The Swimming Suit

My kids just started six weeks of individual swim lessons. My daughter has been learning to swim for a while, but this was my son’s first time at a lesson. The only real swimming he’s done previously was at my uncle’s farm last summer. 

I have swim trunks and rash guards for my son. They are all hand-me-downs from family friends. They are all in great shape. I even got him some Spider-Man trunks on clearance at Old N@vy last year. But he refuses to wear any of them. He doesn’t think swim trunks are actually for swimming. In his mind they are just glorified shorts. 

My son will only wear full torso swimming suits, like his sister. 

Last summer he wore his sister’s old suit, the pink one with the frills at the top and the princesses on the tummy. That suit is stretched out and the elastic is shot. So when it was time for swim lessons, I had to get my son his own suit. Unfortunately, I forgot what his preferences were and didn’t order one in time for his first lesson. He would not be persuaded to wear trunks for even one day so I had to get him a suit there. 

He LOVED it. And he had a great first lesson-put his head all the way under and everything!

The next day the suit I ordered for him came. He wore it to last night’s lesson. 

I imagine some people would be uncomfortable letting their son wear a girl’s swim suit in public. I can tell it makes his grandmothers a little antsy. 

My mom came right out and said it (“You can’t let him wear a girl’s suit to his lesson!), but quickly back stepped when I said that I would let him wear whatever swim suit he wanted, and I couldn’t very well keep telling his sister that boys can wear dresses and skirts (she refuses to believe this is allowed, especially since she never seems it) if I don’t let her brother wear whatever swim suit he wants. She agreed, but you could tell she wished he would just wear the trunks. 

Last night, after I texted a picture of my son in his newer suit, my inlaws sent me a link to a full body rash guard, asking if he would wear that to swimming. I haven’t responded yet, but the answer will be, “He has two brand new swim suits, thankyouverymuch, he doesn’t need anything else.” 

{It should be stated that his father supports him wearing whatever he wants, always.}

Gender is so prescribed for boys, much more so than for girls. I regularly shopped for my daughter in the boys section, not just getting her khaki pants for school, but also t-shirts with super heros and other characters on them. No one would ever notice. I’m guessing that wouldn’t be the case if I got my son a t-shirt with princesses or fairies on it, especially if it were pink and had frills of any kind.

The thing is he, my son hasn’t figured out yet that boys aren’t really expected to play with and wear “girl things.” Just this weekend he went to soccer with sparkly wings because he was a soccer fairy. 

I don’t know how long my son is going to want to wear a “girl’s” swim suit, or fairy wings to soccer, but he’s never going to hear me say it’s not allowed. And anyone who suggests otherwise will hear some words from me. 


  1. Stories like this make me so glad I live in California. Yesterday my 3 year old told me he likes to wear the princess costume in his classroom. It’s nice to send him to a school where no one discourages him from that. He even suggested he should be a princess for Purim (Jewish dress up holiday). My nephew went to the same preschool and one of his boy classmates had a princess costume, and all the boys took turns wearing it. I imagine these things are more difficult in other parts of the country.

  2. 10 BAZILLION THOUSAND TIMES: THANK YOU!!!!!!!! And repeat.
    Remind people men wore suits like this before and their masculinity was not endangered. Teddy Roosevelt for one.
    Hurrah for you, your husband and your son!!!!!!!!

  3. My girls swim in boys suits. They like the longer length better. I’ve had some comments about them not being in girls suits but who cares? It’s less sunscreen to apply, lol.

  4. Yay for you. You’re right, girls wearing “boy” things are less likely to raise eyebrows than the opposite.

    I have 2 girls and every once in a while (not that often) one will make some kind of comment about a haircut or clothes and we always say “girls can have short hair and boys can have long hair” “boys can wear dresses” etc.

  5. You know my feelings on this. šŸ™‚ Harvey wears dresses OFTEN at home, though out at about her generally chooses plaid shirts like his dad. Ha! I’m all for encouraging them to wear whatever they want though. There are a few people who give us a hard time about it, but most of the people whose opinions we actually care about are totally supportive, so that’s cool. T looks great!

  6. Hey if he’s comfortable, and he looks smashing in it, what’s the problem? I don’t think we as parents “should” box our kids into boys/girls. I admit, it seems harder for moms of boys when it comes to things like, wearing girls costumes to swimsuits. Girls are encouraged to wear boys costumes to be whatever boys are & the parents are praised for it…and yet its so hard for boys to do the same with girl costumes.

    I will tell you, my husband would have a fit. So would my in laws and parents & I know I’d receive a text or phone call. I’d probably respond the exact same way to a text. “He prefers this, thank you” as I eye roll.

    Kuddos to you guys. (love the suit!)

  7. The end goal is to get him into the pool, right? So that he can learn to swim and be safe around the water. Frankly, I think this is a brilliant solution! He’s happy and you’re not fighting with him about getting into the water. Similarly with the fairy wings: he’s getting out on the field and participating. Win, win.

    The people who tend to get hung up on this stuff also are those who have deep-seeded misconceptions that they aren’t addressing. This may be a great opener with your in-laws, especially as the question other aspects of your parenting. Why does this bother you so much? Can you truly justify where the harm is? The truth is they can’t. Not without admitting they view gender as a black-and-white issue (talk about a rabbit hole to go down).

    And bravo for getting him into the pool.

  8. Yay for swimming lessons where the kid goes willingly into the pool! Yay for fabulous swimsuits! Yay for not boxing in gender norms for children! The next school district over is considering insisting transgendered students use the bathroom for the gender they were assigned at birth, so such a thing wouldn’t be safe here, alas.

  9. I love you and your son for this….this is perfect. I read this at work and was almost in happy tears because 1000 times yes….perfect. My son loves to wear dresses, wants to start dance classes and frequently wears fairy wings. Hugs to you both for being super awesome….

  10. I love the striped swimsuit.

    It was one of the culture shocks I had after coming to US: even toddlers wore “gender-appropriate” swimsuits.

    In the regions where I grew up, at the beach, most kids wore tiny speedo-like swim-trunks until puberty. And toddlers were running around naked. Different cultures=different norms. I suppose, it is a sign of my full and irreversible assimilation – my kids wear full-body swimsuits … even in the backyard (the youngest does not care what gender the swimsuit was designed for, as long as it is “not too tight!!!”; the older two are more picky).

    I love it that you put your son’s comfort first – and not the “what will the people say!”

  11. Here in Maryland we seem to be getting more progressive with the gender expectations as well. My daughter has a friend in her dance class that has a dad that dresses like a woman. She asked why he was wearing those high shoes that she has only seen women wear and I explained he prefers those, not one more question has been asked. My son wears pink, my friends son attends kindergarten in tutus and pink princess shirts as well as wears pink nightgowns to bed. I love it!

  12. Good for you guys!

    In NZ, because of concerns about sunburn, many children wear long-sleeved and longer-legged suits regardless of their gender. I wish they sold them for adults. (Well, they do … in Muslim countries.)

  13. In Judiasim,wearing the clothing of the opposite gender is explicitly forbidden by the Torah (Debarim 22:5).
    It is also comsidered an abomination to God in Deuteronomy.
    Why does everyone want to constantly teach their kids that “anything goes?” Do you also let kids eat candy whenever they want? Skip school because it feels right or better or more comfortable? Come on. Let’s be parents. Discipline, structure, and consistency are not bad words unless you are afraid to be a parent and more comfortable being your child’s friend.

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