Recently, there have been stories of children being ostracized, bullied and even pushed to suicide because of gender identity and differences. My Princess Boy is the nonfiction story of one of Cheryl Kilodavis’ sons who likes the color pink, shiny things and wearing dresses. Where many parents would try to correct this behavior, Kilodavis supports and encourages her son to be himself and accepts him as he is. The story tells of their shopping trips together to buy sparkly things, as well as how his brother and father interact with him and promote his individuality. My Princess Boy is about compassion for others, understanding difference, and the interconnectivity between parents, educators and children that is needed to cultivate self-confident and considerate youth.
Children need to learn that we all come to this world with differences and each of us is an individual with a diverse background. Something that assisted Cheryl Kilodavis in finding acceptance and assurance through her son is her biracial background. Having to synthesize difference within herself allows her to acknowledge her son’s distinct personality. Princess Boy is encouraged by his family; his brother plays and dances with him, his father tells him “how pretty he looks in a dress” (p. 7), and his mother shops for girls’ clothes with him. The issues come when strangers stare and laugh at him and his mother. Kilodavis and her husband have found ways to integrate his individuality into their daily lives: he wore a dress to his birthday party, he plays with friends wearing his princess tiara, and dressed as a princess for Halloween. This story serves as a lesson for many of us who would attempt to quickly stifle this behavior by telling a child, “boys don’t wear dresses” or “that is for girls.” Thus, we are telling them that something is wrong with them, that difference is iniquitous, and diversity is inappropriate. The Princess Boy is a vital tool for educators who may be dealing with the issue of gender identity and acceptance and would like to introduce to students the ideas of tolerance and acknowledgement.
Parents in the 21st century face tough decisions when raising children. In environments of love and support, children can thrive and learn to accept themselves and others. Although My Princess Boy does not explicitly address the idea of being bullied, it does note how others laugh at the young boy and how he questions his mother about others’ reactions. This theme of ostracism is weaved throughout the book, and one can just imagine how Princess Boy and his family are viewed in the community and the school where he is allowed to wear dresses. Some will come to this title with reservations, but until there is a time where differences are celebrated and not dishonored, stories such as this must continue to be told. Conveyed with a sense of realism, love and honesty, My Princess Boy asks in its resolution how children will react to Princess Boy. It asks, will you laugh, call him a name, play with him and like him for who he is? These are important questions educators can use with students to get honest answers and have pertinent discussions regarding diversity and acceptance. Kilodavis’ Princess Boy “is happy because [they] love him for who he is” (p. 24). She truthfully declares, “My Princess Boy is your Princess Boy” (p. 25-26). In this final line of the story, she emphasizes the responsibility of each of us to encourage and nurture a child’s individualism and uniqueness.