My friend, SS, sent me a link to this post at Crazy Days and Nights, which sent me over to this treasure of an advice post at Dr. Phil’s website. And you know what I am going to do? I’m going to quote the whole damn thing because I can’t just pick my favorite part:
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.
“There are developmental stages in kids and it is not unusual, particularly for young boys, to experiment and get stuck on certain stimulus items,” says Dr. Phil. Particularly because the little boy has two older sisters, he says, it’s not unusual.
“This is not a precursor to your son being gay,” explains Dr. Phil. He’ll know that in time, but this is not an indication of his sexual orientation.
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.”
“And if your son is gay,” Dr. Phil continues, “he’ll learn that when he passes puberty and gets into a lifestyle and determines what his orientation is, and his lifestyle will flow from that. It won’t be a choice; it will be something that he’s pre-wired to do, and he’ll know that in plenty of time if he’s an adult. But you shouldn’t take this as an indication of that at this point.”
AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH! [Head meets desk]
Be supportive of your son…unless he likes girl things. If he likes girl things, totally and completely stop supporting him. Belittle him, shame him, make him fearful of stepping outside of whatever it is that you have decided is the gender that equates to “boy.” I mean, barf.
Literally. This makes me want to barf.
I love how he says “boy toys” and “girl things” like that is obvious and easy anyhow. What, no links to actual products? No charts or descriptions? Is this a color thing? Will pink shit make him a “girl”? Or really, the fear is that he will magically be pink-ified into a gay boy. And you know how bad that would be.
- He says being gay is “pre-wired” but then makes it clear that if this mother (who obviously fears turning her boy gay – wtf is that about anyway?) does the wrong thing, she could affect her child’s sexual preferences. Which is it? Also, it’s not “unusual” for this boy to play with his sisters’ toys and clothes but that mom, if she is at all a good parent, will stop that usual behavior immediately. Huh? This write up isn’t that long. How can you fit so many contradictions in such a small space?
- What does he mean that you can teach gender in an “unconfusing way”? Gender, by definition, is confusing. That’s why people work so incredibly hard at drawing boundaries between genders. Because they recognize that in most cases, that boundary is blurry at best, non-existent more often. Otherwise, people wouldn’t worry so much about it.
- I don’t think that boy is confused. I think that is a main issue here. Phil tells the mom to not “support the confusion.” But actually, the only people who are confused are the mom and Phil. They seem to think that playing with things they have decided are “girl things” matter. They are wrong. They are confused.
- This advice would NEVER go the other way. Because boy = gender neutral. If a mother was fearful that her daughter wanted to wear pants, I don’t think it would make an advice column (unless the little girl “unnaturally” refused skirts or dresses or tights or cute little shirts with pink flowers all over them). Or if she was worried that her daughter played with – well, fuck, what counts as a “boy toy” that isn’t simply gender neutral? – that it would be an advice column. If it was, it would basically amount to, “She is going to be stronger for it!” We all know that it is good for girls to be more like boys whereas, clearly, it is LIFE OR DEATH for a boy to be remotely girlish.
You know what? This makes me want to run out and by my 2yo son lots of barbies. And dresses. And mix them in with everything else he owns. I hope he happily embraces them all and when he looks back on his life, he is happy that his parents let him explore and didn’t shame him from a young age.
If you follow Phil’s advice, you will not only shame your child, you will actually thoroughly confuse them. They will be confused by these arbitrary definitions that you are forcing on them when all the want to do is play. As my son would say, “I just want to play a little bit.” I can’t believe that people see harm in that. That makes me just see harm in them and their desperate desire to force confusing gender boundaries.
Wow. Now my brain – and, for that little boy, my heart – hurts.