In which Carrie Goldman takes up arms — specifically, a light saber — against bullies and double standards.
In November 2010, bloggers and news shows celebrated the right of my first-grade daughter to carry a Star Wars water bottle. In a post that went viral, I wrote about how Katie had been teased for liking Star Wars. The boys told her, “Star Wars is for boys, not for girls,” and the world responded that girls can like Star Wars too.
Apparently, the world isn’t quite ready to shout that boys can like princesses.
As we speak, bloggers and news shows are now discussing whether or not five year-old Dyson Kilodavis has the right to walk around in princess costumes and dresses. Dyson’s mom, Cheryl Kilodavis, has written a children’s book called My Princess Boy. On the book’s Facebook page, the following description is given:
My Princess Boy is a nonfiction picture book about acceptance. It is about our son who happily expresses his authentic self by dressing up in dresses and enjoying traditional girl things such as anything pink or sparkly.
The case is being tried in the court of public opinion, and the jury is most definitely still out.
Why was Katie cheered on for wearing Star Wars shirts (from the boys’ department), carrying a Star Wars lunch box and a Star Wars thermos and wielding a light saber, while Dyson and his parents are being subject to intense criticism?
Clearly, thousands of people do support Dyson and his parents, as evidenced by the fact that the book’s Facebook page has picked up thousands of new “likes” since Cheryl and Dyson appeared on the Today show.
But I can’t help but notice a not-so-small number of negative articles and comments from people who disagree with Cheryl for “parading her son around in a dress.” Comments range from those who respectfully disagree with Cheryl’s decision to those who spew hate at her. Some readers have called Cheryl a brave heroine; others are calling her an abusive mom.
Dyson’s story is very polarizing in a way that Katie’s story was not. Of the thousands of comments, stories and articles written about Katie, there was not a single one that suggested it was morally wrong for Katie to dress up in Star Wars clothes and play with boy toys.
The few negative comments we received were from people who thought that being teased was no big deal and that Katie should “suck it up.” (To which I respond: teasing hurts; it made Katie cry and prevented her from bringing her favorite Star Wars thermos to school, and teasing is a form of bullying).
Nobody suggested that it was “sick and disgusting” for Katie to carry a light saber. Why are those words being used to describe Dyson carrying a princess wand? Why are some people so threatened by this? Just because he likes to wear dresses does not mean that he will grow up to be gay. If your son dresses up in a Drew Brees jersey, does it mean he is going to grow up to be a star quarterback for the New Orleans Saints? (You can only wish!)
Katie liked to wear a Superman costume when she was three. Last I checked, she was not made of steel and couldn’t see through things with X-Ray vision. (But I think it would be pretty cool if she could).
And even if Dyson does turn out to be gay, who cares? He isn’t hurting anyone.
Cross-dressing girls raise some eyebrows, as seen by the scrutiny given to the clothing and hairstyle preferred by young Shiloh Jolie-Pitt. Whereas four-year-old Suri Cruise sashays around in high heels, Shiloh runs around in trousers and boots. Growing up in the public eye is hard, and people have noticed that Shiloh is not a girly-girl.
But it is even harder to be a cross-dressing boy. Dyson and his parents are receiving thousands of letters of support, but they are also receiving a lot of flak.
This raises the question of which is more important – to keep your child safe or to keep your child true? Should Dyson’s parents protect him from bullies by refusing to allow him to cross dress? Or should they protect him from feeling stifled and shamed by refusing to make him wear boys’ clothes?
Cheryl Kilodavis is trying to find a way to make Dyson safe and keep him true by asking the world to be more accepting.
Cheryl said, “Let 2011 be the Year of Acceptance.”
It is the start of a new year. I invite Dyson the Princess Boy to clasp hands with Katie the Star Wars girl. Within these two children, we see the very embodiment of diversity.
Some people may look at Katie and Dyson and see their differences. They represent different races, different genders and different religions. One is adopted and one is not. One likes to carry a light saber and the other likes to carry a princess wand.
But others will look at Katie and Dyson and see their similarities. They are two children who like to play. They like to fantasize and use their imaginations. They want to feel good about the toys and clothes that make them happy. They want to grow up in a world where they can be safe and true.
Let Katie raise up her light saber. Let Dyson raise up his princess wand. And when the two touch, may all the magic of Cinderella’s fairy godmother combine with all the Force of the Jedi Knights to open even the most closed of minds.