It’s ok—more than that, it’s healthy for kids to wonder about who they are, including whether they might be trans. It’s healthy for kids to explore gender expression and to figure out what feels authentic. Most of them won’t end up being trans, but all of them will have some kind of relationship with gender, and all of them will interact with other people of different genders. In a trans-affirming environment, there’s more room for all kinds of kids:

5-y.o. Brian, assigned male at birth, says, “I don’t like boy clothes. I want to wear pretty dresses.” Brian’s parents say, “OK, let’s get you some dresses.” Brian wears a dress to school. The teacher says, “I like your style!” A classmate asks, “Aren’t dresses for girls?” The teacher says, “Well, lots of girls and women wear dresses, and not as many boys and men wear dresses. That’s not a rule, though. We each get to pick what we like to wear, whether we’re boys or girls or neither. Isn’t that cool?” The school has curriculum and policies that normalize people being different from one another and teach kids how to treat each other with respect. Brian learns he is welcome to be himself, and to be accepting of others.

Maybe Brian is a cis boy who likes dresses—because they’re pretty, because they’re fun to twirl, because…? He gets to play and express himself freely, learning what he likes and who he is. He feels safe and comfortable being exactly the type of boy he is; no one is telling him he’s doing it wrong by being a boy who likes dresses. There’s no pressure to pick a label or “be normal,” and he can just be himself.

Maybe Brian is a trans girl, and playing with clothes and style is an early step toward self-understanding and authentic self-expression. She gets to learn who she is and what she likes without pressure or judgment, in an environment where it’s understood that every kid is learning who they are and what they like.

Maybe Brian is nonbinary or agender, and playing with clothes helps them to figure out that they don’t experience gender the same way other people do: they don’t feel like a boy or a girl. They have room to experiment with self-expression and the grownups in their life assure them it’s ok to be different.

In any case, Brian is better served in a trans-affirming environment. A trans-affirming community is safe for cis boys who like feminine things—it’s safe for any kid who may want to explore or experiment with gender expression. It’s also safe for kids who don’t care to explore gender—no one is going to force them to dress differently, or shame them for not having questions about their gender, and they’ll get to be in an environment where curiosity and difference are celebrated. There’s no downside to trans-affirming environments for kids.


5-y.o. Brian says, “I don’t like boy clothes. I want to wear pretty dresses.” Brian’s parents panic a little, but say, “OK, let’s get you some dresses to play dress-up at home.” Brian loves his dresses, and wishes he could wear one to school, but his parents fear he’ll be bullied. He finally persuades them to let him try it one day. He arrives at school and a classmate says, “Dresses are for girls. You’re a boy. Stupid!” The teacher intervenes: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything.” The next day, one of Brian’s peers tells him, “My big brother says boys who wear dresses are perverts.” A parent contacts the teacher, concerned because their child came home talking about a boy wearing a dress, and that goes against their values. The teacher suggests Brian’s parents keep the dresses at home so he doesn’t get picked on or cause a distraction. Brian realizes wearing a dress makes him a target. He starts pretending he doesn’t like dresses after all, and gets in a habit of pretending away any part of himself that doesn’t fit in. Beyond gender, this impacts his ability to be authentically himself in many domains if there’s reason to think someone might judge or reject him for being himself.

All kids of all genders benefit from being in environments and communities where their curiosity is encouraged, differences are respected, and self-expression is valued.