Boy in Blue Tutu

We love tomboys. Why can't we love janegirls, too?

| July-August 1999

My son is a cross-dresser. Most mornings he gets up, puts on a hand-me-down dress, wraps an old pillowcase around his head with a ribbon (to create his “long blond hair”), and prances around singing “The hills are alive with the sound of music.” My son is 3 years old.

At the toy store, he does not want a Batman doll. “I want Batgirl,” he cries. When he begs to play with his friend Margo, it is because she has an extensive collection of Barbie dolls and outfits in which he can dress them.

He loves preschool for the teachers, but also for the wonderful selection of tutus, party shoes, and costume jewelry. His grandmother received the shock of her life when she went to pick him up at school one day and he was wearing a blue tutu with beaded gold slippers. His teacher tells us that he is “highly in touch with his feminine side.”

Not everyone is so empathetic. “Boys should be playing baseball, not Barbie,” my mother-in-law exclaims. “He keeps taking my daughter's Cinderella slippers!” my neighbor tells my other neighbor, who then tells me. Strangers ask, “So when do you think he will grow out of it?” and “How does your husband feel?”

I've tried to explain to these people that my son approaches life with a unique flair. He loves soccer, and he often plays in a silk cape that flutters in the wind when he runs. My husband can't wait for Little League to start because our son can already hit the ball out of the backyard. Our son can't wait for baseball, either, but for a different reason: He says the cleats are “just like tap shoes.”

No one seems to be the least bit disturbed about my son's friend Gillian. At the age of 5, she refuses to wear dresses, plays T-ball and soccer, and is skilled at climbing trees and collecting bruises. Gillian is a tomboy. “Isn't she cute?” a friend exclaims to me. But my son, I remind myself, is not cute when he dresses up and re-enacts the glass slipper scene from Cinderella .

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