My mate looked at my three-year-old son, Colin, playing happily in his Elsa dress and turned to me.
He was a real blokey guy and I prepared myself for having to justify what my wife, Melina, and I were doing as parents.
"You let your son wear a dress?" He asked me.
"Yeah," I replied casually, hoping this wasn't going to end in an argument.
I knew that society had come a long way since I was a kid – a time when the boundaries for how males and females should behave were rigid to say the least. But there were still some people who hadn't accepted that, and I feared my mate might be one of them.
Suddenly, he started crying uncontrollably.
"Sorry," he began, "I just wish I'd been given that sort of acceptance as a kid."
I could understand his reaction. Growing up in country Queensland during the '90s, any young boy who wore a dress would have been given hell.
I admit that when Colin asked Melina and I for an Elsa doll, I was a little taken aback. But after my wife and I discussed it, we both agreed we wanted our son to be comfortable being himself and if that meant having a doll, we were fine with it.
Colin also wanted to wear an Elsa dress: she was his favourite character from Frozen and he couldn't get enough of her.
Watching him put on the dress and play was so inspiring. He had the courage to be himself, and wore the dress four times a week.
Both Melina and I had been professional dancers and each night before going to bed the three of us would have dance parties where we'd blast the Frozen song, Let It Go.
We'd sing and dance in costume and Colin would go to sleep the happiest boy in the world. But one day he came home from childcare looking upset.
"What's wrong, mate?" I asked.
"Someone said Elsa's only for girls," he trembled.
It was heartbreaking seeing how much this had upset him.
Melina and I sat down with him to talk it through.
"Elsa is for everyone," we explained to him .
We showed him pictures and videos of the Broadway performer, Billy Porter, who often wore dresses so he could see there was nothing wrong with being Elsa.
The experience made me think about why there weren't more stories of gender diversity out there.
I started researching, hoping to find books, TV shows or movies for kids that showed you could dress how you liked and be yourself.
Sadly, the few that I found all seemed to show it was better to conform and be like everyone else.
This is a story that needs to be told, I thought.
That night, I stayed up into the early hours writing a book for children that would share that message.
As the premiere of Frozen 2 grew closer, Colin was bursting with excitement.
"I get to see Elsa again!" he cried.
He wanted to wear his dress, but it would be his first time doing so in public, and as the date drew nearer, I could tell he was worried.
So I bought an adult-sized Elsa costume online for both myself and Melina.
"We can all be Elsa," I said.
On the big day, I got changed and we made our way into the city.
It had seemed like a great idea, but now we were in public I started to feel nervous, which was crazy considering I was a 35-year-old adult!
But from the moment we entered the cinema, everyone working there and many of the other families who'd come to watch Frozen 2 approached us and offered their support.
"That's the coolest thing I've seen," one guy said. "I wish I had the guts to do that."
Until then, I'd always been very cautious about keeping my child off social media and making sure our lives were private. But Melina thought sharing our story might help other kids.
"Did you see how people responded?" she asked.
"There must be so many young boys out there who don't feel accepted or loved for who they are."
I realised she was right.
I work as a designer, so I made a TikTok video.
My son wanted to dress as Elsa to go to the cinema, it began.
I said there is no way you're doing that… alone.
The video of me and Colin in our Elsa dresses went viral and in no time at all, I was being flooded with messages of support from around the world. Some of them were heartbreaking.
I wish I could tell my parents who I really am but they wouldn't understand, some wrote.
Since publishing my book, My Shadow is Pink, I'm working to change this.
Colin, now seven, still loves Elsa, though he's equally fond of playing Batman, too.
Kids should be able to play and dress as whoever they want.
I admit that Elsa has become a favourite of mine.
She's a great character who teaches kids about the importance of being true to themselves, and I hope that by sharing my story I'm encouraging others to do the same.
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Now To LoveJul 26, 2021