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So What If My Son Wants to Be a Princess for Halloween?

Photograph by Twenty20

I’ve never been a big fan of pushing gender roles on little kids. My sons play with diggers, dolls, swords and toy kitchens. They watch shows and read stories based on their quality, not the gender of the protagonists. So when my 3-year-old declared that he would like to be Moana for Halloween, I thought it was a great idea.

It made sense to me that he would want to be Moana. She's rebellious, brave and totally heroic. She risks everything to save her people, sings catchy and uplifting songs, and has adorable pets. My son doesn’t see her gender. He sees her awesomeness.

A little girl can dress up as Spider-Man, but a boy in a skirt is just unacceptable.

I know there are going to be adults, including some members of my own family, who think it's inappropriate to allow him to spend Halloween in a sarong. I’m sure there will be a few sideways glances from neighbors and parents at preschool. But I intend to be there to defend him. A 3-year-old shouldn’t feel shame for wanting to dress up like their hero. And for many little ones, that’s what Halloween is all about isn’t it? Pretending to be someone you admire, whether it’s a superhero or a swashbuckler, a fairy or a princess?

Why does the gender-bending acceptance only seem to flow one way? A little girl can love superheroes and dress up as Spider-Man, and everyone rightfully thinks she’s pretty awesome. But a boy in a skirt is just unacceptable. Last year, he was a ghost, but it seems this year he has picked the much spookier costume option.

Allowing boys to dress up as female characters for Halloween is so fraught with controversy that there is an entire article and survey devoted to the subject on a caregiving service's site, Care.com. The article even has the audacity to say that boys should be allowed to dress up however they please, so long as it is in the privacy of their own home. Apparently the risk of public ridicule is just too great to allow such a subversive costume into the public sphere. Give me a break.

First of all, my son won’t be roaming the neighborhood unaccompanied, and if anyone has a problem with his costume, they will have to take it up with me. As for peer ridicule, kids are amazingly accepting. It's the parents who bring all their homophobic and transphobic bullshit to the party. Bullying and name-calling are not allowed at his school and I am certain that he won’t spend the day at preschool getting picked on. He might make more than a few adults uncomfortable, but ultimately I think that’s a good thing. Adults should take a moment to reflect on this bizarre dress-up double standard.

Ultimately, my son's costume choice is not a political statement. At most, it's a declaration that Moana is rad. If he changes his mind and decides he’d like to go as Maui or a ninja or a dinosaur, that’s totally fine by me. Halloween is about having fun and make-believe. Thankfully, your choice of Halloween costume at 3 years old is in no way an indication of your future life choices. Because if they were, instead of writing this article, I’d be working on new material for my upcoming clown act.

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