Family Time | The story of our genderbending Elf on the Shelf
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The story of our genderbending Elf on the Shelf

The story of our genderbending Elf on the Shelf

Our Elf was given to us. It wasn’t a trend I was interested in. It’s work. But my mom gave it to Henry and we couldn’t back out after that. Inevitably, every night we are in bed and then remember the Elf on the Shelf and curse the thing as we get up to go plop it somewhere else.

I actually got half creative one night because I remembered it before I went to bed, and made a tea party. In the morning Henry’s reaction was, “Mom, did you do that?”

The kid is too smart.

Anyway, there we were at Finders Keepers, during a book signing for April March, the “First Lady of Burlesque.” And Laura Roth is being lovely and offers to buy Henry an Elf on the Shelf outfit while I’m chatting with a friend I haven’t seen in years, who happens to be trans. And that may or may not be relevant to the story because I think I would have reacted the same regardless, but either way, I was just aware of my reaction mattering.

Henry chooses a satin bejeweled skirt for the elf, whose name is Captain. Captain has always struck me as a dude. We’ve used male pronouns with Captain.

So that’s what he chooses, this fancy skirt. Laura and I look at each other and say, okay. And then Henry picks a football jersey and says “this, too.”

My best guess at his thought process is that he wanted an outfit, a top to go with the bottom. Laura generously makes the purchase, I chat with my friend, and we go on our way. The fact that he chose a skirt for his male elf, a nonissue (except for the confused look his grandparents gave when he showed them what he chose). It’s not a thing.

Later, when we got home, we read he box to learn about the items, “showed” the clothes to Captain, speculated about magic and whether clothes became magic when the elf puts them on, if they will keep Captain warm, and so on… and then I pushed a little.

“So you chose a skirt and a sports jersey for Captain.”


“I wonder, is Captain a boy or a girl?”
A boy.

“Are sport jerseys for boys and girls?”


“Are skirts for boys and girls?”

Yes. Well, not really. But yes.

There it is. Okay, then. I think we have an open minded child who hasn’t been forced into gender norms, who likes what he likes, and wanted something cool for his elf, who also just likes what he likes. It’s not a thing. I’m relieved he’s not subscribing to this whole “pink is for girls” business.

It’s clothes. He just picked something he liked.

This skirt is fancy. Tonight Captain is hanging with the other fancily dressed folks we have around for the holidays. Maybe they’re having a party and complimenting each other on their fancy clothes.

Maybe tomorrow he will be found near the stash of sporting goods we have.

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