Last week I took a walk to our local donut shop for National Donut Day. (By “last week” I mean one of the multiple times every week I visit this amazing purveyor of deliciousness that happens to be located approximately ten feet from my front door). While Zoey and I were nomming on our decadent pastries and Eleanor was gazing at me forlornly in the hopes I might deem her old enough to try one, I noticed a father and his son come in the store. The son was close to Zoey’s age but that isn’t why I noticed him. He was wearing a Super Mario Bros. t-shirt and Spiderman shoes along with Hello Kitty socks and pink and green paisley leggings. I’m betting good money he has an older sister who previously wore those leggings and socks. That same day I saw another dad and son – also about two or three years old – out for a walk. This boy was wearing a traditionally “boyish” shirt and shoes along with a bright red and orange fluffy tutu.
With both sitings, I actually got slightly teary-eyed. I wanted so much to go up and tell these fathers how amazing and wonderful they are. To thank them for letting their sons be themselves and for raising children who will understand the true meaning of words like tolerance, equality and respect. I was all the more impressed that, in both cases, it was a father out in public with his son wearing “girl” clothes. In my experience, at least, fathers are often the ones who have a harder time allowing or condoning behavior such as this in their male children.
So many issues are represented here, not the least of which are sexuality and equality between the sexes. What really struck me, though, was the message these fathers were sending to their sons. Several messages actually. That pink is not just for girls. That what you wear doesn’t define who you are. That even if it does, what these boys choose to wear doesn’t diminish their fathers’ love for them. That allowing their sons to wear “girl clothes” won’t “make him gay.” I hate that phrase. “Make him gay.” As if a person’s sexuality is something that can be turned on, like a light switch, by a particular action or statement. As if there’s something wrong with being gay. As if it isn’t perfectly normal for toddlers to try out all different types of roles – gender, occupations, etc.
When a parent stifles a child’s attempts to express who he or she is, that parent is sending a very clear message to the child: I will only love you if you act like the person I expect you to be. How deeply, horribly damaging. There was an article in the Huffington Post back in April about Sen. Rob Portman coming out in support of gay marriage after learning his son was gay. In the article the author, Amelia, writes, “they [gay youth] tell me how happy they are that their parents “still” love them — because all those kids knew that not loving them was an option.” Wow. Can you imagine?
Kudos to these two dads for showing their kids – and the public – that they each love their son, no matter what.