Her son isn't gay, queer, or transgender: He just likes to wear dresses.

Mom Crystal Kells says her son Cian asked to try on one of her dresses when he was only 4 years old.

All photos by Kells' Natural Photography, used with permission

Cian loved it so much, he soon started begging her for a dress of his own.


From there, it simply turned into something her now 5-year-old son liked to do: Wear dresses.

"I was a little worried about him getting teased," Kells said in a message, "but quickly realized that Cian was going to base how he should react from me. So, I made sure I was confident and indifferent about it."

When Kells, a photographer, started snapping photos of Cian in his favorite dresses, the internet fell in love.

And why wouldn't they? The pictures are breathtaking.

At first, she only shared the photos on her Facebook and Instagram pages, where the response was small but supportive.

This past week, though, she wrote a powerful column explaining her decision to let Cian wear what he wants and to show her beautiful son off to the world.

"This is my son Cian and he loves to wear dresses," she wrote. "We’ve never taught it to him 'This is for girls and this is for boys' and we never will."

As far as she knows, Cian isn't gay, queer, or transgender. He just sees beyond what society says is "OK" for boys to do and wear.

She also wrote that she and Cian's father will support Cian however his gender manifests itself down the road:

"The most important thing to us is the health and happiness of our son."

"I want my son to grow up knowing he has a voice," she wrote. "Grow up knowing he can do and be anything he wants to be in this world."

The boost in exposure brought with it some extra criticism, Kells says. But for every critic, she gets an email from a parent who's going through something similar with their own child.

The support has been pouring into her inbox since the photos went viral, with a heartwarmingly large amount of people seeing something more than just a boy in a dress:

They see a happy kid.

For now, that's enough. She can't predict how Cian will choose to express himself weeks from now, let alone years. She has no idea if he'll continue to wear dresses as he gets older.

She hopes they'll be able to raise him not to regret the choices that brought him genuine joy.

True

If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.