Once upon a time there was a camper named Mateo who sometimes says he’s a boy and sometimes says, “I’m not a little boy, I’m a girl!”
Today, he got up in the middle of a game of Candy Land and went to the dress-up section. He came to me with the only princess dress there and asked if I could help him put it on. ”Of course!” I replied, as we tried together to figure out whether it was inside out (this was difficult since the puffy skirt had so many layers). When he finally slid his arms through the lacey, flowery sleeves, one of the boys said, “You’re a princess!”
"Are you a princess, Mateo?" I asked. He nodded his head. "Princess Mateo!"
I put a pretend crown on his head. ”Why is he wearing that dress?” A girl asked me.
"Because he wants to," I explained while I watched him playing with the toy dinosaurs, yellow crinoline piling around his knees.
Soon, boys were taking turns clap-clapping around the classroom in plastic princess heels and sparkly dress-up skirts. Later, I heard Mateo scrambling towards the dress-up shoes. He almost got in a fight with a boy over a pair of plastic Cinderella slippers, but he was fine when he realized that there was a pair of Snow White shoes.
One girl went up to Princess Mateo and scolded, “You’re wearing a Belle dress and Belle is for girls!” I had taught them that everything in our classroom - stories about princesses, trains, cars, baby dolls, even the androgynous little Duplo people - were for boys and girls and everybody. So anyone who heard her admonishment said, “No, Belle is for everybody!”
My new co-counselor even whispered to me about Princess Mateo. I told her that Mateo sometimes says he’s not a boy, but whatever, Mateo can be anything. I don’t know why she cared so much.
But I hope that boys and girls and everybody everywhere can live happily ever after.