Family / Kids / Parenting

The explicit and implicit aspects of the Gap Girl

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I pull the sweatshirt off the shelf because I see rainbows and sparkles, two of Jetpack’s favorite wardrobe flavors. He squeals.

“I LOVE IT!” He tugs it carefully off the hanger and then discards the hanger on the floor. (Of course). He starts to put it on, while I flip through the clothes, looking for more sweaters. Spring is here (supposedly, though it got down to 14F here last weekend), and his gangly limbs hang out of all of his sweaters, suddenly.

“I can’t zip it.”

I crouch down and zip the sweatshirt up, revealing a glittery, rainbow stitched heart, and on either side of the zipper:

Gap Girl

I panic (a little) and show him the other sweatshirts. He wants them all (of course), but the sparkly heart is (of course) his favorite. He shows it off to the Latina mama sorting through clothes to our right. “Look! It has a glitter heart.”

“Very nice, very nice.” She smiles the tired smile of a mama and goes back to her clothes shopping.

I steer him away, crouch down in front of him and point to the words as I read them. “Hey bub, I didn’t notice before. This sweatshirt says Gap, which is the brand, and Girl. They made it for girls to wear. Now, I’m fine with getting it for you, but I want you to know that. Some people might think you’re a girl. We can maybe just wear it near home, or else we can just tell people who ask that you’re not a girl. I’m okay with explaining if we need to. Or you can put it back, too.”

Jetpack thinks for about half a second. “I want it.”

“Okay,” I answer.

He wears the sweatshirt through the thrift store, showing it off to a smiling young couple and loudly letting them know, “It says Gap Girl but I’m not a girl. I just REALLY like the rainbow sparkle heart!”




It was freeing to be able to have such an explicit discussion with him. Jetpack is almost 5. He’s been made fun of plenty enough. I think he has a pretty good understanding of what it might mean to wear the word Girl on his chest. So we talked. I was able to explain to him what it might mean and what his options were, and he was able to make an informed decision.

A few weeks ago we went to meet some kids from a message board. The message board was for gender fluid kids, and thank goodness, everyone in our area had kids about the same age. They played dress up, did makeup, and generally had a great time. Jetpack showed up in his Batman outfit (a little less rainbow-y than usual, actually) and played with LEGO® for a long time. But he was comfortable, and the other kids seemed to be too, and it was really wonderful.

I think it was important to the kids to understand that they weren’t alone. I didn’t tell Jetpack that we were going to meet with some boys who like dressing up like girls. That would not have been honest, and I don’t think Jetpack would’ve agreed to it. But we did talk about how they were kids who liked different kinds of stuff, like Jetpack does, and who had maybe sometimes been made fun of for it, like Jetpack has. The rest was implicit.


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