Culture / Kids

Never Forget the Nail Polish: Queering Up the Costume Asile

I believe this costume was Iron Flower Captain Bat Man. I believe this costume was Iron Flower Captain Bat Man.

Before I even knew that transition was a thing, when I was but a wee queer, my best friend* lived across the street. He and his sister had more or less free rein of their basement. There were a lot of Legos, and a lot of discarded wedding and prom dresses from thrift stores. It wasn’t cross-dressing at the time — in fact, those prom dresses were just about the most femme I felt for a long time. I think playing in that basement was some of the happier times in my childhood.

So I suppose it’s no surprise that I’m a sucker for letting Jetpack dress up, and picking up a healthy diversity of dress-up materials. Halloween — guys, Halloween is next week, and I haven’t picked out a costume, or decided on what parties to attend, or even bought candy, please send help — Halloween is lovely because kids are allowed to more easily mess with gender normativity. Don’t ask me why, but it sure seems like that. My best guess is that, for better or worse, costumes are for play. They aren’t serious, and so their lack of normativity is acceptable.

I’m not generally talking college frat boys dressing in drag, because mocking gender binaries at the expense of others isn’t Queer Kosher. Caveat, of course, that those adults might be exploring gender honestly, and it’s not my place to police that. Eesh, what a complicated thing!

In any case. So, let’s talk queering up the costume search. I tend to only go to Halloween-specific stores and holiday aisles at the department store when I’m looking for something in particular. Not only do they tend to be heavy on my pocketbook, but once there, we’ve got the tragedy that is the Sexy-Potato girl costumes, and the awful Muscle Suit boy costumes. Better, if you have them in your area, are thrift stores.

rainbowbatmanThrift stores at Halloween are a queer costumer’s best friend. That stuff isn’t categorized by gender. It’s a mess of people getting what they can get. The skirt to your Sexy-Kitchenaid Mixer costume is hanging next to the accessories to your Muscular Hulk costume, and they’re for anyone to grab.

I don’t mean just shirts/pants/dresses/skirts. Halloween accessories really make a costume, and they can be tossed into dress-up stashes to add fun and bulk. And nail polish y’all. Nail polish can enhance any costume.

Jetpack’s advice: “think of costumes with your brain.” He also suggests Squirrel-man, or Bunny-man, for those of you whose children are having trouble making decisions. He’d like to be Batman — but then, the image at right is his interpretation of Batman.

I’d love to hear other ideas for creative gender expression in Halloween costumes! And also, I’d love to know how you talk to kids about gender and their costume choices. I can’t imagine it’s going to get easier as time goes on – but maybe that’s pessimism. Maybe it will become easier, as gender non-conforming kids become so much more visible.


*Miss you, man. 10 years is too long.

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One Comment

  1. Rebecca Helman says:

    First I must say that I think your post is fabulous! My name is Rebecca Helman and I am a researcher at the South African Medical Research Council. I recently conducted a study which examines how children and parents construct gender. As part of this project I am putting together postcards to disseminate in order to promote gender equality and gender nonconformity among children. I love the pictures that you have posted of Iron Flower Captain Bat Man and I was wondering whether it would be possible for me to use this image for the postcards? I would be happy to reference you and I will send an example of the post card before it is printed.

    Yours Sincerely,
    Rebecca Helman

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