Furious mum shares painful moment a man laughed at her trans child for looking at a dress
A mother has opened up about the painful moment a grown man laughed at her trans daughter in a shop because she dared to look at a dress.
In a TEDx Derry talk titled “Fashion Policing and the Double Standards of Gender Expression”, Taryn de Vere reflected on the ways trans children’s clothing choices are policed in public spaces by complete strangers, while cis people wear what they please.
De Vere opened up about her own extraordinary fashion sense, explaining that her beautiful, colourful clothes inspire happiness in others.
“As I began to notice and explore the reactions other people had to my outfits, I came to realise that fashion is a type of visual language,” de Vere said.
“The clothing that we wear tells the world how we want to be seen. This works for me – I guess I want to be seen as an eccentric attention seeker – but it also works for children, particularly trans children.”
De Vere continued: “Even if it’s something that we don’t think about much, as adults we know the importance of being seen as our preferred gender. Children are no different. They want to fit in and they want to be experienced by the world in an authentic way.
“If you’re a child who is trans and you’re four or five, it makes sense that you want the world to see you as you see you. Children of this age don’t have the nuance of language to express their transness in subtle ways, so they do so through their appearance.
Once my daughter grew her hair longer and was accepted by her peers as a girl, she suddenly stopped wanting to wear pink and dresses all the time.
“When my daughter first told me aged five that she wasn’t the boy I thought she was, but she was in fact a girl, the first thing she asked for was a dress. At the time I didn’t think much of her announcement. I told her, yeah, no problem, we can get you a dress. Her eyes lit up.”
De Vere made her daughter a dress, and the five-year-old went on to ask if she could change her name and grow her hair long.
“By doing these things, my daughter wasn’t trying to reinforce gendered stereotypes about femininity or how girls ‘should look’. She was just using the coded language of fashion that already exists,” de Vere explained.
Taryn de Vere became ‘hyper aware’ going out in public with her trans child
“Knowing how important it was to my daughter that she be seen as a girl, each time we went out in public, I was on tenterhooks. One day in a charity shop my daughter saw a dress that she liked on the rack and she pulled it out and held it against herself. The man in the shop looked her up and down and laughed rudely.
“Her face crumpled, she put the dress back, and she asked if we could leave. My little girl was crushed. She stood outside the shop crying.
“I was livid. A grown man making fun of a small child and her obvious joy in a dress. Why did he think he could treat her this way? Was it because he thought that she was a boy and that boys shouldn’t wear dresses?”
De Vere pointed out that, up until a century ago, boys often wore dresses, while pink was seen as a boys’ colour and blue for girls.
“My daughter was just trying to get the world to see her as a girl. Because of everything she had experienced in our society, in her head, pink and dresses meant girl, so she chose to use this language of clothing to tell the world how to treat her,” de Vere said.
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“The only problem is, in those early days, before she grew her hair, she often didn’t get the response she hoped for. While my outlandish outfits were provoking delight in strangers, my small child wearing dresses was provoking cruel comments, mean laughter and rude stares.”
De Vere was forced to be come “hyper aware” of the expectations of other people every time she went out in public with her trans daughter.
The proud mum is now “several years into knowingly parenting a trans child”, and she said she has “noticed something interesting”.
“Once my daughter grew her hair longer and was accepted by her peers as a girl, she suddenly stopped wanting to wear pink and dresses all the time. It was almost as if, after being accepted in her gender identity, she could relax out of performing girlness and embrace her own sense of style – one that was as unique as she is.”
Taryn de Vere’s TEDx talk has been showered with praise by viewers. One person commented: “This is a wonderful talk, full of love and wisdom. I hope it reaches everyone. Lots of love to Taryn and her daughter.”
Another commented: “Give that lovely girl of yours a high five from me!”