You may have seen this image making the rounds on the internet: a father and son, wearing a skirt and a dress, respectively, walking hand-in-hand down a public street.
It’s an adorable image depicting an even more heartwarming story about a father who started wearing skirts to support his son, because his son liked to do so. But even more than “adorable” and “heartwarming,” it’s a potential blueprint for how all of us, cis and trans, straight and queer, parents and friends, can do more to be supportive of the gender non-conforming folks in our lives.
The story was popularized on Gawker but was able to break into mainstream American media via steegeschnoeber, who took the liberty to translate the text of the original interview from Emma magazine into English on their Tumblr (note that it’s not an exact translation and I cannot vouch for its complete accuracy). Some highlights from the interview, on why the father decided to support his son in this way:
“My five year old son likes to wear dresses. In Berlin Kreuzberg that alone would be enough to get into conversation with other parents…Yes, I’m one of those dads, that try to raise their children equal. I’m not one of those academic daddies that ramble about gender equality during their studies and then, as soon as a child’s in the house, still relapse into those fluffy gender roles…In my case that’s because I didn’t want to talk my son into not wearing dresses and skirts. He didn’t make friends in doing that in Berlin already and after a lot of contemplation I had only one option left: To broaden my shoulders for my little buddy and dress in a skirt myself. After all you can’t expect a child at pre-school age to have the same ability to assert themselves as an adult. Completely without role model. And so I became that role model.”
The father’s actions are even more remarkable when one takes into account the larger experience of many gender non-conforming children. The media often gets it wrong, and even makes it sound like gender non-conforming kids are to blame for their own abuse. They experience multiple and sometimes systemic forms of bullying, and are too often targets for violence and hate, even as they work to create and define their own narratives and even as a sea change on gender and rights is underway worldwide. In the midst of these realities, this dad’s awesome show of support and solidarity is more than an “aw” moment: it’s a potentially life-saving act of revolution and love.