My Son Wore a Dress

Jerry Mahoney knew the day would come that he would have to relent and allow his son to wear a dress out in public. When the day finally came, it was remarkably unremarkable. 

Originally appeared at Mommy Man, Adventures of a Gay Superdad

This is a follow-up to my post, “My Son Wants to Wear a Dress” which can be found here.

As soon as I decided I was just going to let Bennett wear a dress, public reaction be damned, he stopped asking. Little did I know he was just waiting to raise the stakes.

The next time he asked, we were on vacation in upstate New York, visiting Drew’s family. This was the day we were going to the zoo. We’d been talking it up to the kids all week. Just as we were picking out clothes, Bennett made his intentions known.

“I want to wear a dress!” he chriped, his voice rising an octave on the key word.

As usual, Drew and I kind of stalled. We’d been hoping we could blur the gender lines quietly at home—at least initially. Letting him make his drag debut at the zoo might mean throwing him literally to the wolves.

His sister Sutton must have noticed my hesitation, because she stepped in to do the dirty work.  “No, Bennett,” she said. “You can’t wear a dress. It’s not OK!”

“Come on, Bennett,” I said. “Let’s go pick one out.” I couldn’t control how the rest of the world reacted to my son’s attire, but I wasn’t going to let his own family shame him for wanting to express himself.

As I stripped him of his boy clothes, Bennett couldn’t stop smiling. “I’m going to wear a dress outside!” he cheered. “I’m going to wear a dress outside!”

Maybe the kid was more aware than I realized. So wearing the dress outside was the triumph? Maybe he wanted to see how strangers reacted. That’s awfully subversive for a not-quite-three-year-old.

We have a rule with Sutton. Whenever she wears a dress, she has to wear shorts or leggings underneath. Being the fuddy-duddy daddies we are, we refuse to contribute to the hoochie-fication of today’s toddlers. Our little girl wasn’t going to be some primped-up preschool strumpet.

And neither was our little boy. If he was going to wear a dress, he was going to put something on underneath it.

The problem was that none of Bennett’s shorts really went with the dress. Neither did his very boyish navy blue sneakers. He didn’t care. The dress was all that mattered to him—but not to me. I didn’t want people to think this was my idea of a flattering ensemble for my son.

Suddenly, I’d be the one getting judged. “I can’t believe those dads put that poor little boy in a dress… and didn’t help him accessorize!”

He looked silly. At least I thought so. To be honest, I don’t think he even checked himself out. All he wanted to do was dance.

“Twirl! Twirl! Twirl!” he shouted, as he spun around again and again, watching the dress float up around him.

Suddenly, I wondered if he got the idea to wear a dress from Beauty & The Beast.  The way Belle dances in the ballroom and the camera zooms in on her gown rising majestically around her — it was so magical.

For Bennett, the dress was a toy he could wear—part pants, part hula hoop.

It was nice to see him so happy, but there was one person who could derail that joy in an instant—and she was waiting for him at the bottom of the staircase.

It was, after all, a vacation. We’d only packed two dresses. Sutton was wearing one, and now her brother was wearing the other one.

Her favorite dress.

I was terrified what she would say. I very cautiously brought Bennett to the top of the staircase.

“I’m wearing a dress!” he trilled, and his sister glanced up for a look.

All of us froze in that moment.  Once again, it was like Beauty & The Beast, right after Belle has been dolled up by the coat rack and miscellaneous flatware.  When the Beast sees her, he smiles, and you know everything is going to be OK.

“You look so pretty!” Sutton squealed. “Now we’re both princesses!”

Whew!

Bennett scurried downstairs, and they danced together, twirling and twirling, until they both fell over, giggling.

Drew and I went to the zoo prepared to clock anyone who made a comment about Bennett’s dress, but nobody said a thing.  We were the only ones who were the least bit uptight about it.

He may have been wearing his sister’s clothes at the moment, but my son is very much a boy. He plays with trains, builds Lego towers, splashes in mud puddles. He even announced recently that when he grows up, he wants to marry a boy… just like both his dads.

On the way home, we stopped for lunch. Our waitress leaned down to me and Drew. “You have such beautiful girls,” she said.

I wasn’t sure what she meant at first. Was she saying what she thought my son wanted to hear? “Such beautiful girls” – wink!

It didn’t seem right. He may have been wearing his sister’s clothes at the moment, but my son is very much a boy. He plays with trains, builds Lego towers, splashes in mud puddles. He even announced recently that when he grows up, he wants to marry a boy… just like both his dads. What’s more boyish than that?

When the waitress returned with our food, she made another comment. “You two fellas are so lucky to be here with such beautiful women!” I realized she was being totally sincere. She hadn’t noticed Bennett’s shorts or sneakers, hadn’t thought much about his short hair. Because he was wearing a dress, she assumed he was a girl.

“Thank you,” I said, “but this guy’s a boy. He just wanted to wear a dress today.”

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About Jerry Mahoney

Jerry Mahoney is a stay-home gay dad, writer, sporadic tweeter and a frequent Bowser in Mario Kart. This piece probably appeared originally on his blog, Mommy Man. Jerry is also the author of Mommy Man: How I Went From Mild-Mannered Geek to Gay Superdad, which will be available in May from Taylor Trade Publishing.

Comments

  1. Jameseq says:

    I really enjoyed reading this follow-up

    “Come on, Bennett,” I said. “Let’s go pick one out.” I couldn’t control how the rest of the world reacted to my son’s attire, but I wasn’t going to let his own family shame him for wanting to express himself.
    As I stripped him of his boy clothes, Bennett couldn’t stop smiling. “I’m going to wear a dress outside!” he cheered. “I’m going to wear a dress outside!”
    Maybe the kid was more aware than I realized. So wearing the dress outside was the triumph? Maybe he wanted to see how strangers reacted. That’s awfully subversive for a not-quite-three-year-old.

    lolol, indeed. did you find out if Bennett was aware? was he looking for reactions?

    Bennett scurried downstairs, and they danced together, twirling and twirling, until they both fell over, giggling.

    this made me smile so much

    . She hadn’t noticed Bennett’s shorts or sneakers, hadn’t thought much about his short hair. Because he was wearing a dress, she assumed he was a girl.
    “Thank you,” I said, “but this guy’s a boy. He just wanted to wear a dress today.”

    you cant leave us hanging like that :)
    what was her reaction?

  2. Haha. As I said in my comment on it, I found half the fun to be spinning in circles in the thing and watching it fly out!

  3. You were doing amazing until you said, “but this guy’s a boy. He just wanted to wear a dress today.”

    :(

    • Joanna Schroeder says:

      Is that sad because you think his son is identifying as female and that Jerry undermined his gender identity?

      If that is what you mean, I think it’s important to be clear that Bennett does not identify as a girl. There’s a difference between a boy wanting to wear a dress because he believes he’s a girl, and wants to be like other girls, and a boy who simply wants to wear a dress.

      Jerry knows his son. He is a boy who wanted to wear a dress. As a dad, he saw his child as the individual that he is. He’s not trying to make him a trans-girl simply because he wants to wear a dress. There’s a big difference there.

      • You are complete Wright, for some kids is a play, if my sister can why i cant?
        But if they feel as a girl that i sanother thing

    • i do agree, the thruh is that the boy wants to be dressed as a girl always. Might be that inside he is a girl.

  4. What a sincerely cool family!!!

  5. Valter Viglietti says:

    This is a nice article, but… me, too, I felt awkward when the author insisted on the kid’s gender.

    “It didn’t seem right. He may have been wearing his sister’s clothes at the moment, but my son is very much a boy.”
    Like he was afraid of him being effeminate…
    It seems to me he still fell into the gender binary. Instead of accepting the kid whatever his inclination is. Like saying “My son can wear dresses but, beware, he’s still a MAN!!!”.
    Jerry, are you afraid your son can turn gay? And would be it bad for you? ;)

    “Thank you,” I said, “but this guy’s a boy. He just wanted to wear a dress today.”

    Oh my oh my. Lest not be judged less than a man!
    What’s the need to point it out towards a total stranger?

    I might be misinterpreting, of course, but this attitude seems speaking about the dad’s fears (while, thank God, Bennet is just happy to be who he is).

    • I’m gay myself, so I’m certainly not worried about that. My son still identifies himself as a boy, and as long as that’s true, I’ll continue to identify him that way, too. Should he realize otherwise as he gets older, I’ll fully support him. Right now the lesson I’m choosing to teach him is, “You can be a boy and wear a dress. If that’s what you want to do, that’s OK.”

      • Awesome. :)

      • I felt like the article very specifically conveyed this, I was a little surprised to see comments that immediately took it in another direction. Just because a boy wears a dress doesn’t make him a girl any more than my wearing pants makes me a man.

        • of course not, but dressed as women it is normal to feel like a woman. Pants have another meanig for women. I do prefer skirts, i do fell more femenine and enjoy a lot, mostly a use them.

    • The mother has to face it, might be that son will be a Transexual, travestie, or homosexual. Any how, he has begun the way, going the other road will be complicate. To the parents it is dificult to accept that son can be a girl in a boys body.
      because of that:“Thank you,” I said, “but this guy’s a boy. He just wanted to wear a dress today.”
      inside she hopes that son will be a man

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