or people who do sex sins with their own sex, will have no place in the holy nation of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9

Liz 1 year ago

Hmm, I think you might have the wrong idea there. I think Jesus is saying we are all equal, not that we can choose our own genders. Please read this passage:

9 Do you not know that sinful men will have no place in the holy nation of God? Do not be fooled. A person who does sex sins, or who worships false gods, or who is not faithful in marriage, or men who act like women, or people who do sex sins with their own sex, will have no place in the holy nation of God.

1 Corinthians 6:9

Bryna Darling 1 year ago

Love it! My son loves pink and is excited to start with the 5th grade dance group this year in middle school. We talked about the fact that he would probably be the only boy. He said he was cool with that. We talked about the fact that he might get teased, he said he doesn’t hang around with those boys anyway. He is his own person and always has been. My husband is thrilled he’s doing anything athletic (as my son is not overly athletic and never has been). I don’t understand families who don’t let their kids do their own thing, but then, we’re not that family.

Kimberly Mealey Colbey 1 year ago

My “rule” in my classroom is that there are no such things as ‘boy toys’ and ‘girl toys’, there are just toys (same with colors), and we all get to like whatever we like. That said, I do get parents who worry- more about the boys liking “girlie” things than the other way around- but look at society in general. They make superhero t-shirts for girls as well as boys, but they don’t market Disney “Princess” movie stuff to boys… Is there something wrong with being female?

Esther Renea Poole 1 year ago

This is amazing. I believe whatever helps build up their self esteem and more coinfidence they have the less trouble someone is going to give them. I grew up with 3 brothers and just like me they played with dolls and they had pink clothes just as I had blue clothes and played in the dirt and mud with Tonka toys. My brothers can cook meals from scratch and sew just like I can. I can change oil and a flat tire just like them and pretty good aim with a gun too. We did not have gender roles . Now I am a mother of 3 . 2 boys and a girl and my daughter plays with tractors and hot wheels just like my boys play dress up and play with dolls and Minnie mouse. Even at school the teachers encourage our kids to be true to them and let them play with dolls if my son wants. I think growing up this way taught my brothers empathy and kindness . So I will accept my children for who they are .

Liz 1 year ago

Harm in occasionally wearing a dress? Probably none, but thinking your son prefers to wear dresses and play with dolls, and then encouraging him in that role? I believe that you are confusing the child. Of course boys will play with girls toys and vice versa. It’s completely natural, but if a parent is buying a boy dolls and dresses more than your typical boy toys and clothes, then the parent is actively encouraging him into a female gender.

Neely 1 year ago

Gender and sex aren’t the same thing. It’s the use of the phrase “sexual roles” when you are referring to a six year old that shocked me. Have your beliefs and convictions and be proud but don’t sexualize a six year old.

Tina Gillotti Stys 1 year ago

My daughter often dresses in a princess dress and a Spider-Man mask. She dresses up her little brother as a princess. I don’t see what the big deal is let them play with whatever they want.

Heather 1 year ago

“So, as long as I can, I’m gonna dress my lil girl in girly clothes…”

This is me, but in reverse. I’m pregnant with a girl now and am not loving the sea of pink (just not my colour or thing – no judgement here). My MIL told me that she’ll “never be allowed to be a girly girl.” Um, no, she’s totally able to choose who she wants to be and what she wants to wear, and if that’s princess dresses and sparkles, then so be it (boy, is that not a battle I’m willing to fight). But until she has an opinion, it’s non-baby pink onesies and no flower headbands for us.

Jessica 1 year ago

I agree completely with Megan. If you are a Christian, you are commanded by God to mold your children and teach them what is right. (If you are NOT a Christian, it is not my place to bother judging YOUR parenting, but you also don’t have the right to call me following my faith “bigoted”) As a follower of Christ, we believe that humans are naturally flawed, that we have a sin nature. Think about it…. if you let a toddler “be himself”, he would never clean up his toys! Naturally, kids are often bullies, say hurtful things, take toys from other kids, irresponsible, etc….. if you “let your child be himself” in every area, he will not turn out well. It is our JOB as parents to shape and mold our children into the men and women we believe they should be. Once they are adults, of course, our job changes, and AT THAT POINT we are to love them for who they choose to be, and if we don’t like it, they are responsible to God, not to us parents. But while they are our responsibility, especially when they are very young and moldable, it is our JOB as parents to teach them how we think they should act. If you are NOT a believer, and don’t have a problem with reversed sexual roles, then that is your belief. But as a Christian, we are specifically taught that God wants men to be men, and women to be women…. and Christians encouraging our children along those lines ISN’T “bigotry”… it is obedience to our Lord.

Soul 1 year ago

I don’t know what my daughter will grow to love, she’s only 12 weeks old tomorrow. Until she starts to develop her own tastes for clothes and toys, I know I’m gonna dress her girly and cutesy. I’ve always wanted a girly girl, but I know that each person, child or otherwise, has their own personality and tastes. If she winds up being like her mommy and daddy and wanting the latest TMNT toys, Godzilla t-shirts, or picking out a new Spiderman comic book, we’ll love her just the same. She’s already interested in our video games.

I could try playing kid games in front of her, like Mickey Mouse, or Mario and the like, and she’ll just cry and cry and cry. We found out that she loves to watch us play things like Saints Row, The Godfather, and Resident Evil. For now, we’re okay with those games being around her. When she starts to develop a little more, I’m probably going to take Saints Row off of that list. I’m not prepared to explain to a three year old what that character is doing with that character and why there are obscene noises coming from the television. That’s something I want to save for her when she starts to get around the age -I- hit puberty.

So, as long as I can, I’m gonna dress my lil girl in girly clothes. But if her taste in entertainment says anything, I have a feeling I’m going to be buying a lot of “boy” clothes and toys. <3

Heather 1 year ago

One of the issues I continue to have here is that while it’s become perfectly acceptable for a little girl to play with “boy” toys or do “masculine” things, it’s not okay for a boy to emulate or be interested in “girl” things. This really shows how little we as a society value “girl” things.

It’s fine for a girl to be interested in masculine activities and toys because those things are valued and privileged in our society (a female engineer? Cool!). But it’s not okay for a boy to be interested in feminine activities because we continue to dismiss, downplay, and degrade “feminine” as somehow inferior or shameful (a male nurse? What? Couldn’t get into med school?). This speaks volumes to how we as a society value and view women and their traditional contributions.

Kandee Lynn Urseth 1 year ago

As I read thru these comments as well as the blog, I am confronted with the burning question of how much of this is encouraged after the first time. How can we say no to what they want? Do we allow them to bully, push, hit, bite, scream and throw tantrums? Do we let them color all over the walls and furniture because they are expressing their artistic creativity? Do we let them watch movies/programs that are far too old for them and will expose them to things they are not mature enough to handle? My 2 yr old grandson tries on all shoes, men and women’s and has no inhibitions of dressing up in anything, be it mama or daddy’s, because he has not been told no when he wants mommy’s pretty scarf or bracelet. However, we do not encourage this either. Men and women are wired differently from birth, they have different strengths and weaknesses and it is this that makes a relationship work. This entire gender neutral business is nonsense. Society has taken a few exceptions and made them into examples, A few kids that were raised not to be unbiased or neutral but in a way that was opposite to their anatomy. As parents it is our job to guide, teach and direct our kids away from things that will harm them. Having had 2 sons and daughter, they all 3 played some with each other’s toys, dolls and trucks, but they had a very natural preference for what is being considered gender biased toys according to their sex. Kids will also repeat behavior and more frequently if they feel it pleases their parent or gets them desired attention. It is NOT society, or toys or biased parents that create men and women. It is hormones that have been placed in the body, the very hormones that develop their sexual organs and as parents we have a responsibility to raise them accordingly. Not to say that we teach them to treat women as inferior or to treat men like they are idiots. These are harmful behaviors society has taught over the generations that are wrong and biased. There is nothing wrong with teaching a boy or girl to dress, play and act in ways that will prepare them for their roles as adults. And there is nothing wrong with traditional roles of men and women either. Those roles came out of natural abilities that each had and geez..where the hell do you think they started? Someone just decided one day that women should have the babies and be home to raise and train them while men, naturally being stronger physically, should hunt, gather and provide for his family? Katy Perry can say she doesn’t need a dude to have a baby and raise it, but she sure needs one to get pregnant. Funny how that works.

Heather Stanford 1 year ago

I absolutely love this! I have two girls, 9 and 3. We were in the car with my boyfriend discussing which Frozen characters we wanted to be. My boyfriend said he wanted to be Elsa just to get a reaction. When my 3-year-old said “But Elsa is a girl,” I made sure to tell her that boys can be Elsa too. Now she always says that girls and boys can both be princesses OR princes. Kids aren’t born to be judgmental bullies. They are taught. And I’m teaching my girls to be themselves and to respect and accept others who do the same. :)

amanda 1 year ago

this is awesome. my 3 yr old insists on having his nails painted everytime he sees me doing mine and when we eventually start buying him clothes (we never run out of clean clothes because of bdays and xmas gifts from family) he can pick what ever he wants. he told me the other day he wants long hair like me and his step father. guess whos now growing out his hair? I cant think of a better way to raise kids who think for themselves and feel confident in who they are.

I have friends who were raised in households where they were not forced into a gender roll but rather they were allowed to just be who they were and have and wear what they wanted. yes they got made fun of but each of the will tell you that because they knew their family supported them and loved them the opinions of random kids on the play ground didn’t matter as much.

JHana 1 year ago

I am glad that so many comments are in support of Nicole and Chris. To those who don’t agree, I am wondering if you could address very specifically why it’s a problem? I just don’t understand why it matters, so I am interested to know why you feel this way.

JHana 1 year ago

On the other hand, who cares if they want to wear a dress? What, SPECIFICALLY, is the harm?

Kristi Nauroth Phillips 1 year ago

I get that look simply because my 6 yr old son’s fave color is pink. His first day of first grade just the other day, he had to stand up and say his favorite things. He proudly proclaimed pink as his favorite color. Someone said, “That’s a girl color!” His reply? “There’s no such thing as girl colors and boy colors.” Bam. It really is that simple. Get over it, people.

JHana 1 year ago

How about we teach society, then, to not be jerks, instead of making a 5 year old hate themselves for what they like?

JHana 1 year ago

But why do you need to say no at all? WHO decided that things were “boy” or “girl”? There is no reason to stop a girl or boy from playing with what society has decided are gender-specific toys. If you go back to toy ads from the 70’s, the lego ads have girls using NON-PINK legos. The horror! The baby carriages aren’t all pink and purple and there are boys in the ads. Oh no-those boys might be gay now (but probably aren’t). Assigning a specific gender to any toy is silly. Who cares? As for being “brave”, if you read the article Nicole specifically said she isn’t brave for letting Bren choose his clothes and toys based on his preferences. She’s just being reasonable and not forcing him to be someone he’s not. And no, he’s not wearing high heels to soccer practice. It’s for play dress-up. I would suggest that if your boy wants to play with a barbie and you tell him he can’t because he’s a boy, then you are teaching him 2 things: 1) What he likes and who he is is bad and 2) to be intolerant. How about instead of changing our kids to protect them from jerks, we teach our kids not to be jerks?

Liz 1 year ago

What is so wrong with gender roles? Why do some people consider it cruel to not give into a toddler’s whims? They have no idea what they want! If you tell your son “no” a few times when he wants to wear a dress, he will forget about it. If you allow him to dress like a girl, and he likes the attention he gets, he will continue to act that way. If a child is not informed by the parents that boys don’t wear dresses and heels, how will they know? It’s one thing for an adult to make the choice that they are going to go against normal societal behavior, but why encourage a child to do so when they aren’t old enough to understand? That, to me, is cruel.

JHana 1 year ago

well said!

JHana 1 year ago

There is a great comparison photo of baby doll accessories form the 70’s vs. today. Back then a lot were neutral colored. The pink/purple phenomenon can be tied directly with the onset of Disney Princess in the 80’s ( a genius marketing strategy). I HATE that they separate the toy aisles by color like that. Only recently has our local Target started to put ALL the legos in one aisle….

JHana 1 year ago

How about instead of forcing our kids to be someone they’re not to protect them from jerks, we teach kids not to be jerks? For what it’s worth, Bren is well aware that there are people in the world who might find his choices distasteful. HIs parents don’t “protect” him from that reality. He doesn’t give a shit.

JHana 1 year ago

Being Christian includes loving everyone for who they are. There is nothing written anywhere in any Christian religion about what clothes kids like. There is no “christian rule” that girls should like pink and boys blue (and in fact, it used to be the opposite-pink for boys, blue for girls). There is no christian rule that girls should play with dolls and boys with trucks. You may call yourself a Christian to justify your bigotry, but frankly, no Christian I know shares your views.

anne 1 year ago

I am a follower of Jesus too. Check out Galatians 3:28. God doesn’t really care about gender roles. His love is much bigger than the arbitrary rules of our society.

Layla Oates 1 year ago

My daughter was so pleased this time we went shopping and I let her chose all boy clothes. What I feel sad about is that the colour/styles available for kids are so restrictive, they feel they have to entirely “swap over” to find a style that expresses who they are.

Pam Minnich 1 year ago

gender roles are TAUGHT, just follow your childs lead, you’ll get there

Heather 1 year ago

You know that this isn’t a post about a transgendered individual, right? This is about a little boy who likes socially constructed “girl” things. Transgender is a completely different reality/situation. I don’t understand why you even felt the need to raise it here.

Hannah Horsch 1 year ago

My daughter loves the color blue and wants to be a “Robot Engineer”. lol If women can enter the male dominated fields with pride then why is there still so much resistance to men doing the opposite? I think it’s because our society still subconsciously sees women as weak and shameful.

Helen Russo 1 year ago

Wow, I’m surprised (though I don’t know why) at the negative comments this has generated.
Children should be supported and encouraged regardless. They should also be respectful and kind of others, regardless.
I think us adults could learn a few lessons from the children represented in this article!

Helen Russo 1 year ago

what a great story! My daughter is ALL girl. Most of the time. She had ZERO problem keeping up with the boys and getting “down and dirty!”

Angela K 1 year ago

My youngest (who is now 13), loved barbies when he was younger and his favorite color was pink. He rocked his pink dress shirt. :) And then he hit a point where he outgrew the barbies and then a point where pink became a “girl” color. Each time he said that, I told him he could wear any color he wanted, but that there were no “boy” colors or “girl” colors. He now is comfortable playing babies with his girl cousins or riding bikes and talking about superheroes and video games with the boys. He recently broke his arm and picked out a purple cast and told me if he had broke both of them he would have picked pink for the other one. :) We are Christians which I think contributes to his open mind to it all- not our job to judge, but it us our job to truly love all. (Including ourselves-however God has chosen to make us)

Kathryn Perry Renkert 1 year ago

I have an autistic son that LOVED pink until he was 6. Nothing wrong with children using their imaginations to pretend and grow. He is now 9 and loves Star Wars and all things cars, and those were his choices when he made them.

Elizabeth Grattan 1 year ago

“Veto the pink pencil case”. I laughed. Everyone knows a pencil case turns brown by day 2 regardless if it isn’t lost before then.

Kari Boerst 1 year ago

This is my oldest son! Loves his pink, his barbies, and his my little ponies.

Lynn 1 year ago

Joan of arc was accused of terrible things part of which was because she dared to wear pants and armor. They were viewed as only something men could wear. She was burned at the stake for those “crimes” among others. Thank goodness we have evolved and have become so much more accepting. I never understand why people have such a problem with something out of the norm.

Laura Roberts 1 year ago

My boy loves tinker and Spiderman I’m not bothered he’s having fun that’s all that matters and he has s bossy older sister lol

Stacy Petromanolakis 1 year ago

Toys are toys. It doesn’t matter if its a doll or a truck. They just happened to be marketed for each gender.

Janet Smith Robinson 1 year ago

Great entry! This is when my son was 6. He put this Periwinkle costume on his Christmas list. His uncle bought it for him. Priceless pics and memories of all of his outfits. He cuts up clothes and turns them into fantastic creations. My favorite was when he used his Batman cape as a halter top. Who would’ve thought? 😀 He’s 8 now and his concepts still amaze me!

Amanda Rappold 1 year ago

I love this! Loving your child means letting them be who they are.

Amanda Martin 1 year ago

Hurrah for this. A friend of my son’s (4) loves dresses and his mum gets lots of gentle joshing about it. But if my daughter dresses as spiderman no one bats an eyelid. I took my son to the docs yesterday wearing blue nail varnish and the doctor said ‘that’s a bit girly’. I had to explain that we don’t view it that way in our house.

Jennifer Jerina 1 year ago

My son’s favorite color is purple. Somebody told him it was a girl color and he told them it was actually a color for royalty. They have a doll, a stroller and a kitchen set but they don’t use them the way a girl would. They drag race the stroller lol.

Dan AndKristin Labbe 1 year ago

I also totally don’t agree with this. However that’s my own personal opinion. I always say whatever floats your boat but to raise boys allowing them to wear girls clothing…. Mmmmm no. But I in no way, would ever “attack” those who do

Emily 1 year ago

I think y’all are doing a great job. I have a two-year-old daughter and am eight months pregnant with my first son. It only seems fair that if I tell my daughter she can do anything a boy can do, I should also tell my son he can do anything a girl can do. I’m sure that having a big sister will mean he’ll play with as many dolls as he does trucks, and why shouldn’t he? I feel like my job is to encourage both of their imaginations and let them both know that I’ve got their backs no matter what they like. Hopefully this will lay a foundation for them to feel comfortable coming to me if they have bigger questions about gender roles, identity, or sexuality down the road.

Erinn Hecht 1 year ago

I enjoyed this article and love the whole point of it. We shouldn’t be ‘proud’ of ourselves and others shouldn’t be ‘impressed’ with us for letting our children be what they want. The only thing that happens when you tell them they can’t over and over, is that their self-confidence and self esteem are lowered. Why? Because you are essentially telling them that what they want is wrong which means they will think everything they want or do is wrong. A world filled with those that are loved no matter what is a happy world.

Jenny 1 year ago

I wish I could be this brave. My 12 y.o. son doesn’t like “girly” things but “baby” things (silly nursery rhymes, Disney Jr. programming). Unfortunately, he is also a special-needs kid, which makes him different enough that he’s already a target; I simply can’t let him give the other kids even more ammunition. It hurts enough to see how they treat him when they don’t know.

Jennifer Leigh Matthews 1 year ago

My son is the same way. I love hearing stories like this bc I know my husband and I aren’t alone! :)

Kendra Lynch 1 year ago

I believe in acceptance to an extent. Children do need to be children, but as parents, we also need to teach them. I can’t imagine someone willingly confusing their child. Society can be so cruel ESPECIALLY to a child. Don’t get me wrong I think this is awesome how loving these parents of transgender children are, but for protection, children need to be taught not everyone will understand. BTW hormone therapy for children is WRONG!

Danielle Anderson 1 year ago

I have rather boyish-boys, so I admit that we don’t have to deal with this kind of thing, but this is a huge soapbox issue of mine. Why is our culture so bent on creating boy things and girl things. How confusing for kids who just like stuff. Lego drives me crazy. Why do boys only get superheroes and Star Wars and girls only get to play with animals and be designers? What if a boy likes pets? What if he is artistic? Folks, this gender stuff is purely cultural and we are perpetuating it, and causing a whole lot of gender confusion down the road when we make a big deal about it. Just let kids be kids!

Brittney Hill 1 year ago

Why are we so caught up with the “meaning” of genitalia ? He has a penis, who cares. She has a vagina, who cares. Other than those differences, kids are kids and their thoughts, ideas, preferences should be respected. Because guess what people, it just doesn’t matter. No matter how much brainwashing you try to do, your child turned adult will eventually make their own choices and live however they want to live. You may want him/her to be a specific religion, dress a certain way, have certain hobbies, have a certain profession etc.. But in the end, they choose their own path. Why not help them feel empowered with their decisions and see that life is whatever you want it to be!?

Victoria Bryce 1 year ago

My little girl is all about ninjas turtles and pokemon. She went to kindergarten with a ninja turtle backpack and hello kitty lunchbox. She Got picked on by a few boys in her class but stood her ground and let them know ninjas turtles are for everybody, not just boys. I have always let her be who she is and supported whatever her interests are any given enough time. I would hate if anyone ever did or said anything to dull her shine or make her feel bad for just being a kid. She is so confident and secure in who she is and I am so proud of her everyday .

Amanda Taylor 1 year ago

My 4 yr old is taking pink scissors to school bc he loves pink. He also wears a Thomas the Train hat while packing around a Pinkie Pie stuffy. Seriously, people they’re just kids. Adults need to get over themselves.

Sarah Fritz-Maldonado 1 year ago

My cousin now well in his late 20’s was very similar to this, so was my god brother… But hey he was/ is happy so who cares if he likes musicals dresses and dancing ect… My niece loves frozen and ninja turtles… The exploration of toys & interests are normal… Its not important to define or at least explain gender roles until much later in life and even then does it matter? In say don’t restrict your child’s curiosity or self expression (unless harmful) all the gender restrictions do is increase the suicide rate & make people feel as if they have to live a lie.

Tory Zimmerman Snider 1 year ago

I love this! My almost 2 year old boy loves dressing up in his sisters princess dresses, high heals and tiaras. I get looks from some people but he just loves dressing up.

Kim Kostka Delano 1 year ago

Fantastic article!! Let kids be kids!! It doesn’t matter what they play with or what color! A certain color or toy is certainly not going to make them gay! Kids are just that kids!! Great job as parents letting him be who he wants to be!!

Jo 1 year ago

Exactly Mary! My 6 year old son has loved dressing up in pink things and princess clothes since he was almost 2 years old. My 8 year old daughter loves wearing “surfer” board shorts and riding her rip-stick. They are great, happy, eloquent, respectful, polite, well adjusted kids who are free to develop themselves into the people they want to be.

Cindy Bryant 1 year ago

My son likes pink and blue both. He loves My Little Pony. I have painted his nails , he likes it. Usually blue or gold he picks the color. He wanted a pink backpack for K , we talked him out of that. I know how the other parents and kids in the area are. He loved his hair long. Until summer. Lol. Then asked to get it cut.

Shoshana Kronfeld 1 year ago

My 10 year old son is very vocal about what he considers ‘gender equality issues” and I work hard, sometimes fighting against my instincts, to allow him to do as he pleases. Until recently, he had hair that went down to his waist, both ears are pierced and people frequently think he is a girl (although even with the earrings and long hair, I cant imagine mistaking him for a girl, given he is already broad shouldered and built like a linebacker). Recently, when my daughter and I were doing nails, he wanted his done also, in what are typically feminine colors, and we did it. I am proud that he stands up for being himself, regardless of what others say, even if sometimes I get more angry at stupid people then he does.

BTW – when he cut his hair short a few weeks ago after 3+ years of long hair, he was so proud to be able to donate it to Locks of Love.

Sabrina Loizides-Merideth 1 year ago

I think it’s wonderful and perfectly alright to let kids be themselves.

Lorelei Mackenzie 1 year ago

I’m sorry but I would not but my six year old son OR DAUGHTER high heal boots…. And again it is not the popular view right now but isn’t that what people tell parents that let their little boys act and dress like little girls? ‘good for you for being so brave’ or whatever….. Maybe if at any point in those 6 yrs some every said ‘no your a boy’ he wouldn’t be this extreme? Maybe your lack of guidance in this area is encouraging him to act like this?…… I’m saying sorry… Not sorry.. Disagree. And yes I did grow up a ‘tom boy’ and I’m a newly single mom with two school age sons. And have to problem saying at home or in public ‘no. Your a boy’

Charlotte Gammel Wojcik 1 year ago

It makes no sense to force a child into stereotypes created by society. Everyone should be free to like what they like, dress how they want to dress, play how they want to play. I’ve always refused to allow gender stereotypes in my home. We all think it’s sweet when a father is lovey-dovey with his kids. How does he learn to do that if he wasn’t allowed to play with dolls or show feelings as a boy? We all love when a woman engineer does something amazing. How does she learn that if she doesn’t play with Legos and tools and trucks as a girl? PS: I think it’s doubly stupid when people assume a young child’s choice in play indicates his/her sexual orientation, and triply stupid to think their sexual orientation can be changed by restricting their choices in play. Please, people, just let them play without imposing your issues on young children.

Angelika Belcher Gurley 1 year ago

LOVE THIS!!!!!!

Christine Seabold Affolter 1 year ago

My toddler boy is playing with pink Megabloks now and loves the princess themed ones. My girls are girly and are into musical theatre. I will say that I HOPE my boy has a love of musical theatre, dance and the fine arts. This is not a gender specific thing. The dressing up and dolls may be seen that way (to me I agree that you should let your child be who they are meant to be and what they love to be), but musical theatre, fine arts and dance etc should NOT be seen in this blog or any other ways as gender specific. I am a theatre mom as well as being in musicals…I cannot think of one that is all female. Nor can I think of one I have been a part of in my time where the males were looked down on for participating or loving theatre…. Its a wonderful way of expressing oneself and where we are there is a huge community of kids aging from toddlers to college and adults that are involved heavily (weekly dance, vocal lessons and acting classes) and the mix between genders is pretty equal!

Stacey Hawley Johnson 1 year ago

My daughter was Hulk princess for Halloween last year and people told us how awesome that was. I can’t Imagine what would happen if my son was a hulk
Princess.

Charlie Rouse 1 year ago

Besides my tot will be two on 3 September and she loves everything. Her princess Carriage, her trike, hot wheels and Legos. I’m not going to tell her that anything is “boys only. ” except maybe athletic cups. Lol

Sarah Ollier Seales 1 year ago

Who cares what he wears or plays with? Kudos to the moms who let their children shine ❤️

Chelsea Chauncey 1 year ago

Love this!!!

Charlie Rouse 1 year ago

That’s awesome. You’re little one could be the next George Clooney. Or Johnny Depp. Who knows? Encourage what they love and only great things can happen.

Cassi Sherman Henes 1 year ago

My son is an only child and is growing up close to his cousin, my sister’s only child (a girl). Both have strollers and babies, trains and trucks, tools and cleaning supplies. We all figure that by giving them all the toys, they get to imagine and play that much more. They aren’t doing the dress up stuff yet, but I’m guessing we will end up with both. I do wish toy manufacturers had a purple/green/yellow/blue stroller option, though. My son refuses to use pink things because that is his cousin’s favorite color and he would like his “own” color toy (which is any other color).

Wendy 1 year ago

Amazing parenting! He looks so happy and at ease with himself. My middle girl would much rather dress up as a ninja turtle or spiderman than a princess. We try not to use gender stereotypes at home with toys, clothing etc. When she speaks about herself she sees herself as a boy, she wants to play with the “other” boys, have hair like the “other” boys. It could be just a phase and its upsetting when people tell her to act like a girl. She is well able to reply to that that she is a boy not a girl!

Jennifer Klebsch 1 year ago

Cannot LIKE enough, I could have written this myself!!

Cami Lobdell 1 year ago

I have an 8 year old daughter that works on cars with us, loves to learn about circuitry and construction (Hubs is an electrician with an engineering degree), and repeatedly says she’s not really interested in “all the girly stuff”. Sometimes she will wear a dress, but only if she feels like it. She has had hair down to her butt, and has also begged me to chop it to just below her ears (which I happily did). Currently it’s growing out again because she likes being able to pull it out of her way when she’s building something. 2 year old little brother is already showing massive interest in some of the “girly stuff” big sister doesn’t really care about. We have never tried to put our kids into a gender role, and happily they’re finding their own way. I can’t wait for the day this is the rule and not the exception.

Jen 1 year ago

APPLAUSE!! My 6 year old son has been nuts about princess (and now Barbie) since he was 4, has a huge collection of Princess and Barbie dolls, and his favorite thing to do is dress up, whether the dolls or himself. He tosses out terms like “beautiful” and “romantic” and “lovely” and “wonderful”, and every time he does I love him so fiercely I can hardly stand it. I am used to getting those “blank stares” when I request a girl Happy Meal for him at McDonalds because he just loves their toys. He sees such beauty in them and all the colors and sparkles, and is so creative when putting together gowns for his dolls or dress up. He also has stated that he thinks it’s absolutely amazing that he’s a boy who loves princess and Barbie dolls, and though he’s never met another boy who does, I think he would be over the moon if he did! At the top of his Christmas list for the past year has been the Disney Princess Dream Castle, it’s all he can talk about. And though it’s huge we really don’t have the room, and I could not afford it last Christmas, I am hell bent on scraping everything I can to make sure Santa brings it for this one. We will make the room, and his reaction will be beyond priceless!!

Samreen Shahzad Lewis 1 year ago

My son is naturally into “boy” things, but one of his FAVORITE movies is Frozen and he has a jigsaw puzzle from it that he does everyday on his own lol.

Sophia Perry 1 year ago

kudos to everyone who lets their kid be their kid!

Tara Schaller 1 year ago

I painted my 5yo son’s toenails pink the other day, because he asked. He said, “mom, do boys paint their toenails, too?” I replied, “not usually, but if you really want me to paint them, I will. Some boys might laugh, but laugh with them…you’re silly!”

Amber Edmonds 1 year ago

My oldest son is all boy but my youngest loves makeup and purses and I let him he tells me he does it because I wants to be like mom( I’m a single parent) and there is nothing wrong with that. When I was younger I played with army guys and monster trucks my brother played Barbie and you know what we turned out just fine

Cecilia Baquirin-Torres 1 year ago

My son plays with cars and trucks like your so-called “normal” boys, but he loves to dance and sing along with musicals. His favorite is Annie. He loves performing in front of a mirror as well. He’s only 3, but I’m sure he’ll move on to the dress-up stage soon. I plan on buying him princess dresses if he wants them. Thanks for sharing your story, Bren, mom and dad! I hope more parents are as nurturing of their child’s personality.

Katie Christensen 1 year ago

I absolutely love this. My 3 year old son loves wearing pricess dresses and puts a hula skirt on his head as his “hair” and says he is going to be Elsa when he grows up. He is who he is and he’s happy, which is all that matters, and his dad and I wouldn’t change him for anything!

Megan Stokes Kidd 1 year ago

I do not judge other’s parenting, but our family would never be okay with confusing gender roles for our boy and girl. We are Christian, though, so I understand if my views differ from others.

Jonny N Roxy Smith 1 year ago

This is my son also 😉

Amber Oneill 1 year ago

Im going to respectfully disagree with this. A parent can love their child enough to say no to protect them too. Youre very lucky to live in such an accepting community. Not everyone does. I dont know how school will be for my son when he gets into kindergarten but until i do, im going to veto the pink pencil case.

Misty Manley 1 year ago

love this.

Bettie 1 year ago

This makes me happy. And a little jealous. I can’t imagine my husband being ok with me letting/encouraging our son to wear “girlie” items. You should hear what he has to say about our friends who let their sons wear nail polish… :(

Mary Schneider 1 year ago

Seriously!! Why is the assumption always “oh, he’ll grow up to be gay…” (Aside from, what the heck’s wrong with that?), that’s just stupid. At 4, 5, 6, their sexuality is still developing. For godsakes, why do we have to start labeling them so young? Just let a child grow and learn and discover. I have plenty of guy, and girl, friends who are into theater- my daughter is one of them- and no one asks about her sexuality!

My son played with dresses, dolls, and makeup at this age too. He’s 14 now, and firmly hetero. And you know what? I wouldn’t care if he weren’t, but he got plenty of those blank looks back then. Yet, it was perfectly normal, developmentally appropriate, and fine for my daughter to play with her brother’s matchbox cars and action figures!

What gives? :-p

Helen Ross 1 year ago

When tomboy girls were first released in the world I am sure there were awkward looks, whispers and everything else. With time the world learns to accept (some types of people 300 years after everyone else) what was once frowned upon and accept it as the normal. The people who are most unsure are the people have the most to hide about what is going on in their life. It takes a few people to break the mold and others follow. I really loved this story

Marcela Marchesini Kapfer 1 year ago

Our second son is gender nonconforming. His entire new school wardrobe was purchased from the “girls side” of the store. He’s so excited to show off his new duds! He has had a My Little Pony party, and this year had a Little Mermaid party. We are lucky to live in such an accepting community. He leads, we follow. That’s our motto. :)

Billie-Jo Ward 1 year ago

Way to go, Bren! And Mom and Dad!! :-)

Tina 1 year ago

Good for you!! It is hard. My daughter is a total tomboy…Everything she picked for school this year, was Teenage Mutant Ninga Turtles and a lot of other parents will say good for you for letting her do it…really if she wanted Frozen, no one would of thought anything. If we don’t love our children as they as….how do we expect them to love and accept themselves.

Barbara Mastroddi-Lackey 1 year ago

Sadly, being a “girlish” boy is looked upon as a bad thing by many parents, whereas we are fine with “tomboy” girls. Heaven forbid if a boy wants to experiment with nail polish, not get a buzz cut, or play football — the world will come to a crashing halt!

Keeva Williams 1 year ago

LOL! I worked in day care and there was a boy who loved dressing up as a princess. Unfortunately one of my rude co-workers thought he was gay. Which isn’t a bad thing. But why label a child because he’s wearing a dress at 4? She still works there and is still rude about the kids. *eye roll*

Helen Ross 1 year ago

if all parents raised their family like this can you image the world we would have.

Olivia Primo 1 year ago

Super awesome!