Cross-dressing is to wear clothing usually associated with that of the opposite gender. As a toddler, your son is still trying to figure out his gender identity, so to label him as a cross-gender wouldn’t be the right thing to do right now. But this is a crucial stage when you should start informing yourself and educating your son about cross-dressing while understanding and answering their curiosities. Remember to never make them feel discouraged or ashamed of their choices or interests. As a parent loving and supporting them is essential.
You recently might have started noticing that your toddler son shows interest in girl’s clothes, makeup, accessories, or other such related stuff.
Or you might have noticed your son likes dressing up in your heels and wearing your necklaces or even getting nail paint on their nails. Then immediately jumping to the thought that they might be inclined towards becoming a cross-dresser.
This is why you’re here to find out what actually is a cross-dresser. How do they start cross-dressing or showing interest in cross-dressing from a young age? And how you can help your child better making sure they understand all these aspects and help them make their choices rather than forcing your opinions on them.
What is cross-dressing?
Let’s start with a fundamental understanding of what cross-dressing is. To cross-dress is to wear clothing usually associated with that of the opposite sex.
It’s as simple as it sounds. But when parents find out their toddler is showing interest in the opposite sex’s clothing, they immediately jump to labeling them gay, transsexual, and many other things.
Your toddler son might just be trying to show interest in the opposite sex’s clothing. So labeling him right away with so many things is wrongful on your side.
Exploring other gender’s clothing is entirely normal for your toddler son to do, and this doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with him.
Cross-dressing as play
As your son is growing from age 2-3 years, he might start to categorize himself as a boy. This is the age when toddlers start recognizing themselves as a girl or a boy, based on society’s definition of a girl and boy.
You need to understand for toddlers, the idea of gender is an elastic concept and not as cut and dry as that of an adult.
So, until the age of 4, your child is trying to find their identity by experimenting a lot. One of those includes dressing up in their mom’s clothes and also their dad’s.
While this is also fun for them, it’s also a way to:
- Try to be like their mom or dad
- Trying to be like their older sibling
- Show interest in other gender’s clothes because they like them better than theirs
Remember, this is a very experimental age for them. So, if your son is showing interest in other gender’s clothing at this age, it doesn’t mean that deep down, he wishes to be like another gender.
It could simply be a fun activity for him. Or it could be a start of finding his gender, which might be different from what he is labeled by society.
How to handle your toddler son’s cross-dressing
Since it’s just a beginning and your son is still very young to be labeled as a cross-dresser, there still are things and factors you need to handle better to help your son with his decisions.
This can be done when you are informed, educate them, and support them through all of it.
1. Informing yourself
First and foremost, the thing you need to begin with is starting to educate yourself on cross-dressing. There is endless information on the web with first-hand experiences of parents in blog form.
You need to pick up information from suitable sources to educate your toddler son better instead of misleading him. Depending on your culture, you can associate the knowledge gained and educate your child better.
2. Gender and sex
Learning a clear distinction between these two terms is vital so that you can teach your son even from such an early age. Of course, explaining to him in simpler terms is better since he won’t understand complex vocabulary.
Sex can be defined as physical attributes like sex chromosomes and hormones, external genitalia, and internal reproductive organs.
Whereas gender is someone’s biological sex and their inner sense of self as male, female, both, or neither (gender identity), and presentation and behavior related to their perceptions (gender expressions).
In simple terms, you can explain to your kid that their biological sex is determined by the parts they are born with. However, gender is how a person feels on the inside and expresses on the outside.
3. Cultural expectations
Societal and cultural expectations are always there and will always be there, but that doesn’t mean we’re bound to conform to those expectations. But since as humans we live in a society and can’t lead an isolated life, your child, when he grows up, will have to face and handle this society.
Keeping your child informed on cultural and societal expectations and how they should deal with it is a big part of helping them along their journey as an adult.
Although with changing times, society is also changing, not everyone is as acceptant. Keep your child informed will help them deal better with society as they grow up.
4. Q&A with your son
Of course, suppose your son is exploring or showing interest in other gender’s clothing. In that case, they will also ask you a million questions about it.
This is why as I said, educating yourself is your foremost duty as their parent. Only when you’re educated on the topic can you provide them with correct information.
Dismissing their questions will only make them doubt themselves and withdraw from you. So, even if you don’t know the answer right away, make sure you circle back to the topic and clear away their doubts.
5. Letting them pick their own clothes
While your son might be too small for you to think he might have a choice or like towards a particular clothing item, that isn’t the case. Your toddler son already has his likes and dislikes, even at this age.
You can encourage a free flow of expression by taking them shopping with you and letting them choose their own clothes.
This is a big step, and they need your encouragement. If they divert towards dresses, your job is to make sure they feel secure and safe enough to choose them.
Discouraging them will only make them feel they’re doing something very wrong, and in the long run, they will hide more things from you.
6. Support group
If you find it challenging to handle all these things by yourself and cannot understand your own emotions, I suggest you start by joining support groups.
Many parents like you are clueless about all this stuff and find it difficult to understand these terms. However, your child can only be confident if you’re confident in yourself.
If you start behaving differently around your son or show negative emotions when they play with barbies instead of a toy truck, they will sense all these emotions.
Therefore, support groups are for parents going through similar stuff who find it challenging to handle these situations by themselves.
By joining such groups is a step towards understanding your own feelings about how these things make you feel, and then with time, you’ll be able to help your son too.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Is cross-dressing considered a mental illness?
Cross-dressing is not a mental illness. It’s just a way for people to represent their gender identity differently from what society has labeled them to be. It’s a healthy expression of their choices.
Cross-dressing also doesn’t mean a person is gay, transsexual, or any other label you might attach to them.
Is cross-dressing genetic?
Cross-dressing is not genetic. It’s a form of expression and a person’s own personal choice. For example, people who don’t conform or identify themselves as the gender that society has labeled them with might cross-dress to be more comfortable in their own skin.
Is cross-dressing addictive?
Not always is cross-dressing addictive. If a child has been denied any emotional support since they started to show interest in other gender’s clothing, it can be a factor in making cross-dressing an addiction as they suffer from psychological distress. It depends from person to person.
What is an example of cross-dressing?
A simple example could be a girl dressing up in a suit and pants while a man dresses up in a dress and heels. It is when people with their assigned gender identity dress up in other gender’s clothes as defined by society.
Cross-dressing could either be your toddler son’s way to have fun or a way to find his own identity in this world.
For toddlers, the whole concept of gender is fluid and not as concrete as adults. So, if he is trying to experiment and leaning towards different interests at this stage, you should encourage and support him through it all.
There are various ways you can be supportive. One such way also includes being informed about everything related to cross-dressing, gender, and sex. Only when you’re educated will your son feel comfortable asking you different questions and will understand things better than being misled by others.
Loving and supporting your son from his toddlerhood is essential for his emotional well-being from growing up to becoming an adult.