Parents

13 Empowering Photos Show There's No 'Right' Way To Be A Boy

These photos showcase boys who love dancing, dolls, baking and more.
07/07/2016 10:27am ET | Updated July 7, 2016

A striking photo series is shining a light on kids who don’t let gender norms prevent them from following their dreams.

Since January, Canadian mom and photographer Kirsten McGoey has been interviewing and taking portraits of boys who pursue interests traditionally associated with girls for a project called #ABoyCanToo.

Kirsten McGoey of Trinity Design
"Sometimes he wears a dress with Iron Man shoes and socks, sometimes on it's own and sometimes with jeans," the photographer said of this little boy, who loves to dress up.

McGoey told The Huffington Post she drew inspiration for the project from her sons, who are 5, 8, and 11 years old. “I was inspired by movements that spoke to girls being awesome at things that were traditionally ‘boy’ because I was that tomboy girl growing up (still am),” she said, adding, “But that was not my story ― my life was being a mom to boys, and I always think the best art, the best messaging comes from people who live it.”

The photographer’s middle son in particular provided inspiration. “He never walked; he skipped and twirled, danced through his day,” she said, noting that some of his favorite activities are singing, acting, ballet and tap-dancing. “He loves sparkles, pink, rainbows, reading, and has never been concerned if something was ‘boy’ or ‘girl,’” the mom added.

#ABoyCanToo aims to empower kids who dare to embrace their true passions, even in the face of gender bias and bullying. McGoey started the project by photographing her own sons and then reached out to friends, acquaintances, past clients and even strangers on social media. To date, she has photographed 17 boys pursuing interests ranging from dancing to reading to figure skating.

Kirsten McGoey of Trinity Design
"Seeing the affection this little guy had for the doll was so rewarding and he wore the wrap like a pro. Boys love dolls and prove that #aboycantoo enjoy imagination play with a doll as much as a girl."

McGoey said she learned a great deal from her conversations with the boys. "The common thread was 'I am [dancing/skating/reading/acting/baking/etc] because it gave me a place in the world where I was good at something,'" she recalled. "In some cases it was the first time they were applauded, recognized and felt valued."

The mom hopes her photos will inspire other kids who may be hesitant to pursue their true passions. She also wants to change other peoples' perspectives about gender norms.

"I have been asked if I worry my son will be gay because he likes pink or dances," McGoey told HuffPost. "I cannot even comprehend how someone equates the two, but I know this project has to work to convince the people who still subscribe to this point of view. It's been quite a while since anyone has said this to me or to my son, he has a great class of friends who accept him as he is -- fun, smart and a pink-loving boy who dances."

Kirsten McGoey of Trinity Design
"Our third boy in our series has been skating for several years -- his skates are cutting a mean path on the ice out in south/west Ontario."

According to the photographer, the hardest part of the project has been talking to the older boys and learning about their negative experiences. “Many have bravely told me about the push back they get at their choices,” McGoey said. “But the interesting part is this project is awakening in them a realization that they play a crucial role in mentoring the boys who will come after them. This understanding of their role in society is a part of their journey and gives them value as they see they have a very important message to share as influencers.”

McGoey encourages other families to participate in the project and have discussions about the issues of restrictive gender stereotypes for both boys and girls.

Keep scrolling and visit her website and Facebook page to see more #aboycantoo portraits and dance class candids, along with captions from the photographer.

1
Kirsten McGoey of Trinity Design
"Boys love to do their hair, too! Our little boy loves to do his hair with all sorts of hair accessories. This is a hairdo done according to his instructions by his mom, me."
2
Kirsten McGoey of Trinity Design
"This is "L" and he is rocking some amazing hair and all the spunk of a threenager to boot. Long hair can be tough, so sometimes they gather it in a french braid to keep it out of the way. He is after all an active 3-year-old with a love of cars and trucks, spinning in circles and playing peek-a-boo!"
3
Kirsten McGoey of Trinity Design
"Since learning to read this #aboycantoo has read well over 500 books and currently reads at a teenage level ... He is crushing the stereotype that boys do not want to read one page and book at a time. One of his career aspirations is to be a librarian -- that or a math teacher -- but at 8, the world is full of possibilities so why limit him?"
4
Kirsten McGoey of Trinity Design
"With a smile that would melt the chocolate chips in the cookies he bakes this #aboycanbtoo is a huge baker. He loves to make all kinds of treats for himself and his family."
5
Kirsten McGoey of Trinity Design
"This talented dancer dances ballet, contemporary and tap (and more) at Jennifer's Arts in Motion Dance School and has been a huge source of inspiration for my son and myself. In his teens he has really embraced dance (and also plays hockey) and caught the eye of everyone who has had the pleasure of watching him communicate through this art form."
6
Kirsten McGoey of Trinity Design
"This is a new dress for Cian -- his mom and I call it the Scarlett O'Hara dress. Cian simply loves the way it moves, the flouncy hat and the hooped skirt (it's a soft hoop)."
7
Kirsten McGoey of Trinity Design
"The weekend was alive with dance recitals, and Brenden was lighting it up with an amazing hip hop routine (amongst others). We thought it was important to show you his smile as he often is emoting a more serious nature on stage but he is also very much capable of showing the joy dance brings to himself and his audience agreed!"
8
Kirsten McGoey of Trinity Design
"I had to capture this end of performance move from our stage loving boy who simply lights up when the lights go down and the spotlights turn on."
9
Kirsten McGoey of Trinity Design
"There are so many books that #aboycantoo read in each local library."
10
Kirsten McGoey of Trinity Design
"From the minute he walked it was a twirl, a skip and whirl. He can revolve on his feet without getting even a little dizzy. He was born to dance and take flight -- when he puts his mind to it with a piece of music and good choreography he lifts off -- literally. It's a blessing to call myself his mom and watch him grow."
Coverflip: Gendered Book Covers Turned Around