Last week during dinner, my son put his face down on the table, covered his head with his hands and said with a moan:
“Jesus, why did you give me a penis?”
As you can imagine, I was shocked. Not so much by the idea — he often declares he wants to be a girl, usually very loudly in places very public — but I had never heard him so sad. In a moment of sheer stupidity, I focused on the one thing that didn’t really matter.
“Where did you learn that word?” I demanded.
He looked up at me blearily.
I shook my head impatiently.
He couldn’t answer that, of course. We live in the South, so Jesus is as much a part of daily life as cockroaches and good barbecue. And it’s no big deal if he knows who Jesus is or wants to pray to him. I just hated to see him so unhappy.
It’s possible my son is transgender. It wouldn’t upset me if he is, not that he needs my permission but he would certainly have my support.
But it breaks my heart to think of him hating the way he is now. He’s perfect to me, the little s–thead. No parent wants to see their child in pain. At least not till they become teenagers and turn into smart-mouthed a-holes.
And in my Lifetime-movie-esque haste to be understanding, I don’t want to overlook the very real possibility that he simply likes things that are traditionally feminine and believes he needs to be a girl to enjoy them.
Pink rocks. Glitter is awesome. Tulle is fun. I like these things, so why wouldn’t he?
When toy makers began rolling out pastel and princess versions of everything, it didn’t bother me. It seemed to me they were responding more to demand than creating it. What I find interesting is how my son — and many other boys, if my mom friends are to be believed — are lapping it up too.
It seems improbable to me that every boy who picks up a Barbie or plays dress-up is transgender or gay. As improbable as every girl who likes trucks and superheroes being transgender or lesbian.
Maybe they just like what they like.
But if he is transgender I don’t want to deny those feelings. (I also don’t want him to think that pink and makeup are the sum total of womanhood, but that’s a rant for another day.)
My strategy thus far has been to ask him, whenever he brings it up, why he wants to be a girl. The answer is usually, “Because girls can be princesses.”
Ugh. The *&%@ing princess thing.
When I ask why he wants to be a princess, he responds:
“Because they are strong and brave and go on big adventures.”
Here’s where Disney comes in. In response to criticisms of princesses and fairy tales being sexist, the entertainment giant came out with a host of princesses who do exciting things and don’t need help from dudes. That they are still totally bang-able is, um, not important right now.
Of course he wants to be a princess. I want to be a Disney princess, too.
This isn’t an indictment of Disney for presenting my son with strong(ish) female characters, or the feminist movement for demanding it do so. As far as I’m concerned, Disney has one job and that’s certainly not to raise my kids. It’s to keep them occupied for a few minutes at a time so I can get liquored up. (Heh, heh. I’m kidding. Seriously.)
And I love me some feminism. Every time I see an episode of Mad Men I want to kiss the feet of every feminist who ever lived.
I’m just saying that because his idols are women, I don’t want him to think there is anything wrong with having man junk.
He’s only six. I have to balance what he can comprehend now with what he will know some day. I almost crossed that line once when he asked if he could become a girl some day and I — in a moment of distraction — said yes.
He looked surprised.
“Like, there’s a magician who can do that?”
“Doctors, actually. You used to have to go Scandinavia — ” at that point I realized what I was saying. “You know what? Just stop talking and eat your mac and cheese.”
Annnnd, because the sands of childhood are constantly shifting, this may not be an issue for long. One minute he’s sad he’s not a girl, the next he’s furious he isn’t a popsicle.
In the most recent development of this saga, he came home from camp the other day and declared:
“Girls are boring. I’m so glad I’m not a girl.”
Trying not to look too excited — and making a mental note to correct him — I asked why.
“My friend Emily says that. She hates being a girl. It’s so great I am a boy.”
It took every ounce of restraint for me not to shout:
“Thank you, Jesus!”