(((hugs))) Jeremy a bit tighter…

I really don’t understand people sometimes. I just don’t…

LGBTQ Youths with Unsupportive Parents Sound Off Anonymously with Whisper App

And… it’s my 44th birthday. First thing that happened was I went to feed the guinea pigs and found our smallest and shy one dead on the cage. They’d just turned six years old. So we’re off to bury little Bean before lunch.

Plus side is it’s not like the day can get much worse… it’s got to be uphill and sunshine from now on. At least once the poor little piggy’s buried.

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The great toy divide

Lego Ad

This picture and article showed up on my Facebook newsfeed yesterday. When you click, it will open in a separate window. I recommend reading the article first as it has more pictures comparing then and now of specific toys.

I’ve commented before that I read a blog called Raising my Rainbow and how Colin was a lot less girly than C.J. at that age. And in many regards that’s true. Colin loved The Magic School bus and Thomas the Tank Engine when he was little. And dinky cars (the brighter and more metallic the better). He could, and did, drive them around for hours. But, at the same time, toys were a lot more gender neutral. Lego came in bright primary colours and bicycles pretty much did too. The only real difference between a boy’s bike and a girl’s bike were the bars connecting the seat to the handle bars. Colin got Kait’s hand-me-down bikes for years without any comments.

We had dress up clothes in the living room and both my kids loved wearing them but they were odds and ends I’d collected. A sheer sequin covered shawl, a tiara, and some foam masks I picked up at the dollar store. A lavender slip and a lacy nightgown that looked a lot like a wedding dress, both bought from a second hand store. And a pair of ballerina flats because I thought the dollar store high heels were too small and slippery. Both kids had lady bug wings from Halloween costumes and there was a wand kicking around but that was it. Actual costumes were for Halloween and got packed away with the decorations.

I just went through our photo albums. The fanciest their Lego got was a set of Winnie the Pooh Duplo; that came with a handful of plastic flower/leaf shapes and a spiral slide. Otherwise they had riding sticks with plush animal heads, basic Lego, Tinker Toys, Sesame Street figures, Teletubby figures, dinky cars, a Thomas the Tank Engine set, and an Oneida tea set complete with Oreo cookies. The kids played interchangeably with all of them.

Years later, the kids and I were walking through Walmart and I was floored to see Disney princess dress up clothes mixed in with the regular clothes. The boys, of course, had super heroes. This was nowhere near Halloween, these were for every day use. I was floored.

Then my sister got pregnant with her second child. The ultrasound said she was having a girl but there’s always a possibility it’s wrong. I went to Old Navy to pick up a neutral newborn outfit only to find those didn’t exist. I could not buy a pale green or yellow sleeper. They were either pink and labelled princess or blue and red with sports themes. There was no in-between.

I like bright colours and picked bright clothes for my kids. Plus I tend to buy in second hand shops and just pick the ones that appeal to me. Not to say they never wore boys clothes or girls clothes but most of the time they just wore jeans and bright t-shirts. Last time I went clothes shopping with Colin, it was an exercise in frustration for both of us. Literally half the mens department was Duck Dynasty and the rest was camo and dreary. Colin picked out one shirt that he loved but it was hand wash and lay flat to dry, which translates to “this will never be washed”. That won’t work for him. And the younger sections are even worse.

Note, I’m not saying that the past was wonderful. I know it wasn’t. I went to high school in the 1980’s and remember overhearing classmates bragging about driving to downtown Toronto to “throw rocks at the f*gs”. No one came out in high school at all. I had a friend who everyone was pretty sure was gay, and he was, but he certainly didn’t come out then. It wasn’t safe. Meanwhile Kait went to the same high school I did, just twenty years later. She attended a school with pride flag stickers plastered everywhere, announcing this was a safe environment. Several of her friends came out in grade nine.

I can’t help thinking though that we’re making it safer for teens and adults to come out while segregating and compartmentalizing our children. Colin loved pink when he was little, it was his absolute favourite colour. He had several pink stuffed animals and a pink baby stroller for his baby. But that was pretty much it, the rest of their toys came in primary colours. Most of their clothes were in those colours too. I can’t help but wonder what his choices would have been if everything was split between blue/red and super heroes or pink/purple and glitter with nothing in between. No choice to simply be a kid.

Colin was invited to a birthday party when he was four years old. The birthday girl’s mother bought Barbie napkins for the girls and plain blue napkins for the boys. Colin insisted on having a Barbie napkin because pink was his favourite colour. I have a feeling, in this gender oriented marketing environment, he’d probably be almost as pink as C.J.

But I wasn’t worried

Years ago, Jeremy was invited to a birthday party. He had a great time and his friend’s Mom made sure to take several pictures on Jeremy’s camera so I could see the fun too.

I stopped by their place several weeks later and we sat, chatting in the living room. After a while the conversation turned to her son’s birthday and she commented that they’d watched some sort of sporting event during the party and there’d been cheerleaders.

“Jeremy was absolutely glued to the screen when the cheerleaders came on,” she assured me, entirely unprompted. “You don’t have to worry about him. He’s not like that, he likes girls.”

I don’t know which was worse, that she thought I was worried or that she made it sound like this was a long standing conversation of ours, one where I was frantically worried about Jeremy’s sexual orientation. We weren’t the only two in the room, she had another friend visiting who, as a lesbian, was like that. So there I was, trying not to yell at my friend while also trying not to give her friend the impression that I was dancing for joy over my son’s apparent straightness. I ended up in a stammering, tongue tangled mess.

Okay, it couldn’t have been that bad of a mess because I ended up staying friends with both of them, but it felt like it at the time. It was one of those “please let a hole open beneath me and swallow me whole” moments. Entirely awkward and entirely unnecessary.

Over the years I’ve had several such conversations regarding Jeremy, where someone’s taken it upon themselves to try and reassure me that I shouldn’t worry. Unlike my friend, they don’t actually come out and say what they’re worried about but it’s pretty obvious. They also make this announcement in a tone usually reserved for one that ends in “… it’s probably not fatal”. It’s obvious they’re expecting me to be worried and figure I have pretty good reason.

And they’re right in one way, I am worried. But it’s their attitude that worries me, not Jeremy. Their attitude is the one that says a teenager shouldn’t come out because they’re just confused. Their attitude is one that would never let their boy paint his nails or wear pink flip flops or pull on a dress (even at home). Their attitude is one which thinks it’s normal and a sign of affection when a man and a woman hold hands but a political statement if two men or two women do the same.

I love Jeremy just the way he is. I agree with him that he’s completely fabulous. I just wish the rest of the world could be a little more welcoming.

I did a little light reading this week and found a blog entry with similar concerns as mine, titled It could be worse, and an article on Huffington Post titled 10 Ways to Support Your Gay Kid. Both are worth reading.