Poll: How do you feel about cross dressing children?

Inspired by a very cute little Daphne-clad boy, please share your thoughts on this controversial subject via this weeks poll.

Are your standards different for yourself or your spouse?

Corktree is exploring life and spirituality in new ways and new environments while studying midwifery, reiki, yoga, homeopathy, herbology and evolutionary nutrition. She has 3 daughters and one son, which add up to what now feels like an enormous family of 6.


  1. A couple of weeks ago, I found a beautiful dress for my daughter which my son called a “princess dress.” I asked if he wanted one too and he said yes. Now he has a beautiful emerald green, sparkling dress with velvet applique and he makes a beautiful princess. Then last night, we found fairy wings so I think I’ll have two fairy princesses running around.

  2. My son wears a lot of pink and purple diapers. My husband isn’t as comfortable with that. I put a skirt on him last week in order to encourage my daughter to put a skirt on (easier for potty trips) and my husband made sure no one saw in public. I’m cool with it.

  3. How do children cross dress? What a ridiculous concept. First most young children don’t dress themselves and second even if they did or could at that age few children have any concept of gender.

    • abi,
      My four year old boy definitely has a conception of gender. He wants every single toy and product that is advertised on TV (including no credit score required credit cards) EXCEPT those toys that are gendered feminine. When the toys that are gendered male are advertised, I hear choruses of “I want that! I want that!” Silence for the ones gendered female. He also already makes comments about pink being a girl color, princesses being for girls, etc.

    • Children absolutely do and will dress themselves at early ages. In fact, I had a hard time letting my two oldest choose their clothes for a while (I was a sucker for coordination). But as I’ve let them choose their own combinations to wear and even what we buy, it has been fascinating to see their personalities come out in how they express themselves. They’re not old enough to be conforming to peer expectations or care about what’s “cool” yet, so I’ve really enjoyed this glimpse into what their choices tell me about them.

    • On another post, I commented that my son who turned 3 a few days ago, saw the clip of the man getting a makeover and asked, “Why that man wearing makeup?”
      Children (even two year olds) have a sense of gender. It’s crazy.

  4. What I have a problem with is dinosaurs. My daughter (age 5) likes dinosaurs, but she is also very empathetic. Most of the dinosaur things I can find reflect violence. We found a few shirts in the little kids’ section at Target, but that only goes up to size 5. She has outgrown them. Now, we are in trouble. I think I may need to learn how to sew t-shirt material and practice doing appliques. How is it that dinosaurs (and pretty much anything having to do with science) are presented as masculine?

    • It is unfortunate that dinosaurs are almost always marketed as masculine. I have a sister-in-law that has a PhD in Paleontology. I have a niece (not the daughter of the paleontologist) who wanted to be a paleontologist for halloween at the age of 4. She could even say “paleontologist” without any problem. Her mom buys her boy pajamas with dinosaurs on them because she can’t find any girl ones. It’s kinda sad.
      They do sell some adhesive bond stuff at craft stores so you can iron-on any fabrics together, so maybe making your own T-shirts or whatever is the way to go.

  5. I kind of wanted to vote for two. My husband doesn’t actually own a Utilikilt, yet, but I’m all for it because as a bike commuter he has fantastic legs. Here in the PacNW, Utilikilts aren’t all that rare, but often it’s the wrong guys (doughy, pasty computer geeks) who wear them. There was a dad at my oldest’s kindergarten who regularly rocked one–HOTT!

    • I think you can vote for two, but it has to be before you submit.

      And I think utilikilts are hot too! (my husband is also a road biker with nice legs) What does that say when heterosexual women find a man in a skirt to be attractive? Me thinks that society got it all wrong somewhere 😉

  6. I couldn’t vote for any of the choices. The fact is that I am a little more willing for a girl to “cross dress” but not to the extent that you have in choice 1. I wouldn’t let her wear pants to church, but pants would be fine most other places of course.
    Would I let my daughter dress up as a boy for Halloween? Well, she dressed as Robinhood except it was a slutty woman outfit, so I had to add material to the neckline and make some pants because the “dress” was as short as a shirt. So while she was dressed as a male character, it was a very female outfit (with ruffles). It had a cute hat and feather (irrelevant except to those wondering why we bought it if it had to be adjusted so much).
    I know that I have a little bit of a double standard about it because our culture does have a double standard.
    Part of what I feel is my obligation is to help them negotiate social rules. As they get older, I make them change their clothes everyday. I try to make them wear clean clothes. I try to make them not wear clothes that are too small or too worn. I usually remember to tell them to wet down their hair or brush their hair. This isn’t my strong suit but I do try.
    I have never told my kids they can’t dress up as something. They seem to understand the social rules about it. However, if my child didn’t understand the social rules I would gently help them understand it just like I try to help my daughter understand that it is socially inappropriate to have food in your braces even though her response to me was “Well, if they are superficial enough to not want to be my friend just because I have food in my braces, then I don’t need their friendship anyway.” Sigh….yes, you do. Good hygeine and good manners are not about peer pressure, it is about being considerate and taking care of yourself.
    If I felt I had a child with a gender identiy issue, then I would have to approach the whole problem in whatever way I thought was best for that child. I doubt the Halloween costume would be the biggest thing I was dealing with.

  7. I can understand your hesitation, jks. I considered making it easier to choose the first option, but the reality is that girls already get to wear both sides (from a traditional POV) just about everywhere else, so the distinction had to carry to the one place that we still expect girls to wear skirts. There is something to be said for challenging the stereotypes that we are given, even from church society. (I’m not saying girls shouldn’t look presentable at church – hygiene is important – but just like women, girls can look dressed up in pants)

    And I’m glad you brought up the idea of helping our children to fit within the double standard society has given us. I think a lot of parents feel that way and don’t want their children to be made fun of if they can prevent it. That is the heart of the post that is linked to – but it also shows that it’s the parents that are perpetuating the rigid parameters and doing harm with their judgmental attitudes. I’m not saying you do this, but I also think that we as parents have more influence on how children treat each other. If we don’t think something is abnormal, then our children won’t either, and maybe, just maybe, the gendered expectations will begin to change and disappear.

  8. we had four girls before having a boy (who is still just a baby). my girls were offered free range over toys and clothing. dolls are as likely to be found as are trucks and tools. my oldest plays hockey and is the only girl on her team. last year, she was captain hook (with mustache) for halloween, but she was a dragonfly with glittery wings and a tutu this year. i’d be quite the hypocrite if i didn’t afford my son (who also wears pink diapers!) the same options.

    luckily, my husband is on the same side. he said little daphne, if anything, is more appropriate than when he (of pioneer stock) wore his sister’s cheerleading uniform in junior high.

    but we have had people make comments about my oldest’s choice of scripture and clothing. i love being able to point to my adult cousins… one is uber-“girly” and won’t be seen without a bow in her barbie hair or a ton of makeup on. her sister wears camo cargo pants, sportsbras, and a very short asymmetrical hairdo, which is convenient for when she plays rugby. the first is openly gay and the second is openly straight. so much for stereotypes!

  9. I dressed my first two children (a son and daughter) in very traditional male/female clothing. They never objected and the gendered clothing seemed to fit their personalities. Then our third (a daughter) came along, with such a mixed female/male personality and very strong sense of her own personhood, that by the time she was two, I gave up trying to dress her “my way.” I was just happy when she was willing to wear clothing at all. My only requirements were that she be dressed (including shoes, but not necessarily socks) when leaving home and that her clothes be reasonably clean. She is now a happy responsible adult who seems to have little gender boundaries when it comes to clothing. I think she was sent to me just so I could learn that it doesn’t really matter.

  10. I don’t care at all about costumes. What I WOULD do differently than the woman of aspiring Daphne is to help my child think through their choices more before committing (as in, actually buying the costume). Clearly, the boy had misgivings the day of, and I hope that as a parent, I could help my child work out the hypotheticals before, as that is a somewhat predictable response.

    I also would not have made him go in, if he felt he would get teased. I might have tried to talk with him for a while in the car, but I would never have just said “man up and face the consequences of your choice” because THIS choice has some serious (to a child) consequences. There is a big difference between regretting that you chose to be spiderman and wishing you were batman and regretting that you chose to were a mini-dress and pink boots and you are a boy. I just see no need to subject a kid to torment. I would have done my darndest to come up with a quick alternative costume, suggested he could chose not to dress up, or just skipped preschool that day.

    I met a lovely family at our community pool. Mom and dad and two kids who were deaf, and seemed to have been adopted from south America somewhere. Really nice family. In our first conversation, as I was meeting the kids, I learned their names and the mom said that their youngest daughter was “being a boy” right now. Indeed, she had very short hair and was wearing swim trunks. I really liked the way that mom just stated things matter-of-factly and was not at all ashamed or embarrassed by the daughter’s interest in “being a boy.” It seemed to me that this mom was just loving her daughter and felt that she was loving her best by not making a big deal about how she dressed, etc.

    That said, if one of my own children decided they wanted to be the opposite gender for an extended period of time (it’s been 2 years now, and that daughter is still “being a boy”), I think that would be really hard for me. I hope and pray I would have the wisdom to react in whatever way I needed to that would best love the child.

  11. Corktree, I was just trying to point out that with your poll I had a choice of being completely comfortable with both genders doing whatever, or having a total extreme double standard that carried over into everything and required no social conventions being expected for girls. So having a slight double standard wasn’t an option. The fact is I have insisted that my daughter wear a skirt/dress for certain events because it was formal or church dress.
    I’m guessing that a LOT of people have a similar slight double standard (if their girl gave a report and dressed as Columbus they’d be ok with it, but if their boy wanted to be Elizabeth I for an oral report they would discourage it), so I was disappointed that it wasn’t there as an option.
    Some of us aren’t out there trying to tear down all gender cross dressing barriers. I am, however, very willing to tell my kids that pink is just a color and males and females can have the pink cup at the dinner table. I am not, however, going to dress my boys in pink. Sorry.

    ESO, I agree with your assessment of the Daphne situation. If my child wanted to back out of the costume for whatever reason (too ugly, too lame, too itchy, too scary, too immodest, too girly) I wouldn’t have bought them another costume but I would have offered to help them find something at home or borrow something they would be happier with or fix the costume they had to make it more comfortabe/appropriate/modest/flattering, etc.

  12. This is somewhat timely for me and I’ve been thinking about how to reply. My oldest son has 6 cousins that we see frequently, five girls and a boy. One Christmas I was making hats for my nieces (ones with ridiculously huge flowers) and he (age 4) wanted a hat with a flower on it. I put a flower on a hat for him and he wore it everywhere for the next two weeks. He still wears it occasionally.
    Recently we were visiting and all the girls were dressing up in old ballet costumes, so he was right there with them dressing up in old ballet costumes. When he came out dressed in a leotard, tutu, and cowboy hat all his cousins (and most of the adults too) laughed at him and he very quickly snuck off to change. The cousins later apologized for laughing but the damage was done.

    And thinking about it, it is stuff like that which prevents boys from doing ballet or other dances, choir, gymnastics- none of which are inherently gendered. Furthermore all of those things would be excellent for more boys to participate in- even in a strictly gendered world. For example the guy who gets the most attention at church dances is the one who isn’t afraid to dance.

  13. About the last option in the poll, I don’t think of utilikilts, lava-lavas or traditional kilts as being in the same category as cross dressing, or even trending feminine. If a boy wanted to be a Scottish warrior with kilt and broadsword, that’s a masculine image. I wrote a post earlier in the year where I talked about admiring the hyper-manly Captain Moroni from the old Friberg paintings. I’m all for guys in kilts, Halloween or otherwise.

    • I agree about kilts not really being the same. I threw that option in there for fun as I’m strongly considering getting one for my husband.

      I do think it’s interesting though that styles of clothing used to be much more unisex (biblical times and such) and what exactly it was that made skirts so “feminine”. (I’ve heard that it made women more sexually “available” – not exactly the best thing to perpetuate) Kilts and various religious robes seem to be the only remnants of men not wearing pants that I could think of.

      Having the option of how you feel about your spouse in full drag just seemed too obvious, as did making the first option more palatable. I guess I should have included more real answers to cover it all though.

  14. this whole episode really isn’t about cross-dressing, it is a mother using her child as a blog post to show the world how progressive and advanced she is.

    I guess we should bow down before her awesomey awesomeness.

    As others have commented, the son clearly was having misgivings about his choice. He had more sense than she did…

    • At first read, I skimmed through the article and didn’t notice the part about his misgivings. I thought it was great that she wasn’t being too serious about something like a Halloween costume, but I do agree with the other comments here that she should have respected his misgivings and not pushed the situation. Turns out she did get a bit too serious about it after all.

      Halloween and playing dress-up aside, the article did make me ask myself what I would do if I had a child who was strongly identifying with the opposite gender. It reminded me of a situation in my professional life as a school psychologist. There was a 6 or 7-year-old boy who was coming to school with purses, and engaging in very feminine play. His parents were trying to influence the situation, by teaching him to minimize this kind of behavior at school, because he was being teased mercilessly. He was miserable. Most of us would hope that our children will identify with their own gender because the alternative can be a very, very difficult road. In the LDS culture, it’s particularly problematic.

      A more appropriate discussion might be to what degree would we try to influence gender identity, and at what age, or under what circumstances, might we decide to just love and accept.

      • The paragraph above come out wrong. There’s nothing inappropriate about discussing cross gendered Halloween costumes or the double standard that is there for boys. I meant that there are really two different issues here. Halloween is a day when it’s socially acceptable to “let your freak flag fly”. There is a difference between Halloween or playing dress-up, and kids who have real gender confusion, or identify strongly with the other gender. The latter is going to bring up an assortment of social and religious issues for parents to navigate.

      • That’s a huge question for me, Rebecca. This fantastic NPR story, about two young boys who identified as girls, affected me strongly. I just don’t have any idea what I would do if my young child identified so strongly as the opposite gender. Intervening might cause untold internal trauma to the developing child. Not intervening could cause all sorts of social, and perhaps down the line, internal trauma as well. What to do? I just don’t know. I have a lot of compassion for the parents of both the boys in the story.

      • Thanks for posting that link, Caroline. If it’s the story I’m thinking of, I was really struck by it when I heard it. My oldest listened to a lot of it with me (he was then going on 8), and we had an interesting conversation about it.

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