Would you let your 5 y.o. son wear pink shoes for 1st day of pre-school?

There’s a fascinating discussion on Facebook, and now elsewhere, as to what a parent should do when their five year old son picks out pink girls’ shoes for his first day of preschool.

It all started when a mom posted a picture of her five year old son, sitting excitedly in the car on his way to his first day of preschool, wearing pink pumps that he picked out himself at the local shoe store.  His mom had tried to explain to him that these were “girls” shoes, but he responded: “Ninjas can wear pink shoes too.”  Gotta love the innocence and logic of a young boy.

The picture of the boy in mom’s car is below, and you can see the full unedited photo on Facebook (I wasn’t comfortable posting a five year old’s face even if his mom did put the photo on Facebook for the world to see).

boy wears pink shoes to preschool

You can see the full photo on Facebook.

And here’s the boy’s sister’s description of the episode:

Yesterday my mom posted a picture on Facebook of my 5 year old brother Sam wearing a pair of shoes he picked out for his first day of preschool.

She explained to him in the store that they were really made for girls. Sam then told her that he didn’t care and that “ninjas can wear pink shoes too.”

Sam went to preschool and got several compliments on his new shoes. Not one kid said anything negative toward him about it.

However, my mom received about 20 comments on the photo from various family members saying how “wrong” it is and how “things like this will affect him socially” and, put most eloquently by my great aunt, “that shit will turn him gay.”*

My mom then deleted the photo and told Sam that he can wear whatever he wants to preschool, that it’s his decision. If he wants to wear pink shoes, he can wear pink shoes.

Sam then explained to her that he didn’t like them because they were pink, he liked them because they were “made out of zebras” and zebras are his favorite animal :)

What does it say about society when a group of adults could stand to take a lesson in humanity from a class of preschoolers? — with Gypsy Love.

Wow.  Some sister.

I’d written before about a similar story where a man in Germany let his son wear a skirt. I worried at the time about the kind of bullying the kid might face, and I worry about the same here. Many of the readers disagreed with me. Here’s what I wrote:

Good that the dad is teaching his son to be himself, and to be proud of himself, whoever he is.

But, I worry about the hate that a young boy is going to be shown wearing a dress. And while it’s all well and good to say that that’s society’s problem, it’s also that little boy’s problem – he’s five years old, I worry about the impact of him being laughed at, pointed to, and mocked every day of his life.  Now, that doesn’t mean we should stifle who he really is, which can lead to its own damage.

The last thing I want to do is teach a young boy – and potentially a gay one (or possibly a trans one) – to stifle who he is.  Having said that, it’s very hard to be in school as a gay kid (let’s just assume for a moment that this boy is).  I know where I grew up, it was already already bad enough dealing with the bullies, and I was a closeted kid.  Had I worn pink pumps, I can’t even imagine the response.  The question then becomes whether you’re letting your son face even worse bullying in the name of helping him be proud of who he is.  Or, whether it’s worse to stifle him and tell him he can’t wear the shoes, if it avoids some bullying.

I don’t know the answer.  But I’m not convinced it’s as easy a decision as some folks are saying.  Yes, we shouldn’t have hang ups about boys wearing pink shoes.  But we do.  And it’s one thing to choose to make yourself, as an adult, a gay rights activist – it’s another to let your child unwittingly become one.  Could I imagine the pink shoes instigating a horrific, and scarring, day – hell, not day, years – at school for the boy?  Yeah. He’d probably never live it down, unless he was going to school somewhere awfully liberal.

Having said that, it’s interesting that the sister reports the other kids were fine with it:

Sam went to preschool and got several compliments on his new shoes. Not one kid said anything negative toward him about it.

They’re fine it with for now.  Just wait.  I think I’ve told his story before, of how I asked a non-profit that finds mentors for very young inner city black kids if the race of the mentor was an issue (meaning, perhaps they preferred giving the kids African-American role models).  The head of the non-profit responded that they were fine with any race since “we’ve found that that at the age of 5 the kids haven’t learned to hate yet.”

The problem is, they do learn to hate a few years later.

I want to say “atta boy,” but I don’t think we can discount that while there potential damage caused by stifling the boy, there’s also potential damage caused by letting him walk into a bullying bonanza that all of us can see coming.

Curious what folks think.

Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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