Monday, November 8, 2010

A Completely Unsolicited Response

Let's ignore the fact that this blog has been more then "sleepy" lately (and just hope that fact will be remedied soon...) and get to the issue at hand.

Halloween 2008...and he *still* hasn't turned into a real bat. 

If you're one of the few people who have not had the pleasure of reading this blog post (entitled, "My Son is Gay") by NerdyAppleBottom - what are you waiting for? Go do so now...I can wait.



Read it?

Good. Now, let's discuss.

The post itself brought up so many thoughts, and then as I skimmed through the various comments following it, I encountered a whole host of new ones.

I came away from NerdyAppleBottom's article with a sense of shock and discomfort. Was I uncomfortable at the notion that her son dressed up as Daphne for Halloween? Of course not. If you've read other posts in my blog then you know that's not the case (although I might question his affinity for Daphne over Velma, but that's another story...).

My discomfort was prompted by two different things. It first stemmed from the reactions of the mothers she mentioned. The fact that there are mothers out there who are (consciously or not) perpetuating and modeling bullying behavior, astounds me. They may not think of themselves as bullies, but the way NerdyAppleBottom describes them really puts them up there on the caliber of so called "mean girls" - only instead of being seventeen, they have two point five kids, a minivan and live in suburbia.

I could write an entire post about how behaviors we pick up in high school seep into our personalities and shine through in our later lives. The whole queen bee mentality never quite fades away. But, let's save that phenomenon for another day.

In addition to the response her son's costume received at his school, I was also amazed at many of the comments that NerdyAppleBottom garned in response to her blog.

Of course, I was pleased to see that most of the comments were supportive and positive ones, but the comments that landed in the other direction completely confounded me. I won't give these people any extra power by repeating their thoughts and words over here. You're more than welcome to sift through the over forty-thousand comments that the blog post received, however. 

So many of the negative comments seemed to share a similar thread, one which I'm still  perplexed by. I'm unclear how wearing a costume is indictive of a.)the sexuality of your child and b.)bad parenting.

Perhaps it's because I live in my little liberal bubble here in the happy valley, but I'd be hard pressed to find many people who would dare say anything of the sort if my son decided to dress up as a girl for Halloween.

A bigger issue that probably deserves more time and space than this little blog can allow is the fact that sexuality was even brought into this. The child being mentioned is five. I completely understand the mamabear desire to protect and defend your child, but why can't we do so without attaching labels? 

Why can't we allow kids to have fun and dress up with labeling them with what they may (or may not!) end up being. I am all for protecting and encouraging kids to be who they want, but it becomes a slippery slope when we apply our own perceptions onto their actions one way or another. 

After the discomfort and anger wore off, I was left with an underlying sense of fear. Fear that people really feel that a little boy wearing a costume could be such a big threat. Fear that thoughts like the ones the mothers expressed are more prevalent than I'd like to believe.

Sadly, this blog was just another check in the harsh reality list, along with the rash of suicides occurring among bullied, gay youth. 

Parenting is tricky enough without needing extra fears added on to the ones I already have (i.e. will that tree support all of my kid's weight or will he topple to the ground and break all of his bones. You know, reasonable ones like that). 

So...what does this all mean?

Does that mean I'll stop allolwing my son to wear nail polish or grow his hair out?


and No.

Does it mean that when he wants to run around the house with a skirt full of beautiful feathers (aka cloth napkins) because he swears that he's Lolla Lee Lou that I'll make him stop?

I'm also not afraid he *actually* wants to be a real bird either, for the record.

Does this mean that when he came to me the other day, completely out of the blue (but incredibly coincidentally) asking if he could be a girl for next Halloween that I would say no?


Instead I asked if he wanted to be any particular girl, to which he shook his head. And then upon further thought he started thinking that if he wasn't going to be a girl, maybe he'd be Buzz Lightyear. Which, oddly enough, concerns me more...

So. What does it all mean?

It means that I have to (sadly) remind myself that the rest of the world isn't as tolerant as the community that I've carved out for my family.

It means that I need to ensure that while teaching my son to stay true to himself, I also need to teach him that not everyone is open minded or accepting.

It means that I will remind my son that he has an amazing opportunity to show people that you can be whoever you want to be, regardless of labels and pigeon holes. And that day...he might change a mind or two, just by being himself...whatever that ends up being.


Holden Utah's Mama said...

Sing it, sister!

Subtle Pen said...

first off - AMEN, to KUDOS you and your little man.

I am proud of NerdyAppleBottom for sticking up for her son, but I have a couple of thoughts about her blog post.

1. the title, My Son is Gay. this seems to be making the same leap she's trying to prevent others from taking. there are plenty of straight men in the world who have an affinity for "pretty things." this does not make them gay. implying that it does at age 5 bothers me a little, because it tells me she's already predisposed one way over the other, and is buying into mainstream stereotypes about 'gay behavior.'

IMHO human sexuality is a wide wide continuum, with probably way fewer people at either end of the spectrum than most folks ever realize. to imply that a child's appreciation for dress-up is an indicator of sexual interest 10 yrs down the road seems a bit of a stretch. maybe he IS gay. Maybe not. why the rush to label him?

2. the moment when her son begins to express doubts about his costume seems to me to be the most important moment in this whole debacle. how did she handle his fears? what did they talk about? THAT would tell me more about her as a mom than defending him to a bunch of morons. i wish she'd spent more time in her post talking about that conversation.

i would hope if i were in her place, i would talk to my son about how cruel people can be when they see things they don't understand, and how important it is to remember that regardless of the hateful things others might say, he should never be ashamed to be who he is, that NO ONE can tell him who he is or should be, and that my biggest hope for him when he grows up is that he be HAPPY.

Maya and family said...

Right on!!

Meg said...

I feel bullied because of the Buzz Light Year comment. Really, am I a bad mother for letting my child wear a disney costume for Halloween, Avi? Great post otherwise, my friend.