Editor's note: This post uses pseudonyms to protect the identities of minors.
Our three kids I blog about: Firecracker, Tornado and Twirl
After my post about Twirl wearing a dress hit The Huffington Post, I got a lot of familiar comments, some great and supportive and some not so great. First, it's OK. It's not a surprise. In an ideal world that post about some kid's halloween costume would be some boring family blog that only family and close friends would read. We don't live in that world. Yet.
To all those people who gave us such nice, supportive comments and shared their stories, thank you. You have no idea what an impact your voices can have. I try to respond to them all, but I may have missed some. You see, at one point the comments started getting a little rough. Some of those I read, some I don't. You can usually tell which people are actually interested in engaging in a conversation and which ones are there to spread their hate or judgement and try to justify their bigoted views. I thought I might address a few things that came out of those comments, though, as many are not new. We have heard them before.
1. Why would anyone name their kids Twirl, Firecracker and Tornado? No wonder he is wearing dresses. She named him Twirl.
OK, so apparently either many people don't read the first sentences of articles or they are not clear on what a pseudonym is. Perhaps it's both. The nicknames come from their personalities. He got this long after the skirt wearing.
2. Why is this in the Gay Voices section? She doesn't know if her son is gay.
Gender-nonconforming children are considered part of the LGBTQ community. Twirl is a gender-nonconforming boy. I might also mention here that the LGBTQ community is a very loving group of people. You can judge by the comments where the hate is coming from.
3. This is a mother trying to exploit her kid for some reality show deal and get money. She is using this to advance her career.
I was not paid. I never want us to be on a reality show. This is not my career. I am an art director. This is far from what I do in my career.
4. She sure isn't looking out for him by posting pictures of him on the Internet.
This one I have a huge problem with, and this kind of talk is exactly why there aren't more kids like Twirl seen today. This comment doesn't appear on most stories of stereotypical children. If Twirl had made some great football play or had won a spelling bee, we wouldn't be getting this kind of criticism about putting his photo out there. This is who he is.
5. When kids in school find out, he is going to get bullied.
The kids in school already know what he is like. They already know that he prefers girls' toys and that he loves pink. On the first day of school, he walked in confident with his pink Converses and pink backpack. You know who gave him second looks? The parents. Not one kid in his class said anything. Five and 6-year-olds don't know that kind of judgement yet. Some older kids have said some things, but overall the other kids have left him alone. He knows people will ask questions and might say something. We don't throw our kid out there as an experiment. This is something that might get worse as he gets older, and we will deal with it when it comes.
6. She wanted a girl, and she is projecting this on her child.
Actually, I was a total tomboy growing up and loved He-Man and Star Wars. There was no projection from me or my husband. He leads in indicating what he likes; we lead in behavior. I would love to sit down and have him totally go nuts for Darth Vader. I thought I had him when I mentioned Princess Leia, but once he found out that she doesn't wear a sparkly pink dress, he was not interested. Also, we have a girl, so you can throw that theory out the window.
7a) He is too young to understand the consequences of what he is doing.
b) Mom goes into this knowing good and well that her son's costume might subject him to ridicule. She takes him trick-or-treating in this neighborhood anyway.
c) Twirl is a child choosing to wear a particular Halloween costume because he likes it. He isn't choosing it with full knowledge of his neighbors' intolerance. As he lacks that capacity. I do think it's the parents' job to protect him against people who may make hurtful comments.
I could go on and on with postings like this one above, but this gives you the gist of them. The first thing to know is that kids aren't dumb. Twirl has liked stereotypical girl stuff since he was 2. He is fully aware that he is different. He knows that most boys prefer stereotypical boy things; he doesn't. He knows that while most boys prefer that, it doesn't make him wrong. The reason that his father and I let him go out in our neighborhood is that that is where we live, and I will not bully my child because I am afraid others will; instead we prepare. We prepare him for the possibility that people might make comments or mistake him for a girl.
The post was just our story of Halloween and how it was pretty great. I thought it showed that sometimes things just work out. I shared my feelings, how I was originally outraged but learned that maybe things aren't what they seem. When someone laughs and makes a "smart" remark to any of my kids, my natural instinct is to feel some emotion, so I did. I also know that there is a double standard when it comes to girls being able to like stereotypical boy things and dress like boys compared with boys who are interested in stereotypical girl things. I'm sure the girls who first started wearing pants faced the same kind of comments. This shouldn't be a big deal. That's the goal, but right now it is still a big deal.
This was also very hard. It was hard to make the decision to start this blog and be open and honest. This isn't a case of parents trying to exploit their children. My hope is that by doing this we will meet other people with kids like Twirl who also start showing who their kids are. Then maybe we can get to a point where a boy play with girl things is just as normal as a girl playing with boy things. We are very proud of all three of our kids. No amount of hate, suggestions of reparative therapy or telling me what an awful mom I am will ever change that.
Follow Kelly Byrom on Twitter: www.twitter.com/designisgood