True Story: My 8-Year-Old Daughter Dresses Exclusively Like A Boy

This is one of many True Story interviews in which we talk to people who have experienced interesting, challenging, amazing things. This is the story of Stasia and her daughter Raisa who only wears ‘boy’ clothes.

Tell us a bit about yourself!
I’m a 40-year-old momma with two wildly beautiful kids (2 and 8) and a wicked handsome social worker husband, living the good life in Vermont. Last year, I threw caution and pragmatism to the wind, quit my job, and started a biz as a Personal Stylist, and have never looked back. I had no choice… my daughter made me do it 🙂
Tell us about your daughter. 
Raisa is an 8 years old kid with incredible style 🙂 She’s sassy, bold, cool and charismatic… just not in the way I had envisioned when I was planning out what life would be like with a baby girl. She was born with “special needs”. She’s had hundreds of doctor’s appointments, has been under anesthesia over a dozen times, and sleeps with a c-pap machine every night. She loves to ski, bike, fish, and swim. She would wear a suit jacket and bow tie to school every single day if her closet was abundant enough to support her desires. She’s tough, gentle, bold, sensitive… and she loves her brother more than anything on earth.
At what age did she start wanting to dress like a boy? 
She started trending toward boy clothes around 3 years old, but I didn’t make much of it at the time. I could still get her in dresses though admittedly it was a battle. As she neared 6 years old, we would have throw-down fights around her wardrobe. I would get crazy upset when she outright REF– USED to wear the super fun, cute, whimsical clothes I had purchased for her.You see, Raisa looks different than other kids, and I thought I could combat the inevitable bullying if she wore hip clothes and looked ridiculously cute all the time. Plus, after years of hospital visits and hundreds of doctor’s appointments, I was exhausted, and couldn’t imagine navigating and challenging the roles of gender in our society. I just wanted things to be regular. You know, easy.
What make you change your mind and buy her first shirt and tie?
We were shopping at our local thrift store, and she asked me (as she’s done a million times) to help her look for a “boy” shirt and tie. I said no. She’d had enough “no” from me, so she walked up to the counter and asked the cashier to help her look in the kid’s section for a shirt and tie. They did, and they found the most dreadful Walmart looking shirt and tie combo I had ever seen.I couldn’t say no since the cashier was the one who presented it to me – so I begrudgingly paid $3 for the combo and figured I’d just re-donate it the following day. I wish I could say I “changed my mind”, but unfortunately it wasn’t a selfless act, and I didn’t let go of my antiquated belief systems for another couple of hours…
How did she react when she put on her shirt and tie for the first time?
As soon as we got home from the thrift store, she immediately put on the shirt and tie and stood in front of the mirror. When she first saw her reflection, she became motionless and said to me in a whisper, “Mama, look how handsome I look.” Then she bolted across the dining room and said, “Mama, Mama, look how fast I can run!” and then she jumped and said, “Mama, look how much higher I can jump when I’m wearing a shirt and tie!”I just stood there, ashamed, shocked and in disbelief. She could run faster and jump higher when she was wearing clothes on the outside that reflected who she was on the inside. Though I understood the sentiment of “authentic style” to a degree, she articulated it in a way that knocked my socks off. The lesson was profound, and it changed the trajectory of my life.
Does she ‘dress like a boy’ every day now? 
Every. Single. Day. And most days she’s wearing a bow tie and a blazer 🙂 She’s unstoppable.
How have the people in your life reacted to her fashion choices?
They LOVE it! In fact, she’s become a bit of a local sensation in her bow ties and neckties. Believe it or not, I haven’t heard one single person say anything cross about her boy-like presentation. Pretty amazing, don’t you think?
How do other kids react to her choices?
Great question!! Kids are a wee bit confused… “Is Raisa a boy or a girl?” Even her classmates that have known her for years have questioned whether she’s a boy or a girl. But other than that, it’s no big deal. And honestly, Raisa thinks it’s cool that she looks and dresses like a boy but IS a girl.
Has she made any comments about wishing she was a boy? Or does it seem like her interest ends at wearing clothes that are traditionally male?
This is tricky territory. She acts like a boy, dresses like a boy and stays far away from anything girl because “What if people think I’m a girl?” BUT, she’s never said she wishes she were a boy, and trust me, we’ve asked. She has said over and over that she’s happy that she’s a girl, but just likes everything boy, and likes that people think she’s a boy. She loves that her brother calls her “sissy” and loves her very feminine name. So for now, we’re allowing her to lead the conversation and we’ll just keep checking in, supporting her, and loving her.
Raisa has taken the gender binary and tipped it upside down. She resonates with both “boy” and “girl,” and is at ease in that place of “in between”. Gender, it turns out, is a continuum, and she understands that better than most.
Has this changed the way you think about gender? Parenting? Fashion?
It’s changed the way I think about everything!! And I mean EVERYTHING.
I was in the beginning, contemplative stages of starting my biz as a personal stylist when the shirt and tie incident happened. In that moment, my purpose became clear, and my message of “Inside-Out Congruency” became my life’s work. When I meet with clients, the first and absolute most important thing I do is help them figure out who they are on the inside so that we can reflect that on the outside. I want every woman in the world to “run faster and jump higher”.
And really, this philosophy of Inside-Out Congruency transcends everything! Allowing and supporting those around us to fully live in their truest place and space will create a world with greater harmony and less of the us vs them.
What’s one thing you’ve learned from this that any of us could apply to our daily lives? 
I’ve learned that belief systems and inflexible plans can be dangerous, and the tighter we hold on to them, the more tumultuous and unstable our lives become. Before Raisa was born, my husband and I had crafted and created a wanderlust lives for ourselves and our soon-to-be family. But the moment she was born, we had to say goodbye to our grand plan because now her life was on the line and we needed to plant ourselves near her big city hospital. We settled in Vermont, created community, and have never looked back.

When she was born, I envisioned she would be this hip, sweet, funky, charismatic girl who loved shimmer and sparkle, despite her differences… and this is also something I’ve had to let go of. All those years that I fought, refused and rejected the notion that my daughter was more “boy” than “girl” resulted in nothing more than battle wounds – for both of us. I’ve learned that letting go and flexibility release our hearts from tension and makes space for profound love.

Thank you so, so much for sharing this sweet story, Stasia. Do you guys have any (polite!) questions for her?

13 Comments

Kate

I found this absolutely fascinating.

Probably it’s due, in no small part, to the fact that I have always preferred boys clothes or at least “sporty” girls clothes, and now that I have a baby daughter, tend to gravitate more to the boys clothes (cuter!) or the sporty girls clothes (easier to crawl around in, *I* think).

I’m trying hard to remember that once she gets a say, she may well go in the other direction and prefer “girlies” clothes. I anticipate finding that quite hard!

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Stasia

OH yes! The plans we have, and how they will be re-written by our children! I had her entire life planned out… right through to her retirement! 🙂 Oh, but now I just wait to see what tomorrow brings, and the anticipation of change and newness is far more rewarding that trying to hold tight to something so dynamic!! xo Stasia

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The Dame Intl

What a gift Raisa is to the world. Her life will change lives.

On a side note, how sad it is that women often internalise this perceived “weakness” and can feel stronger and more able in men’s clothes.

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lindsay

what a smart, self-aware child you’re raising! kudos to you, stasia, and thank you for sharing this.

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Melyssa Griffin

This is so wonderful! I popped over because I met Stasia at a conference last year and was excited to see her on Yes and Yes. But wow! This was a great way to wake up this morning. I love the message here about authenticity and I’m so happy Raisa (beautiful name!) has such supportive parents to let her lead them whichever way feels right. I’m going to spend some time thinking about the clothes that make me feel like running and jumping, too. What a great way to look at it!

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Stasia

Hi Melyssa! YES YES YES! My greatest wish for ALL WOMEN, is that we can find the clothes that make us run faster and jump higher!! I think we have social responsibility to fully show up and present our most brilliant selves to the world, because the ripple effect of one bright smile is immeasurable! Raisa is a very smart and very grounded little girl, who knows who she is. I started to mess with that knowing, but fortunately, I backed off, and I learned from her the value of letting go of old patterns and belief structures and embracing what’s undeniably true. I’ll be back at Alt in a few weeks, Melyssa, I hope to see you there! (PS. Raisa is a gorgeous Russian name my husband and I first heard when we were serving in the Peace Corps – and it stuck with us!!) xoxo Stasia

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Sammy

Love love love this True Story. Raisa sounds extremely cool, and well ahead in her understanding of gender in general and of herself as an individual than most (all?) adults. Super impressed and hope one day I can be as clear on who I am and what makes me “run faster and jump higher”.

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Jacky

What a great story to share. Stasia and Raisa, you both rock! You have a lot to teach the world.

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Lauren

Great story! I am a primary school teacher and one of my students is currently in the stage (I don’t want to say phase) where she identifies more as a male than a female. She has requested to be addressed with a more masculine take on her name and dresses in boys clothes. I’m happy to comply with her requests, after all it’s not my place to put restrictions on her 🙂

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A

that is awesome! i know they (i’m not sure if the student prefers “he” or “she” at this point and being trans myself, i know i prefer ‘He” even though “she” is still used interchangeably by those who know me.) appreciate your consideration.

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Anna Hartley

Fantastic!!
This is so interesting. I realize this is 2 years later, but I really wanted to comment.
I am a lifelong tomboy, but I flip flopped between “Anna” and “Thomas” (the name I would have had if I had been a boy) for about a year when I was a bit younger than Raisa.
My mum would ask me in the morning “Who are we today?” and that would determine how we’d dress me. Interestingly, the “Anna” at that period dressed far more femininely than usual. “Thomas” put the long blonde hair up under a cap, wore T shirts and shorts.
Interestingly I recall almost nothing of this period, but apparently my teachers were super chill about it, as were my parents.
I only realised how unusual this was much later, when other people told me so. Looking back, I think this was just the first of my many forays into exploring gender identity/androgynism, something I still do today though I am recognized as cis-female.

Thank you so much for sharing this story! 🙂

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