This is Roo, a 3-year-old boy in Plymouth, Massachusetts, who loves wearing dresses and tutus. Although sometimes people occasionally stop and ask about his outfits, Roo's mom says one man took it way too far last week.
Jen Anderson Shattuck said she was walking her son to the park last Tuesday when an unfamiliar man stopped them.
"He came up very close to me and said, 'Why do you keep doing this to your son?'" Shattuck told BuzzFeed News.
"I told him, as calmly as I could because I was really unnerved, that [Roo] asks to. He immediately went directly into Roo’s face and said 'she really shouldn’t keep doing this to you, you’re a boy,'" she said.
Shattuck said the man told Roo that she was a "bad mommy" and a child abuser. He then took out a phone and started snapping photos of Roo.
"Now everyone will know," she said he told them. "You'll see."
Shattuck was furious, but said she didn't want to Roo to think it's okay to get physical when angry. "It took everything I had not to smash his phone to the ground of hit him or push him away," she said.
She said she waited until the man had backed off before returning home so the man wouldn't know where they lived. Shattuck was shaken and to make things worse, her wife Audra was travelling for work and couldn't be reached.
"In that moment, right afterwards, it was really unnerving and I was really afraid for our safety," she said.
After talking to friends, she decided to call the police.
Capt. John Rogers of the Plymouth Police Department confirmed to BuzzFeed News that an officer spoke with Shattuck that evening about "a male party [that] made some derogatory comments about her son."
Police haven't been able to find the man, but they made a plan with Shattuck to call 911 if he appears again.
The next day she posted about the incident on Facebook. The man had told them "everyone will know" and Shattuck thought, "everyone should know, because theres nothing wrong with what we did."
"I will not be intimidated. I will not be made to feel vulnerable or afraid. I will not let angry strangers tell my son what he can or cannot wear. The world may not love my son for who he is, but I do. I was put on this earth to make sure he knows it," she wrote.
She added: "I will show him, in whatever way I can, that I value the person he is, trust in his vision for himself, and support his choices — no matter what anybody else says, no matter who tries to stop him or how often."
The post has now been shared more than 45,000 times.
People have even started taking photos of themselves wearing tutus in solidarity, using the hashtag #TutusForRoo.
Shattuck says her Facebook inbox is also now full of supportive messages.
"Everything from 'my child is also like this,' to, 'if I had parents like you when I was growing up I would have come out sooner,'" she said. "Those are the ones I just can’t handle hearing — from older queer or trans people, saying their entire life would have been different. It’s been intensely moving for me."
As for Roo, he's pretty unfazed. Although he did ask whether people wanted to hurt him, he refuses to stop wearing the things that make him feel beautiful.
Right after the incident, Shattuck explained to him that the man thought she was a bad mom for letting him wear tutus.
"He was like, 'but you’re not,'" said Shattuck. "I'm never taking them off now."
He ended up wearing dresses and tutus to bed for the next four nights.
Shattuck and her wife believe in letting Roo wear whatever he wants, whether to the park, or at home, or to the Unitarian Universalist church they visit every Sunday.
When they ask him why he loves the tutus much, Shattuck says he always says the same thing: "I feel beautiful, I feel brave, I like the way they look."
Lauren Strapagiel is Managing Editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in Toronto, Canada.
Contact Lauren Strapagiel at email@example.com.
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