Ask Amy: Family's gender issue becomes fashion issue

December 9, 2013 

Dear Amy: My 24-year-old son has come out as "gender queer" and states that he doesn't want to identify as either male or female. He just wants to be himself.

Although he has never shown a desire to wear women's clothes before, he has recently taken the stance that if he is asked not to wear a skirt to an event, he simply won't go.

I understand, since we never tell anyone else what they can or cannot wear. I have loved my son's differences since he was born and totally accept him.

There are, as you can imagine, many issues that arise, however. His father really doesn't understand, and even though he keeps his opinions to himself, it is obvious that he doesn't approve when our son shows up somewhere wearing a skirt. His sister accepts him totally, but she thinks his girlfriend is obnoxiously pretentious and has chewed her out.

I am afraid all of this is going to come to a head soon.

A dear friend of mine has graciously invited my entire family (plus girlfriend) to a very expensive and somewhat conservative restaurant for dinner.

I know my son won't come if I ask him not to wear a skirt. I am afraid my daughter and my son's girlfriend will get into an argument, and I know my husband will be incredibly uncomfortable.

I would be horribly embarrassed if my friend took us on what he expects to be a friendly family outing and my family implodes.

Any ideas on averting disaster or on how to handle this going forth?

— Understanding mom

Dear Mom: You should not ask your son to wear — or not wear — any particular thing. He's an adult, for goodness sake. If he wants to swan around town in a tutu and scuba mask, that's his business, right?

In advance of this event, you can say to him, "This restaurant is expensive and conservative. We are guests." That's it. Do not discuss his wardrobe with him. (The restaurant probably won't care about his skirt, though they may try to wrestle him into a jacket.)

The most important thing you can do to prepare for this night is to use separate transportation. That way if there's a problem your son (and/or daughter) can find their own way home.

And here's some bonus (unsolicited) advice for your son: Stop acting like a toddler. You need to figure out how to interact with people in various contexts, and not sulk in your room if you think your mommy is not going to "let" you wear your skirt. Grow up already.


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