Halloween, Acceptance, & Gender Norms

This Halloween season has brought up some feelings/thoughts that I had to get down on “paper.”  It all started with some backlash upon letting my toddler son dress as a princess for Halloween.

How do you envision the world to be for your children?

I want to create a world where everyone is accepted for who they are and are not judged by what they wear or who they like, but rather THAT they love. I want them to be able to follow their interests, explore their curiosities, and love who they want to love- unbounded, unashamed. I want them to know that they are worthy as much as anyone else.

Sure, we all judge others and that is natural, even evolutionary. We make split decisions often based on the only information in front of us-one’s looks, to determine if they are like us (and thus presumed safe) or a threat.

But I would consider these little judgments compared to the Big Ones-judging someone’s entire worth as a person based on how they look, and acting on that by hurting them physically or emotionally.

We need to work on these Big Ones. I look to the communities where people feel safe to be who they are (like places in Seattle, San Francisco, even Baltimore). Let’s face it, when you live in a diverse city, your mind opens up to understanding and accepting others (at least in my experience).

I am hoping for our and our childrens’ future that there will continue to be more of these communities- open and accepting of differences, understanding them, celebrating them. Children raised being (not just feeling- feeling almost assumes they would notice) free to fully express themselves and not feel repressed or weird for liking or wanting certain things or acting a certain way.

I’d like to raise our children to judge others based on how they treat others. Are they a good friend? Do they help others? Do they show compassion and empathy toward others? These are how we should approach judging people, not what they are wearing or whether they fall within the normative expectations you carry with you. Can we encourage kids to follow their curiosities and the fullest expressions of themselves?

High five the next boy you see in a tutu. Leave no trace of doubt in his mind whether he or his choices are accepted and OK.

If you are concerned about someone you love being bullied, the first line of defense starts with you. Do you promote every child’s body positivity, sex positivity, and just plain exploration of what they like and who they are growing to be?

When we start sending the message that it doesn’t matter who you love or what you wear, that all that matters is that we are good to each other and not harm each other, then the bullies won’t exist because they have been taught love, understanding and acceptance instead. Or simply that their way is no longer the norm and their intentions/views are the ones that are not acceptable.

Not allowing your child to dress against gender norms for fear of derision or harm, sends a message that we shouldn’t stand up to bullies and intolerance.  Let’s not let our children live out of fear and give power to the ignorant bullies who are simply afraid of what they don’t understand.

If seeing someone break your perception of gender or sexual norms upsets you, ask yourself why that might be. What is it about this situation or this person’s choices that upsets you? What does it cost you to make these big judgments on others? Does it open you up to more love, understanding, and friendship in your life? Does your heart feel open or closed when you judge others? Think about what it costs you to harbor negative feelings toward others because they might want to dress like the opposite sex or love the same sex. Now imagine how it would feel, what you might gain from opening your heart to people who seem different from yourself and making an effort to understand who they are.  Which option would lead to a happier, more enriching, and more fulfilled life for yourself?

The choice is easy for me. Live and let live. Better yet, live and celebrate our differences.

Color outside the lines and make your own fucking art. And encourage others to do the same.

Happy Halloween to all the girls who want to dress like a warrior or superhero and all the boys who want to dress like ballerinas and princesses.


One thought on “Halloween, Acceptance, & Gender Norms

  1. Right on! You go, momma! Sometimes I feel a bit self-conscious and self-reflective when my kids make choices that are so gender normative. It is such a challenge to be more influential than society’s loud messages. Here’s to people being who they want to be!


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