Should I Let My Gender-Creative Son Have Co-Ed Sleepovers?

4d64c5bac7e3c9b241180a49738a3d8efcae21dd“Mom, how come I never get invited to sleepovers?” my first grader asked from the backseat as we drove home from school one day last year. “Hannah had one and then Emma had one and now Olivia is having one and I never get invited.”

My heart sank a little, because I always knew this line of questioning would come someday, and I also knew the chances of my child being invited to a sleepover were slim to none. My son’s friends have always been girls, and co-ed sleepovers for kids are typically frowned upon by society — or at least by the conservative, image-conscious part of South Orange County in which we live.

As my eight-year-old son C.J. explains it, he’s a boy who only likes girl things and wants to be treated like a girl. He says he’s not transgender, and self-identifies as “gender nonconforming.” My husband and I think he’s gender courageous.

As we navigate this unique parenting journey, we don’t always have quick answers to C.J.’s questions.

Is it okay for boys and girls to have sleepovers together?…

Click here to read the rest of this blog post, which is featured on Yahoo! Parenting.


About raisingmyrainbow is a blog about the adventures in raising a fabulous, gender creative son.
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37 Responses to Should I Let My Gender-Creative Son Have Co-Ed Sleepovers?

  1. Mamma says:

    I might be naive, perhaps outdated and probably heavily influenced by growing up in a tiny town at a time when sex/sexuality and kids just wasn’t talked or worried about, but everytime I read or hear about a debate or confusion about kids of opposite gender mixing I really find myself getting quite worked up and sad. They are kids! They don’t need to consider if their friends are girls or boys, and neither should their parents. I hope that my little girl is lucky enough to form friendships with girls and boys, and if her best friend who happens to be a boy one day turn out to being a potensial boyfriend, well… how lucky aren’t they! (Dont get me wrong I am not saying I will be facilitating sleepovers for underaged boyfriend/girlfriend) And that’s when sleepovers becomes something to channge or adjust, not before! And in C.J’s case, how blessed to be not conformed by gender at this age, too see the world through open eyes, simply looking for friendships with kids who share same interests and passions! I am sorry the world is so much about sex and right and wrongs, let kids be kids, and lets not spoile their womderful world with our issues.

  2. susinko says:

    I think having mixed sleep overs at that age is just fine! It’s all about friendship and giggles. Now that my daughter and is sixteen, it gets trickier. One of my daughter’s friends (who happens to be gay) would probably be okay because all they do is talk about boys and dance together. I don’t feel that anything inappropriate would happen.

    Now when my daughter’s ex-boyfriend asked to spend the night… Yeah, no. H*** no! My daughter broke up with him because he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer and my daughter slapped him in the face. I still wouldn’t let one of her hetero male friends spend the night because it’s too much of a temptation. I was sixteen once too.

    In any case, when my daughter has friends over, the door stays open. Girl or boy, it doesn’t matter. Although I think I’ve taught my daughter well, teens are still kids and are still learning good judgement skills.

  3. ddcasale says:

    That’s interesting, we don’t have that kind of distinction here in brazil, I remember having boys to sleep over at my place while being a girl, the problem was during teen years only. I think making such distinction is just as bad as not letting girls play with boys toys and vice versa, we’re only encouraging sexism.

  4. I am currently expecting my first child. The father (no longer in the picture) had a huge issue with me being okay with my child being able to make any choice they want when it comes to gender. When it comes to sleepovers children should be able to have sleepovers with their FRIENDS. Friends can be boys or girls or any other gender they identify with. Children are children and that is that. Limiting a sleepover for young children based on gender is quite equal to saying that white children can only have white children at their sleepover. It’s a primitive way of thinking and people should realize that as a society we are moving past those days. So proud of you for letting your child be who they want to be. Such a beautiful thing.

  5. Sounds just like my son.

  6. witnessmom says:

    Way to go. Another creative solution. I relate because my son and C.J. sound identical! I’love be honest that I haven’the yet asked his friends’ moms if the girls can sleep over. Maybe I’mean afraid.
    Anyway, my son is one year older than C.J., and we live in conservative Georgia. All his friends are girls, loves all dolls–does not like ” boys toys”, dresses up daily in girl clothing. .. very courageous regarding gender!!
    He and I have both been inspired by your book and your blog. ..I don’t feel so alone. I even started my own blog about my experiences.
    Best wishes to you both
    Witnessmom at

  7. shaz64 says:

    It’s absolutely okay for him to have sleepovers!

  8. That’s great that he got his sleepover! I don’t know why people worry so much about co-ed sleepovers. It’s silly.

  9. Dana says:

    My 10-year-old son is gender non-conforming and all of his friends have always been girls.Thankfully, the parents of those girls have invited him to many sleepovers and we are happy to do the same. We live in Los Angeles where most parents we encounter are pretty enlightened and evolved and realize that children can be friends with whomever they choose–regardless of sex or gender. This may all change when he reaches his teenage years, but I’ve noticed more and more acceptance and tolerance in our world in the 10 years that I’ve been raising my son, so I hope this continues in the right direction. I can’t thank you enough for your blog–it’s been quite a journey and your blog has been a huge source of comfort and strength!!

  10. Becca says:

    Of course it’s ok for them to have mixed sleepovers! They’re 8, they’re not going to be having sex at that age! Poor CJ. Have you thought of hosting a sleepover for him, with his girl friends- even if the parents say no, you can maybe discuss exactly what it is they don’t like about it and perhaps will be able to nullify their fears? Just a thought!

  11. OMG Lori, I read the comments on yahoo and ignorant is an understatement! I knew people were slow but wow that was a whole new level… I wanted to reply to each and every one of them to educate them… and then I got to thinking how are people in America so uneducated still? All I can say is Thank god you are writing articles like this one to expand their tiny minds!! Please post more articles!!!! Everyone, please share your stories loud and proud!! 🙂

    I have a gay HS son, who wasn’t invited to any sleepovers until he “came out” in HS and then he is often invited to and the only boy allowed to “stay over” when the girls are having a night out. The bigger problem is sneaking alcohol as opposed to sex in coed straight gay overnights.

    My worry is on band/school trips he wants to room with his boyfriend… there are usually 4 to a room and the school automatically will let him bc boys can room with boys… but I don’t trust him not to try something sexual even if 2 other boys are sleeping in the bed next to them… teenage boys and hormones overcome any will power… so Ive had to email the director and asked to switch rooms for him but this gets weird and I don’t want to out anyone. I feel schools should be a little more “aware” that they will have LGBT kids on a trip and they need to have a policy that no romantic partners can room together… what are your thoughts on this?

    • Cris says:

      My thought is that sexual activity between teens is absolutely normal and as long as the parent makes sure their child knows that “no means no” and they should never do anything they aren’t comfortable with, then it’s not the parent’s business. With opposite sex teens, pregnancy is the #1 reason to put a kibbosh on it. With same sex couples, that’s not an issue – though STD’s may be, so tell them to wrap it up and be safe 🙂

  12. JJ24 says:

    I’m glad CJ got his sleepover, hopefully he’ll eventually get to go to a slumber party. Some of my best memories from child and my teen years where slumber parties with my three best friends(two girls and one guy). Hell even now in are mid twenties we still have sleepovers all though we never call them that. I’m not aware of any issues any of our parents had with these coed sleepovers except for my dad when I was a teen(after I officially came out as gay) he was hesitant to let my guy best friend sleep over any more even though he was/is straight(which my dad wasn’t sure on). So there was a brief month or two where he couldn’t sleep over but my two female best friend could, eventually my dad got past it/finally believed he was straight and let him sleep over again(no other guys though). I was gender nonconforming as a kid(still am)so most likely my friend parents(the girls ones at least) never even remotely worried about me being interested in their daughters(in the teen years of course).

  13. missrosie77 says:

    Growing up my best friends were usually boys, and my parents would allow sleep overs. We slept in the family room and never had issues. As I got older my closest friends tended to be girls, but once I hit high school my parents allowed boy girl sleep overs at our house with groups of people. My son is 5 and starting kindergarten in September. He has very little interest in playing with boys or doing anything a “typical boy” would do. I don’t think he’s ready for sleep overs yet, but I hope that he has friends who include him. I fear that he will not be invited to birthdays and other parties because he is not the same gender as his friends. I hope that’s not the case, and I will do everything I can to reach out to the parents of his friends early and often so that we can build relationships, trust, and respect.

    I did start reading the comments on Yahoo, even though I know I shouldn’t have. I guess my takeaway from them are that people are ignorant. We all know that, but I guess I can’t fault them all for not understanding. Unless they know someone personally who is gender nonconforming it just doesn’t make sense. Maybe someday they will get the honor of meeting a person like CJ or any of our kids, and they will get it.

  14. Emily says:

    I don’t think it’s any issue. The only time I can recall being restricted from guy/girl sleepovers was middle school, and that was largely because there had been issues with teen sex (not with our group) at Summer Camp the year prior and the collective group of parents wanted them addressed thoroughly.

    As high schoolers we went back to guy/girl sleepovers, granted I grew up in what has been called the Peoples Republic of Marin County. Kids want to have sleepovers to be close with their friends. Why it would be an issue for elementary schoolers, I don’t know.

    I worry about all of these parents that are so focused on sex, sex, sex. God forbid you have mentally intimate relationships with someone of the opposite gender.

    Plus… kids desire closeness. I know that as a kid (we’re talking five-eight), the only way I could take a nap was if I imagined my future spouse sleeping next to me. We’re very conditioned in America to prize the wife/wife-husband/husband-husband/wife relationship from an incredibly early age.

  15. When we were first asked about a co-ed sleepover, we asked our 7yo “do you think his mother will be okay with that? what can we do to make him and his mother comfortable?” With our daughter, we came up with a plan involving the kids sleeping in the family room, and we did a little role-playing with both our kids about showing the visitor where he could change his clothes etc. This gave us a chance to check in with our kids about how to navigate concepts of body privacy to suit everyone’s needs, and to support both of them in their choices to pursue friendships with kids of different genders. And the friend’s mum said okay and they had several sleepovers while they were friends.

    Then when our kids got to be teenagers, on weekends we often hosted out-of-town kids from their activity, usually more than one. We appreciated the way their crowd didn’t seem to separate into boys and girls. Our tolerant approach to chaperonage wouldn’t have suited some families, but it seemed to work for our kids’ friends’ parents.

  16. Kris Bruneau says:

    Ugh, the comments over at Yahoo are nauseating. I don’t know how you put up with them, Lori. Maybe you just don’t read them.

    I hope that with time, CJ will have more friends whose parents are open to sleepovers with him. I was watching I Am Jazz last week, and she had a sleepover with a whole bunch of girls. I can just picture CJ orchestrating a fashion show with a bunch of friends in the middle of the night.

  17. lutiesmom says:

    It’s a tricky thing– my 9 year old gender creative son is invited to coed sleepovers (sometimes the only boy to be invited to his girlfriends’ sleepovers). His small private school has all-school camping trips and school sleepovers and he is very lucky to have a wonderful circle of school friends with families that are inclusive and accepting. However, in the past has had other female friends who did not invite him to “girls-only” afternoon or pool parties (clearly this was a parental choice more than the children’s choice) and I’m sure he will deal with this in the future again. It’s difficult, as any exclusion is, but it definitely comes down to families and children that are accepting and will keep your child safe- and these situations remind my child to be as inclusive and accepting as possible as well.

  18. Lucy says:

    I am a girl who has always been more masculine and tomboyish. When I was CJ’s age, my friends were mostly boys and we had sleepovers. I remember feeling left out when we got older and that didn’t happen anymore. Now that I’m in high school, I again have sleepovers with my guy best friends.

  19. Shawn says:

    Thanks for your family’s continued bravery. I don’t know how you do it it. But my family is truly appreciative of ability to share your journey.

  20. May says:

    I hadn’t even considered that people might have a problem with mixed-gender sleepovers for pre-pubescent children. I think I’d probably be ok with my (hypothetical at present) teenage children having a friend of a different gender stay over, providing I trusted them enough to allow them have anyone stay. How are children supposed to become functional adults if we don’t let them figure out their own boundaries and develop their own judgement? Anyway, it’s lovely that CJ is able to have sleepovers with friends, I remember really enjoying them as a child (as long as the group wasn’t too large).

  21. Silvara says:

    I grew up in Orange County. I also had co-ed sleepovers until I was 10-11 (when the boys stopped wanting to sleep over). No one ever had an issue with it to my knowledge. We all slept in the living room, changed clothes in either the bathroom or one of the bedrooms. Stayed up way too late at night giggling and chatting until we dropped off to sleep. We’d have breakfast together and sit around chatting some more until all the kids had been picked up. It was lots of fun. Granted this was the ’80’s and early 90’s, but back then it didn’t seem like it was a big deal.

    My best friends and I did it again in high school. From 10th grade until we graduated. We’d usually go over to one girls house because she had a 16-person tent. We’d set it up in her backyard after school friday, and not leave until either late sunday night or just before school on monday. This was a weekly occurrence for 3 years. Again, no one seemed to care.

    So I think if you get the right group, it wouldn’t be an issue. People who actually know C. J., don’t have any issues with him being friends with their daughters.

  22. jonathanmayo says:

    I had coed sleepovers with friends that were practically siblings. We slept out in the open. But we were also in a conservative southern town, so as we got older those sleepovers did fade off.

  23. Tammy says:

    My 9 year old son is also gender non conforming. He as your son puts it, is “a boy who likes girl things”. We have been very fortunate to have his female friends’ parents be VERY suppotive of my son and his gender expression. So yes, my son has attended sleepovers are his friends homes. The only issue we have ever encountered was one time at a party another girl that was attending was speaking to her parents, and when they found out he was sleeping over they came and picked her up and wouldn’t let her stay over. I felt horrible, but the mother who was hosting the party was very gracious and told me not to worry about it, it was THEIR issue,and no one else’s…the rest of the night went without a hitch and my son had the time of his life-playing dance party and doing make up. 🙂

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  25. Bee says:

    I think co-ed sleepovers are just fine, even if CJ ends up being a heterosexual cisgender dude. I just finished being a teenage girl, and one of my (heterosexual, cis female) friends always invited a few heterosexual, cis male friends over for sleepovers. None of us wanted to sleep with them, we just wanted to watch movies and throw popcorn on them when they talked. Ultimately it’s up to you and your family on how you feel about it, but I personally think that even if CJ ends up liking girls that he won’t necessarily be attracted to his girl friends he wants to have sleepovers with, if that makes sense.

  26. Dawn says:

    My oldest daughter’s best friend beginning in 5th grade happened to be a guy, and he was gay. I never had a problem with them sleeping over at my house or his. I trusted them both completely, and it was obvious to see them together that they had a very special BEST friend bond. Once they got into JH and High School I saw no reason to stop these sleepovers. The other kids (2 girls/1 boy) never had co-ed sleepovers only because it never came up. Their best friends happened to be of the same gender. The oldest is now 24 years old and teaches 4th grade. She will tell you that treating her best friend as just that, was a very good thing. It’s always nice to hear you made a good parenting decision after they’re old enough to look back!

  27. Ariel says:

    It’s absolutely okay! Think of all the reasons why people don’t allow them…none of those reasons usually apply to children. Many people give grown up qualities to children who really are just innocent. Having a co-Ed sleepover at 8 years old won’t change that.

  28. Marti says:

    I’m 37 and when I was about 8, I had a boy best friend who was the same age. I was slightly tomboyish but otherwise we were both gender conforming and we used to have sleepovers. It was just the two of us, no other children. At his mom’s house, we had to sleep in separate rooms and at my house, we both slept in the living room sometimes on pallets on the floor or at opposite ends of the same couch. Ironically, I remember having had a little crush on this boy years before when we were in kindergarten together but being his playmate had totally erased any crush-like feelings so that were just buddies who liked to bikeride and have pretend swordfights w/ baseball bats. I’m glad that you’ve been able to find parents of CJ’s friends that are ok w/ the coed sleepovers. 🙂

  29. andy says:

    My son’s school offers a sleepover as part of a fundraising auction every year. This year my son’s friend won it and he go to invite 9 kids. He chose 7 boys (including my son) and 2 girls. Not one of them batted an eye about it being co-ed. These kids ranged in age from 10-12.

  30. Heather says:

    My 9 yr old gender non-conforming son has girls as friends. He has sleepovers at our house with one girl. Her mom is very excepting of it. Hayden, my son, thinks it’s the greatest thing. Why shouldn’t they have a sleepover like other children their age. Girls are his best friends & they connect on a different level. It’s great to see him fostering friendships with his “BFFs”.

  31. Kate says:

    I just asked one of my best boy friends about his experience. We met in highschool, but he and his two best girl friends have been a threesome since first starting school. They are still a threesome even though they have each found husbands, 6 is a hard number to fit in a car I’m told, and two of them are pregnant, guess which two. He still remembers not being invited to one particular birthday party. Makes me really sad for my friend, and for CJ.

  32. bmommyx2 says:

    I think as long as the other parents & kids are aware beforehand it’s no big deal. Also they should be supervised to a point & either sleep out in the open like the living room or separate rooms. When I was in Jr. High (maybe 8th or 9th grade) I went to a birthday party that was a co-ed sleepover & no one thought anything of it. I don’t think I knew there would be boys there, but I guess my friend had several close boy friends. We all slept in the living room on the floor. We all went to the bathroom or a bedroom to change. It was the early 80’s before helicopter parenting & predator alert paranoia. I do have a neighbor who has a daughter a few years younger than my son & when they play she’s no longer allowed in our house & they can’t play upstairs at hers. I don’t get it, but I respect their choices.

  33. Denster says:

    Absolutely ….I allowed my son to have co-ed sleepovers all the way thru high school. The kids are so much more aware of boundaries and communicate among themselves and with us as parents better than we did as kids. It’s about friends, and not sexual, even when they were teens, because the sleepover crew were all about their hanging with their buddies, not boyfriend/girl friends trying to get one over on the adults. My son is gay, but I don’t think that played a part in it for the most part. Although as he got older, when he slept over at a girl friends house, being gay helped convince the girls’ dads it was OK since it was apparent that it wasn’t about being sexual with his daughter.. Once the parents got to know my son and who he was as a person, ( he was a great contributing guest, including loving to cook for the host family) they felt secure knowing it would be fine and, it was a common occurrence among the gaggle of kids at various homes. We live in different times, and I was happy to accommodate the gang at our home, Gave me the safety knowing where they were. Lori, you just have to find the right group of kids with parents who understand the importance of kids need to connect in various ways with their friends, and when boys and girls are together doesn’t always indicate sexual activity, it’s not an automatic. It’s usually the parents being over protective, putting their own anxieties or sexual history onto their kids. Good luck. .

  34. I love the therapist’s response: “My husband and I shouldn’t worry about our stance on co-ed sleepovers in general, Tando said. We should only decide how we feel about co-ed sleepovers for C.J. “Parents should follow their gut and grant sleepovers on a case-by-case basis,” she explained. “They have to consider the developmental stage and wellbeing of their child and the trustworthiness of the adult who will be supervising the sleepover. But, all of those considerations are for all sleepovers — not just the co-ed kind.” Perfect.

    • Just realized there was more to the article and read it to the end. I love how you handled the situation. And with so many things in life, you have to take into consideration development, where a kid is at, and case by case situations. You’re doing great!

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