I recently read the article Could Your Child Be Gay? by Stephanie Dolgoff on Parenting magazine’s website. It made my heart sing…and sink.
Dolgoff—and therefore Parenting magazine, as mainstream a parenting rag as there ever was—showed concern for the wellbeing and outcome of pink and/or proto-gay boys. The piece went farther than I’ve ever seen this magazine go into complex and painful territory, including an interview with Matthew Shepard’s mother and a conversation about bullying-related child suicide. This willingness to have a conversation about some of the scariest stuff parents may ever face makes a tremendous difference for boys like my son Sam.
Along with my praise for Dolgoff and Parenting, I have to point out where the article falls short.
Dolgoff assumes that four-year-olds cannot read the social cues that tell children what boys and girls are “supposed” to do. Studies show that children as young as two are aware of gender roles (research that can be confirmed anecdotally in the Petri dish of any preschool).
It’s also unfortunate Dolgoff believes that because a child is gender-nonconforming, he or she will be gay. This assumption does a disservice to the gender-noncomforming kids who will be straight, as well as to the gender-normative children who will be gay. Frankly, assuming anything about a child, from his sexuality to his profession to the religion he will abide as an adult, is unhelpful to everyone.
Finally, Dolgoff’s assertion that “No matter how much he continues to like fuchsia as he gets older, there’s a good chance his survival instinct will tell him it’s not worth getting his butt kicked at school,” is the kind of statement that reinforces the culture of bullying pink boys. I just don’t think she would make that comment about a child going to school in a wheelchair, or a black child going to an all-white school. We need to start talking about these conflicts using different language, language that doesn’t blame the victims–or force them to choose between their identity and their personal safety.
But big picture, I am pleased as punch to hear Parenting magazine ask its readers to consider whether their child is gay. The more we as a society have this conversation, however imperfect, the closer we are to accepting what was once utterly unacceptable.