The French newspaper La Libération ran a story on 12/3 by Lorraine Millot titled, “Des garçons nés dans les roses.” The story is available to read online starting today and you can find it here. Millot talked with me along with others and mentions Pink Is for Boys as well!
Here, for all your non-French speakers, is my translation of the article. I apologize in advance for any errors — I do actually have a degree in French, but it’s been a long while since I’ve used it more actively than to read the Harry Potter books en français! Millot also conducted an interview with Dr. Menvielle, who heads up the gender program at Washington National Medical Center. The link is here and I will translate it for y’all as well as soon as I can . . .
Des garçons nés dans les roses
Difference. They imagine themselves as girls, dress in flowered t-shirts – they are the “pink boys.” Three quarters of these children will become gay. In the United States, the phenomenon is more and more recognized.
At age 6, John(1) does not want his hair cut, and wears a dress to church every Sunday. “We started to understand that he was different when he was around 3 years old,” his mother recounts. “He began to really want a magic wand. When he got one, he was very disappointed to discover that it was not ‘real.’ He eventually explained that he wanted it to transform himself into a girl.” After months of confusion, his mother understood: John is a “pink boy,” a “garçon rose” – or “gender non-conforming child” as those in the U.S. call small boys who imagine themselves as girls. The reverse also exists under the well-known name “tomboy” but our societies generally accept it better and are less dramatic when a girl dresses like a boy.
Phenomenon. Wonderfully described already in 1997 by the Alain Berliner’s Belgian film Ma vie en rose, which all parents concerned still refer to, the phenomenon is increasingly recognized in the United States, which doesn’t mean that life is always easy for children and their parents. “My son is very shy, he does not like to attract attention … and yet he cannot help heading off for school in braids, pink shoes and a shirt with flowers,” says John’s mother, who shares her experiences in a blog followed by thousands of readers, Pink Is for Boys. “The problem is that our society does not leave much space for these children: from toys to cartoons, the message is just hammered away that these things are for girls and these things are for boys. When we run into people, even those who are well-intentioned, and they see my son, they’ll say to me: “But I thought you had a boy! “
“The problems start generally at the end of kindergarten, around 5-6 years when other children begin to notice that their little friend is different, ” observes Catherine Tuerk, co-founder along with the psychiatrist Edgardo Menvielle (see interview) of a support group and an Internet forum for these families. “The parents, at least those who contact us, today no longer seek to suppress their children’s tendencies. They generally accept the idea that they’ll probably be homosexual later, but they want to ensure they can live their childhood fairly smoothly and without harassment at school.” The guideline this therapist generally follows is to explain to these children that there is nothing in their behavior wrong or evil in itself, but that the rest of the world does not always understand.
“Special.” Over the years the families of these pink boys become more confident of themselves and of the respect due their children’s differences, observes Ann Philips, one of the first mothers to have joined the Support Group Washington when her son was a teenager, to the late 1990s: “I now see parents contact schools proactively to ask that they take into account their son’s special characteristics.” A letter that circulated recently on Dr. Menvielle’s discussion forum asked a headmaster to allow a child to be excused from sports to spare him the moment – always painful for him – when the class is separated into a group of girls and a group of boys. Instead, his parents promised, the child will “ice skate at least five hours a week.”
Despite all the progress made in recent years in the United States to better recognize and accept these boys also called “gender fluid,” their trials are still many, for them and their parents, too. “Neither my husband nor my eldest wanted to accept the particularity of my youngest son,” says the mother of another pink boy aged 15. “From nursery, Nils has always been attracted to high heels or princess dresses. He would want to wear barrettes, or would ask me to tie a pillowcase around his feet, to make a mermaid tail. Until the age of 13, he did not want to cut his hair. Now, because of being called a girl or gay at school, instead he wears his hair very short and has even become very homophobic! He is still rather effeminate but when I try to talk with him, he gets angry immediately and assures me he is not gay . . . .” His mother sighs, relieved to talk, but still riddled with anxiety: “However much you talk to the experts, it hurts to see your child suffer that way. We’d like to help him be himself, and it is not always possible. “
(1) Pseudonym – most families quoted in this article requested anonymity.