It’s early and as usual I am up first and I’m watching the news on TV. Our 6 year old comes downstairs and after the briefest of ‘good morning’ hugs and kisses goes into the play room and busies himself.
His brother is up minutes later and comes and joins me on the sofa and starts asking questions about the news, I would love to think that at 7 he has discovered a real interest in current affairs, but in fact I have worked out that it is his way of getting me to give up on the news – which I am now missing big chunks of – and agree to switch to CBBC.
I do and we are watching something together when the younger brother walks back into the room, I look up as he enters and immediately notice his posture and his slow, determined walk – it’s positively regal – and then I see that he is wearing one of his favourite possessions – his Tiara.
It is not one of any value – well monetary value anyway – just a cheap plastic affair with brightly coloured plastic ‘jewels’, but he loves it with a passion and keeps it safely stored away for special occasions – and apparently he has decided that this is exactly that.
He takes a seat beside us, he is sitting very upright and has just a touch of a smile and is radiating a look of total contentment.
Not a word is said by any of us. I was somehow touched by the moment and I take the opportunity to snap a photo and post it on Facebook. The boys watch their 30 minutes quota of morning TV and joined by my partner we go for breakfast.
My partner’s question of ‘it’s a Tiara kind of morning this morning is it?’ was simply answered with a huge beaming smile.
He decides to remove his Tiara and return it to it’s special place on the way to breakfast and it doesn’t reappear for a couple of weeks or so.
Although the Tiara is his pride and joy he has a fascination for all jewellery and has amassed quite a collection of cheap and cheerful bits – which he calls his treasure – given to him by various family and friends who have been so touched by his interest in it. He plays with his treasure and wears certain pieces as he pleases.
We are gay parents and having our son show such an interest in what others may call ‘girly’ things is of little significance to us and in fact barely registers most of the time – he clearly knows what he likes and neither of us would consider for one moment trying to stop something that obviously brings him so much pleasure.
In our 2 years as a family we have never questioned his choices and never pointed out that some things that he enjoys so very much are ‘meant for girls’, We have a general attitude of ‘people are people and that’s cool’ and it’s expressed whenever we see the boys notice somebody ‘less normal’, which in London is wonderfully frequent. In the early days it was with some regularity, but now I am proud to say that it is hardly at all. They just don’t notice ‘different’ or ‘unusual’ the way they used to.
We have never said ‘we shouldn’t judge others’ because somehow in stating that you seem to be setting yourself apart as somebody who has the right to judge, we just want them to feel that everybody is equal – no matter how they come or what choices they make. We want them to feel that they can indeed follow paths that they feel are right for them – no matter how ‘non normal ‘ they may be.
Do we feel our son’s interest in girly things is a sign of him being gay? Not for one second.
It’s true that many gay men had an interest in girly things as children, but many – like myself – didn’t. Equally many boys who enjoyed playing with their sister’s dolls and the like when young turned out straight, so it’s certainly not an indicator of sexuality.
Do we think we could be turning him gay by allowing this behaviour?
I think we are maybe the exception to the rule in embracing the behaviour so freely and those parents that don’t, who force their children into ‘appropriate’ gender roles don’t manage to stop their gay offspring being gay by making them play with cars – so no we do not, not all all.
I would also like to say that regardless of how comfortable we are as gay men we wouldn’t choose it for our sons. It’s a misconception to think that prejudice against gay people is a thing of the past – I would argue that in some respects it’s getting worse – and of course we want to protect our children from anything and everything negative – however, not by trying to make them into something they are not.
Do we consider that it could be a sign of ‘sexual identity disorder’? Again no, he has as many ‘boy’ interests as ‘girly’ ones and there is nothing at all suggesting to us that there is a stifled little girl inside our son trying to break out. However, we are aware that he had almost five years before we became his parents of being conditioned by others and may already feel a need to hide or pretend in order to suit the values of those around him, so we will always be observing him and will keep an open mind.
If there is something that he needs to come to terms with then we need him to know that we are not questioning that or judging him and certainly not putting up any barriers. We need him – and indeed his brother – to know and to be sure that we will support them no matter what. Literally – no matter what.
I guess it’s obvious that we are trying to do what our parents – as most parents of gay children back then – sadly failed to do, to prevent the pain caused when they fail to understand and accept their offspring for who and what they are. Even worse when they try to change and shape them into something they are not, just to suit their own bigoted or ignorant view of the world.
We know what that pain is like and how tough it was for us and there is of course no question that we would want to be responsible for that in a child of ours.
Something amazingly positive we have learnt from the above Tiara episode is just how wonderful the people around us are. We both have great families and have clearly chosen our friends well, the Facebook post got nothing but positive comments and more ‘likes’ than anything else I have posted. It’s heartwarming to see that those close to him embrace our son for exactly who he is and not what they want him to be or indeed need him to be.