Young kids, gender norms and homophobia - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 4 Old 03-06-2009, 04:32 PM - Thread Starter
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Thought I would ask you guys how I can help support this little boy..

My boyfriend's nephew (he might as well be my nephew too, I've know him since he was a year old and spend a lot of time with the family) is 5. He's always expressed an interest in 'girly' things - wearing dresses and makeup, 'girl' toys and tv shows, dancing and singing like Hannah Montana, styling hair, growing his own hair long (when he can he always has something on his head to pretend he has long hair), painting his nails, etc. He has two older sisters so that's probably a big part of it. But it also is what he seems to prefer hands down. If you give him a choice between neutral, rough and tough and pink and sparkly, he wants pink and sparkly, always.

Problem is his dad is pretty homophobic (even though he has an openly gay sister - they are Catholic and conservative, and I don't think any of the kids even know what 'gay' means, or that their aunt is), and he HATES seeing his son doing any of these things. He's forbidden from doing any of it, and gets yelled at when he's not acting manly. Dad's not excessively cruel or scary about it, but he tells him to STOP acting that way in no uncertain terms. He makes a big deal about them doing 'guy stuff' together that his sisters don't do (none of which the boy seems to like much - he doesn't like rough play or getting dirty), and things that he has wants to do, like gymnastics classes (he has a lot of natural talent) are denied - he plays baseball instead. It's a lot of pressure and a it's become a very big deal in their family at this point. Since he hasn't grown out of it, now his mom and sisters have started trying to suppress his behavior too.. he's told everything he likes to do is 'for girls' and it's made as off-limits as possible.

My BF and I, and his mother, babysit the boy sometimes and when his dad's not around to squelch it he is a totally different kid, we let him do all the things he can't at home.

It's breaking my heart at this point. I just wish they would let him do what he likes and be who he is, you know? I try to be supportive - I've told him he's technically a boy no matter what he likes or does (and being male is certainly no better than being female), that stuff made 'for boys' isn't any better than stuff made 'for girls', that he can do whatever he wants when he grows up - he wants to be a hairdresser and a 'fashionista'. His grandma also indulges his preferences - she lets him put on her makeup and dress up at her house and tells him it's fine - but they have to hide it from his family and if they get 'caught' he gets a talking-to.

He's not in full-time school yet, so that's going to be even tougher (he already gets teased a little by neighborhood kids).. whether he's straight or gay or trans, whatever, it just sucks that he's going to have to deal with people judging him and that he doesn't get to express himself how he wants to, because our society is so committed to boys only acting like they 'should'..

Is there anything else I can do for him?
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#2 of 4 Old 03-06-2009, 06:31 PM
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Oh Rhubarbarin,

Bless you for caring for this little one. Your post brought tears to my eyes.

So here's the deal - I research and write about queer, trans and non-gender normative teens. Luckily much of the research shows that having supportive adults (even if they aren't their parents) makes these kids lives much easier.

I would check out Stephanie Brill's new book on Transkids, sign up for the Safe Schools Coalition newsletter (they often have trainings and suggestions about how to make life easier for queer/trans kids and are just a great resource) and maybe buy some kids books that provide alternative models of gender and sexuality. Here's a link to a list of books on Amazon that might be useful:

Feel free to PM me to talk more.

Hang in there and again, bless you for being such a great force in this little one's life.


Professional nerd, DP to Megan and mommy to 3 y/o Bam Bam . TTC since January '09.  Welcomed our new babes May 22, 2011. Now living life in the NICU one day at a time.
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#3 of 4 Old 03-06-2009, 06:38 PM
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Quoted: 0 Post(s)'s a list of resources, some of which might be more useful than others (and which desperately needs updating) I provide when giving talks on issues of gender and sexual identity and youth:

Parent, Teacher and Administrator Resources

Just the Facts About Sexual Orientation & Youth: A Primer for Principals, Educators
and School Personnel
American Psychological Association

If You Are Concerned About Your Child's Gender Behaviors: A Parent Guide
Children’s National Medical Center

Going Beyond Gay-Straight Alliances to Make Schools Safe for Lesbian, Gay,
Bisexual, and Transgender Students
Institute for Gay and Lesbian Strategic Studies

Dealing with Legal Matters Surrounding Students’ Sexual Orientation and Gender
National School Boards Association

Curriculum Resources

Safe Schools Coalition
Public Health - Seattle & King County
MS: NTH-PH-0100
10501 Meridian Ave. N.
Seattle, WA 98133
(206) 632-0662 x49

Box 93678 Nelson Park PO
Vancouver, BC

Women’s Educational Media
Respect for All
2180 Bryant Street, Suite 203
San Francisco, CA 94110

The Southern Poverty Law Center
400 Washington Ave.
Montgomery, AL 36104
(334) 956-8200

Out for Equity
Wellstone School
65 East Kellogg Blvd.
Saint Paul, MN 55101


Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network
121 West 27th Street, Suite 804
New York, NY 10001

The Gay-Straight Alliance Network
160 14th Street
San Francisco, CA 94103

1743 Connecticut Ave NW
Fourth Floor
Washington D.C. 20009

Sexuality information and Education Councilof the U.S. (SIECUS)
130 W. 42nd Street, #2500
New York, NY 10036


“It’s Elementary: Talking About Gay Issues in School” and “Let’s Get Real”
Women's Educational Media
2180 Bryant Street, Suite 203
San Francisco, CA 94110

“Gay Youth”
New Day Films
190 Route 17M
P.O. Box 1084
Harriman, NY 10926

“Girl Wrestler”
Women Make Movies, Inc.
462 Broadway, Suite 500W
New York, NY 10013

“Flirting or Hurting”
GPN Educational Media
P.O. Box 80669
Lincoln, NE 68501-0669

“Isn't It Obvious?" and "Trained in the Ways of Men"
Reel Freedom Films
43250 Paseo Padre Pkwy
Fremont, CA 94539

Professional nerd, DP to Megan and mommy to 3 y/o Bam Bam . TTC since January '09.  Welcomed our new babes May 22, 2011. Now living life in the NICU one day at a time.
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#4 of 4 Old 03-06-2009, 06:50 PM
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The others have given much better info than I can, but I'd just like to say more power to the girly boys! My son begs for his daily "spritz" - he gets a spray of body spray each morning while I'm putting on my makeup. And he spent his sister's birthday dressed like this. (Excuse the funny look on his face.)

My husband gets uncomfortable with it at times. We gave DS a choice between a fairy theme for his room and an action hero theme and he picked the fairies. DH got all sore loser on us and decided to replace it with a car theme, which turned out OK because DS is insane about cars right now... But he still would've gone with the fairies I think if given a choice! But yeah, DH doesn't like it too much. He's always talking about what he will do when DS is older, and I'm thinking, hmm, possibly DD would want to do those, but I dunno about DS! (DD is much more rough and tumble ironically.)
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