Gender stereotypes strike again. This time an after-school club in the U.K. has given five-year-old Romeo Clarke the boot—not because he’s committing offenses like biting other children or swearing at teachers. Nope, the child’s intolerable infraction is that he likes to wear princess dresses.
Romeo, who lives in the town of Rugby, about 70 miles north of London, was kicked out of the Buzz Children’s Club after-school program, which is run by the Rugby Christian Fellowship. Romeo has attended the school since September, but three weeks ago the club’s staff told his mother, Georgina Clarke, that his attire was “confusing” the other children.
Clarke told the Mirror that the head of the club “took me to one side after I dropped him off and said, ‘Romeo will be welcomed back when he wears clothes [that] match his gender.’ ”
“I was so cross when I was told he couldn’t wear dresses I was speechless. All I could ask was why,” said Clarke.
The head of the after-school program, Bex Venable, said that Romeo is simply being “asked to wear clothing of the gender stated on his registration form, which states male.” Venable also said that the program’s request is in line with the policy of Romeo’s school, which has separate uniforms for boys and girls.
Romeo has amassed an incredible dress collection. He has 100 dresses, some of which are probably hand-me-downs from his three older sisters. The adorable child also has eight pairs of kiddie heels, wears nail polish, and enjoys playing with Barbie dolls.
Although men and boys have worn skirts or “dresses” for much of history—the Greeks considered wearing pants something only barbarians did—in modern times we’ve gender-segregated clothing, toys, personal care products, and even school backpacks.
Back in March, instead of encouraging other students to be more open-minded and empathetic, a North Carolina school told a male student who was being bullied over his My Little Pony backpack that he could no longer bring it to school. Similarly, Venable told the Mirror that the club “seeks to follow our usual safeguarding guidelines, and we did so in this case in order to avoid any confusion or possible conflict or teasing from other children.”
However, in this instance, the other students don’t seem to have an issue with Romeo’s affinity for dresses. Clarke told the Mirror she asked other parents if they were bothered by her son’s attire, and all of them said they didn’t find his love of pink—he wears something in that color every day—or his dresses to be a problem.
Clarke has no plans to make her son change clothes. Romeo isn’t “trapped in a girl’s body—he’s a normal tomboy,” she told the Mirror. He just happens to like wearing dresses. “What is wrong with that?” she asked.