Gender-bending kids and the society that freaks out over them

Originally posted on The Tired Feminist:

By now a lot of people have heard about Nerdy Apple Bottom’s 5-year-old son, who dressed as Daphne from Scooby Doo, for Halloween. In case you haven’t, NAB’s little boy wanted to dress as the female cartoon character and…shocker…she didn’t stifle his innocent fun! In fact, she encouraged him to feel free and happy to express himself and have a good time, regardless of what other kids or moms might say. Fuck yeah!

In a post titled “My son is gay” she talked about the mean mommies she and her son encountered at his school on Halloween. More importantly, she talked about how no Halloween costume is going to make her son gay. And, by the way, this would never be an issue if a girl wanted to dress as, say, Shaggy.

And all I hope for my kids, and yours, and those of Moms ABC, are that they are happy. If a set of purple sparkly tights and a velvety dress is what makes my baby happy one night, then so be it. If he wants to carry a purse, or marry a man, or paint fingernails with his best girlfriend, then ok. My job as his mother is not to stifle that man that he will be, but to help him along his way. Mine is not to dictate what is ‘normal’ and what is not, but to help him become a good person.

Rock on, NAB! Rock on, Boo!

Since my daughter is only 5 months old, the gender aspect of Halloween costumes didn’t come into play that much this year. But I’m already bracing myself for the ridiculous sexed-up costumes in my future. But what NAB talks about is valid. We dressed my baby girl as a banana this year (I, too, dressed as a banana and my husband was a monkey). And yet, I had no fear that she will later turn out to be a banana — or a fruit. And in the future, if she decides she wants to be Elvis or a ninja or a princess, I will not fear that these costumes — this play and imagination — will “make” her gay (or into an ultimate fighting machine).

Unfortunately, Boo and his mom aren’t the only ones feeling heat for “inappropriate” gender bending. Cheryl Kilodavis, a Seattle mom to a 5-year-old boy, wrote a storybook about how her son likes to dress up in tutus and other clothes that are traditionally reserved for little girls. Again, it’s a story of a mom letting her son express himself, to have fun with imaginative play, only to be greeted with intense and public hostility.

One conservative youth leader had this to say to the Seattle Times:

“The parents shouldn’t let the kid do it just because he wants to,” said Alajauan Adams, 27, a youth coordinator for a nonprofit organization in Washington, D.C. “I’m not here to judge if it’s right or wrong for him to be an outcast, but the reality is he’s going to be and you’re not protecting him from it.”

And, in the same story, Kilodavis acknowledges that it has been tricky terrain to navigate:

Kilodavis acknowledges her initial discomfort when her youngest son’s “unique eye for everything beautiful,” especially things pink and glam, surfaced at a tender age at home, and a few months later more publicly when he ran into her arms at day-care pickup one afternoon dressed in a red sequined dress and pink high heels.

“He was so happy. He said, ‘Look how pretty this dress is,’ ” she said. “I was worried about if the other parents were looking at him, and were they looking at me.”

In fact, Kilodavis’ son was evaluated by a psychologist to look into gender identity issues and whether or not he’s happy. And he is:

He just enjoys tiaras and ballet leotards, but also basketball and climbing trees — interests that tomboy girls delight in routinely without anyone else batting an eyelash.

In the end, Kilodavis decided she wanted to focus on what made her son happy rather than what people might think about it. And isn’t that what we should all be doing as parents?

And Kilodavis is not the only one to confront the cross-dressing kid frenzy. Look at what happened when Angelina Jolie’s child Shiloh decided she wanted to dress and live like a boy.

The fact is being gay is biological. So, if my daughter turns out to be gay, oh well. So be it. It’s much more important to me that she turns out happy, healthy, intelligent, creative and inquisitive about the world. The same is true if she falls in love with princess dresses or wants to be daddy’s little helper in the garage. As long as she’s learning and growing, who cares what she wears? When I was a little girl I hated pants and refused to wear jeans, telling my mother that jeans were for boys. Now look at me. I’m one feisty feminist — pants and all.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s