I’m not exactly sure why this was on my mind today. Maybe it’s because our state just legalized same-sex marriage, and I’m considering the future that my kids’ generation has ahead. Maybe it’s the venom with which I’ve heard people talking about it and the push to attend protests. I don’t know. Whatever it is, I began thinking about the way in which people like to categorize, stereotype, and affix blame when it comes to homosexuality.
Let’s fast-forward and imagine we’ve woken up with my kids being teenagers. If you (and by “you,” I don’t mean all of my friends; but you know who you are) found out that my daughter was a lesbian, you might have a lot of reactions to that. You might feel sorry for me. You might say “tsk” and shake your head at my wayward daughter. You might try to reassure me that it’s just a phase, or that girls sometimes like to “experiment” and that she’ll out grow it. You might offer to pray for me.
The one thing you wouldn’t do is blame me.
In part, that’s because my daughter isn’t a “gay stereotype.” She is hardly the tomboy, aggressive, unfeminine kind of girl people might imagine when they think of lesbians. My daughter is a girlie girl. She is bubbly and feminine (although she is outspoken). Almost all of her toys can be found in the “girls” section of Toys R Us. Even when she wears her brother’s outgrown clothes, she has to decorate them with something pink or purple. She would rather wear dresses than pants (which is a source of annoyance int the winter, as she hates tights). Although she’s not interested in dolls, she loves to be mommy to her stuffed animal friends and dress them up in doll clothes. Because of preconceived notions about gender and sex, it would probably come as big surprise if she came out.
I wouldn’t be so lucky if it were my son.
How do I know this? Because it’s a message I’ve heard over and over. Because my son doesn’t fit the socially accepted norms for “real” male behavior. Because my husband and I have allowed or even encouraged him to participate in activities that some people think are not appropriate.
Time and again I’ve had to listen to people say that if a boy grows up and “turns gay,” it’s because his parents got something wrong. Most often, it’s that he’s a mommy’s boy with a “helicopter” or overbearing mother and an absentee or abusive father. When that reason doesn’t fit, then it becomes about the parents failing to push their son toward appropriately manly activities, such as sports, cars, tools, and Star Wars. Not to mention the horrors of letting him play with a doll!
I read a line in a book the other day, something about a kid “dancing to music of his own soundtrack” (I don’t have it exactly right, but that’s the gist). That describes my kid. He is the kind of boy who likes what he likes and cares very little if other boys (or girls, even) agree. J is the kind of boy who likes to paint his toenails red and spike his hair with blue gel; write for hours in his notebook; build pretend roller coasters out of Hot Wheels track; draw comics about the Adventures of Soy Bean; play Polly Pockets with his sister and her friends; and yes, dance to his own soundtrack. He isn’t into sports, doesn’t much like play fighting, and cares very little for Star Wars. And no, not one of those things about him is an indication that he will someday be gay.
Yet if he were, there are plenty of people who would point right back to his childhood and accuse us of being responsible on account of our parenting.
We allow our daughter to be exactly who she is. If it were up to me, I would push her to play soccer and make her wear pants all winter. I simply don’t get the whole dress thing, since I would rather wear almost anything else. In the same way, we are allowing our son to express himself. We don’t force him to take dance, he enjoys it, is good at it, and asks every year to continue. How is that any different from what we do with our daughter?
All I want is for my kids to grow up to be who they were meant to be, without the intrusion of unwelcome gender norming.