A blogger known as Cop’s Wife made a splash this week with her blog post My Son Is Gay. She’s received an overwhelming amount of support for encouraging her 5-year-old son, whom she identifies as “Boo,” to dress as Daphne from Scooby-Doo for Halloween. But she’s not the only mom in America with a young son who enjoys dressing like a girl. Cheryl Kilodavis has a 5-year-old son named Dyson, about whom she wrote the children’s book My Princess Boy, a tome Kilodavis hopes will be used as an anti-bullying tool nationwide.
Kilodavis told Margaret Larson of New Day Northwest, “Dyson was almost 2 years old when he started having a unique eye for everything beautiful. Anything pink or sparkly – he just had a really, really great eye.”
Kilodavis says understanding and accepting her son’s flair for all things girly was initially a challenge.
It was a struggle for me at first. The first public display we had of it was picking him up from his daycare. He ran up to me in a bright red sequined dress and pink heels and I immediately felt uncomfortable. I looked around to see the other parents looking at him…. so I went to the store that evening and purchased some dress-up clothes for boys and put them in the dress-up closet, because I thought, ‘Well there must not be enough options that are pretty for boys.’ So I got some really pretty kung-fu outfits and things like that. The next day when I showed up, he greeted me in a yellow dress. So I knew then, this wasn’t about a gender specification for him, it was just about what he thought was really pretty and what he enjoyed to do.
Dr. Debora Vilhauer, a child psychologist who worked with Dyson, fully supports the young boy’s creative expression and the way his mother is cultivating it. Vilhauer says, “I think it’s important for parents to keep in mind that you invest now in your child, or you pay later. That if we can as parents support our child’s preferences and passions and show them that we love them for who they are, they’re much less likely to experience anxiety and depression as teenagers and young adults.” Amen.
Kilodavis admits that her first instinct was to pathologize her son’s love of women’s wear, because “the only message you get out there is that there’s a gender confusion issue.” She says she consulted her family doctor, Dr. Vilhauer and Dyson’s teachers for guidance. Ultimately, she wrote the book to share her feelings about being bullied by other people because of her son’s preferences.
In a particularly sad/sweet passage of the book, Kilodavis writes:
I love my princess boy. When we go shopping he is the happiest when looking at girls’ clothes, but when he says he wants to buy a pink bag or a sparkly dress, people stare at him. When he buys girl things they laugh at him, and then they laugh at me. It hurts us both.
Dyson’s Dad, Dean Kilodavis, is remarkably secure in his manhood, saying, “I just want him to be happy and healthy, and if this is the form he chooses to express himself, that’s fine. I just, in the end, when he’s grown up, I want him to be able to say, no matter what he chooses, ‘I’m so glad my parents supported me.’ He knows he has a sanctuary at home, and it should be with his parents.”
There is a sense in listening to Cheryl and Dean speak that they both probably have an idea that their son is gay, but are less willing to shout it out like Cop’s Wife. Cop’s Wife has been criticized for outing her son on the Internet and for forcing him to wear the Daphne costume after he showed reservations. Personally, I don’t see any difference between giving your kid who you know likes to dress in girls’ clothes the permission to do so and making your male infant wear a onesie that says “Boob Man.” Why is it okay to encourage little boys to be manly and “straight” and not okay to encourage boys to be girly and “gay?”
When I wrote a post back in September about “prehomosexuals” and the idea that gender-bending behavior in youth is a reliable indicator that a child will grow up to be gay, a commenter asked, “Why are we even supposed to be thinking about our children’s sexual orientation at all? They are children for crying out loud! Geez, let them be kids—unabashed happiness, non-judgment, pure bliss.” I appreciate the sentiment, but labeling a child as gay, as Cop’s Mom has, isn’t about sexualizing him. Being gay involves more than sexual orientation in the same way that being Jewish involves more than religion. Being gay means living your life outside of hetero norms, and we should all be proud of the parents today who are enlightened and open enough to accept the fact that their child might be gay from birth, rather than dealing with their orientation as a crisis that comes with puberty, or worse, as our grandparent’s generation did, by avoiding the issue altogether.
I have friends who were so worried about coming out to their parents, only to hear, “We know, sweetie.” I don’t see anything wrong with Cop’s Mom joining the Proud Parents movement a bit ahead of schedule. And if Boo and/or Princess Boy hit puberty and show interest in girls, then maybe we all have the next great “executive transvestites” on our hands, as Eddie Izzard would say. Regardless, the problem is not with their parents. The problem is with those who can’t handle sequined-covered little boys making the world a bit brighter – and more gay.