"My five year old son likes to wear dresses," says German dad Nils Pickert.Here are my thoughts.
Back when he lived in West Berlin, it was certainly a conversation-starter, but not much more than that. Now, however, Pickert and his son live in a "very traditional" South German village where his son's predilection for dresses is the talk of the town.
"I didn't want to talk my son into not wearing dresses and skirts," Pickert tells the German feminist magazine EMMA. "He didn't make friends in doing that in Berlin already and after a lot of contemplation I had only one option left: To broaden my shoulders for my little buddy and dress in a skirt myself."
Good that the dad is teaching his son to be himself, and to be proud of himself, whoever he is.
But, I worry about the hate that a young boy is going to be shown wearing a dress. And while it's all well and good to say that that's society's problem, it's also that little boy's problem - he's five years old, I worry about the impact of him being laughed at, pointed to, and mocked every day of his life. Now, that doesn't mean we should stifle who he really is, which can lead to its own damage.
The thing is, who is he? Is he transgender, or just a boy who likes to wear a dress (and is there a difference?)?
And even if he's "just" a boy who likes to wear a dress (i.e., if he doesn't think he's a girl in a boy's body), is it right to tell him what boys and girls should and shouldn't do? Isn't this like that little girl at Christmas who went off on the rant about how everyone is trying to make her buy pink toys when sometimes she wants blue toys:
I'm all for breaking down silly societal norms - such as American guys who (used to) fear wearing shoulder bags ("murses" in the vernacular). They don't fear any such thing in Europe, and it's now spreading in the states - though we still wear "big" bags, not the small purse-y ones that Europeans also wear.
But I still worry about it when 5 year olds make social statements. It's one thing to be a civil rights activist as an adult - and it's not easy then - it's quite another to try it at age 5. I remember talking once with someone about what it's like for high school kids who come out and become outspoken gay rights advocates. We like to think it's healthy for them. But being in the spotlight isn't always easy, and it's not for everyone.
Then again, his parents are in the best spot to decide what's best for their kid and how he's handling it.