Jonah and I went to our favorite local fair yesterday, Sunday in the Park. It’s a fundraiser for Edgerton Park, a sweet little enclave on a former estate that hosts greenhouses, a community garden, and a green slope perfect for rolling down if you’re a kid. (These days my boobs get in the way.)
Toward the end of the day I heard a mom ask a volunteer for one of the balloons that was marking the starting point for the horse-drawn wagon rides. Her kid really wanted a balloon and they were no longer selling them. The volunteer, a woman in her early twenties, obliged and asked which color her son would like.
He wanted the pink one.
So the mom and her friends tried to talk him out of it.
“Don’t you want the orange one?”
“What color is your bike? What color is your stroller? Orange, right?”
But he wanted pink.
While the volunteer was untying it, the mom told her friends that her son had asked for Dora underwear.
“Do they make Dora underwear for boys?” asked her friend.
“No,” said the mom. “I’m pretty sure they don’t.”
The volunteer chimed in as she handed the boy his pink balloon. “Diego is Dora’s cousin and he’s really cool! You can get Diego underwear!”
I kind of wanted to add my two cents, but my tendency is to do so and it’s not always welcome. (Surprise!) So I said nothing.
I’m sure if you asked these women if they’re afraid pink balloons or Dora underwear makes boys gay, they’d laugh and say, “Of course not!” And if you asked if they worried that these were signs that he would “turn out gay,” they’d deny that, too. They seemed like educated women, not Michelle Bachmann types. They weren’t about to put the kid into a “pray-the-gay-away” program.
Like many of us, that mom is probably concerned that her child will be different, that people will laugh at him. She’d rather her child carry a balloon that is a color little boys are expected to like because then she won’t be embarrassed, for herself and for her son.
Because when you’re just like everyone else, you avoid a lot of pain, right?
I mean… Right?
Jonah used to put socks on his hands and would actually leave the house while wearing them. As for his feet, he’d insist on wearing socks of different colors.
One time our neighbor, who is about six years older than Jonah, saw him take out his beloved Little Mermaid book.
“That’s for girls,” she said.
I explained, gently, that we didn’t say that in our house, that he liked The Little Mermaid and that was fine. She nodded and didn’t say anything else about it.
My son liked pink well enough until he came home from school telling me that pink was for girls and blue was for boys. (Damn thee, school!) He once asked me to buy him a Tinkerbell coloring book. (I did.) He also asked once for a My Little Pony book but, because it was a load of crap, I didn’t.
But I’ll admit it: I have talked him out of stuff. I know I have. I think I may even have tried, gently, to talk him out of the Tinkerbell coloring book. I probably suggested a “boys'” coloring book, maybe a Thomas one. These attitudes are pervasive and difficult to completely abandon.
You may have already seen this blog post, “My Son is Gay,” by a mom whose five-year-old son wanted to dress up as Daphne from Scooby Doo… and did. The post caused a huge stir on the Internet, both because of its title and because of the huge photo of her little boy dressed up in said costume, complete with orange wig and pink dress.
It is an awesome post. And I admire this mom greatly.
Being that my son wants to dress up as Harry Potter for Halloween, is about as boyish as they come (climbing on everything in sight, building spaceships, and playing superhero), he and I don’t generally face the sort of open disapproval that this mom and her little boy faced. And yet I have encountered a wide-eyed expression on the faces of people I thought were open minded when I’ve said that my son takes a dance class.
Yes, my son is a boyish kid bursting with testosterone, who loves trains and planes and automobiles, Spider-Man, his toy soldiers, Ariel from The Little Mermaid, and dancing and singing. He composes crazy songs that make his mama laugh and can seriously bust out the moves when we dance around our living room.
Since when was dancing just for girls? I don’t get that.
I doubt my son will “turn out to be gay.” Statistics lean toward “straight,” he’s already had crushes on girls, and he’s very much, as a friend of ours likes to joke, “a guy.” But if it does turn out he’s gay? I’ll love him every bit as much. It would not affect how I see him, value him, or adore him. Not one teensy little bit.