Monday, actress Megan Fox posted a few Polaroid snaps of her three adorable kids on Instagram. In one of the shots, Fox’s 4-year-old son Noah is seen wearing a Frozen dress.
For many of us, this kind of cross-gender dress-up is no big deal, but for a multitude of Instagram commenters, it most certainly was.
Comments ran the gamut from a simple, “Gross!” to users implying that Fox was a terrible, irresponsible parent who was somehow ruining her boys for life by allowing them to wear “girly” clothes.
“It is not okay for a boy to walk around in their mother’s heels. Just like it’s NOT okay for a child to be disrespectful,” wrote one user, “So, again that’s when it’s the parent’s job to instruct the child in the RIGHT way.”
Many users seemed to have visceral reactions about what they were seeing, and used the opportunity to attack Fox and her children. “Another Hollywood weirdo mom… so disgusting you allow your son to wear princess dresses,” wrote another commenter.
Luckily, there were many opposite reactions praising Fox for letting her children express themselves freely, with many parents chiming in that they had let their sons wear dresses, paint their nails, and wear heels — and that there was absolutely nothing wrong with it.
One user took it a step further and said that letting our kids dress in non-gender conforming clothes was is a sign of advancement in human history — and that it was about time we embrace it.
“Everyone that is upset… it is 2017,” wrote the user, “We are no longer living in a time where it is ‘wrong’ for boys to wear girl clothes and vice versa. It never really was ‘wrong’ but the world was stuck in a close-minded state. At least the world is beginning to be more open-minded now.”
To that, I say amen. Given the heated nature of the comments on Fox’s totally innocent pic of her boy, we clearly have a long way to go in our culture before we accept that gender is actually less of a straight line than we once thought it was, and that it is totally normal for kids, teens, and even adults to experiment with the sometimes blurriness of those lines.
And of course, we have an even longer way to go as a society before we accept that some people simply do not conform to the gender they were born into. Major health organizations agree that people who are transgender or gender non-confirming are born that way. It is not a choice, and therefore is not something we can push back against or try to change.
HealthyChildren.org explains it like this: “Research suggests that gender is something we are born with; it can’t be changed by any interventions. It is critically important that children feel loved and accepted for who they are.”
Critically important, indeed. As parents, we do not get to decide whether our children end up straight, gay, bi, or trans. And we need to show them from the earliest ages possible that whatever their sexuality or gender looks like, they will be loved unconditionally to the moon and back.
As the mom, I have tried my damnedest to love and accept my boys for who they are. At times, that has meant letting them play with non-gender conforming toys and wearing non-gender conforming clothing. Both of my boys went through very clear phases where they were obsessed with the color pink and everything “girly.”
I remember a Fisher Price Little People airplane that my older son was vying for at the toy store. There was one in white and one in pink. He chose the pink one. In fact, he didn’t understand why anyone would have wanted the plain white one, as pink looked much more exciting to him. That was 10 years ago, and as a brand-new parent I was a little more anxious about each decision and more self-conscious about what others might think.
But after that quick moment of hesitation, I just went for it. I thought, the pink one was much more interesting and exciting than the white one. It was obviously manufactured as the “girl” version of the toy, but I could see that that was a load of bull. That’s when I began questioning the whole idea of “girl” or “boy” versions of any toy. I mean, why do we need to draw those lines for kids at such early ages?
My second son was much more explicit in his “girly” choices. He loved to dress up with my scarves, necklaces, and pocketbooks. Sometimes he’d prance around the house in heels. For a while, he was totally obsessed with tiaras. He borrowed one from a girl he knew, and then when he saw one at a shoe store, he demanded we buy him one. And we did. He looked so freaking adorable in it.
This time, I wasn’t worried as much about whether I was doing the right thing as a parent, but more of the ways his free-spirit might be crushed by a mean or hateful comment from another child (or even an adult) as he pranced around the neighborhood in his tiara.
Thankfully, that didn’t happen. And like many children, my boys’ fixation on “girl” things was just a phase. As my sons became more socialized, they decided to generally stick to the “boyish” types of things.
From what I can tell, many, many kids go through a phase like this. For the vast majority, it ends up being just a phase. But for some other kids, that’s not the case at all, and they continue to want to identify with aspects of the opposite gender.
As HealthyChildren.org points out, it might be some time before a parent can be certain that their child is transgender, stating, “Research suggests that children who are persistent, consistent, and insistent about their gender identity are the ones who are most likely to become transgender adults.” Noting, “It is important support and follow the lead of the child. This may mean you will not have an answer for quite a long time, which can be very difficult for parents.”
Again, the answer is always, always to love your child for who they are. I think that no matter how we parent our kids, acceptance is the ultimate goal, isn’t it?
I know that the thought of possibly having a transgender child can be frightening and upsetting for a parent, especially when you consider the increased risk of bullying, depression, and suicide among transgender kids. But that is exactly why we need to educate ourselves further and teach our kids from an early age that the way the want to dress or express themselves is beautiful.
It is not only our job to raise the next generation of kids who feel loved no matter who or what they are, but raise kids who have the capacity to love others with that same level of respect and open-mindedness.