Moms in Babeland

The Age of Innocence, and Bravery

I feel so moved by recent stories of moms standing up for their young gender non-conforming sons. My friend over at Lesbian Dad has a sweet post about her 4-year-old son’s fear of going to school in the fairy costume that he loves. And Nerdy Apple Bottom‘s angry recounting of the other preschool mother’s reactions to her son’s Daphne costume was thrilling. The post went viral and got over 40,000 comments. Something about a Mama Tiger makes me want to cheer. And something about a little boy in a dress makes me want to cry.

To me that is the image of innocence, and of bravery. It’s so disappointing that our culture is dropping the hammer on the self-expression of our sons at such a young age. “He’s only 5…” I think. And then it occurs to me what if he was 14? Or 24? At any age it should be ok for any person to wear pink, or a dress, or a pink dress.

I hope we’re moving that way. The amazing success of the It Gets Better Project shows a degree of love and acceptance that wasn’t there a few years ago. The viral project features videos by legions of people urging young people who are considering suicide due to the bullying or shame they’re experiencing for being gay or gender non-confoming to stick around and make it out of high school. Recently a number of such young people have killed themselves.  As young as 13. 13!!! Doesn’t that break your heart?

Some of the people who have taken the time to make a video for the project include Barack Obama and Hilary Clinton. Of the ones I’ve seen my favorite is by a Fort Worth City Councilman, Joel Burns. See if you can watch it without tearing up. Perez Hilton, Tim Gunn and K$sha have submitted, as have thousands of everyday people.

People Magazine just ran a story on a Seattle Mom, Cheryl Kilodavis, who self-published a book entitled My Princess Boy, inspired by her son who loves all things pink and sparkly. I haven’t read the book yet, but I can’t wait. I hope she gets a major publisher and wide distribution because the world needs this book and books like it. I’m so glad people covered this story, their reach is huge, and I hope it helps open some minds and hearts. Cheryl Kilodavis and the Nerdy Apple Bottom Blogger were also on the Today show. This is a topic whose time has come.

We need to help our 3-year-olds understand that it’s OK to be different. Not only the ones who are the junior cross dressers but the ones who will grow up to either persecute or protect their peers.

Those of us whose kids are conforming to gender expectations do not get a pass on this. One woman I know of was inspired by the It Gets Better Project to talk to her popular jock sons, aged 12 and 15, about how they could be leaders in creating safe schools for the other kids.

Just like other types of sex talk, talks about gender expression and acceptance aren’t something to do just once, but are messages that we should weave into the fabric of our parenting.

If you want more on this topic, here’s a great blog  by a mother of a “pink boy”:

Related posts:

  1. Gender Diversity Education, Yes Please!
  2. Talking With My Kid About Sex: Age 9
  3. Lego My Gender Role
  4. Q: At what age is it OK to tell my daughter where the stash of condoms is and invite her to use them?
  5. Help Make a Book about What Makes a Baby!

2 Responses to “The Age of Innocence, and Bravery”

  1. Anne says:

    I experienced this somewhat differently on a recent middle school field trip. I had five middle school girls in my care, and one girl was teased somewhat relentlessly by her peers for her clunky boots and boyish haircut. They wanted to go back to the hotel and give her a makeover. She has a wonderful sense of self, and seemed to shrug it off, but I was constantly interfering in their chatter to get them to back off and let her be who she was (and followed up with her in private). I agree with you about parents participating in this message of tolerance, and advocating acceptance of all forms of self-expression, but challenge us to look at it from the female POV as well–at face value there may appear to be more acceptance of girls who dress like boys, but my (and her) experience was just the opposite.

  2. rachel says:

    Yes, and the category “tomboy” affectionately holds less feminine girls. But as they get older, the pressure to conform increases.

    The enforcement of masculine standards for boys is earlier.

    I think boys get a much narrower range of visual expression. I just got Hannah Andersen catalog full of vibrant rainbow colored clothes for girls, and lots of dour forest greens and navy for the lads.

    But of course when it comes to noise and physical exuberance, boys get the permission slip, and girls are more likely to be shut down.

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