I wrote this note today to a mom with a five year-old. I share it with any of you who are just starting to reach out for resources to support a son who likes stereotypically girlish things, and to support family who might be struggling with him.
If there are two things I have learned, both from being part of support communities and from comments and emails on my blog, it is that 1) all our kids have things in common and are also very much individual and unique, and 2) that they are going to be who they are with or without us.
Our son is almost seven. He loves Legos, and robots, and engineering. He has no interest in ballet, and he’d rather play with a robotic rover than a Barbie. But he wears dresses to church most every Sunday, has long hair, and sports pink sparkly shirts to school. He adores fairies and unicorns, and I am trying to keep his awareness of the My Little Pony franchise to a minimum(!)
I have so many people write to me privately from my blog, telling me their stories, some celebrating the luck of a new generation to be nurtured rather than shamed, others mourning their own painful childhoods. Of the former boys who write me, some are gay, a few have transitioned, some are straight guys who like pink and nail polish. Their parents’ responses to them did not affect who they turned out to be, only their sense of self-esteem, the amount of baggage they carry, and the length of their journey to healthy adulthood.
Sometimes it’s hard for family members to understand that, yes, we are choosing our son’s comfort over their own. They want to know why we won’t “give him some boundaries,” “teach him what’s acceptable,” or at least make him wear “boyish” clothes around them.
But we know that he will be who he will be. We will not tell him who he might be is unacceptable. We won’t teach him that his true self (as he sees himself now) is shameful and needs to be hidden.
My partner has often said, “I’ll admit, it’s not what I would have chosen. It sometimes makes things hard, and it sometimes brings up a lot of stuff for me. But I recognize that it’s MY stuff, not his. He doesn’t have a problem; I do. And therefore it’s my job to deal with that for myself, not to push it onto him.” More than anything, my partner says, he wants our son to look back and be able to say that his dad was in his corner.
Welcome to the journey . . .