Thursday, October 7, 2010

Stifling the Youth

When I went to work I came in on the tail end of a story that a co-worker was telling some of the other people in her office. She was telling them that she had asked her young son (I never did catch his exact age) what he wanted to be for halloween. He had said he wanted to be a witch. His father had asked if he wanted to be a warlock, which is basically a boy who can do magic. The boy apparently made it very clear that he wanted to be a witch, not a warlock, but a witch.

It was a cute story, but it also underlined a problem: paranoid parents. After she'd finished the story she had made it clear that she wasn't going to let him go out as a witch. She didn't say this harshly or even that she was genuinely frightened, but it was still clear from her tone that she was praying this didn't point to something deeper about her son. She laughed it off with her co-workers but I still could sense the apprehension. I'm sure that cross dressing isn't the only area this happens in. I'm sure there are parents that have similar reactions to boys who want to take up ballet or girls who want to take shop class. It's an understandable one really, and it's certainly not meant to cause any harm but it's the kind of reaction that can lead to greater confusion down the line.

Wow... look at that a well adjusted cross dresser with a loving spouse. See parents? It can be ok.

First off, not every little boy who puts on a dress is going to grow up to be a crossdresser. Part of the beauty of children is their innocence and part of what's funny about them is how fickle they are. They can have an interest in something that will die out within a month. To put it another way, all people who live in New York also live in America. But not all people who live in America live in New York. Same thing here: nearly all dressers start dressing young (there are pictures of me at about three years old in a tutu,) but not all children who cross dress at young age continue to do so into adulthood. It's called playing dress up, and it's not only harmless it's also healthy.

I'm sure she meant well as a parent but she's planting the early seeds of shame and embarassment. The notion that what her son wants to do is somehow wrong. Even if she never puts it in those words that's still the intention and it's something that will be instilled for life. It's very important to let kids, especially young ones, dabble freely without judging them. Now if her son still wants to dress as a witch for Halloween at the age of 13 then yes it's time for a talk to better understand him. But until them just let the kid be a damn witch.


  1. Do you think it is possible that the fact it becomes so "forbidden" is what triggers a desire in one to do it? Is it possible that parents trying to put out a flame will fuel an even greater fire?

  2. I'm not sure if I'd say that it being forbidden triggers the desire outright, but I think it can fan the flames of whatever desire is already there. It can certainly cause young kids to look more closely at something that might have been a passing phase, trying to figure out why their parents got all weird about it.

  3. Perhaps I should have phrased it slightly different, but you still managed to answer my question. Always interesting to hear your take on things Vera.