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.

1 mom found this helpful

I wouldn't worry about it at this stage of the game. I remember my younger brother dressing up in my mom's clothes and makeup. Your son is probably just curious.

1 mom found this helpful

My first thought is that God made your son a boy when he was conceived. So, you can be sure that this God's perfect design for your son, and this is what is best for him because that was God's plan for him. I would discourage him from dressing in girl's clothes because he isn't a girl and never will be.
Sometimes kids get interested in something because it is different. And possibly he is doing this to get your attention if it causes you to notice him more. I thought your idea to guide him with what is appropriate as you do with other behaviors, etc is very wise. I believe from what you have said that you want to do what is best for your son and your other children as well. I hope this is helpful to you. I wish you the best.

1 mom found this helpful

are the two younger children both girls?

does he do it at home only or he wants to wear the clothes outside too?

my son, who is now 7, used to LOVE put my shoes on
they had to have heels on :)
in daycare he would always put the girls' shoes on
and, of course, he would. they are so colorful and sparkley :) boy's clothes are so boring

1 mom found this helpful

girls play dress up all the time and nobody worries if they dress up as a fireman...if you are truly concerned go to a thrift store or pull out old costumes for him to wear....old clip on ties, hats, etc...every year after halloween I hit up Target and the other stores and I get costumes for a dollar or two and I use alot of these things for dress up clothes, also A.C. Moore has the cutest pirate chest that if you use a coupon will cost 10-15 dollars and it comes with an eyepatch and gold!! My boys love that! I have 5 little boys and I have caught at least 3 of them breastfeeding their teddy bears, thats what they see me do with their youngest brother, I have had 2 of them ask to wear make up....they're not cross gender, they are imitating what they see...who hasn't wanted to dress up like someone else at one time or another...it's a phase and it will pass, don't let it bother you or he will sense this and could feel ashamed of himself... He's probably doing it to be funny...did you and the family laugh the first time he did this? He's probably just looking for and enjoiying that reaction. Don't fret, very soon he won't even like girls....cooties:-) goodluck!

1 mom found this helpful

T.,

I think you should let him be him. It is my understanding that this is a stage. If it isn't a stage though what is the worst it could be? He is too young to understand sexuality. Every time he does it I would just eplain that the clothes belong to his sister and he really shouldn't be wearing them, but if he does it then let him. As long as he knows that the clothes belong to her and not him then you have done the right thing.

Society really has no norm either. What exactly is normal? If he enjoys this then let him. If he wants to wear it out of the house then you explain to him that people with think he is a girl. I am not sure how I would react to this myself but I would hope that I would just be happy that my child has clothes on. lol I want to beleive that I will accept my children for who they are and not what they wear or who they date. I want my children to think of me as a confidant that they can trust will always tell them I have thier back.

Good luck!!!

1 mom found this helpful

I wouldn't stree unless he began to insist on wearing them outside--then I think you would have to step in to protect him from endless teasing, you know? Just let it be. Please don't add guilt to the mix--we Mom's always make everything about what we do. Maybe it's just a fun new thing for him right now and next week it'll be transformers or something else. If you stress about it, he'll pick up on that and then may start to internalize the bad vibes. I applaud your open mindness and ability to let him be himself!! You go girl!! Loving our kids no matter who they are is the best gift we can give them in my opinion!

1 mom found this helpful

I have a 5 year old boy. Until he was 3 all he wanted to do was dress in his sister's clothes and carry her purses and babies. He loved the "thrill" of wearing a dress and he loved the aesthetic of looking "so beautiful". I remember an evening when we were living in a new tiny village, very working class, and he showed up for our first night at a neighbors looking stunning in his sister's best dress. It took us an hour to finesse him out of them, thinking that's all we need to cement our "oddness", to show up with our little boy dressed like a girl. Ironically, when we arrived it seems we had beenn invited to the small group of all the gay people in the area....we would have been a hit! And that brings me to my thoughts while this was happening. I was never too worried about this but I did wonder, as I'm sure you do if he was showing gay tendancies. So we just took the approach of allowing him the experiment as much as possible and without much concern on our part. We actually played with him with it and admired him when he came and asked for an acknowlegement. Now he's 5 and all he wears are things that are orange or his superhero clothes (pyjamas mostly). The superhero clothes showed up on their own as a gift and without any prior exposure whatsoever. I think I prefered the other stage and think longingly of it from time to time. In our case it seems we are just blessed with a creative, but very thoughtful dresser.

I'd wait it out for a bit and try to let it run it's course. He's just 5 and probably needs to know that this doesn't make anyone at home uncomfortable. I also would speak to him very gently about the difference between boy and girl clothes and confirm his feelings about his preference. We often spoke about why girls get to wear "the fun stuff". Now, I think he's sought out sex appropriate "fun stuff". Hope this helps. I'd be happy to speak with you further about it. It's not a quick discussion.

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

I wonder if maybe you give your daughter more attention when she has an especially pretty dress on, and you may not even realize it. That could be part of it, your son just wants more attention since he now the oldest by 2 children. You might try getting him some very boyish dress up costumes, and see how he likes those. If he still prefers his sisters clothes just make sure that if he tries to leave the house like that that it isn't the proper thing to do. That boys have to dress like boys when they go out. Also, if you think the underwear is a big thing, see if you can find some of those tighter fitting boxer briefs in his size. They might be hard to find, but I'm sure they are out there somewhere. It could also be that he spends so much time with Mommy at home that he wants to be more like you. I know you'll accept him no matter what, just as I would my 3 boys, but hopefully it is just a phase, because it will make future life so much easier. :) At this age though, he just may need a little extra guidance about what is, and isn't accepted for little boys.

1 mom found this helpful

I wouldn't worry about it at this point. I have noticed little boys at my daugther's preschool dressing up in the girly clothes and shoes in the dress up area and it warms my heart to see kids have fun without worrying about all the "norms" of society. Of course you are going to be concerned because you don't want him to be teased and because it is different, but I really think little boys just like to dress up in the fun stuff, as other people mentioned, and sometimes that's all it is. My little neighbor boy went through a stage when he was 4 where he loved the Disney princess books, loved pink, and dressing up in skirts and dresses. His mom stressed about it (as most of us would) and now he is in to all "boy" stuff. I can understand your concern, but it's been such a short time. Just let him have fun with it and see where it goes. Most likely it's just a phase.

1 mom found this helpful

i taught kdg and 1st grade for many years and raised 2 boys. Believe me, your son's pretty normal. In school many boys use kdg free play to dress up every day. I think these guys are discouraged from it at home. My most successful costume was 24" or 30" sheer curtains in several colors with elastic strung through the top. These became capes, hair, dresses, aprons, whatever. Hats and purses served many uses as well. My own son was into this play at home until about 3rd grade. In fourth grade he went to school for Halloween as Cinderella and was he gorgeous. Everyone though he was a new girl in school. He also played with My Little Pony in kind and 1st grade and his favorite color was pink. He played soccer then football and lacrosse. My husband used to worry about it but I said let him be. He was always popular with girls cause he was gentle with their things. He turned out to be a sensitive, caring man who's now engaged to a lovely young woman. And we all have alot of fun remembering his childhood (him included).

1 mom found this helpful

Good Morning T., I find myself smiling as I read your post. This stage is usually more disheartening for the parents then it is for the children. Our greatest fear is that our children will grow up to be homosexual's because of it - Right? The reality of the situation is that more then likely it is just a stage that he is going through and will get over it. The key is not to overreact to this stage. It is your response that determines what he learns about this stage. It can be a wholesome learning experience where he can learn to understand what we call "feminine characteristics", or he spend the rest of his life wondering if there was something wrong with him because he actually had these "feelings" as they call it. I suggest that you let him go through it, he will tire of it eventually. And by the way, the pendulum will swing. When it does, you will look back on this stage and smile too.

God Bless - K..

1 mom found this helpful

Guide your precious little boy, mopmmy. He is seeking your husband's and your immediate direction. Please do not delay and don't allow an extremely biased media to dictate to you and your husband the present "norms". As with everything else, he needs your loving intervention and help. He should also be clearly instructed that his little sister's underwear is exactly that, his little sister's and not his. Her underwear, and anyone else's is private and not for sharing or use by others and especially not by her brother. At age 5, I think he is more enjoying the fact that you and his father have allowed him to get away with something that he most likely senses is not to be done already. He is testing you to see how much you will and will not allow.

1 mom found this helpful

Hi T.: Before I suggest a course of action (accepting his behavior or try to disuade him) I would ask you if he is the only boy or is the youngest also a boy? What toys does he like to play with (cars, dolls or generic) Does he get a lot of attention when he dresses up? and does he have oportunities to dress up like spiderman or anything else? Curiosity over the opposite sex is common and not necessarily an indication of his preference when he grows up. On the other hand if this curiosity or preference to dress up is accepted and encouraged, you would be in a subtle way telling him to prefer the opposite sex. Try to expose him to activities with other boys, sports, toys (balls, cars, bicycle, karate), observe what his peferences are, encourage to dress up in costumes (superman, spiderman) and see what is his reaction is. This is not an easy question to answer but it is important. Feel free to ask, explore and ask again. One of my to sons was obsessed with my makeup and lipstick when he was 2. I did not make a big deal of it but placed them where they were not available to him. After a while he forgot about it and continued to play with his cars and toys. He is in college now and very manly in his demeanor and interests. I did not give him attention nor let his older sibligs bring it up even as a joke. He outgrew the interest. I have raised 5 children who are grown up now and am adopting a one year old gradaughter, who is a joy in our life. I have worked as a school psychologist for 34 years and specialize in children
0-5. I also indulge in a variety of interests and hobbies including music, stained glass, sewing, martial arts and motorcycle (scooter) riding. Wishing you good luck, M. P.

1 mom found this helpful

i have done daycare for almost 9 yrs now and almost every single little boy i have cared for even younger than your 3 yr old has played dressup. mostly shoes and purses and even holding babies to pretend to be mommy. none of them have ever grown up to be "crossdressers"
its perfectly normal for little boys to be interested in this. the dads are usually the ones who are "uneasy" about it if they arent playing with trucks and such ;o)
i have never had a boy play with undies before but hey thats just a new additive.
most kids i have taken care of arent as excited to dress in girl clothes like your son but hey each kid is an individual.
good luck to you. hth
A.

1 mom found this helpful

Honestly, I don't know if it is a phase or not but this is a good time to remember that your home needs to be a safe place for a child to be themselves. My nephew has been "dressing up" for a few years. He is 6 now. We spoke to a therapist that specializes in it and you really wont know if your child is gay/transgendered etc until puberty but that you need to have your home be a safe place. He told us to explain that certain things are ok at home that aren't outside (we don't want him teased). Like daddy wears sweats at home but it's not appropriate to wear sweats to work. The dr. also said to get him into karate for self defense. That even if he isn't gay/transgendered, he might be on the more feminine end of the spectrum or be the type easily picked on so to put him in karate as lots of boys love this - and he does.

I will say he has learned that his parents don't love it so he doesn't dress up at home anymore. kids are very perceptive. But as soon as he gets to my house he's upstairs getting my pink heels out and asking for a dress.

It's only been going on a week for you - and he's 5. It's fun to dress up. He may just be having fun. I wouldn't stress over it. I wrote a bit should you need it in the future but I think he's just exploring. Maybe if he had some dress up fireman outfits he would do the same.

hope this helps.

1 mom found this helpful

Which society norm says a 3 year old boy can't wear his siters clothes..? If you are uncomfortable so is he and then it become a problem. If it is a phase, he will get over it. If it is not a phase then you will need to accept him for who he is, forget about society norms on this one (he is not hurting anyone), he needs to always feel his mothers unconditional love.

In the meanwhile take lots of pictures, incase it is a phase. You can use it for ransome during puberty when he refuses to clean his room :-).

1 mom found this helpful

OK. This is tough. I have always frowned upon this type of behavior...until I had a son. I then realized that for him it was totally understandable. Just yesterday both of my boys took turns running around in my dughter flower embroidered dress boots. I observed them and concluded it was simply because they loved the loud thud noises they made as they ran.

When my oldest son was 3 my daughter dressed him up in her princess dress. My daughter gets so much attention when she dresses up and the dresses are so fabulously elaborate that it was totally understandble to me.

When he wanted his nails painted pink, I obliged. He wanted that special time & attention just like his sister was getting.

I always always always let my kids figure things out for themselves. I do not tell them that dolls are for girls and cars are for boys. They came to that conclusion on their own because my daughter liked to play with dolls and my son liked cars. Although my son will play dolls & ponies with DD & my daughter will play cars with DS, it is not what they inherently enjoy. And at he time TV was not an influence.

There is a difference between boys and girls but exploring the other side of things at such a young age is completely appropriate. My oldest is only 5 so I do not know about how to handle this as they get older, but for now it is fine with me.

FYI...research does say that this type of behavior is typical and does not indicate asocial behavior in adolescence.

A.

1 mom found this helpful

Required Fields

Our records show that we already have a Mamapedia or Mamasource account created for you under the email address you entered.

Please enter your Mamapedia or Mamasource password to continue signing in.

Required Fields

, you’re almost done...

Since this is the first time you are logging in to Mamapedia with Facebook Connect, please provide the following information so you can participate in the Mamapedia community.

As a member, you’ll receive optional email newsletters and community updates sent to you from Mamapedia, and your email address will never be shared with third parties.

By clicking "Continue to Mamapedia", I agree to the Mamapedia Terms & Conditions and Privacy Policy.