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Trigger warning for suicide and for gender-based familial and psychologist-inflicted violence and abuse behind the cut — this one is pretty grim.
This is the tragic and infuriating story of a young man who was subjected to mental and physical abuse by his parents, at the behest of a “therapist,” because he was unmasculine. The therapist used him as a data point supposedly validating his “therapy” for “unwanted” gender presentation and the gayness with which he linked it. Despite growing into a superficially successful adult, he was never able to heal from the trauma this had caused and took his own life at age 38. His sister and brother are left to pick up the pieces.
Little children assigned as boys who are effeminate, flamey, into ‘girls’ toys’ or cross-gender identified have always received attention but most of it has been decidedly negative, ranging from [NOTE: possible triggers in these articles!] Dr. Phil’s recent nonsense to decidedly creepy gay panic to disturbing, abusive, and of course completely unscientific “therapies” (more on these later) and all the way to murder.
That’s why it’s been decidedly refreshing over the last few months that there’s been a minor drumroll of books and blogs by parents raising their fey kids: Cheryl Kilodavis’s book My Princess Boy, the went-viral post “My Son is Gay” at Nerdy Apple Bottom, and Raising My Rainbow are just a few of them.
What wigs me out a little bit is the reaction that some of these parents get: concern trolls freaking out about the irreparable harm they may be doing to their sons by — what? letting them dress in pink and play with My Little Ponies?
Never, for these folks, does it enter the equation that just maybe they might be doing more harm by forcing the kid to stifle their gender identity and their harmless self-expression, learn to hate and be afraid of femininity in themself and others, and come to understand they disappoint and frighten their parents and other grown-ups just by being themself.
I’m not a parent, I don’t plan to be a parent (I can’t even deal with my cats), and I wasn’t extraordinarily girly as a child, although I definitely wasn’t what you’d call boyish either. But I have to say kudos to these parents for loving their children and being committed to encouraging them in being who they are and pushing others to do likewise.
p.s. As full of fail as I understand the show is in so many ways, I’d like to give it up to Glee for portraying not only a sympathetic, unabashedly effeminate male character in Kurt Hummel, portrayed by the adorable Chris Colfer, but also showing the tender, loving, and accepting relationship between him and his very traditionally masculine dad. I sort of wish I had a TV and the time necessary to watch the show (and could stomach its transphobia, racism, ableism, and other kinds of nonsense), just so I could follow how Kurt is doing.
Robby’s 5-year-old son loves to play with Barbies and prefers wearing girl’s clothes. She asks Dr. Phil how to deal with this behavior, which she doesn’t think is normal.[…]
Dr. Phil tells Robby that she has a job to do: “Direct your son in an unconfusing way. Don’t buy him Barbie dolls or girl’s clothes. You don’t want to do things that seem to support the confusion at this stage of the game … Take the girl things away, and buy him boy toys.”
Most importantly, he tells Robby, “Support him in what he’s doing, but not in the girl things.”
Bilerico contributor Alex Blaze observes:
The goal is not to make this boy happy. What the boy wants does not concern Dr. Phil; he neither asks about it nor does he respect what he’s told the boy wants, advising the mother to steam-roll over her son’s personality and force him to replace his desires with other desires.
The goal is to make the boy normal, because everyone’s goal in life is to make the Dr. Phils of the world more comfortable.
ETA: Here’s an additional opinion from a mom of a femme boy, under the admirably blunt title “Dr. Phil Wants To Make My Son Cry”:
“Most importantly, support him in what he’s doing, but not in the girl things.”
Nice. Only support half of your child; you can support all of them if they fall in the range of “normal.” I should support C.J.’s brother because he is into video games, baseball, skateboarding and fart jokes. But, I shouldn’t support C.J. completely because he likes dolls, playing beauty parlor, doing girly sticker books and walking around in my high heels. Support him, but only half way. Let him know that only certain parts of him are okay. To me this is the worst suggestion of the bunch.
(continued from A Femme Grows in Montreal, part I)
I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 18. Continuing in my tradition of learning everything I ever knew about being a fag from lesbians, I first started to consider the label ‘genderqueer’ when I read it in Alison Bechdel’s wonderful comic Dykes to Watch Out For, in the mouth of her butch, drag kinging character Lois, who proclaims, “I enjoy being a girl… in a perverse sort of way.” This gripped me. For me, it had never been a question of reconciling my feminine ways with my manhood; it was about being something other than a man.
At another revelatory time I joined a program that went into schools to do anti-homophobia workshops. As part of the training, a trans person came in and had us play “gender gumby,” a game where we would brainstorm as many labels for gender as we could think of and then drew lines to make up a network of those that applied to us. It was the first time I, personally, had ever been encouraged to think of my gender as potentially non-binary, something other than a check-box. I was thunderstruck.
I identified far more with being a fag than with being a man; given two check-boxes, I would check off M, but I always wanted to scratch it off and write “Femme gay boy” instead. My gender was a queer one.
I didn’t have the standard super-faggy little kid narrative. I was pretty much a full-on nerd, which at that point was practically its own gender. I didn’t have either GI Joes or Barbies; I had stuffed animals, books, and Legos. Both the war toy and doll commercials on Saturday morning cartoons weirded me out – I identified them right away as weird, fake plastic shit that I couldn’t imagine anyone finding the least bit entertaining, and watching the commercials for them was just cringe-making and embarrassing.
Not that there weren’t certain signs of what was coming. There was that odd affection for rainbows, and at one point I had a dollhouse, but no dolls – just furniture, which I would rearrange. That’s right, interior decorating at age 6. There was also the music teacher who introduced me to musicals in grade 6, where I promptly went bananas for The Phantom of the Opera, and all those obscure operas to which my dad received free tickets that he gave to me and Mom. (I’m pretty sure I was one of the few 12-year-old boys to have seen both The Pearl Fishers and Dialogues of the Carmelites.)