Let me introduce myself: I'm the dad who wears a skirt.
Maybe you've heard or read about me. To my astonishment, I read about me recently. That was peculiar, since I'm used to reading my own writing -- not stories about how I behaved or dressed up. So let's clarify what happened.
I am a writer. I write poetry, prose, advertising copy and articles for newspapers and magazines. Some of these articles are about my life: how to raise kids, how to have an emancipated relationship and how to act as a father and a man in these times. Not long ago, I wrote an article for Germany's most famous feminist magazine, EMMA, about getting all skirted up to support my son, who likes to wear dresses and skirts in public. The magazine asked for a photo, so I sent them a few shots. On the day the story came out online, I happened to be on vacation.
During my vacation, the Internet did something I never expected -- but obviously should have. Someone translated my article and it quickly spread across the world. I got emails and calls from people all over the place. I am glad that I had a couple of days to decide what to do next.
I decided to write this article. This is me trying to explain why I do what I do. Many people read the original EMMA piece and thought well of me; others were pissed off or disgusted by my alleged "sissy" behavior. Others still presumed base motives -- suggesting that I was trying to pull a stunt at the expense of my son -- or accused me of bad parenting for encouraging his temporary dissocial preference.
A 5-year-old boy who wants to wear dresses and skirts once in a while was compared to a child who spits, fights or poops in public -- always with this rhetorical question tacked onto the analogy: "Who would be stupid and irresponsible enough to support this kind of conduct?"
These comparisons just don't fit. My boy has a big sister whom he loves a great deal. Naturally, he inherits her skirts and dresses -- and sometimes he likes to put them on. I have no intention whatsoever of getting in his way.
Of course, the work of teaching our son how to interact with people -- and how to get along with society and understand its rules and patterns -- is mainly up to his mother and me. But he is my son, not my property. I don't own him. If there is such a thing as owning a human being, he owns me. I made him, I dreamed of him, I longed for him; now he is in my life, and I am responsible for him as long as there is breath in me. So I teach him the rules and what to do with them. Not every rule makes sense. Some rules tell us to behave with violence and cruelty to other human beings, even if we have a distinct feeling that our actions toward them are wrong. It is not OK for anybody to mess with my son about his outfit. Hence I wear dresses and skirts so that any person who has a problem with that and feels the necessity to express his or her resentments can mess with me.
Since I am an adult, people should feel free to call me out on my decisions. In this case, if you do, I will confess that I don't particularly like wearing skirts or dresses. I'm like a soccer mom who doesn't love the sport -- but does love her kids. I couldn't care more about my boy being a happy, self-assured, compassionate person. I couldn't care less about the choices he makes on the way to becoming that person -- as long as they cause no harm to himself or others. The ability to make these choices is his birthright -- a right that I should help him to exercise, since I am responsible for his birth.
So basically, this is the story: Some father trying to support his son. Some writer doing his job.
It's just a dress, it's just a skirt, but they went around the world.
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