Sarah Tuttle-Singer
A Mermaid in Jerusalem

My son, the cross-dresser

Yeah, my two-year-old boy is wearing a pink dress with ruffles and butterflies. But so freaking what?

My son is big into tractors. He loves Lego. He builds skyscrapers out of wooden blocks, and then goes all Godzilla on them. He plays in the mud, and looks for bugs, and has a thing for dinosaurs.

And on the first day of gan last week, my son told me he wanted to wear a dress.

“This dress,” he said, reaching for the pink frock with the purple butterflies on it that I had ordered from over the summer. “This dress is great for twirling,” he added, touching the ruffles around the edges.

He was right. It was the dress perfect for twirling.

And that’s exactly what he wore.

“Do you know your son is wearing a dress?” one father asked me during drop-off.

(No! Really? Must be laundry day, Captain Obvious, because you forgot your cape.)

“Maybe he wants to wear this instead?” a mother said, handing me a shirt from her son’s bag.

(Right, because nothing screams “manly” like a shirt with a yellow duckling on it.)

“Doesn’t he have boy clothes?” a grandmother asked when she saw my son twirling around in his flowery frock.

(No, lady, I’ve decided to exercise my God-given right as his mother to turn him gay, so it’s dresses or nada. Now, lets crank up the Madonna and get this party started!)

O.M. Hashem, people. Get a grip!

Yeah, my son is wearing a pink dress with ruffles and butterflies. But so fucking what? It doesn’t impede his ability to play in the dirt. He’s not tripping over the hem and hurting himself. Yeah, he’s twirling a little bit, but it’s awesome: he’s learning about rhythm and movement, and about the way soft fabric feels against his legs when he whirls around in a circle.

I didn’t encourage his fashion pick: believe you me, our drawers are stocked with clothes in navy blue, steel, and hunter green. We have shirts with pictures of dinosaurs and trucks and cartoon dogs emblazoned on the front. He has the requisite badass AB/CD (AC/DC parody) T, and when he was a baby, he rocked the “Chicks dig my Crib” onesie. But when my son gravitated toward his sister’s skirts and dresses over all the clothes in his drawer, I honored his choice.

(Did ya notice the key words, people? His. Choice.)

Yeah, my son is only 2 ½ years old, but this is one way I can let him (safely) exercise his autonomy. Sure, there are things that parents decide for their kids all the time: If asked, my son might have opted out of his brit, or the DTaP vaccine. But this is different.

And if anybody – parent, or teacher, or child — belittles my son for this, I swear I will fillet them. Because even if he starts breastfeeding dolls or asking to take ballet class, so long as he’s happy and healthy, then it’s all good. And I will honor his choice to wear dresses, or lip-sync to “Like a Prayer,” or wear red nail polish on his toes.

Or fall in love with whomever he chooses.

(Although Little Dude better get his own high heels.)

I know, in a country that places such a high premium on machismo — seriously people, you can smell the testosterone leaking from the AC —  it won’t be easy for my son. But in the meanwhile, he’s learning how to own his choices. When the older kids say “why are you wearing a dress?” he says: “Because I want to.”

And when one of the savtas on the kibbutz had the nerve to speak to my son in female verb tense — knowing full well that he’s a boy — he said to her: “Stop it. I am not a girl. I’m a boy. And boys can wear dresses.” And, guess what? Turns out my son is a trendsetter. A few days ago, another little boy showed up to gan in a purple tutu.


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About the Author
Sarah Tuttle-Singer is the author of Jerusalem Drawn and Quartered and the New Media Editor at Times of Israel. She was raised in Venice Beach, California on Yiddish lullabies and Civil Rights anthems, and she now lives in Jerusalem with her 3 kids where she climbs roofs, explores cisterns, opens secret doors, talks to strangers, and writes stories about people — especially taxi drivers. Sarah also speaks before audiences left, right, and center through the Jewish Speakers Bureau, asking them to wrestle with important questions while celebrating their willingness to do so. She loves whisky and tacos and chocolate chip cookies and old maps and foreign coins and discovering new ideas from different perspectives. Sarah is a work in progress.