Halloween is a reminder of how much our family has evolved.
The Halloween before last, our three and a half year old son wanted to dress up as Snow White and we were panic-stricken. What would people say? How would people respond? Though we were tempted to, we would not let our boy dress as a girl for all to see – not even on the one night of the year that is reserved for fantasy, role-play and costumes.
Oh, no, instead I sat him on my lap, scrolled through BuyCostumes.com’s “Boys Costumes” section and manipulated him into thinking that those were his only options.
He finally, reluctantly selected a costume. He slid off of my lap and walked solemnly to his room as I ordered it online. I felt bad for not letting him dress as he wanted for Halloween, but I also felt like I didn’t have another choice. What kind of parent let’s their child cross-dress in public?
Besides, I argued, C.J. was getting what he really wanted out of a costume, which was to wear makeup and fabric that “felt nice.” He trick-or-treated as a silly-faced skeleton, wearing a black satiny polyester blend getup with a face full of black and white make-up that would have impressed the girls and boys working the MAC counter.
It was fine, but it was not Snow White.
Halloween was over and I figured that our boy’s “girly phase” would be done by the next October 31, at which time he’d pick a “boy costume” and we would forget about the Snow-White-Skeleton Halloween.
Twelve months later, C.J. was four and a half and wanted to dress up as Frankie Stein, (the teenaged daughter of Frankenstein and star pupil at Monster High) for Halloween.
By that time we had realized that our son’s penchant for all things girly was not a phase, it was his way of life. We knew that he was gender-nonconforming. We knew that he was going to want a “girl costume” for Halloween. We weren’t panic-stricken like the year before, but we were scared.
If he were an only child, he could get all dolled up in full drag and rock the hell out of All Hallows’ Eve. But, he wasn’t an only child. And, while C.J. might not get teased if he wore a “girl’s costume,” his older brother probably would. We were committed to letting C.J. wear the costume of his choice, even as we worried incessantly about the effects it might have on his brother.
Our one condition was that C.J. had to wear a wig. His dad and I both felt like we could really hide (protect) him and his brother with the use of a wig. A wig felt like a safety net. I took C.J. shopping for his costume early in the morning in the middle of the week so that no one would see his selection.
C.J.’s Brother was less-than-thrilled about his little brother dressing like a girl and parading himself proudly around our community for Halloween. For all of us but C.J., the holiday’s happiness was damped by worry.
This year for Halloween, C.J. wanted to dress up as Bloom, a fairy from Winx Club. None of us gave it a second thought; we just bought the costume. No manipulative online browsing. No off-hour trip to the costume store. No panic. No worry. No nothing.
The costume didn’t come with a wig and I didn’t get one. Bloom has red hair and so does C.J. His isn’t long like hers but I figured that we didn’t need a wig. I didn’t feel like we needed the protection that a wig felt like it provided last year.
C.J. freaked out.
“I need a wig! I want a wig! If I don’t have a wig people will know I’m a boy. They’ll know it’s me!” he said mid-meltdown.
“Okay, okay, we’ll get a wig. I promise,” I said.
“No, but before Halloween.”
His dad, brother and I hadn’t given this year’s costume choice a second thought. And, just as we three got to the point of not caring about what other people might say or think or do, C.J. was just beginning to care, take such things into consideration and modify his behavior accordingly.
Now it saddens me to think that next year he might want a “boy costume” to avoid negativity, stares and judgment from other people. Now, I don’t want my boy to want a boy costume.