The Today Show this morning featured an interview with mom blogger Cop’s Wife (who has identified herself as Sarah—no relation) and children’s book author Cheryl Kilodavis. Cop’s Wife’s blog about her son’s female Halloween costume had over 40,000 comments and more than a million hits at the time this post goes live, and was publicized on CNN and ABC news. And Kilodavis’ book on her gender-nonconforming son, My Princess Boy, appears in People magazine this week.
I am thrilled to see these two courageous women bringing attention to the topic of gender nonconformity, and so glad to see that tens of thousands of people have come out in support of Cop’s Wife and Kilodavis. They do have critics, nearly all of whom take issue with parents allowing their children to appear on television or in blog photos.
When writing about my son, I have chosen to keep our family’s identity hidden—I write under a pen name for our safety. When I first started writing on the topic, a parent I interviewed told me she had received death threats because she’d allowed her son to dress like a girl. After my first article came out, there were—amid letters from readers offering heartfelt support and gratitude—scary letters from critics who told me I should have my children taken away from me. I did not question my decision to write under a pseudonym.
My fellow pink-boy-parent bloggers Accepting Dad and Girlyboy Mama also use pen names. Perhaps in part because of our anonymity, we have never gotten the sort of attention that Cop’s Wife and Kilodavis have. When I published my first article and essay on pink boys, I got calls from talk show hosts (everyone from Tyra to Oprah), asking if I’d talk on their shows—with my son. When I said I’d be glad to appear, without my son, they lost interest. Some of the media frenzy over Cop’s Wife and Kilodavis is their willingness to expose that which I have stubbornly refused to make public. Do I feel a little pang that I don’t have a million people looking at my blog? I do. Does that make me doubt my decision to maintain our privacy? A bit—though not enough to change my mind. But does it make me judge Cop’s Wife and Kilodavis for their choice to go public? No way.
I’m incredibly grateful to these two women for bringing the issue of gender nonconformity out into the open in ways that I have not. Readers and viewers responded because stories are so much more potent when there are real people attached—otherwise People magazine and the Today Show would not have perked up their ears (no other picture book about a pink boy has made it into People; no other moms of pink boys have made it onto the Today Show). By talking about their sons in the public way that they have, they’ve opened up a necessary national dialog about why gender-nonconforming boys are scoffed at, ostracized, and bullied. By being unconstrained by my privacy rule, these mothers are perhaps paving a way to a time when families like mine do not have to hide—a time when boys like mine don’t have to fear for their safety.
The world I wish for is one in which the mother of a pink boy would not have write cloaked in secrecy for fear of violence against her family. And I’m thinking that Cheryl Kilodavis and Cop’s Wife, each in their own way, brought us one step closer to that world.