Ruh-roh CNN and Dr. Gardere…

I think you still may have missed the point.  You are producing the fear that results in the gender harassment and anti-gay bullying of our children.  The ghost is in you.

Last week there was this little blog, My Son is Gay, written by a mother who was annoyed with the homophobic bullying she and her son endured over a costume her preschool son, Boo, picked for Halloween.  Seems Boo is a boy who chose to be Daphne from Scooby Doo this year for Halloween. 

I won’t go into too much detail but her point was pretty simple,

If you think that me allowing my son to be a female character for Halloween is somehow going to ‘make’ him gay then you are an idiot. Firstly, what a ridiculous concept. Secondly, if my son is gay, OK. I will love him no less. Thirdly, I am not worried that your son will grow up to be an actual ninja so back off.

And along with her witty and concise critique of cruel gender policing of preschoolers, Mama Blogger posted a picture of her son is his Daphne costume.  A Halloween costume, I have to say it one more time, a Halloween costume….

Up to here the event and the community reaction all line up pretty similar to that story in Seattle about the mom, Cheryl Kilodavis, who wrote the picture book My Princess Boy for her son after he wanted to be a Disney princess for Halloween.

But here is where this Blogger Mama, aka Cop’s Wife, was quite different from Cheryl Kilodavis.  In this earlier story Cheryl explained that she had initially tried to prevent her son from wearing a princess costume to protect him for bullying.  Cheryl went on to explain that when her boy wasn’t persuaded she changed tactics and stormed the school in advance to make sure he was treated well when he arrived in his Halloween princess costume. 

Blogger Mama “Cop’s wife” by contrast said, fine Boo, if you want to be Daphne do it.  She ordered up the costume and that was that. 

Buttttt….. when mother and child arrived at school for the Halloween party, she and Boo were both exposed to the ‘friendly’ shaming and bullying of some of the other preschool mothers.  These gals were appalled that Mama Blogger had allowed her son to wear a female costume for Halloween. 

Was Blogger Mama cowed and filled with regret?  Oh no, she abruptly turned the pointing fingers back around and said the problem lie in the reaction not in the costume.  Fueled with this thought, she sat down and posted a short 1000+ word essay that deftly identifies the core of this supposed problem:

And then Mom C approaches. She had been in the main room, saw us walk in, and followed us down the hall to let me know her thoughts. And they were that I should never have ‘allowed’ this and thank God it wasn’t next year when he was in Kindergarten since I would have had to put my foot down and ‘forbidden’ it. To which I calmly replied that I would do no such thing and couldn’t imagine what she was talking about. She continued on and on about how mean children could be and how he would be ridiculed.

My response to that: The only people that seem to have a problem with it is their mothers.

And that was that… Blogger Mama was pissed and took to her blog to post about the illogical and vicious violence of gender norms and homophobia.  She was clever in specifically noting how three of the class parents were actively creating this hostile space for children at very tender ages. And in very few words she also called into question the Christian credentials (the preschool is Christian) those spreading this hate and shame were brandishing.  It was a slick and somewhat quick post and went mega viral faster than you can say “I feel ya sista!”

Soon the blog was flooded with positive comments and virtual high fives reverberated across web world.  I mean this lady touched a nerve in the wake of a national discussion about LBGTQ bullying and suicides. 

But of course the national and international reaction to her blog brought about a new level of hand wringing from another group of concerned ‘child advocates’ yet working to protect children like Boo from gender and sexuality harassment.    Or something like that….  (Or really the very opposite of that as far as I can see.)

In any case, the viral reaction to Blogger Mama’s posting challenged the superiority of highly constricted gender norms and the presumed superiority of heterosexuality and shame of having a gay child. Her posting got a right on from a society that is coming to question and or reject such common sense notions as the idea…
…that macho masculinity = heterosexuality. 
…that sexual orientation is kind of like a cold that can be caught by dressing or acting the wrong way.
…that parenting results in sexual orientation.
…that gender harassment and bullying are the caused by the victim.
You know, ideas like that, that have been tested and rejected over and over by psychologists, sociologists, and educators.

And as we all know the media love to promote the ‘other side’ of these social issues in order to keep ideological fight interesting.  As always, a quiet day in Kansas where a mom speaks and 2 thousand people nod in agreement doesn’t grab as many viewers as a ‘controversy’ over a mother posting a photo of her preschool boy in his Daphne costume.

But of course in this case the ‘other side’ knew better than to jump up and down shouting, “Boy’s can’t wear dresses – that’s gay and we all know gay people suck.”  That’d be kinda tacky I guess, plus the last guy to do that, Clint McCance, had his job and his personal character handed to him on a plate for talkin’ trash in the wake of a string of highly publicized LGBTQ youth suicides.  Context counts way too much here I’m afraid, but it is what it is.  A great number of people have been sensitized through these deaths, and the rules have changed for how to couch your homophobia for the present time.

So lets not forget it cost way too many children their lives for this message to be heard by the general populace.

But back to my point, at this point in time it seems obvious that an open anti-gay attack can’t be the first tact for expressing concern over Blogger Mama’s viral anti-homophobia posting.  No it would not be wise to jump on her for the fact that she let Boo wear a dress, not for the fact that she allowed him to wear the costume in public, not for voicing her opinion about the stupidity of gender norms, or her opinion on the stupidity of assuming gender norms are the precursors of sexual orientation. 

This time around it would not be wise to express concern about all of that. 

So, this time around the concerned voices went after Mama Blogger for posting a picture of her boy in his costume on the internets….que dramatic music. 

I mean you know how we all consider it a sign of bad parenting to post pictures of your child on the internet… right ??? 

Oh yea. 
I guess we all do that sometimes don’t we.
I mean for grandma and all that. 

But for the public…
Well, I guess we do that too don’t we, when we’re proud of the karate champ or something. 
But for this ?!?!?! Oh no she didn’t!

I mean to be proud of THIS kind of picture?!  Right ?!?!  I mean being proud of THIS moment?!?!  Proud of THIS kind of courage, sheesh, this is just poor parenting.  Honor roll, speech champ, shoot even the kid who called 911 or performed CPR now that is something to post a proud parent picture about.  But this…I mean, think of the ridicule, think of the long-term ramifications, exposing your child as happily costumed as a girl and maybe gay… (I mean dressed as a girl – did I say gay – I meant dressed as a girl)

Someone among the nations child advocates must teach this mother and her hand clapping audience a lesson…

Someone must represent the ‘other side.’  Who oh who could the mainstream media find to set this women straight 😉

Who could the MSM find to back up those mama’s at the preschool concerns that Halloween costumes could quite possibly equal a presumably deviant sexual orientation.  Who could the MSM get to reach out and teach Blogger Mama, her child, and every other parent and child within hearing distance to make the same association between gender expression and sexual orientation.  And could help Cop’s Wife understand that we all share an unspoken fear and loathing for potentially gay people.

Well it didn’t take long to find an expert to represent these ideas as this more sophisticated homophobia was voiced to Boo’s mama by none other than Dr. Jeff Gardere, CNN’s resident psychologist.  CNN gave Dr. Gardere a national platform last week to state that Blogger Mama “Outed” her son, to claim that she had put out a picture on the internet that will haunt Boo for the rest of his life, and finally Dr. Jeff offered up Boo as an example of every parents “worst nightmare” that their child will grow up to be gay. 

Was his argument any different from the hand wringing mothers. Not one bit.  This learned psychologist suggested that anti-gay bias and gender harassment are normal parenting behaviors.  Dr. Gardere actually suggested that it is standing up to these ideas that is abnormal and dangerous parenting.

And I won’t even go into the fact that Blogger Mama had to remind this guy that Halloween costumes and gender expression in general are not the same thing as sexual orientation.  She also had to remind him that four-year old children rarely express a sexual orientation.   Two points he seemed to miss rather than highlight as a professional psychologist and supposed child advocate throughout the discussion.

But on second thought Dr. Gardere  decided yesterday that he may have been somewhat misguided in some of his statements.  Yesterday he decided to take back his professional conclusion that Mama Blogger “outed” her son.  He also took back his proclamation that having a gay child is a parent’s “worst nightmare.”  He decided to explain in a blog posting buried somewhere in the CNN web site how his earlier statements came out wrong on a national television channel during a live interview.  

I think the boat already left the harbor and the cameras are no longer running Doc. but I guess we can be thankful for the nod to the long-held professional consensus of the APA in his blogged recant.

Unfortunately Dr. Gardere had to march through his entire back tracking apology before he finally started moving in on the actual target.  Just as he was finishing his mia culpa the doctor noted the social problem Mama Blogger was addressing from the very first sentence of her posting:

We have come to a consensus that we can no longer be in fear of what our children will have to face in this cold and often cruel world. Our fears will simply be transmitted to our kids who will in turn become fearful and at risk for emotional dysfunction, isolation, depression or even suicide.

Good on you that you made it to the mountain after all Doctor.  Mama did however say it a little better before you jumped all over her:

And all I hope for my kids, and yours, and those of Moms ABC, are that they are happy. If a set of purple sparkly tights and a velvety dress is what makes my baby happy one night, then so be it. If he wants to carry a purse, or marry a man, or paint fingernails with his best girlfriend, then ok. My job as his mother is not to stifle that man that he will be, but to help him along his way. Mine is not to dictate what is ‘normal’ and what is not, but to help him become a good person.

Oh, and CNN psychologist, and concerned parents, and whomever else is out there wringing his or her hands and hoping to throw a blanket over all of our children to protect them through suffocation…

That emotional dysfunction Dr. Jeff mentioned, the one he noted all to often results in suicide and depression…

That emotional dysfunction produced by social fear also results in virulent homophobia on the part of all people, homo, hetero and everything in-between.  And the safety blanket being thrown over the little guy in the Daphne costume, it is simultaneously being thrown over every little child in that classroom.  

And that supposedly helpful blanket of gender expression shaming gets thrown on the vast majority of little boys when they wanna try on mama’s make-up, when they wanna wear a wig or grow their hair just a little too long, when they want to wear a twirlly skirt, or paint their nails etc.  The same blanket that is thrown over the little girls who are acting like boys or wanting to do boy things in the eyes of the adult world. 

And let me tell ya, at the ripe young age of preschool all of those activities are FUN.  Ask anyone who as an adult still gets dressed up for Halloween.

It is fun.

And it’s hard to talk our little children out of wanting to have fun….

Until he or she is taught to be ashamed of that fun, that desire.  Until he is taught that his desire is ‘perverted’ and maybe that it is psychologically demented.  Until his mother is told that it is abusive of a parent to support creativity and expression on Halloween if it ‘looks gay.’

Then it’s not so much fun anymore.

And banning half a world of fun for our little ones can sure give them a big anger they wanna let out somewhere on someone….

An anger that can be triggered by just seeing another boy in a Daphne costume and a Mama that feels good about that.

And that, as the APA pointed out thirty years ago, is where the personal and interpersonal violence begins. 

And maybe it starts small, maybe it starts with sweet words. 
Helpful advice given in whispers.

But the message is always the same.

Gender has to be done just right…..

Or you are gay.

And gay is bad.  I mean really bad.

Shit it’s a parent’s “worst nightmare.”

But hey, you must have heard us wrong….we’re just trying to help.

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  1. Pingback: Holy Bullies | Schooling Inequality