Sugarbutch Says: Dressing “like a boy”

Over on 365 Gay this week, "Ask the Expert" was with R&B singer and crossdresser Janelle Monae, who tackled this question:

"My four-year-old daughter only wants to dress like a boy. I know this might be a phase … Should I dress her in pink anyway? — Sandra"


I cringed at the pink, in a couple ways. Obviously Sandra means, should I dress her like a girl anyway; should I dress her in pink dresses and skirts with bows in her hair; should I ignore her autonomous requests for her own clothes and style and gender expression and force my standards upon her, reinforcing societal standards for gender roles and presentation?

(Uh, you may notice what kind of reaction I have to that kind of thing.)

But also, I do not believe that any particular color is owned by any particular gender. Boys can wear pink. Butches can wear pink. Dapper dandy men can wear pink. Burly women can wear pink. It doesn’t have to symbolize what it usually has: girlyness.

Janelle handled this question with ease:

I think we should break up those labels and categories of "that’s for a boy" vs "that’s for a girl." individuality is very important at an early age. There’s no right or wrong way to dress, you should never diminish your light and who you are to fit in or to feel more liked.

I am a woman, I don’t have to reiterate to the world that I am woman. I am sexy, I’m all those things. And there’s so many ways that I can do that.

It comes from you first defining yourself before someone else defines you. Don’t allow human to place labels and categories on what you are, who you are, and who you should be.

Yes, yes, Janelle, thank you!

I appreciate her answer. I especially like the idea of defining yourself before someone else defines you. It reminds me of that beautiful Audre Lorde quote: “If I didn’t define myself for myself, I would be crunched into other people’s fantasies for me and eaten alive.”

But while Janelle addressed the larger issues at play in this question — like labeling, and choosing how to dress, she doesn’t necessarily say something directly to Sandra. So hey, let me do that.