Scared I'll Be Bullied if I Wear Things to School That Girls Typically Like

Published: August 23, 2016
Dear TeenHealthFX,
I'm a boy and at school, I wear a shirt, some jeans, some shoes, and some bracelets, which seems pretty normal; but if people saw me at home or looked in my closet, they'd be shocked. I love things that girls typically like - flower crowns, hair bows, "girly" bracelets, choker necklaces, dresses, nail polish, and even makeup. I also don't like being called handsome and I prefer to be called "beautiful" or "pretty." I even like being referred to as a princess. I know I'm not transgender because I don't feel like a girl or anything, and someone's clothes don't determine gender, but when I paint my nails or put bows in my hair or try on a dress I just kind of feel right, I guess. I kind of want to start wearing my chokers and my nail polish and stuff to school so I can truly be who I am, but I'm scared to be bullied. I don't believe in gender roles, but I know not many people feel the same way I do. Sometimes I feel almost guilty that I like the stuff I do. I guess it's just because I like things different than other guys. I don't know. Please help me know how to deal with this.
Signed: Scared I'll Be Bullied if I Wear Things to School That Girls Typically Like

Dear Scared I'll Be Bullied if I Wear Things to School That Girls Typically Like,

It can be very difficult, sometimes even painful, to feel we need to present in a certain way to others in order to feel accepted. This type of conflictual issue is one that many people in this world deal with because they feel, as you do, torn between wanting to be true to who they really are, yet not wanting to be picked on or bullied for it. 

In trying to decide whether or not to wear chokers, nail polish and other things that feel more true to who you are it would be helpful for you to think about the possible consequences of making that choice. You said that people may be shocked about this part of you and might bully you if you wear the things you’d like to. And the fact is that there is a very real possibility that this could happen. There is nothing wrong with your preferences. You have absolutely nothing to feel guilty or ashamed about for being the person you are. Unfortunately, not everyone in this world is able to be accepting and tolerant of people’s differences, whatever they may be. And you might find yourself dealing with some of those people. So in  making a decision about presenting yourself as more authentic, you will need to look at the price you might pay for that and whether it is worth it to you. You might feel that it is worth it to you to deal with potential negative reactions in order to be true to yourself. Or you may find that dealing with potential negative reactions is going to be too powerful or overwhelming to deal with at this point in your life and you would rather wait until you are in a more accepting, diverse environment where the risk will be lower.  

In making this decision TeenHealthFX would also recommend that you take a look at your current support system. Do you have family members and/or close friends who will be accepting of who you are and who will give you their full support? How supported you feel by family members and friends can certainly influence how ready you are to deal with negative reactions from people.

Since this is such a difficult, conflictual issue for you TeenHealthFX would like to encourage you to talk to someone about this. Having a trusted adult in your life who can provide you with the support and guidance you need is very important. You could speak to a family member, school counselor, or even a reputable therapist, such as a clinical social worker or clinical psychologist. Hopefully this person can help you to deal with any negative feelings you may have about this part of yourself (since you mentioned feeling guilty), as well as help you to decide what you want to do in terms of how to present at school.

If you live in northern New Jersey and need help finding a therapist you can call the Access Center from Atlantic Behavioral Health at 888-247-1400. Outside of this area you can log onto the US Department of Health and Human Services Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website for referrals in your area. You can also contact your insurance company to get a list of in-network mental health providers or check with your school social worker or psychologist to get a list of referrals in your area.

Signed: TeenHealthFX