My Response to "My Son is Gay"

A blog post about a kick-ass momma defending her 5 year-old’s desire to dress as a woman for Halloween took the Internet by storm yesterday. The story- written by a mother of three who goes by the moniker Nerdy Apple Bottom got picked up by CNN, Gawker, The Guardian, and The Advocate and now has over 20,000 comments. Her story is simple and concise, but managed to create a stir between readers who related and those who did not. In short, the mother vents her anger towards other mothers at her son’s church preschool who questioned why she let him dress as Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween. It is difficult for me to imagine that anyone would disagree with the mother’s support of her son. To tell a child “no” due to your own insecurities about gender roles and sexuality just seems like bad parenting to me.

The mother’s story really hit home for me because I was made fun of for wearing men’s clothing as a kid.

When I was in junior high I came to school dressed in suits. Sometimes I wore wigs. I liked ties. Vests. Suspenders. Sometimes I dressed as Groucho Marx. I would burn a cork and paint a giant mustache above my mouth. Or draw giant eyebrows to make myself Rod Serling. I loved Elton John. I bought sequined clothing and eye wear to look like him. My best friend loved RuPaul and he and I would shoot videos of us singing “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart”. It’s fair to say that I was an eccentric child. My mother encouraged it. She never once questioned me. In fact, she loved to see what new character or outfit I would put together.

I come from a small town in Upstate New York which was both good and bad. Good in that the community was tight-knit, people generally knew and stood by each other. Bad in that it was closed-minded in the way that only a small town can be. Once my peers and I started entering puberty, the behavior that I displayed became chastised and ridiculed. I got called “gay” and “dyke”- which my 13 year-old mind processed as something that must be bad. I was just airlifted and dropped onto the hormonal roller coaster of my teenage years and the suggestion that I liked women terrified me. I became self-conscious and started wearing what normal girls wore- t-shirts and skirts and denim jackets from The Gap.

I luckily exited high school completely unscathed except for maybe a tiny chip that still sits on my shoulder. I went to a liberal college in a liberal town (Ithaca, New York) where I met boys who dressed as girls, girls who dressed as boys and everything in between. The best part of it all was everyone supported each other! I went on to move to the second largest city in United States (Los Angeles) then to one of the most open-minded (Austin). I feel extraordinarily lucky to have encountered and made friends with people of all walks of life in both of those cities. People who are proud to be whomever they are. I only wish I grew up in a town like Austin when I was a kid.

I used to work for a man whose sexuality often came into question. When people would ask me if he was gay, I always responded with, “Who gives a flying fuck?” It’s hard for me to recall the fearful 13 year-old who was scared of what people thought. Hell, as many of you know, I wore chest hair for Halloween this year and I kind of liked it. I don’t give a shit if you think I’m gay, bi, straight, or queer. I am me and I am proud of the person I am.

It would be idealistic to assume that everyone on the planet will one day accept each other for who they are. That ain’t ever going to happen. Insecurities and fear due to bad parenting, religion, and societal norms will keep on developing generation after generation. The best we can do is take all of that negative and make it into something positive: So, I want to thank the people who made fun of me as a kid. I strive to always keep evolving and not be pigeonholed because of you. However, more importantly, I want to thank my mother who always told me never to let anyone make me feel bad about myself. I wouldn’t be who I am today with out you. Fake chest hair and all.

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  • Reply Just Plain Tired November 5, 2010 at 3:01 pm

    Sheesh, he's a 5-year-old kid. Some people are complete idiots. I couldn't care less about someone's image, or their sexual orientation. If I'm going to judge people it's on character period.

  • Reply Sarah Wilks November 5, 2010 at 3:22 pm

    Such a well-written post, and I completely agree with you! Who decided dresses were only for girls and ties were only for boys anyway? They're all made of the same materials anyways!

  • Reply Anthony Strand November 5, 2010 at 3:23 pm

    My (straight) little brother dressed as Esmeralda from Disney's Hunchback for Halloween when he was 6. When I read "My Son is Gay", I immediately thought of him. My parents always encouraged us to be ourselves, and I think we all turned out better for it.

  • Reply JP November 5, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    For a few years in a row when I was about his age my sisters dressed me up as a girl for Halloween.

    Dammit I was a pretty cute girl.

  • Reply IT November 5, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    I remember when I was a kid… about a thousand years ago… other boys dressing as girls [not even fictional characters] for Halloween. So what? None of them even turned out to be cross-dressers.

  • Reply Hipstercrite November 5, 2010 at 3:44 pm

    @Tired- 1, 5, 20, or 50 years old, doesn't stop ignorant assholes from hatin' on people. I like your way of thinking. Judge on character.

    @Sarah- Truthfully, I think men's clothing is made better! Though we women have more variety in clothing.

    @Anthony- Your parents sound awesome! And so does your little bro.

    @JP- HA! Were you dressed as a famous woman or just a woman?

    @IT- Yeah, I don't get the big deal, but for some people it is.

  • Reply Melanie's Randomness November 5, 2010 at 3:47 pm

    Poor lil boy. It is so hard to tell a 5 year old no. This is a great written post & I agree with you. Who cares that the kid is dressed like a girl. Technically pirates are men. Women dress as pirates all the time. Big Bird is a guy yet women dress up as him. Men dress up like women allll the time. Eddie Izzard, perfect example. He's not gay but he likes wearing make-up & wigs. Regardless if he's gay or not it's just fun to them. I think this whole ordeal got blown out of proportion. Poor lil guy. Let him do whatever he wants!

  • Reply Big Mark 243 November 5, 2010 at 3:53 pm

    The Mom's post was dead on… my darling brother had an 'astral' friend who he called, 'Daphne'. She would be his boon companion until he left this world.

    The tears stinging my eyes are because of your post and what you went through. I was fortunate to have an understanding Mother and even though narrow mindedness existed when I was growning up, just as it always has and will, that growing up was done in a big city.

    I could not have imagined what it would have been like to be in a small town, dealing with questions about what was I. My Mom always had me repeat my name, a drill for when mean kids would taunt me and call me names. "After all", she would say, "it isn't about what they call you as much as it IS what you answer too!"

    Been called 'sweet' and 'honey boy' and a couple of other names that filled in for slurs… being an athelete and having the physique to meet most taunts with force kept the hounds at bay in high school. But oddly, it would not be until I was an adult and had served in the Army that I really remember or felt that how I carried myself made people question my sexuality.

    See, I did not know that wanting to be well-groomed, neatly dressed and sensitive were markers for being anything other than 'a dandy'. I even had the image for the attitude I thought I would project in Adam Ant!! 'Prince Charming' was who I thought I would be and it was tiresome listening to the questions and seeing the looks that I had to put up with.

    Believe it or don't, but there is more understanding taking place, this incident being one that makes people shake their heads and wonder how these folks can figure out how to dress themselves in the morning.

    Reading your story makes me feel sad, a little. I wish that I could have been your friend in that small, upstate town. We'd have made quite a pair, you and I. 'Swish' and 'Slash' could have been our superhero nicknames!

    Anywho, I hope that you are well and take care of yourself!!

  • Reply Jessica November 5, 2010 at 4:10 pm

    My father may have been (and still is) a religious nut, but I grew up in Portland, OR and that gave balance to his crazed rants.

    I am so grateful I was raised in that city.

    In high school my locker-partner was a lesbian. Some idiot classmates then assumed I caught "the gay". Thankfully, the small-minded were grossly outnumbered and our school officials even allowed same-sex couples to come to dances and cross-dress.

    This Mom is awesome. And her son totally rocked that costume.

  • Reply Brooke Farmer November 5, 2010 at 4:31 pm

    Awesome, awesome, awesome post.

    My son has dressed as a girl for probably half of his Halloweens. He says he gets more candy that way.

    Also, he has a pink mohawk.

    He struggles to fit in with peers and I worry because I know what a hard time I had at that age. I wish there was a way to convince 13 year olds that none of this actually matters and some day you won't care.

  • Reply Adria November 5, 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Excellent response to that wonderful piece of blogosphere that woman wrote. I wish the whole world were as open-minded as the small number of people who are.

  • Reply The Mad Dame November 5, 2010 at 5:25 pm

    I'm jealous of you having a great Mom. My was very much into making me a pretty pretty princess, regardless of how I felt or what I wanted. Didn't really work out all the great in the long run. Kudos to you for not letting yourself get pigeonholed.

  • Reply KeLLy aNN November 5, 2010 at 7:50 pm

    I'm just shaking my head at this.
    We knew so far ahead of my oldest that he had to go back in the closet just to come out. And we barely blinked. Copper and I have so many friends in the gay community, they would call us to let us know what Son was up to. They all watched out for him as he went through the whole Gay Circuit. He went to a middle school dance dressed in drag. Kids starting calling him queer, fag, etc before that, and he was taught to stand up, and ask "why? are you interested?" That nipped it in the bud, read quick. ONE LOVE!!!

  • Reply Hipstercrite November 5, 2010 at 8:23 pm

    @Melanie- Eddie Izzard is the shit. I think more men should take his cue!

    @Mark- Aww Mark! Thank you for that wonderful response. It reminds me that we've all gone through this. Unfortunately kids bully. Period. It's not fair or right, but truthfully, I'm glad I went through it. I'm one of the lucky ones though. Some don't make it through. Some have to deal with a million times worse. I miss the days of my youth, but I don't miss the crap we went through. Being an adult means I get to meet wonderful people…like you! (well, at least over the internet)

    @Jessica- Portland seems like a wonderful city to grow up in. Oregon in general seems pretty freakin' awesome. I love the way they think there.

    @Brooke- Just keep reminding your son how awesome he is. Tell him that I think he's cool too. Pink mohawk? F yeah!

    @Adria- Man! Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone got along and supported each other? It would be so freakin' amazing!

    @The Mad Dame- Well, my grandmother, who lived across the street, very much cared about me looking like a young lady. However, if she had a problem with my eccentricities, she never voiced them to me. My poor mother growing up in the 50's and 60's, on the other hand, had to deal with it…

    @Kelly Ann- That brought tears to my eyes! You and your son sound awesome. How old is he now?

  • Reply Christopher November 5, 2010 at 9:11 pm

    guys dress as women alllllll the time for halloween, this shouldn't be a big deal.

    this fear of homosexuality in all things makes no sense to me, this isn't the 50's anymore we're supposed to be able to do whatever the hell we want, dennis rodman made it OK for anyone to wear a feather boa back in the 90's. people just need to calm down, and you sure as hell shouldnt attack a 5 year old for wearing a costume, blah!

  • Reply theTsaritsa November 5, 2010 at 11:49 pm

    People are so close-minded, it makes them stupid. I used to wear ties and boys clothes in elementary and high-school and got made fun of for it. It's ridiculous. I would write them all off and say that they're square, but their ignorance is quite dangerous.

  • Reply Nanette November 6, 2010 at 12:11 am

    the original story and now yours are so awesome. Last night my 8 year old son went to bed with his pj shirt off one soulder and a glittery pink shoelace tied like a headband and went to bed as an "80's disco dancer" – I have so many pictures of him dressed as a girl. i likes to prance. if he's not gay he will be in theater or a sensitive fashion designer. 🙂
    i adore him. he's happy

    xxoo @rocknrealty

  • Reply Benny November 6, 2010 at 1:27 am

    Got me thinking about how much the way we dress is shaped by what people say to us before we've hit puberty. It really is sad. It's also easy to get conditioned to think, "All those people who dress so weirdly want too much attention." God damnit. We're all just people having fun with our appearance. And we all want some sort of attention.

  • Reply cj Schlottman November 8, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Hey, Lauren,

    This is a totally wonderful post – so full of stuff to think about.

    The Mom is a rock star and her darling son was too cute for words. WTF is WRONG with people?

    Your story brought a tear to my eye. I'm so glad you're in Austin and happy. I'm so old, I never heard the words, dyke, lesbian, queer or bisexual until I was grown!

    My 17 year old nephew is gay and unfortunately lives in a very small town in north Georgia. Never mind that he just won principal second chair oboe in the Atlanta Youth Symphony, last year he was so harassed at school that he took a razor blade to his neck and brachial arteries. Thanks to his Rockstar Mom, he survived.

    Will the madness ever end? No. So very sad.

    Thanks and hugs………cj

    PS I had a sexual relationship with a woman, and I am not a dyke or a lesbian or a queer. We both needed warmth and gentleness, something we were not getting from men at the time. We are no longer sexual, having decided that we are hetero at heart, but we are best friends. So there.

  • Reply "M" November 8, 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Really well-written post. I was definitely encouraged to NOT be too eccentric as a child, and forced to wear clothes that I despised. Now, as an adult, I find myself making up for it. Sometimes I dress like a bit of an idiot, but I have a blast doing it.

  • Reply KeLLy aNN November 9, 2010 at 4:27 am

    well Hipster, my Son will be 21 in January.
    and I have to say, damn it, I'm so proud of him.

  • Reply Riley Carson November 14, 2010 at 11:31 am

    This? Is. AWESOME!!!!

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