Feminist Conversations is a regular series here at Feminists for Choice. Today we are talking to Nils Pickert, a father we wrote about earlier this year who received global attention, support, and criticism for simply backing his son’s fondness for wearing skirts and dresses. We admire Nils’s persistent support of his son in face of such fuming controversy over a piece of cloth, and asked Nils a few questions concerning the issue.
When did you figure out that your son liked wearing dresses and skirts?
There was never a turning point or a special moment when I had to realize that my son wanted to wear skirts and dresses. I never taught my son to alienate clothes as being strictly associated to the opposite sex, therefore there was no need for him to decide against something. Skirts and dresses were always an option. About the age of three he found his own voice and started to make his own decisions. Since then he sometimes likes to skirt up.
What overall reactions have you received from the public?
When we lived in Berlin Kreuzberg, the urban district where the city is most alternative and wild, it wasn’t really an issue. There are many extraordinary people in this district and dressing in a skirt was just a conversation starter. When we moved to South Germany, which is more traditional, it became a bigger issue but not on the surface. People are very polite here, yet they teach their children to decline anything but normal. Hence my son got ridiculed in kindergarten and I had to do something.
Did you ever imagine that a piece of clothing would cause such global interest and controversy?
No, and I didn’t put on a dress to provoke a controversy. I did it to encourage my son. There is absolutely nothing wrong in wearing skirts or dresses – for both sexes. The global interest did just happen to me. I wrote an article about something which is important to me, the magazine asked for a photo and that’s it.
What do you say when people state that by letting your son wear skirts/dresses you are “turning your son gay”?
I think this is what really stirred the controversy. And this is where the whole thing gets dirty. So yes, I have to say something to those people: Either you are homophobic assholes or you are hypocrites. I can’t persuade hardcore homophobics but I can argue with the hypocrites. It seems that the buzz I’ve created, is somehow designed for pulling down the usual masks of tolerance. Now the real thoughts behind it are visible. Thoughts like:
Oh well, gay people are ok but I wouldn’t want my children turn out to be gay.
Wearing a dress turns a boy into a sissy.
An adult man, who wears a skirt, is either gay or tries to pull a stunt at the expense of his son.
First of all it is totally fine to be gay, period. Not just a bit or not just for the others. It’s fine. And second being gay is not a choice. Either I am gay or I’m not. It’s possible that people like to express their gayness by wearing a skirt, but wearing a skirt doesn’t make you gay. Wearing a soccer shirt doesn’t make me a pro. And by the way: If it would work like this, then either there shouldn’t be any gay kids from heterosexual parents or those parents would have failed in not applying to a kind of gayish parenting. What utter nonsense!
What are your hopes for the way we perceive gender in the future?
I hope that people will have a choice wherever it is possible and that they won’t be treated with hostility when they express a preference towards something that they feel they have no choice over at all. As long as expressing identity is not harmful to anybody, people should feel free to be who they are and to try what they could be. I hope we will tell better stories and teach more merciful ethics. And if we succeed, we might have built a new foundation for our children aside from Be a good boy! or Be a good girl! Just be yourself and be good.
What do you like to do on your spare time?
I like to spend time with my kids, to read and to cook. I also enjoy traveling, swimming, visiting peddlers markets, and renewing old furniture.
Photo depicting a stack of fabric was uploaded by flickr user TinyApartmentCrafts and shared under a Creative Commons license.