A father has opened up about how he came to terms with his young son’s love of girls’ clothes and toys. Yuvi Zalkow, a writer based in Portland, Oregon, writes in an essay published on Medium.com that when his son first started exhibiting feminine qualities, his instinct was to fight against it, attempting to steer him towards superhero action figures instead of dolls, dresses and nail polish.
But ultimately he came to realize that the most important thing was the boy’s happiness. ‘Who the hell was I to tell him another way?’ he writes. ‘What is blamable here? This is being alive.’
His son was four years old the day that Mr Zalkow, carrying him home from daycare, worked up the courage to take him dress-shopping after he had expressed his interest in girls’ clothes for months. At the Goodwill store, ‘he pulled me to the dress aisle like he had been shopping there a thousand times before,’ writes the author. ‘He picked two pink dresses with flowers on them, one skimpy dress that seemed inappropriate even for a girl, and a white one that seemed only fit for a wedding. “Dada,” he said as he handed the white one to me. “I love this one the most.”‘
The pair then took the dress home to try it on. ‘Together my boy and I stumbled our way through the art of putting on a fancy, fluffy white dress. (Over the head? Do you step into it? Where does this string thingy tie?)’ he recalls.
Once he had the dress on, the boy took a few steps forward in a way that seemed ‘both more awkward and more graceful than usual,’ writes his father. ‘He inhaled one deep breath and then spun in a circle. We both watched his dress float out around him and then come back to rest.’
‘Who the hell was I to tell him another way? What is blamable here? This is being alive’ Mr Zalkow writes that he first noticed his son’s struggle with gender identity early on, when the boy would look at women with an intense fascination.
‘Sometimes, when I ask him to elaborate, he’ll tell me something he likes about her – usually her hair, sometimes her shoes or that red dress,’ he said. ‘But most of the time, he can’t articulate what it is.’
Other times, his son would express frustration and sadness at his own gender, telling his father that he wished he were born a girl instead of a boy.
‘Some days, he says it like he is about to cry and it is heartbreaking for me to hear it ,’ explains Mr Zalkow. ‘Just this idea of wanting to be something different.’
Even though he himself wasn’t the athletic or masculine type, Mr Zalkow found himself trying to encourage his son to play sports and show interest in stereotypically boyish activities.
But his efforts were futile – in the end, his son would always gravitate towards ‘girly’ things, like fairies, princesses and My Little Pony.
One day, he was less than pleased when he came home to see his wife helping their son paint his nails a bright purple and pink.
But instead of getting angry, Mr Zalkow was touched by how happy the boy seemed to be. ‘It bothered the hell out of me,’ he admits. ‘But I also saw how proud he was to show me those delicately painted fingernails.’
‘Now is the time to linger on the simple joy of witnessing a kid experiment with who they want to be - untethered to what it means’
Mr Zalkow’s moment of realization came unexpectedly during a session of make-believe, in which he was playing Diego from Dora the Explorer spin-off Go Diego GO, and his son was pretending to be Dora’s female cousin Alicia.
While there was ‘nothing particularly profound’ about his play-acting, ‘it was just the particularness of these scenes we were reenacting each night. And his joy in playing out these stories,’ writes Mr Zalkow. ‘It was a privilege to watch him explore the world.’
These days, he and his wife are working together to be the best they can be for their son, reading guidebooks and accepting advice from other parents who have had similar experiences.
And rather than imagining the struggles and obstacles their son may have to face in the future, they’re taking it one day at a time.
‘Now is the time to linger on the simple joy of witnessing a kid experiment with who they want to be - untethered to what it means,’ he writes.
‘F*** all of this projecting and anticipating and categorizing. Just be here right now.’
Source: Why I finally let my son buy a dress: Father’s moving story