A friend of mine asked for this link today, and mentioned that her "...son is 4, yes very young, but he only likes girl things. Plays dress up in princess dresses, plays with dolls and will get very upset if people try to get him to play with boy toys. Granted he is young, it doesn't bother me in the least bit! When you're little though, I think people feel 'tomboys' are more acceptable, and not the other way around. My husband and I will love and accept him regardless!"
This brought to mind a story I heard through Sir Ken Robinson in his TED Talk from 2006. It truly is one of my two favorite TED videos, the other being Clifford Stoll on everything. (links will follow) The story is about Gillian Lynne, the choreographer of Cats and Phantom of the Opera. As a child in the 1930's, she was doing terribly in school. She was fidgety, couldn't concentrate, and her parents were convinced that she had a learning disorder. Today she's probably be diagnosed with ADHD. Well they went to a specialist, and after awhile hearing about the problems that Gillian was having in school, he and her mother left the room - but as the doctor walked, he turned on the radio and then closed the door, and as soon as the door closed Gillian was up and dancing around the room. He turned to her mother and said, “Mrs. Lynne, Gillian isn’t sick; she’s a dancer. Take her to a dance school.” And as the saying goes, the rest is history.
Now, I know this isn't the same exact situation - but kids know what they want.
If your four year old son wants to play with (what are labeled as) girl's toys, and play dress up, and dance around the house in a tutu saying he's a ballerina and just wants a sensible pair of heels, let him. If he turns out to be transgendered, or super fabulous and gayer than Richard Simmons singing a duet with Elton John in a bath house, or just a straight man who knows his way around Nordstrom, it's going to be okay.
Kids may not remember exactly what happened in every situation, but they will never forget how something made them feel. And if a parent makes their kid feel unwelcome, or unloved, or like there's something wrong with them, kids will not forget that. They will always remember how they felt when their parents told them to go make some friends that are girls, or be more 'ladylike' - when the kid was just doing what felt natural and right.
Let them be a kid.
But more importantly - let them be themselves. Whoever that may be.
Sir Ken Robinson - (click here to watch)
Clifford Stoll - (COMPLETELY UNRELATED but click here to watch that one)