My 8-1/2-year-old son has always presented outside the norm of what people assume a young boy to be. Despite the fact that he proudly identifies as a boy, the fact that he has long-ish blond curls (his preference!) and frequently wears colors beyond blue, green or brown somehow confuses people. He gets misgendered frequently, and while this used to bug him, now he just rolls his eyes that people just can't get that sometimes boys dig long hair while they play soccer, drums or LEGO.
What my son doesn't quite see — just yet, anyway — is the vitriol some folks have when it comes to children like him stepping outside heavily prescribed gender stereotypes. People are actually scared that allowing boys to grow their hair long, paint their toenails or wear pink will actually somehow contribute to the downfall of society.
I first explored this concept back in 2011, which I dubbed the "Pink Scare." Back then, Fox News correspondent Keith Ablow was convinced that allowing boys to stretch outside traditional male stereotypes would mean the end to our armed forces. Unfortunately, six years later people are still trying to espouse such theories (and our armed forces continue to serve and protect just fine). An article out of a Houston, Texas, radio station looked at the recent trend in gender neutral clothes and deemed it the "sissification of America," claiming it's harmful and that children need consistency.
But children need validation too. They need to know that it's OK to like pink or princesses and still be a boy. Or that as a girl it's more than OK to love science and math. The only thing that will come out of encouraging that is more well-rounded children who are comfortable and confident in who they are, making them better, accepting adults in my eyes. Because the truth of it is, when people say they worry about the "sissification" of our country by allowing kids to expand their definition of gender, what they really mean is that they're worried that by letting a boy wear pink, he might turn out to be — gasp — gay! I hate to break it to you, but you can't turn your child gay by buying him that puppy T-shirt he really wants, just like we're not going to dismantle our military services by greenlighting your toddler son's desire to paint his nails like mom.
So, I say bring on clothes that celebrate and empower the various ways to be a boy or a girl. Allowing boys to wear pink only expands their fashion and style options. It won't bring the downfall of the American family as we know it. At the most, it will make it much more colorful.
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