By Rebecca Drew
THIS MUM let her adorable two-year-old son choose to wear a dress on her wedding day after he refused a suit and a kilt, saying that her children are ‘free to be who they want to be’, but people have questioned why he wears dresses if he is a boy, but she says she is ‘guided by him’.
Gentle sleep consultant and mum of three, Joanna Minuzzo (39) originally from Scotland, UK, but now living in Cairns, Queensland, Australia, practices gentle parenting with her three children, Miss H (7), Miss M (6) and Master S (2) where she respects their personalities and choices to express who they are.
Joanna says that this method of parenting has brought her closer to her children, they aren’t afraid of showing emotions or interpreting those of others and they know that they can come to her with their problems without fear of judgment.
In January this year, Joanna’s son, who loves Minnie Mouse, came to her wanting to wear his sister’s dress with the cartoon character’s face on. Initially Joanna told him ‘no’ as it’s not socially acceptable for boys to wear dresses, but afterwards she asked herself why he couldn’t wear one as she could see how happy wearing a dress made him.
On May 11, 2019, Joanna got married to her husband, Najee (31) and on the day their son had a choice of three outfits to wear, including a suit and a kilt from Scotland, but he refused to wear them, falling in love with his sister’s dresses instead. A week before the big day, Joanna borrowed a beautiful blue dress from a friend and her son was over the moon.
Heart-warming pictures from Joanna’s wedding day show Najee helping their son get into his dress and their family sharing the love and enjoying their day together. When Joanna first saw her wedding pictures of the males getting ready, she was overcome with emotion and was humbled with how her husband embraced their son’s outfit choice.
Despite this, Joanna has had people question why she lets her son wear clothing that is stereotypically aimed at girls and has had people tell her that in doing so she might ‘make him gay,’ something Joanna says is completely ridiculous and says that there might be a day where he no longer wants to wear girls’ clothes and she will let him guide her.
“I am raising children who feel secure enough in themselves to be true to who they really are. To be kind and inclusive to others too. We have a generation of adults who are too afraid of being themselves because of the fear of being judged. I want my children to know that the only person’s opinion of them that matters is their own,” said Joanna.
“My children trust me, they can come to me when they have problems and they know I won’t judge them. My seven-year-old has amazing emotional literacy and I’m so so proud of that.
“The first time my son wanted to wear a dress, part of me wanted to tell him he couldn’t wear it, but I stopped and asked myself why. There’s no reason why he can’t. He is just a normal little boy who likes pretty clothes. It started as a like for Minnie Mouse but it’s extended from there.
“To start with I told him no because boys don’t wear dresses. Then I thought why not? Why can’t he wear it? Who makes these rules? Who is he hurting? He is happy, why am I fighting it? Don’t sweat the small stuff.
“From there I’ve held onto that. In the grand scheme of things, it’s only a toddler in a dress, a happy toddler at that! He looks so cute in a dress too! Why am I fighting him and insisting he dress in bland clothing?
“Our son had three outfits for our wedding. I ordered a kilt months before from Scotland and had this vision of him wearing his kilt and waiting with his dad at the altar. He took one look at it and wouldn’t even try it on. I tried to put it on him over the course of a few weeks but he didn’t want to wear it. He was getting upset every time I brought it out.
“Then his dad bought a suit that matched his. Again, we took it out and tried to get him to wear it and he wasn’t happy about it. I couldn’t even force him to try it on, nor would I want to. My daughters’ dresses arrived and I knew that I would probably have to buy one similar to match.
“I waited until about the week before the wedding and my friend loaned me her daughter’s blue dress. We showed it to him and he was so happy. He loved it! There was no going back. We brought the suit to the island and took it out for him to wear but he didn’t want to wear it. We kept the dress hidden from him and only brought it out when we knew he wouldn’t wear his suit.
“It was the most beautiful day, a really small wedding and I would not have had it any other way.
“It gave me chills to see the photographs of my husband helping our son get ready and cemented exactly why I fell in love with him. Not many men would do that. He put the happiness of his son above everything else, he is an amazing dad, step dad and role model. The photo reflected a truly beautiful moment between father and son.
“I don’t have a massive Instagram following so I haven’t had any negative reactions on there. I have had a few questions of, ‘why is he wearing a dress if he is a boy?’ or, before the wedding people asked if I was afraid of what he will say when he’s older, or someone said I was going to make him gay or something along those lines which is ridiculous.”
Joanna hopes that by allowing her children to follow their hearts and be their true selves, they will grow up to be more socially aware through not having the traditional gender stereotypes ingrained in them, the pressures of which can become toxic.
“When my oldest daughter was born, she had a teddy that was dressed in a tutu and we called it Brian. We also bought this book called My Princess Boy by author Cheryl Kilodavis which we have read to all the children. If the only things I teach my children are to be kind and accepting of others then I think I’ve done a good job,” said Joanna.
“I don’t want my children thinking they have to conform to stereotypes that don’t serve them. I can’t stand it when people tell my girls to be lady like. What the hell is that anyway? Who makes these rules and why are there different to rules for men?
“Equally I can’t stand it if I hear, ‘boys don’t cry.’ That really grinds my gears. We end up with men that can’t express how they feel and an unequal society, it’s just toxic.
“My son likes to wear them [dresses]. He is two, he doesn’t even know he is a boy yet or that there is a difference between him and his sisters. It’s not complicated, I don’t have to dress him in traditional boys’ clothes just because that’s the norm and acceptable.
“There may come a time soon when he doesn’t want to wear a dress or girls’ clothes. I will be guided by him.
“I don’t really see it as a big deal or anything inspirational. I am just letting my son choose what he wants to wear and I’m being respectful of that. Obviously, he has boundaries in terms of practicality but that’s it.
“I’m not doing anything revolutionary or new, I am being respectful of my children’s choices. It’s not harming anyone, it’s not that big a deal to allow your children that little bit of autonomy.
“He may grow out of it, he may not. Either way it doesn’t really matter, what matters is he is happy, he is healthy and he is kind. The fact that we are having this discussion shows us that as a society, we have a long way to go in terms of accepting people’s individuality.
“LR Knost sums this up beautifully when she said, ‘It’s not our job to toughen our children up to face a cruel and heartless world. It’s our job to raise children who will make the world a little less cruel and heartless.’”