05/09/2014 04:28 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Nobody Gets to Tell My Sons What It Means to Be a Man


This is the story of three little boys raised by the same two parents: a stay-at-home dad and a work-away-from-home mom. They were given the same gender-neutral toys as babies. They have a multiracial and multicultural community and extended family. And like most siblings, they are very different kids.

Boy #1: This kid has never met a sport he didn't like. No matter the shape of the ball or stick, he is on board. He yells himself literally hoarse at sporting events.

Boy #2: This kid has never met a computer he didn't like. No matter what format, he figures it out in no seconds flat. "No-screen" days are hell for him.

Boy #3: This kid has never met a doll/stuffed animal/action figure he didn't like. He creates epic dramas for them, with weddings, divorces, breakups and the like. He will also use the salt-and-pepper shakers if they are the only thing available.

Of these three kids, one identifies as gay -- and it's not the one people usually think. I know this because these are my kids.

We've been raising our family in the way the right wing fears. Our family doesn't have regular gender roles. We're Buddhist. We're honest about the gay, lesbian and transgender people in our lives. We live in a culturally diverse area because we want our kids to be exposed to and learn about families different from our own. A lot of noise gets made about these kinds of things.

How will our kids learn what it means to be a man? How will they know the difference between right and wrong? How traumatized are they going to be knowing that men marry men and women marry women?

Personally, I think my husband is doing a great job of teaching them what it means to be a man. My sons learn from him that men are strong, smart, silly and creative. But what about me? What I am teaching our sons about what it means to be a woman? My sons learn from me that women are strong, smart, silly and creative. Those are the values we want our children to hold dear. They are not learning them from him or from me but from both of us.

Dad shows them how to be smart and creative by showing them how to make pancakes in all different shapes. I show them how be strong and silly by singing operatic-like songs in my loudest voice about how they are not getting ready for school when they should. The fact that my husband's job involves cooking and running the kiddo taxi service doesn't make him less of a man. And he knows that. He has nothing to prove, and that's pretty damn manly.

Christianity isn't required for knowing the difference between right and wrong. It never has been. My husband and I feel it is our job to teach our children how to be compassionate, sharing and loving. And not to brag, but I think we are doing an OK job. If you hand our sons two or three of anything, the first thing they do is offer one of them to their brothers. Even cookies. A few weeks ago I did parent-teacher conferences for our two oldest kids. As I said before, they are very different. They have different strengths and areas to work on. They were two very different meetings, but they did have one similarity: Both teachers told me how kind my kids are. That make me want to sing an opera about how proud I am of them.

Then comes the subject of homosexuality. My kids have always known that some girls marry girls and some boys marry boys. How has this hurt them? Not at all. Not even a little bit. In fact, I think it's been a huge benefit. I mentioned before that one of my sons is gay. It's #1 -- the one who loves sports, the one who thinks putting a fedora on top of jeans and a T-shirt is "dressed-up," the one who wouldn't wear pink if I paid him. My kids have had healthy role models of gay men in their daily lives, and although we've never talked about it, my oldest knows he doesn't have to be a stereotype to be gay. He has such confidence and ease with who he is. And I wouldn't trade that for the world.

As my children grow up and become adults, they will figure out for themselves what it means to be a man. That's their right. No one gets to tell my kids who they are, not even me. So maybe in 20 years, one will be sunburned from too many pick-up games of basketball, one will be ghostly pale from too many hours in front of a screen, and one will be trying on lipstick to star in his own dramas. All those options are great, although as a mom I will worry about one getting skin cancer, one having a vitamin-D deficiency, and one, well, I don't know what I'll be worrying about when it comes to him yet. They are my sons. Who they are is perfect and awesome, and it's been my privilege and honor to guide them along the way. I can't wait to discover what kind of men they become.

A version of this blog post originally appeared on The Good Men Project.