Sunday, November 7, 2010

What is under Halloween Costumes

I know that probably every other Blogging Mom is going to make a post about this, but I want to put my opinion out there, too.

Last week, someone (actually SEVERAL someones) "shared" a link to a blog by a mom who let her son dress up as Daphne from Scooby Doo for Halloween. (click here to read the original blog) Today, I read a report about it on CNN, too. (click here to see the CNN video report) The writer of the blog attended via phone (to protect her family's privacy) and there was also a psychiatrist there reporting his view point. It seems that when you normally have a handful of readers and you suddenly get more than a million hits to your site, the news services get interested. I think the news reporter hoped to get more "dirt" on the situation, or that she hoped to uncover a horrible story of hazing in pre-school. The psychiatrist had a few pointed comments to say about how she posted a picture of her son so now the world will know about his choices whether he wanted them to or not. They both were so off-base, it made me smile listening to the mother and her matter-of-fact replies. It's just a Halloween costume. He's only five. He's asked for this costume for a year and he loves the characters. It wouldn't matter if he was born gay, decided to "become gay", or just simply liked purple sparkly tights, she would love him the same. 

Reading the actual post, it was admirable how supportive this mom was of her son. The details of how her son came to be dressed up as Daphne and who really had a problem with it was eye opening. The other kids in class greeted him and hugged him just like they do any other day. The negative comments that she heard came from the other MOTHERS. It seemed that the adults were so concerned with how "others" would view this boy that they didn't even realize what hurtful things were coming out of their mouths. It was refreshing how down to earth about parenting she seemed, but also uplifting to feel the ray of hope she gave to so many others who needed to hear that somewhere out there, a mother proclaimed her love for her child regardless of his tendencies or choices. From parents, to future parents, to gay friends, and families of gay people, everyone I know felt that this mom was right-on. It made me proud of the people I am friends with.

I am not alone, either. Apparently there have been over 19,000 replies to her posting and the vast majority of them  were positive and supportive. As a mother, I do believe she was extremely courageous to post this story online (with an adorable shot of her son in the costume), but even more so to title her post "My Son Is Gay." If you read the entire blog, you will find first, that this mother isn't really professing that her son is gay. Also, you will find that neither shoe nor her son are making any political statements here. He just wanted to be Daphne for Halloween. She believes that it doesn't matter to her whether her son MIGHT be gay or not. She loves him the same. The point she wants to make is that the choice her son makes in Halloween costumes doesn't really mark him as gay, deranged, mislead, or anything else. It is just a COSTUME - something that he is NOT on a normal day.

I understand how much guts it took for her to allow him to make a choice like that and follow through. I also agree that is a little bit sad and a whole lot one-sided for anyone to make fun of his choice. Would someone think twice of a girl dressing up as Sipderman? Maybe, but it probably wouldn't make CNN. I see girls running around the school yard in clothes that were designed for boys. Even in Jr High and High School, no one would immediately question a girls' sexuality simply because she wears cargo shorts and a flannel shirt. (They might accuse her of having bad taste and poor fashion sense, but that is a completely different issue.)  Why is it ok for girls to wear boy clothes, or even aspire to become something that a man typically does, but a boy shouldn't wear pink sneakers or enjoy playing with Barbie dolls?

Seriously people. Use your brains about this one. First, there are some things that are forgivable simply because they are done by a child. If a 2 year old creates a masterpiece in Sharpie on your wall, they don't go to prison. For an adult this would be considered vandalism, but for a child this should be a learning moment for them and their parents. Children learn that they can't color on walls and parents learn to put the Sharpies out of reach. Shouldn't they also make sure there are washable crayons and paper available for approved art projects. If a boy wants to dress or act in a way that might not be mainstream, well, you should discuss the consequences of their actions but you should also allow them to follow their hearts. Who hasn't seen a mom in grocery store with her toddler dressed in a tutu and rain boots or as a superhero in sneakers? Is it really all that awful if the tutu is being worn by a boy? By telling our sons that they "can't" do this or look like that, aren't we training them that the possibilities in their life are limited? Why is it more acceptable to tell a boy not to wear nail polish than it is to tell a girl not to become a Firefighter? Are you afraid that the child will be psychologically damaged or are you more scared that his independence and charisma might shatter the perfect, well ordered universe that exists only in your mind?

I can't say I know what it is like to have a son and have to deal with the fear that his choices will have him viewed as a "sissy" by his peers or beat up on the play ground.  I only have girls, so I have worries of a different nature, that they will be called a "slut" for talking to the wrong guy in public or get verbally beat up every minute of every day DURING school because they prefer comfortable clothes over fashionable ones. I know these fears are so different as to be incomparable. However, I know some things are universal whether you are a mother or father or whether you have boys, girls, or both. I understand the feeling of wanting to protect your children from any pain at any cost, and I deeply relate to the feeling of aching for them and with them when you can't keep that pain away. I also know that as a parent, it is our obligation and duty to instill certain values and morals in our children. I would hope that those values and morals were positive, inclusive, and wholesome instead of negative, discriminatory, backwards. As a citizen of a free and multi-cultured country, our society has certain rules that should be followed if for no other reason than to be able to get along with others. Say please and thank you. Wash your hands. Treat others as you would like to be treated. Don't pee in the pool. Share what you have with those that need it. I really don't think "Make fun of others because they are different" needs to be one of the social norms that should be passed on. Neither should "Be afraid to be different."

I asked all three of my young hearts what they would think and how they would react if one of the boys in THEIR class came to school dressed as Daphne from Scooby-Doo. I even showed them the picture of the boy ans explained the circumstances so they would have a clear understanding of the situation. Their answers made me smile and also made me very, very proud. Little Heart (who is 13, now) thought it would be funny (as in comical) but she also made it clear that if anyone decided to push this boy around, she would be right behind him pushing the bully back. LH would not stand by and allow anyone - even a strange boy in a dress - to get picked on. It goes against her strong sense of justice. Tiny Dancer (who is 9) thought that she might be surprised to see a boy dressed as a girl for Halloween simply because it doesn't happen all the time, but she told me she would probably go up to boy and ask him WHY he wanted to Daphne, specifically. Is it because she is smart AND attractive? It is the cool wig? Did he decide that the other characters were boring? Again, she didn't see anything wrong with it, she was just curious as to the inspiration behind it. Evil Genius (now 7) was also more interested in which character the boy decided on being, and why. When I showed her the picture, she thought the boy looked great, but that she would have preferred to be Velma because she is the smart one, and that wig looked "horrid and itchy." For an Evil Genius, she certainly has a distinct sense of style and fashion.
Truly, I think they were all a little confused by the question. What do you mean, "how would I react?" Why should I react any differently than I would on any other day? You mean, someone would actually have a problem with this?

Having this conversation made me more than a little bit proud of my girls. I could see their different personalities clearly defined in the reactions. LH would be a protector, knowing how it feels to be the odd one. TD would be curious but also aware of the social ramifications and very careful to make sure she didn't offend. EG could care less about what everyone else thought about it, and more concerned with the details and thought process. None of them said that it was unacceptable, wrong, or that they would have avoided the boy. My heart also swelled with pride knowing I married the right man, when he, too, made it plain that there shouldn't be anything wrong with a boy dressed as Daphne any more than for a girl to dress as Batman.

As children, or even as adults, I don't feel that a person's sexual preference need be a factor in determining friendship. I also don't feel that choosing boys' clothes over girls' (or vice versa) is a definite sign of a preference in partnership. I am so very proud that as a family, we have friends of all different natures, colors, sizes, and any other descriptor you can imagine. Not only are we split religions (I'm Catholic and DH is Methodist) but we have family and friends of nearly every other religion there is (or isn't, as the case may be.) A normal party guest list might include boys, girls, toddlers, people over 70 years old, single people, married couples, divorced parents, gays, lesbians, autistic children, children who are deaf, disabled, or sick, little people, tall people, members of the clergy, people who have parking tickets, Native Americans, foreigners from whatever country you could name, as well as average, normal kids who are any color or combination of traits that are created. Many of our family and friends are covered with tattoos or piercings, or both. There are just as many who have none (or at least non that you could see.)  We have friends who live on a ranch with horses and family that lives in the city. Some people we know are financially wealthy while others have been jobless, and even homeless, for a time. We welcome all varieties of humans in our circle of friendship and we treat all of them with the respect that one person should show another.

I'm not saying I am a better mom than someone else simply because I know people who are different. All I am saying is that I wouldn't dream of treating one person poorly or excluding another simply because of their age, race, physical condition, partner choice, religion, or appearance. I am proud that I have raised my girls this way. In my house we call it being "color blind." It refers to more than just the color of the skin, though. It envelops a philosophy of treating humans as humans and reacting to them based on their personality, instead on a single trait or distinction.

If you really think about all the differences that all the people have from one another, it is obvious that no two people are exactly alike, but you can always find at least one similarity between you and someone else.

As my father said while quoting "Bill and Ted" - Be Excellent to each other.

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