When the school day is over, 5-year-old Romeo Clarke rushes home and gets to work having fun.
While he likes swimming and rock-climbing, Romeo’s favorite thing to do at that time is donning one of about 100 dresses around the house, preferably pink — he has to wear something pink every day — and belting out songs in high heels.
“He wears his dress to the supermarket and sings down the aisles,” Romeo’s 36-year-old mother, Georgina, told The Mirror. “He isn’t bothered what people think…I’m proud he is so free and comfortable with himself.”
“He took a Barbie to school the other week,” she added. “I did warn him the other children might say something but he didn’t care.”
Well, something indeed has been said about Romeo’s tastes — but in this case it didn’t come from other children and it didn’t come from his school, St. Marie’s Catholic Primary School in England.
It came from an after-school play group — Buzz Children’s Club — run by Rugby Christian Fellowship Church. Georgina was told that Romeo could come back if he “wears clothes which match his gender,” she recalled.
“I was shocked and surprised,” Georgina told the Mirror. “The leader, who is a really lovely lady, said she didn’t think it was appropriate he wore the dress. She said it was upsetting and confusing the other children.”
“I asked three other parents if Romeo wearing the dress concerned them or their children in any way and they all said no.”
So Romeo’s mom lodged a discrimination complaint with the playgroup: “Wearing the dress is his choice and if wearing it makes him happy it’s fine with me,” she told the Mirror.
“This is not a case of my son being trapped in a girl’s body — he’s a normal tom-boy who, because he has three big sisters, likes wearing dresses…If he asks for it, they straighten his hair and paint his nails when they are doing theirs.”
“What does the gender matter? Romeo keeps asking when he is going back and I don’t know what to say. He is going to be so upset — he loves going to play there.”
And where does Romeo’s father stand?
“I don’t care if he wears the dress,” Winston Morris, 42, a builder, told the Mirror. “He can be whatever he wants to be.”
“I am not happy with the way the whole thing has been dealt with. We think he has been singled out and he definitely won’t be going back.”
Bex Venables, the Minister in Training at the Rugby Christian Fellowship, didn’t back away from the group’s decision.
“Georgina’s son is still allowed to attend Buzz Children’s Club but has been asked to wear clothing of the gender stated on his registration form, which states male,” she noted. “This request is no different from what is asked by his school, where he wears a boy’s uniform.”
“Buzz Children’s 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.”
Indeed it doesn’t look like Romeo will be returning any time soon, though: “He will just have to go somewhere else,” his mother stated.