26 answers

"Cross Dressing"

I have a five year old who has recently taken to wearing his 3 year old sisters clothes including her underwear. He is totally into it. He gets so excited about it that he rushes off after dinner to "cross dress". I've googled the subject and it seems it is common but he is just so enthusiastic about it and he is normally a emotionally reserved child. So far we just let it happen but we are becoming more uncomfortable with it. It has been about a week and EVERY day he is obsessing about dressing in girls clothes. I asked him why and he says he likes it. I sometimes wonder if it is because the underwear feels good because it is tight also I have recently begun to work more outside the house and ALL 3 kids are needing more attention. Has anyone else experienced this? Is it just a stage that will stop on its own? Should we intervene and explain society's norms? I want him to be happy with himself, whoever that ends up being and if by chance this behavior is a foreshadowing than I do not want to make him feel bad about his decisions but if this is just a stage then maybe as a parent I need to guide him with what is "appropriate" as I do with other behaviors/manners. HELP!

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

It has only been a few days but it appears my sons interest in wearing girls clothing is already waning. We chose to explain the differences in boys and girls clothing due to different body parts and to allow him to explore. I think he just wanted to see what all the fuss was about. We make such a big deal of his sisters attire and how cute she looks. I mean little girls clothing is ADORABLE! Anyway we also explained the potential consequences of wearing girls clothes outside of the house (teasing). I actually encouraged it. I mean if hes gonna do it why be ashamed of it, right? But he is only five and not ready to be a pioneer of boys dresses. It wasn't too long ago that Catherine Hepburn was given grief over wearing slacks, but she was a strong woman who persevered. Thanks to everyone who responded. You gave some excellent insight from both ends of the spectrum.

Featured Answers

Terri,

I wouldn't read into this too much

Kids at this age thrive on attention,

PERHAPS
He would equally enjoy wearing a spiderman costume,

TRY visiting toys are us, and putting him in an old halloween costume

This will probably get him equally as excited,

-- BY the way does his NEW daycare have a DRESS up section...

M

1 mom found this helpful

I truly wouldn't worry about it. I believe it is just a stage he is going through you never know with kids, maybe he saw something on tv that was like that and thinks it's cool. I have a 4 yr old girl who is doing the same thing she wears her 2 yr old brothers clothes.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

Leave him be....
It's perfectly normal for little boys at one point or another to dress up.
All you can do if laugh it off....not at him. Let him know he's dressing n clothes for a little girl...oh how silly he's being.
If it continues as a serious dressing issue and you want to reduce it....just set rules for play time. He is not allowed to bring toys to the table, not allowed to wear pajamas to the super market....and he has to wear HIS clothes out and to the dinner table. He may play any way he chooses during his playtime. If he wants to pretend he is a girl...let him, but during HIS playtime. Give it a good long time before you consider it a real gender indentity issue...it probably is not and he'll outgrow it.

1 mom found this helpful

Dear T.,

I think the response should be the same whether it's a phase or whether it's a lifelong thing: "Anything you want to do at home is fine, but you need to know that if you go outside in those clothes, some kids might tease you." That way, if it is a phase, you're not giving him the kind of big reaction that will encourage him to continue just for the sake of attention, and if it's NOT a phase you're letting him know he's loved and supported just as he is while also giving fair warning about society at large.

Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

Terri,

I wouldn't read into this too much

Kids at this age thrive on attention,

PERHAPS
He would equally enjoy wearing a spiderman costume,

TRY visiting toys are us, and putting him in an old halloween costume

This will probably get him equally as excited,

-- BY the way does his NEW daycare have a DRESS up section...

M

1 mom found this helpful

You need to seek out professional advise from someone who specializes in trangender people. Your situation might or not be the case. Having gone through and continue to go through a transgender situation with our Grandson you need to do a considerable amount of research befoe dciding how you need to manage the situation. It requires and tremendous amount of understanding and if it turns out your son is a transgender then support from the family is crucial. You cannot change the situation, it is what it is. Good luck, don't over react, just deal with it. We have and we are all better people for it.

1 mom found this helpful

it is definitely a normal thing for children to enjoy "dress up" whether it's in same or opposite sex clothes. i myself always chose to wear mens clothing because it was more comfortable, and as a young child (up until about 7/8) my brother used to walk around in my mother's bra, or clothes, or even mine (i'm 5 yrs older...and he was a tiny lil guy) but a couple yrs after he stopped that, he got uncomfortable seeing women in underwear, even on tv...and even in bikini's because they looked like underwear. i'm not exactly sure what the problem was, especially since only yrs earlier he was wearing bras lol...but for some reason, he freaked out (and says he doesn't remember ever doing that).

as for whether or not it's some kind of "hint" to what the future holds, i couldn't say, either way i would explain to him how it's his sister's clothes, and that those clothes are for girls, not boys, just as you said, as you would do with any other behavior you don't see as appropriate. though, if he persists, and continues i wouldn't upset him over it. who knows, maybe it's something that he chooses that could stick with him...one never knows until they're older. i'm glad to hear that IF he were to choose this as his lifestyle, that you wouldn't want him to feel bad about it. i feel that's the most important part of it all.

good luck with this. maybe you can get him to stop by explaining how the clothes are meant for girls, not boys, but just remember, no matter the age, they're going to do what they want to do and if it's something that may not be the "norm" for society, you can't let them get hurt emotionally just because they're different. so for the moment, take it as "dress up" for him and maybe try getting him to dress up in daddy's clothes but explain to him. with all the different people in the world today, this is the least of your worries. all that matters is that he grows up to be a happy and healthy man who knows right from wrong and that everyone is different and shouldn't be judged (including him if he happens to want this for his lifestyle).

1 mom found this helpful

Calling too much attention to it either in the form of praise or negative attention will just make matters worse. If the tightness of the underwear feels good, maybe buy him some tighter/softer boy's underpants?

My brother went through a stage where he had to be dressed as a fireman every day. To the point where his kindergarten teacher and principal called my parents in to discuss it. He didn't grow up to be a fire fighter.

Maybe the "being different" thing is what is so exciting to your son. Have you talked to him about why it is he likes to dress in his sister's clothes? Does he feel that she gets more attention because she's younger/a girl? Does he like the tightness, or maybe the colors? Maybe you could find him some plain white boy's underwear and dye them pink if he's just a fan of the pink?

Bottom line is that it's probably a stage. I wouldn't worry too much about it becoming something that lasts into adulthood. Most of the cross-dressers that I know (I'm in NYC so I actually know quite a few. :p) talk about how their parents made them feel ashamed, which just made them want to be someone different than who they were, which reinforced the cross-dressing. None of them ever said "When I was 5 I liked to dress up as a girl and my mom and dad were really cool about it, so I continued."

I don't think that gay men/women or crossdressers are "made" by their parents acceptance of normal childhood behavior like crossdressing. Kids just see clothes as clothes and find it amusing to dress like someone other than who they are. On the flip side, I know that a lot of seriously emotionally troubled people that are in those two categories DO talk about the trauma that they suffered as a result of their parents reaction to their cross-dressing or expressions of same-gender love/attraction at an early age. And honestly, I wonder if their parents negative reactions may have actually reinforced something in them that may have naturally petered away if it hadn't been treated as such a shameful thing.

1 mom found this helpful

Children go through may stages. Maybe it's something he will out grow....or maybe not. Maybe he fells his 3 year old sibling is getting more attention then he's getting and sees it in terms of how cute she looks in her little outfits???????

I have known adult cross dressers who have said this started with them during their childhood years with their Mom's clothes but managed to stay in the closet with it. But once it came out in the open during the teenage years that they were cross dressing, all hell broke out...it wasn't excepted,and instead of getting support, they were called names, poked fun of and experienced total rejection..... life in general became difficult for them. I also understand that there are many women out there married to men who cross dress with their clothes and just except it.

I don't think there is anything for it but to just love the person for who they are....

I wouldn't encourage this behavior in a child of any age but I also wouldn't do or say anything to make him feel bad about himself for doing this. "Yes dear, very sweet but I think you look better in your own clothes" and or make a point of telling him how handsome he looks when he is dressed in his own clothes.....maybe that will encourage him to stay in his own clothes.

In any case I wouldn't worry about it.

1 mom found this helpful

The more you worry over it the more of a problem it will become (mostly for you). The home is a safe place to explore. Let him enjoy it. When you drop your anxiety, he is likely to do the same. If he wants to do it outside the home or when others are over you might gently let him know that it makes no difference to you but he might get tortured by other kids. Just because in America boys tend not to wear girls clothes, although there are lots of countries where the boys wear clothes that Americans consider to be girls. My lack of worry at that age with my son gave him the chance to consider for himself whether or not he really wanted to wear nail polish on his toes in the summer.

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