Saturday, November 6, 2010

Letting Kids be Kids

"My Son Is Gay...or he's not...I don't care. He's still my son."

So begins the title and first line of a blog post of "Nerdy Apple Bottom", The made unintentionally famous for blogging about the reactions her son received for wearing a Daphne(from Scooby Doo) costume to school for Halloween.There's been much ado on the web concerning this relatively simple event as it went absolutely viral and sparked a great deal of controversy. Just scrolling through her posts, most rate a comment count in the 30's...this one has provoked 36, 048 people to actually take time out of their lives to offer their opinion in writing...and the number grows every time you refresh the page. Hell...I'd be jealous of just the 30

My thoughts on this event are many as it seems to have touched a nerve in the public consciousness. I'd like to touch on those issues and what I feel are some unfair judgements made against this mom for supporting her son. Also I would like to ask...what if it had been a gay dad that had sent his son to school in a Daphne costume?  But first...I will let Sarah tell the story in her own words about how this whole thing began with a simple Halloween costume request...

So a few weeks before Halloween, Boo decides he wants to be Daphne from Scooby Doo, along with his best friend E. He had dressed as Scooby a couple of years ago. I was hesitant to make the purchase, not because it was a cross gendered situation, but because 5 year olds have a tendency to change their minds. After requesting a couple of more times, I said sure and placed the order. He flipped out when it arrived. It was perfect.

Then as we got closer to the actual day, he stared to hem and haw about it. After some discussion it comes out that he is afraid people will laugh at him. I pointed out that some people will because it is a cute and clever costume. He insists their laughter would be of the ‘making fun’ kind. I blow it off. Seriously, who would make fun of a child in costume?
(It also needs to be interjected at this point that his best friend in school is a girl and she wore the same Daphne costume to school.)

And then the big day arrives. We get dressed up. We drop Squirt at his preschool and head over to his. Boo doesn’t want to get out of the car. He’s afraid of what people will say and do to him. I convince him to go inside. He halts at the door. He’s visibly nervous. I chalk it up to him being a bit of a worrier in general. Seriously, WHO WOULD MAKE FUN OF A CHILD IN A COSTUME ON HALLOWEEN? So he walks in. And there were several friends of mine that knew what he was wearing that smiled and waved and gave him high-fives. We walk down the hall to where his classroom is.

And that’s where things went wrong. Two mothers went wide-eyed and made faces as if they smelled decomp. And I realize that my son is seeing the same thing I am. So I say, “Doesn’t he look great?” And Mom A says in disgust, “Did he ask to be that?!” I say that he sure did as Halloween is the time of year that you can be whatever it is that you want to be. They continue with their nosy, probing questions as to how that was an option and didn’t I try to talk him out of it. Mom B mostly just stood there in shock and dismay.

And then Mom C approaches. She had been in the main room, saw us walk in, and followed us down the hall to let me know her thoughts. And they were that I should never have ‘allowed’ this and thank God it wasn’t next year when he was in Kindergarten since I would have had to put my foot down and ‘forbidden’ it. To which I calmly replied that I would do no such thing and couldn’t imagine what she was talking about. She continued on and on about how mean children could be and how he would be ridiculed.
O.k....first things first..I need to say that "Boo" did rock that Daphne costume. He was the spitting image. I give him total props for being an awesome Daphne...check it out...

Here's my issue with the view points of Moms A, B, and C....first, as Sarah mentions in her blog, there is the unspoken allegation that she is encouraging her son to be gay by allowing him to wear this costume...a notion that she calls "idiotic". And I have to agree with her. If our kids costume choices represented some budding psychological potential then we would all be in trouble. I went as a vampire for Halloween when I was a kid...and surprisingly I still have not developed a taste for blood. Also, My son went as Harry Potter this year, does that mean he will develop the ability to use magic?...and what about my daughter who went as a witch...whats that say?

Presuming that Sarah's account is true, and that mom's A, B, and C's concern was that Boo would come under ridicule for his costume choice...and given that no one did have an issue except mom's A, B, and C... then I hope that the kids of These moms do not end up absorbing their mothers disapproval and become bullies A, B, and C someday.

So Sarah blogged about it...after all the title of her blog states quite clearly that a "cop's wife does not remain silent". Speaking as a cop's husband I know this is true. Being married to someone in law enforcement means learning to hold your own or be tried and convicted before the accusations have been fully read....(I say that will all love and respect to my husband who is now probably shooting daggers at the screen)...

Up to that point Sarah's blog had only been read by family and a few friends. Indeed, most of her posts revolve around the funny stuff her kids say. I don't think she expected her account to reach beyond her personal circle...but it did..and big time. It hit every gay blog and news outlet and eventually ended up on CNN..which brought in a psychologist to berate her for "outing" her child...

So whats to out? The kid is five...even if he someday comes across this picture when he's fifteen I don't think Its gonna be the damaging event this guy predicts. If anything I think It would be an incredible statement of support to read that your mom loves you no matter what...don't you? Plus...given the nature of the web, this story will be long dead before anyone who goes to school with this boy will get old enough to care. AND FINALLY...don't all parent's keep a few embarrassing photos of their kids around for eventual "first date blackmail"?...I know I do. Those kids are gonna get uppity someday and you need to have something to keep them in line. Instead of merely presenting the story as is, CNN's choice to have a phychologist on hand made the implication that something may be wrong with her decision. This set a bad tone before anyone even got any one said anything.

By the first line of her blog rant you already know that "Boo's" mom has got her sons back no matter what... That's love. She very clearly understands that a Halloween costume will not influence her son to be gay if he is not. she also clearly gets that at this age most kids have no real awareness of sexuality. I don't think "Boo" does either. It was all just fun, pretending to be a character he loves from a favorite show.

My final question/observation about this story  is this...What if it had been me that had allowed Daniel to go to school in this costume?..even if he repeatedly requested it? Mom's A,B, and C are already in a tizzy because Sarah...a straight mom..allowed her son to dress as a girl for Halloween. They intimated that she was encouraging him to be gay by her choice. If a gay parent had done the same thing It wouldn't be a case of intimation and would be outright accusation that I was trying to raise Daniel to be gay.

This is one of the things that you face as a gay parent. How much are people looking at my kids and just expecting them to be gay because I am. After all...they expect their kids to be straight because they are. Both assertions are invalid but they are on the minds of countless parents whether or not they remain unspoken. As a gay parent, you always have the awareness that you are being watched in that manner. Never mind that fact that gay people predominately come from straight parents, or that the children of same-sex families more often than not grow up to be straight.There is an erroneous idea out their that we somehow engineer our children's sexualities. Even though anecdote and scientific fact have puzzled out the mystery to tell us that we don't. Shucks!...and we would have gotten away with it too if it wasn't for those meddling kids and their inborn sexualities!

I don't know that I would have had the courage to allow my son to go to school in that costume. Perhaps that's my weakness because I really look up to this mom for standing by her son in this manner. I want both my children to know that they are loved no matter what. straight or gay plays no part in that. That said, I want to protect him from the bad that I know is out there too. That's were I think Sarah was stronger than me. "Boo" made the choice..she had the courage to see that choice through. I'm not sure that I could have done the same....besides, the way Daniel like to eat he would most definitely been Shaggy...

Like...Until next time dear readers...Scooby Dooby Doo!...


  1. I agree with your stance.
    People are truly misinformed.
    At least many religious people are it seems.
    They're also assuming that gays are effeminate.
    This only holds true for only a section of the gay community.
    A girly costume doesn't make one gay, just like owning a Bible doesn't make you a Christian.

  2. I really wish people would stop trying to mold children to what they think they should be. Its one thing to influence them but another to define them.

    I believe this story resonates so well with us in the LGBT community simply because we know how it is to be stuck in a box and told how to be. It's not fun or healthy.

    Kids need room to explore and develop into who they will be. From what I have read the mom had it right. Her son wanted to be Daphne so she didn't fuss and went with it.

    How many times in life have people said you can be anything you want to be only to be shot down when its not what others want? Maybe we should begin supporting the words we choose.

    As for the clothes I can say every piece of clothing a woman wears now, except the brazier, was a male item at some point in history.

    Being gay at five...really? Come on and get over it. A kid may or may not be gay. Choosing a costume will not change that. UGH! Reminds me of all those old tired arguments of if he had played with a football or got into a sport he would have been different.

    As I began this reply, don't mold children. Give them the freedom to explore themselves. They will turn out how they are meant to be no matter what. Interference will only repress and hurt them.

    At best parents can teach structure, values, and love. We should stick to what we can affect. If we provide a good example and show them love then we have done our job.

    When we live by our own definition we are happier. Because we surely will never fit anyone else's definition.


  3. Oh My God...Oh My God...this just brought back a repressed memory.

    I think I was a princess when I was 4 in a school play or something. I clearly remember my mom making me a golden skirt. Holy Shit.

    Ok she now has absolutely no excuse to complain when I come out to her.

  4. I don't like the fact that the "psychologist" on CNN perpetuated the idea that having a gay child is the worst thing that could happen to a family. Geesh!!

  5. I have a picture of my daughter in her full football regalia - helmet and everything - that she begged for from Santa Claus last Christmas. I don't see anyone bat an eye when they see the picture but what's the difference?

    Does it mean she's a lesbian? No. Maybe. Who cares?

    This Mom is awesome.

  6. When I was a little girl, I dressed up as many male characters for Halloween, and I still do. When I was 6, I went as Frodo from the old animated Lord of the Rings. When I was 16, I went as Zorro. This year, I'm 26, and I went as Sherlock Holmes. Sure, I'm a lesbian, but I'm also very, very feminine. When I'm not in my Halloween costume, I'm the kind of person who wouldn't be caught dead in pants, and I actually like cooking, cleaning, and kids. That's 364 days of being as girly as possible. Dressing up as a character hasn't made me a butch, and I'm a not a lesbian because I want to be a man. If anyone says the opposite, I'll hit him with my rolling pin and sick my poodle on him.

    (PS - I love your blog! My niece sent me a link. I really admire what you're doing here.)

  7. Thanks anonymous!

    I have to say that when I was 14 I went in drag for Halloween to my middleschool in Redding CA. It wasn't the smartest decision, but my mom supported it and everything went fine. I have never felt the need to put on a pair of high heel shoes ever again....ouch.

  8. Wow! Who's talking there? Brian or Jay? :P
    I don't live too far from Redding. So...which one of you grew up in Redding? :D

  9. that would be me--->Bryan

    I lived in Redding for about seven years until I managed to escape ;)

  10. I simply don't get the uproor and the idea that not conforming to sexest expections as a chiled will make one gay. My straight borhter had a baby doll as a chiled, and when he was in his tweens liked Nsinc, like me did not do sports ether. yet he turn out perficly hetrosexual.

    All it was, was a kid wanting to play pretend, and not knowing what sexist roll they are suposed to play.

    I mean there are plenty of striaht women who hate dresses don't own or ware makeup high heals and are more sure to be watching the foot ball game and not soaps, and love thier big trucks and power cars and shows about them. Whic is a great discription of my mother who happens to be that way and well with the exception of watching football watches prety much the same shows I do.

  11. Okay, this is an issue I have brought up many times with my boyfriend and struggle with internally a little bit. We want to have children someday, and I take the opportunity to ask him about his beliefs and feelings regarding gender roles and gender "programming" (that word sounds a little harsh).

    While making the choice to place less emphasis on the proper "boy" or "girl" toys (pink barbie dolls and GI Joe) is a relatively easy one, I do struggle with a son or daughter's inclination to dress as the opposite sex. I don't believe that there is anything WRONG with it--my fear and struggle is tied to the ridicule my child may get.

    On the one hand, by drawing attention to the fact that certain behaviors make me uncomfortable or that I won't allow them, my child may learn that who he or she truly feels is unacceptable. Even if their behaviors are completely for fun and have nothing to do with sexual orientation (not that dressing up as the opposite sex is necessarily indication of that) or gender identity, by not allowing this self-expression my child gets the message I don't fully accept him or her.

    On the other hand, how much should we intervene to prevent ridicule for our children?

    My parents raised me and my older siblings in a fairly conservative, religious household. We had a tight-knit family that played games, read, and watched movies together. We were not allowed to watch TV and most popular movies--not because my parents were paranoid about "sinfulness" but because they wanted their children to be free to develop their own identity without the pervasive influence of media trends. I respect and admire my parents for making these decisions--despite the fact that my childhood was very hard. I never knew what bands, tv shows, or celebrities the other kids were talking about and it drew attention to me. I was different. However, I learned the value of being my own person and not following the crowd and developed a much stronger sense of my identity and moral character than many of my peers have.

    Should I have a similar approach with gender roles--hold the hope that while my child may have some rough times or rough years, that in the end he or she will be a stronger individual for it?

    Sorry for the exceptionally long post.

  12. Hey! I love all of your reactions to this. Funny and deep. Great insights into this topic.